Saturday, December 29, 2012

Letting Go of Stuff

As we prepared to move, my husband and I were rather ruthless when it came to getting rid of stuff. A friend, who is a mom to eight, once shared that when they moved, she threw away seven garbage bags full of stuff. I've always kept that in the back of my mind and aimed to do the same. We not only pitched seven huge trash bags (the big, black kind you use for raking leaves), we exceeded it. I think we ended up with at least nine big black bags, plus lots of smaller ones.

What were in those bags? Lots of odds and ends. Lotion bottles less than half full, partially burned candles and ones I didn't like the scent of, broken toys, toys that we no longer needed (and no one else would want), lots of papers, magazines, mismatched linens, dusty decorations, clothes not suitable for donating (or not worth going to the trouble of donating), books (being a book lover, this was hard for me, but at some point, some of it--in the words of Charlotte Mason--is just twaddle and can go), and on and on.

I realized that I didn't want the clutter that was at home in my home to go with us to our new home. We wanted a clean, fresh slate, surrounded only by the things we love the most. (I've blogged about paring down to what you love the most here).

Now that we are moved in and busy unpacking, the culling continues. Call this the second round of cuts. We're still finding things that we don't want or need. We'd rather have the space and the uncluttered look. Today, we worked on going through toys again. Some will be donated, others discarded.

Here's an organizing tip that's guiding me right now:
Pretend your home has a doorman out front, guarding who (in this case what) is allowed to enter. You are that doorman.

You've got to decide, before something ever enters your house, if it's worth it to you. It will take up valuable space and require effort on your part to find a spot for it, use or read it, maintain it, etc. So do you really want to let it get passed the door?

Here's an example:
Your friend asks you if you want a stash of her cooking magazines. Do you really want them to come into your home? Do you have time to go through them? Do you have a spot to put them? Are you really going to use them?

Be ruthless when it comes to acquiring and then letting go of stuff!

Another couple of tips that are helping me immensely come from Raising Olives. Kimberly wrote that when her children are given toys, they assume that the giver did not intend for them to keep them forever and pass them onto their children. Rather, the gift was meant to be used and enjoyed for a season.  When it has lost its charm or usefulness for that child or children, it can happily be passed onto some other child who will, in turn, love and appreciate it. (I can't find the exact post, but here is another good one).

In another post about keeping up with keepsakes, Kimberly offers great advice concerning those special things that have been passed down or kept from your own childhood: Use them, and, in her words, "as things wear out we throw them away, happy that our children were able to enjoy something that we loved when we were young."

That even goes for fragile items. Kimberly writes, "I figure that something that belonged to my great grandmother, but is stored in a box in the attic throughout my kid’s childhood will have little meaning to my children. The things that we’ve chosen to keep, we’ve also chosen to display and enjoy. (Yes, with 10 children sometimes things get broken, but my children have many happy memories of playing with and listening to the music box that played with and listened to at my great-grandmother’s home when I was a girl.)"

So, in my zest to pare down, I kept that advice in my head as I went through toys and stuffed animals today. The little yellow bunny I apparently had as a child? It didn't make the cut. I don't remember it; it means nothing to me, and my kids have other stuffed animals they like more that are filling our bin for stuffed animals. The bear the OB/GYN gave one of our children at birth? It didn't make the cut either. They've never played with it, it isn't as cute as others we have, and is it going to be like my yellow bunny when they're grown? They'll take it out of a box, look at it, wonder why Mom kept it for them, and wonder if they should get rid of it, or keep it "just because." We're sparing them that guilt by making the decision now. (A word of caution--we are letting them make decisions about stuff we know is important to them. I know this bear is not one of those things, so I am making the decision).

As the new year approaches and many of us make resolutions to become more organized, I encourage you to go through your stuff as if you're moving, and let it go!

A final thought...isn't it interesting that when we, as believers in Christ, die and go to heaven, we don't take anything with us. What is truly important is already there. We don't need to say, "Hey, can I just grab this one thing real quick to take with me?" We won't miss it. So why is it so hard to let go now?

Look toward heaven, our true home. Keep in this life the things you love the very most. Let go of the rest. You'll experience less stress, more peace, and time to enjoy your husband and children to the full.

Sharing With:
The Better Mom

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Messy Monday: Routine Maintenance or Lack Thereof

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you may remember that about a year ago, I mentioned that our local school district wanted to buy our home (and others on our street) to expand the high school we live next to. Well, that time has finally come, and we have slightly over two weeks to pack up and move out. (I have seen so many answers to really specific prayers through this time that I feel peaceful. The testimony of this time is a great subject for another post).

(not my desk! Photo Credit)

One of the biggest things I've realized is--why did I not carve out time along the way for routine maintenance of certain tasks? Instead, I let them go, choosing to spend my time with the more urgent instead of what appeared optional. And now, that is biting me in the behind.

Today, I spent an hour finally sorting my desk. I put things away that have been waiting to return to their proper home for...(I'm embarrassed to say) months.  The whole process didn't take as long as I thought it would, making me wonder why I avoided it for so long.

Lesson: in the new house, take 15-20 minutes a week (perhaps Sunday afternoon?) to order my desk.

