17th Anniversary is the dinosaur one, right?

Seth and I were greeted this morning to a display of plastic dinosaurs “making” an anniversary poster for us and drawings of pictures from our wedding as well as dinosaurs reenacting us canoeing on our honeymoon.  While today isn’t our actual anniversary, the kids knew we were going out on a date tonight to celebrate so they decided to make today their celebration day too.

17th anniversary


Elijah and Ruth were awake before us and cooked us breakfast as well as setting up the dinosaur display.  (We sometimes have the dinosaurs visit – helping the tooth fairy, eating leftover food, getting ready for the Super Bowl to name a few.  This idea isn’t original to us.  We first saw the idea of using dinosaurs from Dinovember.  Our dinosaurs just come year round – not just during November.)

Dinosaur breakfast

A number of our anniversaries have been celebrated with my children doing something special for Seth and me.  Some years stand out to me less than others, but here are a few I remembered.

Our 13th anniversary was the Lego anniversary.  My children had a special brownie decorated for us and made a lego reenactment of our wedding ceremony.  (This was before our house was gluten-free when we could do easy things like buy brownies pre-made at the local grocery store).

lego wedding

On our 16th anniversary, we had early morning chefs who cooked heart-shaped bacon for breakfast before Seth left for work.  These chefs also made heart-shaped gluten-free pizza for dinner.

heart shaped anniversary

I have been blessed with (almost) 17 years of marriage to my best friend as well as precious children who are growing up so quickly.  God has brought our family this far, and I look forward to seeing what He has in store for us in the years to come.

Homeschooling While Moving

homeschooling while moving

Moving is a huge task.  So is homeschooling.  How do we accomplish both?

Be real about my expectations.  I can’t be everywhere at once.  Am I planning a reasonable amount of school work for the kids?  Are the tasks doable without me if I am packing boxes?  Am I planning a reasonable packing or unpacking goal?  Am I willing to stop what I am working on to teach my children?

Be portable with the school work.  This year, my kids each have a crate with all their school work in it.  This means that we can take it with us to the library, a different room of the house, or even to the new house.  We’re not spending time looking for school books, and we’re able to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.  I make sure the kids have their weekly checklists ready to go, but I also make sure I stop what I am working on if they have questions.

Include the kids when possible in the moving process.  I hope this is our last move while our children live at home.  It’s just as important for them to learn how to sort, clean out, pack boxes, set up a new room, organize, and anything else that has to do with the house buying process as it is for them to practice math or reading.  Our children are amazing helpers, and I am excited to do this move with them.

Use as many audio books and educations movies as possible.  My children have been learning so much through our Cycle 1 Audio choices and a few educational selections from Amazon Prime.  These have been great options when I have needed to make important phone calls, pack fragile items, or take care of the seemingly-endless paperwork involved with being a house.

Start early.  We started our homeschooling very early in the summer (especially math).  We started packing early for the move.  We also start our work early in the day each day.

This time of moving is just a season in our homeschooling but a valuable one for all of us.  It’s been amazing to me to see how much our family has been able to accomplish – in our school work, in our packing, and just in life in general.  I hope the lessons learned during this time continue with us in the future.

When Homeschooling Gets Tough

If you’ve been homeschooling for longer than a week, I’m sure you realize that homeschooling is hard.  Some days are just tough.  Whether it is children who just aren’t learning what you are teaching or everyone not really focused on their work, some days are just more of a struggle than others.  With so many people in close contact with each other, conflicts will arise and need to be resolved.  Homeschooling seems to magnify all my own sin and my children’s sin.

When Homeschooling Gets Tough


At the end of the day, God has called our family to homeschool, and we believe it is the right thing for our family.  Some of the best things in life are hard work, aren’t they?  Everyone has days that are a challenge.  I wanted to share some strategies for when you hit those hard moments and tough days.

(This post was originally published October 11, 2014, but I updated the photos and added some new ideas of things our family does when we hit those hard days.)

What do I do when there are hard days?

Remember why I started homeschooling in the first place.  I shared why we choose homeschooling earlier this year.  If you haven’t made a list for your family yet, this might be a great place to start.  If I remember my goals for my family, then the challenges get put into perspective.  Also, unless my reasons for homeschooling have changed, tough days shouldn’t cause me to quit.

Find a way to recharge my batteries.  What others might find relaxing might not be the same, but here are some of my recharging ideas.

