Thursday, May 15, 2014

Real Homeschooling

I never really expected that I would home educate my children.  In fact, I went to college with plans to teach Music Education in a classroom somewhere.  However, we were led to the decision to begin the homeschooling journey back when Gracie, 10, was in kindergarten.  I quickly discovered this was gargantuan, crazy world I'd never realized existed!  We used a hard drive program (one simple decision) for several years, and we're now transitioning to a different style for a different season.  Here are a few of my honest observations & my own determinations:

1.  Homeschooling parents can be quite opinionated, often in a good way. :)  

I think its because the strength that is required to make this choice longterm is quite intense.  I'll never forget how overwhelmed I felt when a hurricane of ideas blew over me from a homeschooling veteran.  Knowing that this topic can be divisive, I want to handle it with grace.

My determination:  In my next conversation with a homeschooling friend, focus on encouragement & maybe talk about a non-school topic too.

2.  There are a million ways to do it.  

From "un-schooling" to those who home educate rigorously while adding in even more activities like soccer,drama, music, etc.  Everyone's budget of time, energy, & money is prioritized in different ways.  We began using Bob Jones hard drive program, then last summer decided to do Classical Conversations with our own math and language arts selections. (If you're wondering, I chose Saxon Math for 2nd and 4th graders and BJU Math for K.  We enjoyed the Explode the Code books for K and 2nd and my 4th grader did the Essentials of the English Language program with CC and Writing with Structure and Style from IEW.)

My determination: Remember there are lots of way to do this right & I will take one year at a time.

3.  Homeschooling is very rewarding...  

At this moment I think a clean house would be very rewarding as well, but I digress...  The constant sibling interaction builds priceless bonds between siblings.  There are also many opportunities to grow together as friends.   "I will treat my brother or sister better than my best friend." <----- 1="" a="" afternoon="" along="" and="" big="" children="" div="" everyone="" families="" for="" here="" hour="" how="" i="" in="" is:="" it="" joy="" little.="" lot="" love="" milestones="" nbsp="" ne="" of="" older="" on="" ones="" our="" quiet="" remember="" reminder="" rewarding="" s="" sentence.="" share="" the="" time="" watching="" way.="" way="" younger="">

My determination: Remember we are better together and embrace the closesness of this season. 

4.  Homeschooling is really messy.  

Think about bringing home everything you used at school when you were a kid in 3rd grade.  Pile it on the kitchen table...yes...every single spelling, history, math, and phonics paper.  Don't forget the pencils, glue, erasers, crayons!  Now bring home all your older brother's stuff too--including the month-old apple core and put it behind the couch for mom to find later...dump everything else on the kitchen table.  Baby brother's stuff needs to pile somewhere, so make room!  Now pull out your supper fixing mess, and that paperwork you're dealing with for insurance, and the cleaning supplies for the major bathroom cleaning that needs done TODAY.

I'm being a little extreme, I'm sure you realize, but not much.  There is "stuff" no matter what schooling you choose.  Being organized will help, but there's also the on-going mess of living--everyone, everyday, all day, at home.  Ideally, you'll enlist your children to conquer the chaos...but after teaching them all morning, you may find that you're more than happy to let them go play and not ask any more of them.  My mind is easily bogged down as I walk through the house seeing all the things I'm ignoring in order to have school at home.  On good days I'll make a mental list and tackle it after our school work is done.  On the rough days, I'll sigh & sometimes cry & just try to make it till my husband comes home.  On real weeks, I plan extra cleaning time on Friday or Saturday & hope most of the house is in good shape by Sunday.

My determination: Remember my Joy is separate from feeling "in control" & do the best I can.

5.  Home schooling is hard work.

 Its a separate job from wife, mother, housekeeper, yet it coexists with all those roles as well.  Think about being a CEO of a company where your employees are your children & babies.  You're giving assignments, teaching, helping, reprimanding, encouraging, re-directing back to work, motivating, motivating again & classroom management, of course.  In a traditional school setting, there is a measure of structure in the daily routine.  At home, you're the person who keeps it all going, flexing with the needs of life, but also prioritizing the discipline that comes from regular routines.  Its all YOUR call.  Sometimes that feels like a heavy weight to me, honestly.  And most every home educating mom has wondered, sometimes many times a week, if they're ruining everyone and everything...and the whole universe! :)

My determination:  Remember that God gave me this job & He is teaching me diligence along the way too.

6. Home schooling is full of relational opportunities.  

It is a joy to be next to these children everyday as they learn and grow.  I love to see the sparkles in their eyes as they grasp something really cool, or share the crazy humor of my wordy, nerdy kids.  I thank God that they're healthy and can learn things quickly and as they grow older they're making fascinating connections in their minds--and I get to watch that!  And I'm getting to experience all the stages again too--I'm learning more this time around! Its really fun!

