"Home is the grandest of institutions." ~ C.H.Spurgeon
Today the children and I went to our local heritage centre with some of our homeschooling community to see what it was like when the English first started settling in Canterbury. I love, love New Zealand history. And, being a European descendent, settler history is a deep passion of mine. So I felt like this field trip was just as much for me as it was for the children!


It was a lovely morning, even when the weather turned a bit cold. Though we had gone to Ferrymead as a family a year or so ago, this time as an education group, we had classes and interesting activities to do. The first thing the children did was get dressed into their colonial outfits. And, honestly, they looked adorable! All us mothers were gushing over the children and dreaming of Avonlea days!



We learned what it was like to live as a settler. Before the first cottages were made in Christchurch, many settlers lived in tents or V-huts. They were the real deal of modern-day tiny homes. Around the V-hut we practiced cleaning, washing clothes,roof thatching, ironing, gardening, and sawing wood. My children loved the cleaning (?!) though they are allergic to it at home.




We saw what kind of toys children played with. We baked biscuits. And we looked around the quaint little cottages. As the children were playing, I walked around, taking in the simple goodness. Though I dream of living in such days, I am not unaware of the hard work it was. Yet, that life still appeals to me. Not just because of the slow and simplicity of life, but because of the goodness that was commonplace. From the way they raised their children to the way they made their clothes - quality was the backbone of their ethic. 






It was a fun, interesting, and exhausting day! I can see that both the children absorbed and took away different ideas and learned new things about the past. And I am positive they made connections of what they saw to their present day.

Life Update


As I mentioned a week or so ago, a new adventure is awaiting us. This past week, we made an offer on a house and it was accepted! Our potential home is an old gold miner's cottage. Built in 1903, it is very similar to the houses we saw today, which made it more real and thrilling for me.


If this cottage comes through, God will be giving me a delight of my heart. I have always longed to live in a cottage. I cannot wait to bring all that I love - history, quaintness, simplicity, homemaking, gardening, quiet living, and thankfulness - to fruition in this new season in our lives. Hopefully I can share some pictures of our new home soon.

How has God been blessing your heart lately?






I have been blogging on and off for awhile. I think I started around 2010. Things have changed enormously since then. Significantly, blogging became a business and, more than that, social media platforms like Instagram became places for people to get their "quick fix" of people they had previously followed on blogs.

I think Instagram is amazing for busy mothers. It enables to share what is on their heart with a photo that feeds their desire for creativity, then once shared, the relationship connection is filled through like-minded mothers. I love Instagram for that.

But, I miss blogging like the "old days". I miss seeing regular posts from online friends, or mothers who have a beautiful way with words. I miss feeling like what I wrote mattered. I have never written for accolades, but seeing the little (and I mean little) view counts each day helped me feel like there was something productive in what I wrote.

Nowadays, I feel as if I am writing into silence. And I wonder: do words matter anymore? 


I remember when Pinterest came along. It was amazing. I use it daily still. But suddenly, when I was blogging, I needed to make it Pin-worthy. Images needed titles and attractive design. My posts needed to be shorter so people would keep reading. It was as if blogging had become a fast-food industry.

Commenting on blogs also began to deteriorate. It was all about reading the post - was it useful? Yes, pin. No, click out. There was no more desire to comment and encourage. Yet, if you go on Instagram, photos can have thousands of comments. Why don't blogs? Is it too hard?

Blog link-up's were the best, too. Not only did it bring in many people to your blog, you could meet so many other like-minded bloggers too. To this day, I still follow women on social media whom I originally "met" on their blog. Many do not blog any more, and that makes me sad.


Do words matter anymore?

I think of that as a Christian. We believe deeply in words. God made the world with the Word. He saved the world with the Word. Christians drink deeply from the Word, their Bibles. To God, words matter deeply.

Is it a sign of our humanity when fast, click-bait images matter more than well-thought, well-planner, well-crafted words? 

So I ask myself: what is the point? Why am I still blogging? Does what I say have any point in this vast ocean of links and sites and images and noise? Is there purpose in blogging anymore when it isn't to make money?



The answer keeps coming down to this for me: I must write and I must encourage.

