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Monday, June 26, 2017

TFR Part Two Thoughts 2017



It has been such a joy to discuss Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace (affiliate link - I might get a few pennies from your purchase using this link). with new friends in person and old friends online and to see the Holy Spirit speak to them through the ideas. As I said last week, every time I read this book, I find new thoughts to ponder and pray over. Here is what stood out to me, personally, from Part Two:
  1. I have seen my own growth through simplifying my homeschooling. Books and materials used to be my primary focus, but thanks to Sarah, my children are. And sharing big ideas and growing together is much more important than the curriculum I choose. There has been so much freedom in knowing I just need to do my best to pick something that will work and not worry that I’m choosing just the perfect materials. As Sarah says, “How you teach is just as important as what you teach,” and I have taken that to heart.
  2. This year, I think I want to move from thinking about homeschooling towards thinking about home education. Often when I use the word school, all of the elements of my traditional education in a brick and mortar school come to mind. I forget, but Sarah reminds me, that I have the freedom to educate my children as I prayerfully discern is best. I do not have to stick to a curriculum or schedule that mirrors “away-schooling,” as my children used to call not homeschooling.
  3. Margin is absolutely essential to me. When I do not have white space, I hurry through our days and that usually results in me barking or yelling at my kids. As a recovering perfectionist, my husband has been the one over the years to remind me to stop at the end of a day and leave some things undone. Rest is essential. Time to care for me, my spiritual, social, emotional, physical, and emotional needs, must be a part of our days.
  4. I am also a recovering multi-tasker. This is one of the parts of the book I argued with when I first read it, and I am beginning to recognize that this is a journey. Of course there are times when we have no choice but to multi-task, but in the majority of moments I think I do have a choice. Somehow I need to do better, and part of that is going to require being intentional about setting aside my smartphone.
  5. “Do less. Do it well.” This is how Part Two closes, and it takes me back to my days of recovery from burnout three summers ago. The reality of that collapse was that I was doing trying to do too much, as is my tendency. Thinking upon this now, when I have found such peace in simplifying in previous years, I am determined to avoid the creep of more, more, more. Since our last academic year required that I focus only on core subjects, I am very tempted to add in all the things we missed last year, rather than select a few.

These are my thoughts! Here are Sarah's thoughts in a recording of her excellent online book club. I am sure, if you have read Part Two of Teaching from Rest, you have other thoughts to ponder. Please share them! I want to hear what words have touched you.



Monday, June 19, 2017

From Big Picture Thinking to a Written Daily Schedule: Plan Your Year Review



I had planned to post this review after I finish all of my Teaching from Rest book studies for the summer next week, but the price on this resource is going up this Wednesday (June 21, 2017)! I did not want you to miss out, my friends. I am not being compensated in any way for this review; I just really want to share how much I love this kit!

THE KIT

Pam Barnhill, a fellow homeschooling mama, has created a remarkable resource to bridge the gap between the theoretical homeschool and the day to day reality. Her Plan Your Year Kit is a true gem, and if you are hoping to be more intentional about planning your homeschool year, every page is worth every penny!

The current price is $24, and this includes the Planning Guide in PDF format, (currently) 74 beautiful downloadable forms for planning, two inspiring audio workshops, an invaluable Facebook group, and lifetime updates to the product. Pam updates calendars every season and adds custom forms requested by users.

She has also just added a 14-page student planner, The Independent Student, in 4 different graphic formats with an audio workshop, specifically for this new planner, which is included in the kit for free until July 2! You can download free sample pages from all of the above now to see if this product is for you.

Now, let me share why this kit has been such a gift to me!

NEXT STEP

I have found that PlanYour Year is the logical next step after reading Teaching from Rest. Most of my readers and friends know how much I love Sarah Mackenzie’s wise words. She regularly challenges us all to imagine our vision for our homeschools and focus on our priorities. Pam’s guide insists that the first thing one should do before buying materials or making a schedule is to write down on paper (or you can even type into Pam’s forms and save a pretty typed version) our overall vision and our goals for each child.