The other side of that closeness is "rub"--I mean dissonance, fingernails-on-chalkboard irritation.  Put humans together & it will happen.  Some of the best advice I ever received in this area came from my friend Charlotte Siems.  She said, "Don't homeschool at the expense of relationships."  There is so much close parental interaction in this home educating gig, that you can ruin relationships with your children by your negativity, nit-picking, & constant pushing.  Its easy to not see the progress they are making, but only see how they aren't "there" yet.  Truthfully, I just decided to stop school here two weeks before I had planned because things were becoming too consistently negative.  There is a time to push on and a time to stop...pray, is all I can say.  It would be just like the Enemy of our souls to try to use our decision to teach our children at home as a wedge to drive between us, causing ginormous (thank you Gracie for that adjective) pain.

My determination: Remember the way up is down and stay humble before the Lord and my family.

7.  Homeschooling progress is tricky to measure.

 If you grew up in a traditional classroom education, you knew where you were in your class by your grades, and progress was measured by your teacher.  Sometimes we're just too close to see objectively our child's strengths and weaknesses.  One way I watch for my children's progress is in non-school activities--I see them relating better to other children & adults.  They look over at me and catch my eye as they connect an illustration in a sermon to their history lesson, I hear their vocabulary increasing and see their book choices becoming more sophisticated--thank Heavens! (Another post for another day.)  I also plan to do standardized testing next year and I'm looking forward to measuring their progress that way.

My determination:  Remember that progress will happen if I stick to the daily plan.

If you'd like to read a Homeschooling Q & A that is full of grace, Ann Voskamp has written a beautiful post here.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Honesty

Maybe you're tired tonight.  

Maybe Easter didn't "feel" like Easter. 

Maybe you were missing your family & the way families share the celebrations & lift the extra load of fun & beautiful things that make holidays "feel" festive.

 Maybe your children discarded shoes & socks immediately upon arrival at church, then gave themselves pen tattoos.  (The same toddler who bawled at head-splitting volume because he didn't want to wear "yorts!"(shorts) "I wanna wear yongs!!!" [Long pants, not shorts.]) 

And maybe all you can think about is that you didn't dye any eggs with your kids, 
you didn't do any special Easter craft, 
& you can't for the life of you find the Walmart sack that had a couple Easter treats for your children...
no beautiful Easter baskets, 
you forgot about flowers & a centerpiece for your table. 

Then the boys' sport coats were really too little 
& you should've noticed that before now.  
Oh dear, the dress you bought (first Easter dress in YEARS and too much money! And if you'd just get on with the diet plan, you wouldn't have had to have a bigger dress...) is one wrong move from a wardrobe malfunction... 

Aaaand the list goes on, doesn't it. Somehow our minds get going down that didn't/shoulda/coulda path & they don't want to stop. 

So I decided to preach my mind some resurrection power & just in case you need it, you can read it too.  

Easter happened...I don't make Easter by my observance of it. God did it! He raised My Savior from the dead, completing His plan of salvation.  Salvation that is even saving me from all my trying and wishing I could have or should have or whatever.  He is redeeming even my mistakes and certainly my feeble efforts and He is completing the Good Work He started in me, my family, our church and in the world!  I don't "have it all together," but He Does!!!

These thoughts bring grateful tears to my eyes.  I'm tired tonight.  The tired of busy mamas & pastor's wives on big days, but my soul is whole & at peace & at rest.  His resurrection power is working even now.  He lives!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Everyone has limiting realities.  I'm thinking of limits in our space, resources, time, finances, energy, even food intake.  Many people feel lonely in their limits, most of us wish for different limits, but we don't always get to choose them.  We can decide how we see them.  We can choose our perspective.  I jotted down a few thoughts about limits yesterday, and thought I'd share them here.
Living over my limits is exhausting.
Living over my limits is dishonest.
Living over my limits is uncomfortable.
Living over my limits feels trapped.
Living over my limits is discontentment.
Living over my limits creates weakness.
Living over my limits creates more limits.
Living over my limits will always show up in my health.
Living over my limits affects my family primarily and profoundly.

