Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Loving Your Imperfect Home

Do you ever catch yourself looking around your house listing all the things you wish you could change? All the "if only's"? If only we had one more bathroom....if only we could get a bigger table....if only this carpet weren't burgundy....if only.

I'm not sure when we started believing that our homes had to meet a detailed checklist before we could be happy in them and before we could invite people in, but spoiler alert: it's a big fat lie. One that I fall for all the time. And my girl Jenny is letting me crash her amazing blog today to chat about that very thing.  

Her family recently welcomed bambino number 4 (who just landed the holiest of smooches during Pope Francis' visit to the states!), and she deals up one of my favorite doses of wit, faith, & motherhood on the blogsphere at Mama Needs Coffee.

Here's a peak as what's happening over there today...

We can wait until we live someplace with a little more space, or until we finish up such and such project, or until we have a table, or whatever. We can wait to love our homes and invite others in,  but what if it’s years before those things happen...what if they don’t happen at all?  How much time will we have wasted?  How much will we have missed?  

To hear more about my childhood home, watching the Superbowl from lawn chairs in the living room, and how you can come back to loving your home (or maybe get there for the first time), head over to Mama Needs Coffee. Thanks for having me, Jenny!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Fallish Piano Update

I think there must be something magical about October.  Every September I wonder if fall will really ever come.  Then the calendar reads October 1st and suddenly there's a cool breeze and the leaves are changing.  Anne Shirley was so right, "I'm so glad I live in a world with Octobers." And now that it feels like fall outside, we're ready to celebrate fall inside.

Just a few days ago, I put out to the interwebs that I was going on a spending freeze for October.  Well, when I opened the bin of fall decor, and was quickly reminded that I had pared down my fall decorations at the end of last season, I admit that I was tempted to run out to the store to stock up real quick like on pumpkins and leafy things (it was September 30 after all).

But I resisted.  Or maybe I was just too tired.  Either way, we have a limited amount of fall decor and we're sticking with it.   When we purged it down, I kept only the things I really loved and that the kids liked using year after year.  So, anything we augment with is going to have to come in the form of crafty-free from whatever supplies we have here at home.  And it's good.  I was going to run out and buy stuff.  But now I'll be forced to use some creativity and let the kids help me make some stuff.

Which means we're also decorating one little corner at a time, instead of a whole house affair.  The first spot to get fallified was the piano.
fall piano update

I've always loved using the top of our piano to add a little holiday flair.  Last year we used lots of fall colors and orange hues, which really popped against the navy wall.  This year we kept things a bit more neutral and added some layers for texture.
fall piano update

For us, fall is not just about colors, but about cozying up the place.  Mia loves sitting on this faux sheepskin (IKEA) when she plays and I added a rug that didn't work out in our entry.  #doorclearanceproblems
fall piano update

The rug might be my favorite addition and helped define this musical zone in our living room. These pumpkins were a gift from my mom.....she found them at a little store up in the mountains and I love their quirky vibe.
fall piano update

fall piano update

I needed to add some height variation, so in the spirit of using what we had, I grabbed a few of our Harry Potter books.  The colors on the spines are perfect for fall and something about the magical wizarding world just seems to fit the fall/Halloween season.  Mia has devoured the first couple books and we're currently reading the first one aloud as a family.
fall piano update

And I finally found a spot for my Naptime Diaries print.  We used to have a gold sunburst mirror here, but I needed something for the nursery and this guy needed a proper home.  It was the perfect swap. 
fall piano update

And just in case you were wondering, the reason nothing gets done around here...
fall piano update

It's tough stuff when you pull yourself up and can't figure out how to get back down.  Which clearly she will never learn because of her 24 hr rescue squad.
fall piano update

 Yup.  Wrapped around her puffy little finger.  All of us.

How do you decorate for fall?  Are you a separate Halloween/Thanksgiving decorator or do you just jumble it all together?  I hope things are feeling cozy in your neck of the woods!

See last year's fall home tour here.

And how we gussied up the piano for Christmas last year right here

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Monday, September 28, 2015

October: The Month of Spending Freezes And Doing

As much as I love the onset of fall (my favorite forever and ever), it also seems to be a time that isn't so kind to our budget.  School supplies, uniforms, clothes for cooler weather, birthdays, anticipation of the holidays, car maintenance, and my sudden need to organize everything.  It can all add up to a big sucker punch to the budget.    