Once I have read about how I should “bring [my] basket,” “simplify the curriculum,” and “plan to breathe,” personally, I will completely forget about those ideas once I walk into the homeschool conference and start talking planning with my homeschooling friends. Even the subtitle of Pam’s guide, Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning forPurpose and Peace, reflects the subtitle of Sarah’s book, Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guideto Unshakable Peace. (Yes, I think they did that on purpose; they’re pretty good friends, if you hadn’t guessed!)

And another day I’ll post a review of MySchoolYear.com, a homeschool record-keeping program, which has totally improved the day to day execution of the plans I make with Plan Your Year! My process includes: Step One, read Teaching from Rest; Step Two, Plan Your Year; and Step Three, use MySchoolYear.com to make it happen! (3 fantastic resources created by fellow Catholic homeschooling families!)

HOW TO

As I said in my testimonial above, there are probably thousands of free homeschool planning forms on the internet today. I have used many of them, but none of them come with a how-to guide to filling them out. Pam’s planning guide walks you through the ten steps to planning your year: Vision, Goals, Course of Study, Scheduling Options, Plan a Week, Purchase Resources, Booklists, Organization, Records, and the Daily Plan.

The forms themselves are clean and pretty, and I love that you can type right into the spaces to make your own personalized planning pages. There are so many different forms for so many different situations, including everything you would expect for homeschooling planning and a selection of specialized forms for family chores, morning time, loop scheduling, transcript planning, reading logs, etc. But the guide also includes links to resources and action steps to be sure you’re putting your family’s priorities first when you plan.

If you are like me and get overwhelmed by the details such that you forget the big picture, PlanYour Year is for you. I used to start with a long list of the things I wanted to teach the following year without stopping to consider why to teach those things and which were realistic for my family. I would see the shiny new books and the bargains at the used book sales and decide to jump in without evaluating our needs. Going through Pam’s careful planning steps ensures that I walk in to each conference or sale with a list of what my priorities are and which books I think will best fit those principles.

PERSONALIZED

I admit that I am the type of homeschooler who cannot use somebody else’s plans. When I look at sample pages to purchase daily lesson plans from whatever provider, I would make so many changes that I see them as a waste of my money. You may not be that way. Perhaps you love the structure of daily plans and maybe are enrolled in a full time or hybrid homeschool program. Plan Your Year can work for all of us!

This kit really is personalized. You decide the goals and print out the forms you want. You make a list of resources you need and when you need them. You plug in the activities and lessons on the calendar if you want. You map out the best approach to each day based on the needs of your family. And since an individualized education is one of the reasons many of us homeschool, this is the tool to make those wishes come true!

Finally, I cannot say enough good things about the wonderful ladies in the Plan Your Year Homeschool Planning Facebook group. Pam’s assistant, Dawn, guides the group in regular discussion during key planning times, and Pam pops in to share relevant wisdom, opportunities, and resources, including a file section with some of those customized forms I mentioned above. If you have a question or need someone to look over your plans, the mamas there are ready to help you make a plan that works for you!


GUARANTEE

Need another reason to click and buy? Pam offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied for any reason, she will give you a full refund.

Whether you are an orderly thinker who loves filling out forms, or tend towards being a scatterbrain and need someone to help you focus step by step through planning, I think Plan Your Year will work for you! I have just begun to print forms and dive into the process this year, but I am looking forward to pulling together all the thoughts swimming around in my head about next year into a definite plan.

Let me know in the comments here if you decide to join me and tell me what you think about Plan Your Year. Maybe we can even meet here or on Facebook to share our plans as we develop them!

TFR Part One Thoughts 2017



This is my third summer to read Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace (affiliate link - I might get a few pennies from your purchase using this link). Each time I ponder this book, I find new wisdom and a unique focus to guide me in planning for our next homeschool year. Over the past several weeks, I have had the opportunity to discuss the first part of this book with various friends and colleagues, in real life and online.

