Friday, March 16, 2018

When homeschooling went from frustrating to beautiful: part 1

The morning was flowing along wonderfully. 
 Our hushed early risers soaked up the fire and coffee
 as the pitter patter of feet one by one emerged from sleepy slumber
 to join us in our morning rituals.
 Snuggling up with the littles under piles of blankets, books and pillows,
we visited,
 read aloud,
 talked about our plans for the day,
enjoying yet another cup of coffee,
happily immersing ourselves in a cozy, lazy hour before the day gets going.
I cherish this hour.
  Such a respite from the hectic pace that all too often befalls us!
Even though I am not a morning person, getting up before the day begins is well worth it,
and it is critical to a non chaotic,  non stressful morning.
Eventually breakfast was pronounced ready.
Our established routine begins the day encircling the table together with these 7 gems,
 giving thanks and enjoying a home cooked breakfast...
today a steaming stack of Joe's pancakes fragrant with real maple syrup and applesauce.
Often we sing a hymn, which helps us focus on higher thoughts rather than on ourselves,
then end with devotions from Proverbs-the book of wisdom-
 so applicable for youth.
The order of the morning proceeded to getting dressed,
children making their beds and a quick tidy of  their room,
bringing down their laundry (if it is their day)
daily chores, and finally reporting ready for morning time.

Poetry, mingled with Americana
kindles inspiration to finish our morning time with Great Explorers. 
 Sufficient coffee having been consumed,
 we are ready for Math, where each student works on their figures and I,
still in my rocking chair,
 am ready to lend a hand when they get stuck.
 After an hour of math, everyone scatters to a cozy nook for a pleasant hour of reading,
 then on to Bible memorization, each child pacing about learning their verses..
some with English accents, some rhythmically swinging while quoting their text.
 During this time I start a load of laundry and prepare a simple lunch.
This is how it works everyday.
 Smoothly, orderly, with much enjoyment and sweetness.
One of our older children says that they wish I had schooled like this when they were young.
 I do too, believe me!
It is beautiful.

But is was not always so.
 Our first 10 years of homeschooling were grueling, yelling, frustrated, overwhelming years
 that I determinedly trudged through.
Somewhere, there was a turn of a corner.

 I have been pondering just how it happened.
 What was it that rocked our world so much
as to turn a driven woman into a nurturing mama?, I asked myself.

 And there, in the question, was the answer.


I have been talking about it all along...if one reads back through the years.
 But I have not gathered all my thoughts in one place-
 until now.

Webster's defines nurturing as
 "providing loving care and attention to, 
the act of educating, developing, nourishing, feeding.
That which promotes growth."
The key here, I think, is what kind of care.
LOVING care.
Loving care says with a smile, "good morning, dear."
Loving care asks "what can I do for you?"
Loving care goes out of the way to feed....
heart, soul, and mind, and stomach.
It does not leave children to fend for themselves in any way.
How can I say that with conviction?
  Because we are to be imitators of God,
 and He never, never leaves us to fend for ourselves.

With loving care he tends to all that we need, and goes above and beyond.
He did not just provide food.
 He provided amazing, diverse, pleasant, satisfying food, and that in abundance.
(likewise we for our children)
He does not drag us along.  He tenderly leads us.
(by His strength, shall we tenderly lead and guide our children)
He did not give us a dry barren place to live.
He created a planet full of incredible beauty, full of unimaginable discoveries and delights.
(Our homes should reflect this)
He does not just observe from above, He is fully present, actively involved with us all the time.
(this is the trademark of a nurturing mama)

I think our corner appeared
 after a reviving and refreshing home school conference,
 we were convinced that our home life should take a dramatic reconstruction.
Our eyes were opened to the sacredness and responsibility 
we carry as parents.
 It is a great thing to take these tender lives, rich with so many possibilities,
and be responsible before God for their shaping and training and building of character.
We are the builders of the home.
  Our home will be what we make it. 
 Its tone,
 its atmosphere,
its spirit,
 its influence will be derived from us, the parents.
Having been thus humbled, and well, scared to death,
we repented before our children and asked them to forgive us,
and shared with them that we wanted our home to change,
 to reflect God and his character instead of the world's sad model.
Eagerly they agreed.
 There were many hugs and tears...and then, much prayer for how to begin.
J.R. Miller's old, old book, "Homemaking"  popped off the shelf at us
 and quickly became  indispensable...still is.
(please, please, please read it!)

