The Maia Homeschool Adventure

Over the years, I have done many educational activities with my girls. At first it was with just Amelia. As much fun as we had, I swore I would never homeschool. I was totally fine doing the preschool work with her. But never homeschool beyond that.

Well, never say never, right? 

About two years ago, I realized that homeschooling was something that we actually needed to conisder. It kept seeming like the best option for Amelia and our family as a whole. So in January 2015, we went for it. Most of our school time was highly inspired by the Montessori method. We held to that method as best as we could. But as the educational needs in our children increased, so did the amount of Montessori materials and space for materials. This was not working for our budget! It wasn't working for our 1000 sq ft house. I needed school materials to take up less space. Therefore, I found it necessary to shift gears a bit.

With the generous help of my dear friend, Anna, we have found curriculums that promote the multi-sensory experience that my girls loved with Montessori. The curriculums we're using are much easier to track with and plan for which is so important now that I've got three kiddos involved in the process.

While we aren't following any Montessori currently, there are still some ways that we incorporate Montessori into our daily lessons. This is seen mainly with Elsie and Isla. At the end of this series, I will share how we do school time with the little ones which will include these Montessori practices.

With all that, I would love to give a glimpse into what our homeschool experience is like currently in Fall 2016. However, as I write this out, I'm realizing this post could get lengthy with all that information. What I'll do is create a series with multiple posts that highlight different aspects of our homeschool day. So let's dive in!

In the series, we will cover:
1. The Maia Homeschool Adventure (you're reading that now)
2. Math
3. Reading
4. Science
5. Bible
6. What About Little Ones?!

Our School Year

The structure I have taken on this school year was majorly inspired by some ideas I had read on Sarah McKenzie's blog as well as the book she wrote, "Teaching From Rest" (if you haven't read this, I highly recommend you DO). Currently, we are doing four weeks of school work (aka a "term") for every 1 week of break time. We've done one round and it was golden! Four weeks was just the right amount of time to enjoy new lessons but not get too burned out on the constant go-go of school days. By time it came, I really appreciated the week break to gather new materials and prepare for the next 4 weeks, which we are in now!

A fun way we have decided to celebrate completing these terms is use a countdown sticker chart. Once it's full, we have a family outing. Last week, we did donuts before our school day started. The girls had a blast! And they really look forward to their daily sticker.

our fun outing for completing 4 weeks of school!
happy tot!!
Another perk with having our calender set up this way is that we have breaks during the major holidays. This helps me feel really organized and keeps our schedule predictable. But it still gives the freedom for us to learn at our own pace within the weeks we do have school. Plus, since we don't have a lot of homeschooling friends quite yet, it's nice that our schedule is somewhat matching up with the kids who attend school around us. This means Amelia will still get to enjoy time with friends during breaks without me getting stressed about missing our school time.

Our Weekly Routine

I try to do school in the morning, Monday-Friday. Some days we get through all of our subjects. Other days we only do math. It really depends on what is going on that day. If there is a play date or outing of some sort, we do what we can. Because of the planned out curriculums I'm using, it's not a big deal if we "miss a day" because we are so easily able to pick up where we left off. So far, I have not noticed any major hiccups with this. The lessons still feel cohesive and Amelia is progressing wonderfully!

Rarely will I ever do structured school during the afternoon. This just means I'm not doing a lesson from the books at the table. Quite frankly, everyone is usually super tired by the afternoon. The girls typically fill their afternoons with imaginative play or drawing/coloring. I might read to them or we might have outdoor play. It's definitely still considered "school time" as we firmly believe they're learning the whole day long!

One new thing I have been trying this fall is to limit screen time to only our weekends. On the weekends, we tend to enjoy slow movie times together. And some weekends, I've even noticed that the screen isn't really desired. So we just end up playing and relaxing, with no school agenda to tend to! This has been a *really* hard habit to form but it has helped tremendously with clear focus during the week, including for myself. Of course, we're not perfect so every now and then, they'll have some screen time on school days.

Keeping Track of Lesson Progression

If you know me just a little bit, I love checklists and productivity. As much my girls thrived with Montessori, I found it so difficult to keep track of lesson completion. This was so discouraging for me! I knew my girls were learning. I could see it in their daily interactions and such. But even still, I needed a tangible thing to help me see that yes, we were accomplishing things! I feel like we have found a really great compromise in the way we are doing school now.