Over the past few months, I've also been gathering things for the home projects on my radar.  But a certain teething baby has been thwarting my plans for sleep and general productivity.   At this point, our budget needs some recovery time and my house needs to stop looking like an IKEA warehouse.  I'm putting myself on a spending freeze for October and am going to finally do something with all these project supplies.

In a very "please hold me to it" manner, I announced to James that I want to wrap up any house projects for this year before Thanksgiving.  I've gone into almost every holiday season with an ambitious list of holiday and home projects.  It's weighed me down and hasn't exactly provided us with a joyful, peaceful season. We took a realistic hack at my our long home project list and I'm feeling relieved and ready to take on just a couple final projects for 2015.   Here's a look at what we'll be working on over the next couple months, using mostly what we already have on hand....

Finish the family room.
This room revamp all started because of an unfortunate leak that lead to all new flooring in our kitchen/family room.  It ended up being a huge blessing and unexpected upgrade thanks to help from our awesome insurance company.  We've gotten a little further than this progress pic here, but not much.
how to tackle DIY projects with young kids

We have the main furniture pieces in place, but we still have to address paint, trim, and those finishing touches that make a room feel like yours. This is where our family spends the most time, so I'm excited to start layering in our personality.

The garage.
This is the garage after we first moved in.
 Now image a single path leading from the door to the driveway framed by piles bikes, saws, scrap wood, and a bunch of stuff to donate or sell. It became our workshop during the floor installation and has turned into an utter disaster.  Not to mention safety hazard.  After we finish the trim cuts for the family room, we'll get that area cleaned up and ready for the winter months.  Because I'm a wimp and don't want to march through the snow to load the kids in the car in each morning.

The big girl's room.
This. girl's. room.  I think I've tried rearranging her furniture four different times since we moved in.
(this was a fail)

We finally found the right spot for her bed, but storage for my little hoarder has continued to stump us.  I wanted to do a custom build, but it's way too pricey.  We've come up with a cost effective alternative and I can't wait to get started.  Since I'm on a spending freeze, the budget for this room is going to come from whatever I'm able to sell of the garage mess via craigslist and ebay.  My mom is visiting at the end of October and we're going to work on this space together with Mia while she's here.  Bring on the organizing girl time!  #nerdsforlife

Musical furniture.
Whenever you move into a new place, you can plan out the furniture arrangements down to the last end table.  But until you actually live in a new home and see how your family uses the space, it's all just a best guess.  While this home has more space than our last, the placement of doors and windows has been pretty limiting for our bigger furniture pieces.  It's the smaller, multipurpose items that we've had a harder time with....small tables, small chairs, bookcases...they've floated all over the house.  Now that we've been here almost two years, and a better idea of how we use our space, I have one last round of furniture swapping to beg of my husband.  After that, we're bidding farewell to the stuff we don't need.

Add in us
It's quite sad how many personal, homey things are sitting in closets untouched.  We've put a couple things on the walls but we don't have a single family picture up.  And we had very few up in our last house.  We also have some great accessories that James and I brought to our marriage and some wonderful gifts we've received over the years that we have yet to give a proper home. I'm really excited to inject a bit more of us into our home over the next month.

We got a jump start on remedying the picture situation (and the large empty space above the couch) this weekend with IKEAs new picture ledges.  They are replacing the RIBBA ledges but aren't listed on the website yet.  Courtesy a la iPhone:

I'm going to caulk the center seams where we shoved the two ledges together and might add some brackets for reinforcement.  Of course the screw holes never line up with the walls studs, do they?  Now to plow through the thousands of unorganized photos on my computer to fill my frame stash - joy!

*Does anyone else get bit by the project bug during fall?  I actually love spending freezes because they force me to work with what I already have - which usually ends up being much more than I realized.  Anyone care to join in for October?  We could give it a hashtag and everything.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Monday, September 14, 2015

How To Transition To A New Schedule. And Stay Alive.

Hey friends!  Let's talk about September for a quick sec....

WTF?!?! It's such an odd month.  

We just had a week of crazy high temps - the warmest all summer - and while my brain wants to be thinking about pumpkin spice latte's (they're here!!) it just can't seem to get past the hot, wet blanket of humidity outside.