As a result of those discussions and my own reading, listening, and journaling, these are the key points I will take from part one this year:
  1. Over and over I have been reminded that the voices in my head that discourage me and cause me to question my daily decisions in mothering and homeschooling need to be replaced. In fact, the entire first section of this book reminded me that much of teaching from rest is to simply change my attitude. That is easier said than done, of course. 
  2. And to replace those voices, I need to constantly remind myself that God is present and watching. As Sarah says, “God showing up is not the miracle.” I am sure that if I can remember to let God be God, His still, quiet voice will guide me, especially as I spend precious time praying with His Word in the Scriptures, one of my favorite ways to pray.
  3. Thanks to the wise words of dear friends, I am also pondering anew how we can find God in the true, the good, and the beautiful. I can find Him there, and I can lead my children to Him there. Surely, this is the best way to capture the hearts of my children.
  4. Sarah also reminds us to always “choose the child” and focus on “loving him through” whatever is to be done. I have long believed that my highest priority is my relationship with each of my children, and I now renew my desire to live that more intentionally. To be faithful, to share joy, to be diligent…these all take intentional living.
  5. But to accomplish any of the above, I will need to learn better to accept the existing conditions the Lord has allowed and acknowledge my own weaknesses. He created each of my children, my husband, and me to be exactly the way He wants us to be. All I can offer is my best, trust that God will fill the gaps, and hope that Mary will, as one of my favorite prayers says, "supply in [her] all-wise motherhood for my poor human deficiencies."
These are my thoughts! Here are Sarah's thoughts in a recording of her excellent online book club. I am sure, if you have read Part One of Teaching from Rest, you have other thoughts to ponder. Please share them! I want to hear what words have touched you.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Be There



I went on a 20-hour womens’ retreat last month led by the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. (By the way, if you ever have a chance to go on one of their retreats in Ann Arbor or near Austin, go!) There were many things about those fleeting hours that I have brought home to ponder, and this one won’t let go, especially given the division and fear that is crushing our world today.

At one point the Sisters showed us the first part of this wonderful new movie, Liberating a Continent: John Paul II. One portion of the film that struck me was after Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, and he went back to visit communist Poland, his homeland. The government did everything they could to discourage people from going to see him, fabricating and spreading stories about damaged roadways, rampant disease, and filth. But despite these lies and because of the inability for the faithful to ever speak in public about their faith, they went to see him. Historians estimate that 13 million people saw him over his nine-day visit in Poland.

I forget who, but one of the historians or clergy who were interviewed for the film explained that those gatherings were a catalyst for change. You see, these people did not know what their neighbors believed. There was no free speech, but by seeing one another gather together to pray with the pope, they realized how many fellow citizens were desperate for change. By physically being there, a new unity came about which inspired the strikes and other actions that would one day lead to the fall of communism in that country and beyond.

In our culture, it isn’t often difficult to know what another person thinks. We share our opinions freely, as we should in a country of free speech. Our Facebook feeds and our lunchroom discussions are as often about politics and religion as pop stars and TV shows, since we seem to have outgrown the previously taboo nature of these topics. But when we encounter another person who has similar beliefs and is living in a similar situation as we are, our faith is indeed boosted, and we feel we are a part of something bigger than our little circle of influence.

You have probably experienced this at a concert, conference, retreat, or similar large gathering. Wow. Look at all the people who love what I love. I felt that way on retreat this weekend as I met women from all over the State of Texas who were busy with jobs and families but needed 20 hours to focus on God, reflect on their vocation, and pray together for our families and our world.

Especially as mothers, especially as homeschooling mothers, we can feel extremely isolated and wonder if anyone else has similar struggles. But as soon as we head to the park and start chatting about toddler meltdowns and tween-age dawdling, our spirits are lifted, and we know we can persevere. When we encounter another soul thirsting and questing for God, we feel an instant connection and realize we are not alone.