  • a grocery trip without children
  • getting a friend to babysit for a few hours
  • a playdate where I can visit with a friend
  • some extra quiet time with the Lord
  • curling up with a book as a family
  • planning a “couch date” with a movie from Redbox for after the kids go to bed

Play an educational game with the kids.  This can be a memory work review game, a math game, or really any game would work.  Having some laughs with the kids can really get my mind back on track.  It also helps for the kids to remember that learning can be fun, too.

Take a little break.  If we have been focused on a particularly tough subject and aren’t making headway or if we got a difficult task done in a diligent fashion, I like throw in a surprise popcorn snack or 15 minutes of running around in the yard.  We all focus so much better when we get back to the weekly checklists.

Consider a change to the routine or curriculum.  Is one curriculum choice taking half the day for a first grader?  Does something need to be thrown out, the workload cut in half, or revamped to work for our family?  Sometimes, the biggest challenge for me is deciding how much to do in a day.  If our schooling is taking too long (because I had unreal expectations), then a change is in order.

Go outside.  We might head to a park and read a book together.  Even taking time to play in a creek and look for some of God’s amazing creation can really revitalize us.  There are so many educational adventures that can get us some fresh air and sunshine.  Just recently, we needed to gather a few rocks from a local creek for a home repair project.  I brought along our current read-aloud, and we sat in the warm sunshine to read the last 7 chapters of the book.

kids at creek

Institute a quiet reading time.  I have everyone grab some books and head off to their own quiet spot for 30 minutes or an hour.  When we are in close proximity to each other almost 24-7, a break can be just the thing.  My kids always have a reading time during the day, but when needed, everyone heads off by themselves.

Serve others as a family.  Some ideas are filling backpacks for needy kids at a city mission, babysitting for a friend who needs help, collecting or buying food for a local food bank, baking cookies for a neighbor, or packing shoe boxes for operation Christmas child.  There are lots of other ideas for serving together, but there are a few to get you started.

Drop everything and clean.   I remember hearing Teri Maxwell speak at CHAP one year.  She shared that housework seemed to be one of biggest reasons people gave up homeschooling.  Having a clean house isn’t on my list of reasons we chose to homeschool, but I can see where it can make people feel like giving up.  I have always remembered what she said and worked to have the kids help out around the house.  A 15-minute cleaning session with 5 cleaners can really make a huge impact on our home.  (By the way, our children were not that effective the first time they started to clean.  We had to teach them.)

Homeschool in a different location.  Sometimes, we’ll take our school work with us to a playground, park, or local library.  Just switching the location can make the learning go more smoothly (and I’m less distracted so we focus better).

homeschooling at the library

Work on character training.  We use We Choose Virtues in our home.  Some days, if the kids (and I) are having bad attitudes, maybe we need to work on our virtues a little extra.  This might mean that we work on a character trait more than we get our Essentials lesson done.

Read a book together (as quickly as we can).  I love it when the kids and I attack a read-aloud and read it as fast as we can.  Dropping almost everything else to read a book over the course of a day or two can really do a lot for all of us.  It’s time spent curled up together while we are enjoying an adventure.  This can do so much for the closeness in our homeschool.

Grab a stack of scrap paper and have a drawing contest.  In the midst of drawing, I can usually sneak in some learning (like draw a mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and amphibian) while we get some creativity out.

Read Todd Wilson’s homeschool cartoons.  Somehow, he captures all the craziness of being a homeschool family in a way that just makes me laugh.  As a homeschooler, it really helps to not feel like you are alone.  Knowing others have similar experiences can just make the tough days easier.

If all else fails, I play Thrive loudly and sing at the top of my lungs.  Yep, that definitely helps.

What do you do when homeschooling gets tough?



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How Are We Doing? Gauging Success In Our Homeschool

For me, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing myself to others – probably in homeschooling more than anywhere else.  I am slowly learning that “comparison is the the thief of joy” and God didn’t make us all to be identical.

It is not a bad thing to examine our homeschool and gauge our success, but I shouldn’t be doing it from outside standards:  not the world, not relatives, nor even other homeschoolers.

gauging success in our homeschool

It’s very important for me to go back to our family’s goals in order to gauge our success.  Your family’s goals may very well be different from ours, so please gauge your homeschool’s success on your own goals!

I want my children to:

  • know God and make Him known
  • be lifelong learners
  • have the skills necessary to learn anything they want or need to learn
  • love each other and to show God’s love to everyone

So, in the midst of spelling tests, math worksheets, and reading lessons, I also see if these are evident.  (Not every day necessarily, but over the course of a week or month.)

