how to overcome challenges

I homeschool to give them just enough

Parenting is a tough job and homeschooling is like parenting on steroids. You have these llittle beings in your care that you love more than life itself. You strive to guide them, to teach them, to encourage them, to inspire them. You want to help them build strong foundations that will carry them through the storms of life. And sometimes you just need them to stop fighting over who is touching whom fifteen minutes into a four hour drive.

why I homeschool


I don’t have this parenting thing figured out. Not by a long shot. It seems like it should be about time. After all, my eldest ist 18, left for farrier school and is transitioning to adulthood. All I know is that it takes a lot of prayer and a whole lot of faith. Mostly, I feel like I’m parenting in the dark. When there is conflict, I still don’t always know exactly what constitutes “normal” and what is cause for concern. It’s complicated by having lost a child. Some things I see in my children I trace back to that night. And the accuser entering my thoughts is always ready to blame my own grief and years of struggling to be present at all.

But I know what I want my parenting to look like. I want it to be “just enough.” Not in a lazy, get out of the hard parts of parenting way. To me, “just enough” is harder.

I want to give them just enough freedom to fail, but enough support that getting back up is easy.

I want to push them just hard enough that they surprise themselves at what they can do, but not so much that their victories are no longer theirs.

I want to work them hard enough that they learn discipline, but provide enough unstructured free time for them to get bored and begin to daydream.

I want to answer enough of their questions for them to learn how the world works, but leave enough unanswered questions to allow them to ponder and to wonder.

I want to give them just enough direction that they don’t feel lost, but not so much that they never learn to find their own way.

I want to give them just enough responsibility to develop their character, but enough grace that they can just be kids.

I want to give them enough instruction in our faith for them to build a firm foundation and just enough liberty to meet Christ on their own so that their faith is theirs and not just an expression of how they were raised.

And as I strive each day to be enough so that I can give them enough, I fail. Daily. So I cling to a simple prayer . . . that love really does cover a multitude of sins. Both mine and theirs. Then each day can start new with just enough strength to get through.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure
G is for Grow
H is for Homework
I is for Impromptu field trips
J is for Just enough

how to overcome challenges

I Homeschool to Keep Christ in All We Do

I’m Christian. It shouldn’t be a surprise that our faith is a large part of why we homeschool.

Christian homeschooling

When I say I homeschool to keep Christ in all we do, I don’t mean that we pepper Scripture verses throughout the lessons. I mean that I try to keep my teaching spirit filled.I try to model love, patience, gentleness and grace. And for all the times I fail (in a day . . . in an hour!), I try to model humility as I apologize and try again. My goal is to take them alongside me and teach them, here a little, there a little, precept upon precept (Isaiah 28:10). It is a gentle approach that builds a little each day and focuses more on character than on worksheets.

I try to find books that are factual, that tell the story of our history, our literature and our world from a basis in truth. That doesn’t always mean that it is overtly Christian. But as we’re reading about Jamestown and they are getting caught up with the hero John Smith, I ask them now and again to stop and to think. He’s a hero because he helped save a colony that became a part of our national heritage and our family’s pesonal heritage. We have family buried there. Victims of a native attack. But these settlers were on their land and these settlers did not always behave in the most Christlike manner. I want them to know that side of history. Because not all of our heroes always acted heroic. And not all of the church always acted Christ-like.

When we read a novel, I do not hold myself to the classic list of great Christian books. We do not look for Christ where he isn’t. But we do look closely at the characters and their motivations. What does the author hold up as good? What is evil? Everyone has flaws, but do the characters work to improve or overcome their flaws or do they work to accept them? I view literature as the first opportunity to introduce the philosophies of our world, to analyze them and to compare them to Christ’s teaching. All their lives, they will be inundated with messages from our culture. I strive to protect them from some of it, to be sure. I strive even more to teach them to evaluate and discern.