And so,
Intentionally, I created a plan to begin our day with nurturing,
(I light a candle, we snuggle together, often with tender music)
 to continue with nurturing,
(we eat breakfast and have devotions, read aloud)
and end with nurturing.
(often reading aloud, prayers and tucking in)
  Know what's in the middle?  Nurturing.
(daily teatime, schoolwork together with no yelling, a meaningful dinner, 
all woven together with words of encouragement and affirmation)

Sprinkling loving acts of care and kindness
 that enrich and ennoble our lives throughout our day
 was the first step in transforming our home school into something beautiful,
 something we would all look forward to,
something just plain wonderful.

Kind words,
 smiles all around,
 candles, music, cuddles and hugs,
 patient teaching and instruction,
 working together,
 praying together,
singing together,
reading aloud, tea time, one on one time,
a well set table,
 preparing a good meal,
taking walks together,
taking time to tuck children in at night,
 anything that makes a person feel special-
 these habits are nurturing and uplifting.

Later, I read Sally Clarkson's book, The Life Giving Home.
Very inspiring.  I highly recommend it.
Even just contemplating the title is a place to begin.
What would a "life giving home" look like?
I believe it is a home where we honor one another with our words, our time, our talents.
   A place where we focus on giving and trust that Lord will fill us back up again.

And, I believe nurturing, or "life-giving" is just what women were made for.
 We are naturals.
 Sure, it will take a bit of practice to really get your nurturing rolling.
But, backed by prayer and a promise that God will see you through,
 you can begin.
You see, the nurturing is for you, too.  It will lift you up as well.
Then, your home school, and home life may just turn a corner.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sunday Dinner

Old and young,
 men, women, and children turn up in full force for 
the timeless tradition of family supper.
  Delicious aromas wafting up from the oven reach out beyond the front door
to greet each person as they approach our cabin.
 Roasting meat, fire crackling, a merry pile of children heaped on a couch,
 these familiar sights and sounds fill the senses. 

  Sunday dinner. 

 Just naming it brings to mind years of  home cooked,
 multi-generational dinners at my grandma's house. 
Grandma was the best cook.  
Her baked beans, biscuits and gravy, and pickles are still legendary.
  Generations ago, 
in North Carolina's way back hollers,
 a relative of mine served her family pickled something or the other,
 because that was one of their staples of winter food. 
 My grandma passed down this quirky tradition.
That tiny woman,
 of considerable strength, wisdom and energy, always had pickled beets, 
picalily, or dill pickles gracing her table. 
Now, we honor her memory and our family history
with our own home-canned pickled goodness each and every Sunday dinner.
It is part of the story of

 A generous sprinkling of the dishes I was raised with:
 Meat, potatoes, gravy, home made rolls or cornbread,
 and ofcourse, pie ending it all...
that's the hallmark our family dinners are made of.
 Traditional family food is more than delectable,
 it is heritage come down.

History is part of the feast.

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 Grandma's cooking was wonderful, 
but what is in my heart
is the gathering of family at table,
 for that is what made our family dinners special.
In this day of busy, over committed lifestyles,
we intentionally slow down long enough to come together.

And so, we seek to honor our parents by inviting them to Sunday Dinner,
 along with all our children, and usually a few friends, 
for a bountiful table set to holiday standards.
 My mom taught me that
  a thoughtfully set dinner table is a gift to those seated around it.
 and also that
 presentation can make anything you serve more gracious.

Setting a fine table is an effort.  
This is the work of preparation.
 This work of preparation brings forth the expectation of something extra special.
The children clue in on this, and excitement for the day swells.

The family dinner is a place of belonging...
...a place where we can commune together,
 experiencing the beauty and goodness of all that God has given us for our joy and pleasure.
This table invites us to fill the hunger and thirst our souls inherently have for community.

The intention is to treat those we love as what they are to us... wanted, valued, and appreciated.
  The result is a reawakened vision of family life as it used to be back in the day.

The extra work and effort unequivocally worth it.

Hungry guests and eager children know to listen for the sweet summons of the dinner bell.
Anticipation of the succulent dinner at hand, a hurrah goes up as we gather.  
Love that word. 
To be gathered around the table is blessing enough.
But there's more.
We lift up our voices, old and young, in song. 
Here is beauty.
Then, after a prayer, each person around the table expresses one thing they are thankful for.
This is so important. 
 When we do this, we are intentionally turning our hearts in gratitude 
to the One who has given us so very much, 
which, turns our hearts away from ourselves 
and offers a chance to revive selfish attitudes, thus rendering deeper enjoyment. 

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, 
and forget not all his benefits:"
- Psalm 103:1-2 KJV

Dinner is served.

As plates are removed to the kitchen,
the children line up oldest to youngest near their dad,
 eagerly awaiting their father's blessing bestowed on each head.
  O, my heart!
In my mind, there is just about nothing as beautiful 
as a father giving his children a sweet blessing
 to carry them through the days ahead, 
reminding them of their value, their identity, their destiny.

