Thursday, March 19, 2020

Dear Homeschooler, my house is a wreck!

My kids building the "great wall" during morning devotional

As so many people have been thrown into the arena of homeschooling, the questions are coming in. Keep them coming friends! This lifestyle has a huge learning curve and we can all help each other.

Dear Homeschooler,
Having a clean home is important to me. It helps me to feel peace. I really struggle with the chaos of mess. Since having my kids home, my home is never clean. They walk around and leave a trail of mess wherever they go. I am use to this to some degree during summer break and vacations, but we can't just focus on just chores right now, they have to get their schooling done. What can I do?
Living in a tornado

Dear Living in a tornado,
Boy can I relate! This is probably one of the hardest things for me about having my kids at home full time also! There have been so many times that I was so close to putting my kids in school, even just for the day, just so I can clean my house without turning around and having it messed up. Yesterday we were cleaning the basement and I went into the boy's room after cleaning the family room, and while I was helping the boys, the girls seized the opportunity of a perfectly clean family room and got out things to play with. AHHHH!!

One time some friends were talking about teacher gifts, and I mentioned that they shouldn't forget the lunch ladies and the janitor, because that is what I wished I had at my house. They looked at me like a crazy lady!

I have two pieces of advice for this one.
1. You are going to need to lower your expectations. This is going to be tough. We have learned to feel peace by our surroundings. You will need to pray to feel peace in chaos. Things will never be the same while your kids are home. Some of you are going to challenge me on this. I hope you do figure it out, please share your wisdom if you do. Remember though, what works for one family might not work for all. We all have a different mix of personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.

2. Make cleaning a part of the routine. Your kids are making the mess, they need to clean it up. If you leave it for the end of the day, it will be overwhelming. We stop drop and pick up many times a day. And if you have ever stopped by my house, you still may walk into a disaster, but it could have been clean moments before. The size of your house will probably make a difference on how messy it feels. We have a small house, so it can get out of control quickly. But if you stop drop and pick up and then clean each area once a day, it will be better and more manageable.

Okay, I lied, I have another piece of advice.

3. I split my home up into "stewardships" for each of my kids. Although we stop drop and pick up together, they are responsible for the daily cleaning (vacuuming, wiping down, and picking up if needed) I also have weekly tasks for each area and monthly tasks. This has been great for us. I still have a lot to clean, but it helps out a lot. Some of my kids are great at keeping their stewardships tidy, while some have a lot of work still to do to develop that talent.

And just one more...

This will be a huge adjustment. Chocolate has been a huge help to get me through on occasion ;) Don't worry if you have to put yourself in time out. You also may need to carve out a sanctuary (your room or somewhere else on your property) where your kids are not allowed to be without permission. Setting sanity boundaries is perfectly okay! May the force be with you!
Much love,

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Advice from a Chinese kid

I have had the amazing privilege for 3 1/2 years of going into homes all over China and teaching ESL to Chinese children. I cut back my working hours drastically last year when I was experiencing health problems, but I have kept one of my students regularly. She came to America to visit at the end of January and since she has been back, she has been in isolation. She is on her 7th week of staying in her apartment full time. She told me that in the last 7 weeks she has only been outside in fresh air for 10 minutes. She was able to visit a friend that lived in the next building over on her birthday. That short walk to the friend's house was the only fresh air she has had.

Today during our lesson I asked her to give me some advice to share with all of the American Children here that are just entering into isolation. She said, "This is such a great time! You get to have so much more time with your family. When your homework is done, you can play games, text with your friends, and make food." She has become quite the cook. She has attended American schools and is jealous because she thinks that the homework that all of the students here will get, will not be as much homework as what she has in China. That is probably true! I have loved her positive attitude and how much joy she has found in the situation.

I also asked her what she missed the most. She said that she didn't really enjoy going out before, but now she really misses it. She said that going out always seemed to be so much work, but now she wishes she could go out. If she were to go out it is an intensive process to leave and return. They have many protective items to put on and a whole sanitation process when them come back home.

As I have been watching COVID-19 slowly creep its way to our daily lives, my heart has been full of gratitude that we have our little slice of nature. We have a yard with a creek, and trees, and grass, and a trampoline. I have been so thankful that this wasn't a year ago when we didn't have a kitchen and living in utter chaos during our home remodel. I am thankful that I can cook from scratch and that we will all have amazing stories to tell when this whole thing is over.

There is much to be thankful for! I have seen people reach out and help others. I have seen people come together (via technology) to be there for each other. I know all of us are dealing with this in our own ways. My teenager thinks the isolation will kill him before the virus (ha ha.) I have watched children play "coronavirus"as they process all the ways that their world has changed.  I know they will be okay. And maybe these games will become a part of our culture like "ring around the rosey."

I am hoping what I get is a closer relationship with my Father in Heaven and Brother Jesus Christ. I am thankful for daily prayer and that not matter what, those lines of communication can't be closed by the current global crisis. There is so much uncertainty as we watch our economy shake.  I know it feels like we are playing a game of Jenga and just wondering when it will all tumble to the ground. As the uncertainty mounts, my heart continues to turn to God. I know that He is here for all of us who ask.

My love is with you all! 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Dear Homeschooler, I have no patience

Throw back picture to when my monsters were littler
Dear Homeschooler,
I have watched homeschoolers from afar and honestly, it never appealed to me. As much as I love my own children, being with them all day everyday isn’t good for any of us. I am not what you call a patient person. I am happy that they get to go to school all day long with terrific and patient teachers. Teachers that love to answer their thousand questions, and explain things over and over again. I am just not cut out to do that. During the summer I have to find extra activities to keep us all busy. During the lockdown EVERYTHING is cancelled. We have nowhere to go and nothing to do besides the school work assigned by the school. I think we all might kill each other. I wish I was more patient, but I’m just not. Do you have any help for someone like me?
Monster Mommy (at least that is how I feel sometimes)
Ripping off the mask, none of us are as we appear. 