For science, we now have a purchased textbook, largely because I needed a break from creating my own curriculum. But I still try to supplement that with quality books from the library and real life exploring in the woods, on the prairie, at the pond and under the majesty of the night sky. We roll over logs, dig in the dirt, follow tracks in the snow all to catch just a glimpse of the breadth of this creation we are all a part of.

I try to introduce them, a little at a time, to this God we worship. And then support them in their growth, challenging them, reassuring them, comforting them and helping them to grow as much as I can. But with each step of the way, I try to let go just a little more and let them take those first wobbly steps of faith, moving away from me and toward their Creator.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure
G is for Grow
H is for Homework
I is for Impromptu field trips
J is for Just enough
K is for Kindle their fire
L is for Liberty

Also check out the Homeschool Nook Link Up!

how to overcome challenges

On setting goals and not getting overwhelmed

It’s that time of year again.

setting goals-min

My very favorite time of year to garden. The world outside my window is covered in ice and I’m snuggled up by the fire, looking through seed catalogs and planning the perfect garden.

There are no weeds, no drought, no flooding. No squash bugs, no aphids, no grasshoppers. No cows devouring all the corn just before it ripens. No sheep eating the tops off all the onions. The garden is perfect, laid out in neat rows, producing on schedule.

It’s all so perfect on paper.

But this year is going to be different.

OK, so it was supposed to be different last year. The garden even made it onto my New Year’s Resolution type thing. It was supposed to be different, and I suppose it was. I mean, I got as far as making the cool graphic, didn’t I?

It’s funny, the plans we make. So much like daydreams, with an added touch of hope that this year . . . this year will be the year. This year will be the year that I somehow won’t stumble over all the same obstacles.

I have a lot of plans this year. It’s the first year in a long time that I’ve attempted to tackle much of anything. And I’m plagued by doubts. Can I really do this? Is it too much? What if I fail? Is it too soon? Will failure send me back to that place that used to swallow me every time we met?

The obstacles in my mind are the ones that are the hardest for me to overcome. They are the ones that hold me back from stepping outside my comfort zone, that keep me from challenging what I think I know, that tie me to this comfortable place that plays around with dreams but does very little to realize them.

But I’m taking small steps.

One thing at a time. When I lift my head up enough to see my end goal, I feel overwhelmed. It’s too much . . . I can’t do this . . . the same thoughts that took hold after my son died.

But I don’t have to do all of that. Not yet.  Because this year I applied a little wisdom to my increasing energy. I took my biggest goals and broke them down into very small steps. Very small steps that all should lead forward.

Right now, all I have to do is what’s next.

Do what’s next and have faith that I’ll be ready for the next step when the time comes.

how to overcome challenges

Capturing the wonder of Christmas

This year, I bought myself a present.


I took pretty much all of the money I had left from my blogging account and purchased myself one of my favorite Christmas traditions from my time in Germany: a Kerzenpyramide.

Each eveving when I light the candles, the children sit, waiting in anticipation for the blades to begin to turn. The shadows dance on the ceiling and the figures of the nativity begin to make their trek around and around. Asa’s eyes fill with wonder and I begin to tell him the Christmas story.

He hears it in snippets. One night, it is about the little lambs, under the care of their faithful shepherds while they graze. Another night, it is the angels singing. They are his favorite because he is still young enough to love listening to his mother sing. Each night we add on or repeat small pieces of the story as his eyes fill with wonder and his heart with joy.

I am a story teller at heart. I love how simple objects and favorite stories can capture the imagination of a child and carry them with you on a little adventure. The Christmas season is filled with object lessons and traditions passed down from generation to generation. There are so many opportunities to share the stories of my childhood, tell them about family members they hardly know and to draw in lessons from our faith.

It gives continuity between past and present . . . and each year it challenges me. Because this is more how I want parenting to look all year, not just at Christmas. “Here a little, there a little,” stories shared by the wayside, teaching about life while simply living it.