When heads and hearts have received their blessing, 
a sweet, mouthwatering conclusion is served round.
The aroma of coffee brewing convinces all to sit and sip awhile yet longer.
Here are memories being imprinted on young minds.
Conversations eventually move to the living room in front of the fire.
The boys quiz their papa about welding, fabrication, forging, and cars.
The girls watch as the grandmas put the kitchen to rights with cheerful voices,
as if dishes for 18 are nothing at all to wash by hand.
The smaller children love to use Grampy's attention as a show and tell time. 
The cabin is abuzz with small conversations here and there,
 while second cups of coffee are filled and leftovers parceled out to each household.

Finally, the cabin empties as twilight settles in.
My heart is full.
  I am undoubtedly exhausted.
 And yet, I will joyfully look forward to next time, because
This is just too precious to pass up.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Vintage Family: In The Cold of Winter

 Home should always be a retreat for the soul,
 filled with uplifting beauty 
and the shelter of each other.

 As the temperatures drop outdoors,
all things Hygge flourish within our cabin walls.
  We are folks who adore bad weather.
  Life below zero is another wonderful excuse to nestle in a cozy blanket,
 hearty mugs of tea in hand, 
and enjoy the pleasure of reading aloud to the family an extra chapter or two. 

The sweetly cheerful scene of children engrossed in a good book, 
lunch bubbling away on the cook stove,
 an abundance of wool clothing displayed 
provides a wonderful sense of tranquility 
that floods my soul on these quiet, albeit cold days of winter, 
and never ceases to make me smile.

We try to keep life simple
 by making home a refuge and retreat for the soul,  
and forging a homelife filled with all that is good and inspiring and invigorating.
 These old fashioned ideals have found a comfortable place in our midst.      

I think the enduring classics of family life are the table, 
order in daily life, 
and reading aloud together. 

 The mainstay of this vintage family is our faith.

Our ever present standby to a vintage family life is valuing what we have.  

I have found that having a functional and nurturing routine helps keep us all moving forward together and helps to limit the chaos of family life. 
 By a nurturing routine,
 I mean one that invites warmth and a sense of belonging.
 The act of lighting candles quiets and warms a room, immediately bringing life.
 I always light a candle at the table before a meal, 
and another one gracing the coffee table in the living room each morning.
Candles are *my one weakness.* 

As we gather at the table for meals,
 and this act is so very important, even for those pb & j lunches, 
we have opportunity to inspire, encourage, uplift our family,
 and give them a sense of belonging to something greater than self-
of being part of a whole,
 and of being missed if they are not occupying their place.
The table too can be a tender place, 
holding a trove of treasures, not just for the appetite, but for the soul.
  By giving thanks, another old timey tradition, 
we take a moment to open eyes and heart wide to the beauty in everyday life.  
Each day is a gift,  and to me, it should be treated as such.
It is the consistency of these little moments, 
added up, that have the most value.

The power of routine
 is that it takes us the places we most want to go, need to go..
especially when our will power wanes, we weary and are tempted to slack.
  Routine, softer and more flexible than scheduling, gives us a gentle road map for our day.
It also provides us a time and place to nurture in the midst of school, lessons, 
and all we have going on a daily basis.

Our daily routine takes us thru morning time, schooling and then lunch.
  Afterward, a ramble through the woods, 
tea time, 
more reading aloud... there any better way to gather children up than a candle, a hot drink, and a good story? 
 I think not. 
 This tradition is the quintessential mark of our home life. 
 The power of a good story shared fosters kinship, at the very least.
 My most brilliant piece of parenting advice is such: 
 read aloud to your children every chance you get.
Any time of day, reading aloud fits the mark.
Before school?  What better way to inspire them to be on time for breakfast,
 than a fabulous story read aloud to them as they eat each morning?
Light a candle, ring a bell instead of yelling that breakfast is ready.

There is a favorite saying  that goes:
"Life is like a cup of's all in how you make it."
 I ache for the homes aplenty that have no sense of life giving in  them, 
where the mamas dread each day, each task, 
as if raising children well is not the most essential thing a body can do. 
Want a beautiful life?  Make one.
It can be done.
  It should be done.
There is a great sense of joy and peace that comes
 from the immense effort it takes to create and carry out
 a home life that is intentional about 
invigorating people to live heaven on earth.
I believe it is what we were made to do, 
which is why it is such a satisfying work.
Sally Clarkson put it well when she stated that,
 "Where there is vision for building godly generations in the home, 
there is God's grace and energy for the task."

