Change, and Letters to my Children

It feels as though the past few years have been somewhat consistent and stable. The kids all in a pleasant stage and considerably predictable. It's been the sweetest of seasons. Of course there have been trials, but all-in-all, it's been a time of rest. Change is in the air, though.

Having them home so much has allowed me to get to know them deeper than I ever would have dreamed, yet with that comes the constant awareness of self. My weaknesses; theirs, it's all heightened when we are in each other's space, all day long. I'm grateful for that time, though. Each time I allow myself to imagine them away at school, I combat it with thoughts of training their hearts and minds and I'm always confirmed that this is the right choice for us, no matter how hard it is.

We have some pre-adolescence stuff starting up.  Without going into detail, because of ages and stages, I will just say that it's new! And it comes with it's fair share of adjustments as anything new does. Change. So much change.

I'm on my knees more than I have been in the past few years. Parenthood will do that to you.  And while I spend time in prayer over my children, the Lord also continues to do a work in me personally.

  Just when you feel like you've cleaned up your messes, he brings awareness to one you had never even noted!  Refining is awesome though, it's growth, and so as my children grow and change, I do too, and we're able to share those intimate conversations together. It's both humbling and powerful all at once.

I haven't really updated much about my melanoma journey. I put something on Instagram, because God be the glory!!  But for those who haven't read it, there is no trace of cancer in my body.  Can you believe that?  Thank you Jesus!

I left a few weeks ago to have a check up and all the tests came back clear, including the melanin test, which I wasn't expecting.  I mean, I was expecting it, because I had all my trust in God, but part of me prepared for "the long road" because sometimes faith can be that way.

We were just so elated and shocked.  Jason cried on his office floor when he heard the news. :)

I cried most of the way home, which was an eight hour drive. :)

We are so grateful. God is good. There is so much that I don't understand but by holding onto his promises, it fuels you up for hard times.  To look back and see his work.

There are a lot of things I'm working on right now.  Being immediately obedient, no matter how humbling the task.  Being slow to anger, using gentleness in my voice.  Removing harshness even though it gets the job done. And control, don't even start me on control!  

This has been a year process at least, when the Lord brought it to my attention how much in my ordinary day I use control.  He will gently tell me as I'm talking with my children "this is a control issue, and there's no need for it right now", yet I still push through. Because I'm a mom and I want them to obey me.  But above all, my heart is for them to love others and understand the heart of God.  And he does not demand obedience.  He hopes that we will choose to obey out of a deep love and understanding for him. And that's the mentality I need to continue to adopt.

I've wanted to write out a few words to my children for quite some time and I just haven't been able to.  I haven't updated anything on them, and this used to be a journal of all their milestones. Having lost my dad at a younger age, I would take any information I can on what he thought of me and hold it so close to my heart, so I'm using that as a motivation to hopefully write more often to them. 

My dearest children:

How I am cherishing this time with you. Sometimes I watch you play together and I am taken back at the beauty of it all. You know how when we hike somewhere new and we reach the top of the mountain and the view leaves us speechless? How we all kind of stand there and praise our Creator because he gave this to us? That's how I feel.  On a daily basis.  The hike up can require effort, patience, small breaks here and there. It can even hurt sometimes.  But when we reach the summit, it all makes sense and the rush of arrival is what makes us feel more alive than ever. I feel like I'm climbing mountains with you on a daily basis.  I feel so alive because of you. My gifts. My treasures.

Carter, you're the beginning of my strength, son.  You have taught me so much about who I am. Not just as a mother.  But who I am. You see right through me to the depths of my soul.  What a remarkable gift that is. Your precision and drive are admirable.  You are so good at anything you do. My favorite thing to do is watch you learn something new. I feel like if I could see inside your brain, it would look like a fine oiled machine, nuts and bolts working swimmingly, everything doing as it must to compute and create.  You are a masterpiece, son.  God has created you to be bold and to do things no other man has done, and you will do it with great fervor, because that's who you are. 

Everett, you peacemaking, worshipping, lover of life!  You wake to meet the birds, tend the fire and start on your work for the day.  You love working outside. The most willing heart you have, and I'm afraid I take advantage of it at times, because it's as if you want to help and please, as if it brings you joy. What is that like, son?  To have a heart that seeks to please and serve others? It's a gift.  A beautiful gift that you give so willingly. Thank you for serving your family so joyfully every day.  I am brought to tears when I see you worship the Lord.  It's powerful, in your gentle worship I see a warrior. A mighty warrior prepared for battle. Because worship and gratefulness will always be your greatest weapon, and you use them so liberally.