It is in my blood. That is why I always come back to this screen with a draft post before me. It's why, when I am vacuuming or washing the dishes or listening to a conversation between my children, ideas and words come to me and I have to write.

When I was younger, I wrote in my journals. And I still do, but in a different way. Now, though, I have to share:
"I have not hidden Thy righteousness in my heart; I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation: I have no concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation." Psalm 40:10
Even though it feels like radio silence, even though it feels pointless, I will keep going on because He has put something in me to write. I cannot deny who He has made me to be, nor the story He has asked me to tell. From my kitchen table, where I sit, blogging is the best way for me to share His lovingkindness to the great congregation. Whether it is about home education or my faith or our home or our family journey - it is His story I am sharing, and I must trust Him that it will be used for His purposes, even if it is only ever seen by Him.

If you must write, keep doing it. Let us keep linking and commenting and sharing and supporting one another. Let us keep words alive.


Do you still blog? If so, please share below.




For years, I have felt guilty for living my dream. 

I never wanted a career. I loved university because I loved studying and not because it was a stepping stone to something else. All I wanted was to learn about things I love, get married, have babies, and be a homemaker.

By God's kindness, I have been living that dream for eleven years. I am so thankful and frequently feel full of joy, praise, and humility that He would have this plan for me. Yet, like I said, I have often felt guilty for being able to.

You see, often our dear husband's don't get to live their own dreams. 


If your husband is like mine, he is a man of integrity and takes his role of provider very seriously. He works hard, believes deeply in duty, and gets up every morning - even when his body screams for more sleep - and goes to work.

He enjoys his job. He's worked hard to get where he is. But it isn't his dream. 

In the last year, the Lord has brought us to a point where I have been able to ask him, "Honey, if you could do what you really wanted to do, and not worry about duty for just a little while (because life isn't always about duty), what would you do?"

And he replied, "Some dedicated time to study the Bible."

"Alright," I said, "Then let's do it."

Of course, it took some convincing and my praying for him earnestly, but slowly God has opened doors that we have been knocking on. Financially it will be difficult, but manageable. So, our house is going on the market in just over a month, and we will be moving to another city for three years. 

It is very exciting! And, above all else, I am so excited that my husband has the opportunity to pursue his own dream. Even though it requires sacrifices, I am so willing to sacrifice all that I can so that he can do that. He has, after all, sacrificed so much for me as I have stayed home with the children and, now, homeschool them.


I really believe, if it is possible, that wives should encourage their husbands to pursue things that they are passionate about - whether careers, interests, or hobbies. We only have one life and, just because they have a heavy responsibility, that doesn't mean they don't have desires for their life.

Of course, there are seasons where this is just not possible. We are eleven years married now, and this really is the best time. But even giving our husbands an evening or afternoon off a week so they can do something that is them is loving and a blessing to them.

I have seen a mentality around that, because the mother is with her children all the time, then she deserves 'time out' more than her husband (who gets time away from the children everyday). But I believe that most husband's have far more pressure and responsibility than a mother. This is not to say that a mother shouldn't get time to herself (I'm writing this in bed during my Sunday afternoon rest time). Mother Culture is vital. But, let us not listen to the world. Our husband's need rest and their own personal vitalisation.

If there is one way you could provide this for your husband this week, what could it be?



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Having anxiety myself, I find it so hard to see my six-year-old already struggling with it. 

Naturally, I blame myself for it - in utero or post-partum, I must have passed it on to him. You see, I was not an anxious child. My anxiety arrived around puberty from terrible bullying and then, later in adolescence, after my parents separated. Of course, it could be genetics (my family also struggle with anxiety), but being a mother, I take the responsibility on myself - rightly or wrongly.

When we sensed God leading us into homeschooling, I didn't know the full reasons for doing so. And, though I don't know them all yet, every now and then, I see glimpses of God's perfect wisdom and kindness for our family. Our son's anxiety is definitely a reason that God took us on this path of home education.



His Anxiety Surfaces


The first time we were faced with our son's anxiety was when he re-started gymnastics at five. He had done it at four, and had loved it. Being very physical, he just took to it. We then took a term off in the summer for swimming lessons. When he came back as a five-year-old, the classes had changed from a preschool class to afterschool classes. Where before it had only been just the one class, the gymnasium was jam-packed with children, noise, and busyness.

