Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fixing your eyes on the "Son" - Introduction to September Series

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12: 1-2
With the fall season just around the corner I have been pondering what new series I should do.   I don't know about you (probably depends on what part of the country or world you live in) but with summer coming to an end that also means an end to seeing the beautiful sun and feeling it's warmth pour down on us.  Here in the Pacific NW clouds, rain, and cold are the norm 9 months out of the year. 
No matter who we are....we all have in some way or another encountered moments or seasons of "cloudiness" or outright "storms".  This may come in the form of feeling overwhelmed, burn out, depression, too high of expectations in ourselves or our kids, doubts, strains in relationships, battling raw emotions, and so much more. 
We ALL need to look past those gloomy clouds and fix our eyes on the "Son", Jesus Christ.  He is the one who gives us fullness of life, purpose, significance, wisdom, direction, insight, discernment, and sustains us!  He is the one who brings healing, hope, joy, peace, PATIENCE (we all need more of this!), encouragement, forgiveness, strength, freedom, endurance, and guidance!
So every Wednesday, during the month of September, I will be sharing in a very real and transparent way things to encourage you in fixing your eyes on the "Son"! 
Stay tuned next Wednesday for more!
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Homeschooling R.O.C.K.S - Meet Amy

Homeschooling R.O.C.K.S!

Real Moms, who face different Obstacles and Challenges as they homeschool their kids, yet put their trust in their King, Jesus Christ, and Stand firm in what the Lord has called them too!
Amy with her 4 adorable girls!

Me: "Hey, Amy. Who would have thought back in our college days that we'd both be moms of ALL girls and homeschooling! I am so excited to give you the chance to share your homeschooling experience"

Amy: Andrea thank you! It is always encouraging to hear fellow mamas share about their lives and homeschooling.

Me: "I already know you but tell those reading this blog a little about yourself and your family"

Amy:  I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and headed down to southern California to attend LIFE Pacific College. There I met my husband Joost. He had come all the way from the Netherlands! We met on the soccer field…he “Euro” kicked the ball, and I took it in the face…long story short, we fell in love got married and 13 years later have four beautiful daughters (Lauren 10, Aubrey & Bethany 8, and Mia 6) whom I have the privilege of homeschooling!

Me: "Have you always known you wanted to homeschool or are you what they call an 'accidental' homeschooler?"

Amy: When my oldest daughter turned 4 we sent her to preschool, then on to private kindergarten, then put her on a bus for first grade to attend our local public school, she had just turned 6. She would daily leave at 8:20am then would return at 4:00pm. This was so hard for me to have her away so many hours out of the day. And she was struggling. She was having a hard time adjusting to the school system and all the responsibilities it entailed. She wasn’t happy. She was overwhelmed and anxious. She was 6 years old with a full time job. During this time the light bulb went on, not in my head, but in my heart. I found myself following the system. Do this, do that. I thought to myself, “Am I a follower?” I realized that I had a choice for my daughters future, for all of my children. I spent her first grade year immersed in research, the word, and the Lord. I found my answer…I am a follower, I follow Jesus! And I am going to trust Him with my children’s future, and I will trust Him with their education. The following year I began to homeschool. Three years later, I can’t imagine it any other way.

Me: "What would you say are your favorite aspects of having your girls home with you everyday? What are the challenging aspects as well?

Amy:  I love being with my girls! To share life together is priceless. I love being able to sit back and take in the moments my girls share while playing. I enjoy being able to witness the “light bulb” moments when we are learning side by side. We laugh together and we cry together. We make memories everyday together. Yes, there are daily challenges. Like the fact that we are all girls here! And my little sweeties aren't always so sweet. More than anything though they are little living reflections of me. Which lets be honest…isn't always pretty. Again, this mama is learning a lot about herself. The Lord uses my little ones to teach me, and to train me. I am thankful that these humbling moments are often in the comfort of my own home ; ). Attitude adjustments, start with me. Asking forgiveness is a must. But my favorite aspect of being home is choosing to go to the foot of the cross together, inviting Jesus to guide us through our days together. We choose to trust Him to guide us daily in our "all girl" school!

Me: "I know no two days are the same but what does a typical day in your household look like?"

