Our Final Year of Homeschooling

My youngest started his senior year of high school earlier this month. After years of homeschooling both boys, our homeschool journey will come to an end in just a few months.

In 2007, when we started homeschooling our oldest son at five years old, we were the only homeschool family in our church. Many people were supportive. Others were skeptical. When people at my job found out we’d decided to homeschool, I was met with harsh criticism. We were repeatedly told what a huge mistake we were making and that our kids would always be behind their traditional school peers. I was told my boys would never go to college or be successful because they were homeschooled. I was shocked by some of the open hostility I faced.

At the time, homeschooling was beginning to grow in popularity and laws were beginning to change. Where homeschoolers once had to get a GED after graduation, colleges were beginning to recognize homeschool diplomas and even seek out homeschool students. We did our research, bought a full curriculum that covered all the major subjects, found a homeschool co-op to join, and dove in with our oldest son, who had turned five just a few months before.

Within a few years, we saw a dramatic shift. We went from the only homeschool family in the church to one of many. At one point, half of our church families with school-age children were homeschooling. Some of the skeptics began to change their minds as they saw how how the homeschoolers in our church did. People also realized that many of the stigmas surrounding homeschool, like kids being “unsocialized,” were simply not true.

Now, fourteen years later, with only months left, I’m so glad we homeschooled. Our oldest graduated a year early and will finish his associate’s degree in December. He’s made one B in college. The rest were A’s. In January he will change to another nearby college to finish his bachelor’s degree, then his master’s. Our youngest is on track to graduate high school a year early with a few college classes already done. He’s told us his goal is to have his PhD by the time he’s thirty.

It wasn’t always easy, and I’ll be the first to say homeschool isn’t right for everyone, but there are so many things I loved about homeschooling. Some of the highlights for us:

1. More family time

Pastors don’t work on an 8-5 daily schedule. Ministry is unpredictable and doesn’t follow normal routines. Add in a mom who worked weird hours for many years, and you have a really crazy schedule. If our kids had followed a traditional school routine, we would have had very little family time.

2. Flexility

For most of our married life, we’ve lived hours away from the closest family. If we wanted to go to a ministry conference, our only option was to take the boys. Homeschooling allowed us to work the boys’ school around our trips. It was a great experience for all of us.

Another plus: We love vacationing in the off season. It’s more affordable and less crowded. Homeschooling gave us the opportunity to do that.

3. Real world experience

My boys frequently went on hospital and nursing home visits with their dad. They went to the bank and the post office and the DMV. They watched major construction projects at our church and major renovations at our home. They learned about so many real world experiences because they were home and involved in our day-to-day lives.

4. Socialization

This was the concern almost everyone brought up: What about socialization? Aren’t they going to be isolated and socially backward?

Nothing could be further from the truth. My boys grew up involved in church, and they belonged to homeschool co-ops when they were younger. They also had the benefit of going everywhere with their dad as he worked. They interacted with its people of all ages and all walks of life. At a young age, they were able to carry on conversations with adults just as easily as they did with kids their own age.

Does homeschool work for every family? Absolutely not. But for ours, it was the best option. I’m so glad we didn’t listen to the critics. It’s bittersweet to see it end, but I’m so glad we took this journey with our boys

Books That Shaped My Childhood

Books have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. My grandma started taking me to the library when I was just a year old. I can still retrace every corner of my hometown library in my mind. I knew every square foot of the old two story home that housed my childhood passport to a world much bigger than the small town where I grew up.

Every winter, I spent hours curled up in front of my space heater in my bedroom, listening to the north wind howl around my corner bedroom while I snuggled deeper into my blanket and escaped into a book. Summer would often find me sprawled in the porch swing with a book, swaying gently in the shade.

I read voraciously, from a wide variety of genres. There are a few books that stand out as the books that shaped my childhood—and in some cases, my entire life.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

When I first read A Wrinkle in Time, I was around he same age as Meg. I felt a lot like Meg too. I was the nerdy girl with frizzy hair and glasses, the one didn’t quite fit in and hadn’t yet grown into herself. I loved following her through this series. Her transformation gave me hope.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This is the book that probably influenced me the most, because this is the book that made me want to become a writer. I was nine when I read Little Women for the first time, and I knew immediately I wanted to be just like Jo March—a dream that never died. More than thirty years later, I’m still writing, and I’m a proud mom of two amazing boys.

Trixie Belden, The Three Investigators, and Nancy Drew

I had to have read every copy of every one of these series multiple times as a kid. These are the books that laid the foundation for my continued love of a good mystery. It’s still my go-to genre and the first kind of book I’ll gravitate toward.

The Mandie Mysteries by Lois Gladys Shepherd

This series was my introduction to Christian fiction. I eagerly looked foreword to each installment, and even kept the series in my attic for years, just in case I had a daughter to pass them on to. Since I have all boys, I finally passed them on a young girl I knew would love them as much as I did.