As his class started, he refused to go out there. Climbing over me, pale-faced, teary - he just could not go out.

I did not handle it well. I thought he was just being silly. I kept thinking of the money we'd just spent on the term class. We'd never experienced this before and, at that point in time, we were parenting differently. We were more along the 'authortarian' style of parenting. Well, God was going to change us. 

We tried a few more weeks, and I tried my very best to be calm and patient, but he just would not go out there. Sobbing, he couldn't explain what was wrong. Even though we were frustrated - especially for him as he had loved it so much only months before -  in the end, we stopped going. This happened once or twice with other classes he wanted to attend. 

We learned quickly that our boy was sensitive, struggled with loud and busy places, and had anxiety about new, unfamiliar, out-of-routine situations and places.


"I have the anxious feeling," he often says. Whether we are about to go to church, for a walk, on holiday - silently, in his mind, thoughts churn around and trepidation wraps its' icy tentacles around his little heart. It is so hard to see.

Toughen Him Up?


Sometimes I imagine that people - society, culture, whoever - would likely say that a child like Josiah ought to go to school to give him more confidence, help him 'get over it', and rely less on his mother. I can imagine that people would say that there is a possibility of him becoming a 'mummy's boy'.

And, I think, before I homeschooled and had an anxious child, I would have thought the exact same thing.

He needs toughening up.

He needs to be away from home to get stronger.

He needs exposure to grow up.

But then, God gave me this sweet, sensitive, boisterous boy and a past of my own where, if I had been homeschooled and more sheltered, I may have been a more confident and stable person.

Yet, I was not able to have those two key things for protection. 

I was forced to 'face my fears'. 

I was forced to 'face the bullies'. 

I was forced to 'grow up early'. 

I was forced to be independent and was sent out of the family unit far, far too early. 

And did it benefit me in any way? Not at all. In fact, it harmed me deeply.

Instead of having a safe and secure space where I could venture out with security right beside me, I had to handle life's pressures and hurts on my own. I didn't know how to cope, how to process what happened to me, how to navigate the people, the words, the experiences. And it changed me, irrevocably.



Nourished and Nurtured


When I think of what I went through and which has changed me to this day, I feel the Mama Bear grow within me. Just like misconceptions about homeschooling itself, I can see through common thinking about anxiety and children, and stand firm in what I believe is best for our son.

What do I believe then?

I fiercely and unashamedly believe that home is the very best place for our son. 


From home, he has the space, the time, and the quietude to grow into himself. There is no pressure for him to be something he isn't. There is no pushing him beyond what he is ready for. There is no hardship that he has to build a shield around him. There is no need for him to create more anxiety to protect his present anxiety.

What challenges there are, are allowed through us as his parents and which are worked through with us, by his side. I believe this is how he can now articulate 'the anxious feeling' because we've given him a home that enables him to do that.

Source


A year ago, not long after the gymnastics episode, he really wanted to try soccer. So I took him along to our weekly homeschool sport/soccer group to see what it was like. Because he was so into soccer, I thought there would be no issue. But, when we turned up, no encouragement or comforting help could get him out on the court. Tears, fear, clambering.

This time, even though I definitely felt frustrated and disappointed, I didn't pressure him or try to wheedle (or, even, guilt) him into going. I said, "That's okay, Bud. Maybe another time." 

This year, at six, he wanted to try again. So, along we went. I totally expected the same thing, especially when we got there, and he's sitting on my knee and pale-faced. 

But, suddenly, when I suggested again after ten minutes or so, if he wanted to join the warm-up game they were playing, he said, "Yes." He got up, went through the net, and ran out and joined the group.

I almost fell off my chair.

He had done it! Even though he was nervous and anxious, he wanted to go and join, and he felt brave enough (even if that brave feeling was tiny) to go out there. And we've been going now for six weeks. No problems, no issues. He loves it and it is the highlight of his week.

When I asked him that first time what made him able to go out there, he said, "I didn't want to miss out." He recognised that he really wanted to play and that his fears were stopping him. So he did it.