September, you are such a tease. You taunt me with one week of glorious fall weather, in which I begin to pull out my boots and favorite sweaters....and then you swiftly crush my autumn dreams, snatching back those crisp mornings as you deliver another two weeks of frizz inducing misery. 

It happens every year, so let's just call it like it is.  You're summer.  My brain will always want you to be fall, but you're not.  You're the transition month and I'm trying not to hate you.  Especially with my favorite month-child October right on your heels. 

You steal my joy with your wackadoodle weather and you push my every limit by requiring early wake-ups for school and some sort of organization lest I drown in paper correspondence and laundry.  I don't always want to simply survive you, September, but I think you can see the struggle.  

OK.  I feel better.  Is September messing with anyone else out there?  

It's rough enough transitioning from lazy summer days to having to be out the door at a certain time (even though we all crave the return of a structured routine).  But throw in the tease of fall weather in between mostly blazing days and I feel like I'm merely trying to avoid the fetal position.

We're three weeks into school and clearly we haven't yet hit our groove.  I'm certain our 5 year old was attempting some America Ninja Warrior move when he fell off the monkey bars at recess, breaking both bones in his wrist just one week into school.  So, maybe we'll take a pass for needing a bit longer of an adjustment period.

The biggest struggle I have (aside from my toddleresque attitude toward the weather), is that fall brings a certain boost of energy with it.  I've always preferred the cooler months and when school hits, an organizational kick tends to come with it.

But of course I don't tackle this in any sort of reasonable way.  It's like a new years resolution on steroids.  With the start of school I determine that I will.....

-get up early before the kids and have quiet time before they wake up
-prepare all the things the night before
-work out 5 days a week
-meal plan and reign in our grocery budget
-get into a regular cleaning routine
-assign a time for work/blog related tasks
-assign a time for personal stuff like responding to emails, reading, etc.
-keep in better touch with friends

All good things, all good things, right?  But slightly intense when you haven't been doing any of them consistently for awhile.  

I've tried many ways of doing this in the past, from scheduling our day down to the minute (too much rigidness, much stress), to allowing the day to flow naturally from one thing to the next (not enough structure, mucho chaos).

I will often draw up a schedule I think will work, only to find myself overwhelmed and defeated.  I tend to fall into two traps and this year I'm making a conscious effort to address those problems.

Problem #1: Creating a schedule that looks good on paper, but doesn't play well to our strengths or natural tendencies/preferences.

Any time you make a change to your routine or create new habits, it takes time.  There's a transition period in which your body is fighting and shouting profanities as you roll out of bed at the unfamiliar hour of 6 am.  This is the normal discomfort of developing a new habit.  But there is also the pain that comes from working against your natural rhythms/makeup.

Case in point - I am not a morning person and never will be. The difficulty is not just in waking at an early hour, it simply takes me a long time to actually wake up.  No matter the time I get out of bed, it always takes a good 30 min of being up and about until I'm awake enough to have my head in the game.  But my life simply doesn't allow me to sleep in as late as I would like.  I have no choice but to change this part of my day.  However, since I know I'm not a morning person, I've learned that I can make things easier or harder on myself by what I schedule for the morning.

If I leave showering, getting dressed, making lunches, checking backpacks, and finding everyone clean socks until the morning, well...just say a prayer for my poor children. We won't be off to a good start.

Instead: Create a daily routine that meets the requirements of our weekly obligations, in a way that doesn't make us crazy. 

Some things are non-negotiable (work/school times, lessons/extra curriculars, naps).  I write those in first and then look at my flexible items. Where would they best fit in the schedule? If I'm not sure, I start paying attention to how I feel after certain activities.

A lot of parents take their kids to school wearing their workout clothes and head straight to the gym after school drop off.  I thought this would work great on the days that Jack goes to preschool and I get a little break to myself during Liv's morning nap.  I could drop him off, come back, put the baby down for a nap, and squeeze in a workout.

But I don't really have time to workout and take a shower.  Which means I end up staying in workout clothes and then try to squeeze in a shower at some point during the day....and then try to find time to dry my hair....and then another few minutes to maybe put on some make up.  And then I feel as thought I've basically spent the whole day just trying to get dressed.

This may be just fine for some people, but I'm not in a great mindset when I go through the day this way.  I've learned that I feel so much better and somewhat accomplished when I get up and get dressed. It's really hard for me to get going in the mornings, so getting dressed forces me to wake up just a little bit more and be ready for whatever the day requires.