Scarlett Hope, you joyful, goofy, and creative girl!  You are so strong.  You have a powerful will that is used in the timeliest of situations.  You discern people and places. You are a social butterfly with girls and delight in spending time with them. Cling to that, my daughter, because good friends will be your sisterhood and will be the greatest support throughout life.  You have become affectionate, entertaining, and very strong in opinion.  Your strength astounds me as a young girl, so petite and beautiful. We are often surprised by witty comments you make, stories you create, or vocabulary words that you use.  You are a force to reckon with, child.  I pray that you use that strength to serve the Lord!

 August, my worshipping, loving, intense boy. You have a heart of worship, raising your hands to the Lord when you feel led to.  A leader. Strong in will, yet a lover of people.  This is the greatest combination, son.  You will be a leader to leaders, it is without question.  You love your mother with an intensity that none of my children have ever had. Embracing me, calling me, "my girl", telling me I'm beautiful, noticing if I put lipstick on or wear a skirt.  When you pray, you pray with purpose. You are a mighty man of God already and I can't wait to see you grow into that even more.

Elias, the sweetest, sensitive, most grateful heart you have.  Always with a song on your lips, a skip in your step, and a smile in your eyes.  You are kind and gentle, yet have the most jovial spirit and you carry that with you wherever you go. You love animals and learning.  You are so sharp, and have a gift of memorization. What a delight you are to teach because you pick it up so quickly and joyfully.  I pray that you always keep that joyful heart, son; joy is something that the world needs so much of and I have no doubt that you will use it to help change hearts for God!

*these images were from a job we had a while ago, the kids are never this dressed up when we go to a river. :)

New School Year, New School Room!

Hi! It's been a while. I am so sorry that I haven't written anything regarding our school year. I know it's fun to peek into other people's plans for new ideas or inspiration and for that, I am sorry.  But I can sum it up right now. There is no plan. :) You can read on if you would like for a longer description.

This year has been different as we have schooled a bit through summer and have shifted gears regarding methods and practices, to fit this current time in our lives.I would like to write both about the plan for the year as well as source some things from our new school room. 

Read: YAY, New School Room!
Before heading into the details, I figure I should at least post a before image of our bedroom, since it is now a fraction the size.  I promised years ago to give a floor tutorial in which I didn't, but now you're in luck!

 Our floors were originally carpet and as we are typically always on a low budget, we tore it out and placed plywood planks down.  This roughly cost around $300 in lumber and our local hardware store ripped the pieces for us.  Jason used a nail gun and glue to adhere them to the subfloor.  I painted them with Kelly Moore basic white deck paint and sealed them with a clear polyurethane (be careful, polies can be tricky when they're oil based and leave a gross yellow stain, be sure to ask a paint guy, NOT a Lowe's person...learned that the hard way!). 

Also, for all of those asking about white floors...they are about as practical as they look. They are a much better option than carpet, in my opinion, but you can't be a perfectionist and have white wood floors.  Not possible. They scuff and show marks, which I've come to ignore, but unless you have a low traffic, no-shoe, socks only policy, this may not be for you. :) My children play outside a lot and perpetually have dirty feet. While the floor is super easy to mop or wipe up, it will still show dirty footprints or shoe prints.  Just a word of caution. Hope that helps!
 This room was such a haven for us. We slept under the stars, witnessed the sun rise in the morning and watched storms pass by our windows.  It was such a sweet place to be in, but a complete waste of space as we only slept in there and I occasionally worked up there. 

Now it serves our entire family and it's such a blessing to have!  This bookshelf was already in place. I didn't want it showing when we had our bedroom upstairs, so we covered it with panelling. All we had to do was rip the panelling off and add touch up paint.
The mahogany cabinet with all the small drawers was Jason's great-grandfather's who was a dentist. It was his dental cabinet; it now serves as arts and crafts storage. Perfect for needles, thread, glue, etc.
I asked the children what they wanted out of this room. Most of them wanted animals, nature findings and species. We are working on our collection of "curiosities".
The painted hubcap is done by my great-great-grandmother who was quite a feminist for the early 1900's. She divorced her husband because he was a "womanizer", even with having three children to care for. This was unheard of back then! I love having her independent, strong spirit represented in this space. 

When we first moved here six years ago, this "loft" was more of an extra living area.  There was a fireplace in the middle of the room and a bar against the wall.  We built a closet in place of the bar, capped the plumbing, and covered the window to make room for our clothes. The closet now serves as storage. The whole left side is bookshelves and houses my printer and miscellaneous school supplies. The right side hosts the sink and various art supplies, which we use plenty with all the painting and clay creations that happen up here! 