Take Heart, Mama


I write this, not because we've arrived, or that I know heaps about anxiety in children. But as a homeschooling mother - and a mother who went through it herself - I believe so deeply that we can trust our children to find the courage in themselves, at the right time, to do what they are afraid of doing. 

We don't need to push them before that time. We don't need to bow down to societal pressure that says keeping them home, or 'sheltering' them, will make them wusses. It won't.

I have made mistakes. I am repentant over the way I have mothered and treated my son. God has been slowly teaching me that it is my relationship with him - how I hear his heart and connect with his fears - that will help him grow into a secure boy. It is not sending him away.

So, be of good cheer, dear Mama. You're doing the right thing. It is hard, challenging, lonely, and doubt-filled. But it is what will, in the end, help our children face their fears and anxiety, and have the skills and courage to move forward and root deep.

If you have a child that has anxiety, or something else that makes him/her 'different', I highly recommend Sally and Nathan Clarkson's book, Different. It will give you comfort and courage.








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No matter how many times I try and bring our family into more structured/formal homeschooling, within in days or weeks, I drop it all to go back to what feels the most natural for us: unschooling.

Though I love how unschooling looks for our family, even though we're still finding 'us' in this stage of life, I have really struggle with some aspects of it.

For one, the term 'unschooling' seems to trigger negative responses/emotions in some people. It seems to have so many negative conotations to it. People seem to not be able to get passed what is isn't rather than what is is.

I have also struggled because the sheer breadth and depth of unschooling among families can make it hard to define. Unlike, say the Charlotte Mason method which has some firm principles and practices, unschooling - by definition, really - can look vastly different between two families. Allowing learning to happen through interest, conversation, experiences, books means the learning life for each child - and family - is unique. All I can say to that is, Yes!


Confusion


But, if you're like me, this can also be confusing. I like clear lines. Perhaps that's why Charlotte Mason appeals to me in many ways - I know how to 'do' her philosophy. But unschooling? Where is the clear line? Is this particular practice unschooling-friendly? Am I doing it wrong? 

And the big question for so many, including myself -

What is my role as a unschooling mother? 

People can have very strong - and varied - answers to this question! Talk about confusing.

But let's add in the whole Christian element, too. We're not unschoolers who are Christian. We are Christians who unschool. Does this make us a whole different kettle of fish? Probably!

Many unschoolers believe parents need to step back completely and let their children choose everything, not just their education. But, as Christians, we believe that God wants us to carefully and actively train and guide our children, so parental authority is involved in our lives. Where is the line between freedom for the children to learn and the wisdom/experience/authority of the parent?

So, naturally, this got me thinking -

can I be a Christian, obey God as parents, and unschool? 


The short story is, yes! Absolutely! (I accidently deleted a post that shared books that helped me with this question, but I will post it again soon.) The style of mother-child relationship that typifies unschooling is absolutely Biblical, and the respect for the free-will of the child (with sovereign-like overhead by mother) is also absolutely Biblical.

But I only see this now - a year and a half down the track of much struggle. 

Boy, have I struggled. If there has been a question asked about unschooling, I have asked it and sought the answer to it within a Gospel-framework. I have ran back and forth between styles of homeschooling because of this internal struggle and confusion. 

But as we are always drawn back to unschooling, I have faced these struggles head on.

Unschooling and the Mother


Because I was wrestling and struggling with all the questions and theology and practicalities of unschooling as a Christian; because unschooling looks so different with no 'clear' principal for a mother; I became afraid and confused about my role.

If I suggested something to the children, I felt I was 'coercing' them.

If I just let them be, I felt irresponsible and lazy.

Either way, I felt like an unschooling/Christian mother fraud.

In my favourite book on Christian unschooling, A Little Way Homeschooling, a mother expresses her similar struggle when she embraced more radical unschooling:
Radical unschooling was very liberating for me. I could feel myself throwing away checklists, embracing thinking outside the box, becoming free to be me. Or so I thought. After awhile, I found that I tended to hold myself accountable to some idealistic picture of the perfect unschool. I'd ask myself, Isn't this coercion? Shouldn't I let the kids make all their own choices? Overthinking every little thing soon became wearying..." ~ Leonie Westenberg (emphasis mine)
I understand her so much. Though we aren't radical unschoolers, unschooling is a life of liberty! Or, so it should be a life of freedom, until you start overthinking everything and worrying that a particular practice for your family isn't 'unschooling' enough.