Amy: I would like to say that I have it all together and that we have this amazing schedule that we stick to everyday without fail…but it’s the total opposite. One of the big positives to homeschooling is how flexible we can be. We have had to be very flexible these last three years. Our schedule changes each year, and sometimes half way through the year. My husband works long days so we adjust our schedule accordingly. Sometimes this entails sleeping in and going out for breakfast, or staying up later than typical just for goodnight kisses and hugs. Often our school day can even be an hour or two here, and an hour or two there with plenty of free time in the middle. One of the things that I found works well for us, is allowing the girls to have free time after breakfast to get their wiggles out. Four girls means we have plenty of imagination and creativity going on. I want my girlies to enjoy these years, expressing themselves and pretending and just enjoying life!

Me: "I love when people reference that they could never homeschool because they don't have the patience for it. I think the one thing I have learned in the midst of homeschooling is that I do NOT have a lot of patience, but of course the Lord continues to work on me in that area. What have you learned the most about yourself since homeschooling?"

Amy:  To be honest, I have learned that I can be so selfish and short tempered at times. Its embarrassing. The one thing that I humbly acknowledge is that I am nothing without Christ. I have to daily surrender my flesh. I have to daily surrender my expectations and allow the Lord to lead. Its amazing what happens when you open the door and let Jesus in!!

"Don't copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is." Romans 12:2

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

"My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Me: "Are there days/times you feel like throwing in the towel with homeschooling? What encouragement would you give to any mom out there who is feeling this way?"

Amy: Yes. If Im overwhelmed and feel like giving up, its usually because I've lost focus. I need to put my eyes back on Jesus, get in the word and seek his face!

"For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need." Phillippians 4:13

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful then the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Phillippians 3:6-7

Me: "Are you involved in a homeschool co-op or any kind of outside homeschool support groups?"

Amy: Yes! This last year we joined with our school district in a parent partnership program. The school district has a school dedicated to homeschooling families. The teachers are wonderful and my girls get the opportunity to take different classes according to their interests, or mine! This has been a fun addition for our family. The girls have made many new friends and have enjoyed learning along side other children their age.

Me: "Is there anything else you'd like to share that I didn't cover?"

Amy: Yes! "Never give up, never surrender!" Hee hee! But seriously,

"Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful!" Romans 12:12

Me: "Amy you are a beautiful person inside and out, with 4 adorable little girls! I'm so happy to be on this homeschooling journey with amazing gals like yourself! Thank you so much for taking the time to share from your heart"

Amy: Thank you Andrea! I hope that through each of these interviews, each woman reading will feel encouraged, find hope, take Joy and trust that the Lord has begun a good work in each of them!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Homeschooling R.O.C.K.S - Meet Rebecca

Homeschooling R.O.C.K.S!

Real Moms, who face different Obstacles and Challenges as they homeschool their kids, yet put their trust in their King, Jesus Christ, and Stand firm in what the Lord has called them too!

This may possibly be the last in my summer blog series (unless some gals who were going to participate respond soon!).  Unfortunately I was not provided with a photo of this gal and her family but I hope you enjoy and are encouraged by her words!  Her story will speak to anyone who is homeschooling a child/children with special needs.

Me: "Rebecca. I'm excited to have the opportunity to get to know you and find out about your homeschooling journey. So thank you for being willing to share!!"

Rebecca: Thank you for including me and allowing me to share our journey!

Me: "Since we haven't met before can you tell me some details about yourself and your family!"

Rebecca: My husband and I have been married for 11 years. We have two boys, Josh and Jayson. Josh is 10 and Jayson is 7. We met and married in Colorado, where my husband was stationed in the Army. We're both originally from Texas, and live back here now close to my family. I am currently in school very part time attempting to finish my degree.

Me: "What sort of educational upbringing did you have? What were some of the positives and negatives you experienced?

Rebecca: I was brought up attending public school. Elementary was awesome for me! I was raised for several years by a single mom. When she got remarried, we did move so I had to switch schools. Middle school was quite a lot harder for me. We moved to a very small town and they had the mentality of if you did not grow up there, you didn't fit in. No matter what you did. I was in AP classes, played basketball, etc... But it didn't help. I was bullied a great deal during that time. I ended up homeschooling my ninth grade year. We ended up moving back to where I had gone to school at in elementary. But by then, most of my friends had moved on or away. It was hard to fit in again and I was pretty scarred from my middle school experience. I ended up finishing high school by homeschooling so I could graduate a year early.

Me: "I love hearing a mothers story of how she came to the decision to homeschool. Was this an easy decision for you or something you pondered and considered for awhile?"