Because this is where connections are made.

Merry Christmas!

how to overcome challenges

Christianity in Film

Let me just start out by saying that I am excited about this burgeoning market in Christian film. Really excited. Excited enough to lay down good money at the theater — and believe me, taking six kids out to a movie is a bit of good money — to support it.

christian film

I am willing to forgive a bit. I forgive some awkward acting, a bit of poor writing and a bit of a predictable storyline. It is, after all, a fairly young industry. But I am committed to doing what little I can to help them carry their message outside the pulpit and into the public square.

The part that is hard for me is the theology. Most of the “big” movies that have come out have the same basic thesis that if you pray long enough and believe hard enough, your prayers will be answered. (That’s taken almost word for word from Believe, by the way.) And while some character at some point does usually point out that the answer doesn’t always look like what we want it to look like, the movie still ends with the prayer in question being answered as desired.

And I get it. I really do. Most American movies hinge on some impossible series of events leading to an impossible conclusion that wraps it all up in the end and makes you kind of want to go back for the sequel. Secular film makers cover this with a lot of explosions, explicatives and a body count. When a Christian film maker does it, it really ends up making God look more like a magic genie waiting to do your bidding.

We all want a happy ending. But Christianity is different from the world. Our happy ending doesn’t look the same. Our faith gives us such a rich and deep well to draw from in our story telling and gives us so many ideas to explore. Also, Christianity is subtle. God’s hand moves on His people, but such that you might miss it if you aren’t watching for it. I would love to see more movies that challenge what it means to have a happy ending, even in film.

(Also, I’d like to see them kill fewer children. There has to be another way to invest your audience emotionally and tackle the big questions in life without killing a kid.)

I’d like to see more movies like A Midnight Clear (available free on Amazon Prime, even, but don’t watch it with the kids). Browsing through the movie selection, I thought, “Hmm. Christian movie. Free. Made by the people who did Left Behind . . . um . . . ” And I really wanted to go see if there were any British crime dramas I hadn’t already seen. Because Christian movies available free online are a dime a dozen and usually not worth much more than that.


But I am so glad I didn’t click away. Because this movie is so good. (A spoiler alert is customary here, but spoilers don’t spoil the story so I’m not that worried about it. Unless you are.)

It’s about five characters, which is actually a lot of character development for an American film, all struggling with loneliness and shattered dreams. There’s the lady whose husband was in an accident and brain damaged. The people at church don’t quite know what to say to her so they avoid her and she no longer goes. Then there’s the alcoholic petty thief that can’t see his kids until he gets some sort of stable living arrangement. Lying and avoidance are his first instincts. There’s a gas station owner who had big dreams that landed him in a dead end job with neither wealth nor appreciation. There’s the youth pastor who is somewhat disillusioned with his job. He wants to see faith and passion and people’s hearts changed, and he’s stuck taking kids caroling who don’t want to go. Also, he thinks the gifts they are handing out are a little cheesy and the $20 is a little insulting. And finally, there’s an elderly woman, widowed and estranged from her children contemplating suicide on Christmas eve.

Of course, the movie is about these broken lives and how, because of one act of obedience (it’s hardly even faith seeing how resistant the youth pastor was to going out), they all intersect.

The thing is, nothing really changes. The youth pastor only gets a small glimpse of what actually happened that night. There aren’t even any confessions of faith. Or Christmas miracles. But five lives were touched and it ends with a sense that perhaps this is the moment where they can start moving forward with their lives and hopefully closer to the God who brought them low so they could find a little of what they needed that night instead of just what they thought they wanted.

These are the issues I want to see explored in film because they are the issues I struggle with in life. It’s a theme I return to when I write. God isn’t silent in our struggles. But he rarely shouts.

If you enjoy this unexpected treasure as much as I did, I have a couple more I’ll share after Christmas. Subscribe for email updates (in sidebar) so you don’t miss it!