Problem #2:  LET'S DO IT!  The overzealous, cold turkey approach.

This will certainly work for many, but I've come to accept that I do not experience much success with this method.  I'm a perfectionist and put a lot of pressure on myself.  When I feel like I'm not measuring up or not succeeding, I tend to curl up in a hole incapable of doing anything. #ohthedrama

I end up doing a whole lot of thinking about what I want to be doing, and not a whole lot of actual doing.

Instead: Focus on one change to the routine each week. 

Now obviously, I have to go through an entire day, but where in the past I would have jumped into a totally new routine trying to fit in ALL the new things, this time I'm refining one thing at a time. #avoidscheduleschock

By default, week one was all about waking up early.  How long does it take to form a new habit?  2 weeks? Who knows.  After 3 weeks it still hurts to wake up early, but I'm actually getting out of bed after only one snooze on most days.  Occasionally, my morning person of a better half has to get me out of bed, but the 6 am alarm is not as much of a shock as it was a couple weeks ago.

Last week I played around with how to fit in that elusive work out.  While my day is a thousand times better when I start by getting dressed and ready, I also feel much better when I exercise a few days a week.  I have some back issues and am really feeling the strain from my awesome postpartum abs (read: zero core strength).

I played around with how many times a week, what time of day, etc.  I still haven't totally cracked this nut, but so far, the best compromise seems to be a workout later in the day and a shower at night.  That evening shower also helps me decompress from the day and is one less thing I have to do in the morning.

This week I'm going to work on meal planning (like maybe actually having some sort of a plan) and a better blogging/writing routine.  I have a hard time working in small chunks, especially when it comes to writing.  Which is sort of unavoidable at this point in my life, but I'm going to try doing the bulk of my post writing on the weekends.  That would leave other blogging tasks that can be tackled in small doses (photo editing, projects, social media, etc) for the weekdays. Has anyone else has success with this?

We're also taking this approach with the kids.  Because the only bigger non-morning person than the mama around here, is a blond haired third grader.  Those first weeks we worked on getting the kids to bed at a decent time, setting out clothes the night before, and adjusting to the new wake-up time.

Then we played around with the best time/place for homework, and not leaving a trail of shoes, backpacks, and lunchboxes in the middle of the floor.  Seriously.  This one might break me....the irony of the empty hooks and shoe cabinet surrounding the littered floor.  Oy.

But we'll get there!  A little bit at a time. We're never going to stick to a schedule perfectly and life is such that we constantly need to adjust. But having a good daily rhythm can allow space for all those things we have to do and most of the things we want to do.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by new routines and busier days, maybe choosing just one thing to focus on for a few days will help you feel a little less overrun. I give you permission to let the rest go for a bit.

Has anyone else been feeling this overwhelm?  Is the weather making anyone else crazy? What's the biggest adjustment for you during fall?

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Coming Up For Air

*First, thank you all so much for you kind words on our last post about homeschooling.  We're big fans of homeschool and we're big fans of traditional school...basically we're big fans of encouraging each other as we figure out the best choices for our families.  I'm grateful that this community is so supportive!

Like most everyone, I was so ready for the routine that comes with going back to school, But man, am I feeling out of sorts.  The house is a wreck, the papers are everywhere, and I'm feeling desperate for a better daily rhythm.  This monkey bar incident a couple days ago didn't help matters...

Sully was playing at recess and fell on his arm, breaking both bones in his wrist.  He was so brave and such a trooper with all the different nurses and doctors asking him to try moving his wrist in different ways.  They are being cautious with the full arm cast, to prevent him from moving his arm too much this first week.  They'll take another x-ray next week and if it's healing well, he should be able to go down to a short cast and eventually a brace.  Hopefully, we're looking a 4-6 weeks.

The first night was pretty rough...he just couldn't get comfortable #bigcasttinyarm  But last night was much better and he's getting used to doing more things one handed.  The school nurse, staff, and teachers have all been wonderful.  Our family is just a bit toasted....we're ready to catch up on some rest, crawl out from the school paper/laundry/dishes takeover, and settle into a routine.

So, while I work on taming our house and cleaning something (anything!), here are a few good reads to encourage you if you're feeling the onslaught of fall too.....

I loved this post by House of Smith's about how she talks to her girls once they get home from school.  She has a great list of questions to encourage conversation with your kids about their day beyond the one-word-answer inducing "How was your day?" and "Did you have fun today?".  I like her ideas on individual time with each kid too.