Rebecca: This was a decision that before my children were born, I would have been perfectly fine with. But my husband and I had a plan of two working parents, the kids in public school, etc... That hit some kinks when our oldest was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3. We still pursued public school, but it became increasingly harder and harder for me to hold down a job. I was either frequently late due to some issue with getting him to school, or having to leave early because of an issue the school was having. With a couple of jobs, it became a choice of quit or be fired. I usually ended up quitting. I lost one of my favorite jobs that way. But Josh came first. During his second grade year, things got worse at his school. He was bullied, he was not being given the services he was supposed to, I was getting constant calls to handle issues they should have been handling themselves, and on and on. So we made the decision during his Christmas break that year to pull him out and begin homeschooling. We haven't looked back! Our youngest went to public school as well for PreK. Then he went to private school for Kinder. Lots of issues were brought to light during that time. During this past year, he's had some testing done, and it's shown he has several learning disabilities and delays himself. So, for now, we are homeschooling him too.

Me: "There are so many wonderful aspects of homeschooling, what would you say are your top 5 favorite things you have seen/experienced?"

Rebecca: Well without a doubt my favorite thing has been to see Josh go from a terribly depressed, scared, mad boy to a boy who loves to play, is learning about humor, is affectionate with those he is closest to, and is coming more and more out his shell everyday. Flexibility, the homeschool laws in our state, the support that is available, and being able to help my children learn in the way that is best for them would be my other favorites. And not necessarily in that order!

Me: "Of course you homeschool for more than a day and all the excitement wears off and reality sets in and you face some challenges....what are some of those realities you have also encountered?"

Rebecca: Well we have to incorporate therapies into our daily routines. So sometimes meltdowns occur because so much is asked of Josh on a daily basis. He wears down. The kids arguing with each other. There are days Josh just wants to be left alone and have time to himself, and my outgoing social youngest son does not always understand that. So a lot of hurt feelings are dealt with as well. Sometimes it's an off day and no amount of schoolwork is going to get done. Other days I feel like I am drowning in the amount of laundry that needs to get done, the dishes that I need to wash, and I don't even want to think about what to make for dinner.

Me: "What do you think day to day life would look like if your kids were away at school all day? Have you at times considered this option?"

Rebecca : We don't consider it at all anymore for Josh. We have planned that we will most likely homeschool him until he graduates. As for Jayson, we think about it sometimes. But we also would rather do a private school. We've seen the experiences special needs kids can encounter in public school, and we're not willing to do it again.

Me: "Have you ever sat down and throught through or wrote down your purposes in homeschooling your kids? If so, what are some things you listed?"

Rebecca : Actually, no I really haven't. I've been so intent on getting testing and evaluations done for Jayson, setting up therapies, looking into curriculums that will hopefully work, that I've never really had a chance to do that.

Me: "Do you feel alone in your homeschooling journey or have you found outside support?"

Rebecca: I feel alone at times. There's a lot of homeschooling support around my area, but hardly any for homeschooling special needs kids. That's a whole different kettle of fish, and a lot of people don't really understand it. Sometimes, they don't want to.

Me: "Is there anything else you'd like to say or add that I didn't cover?"

Rebecca: No, I think I've told just almost every detail I can! lol

Me: "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you....your words are going to be such an encouragement for other moms out there! Blessings!"

Rebecca: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to talk about us!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Homeschooling R.O.C.K.S - Meet Kandace

Homeschooling R.O.C.K.S!

Real Moms, who face different Obstacles and Challenges as they homeschool their kids, yet put their trust in their King, Jesus Christ, and Stand firm in what the Lord has called them too!

Sorry I was not given a photo for this family!  But her words are very encouraging!

Me: "Kandace. I'm excited to have the opportunity to hear your unique story and experiences with homeschooling your children. So thank you for being willing to share!!"

Kandace : No problem! I always enjoy reading these and get so much encouragement from them.

Me: "Since I don't know you personally I'd love to hear about your family dynamics"

Kandace: We are a young family of five. Its my husband and I, our three kids, Landen (8), Owen (4), and Kennedy (8months). We also have a dog (Scooter, 7), a snake (Shredder, 2 months), and a fish (Spiderman, ?). My husband works shiftwork so we have odd hours with him. I am a SAHM and spend my time running the kids here and there and of course, teaching them.