These are some of the questions I ask myself to gauge our success:

  • Are my children choosing to read in their “free time”?  Does their reading include subjects like history, science, and art?
  • Am I reading to the kids?  Chapter books to all of them?  Picture books to the younger ones?
  • Are we having discussions about good books, current events, or character issues?
  • How loving are we to each other?  Is our to-do list so important that we can’t help others?
  • Is there progress?  (in math, reading, memory work, etc) – Progress isn’t always evident from day-to-day, but when I look back a few months, can I see how far we’ve come?
  • Are we studying God’s Word and hiding it in our hearts?  Are we sharing about Him with others?
  • Have we gone to interesting places?  (local or vacation field trips, factories, doctor’s offices, stores, parks, creeks, hikes)
  • Do we enjoy time together as a family?  (could be anything listed above or playing games, watching movies, doing projects)


What would be on your list for gauging homeschool success?




Note:  I love the saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Many memes and blogs attribute that quote to Theodore Roosevelt, but I couldn’t find any documentation to show where this quotation is found.  If you know the actual source of this quote, please let me know.



Five Years Cancer Free: Grateful for God’s Faithfulness

I always find encouragement by looking back to times in my life where I needed to rely on the Lord.  Not too long ago, I shared the story of our family tent as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

As I hit the five year mark being cancer free, I wanted to take a minute to share about God’s faithfulness through the biggest medical challenge our family has faced.  I want to proclaim the Lord’s faithfulness.  Five years ago, my oldest child was 5, and now my youngest is.  I am so thankful for being blessed with five more years with my children.  I pray that I never take the days I have with my children for granted.

Five Years Cancer Free

In 2010, our family’s summer took a crazy turn when we found that I had a large growth on my thyroid.  Did I notice it while looking in the mirror or at a routine doctor’s visit?  Nope.  We found it when 10-month old Gideon headbutted me in the neck.  Yep, God used my baby boy to find cancer we hadn’t noticed any other way.  As my surgeon described it, “You’ve got a great story to tell that I hope you’ll be telling for 60 years to come.”

When Gideon hit me, the growth bumped my trachea and esophagus since both curved around the 4 cm x 2 cm x 2 cm nodule.  At first, we thought he had injured something in my neck, but it turned out to be a cancerous growth.

The next month was a whirlwind of doctor visits and medical tests.

A facebook update during this time said:

My thyroid is functioning normally (from bloodwork). The nodule biopsy results fall in the gray area of “only God knows if it is cancer” (doctors say 20%). Since the nodule pushes on my esophagus and trachea, I’m still going to be off to a surgeon to get this removed. Please pray for wisdom at deciding 1/2 or whole thyroid, which doctor, which hospital, timing, and any other decisions that’ll need to be made. I’ve got no idea how long it will take until I get into a surgeon or anything like that. I have to go back to the endocrinologist to pick up all of my test results/paperwork and then will figure out the surgeon. 

Surgery was scheduled for as soon as possible:  July 21st.  This happened to be when my parents were on a cruise to Alaska.  A good friend watched my 4 children while Seth took me to surgery.

Before the surgery, I had to have a routine EKG to make sure my heart could handle the surgery.  During that, we discovered my really low resting pulse.  I “failed” my EKG and had to have a cardiologist “approve” me for the surgery.  I just remember driving to the cardiologist, crying and singing, “Hold me, Jesus ‘cuz I’m shaking like a leaf.  You have been King of my Glory.  Won’t You be my Prince of Peace?”  God really did hold us in His hands through this emotional time.  It’s amazing how God used a song I knew as a teen to comfort me years later.


After surgery, I struggled with low calcium levels and pain management, but the prayers of so many upheld and strengthened me.  We had 10 days after surgery for me to recover and our family to travel to Camp Li-Lo-Li (Seth was volunteering there as a director).

Never was there a time I could say, “I have cancer.”  We didn’t know it was cancer until after it had already been removed from my body.  Then I could say, “I had cancer.”  From the miraculous way we found the cancer to how everything had come together, Seth and I both felt the whole time that it would be cancer. . . not in a pessimistic way, but just in a deep gratefulness that God had brought it to our attention to remove the cancer before it spread.

I had months of exhaustion, a week without my kids while I completed my only radioactive cancer treatment (with lots of adventures to get a certain special drug needed prior to the treatment), and a lot of Elijah’s kindergarten year I honestly don’t remember.

What I do remember is relying on God and Him bringing us through this medical challenge.  Elijah learned how to read and to love learning in the midst of all of this, and our family grew stronger together.

As much as I don’t love going through trials and struggles, I’m so grateful that God walks with us, sustains us, and uses the trials to make us more like Him.