Twilight fades, lights dim, bringing forth the hush of evening. 
(praise the Lord, how I need it!) 
A fresh snowfall kindles all the elements of winter comforts;
 flannel, a blazing fire, comfort food, and don't forget wool socks.... 
and we, being pulled snugly around the table once again
bow our heads as Father prays...
just like in the good old days.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Vintage Family

"Grandpa, tell me bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like this world's gone crazy
And Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn't seem so hazy

Did lovers really fall in love to stay
And stand beside each other come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept
Not just something they would say then forget
Did families really bow their heads and pray
Did daddies really never go away?
Oh, Grandpa, tell me bout the good old days.

Grandpa, everything is changing fast
We call it progress, but I just don't know
And Grandpa, let's wander back into the past
And paint me the pictures of long ago"
- Jamie O'Hara,
 sung by Wynona Judd

I continue...

"Mom and Dad, tell me 'bout when you were raised.
How did you spend your days?
I need to know for certain!
My children, they are growing fast.
If this family is gonna last
we had better do things the old fashioned way."

Paint me those pictures of long ago.
Daddy, how I need to know.
It is an upstream swim in culture so dim,
We just can't go that way.
So tell me 'bout your childhood days.

Daddy, your wisdom has given us resolve.
We are gonna pray, work hard, and love.
We won't have video games in our home,
Or let our young children have a phone.
We will eat together at the table each day,
Go outside for walks and play.

You said, "Teach your boys to show respect,
Honor their elders, do an honest days work.
Show your daughters, to be gentle and kind,
Cheerful, like grandma and you'll do fine."

Oh, Daddy, thank you for sharing with us 
"bout the good old days."

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Boy Mom, Morning Rituals, Starting the Day Right

The cold wet air of February awakened my senses early, 
too early.
Yet reluctant to leave that lovely deep sleep I had been enjoying, I lingered. 
 Not a morning person, to say the least. 

 My cheerful daughter popped her head in the room to see if I would like a cup of coffee, 
and I heard the stirrings of the children: 
someone making breakfast...oh yes, today would be Jim's day. 
 I could hear the muffled giggles and squeals from Olivia and Gabe
 along with a rhythmic bump on the wall....
so surmising they are swinging in the hammock with the cat. 
 The other boys are doing the outside chores:
 firewood, chickens and other animals, starting the generator,
 and they have noises too,
usually shooting and crashing sounds,
 because, in their minds, 
they are ever in a battle-
 saving the day as all around them danger and evils loom. 

 We have 5 boys, you  know...these boy noises
 have been an ever present part of our married life, which is now nearly 29 years. 
 These boys of ours may be wild men and warriors outdoors, 
but once they cross the threshold of our cabin, 
the boy noises cease, and they are now gentlemen,
 respecting mama's need for war to stay outside.

The clatter of dishes gets me up, finally.
  Someone is setting the table, breakfast will be soon.
  All the happy clamor of our morning routines are a joy to my soul.
  I light the candles, 
we say grace,
 eat together, 
Daddy reads the Bible,
 we sing a hymn.
  Its a little early for me to sing, but I warble out a joyful song and nobody seems to mind.
  The day has begun.

  Daddy is off to the office, the older children have their work and schooling.
  I, with the younger four, gather in the living room in front of the fire
 for our morning time together.  
Poetry, Americana, and Great Explorers enliven our minds
 and give me another chance at a cup of coffee before real brain activity begins. 

Though not a morning person,  our morning rituals,
the companionship, the cheerfulness all sings to my soul,
 stirring in my heart gratitude for God's goodness, for family, for another day. 
It is the sweet and gentle start I need.
They need.

 Soon, math, reading and Bible will be completed, 
and with lunch, I will send the boys,
 and girls too, 
outside for a few hours of boy noises before continuing our school day. 
 They will come tromping in wet, muddy, swaggering, 
boasting of their conquests as we have tea and goodies. 
 I will read to them The Willows In Winter for a good long while as they settle down.

 As afternoon wears on, and all subjects are accomplished, 
when the frig and the pantry have been thoroughly pillaged, 
light has faded
 and so the forging of knives,

 the tinkering on a truck,
 the slaying of would- be assailants has come to an end,
 then, our evening begins 
and talk of current events,
 future plans of what to be when they grow up,
 games of chess and checkers,
 then second dinner before bedtime, 
and thus ends our day.

 This boy mom expires early and sleeps hard.
Turns out, I am not much of a night person either. 
But, then too, raising boys is hard work.

 But isn't it so true that that which is so tiresomely accomplished is worth the most?  

I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
  All the dirt, mud, frogs, worms, stitches, noise, and exasperation, 
its worth all my whitening hair and then some.
 I love raising boys.
  I adore my sons, especially when they cook breakfast!

When homeschooling went from frustrating to beautiful: part 1

The morning was flowing along wonderfully.   Our hushed early risers soaked up the fire and coffee  as the pitter patter ...