Another tip I learned from Sarah Mckenzie... writing down the day's lessons in a notebook each day! At some point during the day, I go to my teacher's manuals and/or lesson guides for the subjects I'm teaching. Then I just write down the next thing! When the lesson is completed, I check it off/cross it out. If we don't complete it, I put an arrow through the line which signals me to move it to the next day we do school. Eventually Amelia and her sisters will be able to self manage their lessons a bit more. My goal is to have a notebook like this for each kiddo so they can open up it each day and see what they have to do. This will help encourage self pacing and allow the ability to choose what they do and when during our day.

I never imagined that we would be where are now with homeschooling. But I'm so thankful for the opportunity! We have grown so much as a family because of it. No matter where you find yourself in your own journey, I hope you can find something helpful from me sharing ours! 


How Is This My Life?

A few days ago, Danny ordered me the Stand Firm scripture print from Grace Laced. It came in the mail on Monday. You better believe I opened that up as quickly and delicately as possible. The girls loved the print so much. We talked about what standing firm means and I told them what verse was painted. It was a fun, spontaneous moment as I spoke Truth to them and they soaked it in. We went on with our day and no more mention was made about the print.

While I decide where to hang the print, it's going to live on the counter that I like to use as my work station. It's not a particularly beautiful spot in our house. School stuff gets piled here. My books, my lettering, and the girl's church papers get left here. Don't get me started on the cords. As visually unappealing as this space can be, it truly is a hub for our home. If I'm standing around with the kids, it's most likely at this counter. So, for now, having the print in this location is practical.

my work station

Yesterday, I woke up to Amelia who had brought her ABC Bible verse booklet to me. She said, "Mama! I think is the same verse from yesterday. See?! 1 Corinthians 15:58! Here, I'll be right back. I'm going to get your Bible so you can have some quiet time."

A minute later, with my eyes barely open for the day, she plopped my Bible down on the bed. She climbed up and asked me to find the verse for her. We are beginning to teach her how to read a Bible and find verses. So I turned to 1 Corinthians and she helped me find the chapter and verse.

Before I knew it, all three girls were snuggled in my bed for quiet time as Amelia read the verse for us. And I was thinking, "HOW IS THIS MY LIFE!?"

my littlest disciples
Most days, I'm yelling that out of frustration because well, you might know how those days can go with kids. Those moments where you're like, wait? did I really just have to say/do/witness that? But this morning, it was from a place of pure thankfulness over *this* getting to be my life.

And I think back to this verse...

"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." 
1 Corinthians 15:58

Back in high school, I heard from a youth camp speaker that when you're reading scripture and you come across a "therefore", you should stop and ask yourself, "What is the 'therefore' there for?" With that, in some translations, 1 Corinthians 15:58 begins with a "therefore". If you go back to the beginning of chapter fifteen and read all the way back down, you'll find Paul talking about the resurrection of Christ and what that means for future believers and our eventual resurrection. Towards the end, he describes what our bodies will be like after being resurrected some day.

It all sounds super amazing, right? Transformation, glory, living forever with the Lord. At first read, I found myself feeling frustrated like, what about until then?

The life of a mom is not exactly always glorious. It doesn't scream enthusiasm as often as we would like. And oh yeah, there are transformation of all kinds, like our bodies after birthing multiple children in a few years and nursing, right? And in all seriousness, with or without kids, this life can leave us disoriented. It can be so difficult to see a day past the circumstances of our present, let alone a future glorious version of ourselves living with the Lord for eternity!! But there is a hope and a help beyond our imagination.

Something I've learned recently is that the Kingdom of God is not only a far off, coming reality. Jesus told the Pharisees in Luke 17:20-21 that the Kingdom was in their midst. They didn't understand, though. They didn't recognize Jesus for who He was, what He had brought into the world nor what He was going to bring as the Resurrected Christ.

Aren't we so much like the Pharisees? It's easy to lose focus and not recognize that the Kingdom of God is now. But friends, the very fact that we have the Holy Spirit within us, working to transform our hearts and minds to bring glory to God and invite people into lasting relationship with the Savior, is proof of the Kingdom now.

So, what do we do until that coming resurrection so beautifully described in chapter fifteen? What do we do on those days where our question of, "How is this my life?!" is way too exasperated and ungrateful?

We stand firm and immovable.

