And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Leadership

That word has been all over my heart this week. Leadership. What does it mean? How do we lead in a Godly manner? Why are we called to lead? As my husband and I dive into a local ministry, I find us already in positions of leadership. My husband is a natural leader. He amazes me with his ability to take charge in a firm but reasonable way. We shied away from this particular church because we knew we would be called to lead in some form or fashion very quickly.

I wanted to take a break (and we did for a few months). I was hesitant to jump in and take on responsibilities. Couldn't we just chill out in a church for awhile? As I felt my heart being drawn to our friend's church, I thought back over our church experiences over the years. Each place we've been trained us in some way. We never got much training by sitting back and absorbing what was being given in the church.

In our first church we joined together, Hubby was an integral part of a missions team. I ended up on a prayer team. I was so nervous! I had not spend much time praying aloud in front of other people. As that season stretched on, I learned so much about prayer and praying from the heart without worrying about who was listening. We also both had opportunities within that church to work with kids and youth. It felt so awkward and unnatural at the time. I wasn't ever sure I was doing it "right". We still have relationships with some of our "kids" from that church. They are all grown up now and married with children. It is a joy to see their lives unfold even if we only get a peek on social media now and then.

Our next church experience involved a "home church", and there we learned what it really took to have a church. We learned more about God's Word. We learned more about the Holy Spirit. We learned about church organization and leadership. Our time there was short but I look back on it with fondness. It was an experience that gave us lots of worship time with family and friends.

When we moved on, it was to find a place for our kids. They were getting out of the baby stage, and we understood they needed a basis for their own relationship with the Lord. We went to a wonderful church. It was one of the sweetest seasons of our lives. I get emotional just recalling all the amazing things that happened in that church setting. Godly men and women poured into our children's lives and our lives there. Hubby took his first missions trip with a team there. We made the decision to homeschool during that time. It was also a time of great sadness as we suffered the loss of several loved ones during that season. In that time of sadness, God had provided a spiritual support team like none other we've ever had. We learned so much there. Again we were involved with youth and children's ministry. I took on a leadership role in that church that provided me with experience in working with children. That experience helped me teach my own kids as well as making a foundation for the future ministry work we would do. Those friendships we made in that setting linger. Those memories give me strength on some of the lonely days (and when you are homeschooling there can be many lonely days!).

At our last place of worship, we again found a group of friends that we would grow to cherish. We found ourselves teaching adult Sunday School. I learned all about VBS and how to execute one each year. Hubby preached a few times there and at other congregations. He learned about committees and leading committees. Again we learned more about church leadership, organization, and people.

Now we find ourselves at this new congregation. It is a small ministry that has built up slowly over the last few years. They are in a time of growth, and our friend had been praying for us to join them. He put us right to work. It isn't easy. It won't be easy. There are challenges that I haven't faced before. I feel confident though that the Lord has walked with me and planned my steps to prepare me for this time and place.

I listened to a great 5 minute video on RightNow Media of Cheryl Bachelder titled "Leader First vs. Servant First". It's one of those videos I just happened to come across while searching for something totally different. She's speaking on leadership in a business, but she did a great job of explaining how the most effective leaders are those coming from the standpoint of serving. If you search "servant leadership", you can find many speakers and posts on the idea. I've never thought of it in those specific terms but the truth is as Christians in any sort of leadership, we should follow the example of Christ in serving those around us.

Then I began to think about serving as a leader in our homes and homeschool settings. Am I leading to get my goals met or am I leading to serve my family? Am I leading to meet my quota for the day or am I leading to serve my children by teaching them more about Christ and His Words?

I've been grappling with a few issues recently. It's almost summer, and our plans are slim. As other parents plan big vacations and kids prepare for long summer camps, I'm looking for a frugal camping option for my family. As other families host lavish birthday parties, I'm working to treat my children to a special day with a low budget. When I really start to examine my motivations though, I wasn't worried about my kids and serving them. They are happy with whatever we provide them because they are secure. They don't dwell on earthly things nearly as much as I did at their ages (and still do!). They won't fuss or complain because they don't get the big lavish parties and trips. I'm the one with envy. I'm the one worrying about what other people are doing. I've been trying to lead with me in mind. Just like I was doing when I shied away from our new church.

I've rambled around a bit here (and I'm posting a day later than I intended!). Maybe one of you needs to consider servant leadership. Perhaps one of you needs to consider the ministry journey that you've taken. Perhaps you just need motivation to jump in where God is leading you. Most likely I just needed to get my own journey in writing to see where I've been so I have a clear path for where I'm headed. Whichever it is, thanks for taking the time to read.

Monday, March 13, 2017

How We Homeschool

So I shared with you what I'd go back and change about our homeschool journey. Now I'd like to share the things that have worked really well for us. They may not work well for anyone else but these are the things that have been a consistent plus for our family.