The Nester never disappoints and since we're not only drowning in school papers but unfinished projects, this was like a life line...

And Jess Connolly had a great Periscope video on battling the fall overwhelm.  (I think it's up for the rest of the day but there's also a free printable schedule on her instagram profile).  Brain dump/schedule/to-do list...coming right up! And this sneak peek of the Naptime Diaries fall line is slaying me.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More Than You Wanted To Know About Our Homeschool Experience And Why We're Back In Traditional School This Year.

Tomorrow is the day, y'all!  The first day back to school.  The day that I will set my alarm for 6am, protest cry, and attempt to drag my body out of bed before the children.  #IthinkIcanIthinkIcan

We're at a new school this year and we're all pumped!  The big kids have reassured me many times, "Oh, Mom!  You're going to be so lonely! What are you going to do??  Well, don't worry, Beanie will be here to keep you company.  You can do baby school for her".

Wait.  Weren't you homeschooling?  

Yes!  We were.  But this year we're not.  

Do you remember when we decided to homeschool?  And when I changed the whole curriculum a week into it?  And then we put one kid back in school mid-year?  It's sort of a giant blur to me too.  One that I didn't document very well either.  I blame it on being enormously pregnant and the foggy newborn months that followed.

I've wanted to write a follow up post on our year, but in all truthfulness, I still feel vulnerable about the subject.  People tend to have very strong opinions for/against homeschooling.  I want to be protective of our choice without feeling like we have to defend ourselves...and for awhile I wasn't even sure how I felt about the whole experience.  But time has a way of widening the lens.

My parents were visiting over the summer and while out driving my dad asked, "Now that the school year is done, how do you feel about how things went?".  I've had a lot of time to think on that and for the first time I was able to wholeheartedly respond, that I was glad.

Glad we tried homeschooling all three, glad we recognized that traditional school was a much better fit for Mia (and moved her accordingly mid-year), glad we kept the boys at home for the remainder of the year, and glad that they'll all be walking through the doors of the same school tomorrow morning.

If you ever wanted to know more about why we chose that path, then read on!  Or you can just scroll down a bit for our lessons learned.

Have you ever heard something so clearly at your deepest core that ignoring it would be like slamming on the brakes at a green light?  That's how I felt when God clearly said, "I want you to consider home school." 

Really?!?  But why??  Oh, well, I might know...

Our move from Albuquerque to Dayton was so fast.  Within two months we got news of relocating, sold our house and bought another here in Ohio.  We had a 24 hr house hunting trip in which we saw 10 houses and were able to visit one school.  The school was highly accredited/desired, so that's where we enrolled Mia to finish out 1st grade.  I wanted to visit a smaller school I found in our city research, but there simply wasn't time.

Towards the end of that year we began to notice some red flags.  Mia was coming home exhausted.  Physically, mentally, emotionally...exhausted in every way.  Her relationship with us and her siblings became strained.  We noticed some behaviors we weren't crazy about.  And we began to have some concerns about the school itself.  Sure it was big and fancy, but it was proving to be less community and more well-oiled machine.

When registration for the next year rolled around, the warm fuzzies about our great school were quickly disappearing.  Sully was right at the age cut-off, so we enrolled him for the next year's early fives class instead of kinder.  The student to teacher ratio for that age was really high and Jack would have to attend a separate school.

Then, we found out baby #4 was on the way, and maybe it was time to give homeschooling a more serious look.

But not before a litany of irrational reactions...

-First, I was mad.  Homeschooling was not for me.  I had friends growing up that were homeschooled and several friends who now homeschool their children.  And no, come to think of it, they aren't odd or socially inept...but still!  That's just not me.  I didn't want to think about that option!

-Then the perfectionist in me saw it as a challenge and wanted to do it.  To know if I could. To prove that I could.

-The planner kicked in shortly after and got all gung-ho about making lists and planning out our days.

Such misplaced motives.

I finally simmered down and returned to what God was asking of me.  Not to jump in with both feet and plan out our year.  Just, look into it.