My other big project today: sorting through magazines that have accumulated, waiting to be flipped through.

First, I don't receive many magazines to begin with because I can't keep up, but I like Better Homes & Gardens, and Taste of Home. I also have some Family Circle and Everyday Food issues I've wanted to thumb through. But, as most moms know, when you're busy with kids and dinner and dishes, taking time in the evening to flip through a magazine is a luxury that never presents itself. The magazine doesn't scream, "Pay attention to me!"; the baby does.

So I quickly went through a stack, ripping out pages of recipes to try and decorating ideas to file. Now to finish doing that before it remains undone and catches up with me...

Lesson: If you're busy, limit (or eliminate) your magazines.  Carve out time once a week (or month) to look through the latest issue. File what you want to keep. Throw the rest away, or give the whole thing away to a hospital, library, etc.

Overall lesson: no task becomes unbearable if we carve out time regularly and routinely (such as the same time every week or month) to just get it done. 

What is your worst one that you consistently put off, and how can you make a plan to tackle it this week? The ones I've dreaded the most have taken less than an hour (I thought they would take hours!)

Sharing With:
We are That Family (Works for Me Wednesday)
Women Living Well
Raising Homemakers
Deep Roots at Home

Modest Mom

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Bulls-Eye Day

Some homeschool days can be rough. But then there's the ones that make us say, "Ah-ha! This is why we do this!" 

I am happy to report we had one of those bulls-eye days a few weeks ago, and we've had some pretty good days since. Each morning after breakfast and chores, we read a chapter of Leading Little Ones to God: A Child's Book of Bible Teachings, followed by a chapter of Missionary Stories with the Millers.
 On this particular day, the reading discussed how the Holy Spirit helps us bravely tell others about Christ. The missionary story featured a brave missionary in Egypt who risked his life to share the Gospel. 

This happened just a few days after our ambassador was killed in Libya and unrest spread throughout the Middle East (not that it's stopped...).

The kids and I had a great discussion about Christianity and current events. We talked about how the difference between Islam and Christianity and how Muslims in the Middle-East persecute Christians, to the point of death. The boys wondered if they were in Egypt and were asked by a militant Muslim if they believed in Christ, if they should say no, and tell a lie that they believe in "Ohama" (a cross they accidentally coined between Obama and Mohammed, ha ha ha) to save their life.That led into another hugely important talk about persevering in faith in Christ, even if it means our lives on this earth, because we know this is simply a shadow of what is to come. 

We read and talked about what Jesus said:
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."
--Matthew 10:28-33

As we were discussing, I felt so thankful for the time to be able to sit outside with the world map and the Bible and our books, and share life-altering truths with my children. Every day is such an impressionable, formative time in their lives. As a friend of mine said when I interviewed her about why she homeschooled (back in my reporter days), she looked at her daughter learning to read in school and thought, "I want to be the one to do that. I want to be the one to teach her to read." So she took her out of 1st grade and homeschooled her--and then their seven other children--ever since.

Our children's futures are so important. I'm blessed to be able to have the time through homeschooling to lay a solid biblical (and academic) foundation to prepare them for a successful, influential life, where they can engage with current events from a Christian worldview. And that is one of the biggest reasons why we homeschool. 

Sharing With:
Gratituesday @ Heavenly Homemakers
Women Living Well
Works for Me Wednesday

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Broken Day

I last blogged about homeschooling, which is a lifestyle my husband and I are committed to. Some days are the picture of perfect, happy family life and learning--the cozy kind one might imagine when they picture how homeschool goes in some people's homes (particularly those who blog about it).

But some days are not beautiful at all. Some days we're just stumbling through, grateful for grace and mercy, that the day will end and there will be a new (hopefully better) one tomorrow.

A few weeks ago, my husband was out of town for the week. The. entire. week. I was here with four small children. Three energetic young boys, 7, 5, 3. A teething (four molars) toddler that cried and clung to my leg most days. Most fun I've had in a long time.

Here's part of a raw journal entry (names have been removed):

"[Child] is going through an awful attitude phase, snapping at me over just about everything...
[Child] was rudely complaining about how the letters looked in his Italic handwriting book. I asked him to make just one letter a to try it the italic way, and he just snapped. I walked away teary-eyed...

Here's the list of things the boys broke or otherwise damaged today--
1) Broke the orchid pot. [Child] climbed on the counter [rule violation] to get the bungee cords they've been hooking to their belt loops to go bungee-jumping off the railing outside. They already tore their pants once, so that's off-limits, yet they did it again, and I took them away and put them up high.
2) [Child] threw something at [other child] and hit him in the head hard.
3) [Child] threw something at the lightbulb in his bedroom during quiet time  and broke it.
4) Apparently, [child] threw something at my Ansel Adams picture from Justin [my husband] and it broke the glass.
5) [Child] took everything out of the alcove upstairs to see what it looked like empty [we have a storage area going up our stairs]. I couldn't even get out of the hallway of our room to the stairs. He put some stuff back and was supposed to be putting more stuff back, but was actually taking it out again. A big tub of baby clothes fell and the clothes tumbled out, all over the stairs below.
6) [Child] punched [child] in the eye, which gave him a blood blister, then proceeded to scratch him several times. This made him look like he ran into a barbed wire fence (as someone commented church).
7) Not to mention all the food crumbs, water spills, other fights during the day
8) [Child] woke [grumpy, teething baby] from morning nap so she only slept a half hour. Then she cried and clung to my leg all morning.
What a day. Taking a shower and going to bed."
So this was a bad day. I wondered why I choose to keep my kids home with me day after day after day. I was looking up the number for the school district to inquire into where they had enrollments for kindergarten and second grade. Yet, I knew this lifestyle--even on its worst days--was something we were committed to. So I didn't make the call.

