I wonder how many “firsts” or beginnings there are in life. First breath, first step, first love. Beginning of the month, beginning of a new school year, beginning of hopes and dreams. If every day brings a fresh beginning and every end a start of something new, the number of changes and adjustments we make through our lifetime must equal an infinite number.

The beginning of our homeschool year started on a high note. The first days were excellent. Our schedule flowed smoothly and we were excited to dive into new books and curriculum. But as things often go, the novelty soon wore of and by Thursday reality hit. Summer was over and the idea that a good part of our day would be consumed with schooling started to sink in. We were exhausted from reigniting parts of our brains that seemed content to linger in vacation mode.

Grumpiness and discontent started to weasel their way into our Thursday morning activities. Short answers and ungracious responses added to the rocky start of the day. With determination, I pushed through my planned activities and the lessons. The activities and lessons I was so sure we “needed” to cover. My kids tried to keep up but the whole day felt forced. This was not why we homeschool or how I like to teach or how I wanted my children to learn. We managed to get through the day but I decided to call a time out and push the reset button. Friday was going to be different.

My Friday lesson plans looked like any other day of the week but it was my expectation of what “needed” to be completed that was different. The pace was led by my kids. If one subject was dragging on or frustration levels with a new skills were rising high, we stopped and moved to something else, returning to the subjects and tasks later. We spent more time on science and read alouds, which we all enjoy, and we focused on our attitudes. I was convicted of my role in modeling a good attitude and gracious responses and my children soon followed suite. I am not saying that it was a perfect day. Curriculum still needed to be covered and some difficult skills still needed to be mastered but there were other things needed to be addressed first. The foundation of an ideal learning environment needed to be rebuilt, one that included a whole lot of grace and a lot of love.

With every new beginning, I think it is important to remember these things:

1.) Make space for grace. Give grace to yourself, to your co-workers, family members, strangers, whoever else may be joining you in a new start. Beginnings and starts require change and adjustment. Adjustment takes time. There may be new things to learn and new ways of doing things. Shifts in mindset may be required too. Allow grace and patience in the process.

2.) Take time to breathe. Deep breaths. It sounds simple but few people take more than a few deep breaths a day. Deep breathing helps your muscles to relax and delivers oxygen to all cells in your body. It also helps attention and concentration. For an even better and more impactful result, pray while you are breathing!

3.) Stop and reflect. Contrary to popular belief, we need to pause, stop, and rest. Allow time for reflection and think what can be done differently. Ask yourself, what is my role? How can I use my gifts, talents, and personality to help improve this situation or make this adjustment easier?  Can I be a good role model for others even as I make mistakes and am learning through the process? Focus on the good things. There are always good things to find.

Now in our second week of school, skills are getting more difficult and the amount of curriculum to cover is increasing but there is a sense of peace. I am trying to keep a gentle pace to our day. We are still adjusting, slightly mourning the loss of summer, but we know there are some new exciting things are to come.





Homeschool Week #1 Wrap-Up – Why I Think It Was Successful and A Few Highlights

Homeschool Week #1 Wrap Up

Hooray! We did it!  Our first week of school was a success. We started “on-time” (on the date I wanted to), the girls retained more than I thought that they would, and we had a relaxed first week back.

It was such a different school start than last year. Last year, I was a tangled ball of emotions- excited, eager, joyful, anxious, a little fearful. Through experience and prayer, I was able to untangle the ball of emotions by releasing anxiety and worries and replacing them with confidence and peace.  With two years of homeschool experience behind me, I feel more confident about what our school day is going to look like, what needs to get done, and how to fit everything in to make homeschooling and other commitments work for our family.  I think a few other factors contributed to our successful first week.

For the first week of school, I kept an open schedule. There were no scheduled playdates, visitors, or appointments and I worked hard to keep interruptions at a minimum. I kept my cell phone far away from me, upstairs in my bedroom, so that I would not be tempted to look at texts and social media. I did not respond to any emails during school time. I was not distracted and my attention was not divided between so many other things. Yes, this may seem like common sense but last year this was a real struggle for me. I have had to work hard to prioritize, simplify, and get better at time management.

Easing into our school year was a good thing. I had expectations and things that I wanted to get accomplished but I also had the mindset that if something did not get done it would be okay. I did not focus on getting through all the subjects on the first day. The first day we did a little, the next day a little more, the third day even more than the second, and yesterday, we made it through all the subjects. It was less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone.

Since we are finishing Sonlight Core A before moving to Core B, the format and procedures of the lessons are the same as last year. The girls are already familiar with the routines and materials the program includes.  Last year, I spent great deal of time establishing good routines and the time paid off.  Getting back to the swing of things was much easier than I thought.  The girls seemed to pick up right where they left off. A lot less explaining had to happen and that meant more time to get other things accomplished.

One more thing (and the most important one) contributed to the success of our first week of school and that was prayer! Over the summer, I had been preparing for the school year in prayer. Others have been praying for us. And we have been praying as a family. Each morning, after our morning work journals, the kids and I take the time to sit in a circle and talk about who we should pray for and what we should pray about. I love this time as it is a window into their little hearts. They are so compassionate and kind and often pick up on things that I would not have noticed unless pointed out. Even though it is for only a short time, it is one of my favorite and most important parts of our school day. It is so important to keep our eyes on God and our hearts centered on Him. Everything else will flow out of this and He will provide everything that we need as we lean into Him. This year, we trust that He will give each of us what we need to make this school year one of the best ones yet.


A few first week highlights:

1.) First Day of School Time Capsules- We plan to open them on the last day of school!

Back to School Time Capsule Back to School Time Capsule

2.) Family Journal– As suggested in our writing program, we are keeping a family journal and adding an entry each school day.  (Today is my grandmother’s birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GAMMY!) This will be a great experience for us and I am really excited about doing this with the girls.

Morning Journal Morning Journal

3.) Keeping your two-year old entertained during homeschool- No problem! (haha…just kidding) Love Crayola Color Wonder Fingerpaint! It is fairly expensive BUT pretty awesome. The girls (myself included) wanted to use it too. Lots of sensory boxes and the return of the coconut playdough helped keep him busy.

Crayola Color Wonder Crayola Color Wonder Coconut Playdough

4.) SCIENCE- We tasted food for sourness and used red cabbage juice to test for acids. The tasting provided a lot of laughs and the testing was very interesting. Later, we added baking soda (a base) to the cabbage juice and watched the mixtures turn to blue and green.

Using Red Cabbage as a pH indicator Red Cabbage as a pH indicator Tasting Sourness Recording Our Observations Tasting Sourness Tasting Sourness Testing for acids with red cabbage juice as the indicator Testing for acids