So, we started researching. We joined homeschooling forums to ask questions.  We talked with families that have successfully homeschooled, and those who chose to go back to school. We prayed and researched more.  We talked with teachers who have taught in the classroom and at home.  We visited local co-ops.  We prayed.   We read.  We prayed some more.  And little by little, one small affirmation at a time, we arrived at yes.  Yes, we would homeschool all our kids for the coming year.  Because we were certain we were called to it and felt confident in the resources available to us.
Our homeschool experience

Isn't it funny when you find yourself on a different path, the need for understanding can become this insatiable quest?  I can't help but do that.  I need to figure out the why.  But God doesn't always promise the why.  In fact, in our experience, He doesn't reveal the why up front very often, or sometimes at all.

I know this and yet there I went trying to figure it all out and put together all the pieces of God's plan.  I was convinced I had found it.

Oh yes, God.  That was a good move.  You were right to call and challenge us in this way.  Mia needs this.  She's been in such a state of flux and transition and pressure. This will be such a better environment for her to learn and thrive.

Well, guess who hated homeschool?  My dear Mia.  I believe the direct quote was, "I've loved every school I've been to except homeschool."  Followed by a very dramatic slump in her chair, head thrown back.  Good thing I have semi-thick skin.

Mia loves structure and craves routine.  She is a rule follower and does. not. deviate. from the plan.  So, the beauty of being able to skip over concepts she's already mastered and spent more time on ones she's struggling to grasp?  Torture to her order-loving heart.

Being able to do school during non-school times when I may have more energy (big ole preggo remember?) or when Dad was home?  Ridiculous!  The consistency craver was crushed.

This culminated before the holidays and with registration for this coming year happening in Feb and a baby due in Jan we thought it best to tour schools before the Christmas break if we were going to consider going back to traditional school the next year.

As soon as I sat down to pray about where to even look, that smaller school I first found when researching from Albuquerque came to mind.  From the moment we stepped in for our tour it felt so different. So unlike the huge school that placed more value on accolades than the person, yet still held high academic standards that would challenge our kids.  And their arts program (Mia's jam) was so incredible.  By the time the tour was over James and I both knew - this was our school.  They also had a preschool, so all three kids could be in one place.  We planned to sign them all up for the following year.

Then our family was graced with one super sweet and super colicky baby.  Mia struggled with this the most and the majority of my day was suddenly spent holding a screaming or lightly sleeping baby.  We got back in touch with the school to see about Mia finishing the second half of the year there.  The next quarter was about to begin and a few other new students were starting soon. A couple weeks later Mia was part of the second grade class and loving it.

Through all that, here's a few things we learned....

-The decision to homeschool (or not) is personal and belongs to you and your spouse alone.  You know what's best for your children.  Once we had made our choice, I dreaded the impending conversation in which we actually had to tell people.  I felt the same way about telling people I was becoming Catholic.  I was in no way embarrassed or ashamed of our decision, but how do you sum up months upon months (or even years) of research and discernment in one short conversation?

We took a lot of time to really dissect all those preconceived ideas we had about homeschooling. Our friends and family did not.  So, try not to take it personally if they aren't as excited or seem leery.  Chances are they simply care about your family and want the best for your kids.  Try to be patient, explain as best you can, then accept that they may never come to the same place of understanding.

-Your homeschooled children will not be socially inept, if you ensure they aren't.  I think the biggest argument against homeschooling is "what about their social skills and being around other kids?!"  This was actually the least of my worries.  We have always been a very social family, active in both our parish and community.  Our children are around other kids in various settings (including structured class) all the time.

Yes, there are some families who try to create a bubble around their children, shielding them from the world and all of its influences.  They have withdrawn their children from brick and mortar schools but from every other aspect of society as well.  They have created a very safe haven of like-minded families, and their children only interact with these other children.  

And where we have parents building impenetrable shelters around their children from mainstream society, there are those just across the way who send their kids out the door with nary an idea or care as to what they're doing or who they're doing it with.

Those extremes could leave your kids very awkward and lacking in social situations, or incredibly rude and self-serving (or a whole slew of things in between).

While I certainly want and will continue to shelter my children from many of this world's realities with appropriate boundaries, we are meant to live in this world.  We cannot be salt and light and share the beauty of God's love and goodness by hunkering down in our very comfortable, non threatening life.  Or by only interacting with the people who already have it.

I think children take most of their cues for how to interact with the outside world from us.  If and when you are out in the world, they are learning as they watch you.  Then they get to apply it when they are with friends at school, or co-op, or church, or play dates, or sports practice or wherever. As parents we get to identify concerns within our children's education, and we do the same with their social life.  If we see a social need or where a skill is lacking, we get to determine the best way to work on it.  And there are lots of ways beyond the traditional classroom to do that.