Each moment that I explain scripture to my girls rather than rushing to the next thing...
Each moment that I choose to stand in the strength of Jesus rather than crumble under the weight of anxiety...
Each moment that deeper wounds heal because of a daily choice to seek Christ...

Each moment that you love your husband when it feels easier to be angry with him...
Each moment that you give a little more to that family than what is comfortable...
Each moment that you speak the truth in love...

Each moment of our life where we choose to do work for the Lord rather than ourselves and our current comfort, trusting that He works everything together for our good and His glory...

We are declaring with our lives, "Death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?" The same power that conquered death at the Cross conquers for us today. The same power that will bring our physical transformation in Heaven gives us the ability to live spiritually transformed for Heaven's sake today.

As we go about our lives, standing firm and immovable because of the power of the Resurrected Christ within us, we see that none of what we experience is wasted. We see that the Lord is working in and around us moment by moment.

We get to ask enthusiastically, "How is this my life?!"


When Community Comes Around

Back in early May, as Danny and I discussed some house decisions coming up, I expressed to him that I had only one hurdle in mind: I wasn't sure how, in our current financial state, we could afford some of the options set before us. Not exactly a small hurdle. We discussed options for saving enough money. The conversation was left a bit unresolved as we just weren't sure how to move forward.

The next morning, Danny got a phone call from one of his managers. She was wanting to let him know that there was a company wide call that afternoon with information about a job opportunity. It would be a short term commitment with a large monetary payout. We figured it wouldn't hurt to get more information so we sat in on the call. The job was filling in for Union workers on the East Coast who were striking at the time. The time commitment was going to be two months and the income would be 2-3x the amount Danny would make in a normal month. And not so coincidentally, the income would be enough to cover the house expenses we had discussed the night prior.

As Danny listened in, his eyes got wider and his face sort of lit up with anticipation. He didn't have to say it but I knew for sure he wanted to go. My heart raced as I began to think over what it would look like to have my husband gone for two months straight.

After the call, we prayed a quick prayer together, asking God to guide us and give us wisdom. Later that night, we went to our small group. We gathered with our friends, gave them the low down, and asked for their input and prayers. Without hesitation, friends were excited and encouraging. They told us, "This will be crazy but it will be so good for you guys." In the same conversation, many of our friends committed to helping me while Danny was away IF we chose to pursue this job opportunity.

The next day, Danny applied for the job! A couple days went by before we heard that he was selected to go. That was on a Friday morning. Early the following Wednesday, Danny flew out to Virginia for a week of training. After he completed training, he worked in New York for two weeks. The strike ended sooner than everyone thought it would so he came home after three weeks. And yeah, I was SUPER grateful for that. He didn't make as much money as we anticipated he would. But it was still an amazing amount that is going to be so helpful for future expenses we have to make.


While I was supportive of Danny going and excited for him to make a decent income in a short time, thus helping us move forward in the house projects, I also felt so anxious about how in the world I would survive without him around. I'm a pretty independent woman. I tend to lean towards doing all the things myself. But I knew this adventure could absolutely break me if I went about it with that kind of mindset. Even in that, I still didn't want to admit how anxious I felt to anyone!! I trusted God to provide for our needs but I failed to walk that out by trusting the people around me to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

The Tuesday before Danny left, our dear friend, Kyle, asked me, "Shelia, what can we do for you while Danny's gone?"

And you know what? I replied, "I don't know, guys.... there's so much. But I just don't know..." I totally knew. I just didn't want to be a burden of any kind.

Thankfully, I have a bold, caring husband because he spoke up and said, "I need you guys to show up for Shelia before she asks because the reality is that she won't ask for help as often as she's going to need it." I wasn't exactly pleased to be called out like that. But it was so necessary! I love that man. As that first week went on, I had friends contact me telling me where they would help. I started writing people's names down along with what they committed for help. That list grew and grew to over twenty friends and family members who wanted to share the load with our family.

Every day that Danny was gone, someone was at our house and/or contacting me to check up on us. Friends committed to watching our girls each week so I could still attend counseling, do grocery shopping, and get a few moments to myself. A few people brought meals and coffee just because! Other friends did my dishes and folded laundry. Some guys from our small group cleaned the gutters and the moss off our roof one day. Our neighbor mowed our lawn a few times! And of course, there were even more people than that who I knew were praying for us during that time.