Dear Monster Mommy,
I 100% totally understand! Can you believe that I am not a patient person either? There is an assumption that everyone that homeschools has a plethora of natural patience just woven in every fiber of their being. Truthfully, I have cried many o’ tears over my lack of patience. I have said it before, and I will say it again, homeschooling takes the very worst of yourself and shoves it in your face on a daily basis. I have wished that my kids could skip off to school and spend their days with lovely teachers that never raise their voice and always answer kindly.

Just for the record, I don’t think you are a monster. I think you might just be way more normal than you currently realize. Ether 12:27 is our scripture of the year. I am sure you are probably familiar with it. “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

This scripture has given me so much peace and comfort as I struggle on the daily with having more patience. Honestly this time will probably be a time for you to face your weaknesses whatever they may be. If you are doing it right, you will probably spend a lot more time on your knees than you have in the past. You might have to put yourself in timeout multiple times a day. But I promise that as you seek the gift of patience and ask the spirit to be with you, you will gain the strength that you need. The scripture says that His grace is sufficient.

We know that grace is the enabling power of the atonement. None of us can do it without that power we receive from our Savior. HIS grace is sufficent--we aren't. It is in our lack that we seek to become whole by partnering with Christ. Make this a daily habit, and hourly habit, an every minute habit to ask for His grace, and you will see miracles.

And when you mess up, because as humans, that is how we learn, remember that earth life is forgiveness school. You and your children are learning the most important lessons there are. We are in this together sister! You are not alone.

Much love,

The beautiful gift of time

As the panic of the pandemic sweeps the country there are many of us that feel lost. Our routines and structure is what makes our days, our months, our life. As we prepare best we can by securing toilet paper, food, and other survival needs, we can easily panic and wonder about our future. My husband works in the commercial food industry. What happens if all the restaurants close down? I can panic and wonder, and I do to some degree. 
As church and schools are closing down we can be worried about what our everyday will look like. This is where the real gem lies. We have been given a beautiful gift of time.
I want to take a second and explain that there is a difference between homeschool and schooling at home. While the schools are shut down, the burden of education of the children will shift a little more the shoulders of the parents. In this there will be some frustration as the parents try to be proxy for the school teacher. Homeschooling is a bit different as there is freedom in not taking your daily teaching tasks from a teacher but The Teacher. As communication will have to increase between these amazing school teachers and dedicated parents, that is the process I have been seeking between me and my God for the past 9 years as I have been trying to homeschool. 
What will be similar for all of us is this incredible gift of time as a family. Even me, who normally has a lot of time with my kids, now has even more time. As we lead up to General Conference and Easter, God has essentially taken EVERYTHING off of our obligations plate. He has given us all an increase of time. I think it might be tempting to fill it with leisure and maybe some mindless binging of screen. It might be tempting to make a list of all the things that we never have time to get done, and start tackling them. 
Yet if I have learned anything from homeschooling for the past 9 years it is that daily marching orders should come from God. How does he want us to use this precious gift of time? Will it look like gathering your kids and reading more scripture with them? Or maybe reading a classic book aloud to them? Maybe it will be games or hikes. Maybe we will get to study those sections of the Doc. & Cov that the prophet has asked us to study. 
For my family, the increased time we have been given through homeschool has been used in different ways. We have squandered this gift on many occasions. But we have also used this gift of time to spend time in nature and therefore spend time with God. We have a family culture around me (or an audio book) reading great books to my family all together. Reading aloud to my kids has been a great bonding experience and has allowed us to create a common experience very few other things have been able to do.
Personal revelation is key to being able to take advantage of this gift. In the last session of General Conference the prophet asked us to set aside the things of the word. I never in a million years thought that we would get an opportunity to truly set aside the whole world. To focus more fully on the little world inside my own home.
We recently purchased a copy of a piece of art titled “Little One” By Youngson Kim. It is a picture of Christ alone in the mountains with just one little lamb. He is kneeling down beside the lamb and gently touching it. His hand is near the mouth and it could possibly be feeding the sheep. This picture spoke straight to my heart the first time that I saw it. Right now, in the middle of the pandemic panic, each of our families have been separated from the flock and He will minister to us. He will feed His sheep.
As you seek personal revelation of what you can do with this gift of time, I know He will guide you to the best things for your family. I hope the pandemic panic doesn't last long. I hope peace will speak to all of our hearts at this time as we seek His voice above the voice of the world.

Dusting off the old blog and "Dear Homeschooler"

It has been years since I have "blogged." I have been feeling a desire to return to it lately though. I have been fasting from Social Media lately, partly for lent, and partly for mental health reasons. During this time I haven't stopped longing to purge my thoughts into space, hoping that somehow, someway they will connect with a fellow traveler of this life. So today, during this crazy pandemic panic, I feel drawn to start blogging again.

As schools have shut down in my state, and all over the country, I have been getting a few people wanting to talk to me about what they can do to improve their short little journey into the world of homeschool. So I want to open up my blog and my email ( for any questions people have, and I will respond here, publicly. Kinda a throwback to old advice columns like Dear Abby, except I don't guarantee the same amount of wisdom.

So ask away friend! What is on your mind? We can keep it as anonymous as you would like!

A Homeschooler