*Routine- I've shared with you recently about our scheduling and our schoolroom so I won't repeat those things here. However, a routine makes all the difference for us. Knowing that we will focus on school early in the day on certain days makes our lives calmer. Some families we know thrive on spontaneity and change. We aren't one of those families. Our lives have plenty of chaos so a school routine keeps us balanced. The kids wake up, have breakfast, and get ready for the day before our homeschool time begins. Then we work steadily until the work is completed each day. We know which days we will be doing school ahead of time. We only adjust if it's really necessary. Working hard on scheduled days means we have more freedom on our "off" days.

*Christian Education- We have included the Bible and devotionals and studies each year. We've focused on science and history from a Christian perspective. We use Christian resources for many of our educational choices. I LOVE that we have the freedom to teach from our hearts and beliefs. As a family our faith is a huge part of our lives and homeschool time is not an exception.

*Goals- While I don't always sit and make a list of specific goals for each child each school year, I do have some ideas floating around in my head. Typically, their academic goals go along with their curriculum for the year (Algebra I curriculum= learn Algebra). I also set goals based on their weaker areas (ie handwriting or spelling or whatever). I like to set life goals lessons for them as well. For example, I have some specific ideas for each of them about cooking lessons this summer. Kids live up to our expectations so we should set them high not low. These goals give us direction and aim our focus.

*Friends- It is SO important to have a homeschool support group. Whether it's a formal group that meets monthly or just 1 friend you can call or text in a crisis, you NEED friends that specifically homeschool. It's great to have older friends that can mentor you along the way because they've already done that season of life. It's imperative that you have friends who are in the trenches with you because they will get it. They will get you. They will understand when you are LOSING YOUR MIND BECAUSE THAT ONE KID WON'T EVER FINISH XYZ or when you are crying because you ran out of coffee. God has blessed me with a couple of those friends, and they are worth more than gold y'all. I need them. I am so thankful for them. Once you've been a homeschool mom for awhile, make it a point to reach out to a newbie so you can share your experience with them. Your kids also need other friends that homeschool. It helps them too. Otherwise they don't have anyone to text until after 3:00! HA!

*Laughter- I'd love to put "fun" here but fun isn't my specialty. Now laughter....I LOVE to laugh. My kids love to laugh. Even on the worst days one of us can usually get a giggle out of the others. Laugh y'all. Even if you aren't the fun mom (I totally get ya!). Crack a joke. Have an impromptu dance party. Play with Snapchat filters for a few minutes. Help make homeschool memories that prompt a smile in the future. Every day isn't awesome. Every day can include some laughter.

I could add other things to this list of things that have worked for us. These are just the first 5 things that stick out to me right now. They're the 5 things I'd probably recommend first to someone considering or starting to homeschool their children. What would be your #1 thing that has worked for your family?

Monday, March 6, 2017

How We Homeschool

Today, I thought I'd share what I would change if I could go back in homeschool time. Maybe I should have named this post "How I Wish We Had Homeschooled". HA! While we know we can't change the past, maybe sharing the things I wish I had done differently will help some of you in your homeschool  journeys.



*Behavior Rewards- I tried several different behavior reward tactics when the kids were small. It seemed like we were never had success with any of them. I would abandon one and try something different. When that didn't seem to work, I'd talk with friends and find a new system to try. Eventually I gave up. They didn't seem to motivate my kids at all. Occasionally I'd have a child ask about the treasure box or sticker rewards, but it was rare. Now that they are both older, sometimes I feel like I run out of punishments when they won't work diligently on their schoolwork or try hard to do their best. I really wish I had done a simple behavior reward sytem through the years. For consistency purposes, I should have implemented a simple sticker chart with a reward after so many stickers. Sometimes a visual reward can go much further than regular punishment. These days my kids earn their daily screentime by finishing school on time so we have a routine, but things would be a little different if I had started something earlier on.

*Handwriting- Both children have worked on handwriting every year. I do wish I had made them write more and more often. Apple's handwriting is readable but isn't always neat. I dismissed Speedy's early handwriting difficulty because everyone says boys have a harder time. I do think that's generally true, but I wish I had worked more with him early on. This year he has been doing LOTS of extra writing practice because it felt imperative to see improvement this year. I also would have pushed coloring more with him. He's never enjoyed coloring very much, but I know more of it would have improved his fine motor skills earlier on. My handwriting isn't gorgeous so I guess I didn't focus as much on neat, tidy, regular handwriting as much as I wish I had.

*Drilled Math Facts- I hesitate to put this one. I KNOW we should have done it more. We did do it some. I am not a fan of drilling facts. My kids are not a fan of drilling facts. I shudder to think of going back and doing it more often. However I do think there are benefits to knowing those addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts backwards and forwards. I think it would have saved us some time in the long run to have spent more time on those facts as we were learning them. Like handwriting, I assumed the kids would get better and better as time went on. They have but the progress has been slower than it would have been if we would have spent more time on it in the beginning. Drill. Yuck. You should do it anyway.

Now don't worry. I'm not focusing only on the negative. I just wanted to share some things I wish I had considered more early on. Soon I will do a post about the things I'm glad we did/ are doing in our homeschool time.

Do you have anything you wish you'd done differently in your homeschool?