The whole experience isn't anything I'll sign up for again soon. It was harder than hard, as one might expect!! But it was incredibly humbling to see so many people come around and serve us without question. At the end of the three weeks, I cried to my counselor, overwhelmed by the sacrifice so many people made for me and my family. This is all new in my relationships... the willingness to let people in to the more vulnerable places of my life, to let people care for me when I can't do it all, and to let it all happen without feeling as if I have to make it up to them.

We're a few weeks out from that experience and my heart is still stirring. The relationships I have with those who stepped in continue to deepen. People continue to show up in the day to day. And what I see as a result from that vulnerable place of accepting help from others is a community of people that I trust so much more than I did a couple months ago. In that trust, I've felt safe enough to have hard conversations and express hurts. I have felt safe to ask for help in the small things of normal life. I have felt compelled to love others like I've been loved. This is raw relationship, being formed right before me. After just going through a sermon series called A Gospel Centered Community, this kind of experience reminds me of how God is working and shifting hearts. I'm so grateful for it.


I Confess My Indifference

Sometimes when my heart is hurting and I'm struggling to make sense of my thoughts, I talk to my five year old daughter. It might seem counterproductive. But it never is. Amelia brings a simple logic to situations that I over complicate in my adultness.

We had one of those conversations last night and it went like this:

Me: "Hey bug, I had a question for you. If you saw someone that was different than you, maybe they looked different or acted differently than you... what would you do?"

Amelia: "Hmmm... I would probably say they look great or something like that."

Me: "What if someone was sick or hurting or...?"

Amelia: "Or without a home!? Well, I would call a doctor if they were sick. Or I would let them live with us if they didn't have a home. We could just build some more rooms or something!"

Me: "Wow! Those are great ideas! But what if they were far away from us?"

Amelia: "Oh, well... I don't know, Mama."

Me: "What if we prayed for them?"

Amelia: "Oh yeah!!! We could pray for God to help them!!"

Me: "Well, there's something we can pray about tonight if you want. There's a place in our country called Orlando, Florida. There was an angry man who hurt a group of people that were different than him. So now their friends and family feel really sad. And there's even more people all over the world that are sad as well."

Amelia: "Mama! Can I please pray for those people?"

Me: "Go for it, kiddo."

She bowed her head, clasped her hands together, shut her eyes, and prayed the sweetest prayer.


I confess my past indifference to tragedy in the world. It's not that I don't care. In my deepest heart of hearts, there's aching. But in a world where my one voice feels so small, I have never felt compelled to say much about the events that surround us, now or in the past. But the reality is that in my quietness, I have been as ineffective as the loudest voices among us.

After this week though, I just can't keep quiet. This isn't only my world. This is my kid's world, too. And while I get to filter so much of what they know now, I won't be able to forever. These are the years where I get to do the majority of the molding and shaping of their lives. I aim to do this by pointing them to the truth that Jesus is their shelter and Jesus is their example. He will sustain them and He will guide them.

The last thing I want is for my girls to be indifferent adults. I would never want them to shy away from hard circumstance or hide from pain because of their own insecurities. I want them to be confident women, compelled to love well at all times and to speak out against injustice in our world because of the freedom they have found in following Jesus.

"There is tension in tolerance, but the amazing news is that our Father thrives in human tension. That is where He does His most unexpected work. He brings lightness to heavy burdens, and the Holy Spirit brings wisdom whenever we ask for it. At the foot of the cross, we are wild and free women. We can be passionate and tolerant; we can be truth tellers while being loving and patient like Jesus is. We can walk with Jesus and watch how He loves." 

So I pray boldly for them and I realize the need for me to show them what this kind of life looks like lived out, even now when they are so little.

To the world I have felt little concern for in the past, I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.

My five year old daughter has a heart for you that I aspire to have. She's the wildest, most free soul I know. I definitely plan to chat with her some more. I have a few things to learn from her.


Anxiety Reframe

Hi. My name is Shelia and I have lived a life full of worry and fretting for far too long. I know I'm not alone in this struggle. All the what ifs, should Is, and should haves. It's an unbearable weight to carry. 

I've known this about myself for as long as I can remember. I have memories of being physically ill with worry as a child in the midst of stressful situations at home. I can also think back to the last year of high school when I wore a heart monitor because of heart palpitations. Later on, the doctor said it was most likely due to stress. But I didn't name it for myself until shortly after Elsie was born. There was one day where I felt like I couldn't breathe. I begged Danny to stay home with me. I remember googling some symptoms (classic move of the anxious). The word anxiety popped up in nearly every search result.