Living within my limits is good.
Living within my limits is refreshing.
Living within my limits is sane.
Living within my limits is honest.
Living within my limits is empowering.
Living within my limits is satisfying.
Living within my limits allows space for opportunities.
Living within my limits honors God—my Limit-giver.
Living within my limits is really living.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dear Mom,
On your birthday, I want to remember a few reasons that I love you so very much. In no particular order, here they are:
1. You care. Have I ever told you thank you for caring when I call you rejoicing about the tiniest baby victories, and milestones or caring when I call crying the blues because a small thing had made my day a challenge.You’ve always cared about the deeper struggles as well – and the very difficult moments in life. If I called and asked if you could come down here, you absolutely would (& have).
You care about others so much too – “Open arms leave the heart unprotected” you’d say. You consider loving others worth the risk – thank you for your self-less example.
2. You’re passionate. As a Schaper, by blood, you’re usually more reserved with your emotions – on the surface, anyway. But I know your heart and how your love for God, Daddy and your family are purpose-giving for you. You’re also passionate about caring for children, educating them, loving and enjoying them – thank you for the way you’ve educated me in these areas.
3. You’re very, very wise. As a young person, I remember thinking “so and so” was really something cool. And you would say, “Things aren’t always as they seem.” You’d not gossip about their problems or bother my young mind with details, but you’d just remind me not to be fascinated with people and surface things.
4. You’re beautiful. Last time I was home Shar and I were watching you and I said, “Isn’t she the most beautiful lady? Her skin is just perfect – rosey blushed cheeks, gentle eyebrows, gorgeous blue eyes…” I’ve always considered her to be the most beautiful lady I know.” Shar said, “Have you ever told her?” I don’t think I have before, so I am now… And I know you well enough to know that the beauty on the outside is just the beauty on the inside coming out.
5. You’re humble. In the last year or so I’ve thought more about this part of you…who a person is comes thru in difficult times. When there were challenged in our family, I remember hearing you crying out to God as you knelt at your bed. God used those moments to melt my heart… Your humility before Him stood you tall before me.
6. Possibly my favorite aspect of you as a mom: you don’t freak out. Or I could say, you have perspective.
You let me cook and make messes and mistakes - you didn’t freak out.
You let me cut Dad and Charlie’s hair – you didn’t freak out.
I was sorting thru old papers and found a letter you had sent to Bro. Knight at school in response to a letter he’d sent home to you about my misbehavior as a freshman. You were kind and direct and taking responsibility for my behavior even though it probably embarrassed you a lot. I never knew about that letter till a few days ago. It wasn’t something you decided to confront me about and made into a huge issue. I’m sure you prayed though…
It was that year that I called you from class and asked you to come get me. I was really struggling & felt I was at a critical point spiritually. Which crowd would I go with?? There were two crowds pulling and I had to choose. I knew I was at a decision point. You came and got me and I don’t remember how much we talked, but it didn’t involve lectures. You let me cry and work thru it and I went back to school. Looking back that was probably a turning point in my life.
You listened while I declared I’d never go on another date after that first one. We ended up laughing a lot about that.
When I was 15 and our relationship was a little strained, God sent healing in the form of a baby boy named Jareth. You called Peggy and told her to tell me that you were coming home and bringing a surprise. I met you in the driveway and was very shocked to see the tiniest baby I’d ever seen in a car seat in your car! He was jaundiced and needed a bath, but he was so precious. It was love at sight for our whole family, but especially me. You taught me how to love and care for a baby thru those months, years. He was like my own and I admired your motherly know-how. That tiny baby gave our relationship a breath of fresh air – he gave us a common goal – remember he gained a pound a week for a couple months! - and gave me something to do in those difficult growing up years.
Another moment comes to mind: a few days before graduation I stayed at a friend’s house with several girls from our class – we got the bright idea that my hair needed to be a little more blonde. We got the stuff, did the deed, shrieked laughing in the mirror at my very blonde hair…then I realized how permanent this was… I called you the next morning & told you I’d done the stupidest thing ever… you said come on home, it would be fine.
I still remember walking in to the office to your twinkling eyes telling me it was no big deal and we’d try to fix it. I think you told me about something similar you’d done when you were my age – and we laughed and I cried.
I wish I could say thanks for everything, but I don’t think there’s enough paper in the world. You’ve loved and cared for me as only a Mama can – “thanks” seems so small. But Thank You. Thank you for the grace, the gift of your unconditional love & the million ways you’ve shown it thru my almost 32 years.
All my love,
Elizabeth Joyann

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Caleb turns 3

We were honored to have Papa Gary, Grandma Ruth, Great Grandpa Schaper, & Miss Evelyn & Drew to share the special day!

Daddy helping Caleb make 3 :)
This boy is full of energy & joy & lives full throttle.  He brings so much F-U-N to our house!  Surely God has something unique planned for this little man.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Week Two with Gideon

 Papa and Nana came to visit...

 We went to Myriad Gardens where Heath practiced writing his name :)

 Darrell and Papa practiced cornhole :)

 We tried really hard to get a good picture on this little hill, but Caleb could not resist sliding down... and giggling... so we gave up.

 It was a beautiful, wind-less day here in Oklahoma so Gideon enjoyed the sunshine too!

 First family picture since Gideon's birth.

Gideon is Loved!!

 Welcome Home!

 Daddy and all the boys play a game.

 Our first Sunday Shot with Gideon.  (Caleb was having a rough time...)

Caleb really liked his "baby" spot, but he is doing well with Gideon.  He really loves the "new baby" and dearly loves to "help." :)