I believe in unschooling as a Christian so much because of the freedom we have been given in Christ. But, being a human, I can easily exchange the liberty we have as a family for a law that wasn't given by God.


Unschooling 'Rules'


When I'm thinking about this dichotomy of unschooling and rules, I'm reminded of the conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees when they attacked Him about His disciples not washing their hands before eating (and thus, were being 'defiled'). Jesus' reply is so apt for me in this struggle I have:
[Quoting Isaiah] "This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." ~ Mark 7:6-7
Though I believe the way of unschooling is so good for our family, I need to be very careful how I treat the 'commandments of men' about unschooling. If I am living in fear or confusion, I need to ask myself: Am I treating unschooling as a doctrine?


Unschooling is a beautiful way, a little way as Suzie Andres calls it, and it is precious to me. It is gentle, nurturing, and slow. But it is a way only and not a mandate. And, because it is education for the child's sake, it will look differently from family to family. A mother's role, therefore, will vary - especially a Christian mother's.

I should not fear how it looks for us as a family compared to another. Nor should I fear rebuke or criticism from an unschooling mother who thinks I am doing it 'wrong'.

As a Christian, I know my role as a mother. I will be a hands-on unschooling mother. That is a clear principle for me now. But what is even clearer to me is this: the Gospel of Christ is my doctrine, it is His commands I follow, and as He leads our unschooling/homeschooling life, I will obey Him, even if that lead our family down a different path to another.

And Leonie, the mother from A Little Way Homeschooling? Here is what happened after her struggle:
Just as I had let go of more formal homeschooling, so I had to let go of this concept of pure unschooling anf of my monolithic vision of the perfect unschooling mother. I decided, instead, to discard labels, to live with joy and to embrace what felt most comfortable for us and for our Faith."

As an unschooling mother, have you had this struggle also? 


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I have made the mistake early on in our homeschool journey of not intentionally seeking God and what He wanted of our family.

I, of course, prayed about the children, for me, and for guidance...but I went on and did what I wanted to do instead of actually asking God about the specifics. So, for this first year and a half, I have just been all over the place, trying all the different philosophies and buying things we will never end up using.

Please learn from my mistake! I have definitely come away, humbled and yet strengthened in this task of educating these children of His. The biggest idea that my heart has taken on, and which I just want to share and encourage other new homeschooling mothers, is this:

God cares about my homeschool and He does actually have a plan about what we do each day.



After trying Charlotte Mason, unschooling, Five and a Row - and probably a whole mesh of things sometimes, I came to a place where each week I would try something new, or return to a previous way, because they all looked so good. How can we choose from all the amazing ways to school our children? 

All Along I Knew...


All along however, I have known that providing and training our children in rich resources toward what is good, and true, and beautiful is what would be the wisest thing for our family in the long run.

I also knew that strengthening and equipping our children's minds for this world that fights with words and images could be the best thing I do to equip them for adulthood. 

I knew that hard books and hard thinking and lots of memorisation would lay these roots down in their minds.

I knew that having a clear plan, with a sense of direction each day, week, month, year, was the most logical step to take.

I knew these things, but I let the overwhelm of exposure to amazing things get to me. I didn't use discernment, rather, I let comparison and my feelings lead the way.

Where We Are Now


So, I repented and turned to Him genuinely. And within a week, I had a clear idea of what He was wanting of me and of our children. Through prayer, leading in Scripture, conversations with my husband, and - I believe - a divine appointment at a Salvation Army bookstore, I have more confidence in where we are heading for our homeschool. 

Inspired and helped by The Well-Trained Mind, with strong Charlotte Mason influences, and a whole heap of realism - I think we are on a better path. 


I'm not discounting all that I have learned from other philosophies - like, say, unschooling. Right now, as we're busy getting our house ready to sell, I cannot even deal with any hardcore schooling. But I can relax because I know God has the children. They are learning all the time.

I just need to be faithful with the little I can offer at the moment.

Have You Sought God's Will For Your Homeschool?