I'll admit that I felt shame in realizing that I was dealing with very real postpartum anxiety. I didn't talk a lot about it in the months after. I did write about it again. I knew not many people would read my blog so it felt safer. 

And then, we found out I was pregnant with Isla. I wrote about being excited and overwhelmed at the thought of three girls so close in age. But that didn't scratch the surface of my feelings one bit. For a long time after our surprise third pregnancy, I would often pray agonized prayers to the Lord, trying to make sense of why he would trust me with raising three girls. Why would he choose me, such a broken, mess of a mom? There's no way I would do this well...

For two and a half more years, I struggled with that crushing feeling. I finally decided that I needed help at the beginning of this year. Why the quietness for so long, you might wonder? The weight of anxiety made me feel like something was wrong with me. The way my emotions would bubble up so passionately felt absolutely foreign and forbidden. Surely nobody would understand. Someone would most definitely tell me to get it together and get over it. And I was positive that I would be too much work if I actually said that I was struggling. 

That wasn't the case obviously. Those were lies straight from Satan. I have never felt more loved, cared for, and held in my life. My family and community have rallied around me and cheered me on over these last few months.

"It’s heartbreakingly easy to think that if your people could, they’d trade you in or upgrade you for a more appealing model or a sleeker, faster, sexier update.

That’s where the edges of your heart can get stuck — thinking everyone is just sort of stuck with you.

It can feel like everyone just accidentally ended up with you by default—- instead of feeling like you are not loved by accident, but chosen on purpose in spite of your faults."

There's a lot about myself that I have had to learn to love and accept, even after so many others have loved me as I am. For so many years, I have failed to realize that God made me who I am for a purpose. As he formed me 28 years ago, he knew the challenges I would face. He knew how these challenges would cause me to be overly cautious and worry about all the things. He knew that having three girls would bring me to a place of surrender. And he knew that was the place where he could do his best work. I trust him to work it all out because of Romans 8.

The issue with anxiety isn't that I to need to fix it and get rid of it. For some people, like myself, it's just part of who we are. The challenge is learning to harness the feeling and letting it drive me, us... forwards toward good. I fully believe God made all emotions and called them good. This journey I've been on is helping me discover the good that my emotions are for! So last week, as my counselor asked me to reframe my thoughts about anxiety from being a hindrance to it actually being a strength, I was intrigued. We talked and reflected on the good that has come from our work so far.

Through accepting my anxiety, I have grown in self-awareness. That deep, physical feeling I experience is a great warning system in stressful situations. When I pay close attention to it, I understand my emotional triggers much better. This awareness allows me to manage my reactions in a way that I've never been able to before.

There was also some recognition that my most anxious moments at home are during big, emotional days with the girls. Not only does that anxious weight help me to know that I am not caring for myself properly, it's also a great way to realize something isn't right with my kids. More often than not, the deep feeling I'm experiencing in those moments is an empathetic response to emotional discomfort in their little selves. As I grow in self-control, I am able to mirror their emotions to them, instead of react angrily at them. This develops an amazing sense of connection with them and heals my heart bit by bit.

"In order to thrive, a child (and perhaps each of us at any age) needs contingent communication with significant others. A child especially needs a 'good enough' parent: no parent can provide contingent communication all of the time, but frequent experiences of feeling connected are vital in building relationships. It is often a challenge to make sense of our children's signals and some children may be especially difficult to understand and to soothe. When the inevitable disconnections and misunderstandings occur, we can repair those ruptures so our children learn that a healing reconnection is possible. The accumulation of our children's positive, connecting experiences with us, though contingent communication and essential moments of interactive repair, enable them to build a coherent sense of self as they develop." 
Making note of this quote from Lysa Terkeurst's book Unglued for reading later

I shared with my counselor that I want to change my baseline of anxiety to one that is more controlled and aware. One ultimate goal in all this work is to give my girls a different framework of emotions than what I grew up with. I want them to accept and love who they were made to be at a much earlier age than what I have been able to do. I won't do it perfectly every time. But just like all of me was made for a purpose, so all of my mistakes and victories will be used through the hands of my Father in the lives of my girls. I have no doubts that this work here is doing exactly that.