We're a family. We're learning to live together and love each other, through thick and thin. The bad days test our resolve, and dare I say, our love for one another. On the bad days, we go to bed, grateful the day is over, and pray for a more hopeful day to come.

And then we receive the answer to our prayers. A good day comes. We learn side by side and have great discussions about things that matter, and we're so thankful we're doing this, that our children are home with us for these talks, for these moments.

If you had a bad day, a better one's coming. It's like the waves on the sea. Bad days, good days, they all roll together to form our story, our homeschooling experience. I'm grateful for what the bad days show us and they ways they help us grow; I'm more thankful, though, for the good days!

Sharing with:
Women Living Well
Raising Homemakers
The Better Mom
Heavenly Homemakers


Monday, September 10, 2012

Public School, Homeschool, and Socialization

My 98-year old great-aunt eyed my children a few weeks ago and asked what school they attend. When I told her we homeschool, she said adamantly, “You shouldn’t do that. Kids need to be around other kids.”

So as children pack up their backpacks and lunchboxes and head off to school for the next 170 days, no one ever asks, “Your kids are in public school. Aren’t you concerned about socialization?”

Yet, I believe, there is reason to be concerned.

In response to a study about the college class of 2016, community college freshmen talked to our local NBC station about their social skills. Startingly, one student admitted she’d rather text than talk to someone in person, and another girl said that in a group of new people, they all just pull out their phones and start texting  friends they know because they don’t know how to handle the social awkwardness of the situation.

That is what I call not being socialized.

And yet, they’ve been in the public school system for 12 years.
So they’re supposed to be “socialized,” right?

When it comes to socialization--the very argument that people use as a catch-phrase against homeschooling—it seems as though graduates of the public school system are not all that properly socialized.

How do we define socialization? As a homeschool parent, I think of it as being able to relate to not only their peers, but people of all age groups (and not through texting, but face-to-face communication). Merriam Webster defines socialization as :
1 to make social; especially : to fit or train for a social environment
2 a : to constitute on a socialistic basis <socialize industry> b : to adapt to social needs or uses
3: to organize group participation in <socialize a recitation>
: to participate actively in a social group

Let’s look again at what that college freshman said. In a social situation with new people, they all just pull out their phones, because it’s less awkward that way. That is not participating actively in a social group. By definition, they are not properly socialized.

Contrast homeschoolers.

The socialization argument always makes me laugh, because—while it may be well-meaning— it is so ignorant.  One would have to lock a child in a dark room all day, every day to keep him from having social interactions with others. Kids are around other kids (and other adults), at church activities, at playgrounds, through sports, homeschool groups, and more (not to mention in our home, they each have three siblings to socialize with).

Not only are they learning how to relate to kids of all ages (without a cell phone, I might add), because they accompany me on errands and to various civic functions, they also learn how to socialize with people of all ages.  

Meanwhile, public school students are learning how to fit into a group, or how to not fit in. Some parents cite this as a necessary skill for life. But is it really?

When has a co-worker or a friend cattily made fun of your clothing choices, hairstyle, makeup, teeth? Picked on you mercilessly? Or when have you done these things to someone else? It just doesn’t happen as we grow up and learn how to properly socialize in the real world. Yet it happens daily in schools, to the point that children have commited suicide over it. Is this really the kind of socialization we want for our kids?

I remember when I was in fifth grade (in public school). A girl sat outside, against the brick wall of the school, crying during every recess, because the other kids were so mean to her. They picked on her because her teeth were crooked; they picked on her because she was a bit overweight compared to some classmates (but probably of normal weight for an 11 year old girl); they picked on her for her hair and for her name. 

Feeling badly for her, I used to sit by her and try to make her feel better. She started to hate the other kids, because “they were so mean,” she cried. I still remember this, years later.

Was this a necessary part of “socialization?” Does this experience mirror the real-world of adult life? Did it do any good for her? Absolutely not. I bet she may still have self-esteem issues to this day, due to the damage caused by these peers. I’m sure it also distracted her from learning.

Yet, if she would have been home, no one would have been making fun of her. She would be learning in a safe environment and growing up with a healthy sense of self-esteem. She would have been practicing normal communication skills with people of all ages, which would not have included belittling and heavy texting.

So when it comes to socialization, do my children really need to be in classrooms filled with their peers, as my great aunt and so many others think? Or is home where it's really at?

 More links on homeschoolers and socialization:
Sharing With:
Women Living Well
We are That Family
Raising Homemakers