This whole post is not just about my recent experience. I want it to be about you. 

Have you, as the mother and educator of your children, prayed and sought God's will for how you homeschool? Even if you have, have you recently? There may have been some friction or burn out or valley's recently - could God be asking you to stop, pray, and listen for His new direction?


To help you, I made this printable to journal on. As, or after, you have spent time praying and reading God's Word, whether in one day or over a few months, you can record what has really struck you. Have you sought your husband's wisdom recently? Has a book, or even a line in a book, really stood out to you? There is space for that also.

Then, at the bottom, you can write our a summary or vision of where you think God is leading your homeschool. Stick in your planner or binder, or laminate it on the fridge. Have it somewhere you can be reminded frequently of God's loving guidance of your homeschool. I pray it blesses you!



Click Here 


Friends, may God guide you and bless you!


I am nearing the end of Charlotte Mason's amazing first volume, Home Education. It has taken me over a year and a half of slow, careful reading - with some good breaks. Her thoughts and words are not for our instant gratification society, and they need measured reading and mulling over. If your heart as a home educating mother is to give your children a whole education - and not just academics - then reading Charlotte Mason ought to be something you consider.

Today, while the children were having their rest time, I opened up to her final chapter, 'The Will - Conscience - Divine Life'. In it, Miss Mason lays strongly the call upon the parent to cultivate the child's will to goodness. A child, left to himself, will not push himself to higher ends. These words settled in home to me:

"Perhaps it is not too much to say, that ninety-nine out of a hundred lost lives lie at the door of parents who took no pains to deliver their children from sloth, from sensual appetites, from wilfulness, no pains to fortify them with the habits of a good life..." p.330

I always find with Charlotte Mason that her words just hit straight home. She doesn't pull any punches and, because of the style of language, I have to read her words several times to really get what she is saying. This is so good though, because it just reinforces the heaviness of her meaning.

And what is she meaning here?





A Child's Will and the Mother

Essentially, in summarising her first volume of education, Charlotte Mason lays the responsibility and weight of the child's future in the parents hands, particularly the mother. Before we all run to the hills, she exhorts that "infinite grace and help from above attend every rightly directed effort in the training of the children..." (p.331)

This is fundamentally opposing to many parenting and educational philosophies today. I know this too well. Despite loving and embracing Miss Mason's philosophy of education from when I began learning about homeschooling, I found myself lured away to ways of learning (and, therefore, parenting) that enabled me to step back and dispense of some of my responsibility. I was able to mask this stepping away with educational jargon, but for me personally, I know I was abdicating what I knew - deep down - were the "pains" a mother is called to work for and in her children.

A year's journey later, humbled and more aware of God's hand on our homeschool than ever, these words of Charlotte's mean more to me than they possibly could have before. And I am very grateful for that. I am more convinced of a mother's active role in her child's education more than ever, especially the training of the child's will.


The End in Mind

The heart of faithful mothering and educating children is reaching the child's heart through deep, affectionate love, consistent working in the child for their good and growing in the child the knowledge of a higher goodness that has a call upon them. This comes best as good habits of character are instilled in the child. 

Character is an unpopular word today but we need people of character more than ever. Do men and women of character just happen to grow up that way? Common sense tells us no. Society tells us we need to leave the children alone so they can 'find themselves'.

But, in the end, we know that there is Someone higher than ourselves. We know that a full, joy-filled life comes only from submitting to that Someone and His ways. As mothers, it is our sombre duty to tirelessly work toward that for our children.



Charlotte says,

"The Christian mother, whose highest desire is to train him [the child] for the Christian life. When he wakes to the consciousness of Whose he is and Whom he serves, she would have him ready for that service, with every faculty in training - a man of war from his youth; above all, with an effective will, to will and to do of His good pleasure." p.323 

I am so thankful for this reminder in a time where mother's are bombared with false paths and downright lies about the best way to raise children. We shouldn't be afraid to teach our children what is right and wrong, what is good and wholesome, what is trustworthy, what is honourable, and what is best for another person. I deeply believe children never forget the faithful teaching of their mothers. Let us persevere in hope!

Have you read Charlotte Mason's thoughts on the way of the will?


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