The Chronicles of Narnia

This series is just incredible. I read it multiple times when I was young, and recently reread the series. It’s just as meaningful as when I was a child—maybe more so. And C.S. Lewis’ words about the Shadowlands from The Last Battle were especially meaningful earlier this year, when I lost two friends within weeks of each other. It was a reminder that this life is only a shadow of the beautiful life that’s to come for Jesus’ followers.

What were your favorite childhood books? Which ones shaped your life the most? And have you reread any of them as an adult?

Four Ways to Avoid Overwhelm

Being overwhelmed has almost started feeling normal, hasn’t it? Every time we turn on the news, there’s a new disaster—wars, floods, violence, storms, tragedies, and plagues fill the airwaves. Social media is more of the same, along with arguing and name calling and hateful words. Even in the grocery store people seem short tempered. It can all be too much. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by life.

How do we stay calm and find peace in the middle of such chaos? I’ve found four ways to help avoid feeling overwhelmed.

1. Spend time in the Word.

My stress levels have a lot to with how much time I spend in the Bible. If I’m spending quality, daily time studying the Word, I’m less anxious and less overwhelmed. It keeps my focus on the big picture—the fact that God is still in control. If you need to find a great Bible study, the YouVersion Bible app is a great place to start. You can find Bible studies on specific topics like anxiety, stress, and fear. The app and its studies are free. She Reads Truth is another favorite. You can read the studies free online. There are other resources you can buy, such as study books, and there’s a great online community, including a Facebook group.

If you want to do even more, memorize verses. Memorizing Scripture is one of the best things I can do during an overwhelming time, because it keeps my focus constantly on the Word. If I can’t get my mind to settle, I can start reviewing verses to get my focus off my anxiety and back on God. Two of my favorite resources for this are the Hide His Word Facebook group and this great article by Ann Voskamp.

2. Practice gratitude

I keep a journal where I list at least three things a day that I’m grateful for. It doesn’t sound like much, but when I let this habit slip, I notice a difference in my anxiety levels and in my frustration levels. If you need help getting started, Ann Voskamp has a great free download available. I use these in my journal at the beginning of each month.

3. Turn off the news

I’m not saying bury your head in the sand and ignore everything going on in the world, but be selective. Don’t watch 24 hour news stations 24 hours a day. Read the headlines or watch a few minutes of news, then turn it off. Don’t let it take over your focus.

My favorite source right now is a three times a week email newsletter called The Pourover. It’s a Christian based, non-partisan company that just reports the news, then gives a Christian perspective on it to keep our focus on what matters. It’s so refreshing to read this! They also share great recommendations for podcasts, books, and other resources.

4. Monitor social media.

I’ll admit, I’m not always the best at this. I spend entirely too much time on social media, and I know it. But I filter what I see. I try to focus on my Facebook groups (which are mostly about books, writing, and crating). If someone stresses me out with too many political posts or too much vaccine info, I simply hit the unfollow button—we remain friends, and I can see their page any time I want to, but their posts don’t pop up in my news feed. It’s a simple action that has saved several relationships, along with my sanity.

In an overwhelming world, we have to find ways to protect ourselves emotionally and spiritually. This quote from Corrie ten Boom sums it up perfectly:

What helps you find calm in the middle of chaos? How are you protecting your heart from being overwhelmed right now?

Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile on Your Face

When life gets heavy and hard, do you look for something light to read? I usually love hard hitting books that deal with weighty topics, but sometimes I need something lighter. I need something laugh-out-loud funny or a guaranteed happily ever after to make me smile. When I’m looking for a light-hearted book, there are a few authors I immediately turn to.

Bethany Turner

I’ve enjoyed all of Bethany Turner’s books. My favorite is still The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, but her books are all hilarious. I love the way she takes serious and sometimes difficult topics, but works them into a story that makes you laugh. Her titles include:

  • The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
  • Wooing Cadie McCaffrey
  • Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish
  • Plot Twist
  • Coming in March: The Do-Over

Jessica Kate

Jessica Kate writes a great rom-com. I’ve enjoyed both of her books, but A Girl’s Guide to the Outback was my favorite. Her full length novels include:

  • Love and Other Mistakes
  • A Girl’s Guide to the Outback
  • Plus a few short stories published as ebooks

Sarah Monzon’s Book Nerds and Boyfriends series

This series of novellas is light, fun, and quick to read. I love the fact that they all center around book lovers. They are are also quick reads, perfect for when you’re short on time but still want to enjoy a great story.

The series includes:

  • Bookishly Ever After
  • Literarily for Keeps
  • Novelly Upon a Time

Robin Jones Gunn’s Sisterchicks series

I recommend this series all the time. Friendships, family relationships, and travel combine in these sweet, funny stories. They’re also perfect for travel reading—or for times when you want to travel, but can’t.

The series does not have to be read in order, but it’s more fun to read them that way because characters from previous books often make a brief appearance in other books. The series includes:

  • Sisterchicks on the Loose
  • Sisterchicks Do the Hula
  • Sisterchicks in Sombreros
  • Sisterchicks Down Under
  • Sisterchicks Say Ooh La La
  • Sisterchicks in Gondolas
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit
  • Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes

I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesday today, because it’s always fun to talk books with other people. What are your go-to books for a smile or a good laugh?

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