Me: "Can you tell me about your educational upbringing? Did you attend public school, private school, homeschooled, or a combination? Do you feel like you had a positive experience?

Kandace: Both my husband and I were in public school. We actually attended the same schools from 6th grade on. We both did well in school and really just had the "normal" experiences there. We were both "gifted", in band, I was in dance, he was in sports, etc. At the time, I loved it, as I knew nothing homeschoolers are weird!! ;) Now that I'm older I see that I can offer my kids a different alternative. I was always upset when a class I wanted wasn't available to take, etc. I want my kids to be able to delve into what ever their interests may be, outside of the core curriculum.

Me: "I love asking how others made the decision to homeschool. For some it was a no brainer decision while others were very uncertain initially. How did you make such a big decision for your family?"

Kandace: My oldest was in ps for kinder and first. He had excellent teachers for both. In first grade he would come home very upset because of other students. He complained of being bored, of wanting to do more, etc. After a couple teacher's conferences and realizing that the problems weren't really my son, the kids, or the teachers, I realized that he might need a different learning environment. It took me months and months to convince my husband to give homeschooling a try. He was NOT on board at first but has since come around! This will be our second year and we are loving it.

Me: "Can you give me 3 of your favorite aspects of homeschooling and 3 struggles you have faced?

Kandace: Favorites:
1. Spending time with my kids. I love having them home everyday and not missing all the little moments.

2. Seeing their relationships with each other grow. Don't get me wrong, they fight like cats and dogs, but I believe being together and learning together has brought them together in a way they weren't before.

3. Flexibility. So often we missed things because we had school, school work, or other school related activities. I love taking a sick day and not feeling like my kids are missing something important. If we decide to go to the zoo we can go during the week and miss the crowds!

Least Favorites:

1. My kids always being home. I know, I said it was a favorite, but really, its both. Most days I LOVE it but some days...mama needs a break and would love for that yellow school bus to stop by my house!

2. Scheduling, planning, etc. I am not an organized person by nature. Sticking to a schedule or plan, getting the correct things together and not procrastinating have all been things I've struggled with. Knowing that my kids are depending on me has made me be more accountable but I still struggle.

3. My house is never clean. Ever.

Me: "Has your immediate and extended family/friends been supportive of your decision or have you faced any opposition? If you have faced opposition how did you handle it?

Kandace: Originally I think they all thought I was crazy but at least to my face they all seem to have come around. Thankfully no one has had any snide remarks.

Me: "Have you ever had moments where you see that school bus go by your house and wonder what life would be like if you could ship your kids off to school?? Or have your kids ever asked you if they can go to school?

Kandace :
-My kids love being home thankfully!

Me: "What are your overall goals and purposes in homeschooling your kids?"

Kandace : I want them to be able to learn in the style that comes naturally to them, at their own pace, and with less pressure than traditional schools. Many schools today seem to be very test score driven and I want them to learn more than how to pass a test. Honestly, I don't remember much from my older school years other than test prep. I also want them to be able to explore deeper into subjects they find interesting and also things that might not even be in the curriculum!

Me: "As a mom I know you give so much of yourself to your kids and your family, but is there anything you enjoy doing by yourself or for yourself?"
Kandace:  I love taking pictures, reading, and doing house projects. Those things really make me feel like ME.

Me: "Is there anything else you'd like to say or add that I didn't cover?"
Kandace: Its not easy. Don't go into this thinking it will be. It won't be everything it is in your mind. Some days you WILL want to give up and you WILL wonder if its all worth it. It IS worth it.

Me: "How fun to meet a fellow homeschool mama. It was a privilege to chat and get to know you! Blessings!"

Kandace: Thanks so much for a chance to share!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Homeschooling R.O.C.K.S - Meet Angela

Homeschooling R.O.C.K.S!

Real Moms, who face different Obstacles and Challenges as they homeschool their kids, yet put their trust in their King, Jesus Christ, and Stand firm in what the Lord has called them too!

I'm so excited to introduce you to this homeschooling mom today because she has been at it a long time and I look up to and admire all "seasoned" homeschool moms!! 

Me: "Hey, Angela. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me interview you about your homeschooling experience"

Angela: You are very welcome, Andrea. :o)

Me: "So tell me a little about yourself and your kids"

Angela: I am a work-at-home, homeschooling mom of four kids. I’ve been married to my sweet husband, Dave, for nearly 20 years. Our children are 18 years, almost 17 years, 13.5 years, and almost 9 years old. My two oldest are graduating next year. We live in Minnesota.