A realistic view of what the table usually looks like during the day:
My friend's dad made the table custom for me as I wanted it to function as a work station, yet serve as a table if we ever host a large party. It's wide enough to fit dishes on each side and long enough for all five to fit when the day comes.

I had the swing installed because of my research regarding movement and learning.  A lot of therapists use swings for children with learning disabilities and struggles. After one day of having it up, without informing the children of why it's there, Everett had mentioned that it was easier for him to focus on his math facts when swinging on it. I'd say that's enough support for the studies I read!

Okay, now for the school year plan!
As summer began to wrap up, I had started doing some research on unschooling.  The more I read about it, the more I realized that we pretty much unschool aside from math and phonics. We read a lot of literature and take part in narrating and illustrating, but aside from that, there is rarely a plan and I don't care much for hitting every subject, nor do I pay attention to chronological order. I just want them to enjoy learning, and if that means bypassing ancient history, so be it. 

I dug down deep to figure out why I dislike schedules and plans (while I very much enjoy having a routine and expectations; ironic, I know).  I'm still praying about whether that's a character flaw or something to embrace, but for now, the children have quite a bit of freedom to explore subjects that they're interested in. I am (mostly) confident that they're learning spelling, grammar, and writing through their written narrations, copywork, and the literature we read. 

Math is something that's required and something we do every day. We still use Math Mammoth for all three children and they seem to enjoy (or tolerate depending on the child!!) it. Carter is still working on side businesses and dives into math riddles and strategy books when he can.

The children participate in copywork (cursive for both Carter and Everett) every Monday by copying our weekly memory verse as well as the hymn or poem we are memorizing for the month. 

Everett is passionate about hunting and the outdoors. He's not one to enjoy reading, but if he has a Gary Paulson book or a trappers book, he is locked in and focussed. :)  None of the children have assigned reading. I have taught them to search the library for subjects they enjoy and they check out their own books accordingly. Currently Carter is interested in the Civil War and has checked out his share of books regarding that topic. 

Scarlett loves horses and has also found the Disney section in the library (noooooo!). I'm learning to let go of controlling what they're interested in and allowing them to learn in their own ways. They read for an hour each school day as a form of rest time.  Throughout the day, they spend a lot of time browsing books, building things, making things, pretending, and playing outdoors.

The mornings are our "Morning Collective" time, in which we come together as a group and discuss the day, our Bible story, and read various books. This is a sacred time as I have all five of them invested in what we are reading. We rotate through several different books. Usually I have one nature book, a theological book along with the Bible, a survival/ pioneer/ historical book, a fantasy book,  a horse book (to go along with our History of Horses block), and various picture books, usually having to do with the current season or month. We learn a new Spanish word every 1-2 days. During this time the children typically have some sort of handicraft to work on so their hands stay busy while their mind is focusing on the stories they hear.

Here is an example of what we have read in the past two days:

I am really curious to see how this year goes. When I spent some time in solitude, the Lord gave me the word, "BOLD" for this year.  I truly feel like that means stepping out of our comfort zone in regards to many things that are socially acceptable and pursuing a path that works solely for us and following what God has for us. I'm not sure what that means, but I am willing and able!

We will be investing in each child this year in place of any sort of curriculum or sports.  Everett is learning pottery from an actual pottery teacher (not just me or Youtube!). Carter is beginning violin lessons (his choice) and Scarlett will be working with horses.  I am so anxious to see their passions unfold and while I'm realistic that passions can be temporary. I am fine with that. I would love for them to explore and learn as much as they can about many things and I truly believe the only way to do that is when you're personally interested. I'm excited to help them with their interests and to prospect various subjects and trades along side of them...oh the beauty of homeschool!!
This schoolroom is the first place in our home where I purchased or received a majority of the furniture retail. I'm used to the thrill of thrifting and finding that perfect piece, so this project, albeit a blast to conceptualize and create, had me sick to my stomach at times over the amount of consumption that took place (true confessions, even when it's embarrassing to admit!). I had a short amount of time to bring it to fruition, however, and a lot of partnerships were what made it possible. I am so grateful, as well as my entire family,  for the partners involved, because now we spend the majority of our days up here!

Couch: Article
Rugs: Rugs USA
Kiddie Table: Thrifted
Kiddie Stools & Clock: Hayneedle
Workstation: Built by friend
Goat hair stools:
Eames style stools: Overstock
Rolling Chalkboard: Wayfair
Blackout Blinds: Blindster
Sink: Amazon

Happy school year, everyone, whether you're homeschooling or not, I hope it's a good one! xo