-Trust your gut.  The curriculum choice about killed me.  I had never done this before so I wanted something comprehensive.  I wanted something that would tell me what to do and hold my hand. I didn't want to be spending hours on lesson plans.

I was never totally sold on the curriculum we went with (even though it was popular) but I needed to make a decision.  I quickly saw that their set-up and materials were not working for us.  I would spent hours each week chopping up the pre-formed syllabus and piecing it back together in a way that made sense for us.  And I cut out half of the books that came with the curriculum.  Which totally defeated the purpose of having a comprehensive set.

I finally stopped beating my head against the wall, returned it all, and pieced together my own curriculum.  It's what I wanted to do from the very beginning, but didn't feel confident enough to try off the starting blocks.

The good news is that homeschooling is very forgiving.  You can adjust and change as you go.  Don't be afraid to give something a shot. Sometimes you have to try something out before you know if it's going to work.  And certainly don't feel locked into something that is clearly not working.

-Planning is good, but flexibility is better.  I thought Mia would love curling up on the couch for school and hopping around different subjects, but as we've already discussed....No.

I read I should have things for the preschooler or he would just disrupt and destroy.  So, I had workbooks and manipulatives and fun activities for him to do....and he didn't give a hoot.  He was happy to "do school" for a short bit, then was off to do his own thing.

I heard that I shouldn't plan much for kinder....a little reading and basic math should do it.  Mostly play.  But Sully was our wildcard.  He wanted SCHOOL.  He kept asking for more (which had me scrambling!) and ate up everything we planned for him.

I said that I was either homeschooling all of them or none of them, we were not doing a bunch of different things!  Turns out that wasn't best for everyone either.

-It's not ever time lost. We learned so much about our children's abilities and how they learn during the short time we homeschooled. Our extensive research on schooling methods was so valuable for the long haul and is knowledge that will continue to aid us in our approach to our kiddo's education.

If you're thinking about homeschooling, but are worried about making the wrong decision and losing a year.....you're not going to screw up your kids.  I promise.  They are so resilient and gain so much more than we realize even from the simple work of daily life together.  That intentional time together is never time wasted.

-It's OK to pull back if that's what your family needs.   The idea of stepping back from school and pulling back for a year is so taboo.  It's all strive, strive, strive, high test scores, extra curriculars, social pressures....it's a lot for a kid. It's a lot for a family.  If this year has taught me anything it's that I'm totally fine going against the grain of our societal rat race.  I'm OK if my kids aren't at the top of their class on paper or aren't competing on the best swim team in the city.  I will not crush them with a schedule full of things that are "good for them".   I still believe that in the end, our family unit is the best foundation for our children's future success, regardless of our schooling method.

-Grace abounds.   Oh goodness, there is grace.  I'm pretty sure no parent ever said, "You know, I really excel at patience and enjoy the thrill of chaotic multitasking. I should home school."  And if they did, then yes, they probably would be an excellent candidate for managing their children's education from home. However, most of us that have faced those waters have done so with a great deal of fear and self-doubt.  Some of us are better equipped than others for teaching, but if God has called you to this particular mission, then He will be faithful to pour out the grace needed for the task.  One day at a time, Mama.

Our experience with homeschooling reinforced that each family is so different.  There are certain moral truths that deserve our firm and enthusiastic resolve, but this is not one of them.  There are many ways to educate our children and the best person to make that decision for your kids, is you.  I think most of us know when something is not working and we also know how good it feels to thrive when you're in the right place.

I had to let go of a little pride to admit that homeschooling was no longer working for us.  Our short stint homeschooling was not primarily about Mia, as I thought it would be.  It was also about giving Sully a better foundation and time to mature for kindergarten  It was about giving our family time and space to recover from the fast paced move of the past year.  It was about saying no to something that seemed really good, so that we could eventually say yes to a better option.

So, will we forever be a traditional school family?  I'm not sure.  For now, it's the right place for us.  We're fortunate to live in an area with fantastic schools, and we seem to have found one that's a great fit for our kids.  We know we're blessed to have these options.  If our situation changes, then we're grateful to have home education as an option in the future.....although, I would have to work on the "structure" bit for Mia's sake.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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