In my own life, I recognize the need to find like-minded friends with similar vocations. All they have to do is be there, to send a text or to meet me for coffee, and I find renewal. It does not matter how we spend our time, whether we delve deep in conversation or merely chat with constant interruptions as our children play squabble. The Lord created us, women especially, for relationship with one another, and making the effort to show up not only feeds the souls of those around us, but also comforts our own hearts by reminding us that constantly striving for holiness is indeed a noble thing and not an impossible quest.

Perhaps there are obstacles to finding these IRL (in real life) gatherings. It is then that social media can fill a void with forums and blogs, Facebook and Instagram. A simple post can connect us to strangers and remind us Whom we serve, taking us out of our self-centered thoughts. We can find our tribe, and we can be reminded to fight the good fight and keep the high standards.

So my challenge to you is to reach out today. Be present to someone IRL or online, and stand side by side, appreciating your common ground and respecting your differences, because God loves us all when we are united in His Son, Christ Jesus.


Monday, June 12, 2017

This Book


This book. When it was first published as an ebook in 2014, I was in a fog. My youngest was just about a year old, I was struggling to keep a home business alive, and I sincerely thought it should not be taking me so long to bounce back to orderliness and productivity after another new baby. I was homeschooling a 5th and a 3rd grader and chasing a three year old amidst it all. Rest and peace were elusive.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace (affiliate link) came out on Sarah's blog and sounded like it would be a great help to my weariness. I had been reading and enjoying Sarah's perspective for a while, but reading a post here and there while nursing was hardly enough to cobble together a coherent thought to remember and apply tomorrow.

So I devoured her e-book. I printed it and put it in a binder and promptly read through it. I enjoyed her focus on trusting God and respecting who He created my children, and me, to be. But as she began to suggest practical ways to implement surrendering our homeschooling to the Lord, I fell back on my old perfectionist, worrying ways. And then, I promptly called a friend, one who had also read it, and complained, declaring the impossibility of the ideas within it. It just did not make sense!

How could I allow my children not to finish their math book by the end of the year? How could I simplify my curriculum when we hadn't even started Latin!? And how on earth could I schedule our days to allow for seemingly idle time? 24 hours are just not enough! (If you are laughing with me now, you have been there!)

But when the Lord wants to heal you, He doesn't give up. The following school year Sarah's words kept coming back to me. I argued with myself regarding my objections to her wisdom. Yet, even in Confession, Father was telling me to stop looking at prayer as something to check off of my to do list and just to "rest in the Lord." So, little by little, stubborn me began to surrender more and more to Christ. I brought my "couple loaves of bread and a few fish" to God and sat still long enough to let Him work in our homeschool. The results were grace and peace beyond my imaginings.

The following summer, I picked up the book again, in print form and remarkably edited to clarify its message, and I devoured it with new eyes. Now I read it at least once a year, sometimes twice. Each time the Holy Spirit prompts me in new ways to realize that I am not "the be-all and end-all of whether the education [I am] offering [my] children is going to be as successful as [I] hope it is." God is, and I endeavor to "seek Him first."

I highly suggest every homeschooling mother, whether you are enrolled in a hybrid or home-based program or you cobble together your own lessons, read this book. There is wisdom here that comes directly from Scripture and other wonderful books and from the daily experiences of many. If you look to planning next year as an enormous chore that you are incapable of completing or have not fully finished your school year and are limping to the finish line, consider reading this book. (And it's good for those of you who school year round, too!)

Would you like to join me to discuss this remarkable book over the next few weeks, as I study it again? I'm hoping that for the next several Mondays I can manage to get a post up here with my thoughts on each section of the book, and we can try to chat here. I know some of you are joining me to study the book in other ways, but a few friends requested a non-local, non-Facebook place. Let's try it! If you're in, please comment below, so I know to plan to chat with you next Monday about Part One!