Me: "Have you always known you wanted to homeschool or are you what they call an 'accidental' homeschooler?"

Angela: I never really thought about it before I had kids, but I did know that I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, and I wanted to spend as much time with my children as possible. I didn’t have that time with my mom when I was growing up, and that was the most important issue for me. 

Me: "What made you decide to homeschool and how long have you been doing it for?

Angela: I started homeschooling when I realized that the public school system really was not the place for my son who deals with processing delays. We just finished up our 12th year together.

Me: "You are definitely a "seasoned" homeschool mom! Did you have confidence and passion about homeschooling your kids initially or is that something that has grown and developed over the years?"

Angela: Oh my, Andrea. I was scared stiff to begin with! I have to say that God has homeschooled me right along with my kids. I have grown, changed, and matured over the years. I have always been passionate about homeschooling because it meant I could spend time with my kids, but I was far from confident. More than anything, God has taught me to trust that HE has the plan for my children, and that I need to believe that He is their real teacher.

Me: What would you say has been the hardest aspects or obstacles to overcome in having your kids home with you?

Angela: Well, when they were all little, I really struggled with the noise and the mess. I know, it’s sounds really trivial, but compared to the way I grew up with no noise, no toys, and no mess, it was something I had to get used to. Now I’m fine (to a certain degree!) with a little clutter, and noise doesn’t bother me at all. I also dealt with feeling really overwhelmed with having to raise children when I really didn’t know how and had nothing to pull from in my childhood. I very much felt like an alien trying to live and raise kids on earth when it wasn’t my home. :o) I have come to the place where I depend on God for that. He has taught me how to be a parent. Overall, I would say that having my children home with me has been one of God’s biggest healing tools. Our relationship is one of my most prized possession.

Me: "What are some of your fondest memories or things that stand out the most to you as you look back over your years of homeschooling?"

Angela: Reading together. The everyday, mundane events that have wrapped my heart and soul in security. Sitting together and studying the Bible. Watching the light go on in their eyes when they “get” something. Praying for understanding when they didn’t. Putting away our books at the end of the year, which always leads to digging into the tubs of school memorabilia... which always leads to the “Oh my gosh! Remember this?! I remember making this!” Which, of course, leads to tears on my cheeks, and an ache in my heart, as I realize one more precious year has gone by. I see in my mind’s eye three little kids (and a baby) standing all lined up, holding their books by a belt hung over their shoulders... we were studying “Lentil” in FIAR, and that’s how he carried his books. Those delicious, rainy days that end up being the magical, dreams-come-true type of days. Those are the days when they used to make a “tent city” in our family room and enthrone me right in the middle with our read aloud book. There are too many to tell, and if I don’t stop, I’ll be a puddle. :o)

Me: "What have you learned the most about yourself during this homeschooling journey?"

Angela: That I can’t do anything worthwhile in my own strength, but I can do all things when I find out what He wants me to do, then use His strength to do it. I’ve also learned that I really LOVE kids, and not just my own! :o) I love to learn right along with them. I also have learned that I love the Word of God. 

Me: "Have there been days/times you felt like throwing in the towel with homeschooling? What encouragement would you give to any mom out there who is feeling discouraged or not excited in homeschooling her children?"

Angela: There have been days that I felt like throwing in the towel. In the last 6 years I have not had one of those days. I learned to pray each day for God to order my day. I pray that it is not my agenda that is the driving force in the home but His will being done in ALL of our lives. I learned to apologize when my mouth hurt someone. What I would say to a mom who is dealing with burnout or not feeling excited about schooling is quite simple. You need to find out what is going on in your own relationship with God. You cannot give something you don’t have. You have to go and ask for His love, His knowledge, and His strength. Then you will have something to give to those around you. Also, you need to schedule time for yourself. Even if it’s only 2 hours on a weekend. You need to take down time. If you don’t take time for yourself, no one else will. Another piece of advice that I have for all homeschooling moms... DO NOT make homeschooling your hobby. It is fun to look and dream about curriculum, but be careful not to get sucked into the “always looking but never satisfied” frame of mind.

Me: "Thank you so much for your time today, I really appreciate it so much"

Angela: You are very welcome, Andrea. :o) God bless!

Just in case you missed it, here are the first seven in the series:
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