Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why We Don’t Homeschool (Right Now)

I’ve come a long way in my schooling journey. Almost full circle. Years ago, when my oldest child was younger than school age, I fully intended to send her to school when the time came. I had a lot of reasons for this, but a big one was my desire to write for a living. I didn’t know how I could do that and homeschool. The parents I knew who successfully homeschooled treated it as a full-time job. I questioned whether we could be the close family I wanted us to be if the kids went to school, but I just didn’t feel like I could homeschool well and be a writer. Some people can. I just doubted that I could.
Camilla's first day of Kindergarten so many years ago!
If you’ve been reading this blog long, you know why we started homeschooling halfway through Camilla’s Kindergarten year.

How many of you are like me? I question every decision interminably. For years afterward, I wonder what would have happened if I’d made a different choice. Maybe I should have taken the blue pill.
Photo By W.carter (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons
If I hadn’t had a miscarriage four years ago, I probably would never have chosen to have a third baby. I also probably would not have started homeschooling. I don’t want to imagine my life without Eva. But I do wonder sometimes what would have happened if I’d never homeschooled. Was I subconsciously avoiding publishing success by putting too much on my plate? (This is the type of self-analysis that consumes me at times. Yes, I know it’s crazy!) I don’t regret homeschooling for those 3 ½ years, but once in a while I wonder what would have happened had I chosen a different path.

But life is not a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, is it? We can’t go back and see what the other ending would have been. And when I really consider it, I believe the ending will be the same. We just get a different view depending on which route we take. I don’t subscribe to the idea that God always has just one right choice for each person.

Many times He says, “You can choose path A or path B. Take your pick and enjoy the road!”

We had a good run. I loved the time I had at home with my kids (most of the time). Camilla might have really missed time with her baby sister if she’d been at school most of the day when Eva was a newborn. Or it might have been fine. I have a twinge of longing every now and then when Camilla and Adrian are at school. I wish we could just sit around and read together all day, but the truth is that’s not what homeschooling actually looks like. It was hard sometimes. It was stressful. And ultimately I tried it and discovered that I was right.

I can’t homeschool well and be a writer.

Don’t worry! When push comes to shove, mothering comes before writing. But I also feel called to the page. In the early mornings, when the sunlight just begins to edge itself over the horizon, when the characters dance their way from my fingertips, I know it deep in my soul. Nobody else can write these stories. I’m called to share them. I have to make space for that.

For now, this works for our family. We love the kids' school and we are so grateful to have an option we feel good about. So far I haven’t been agonizing and second guessing myself. I’m choosing this path for this time with joy.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

On Birthdays, Blogs, and Books

The big kids started school two weeks ago and I have been neck-deep in computer world ever since. Okay, maybe that’s not completely accurate.

I partied hard over the last two weekends, even squeezing in a trip to Kalahari.

The kids at Kalahari!

And today is Evangeline’s third birthday, so I’m baking a cake and doing other fun birthday preparation!
Three years old. I do not have a baby anymore. I’m feeling a little melancholy about that today . . . but also looking forward to never buying diapers again.

I hope.

But MOST of my work time (which is limited, due to aforementioned three-year-old) has been spent neck-deep in computer world.

Several years ago, I considered having my website designed by a professional. I wanted it to be aesthetically appealing and user-friendly. I ultimately decided to stick with Blogger, using my own domain name. Blogger was familiar. It was free. It was good enough for my purposes at the time.

Now Blogger has failed me. 

Since January, I have not been able to reply to comments on my posts. Ridiculous. I can’t find a solution and I’m succumbing to the temptation to make my website look pretty. I’ve seen some beautiful sites, so I have decided to make the switch. I bought hosting. I installed Wordpress. And I began pulling my hair out! 

I am a writer! I don’t want to spend hours figuring out how to customize a theme for my blog. I thought Wordpress was supposed to be easy to use, but I am struggling! I’m sure this has something to do with that saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Well, I contend that you can, but it’s not easy. This old dog is used to Blogger and the new tricks are going to take some time to learn. In addition to figuring out Wordpress, I’ve been reading or listening to tutorials on migrating my blog from Blogger. This is what I love to do with my time.

Did you catch the sarcasm in that?

I want to spend my time writing my new book! I think I mentioned my current Work-in-Progress briefly in another post. I’m going back to the 19th century again.

Not to Sidney. Not yet. Patience, my friends. The sequel will come.

I am writing a prequel about one of the other characters from One Traveler. Only a select few know who my protagonist is in this book. I’m going to run a giveaway soon for those of you want to take a guess!

In my spare time, I will be working on a new website design. Which I will unveil . . . eventually.

Friday, September 2, 2016

What I’m Into: August 2016

And summer is gone. Just like that. I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer today to share what August looked like for the Treats.

What we’ve been doing . . .

We managed to pack a lot of fun into the last month of summer. We watched some of the Olympic Games. I used to spend a lot more time watching the Olympics. Even though I’m not much of a sports enthusiast, I enjoy Olympic sports and I’m a little bummed that I didn’t get to watch more this year. I unwittingly scheduled a camping trip smack dab in the middle of them. The days before and after our trip were, of course, filled with preparation and cleanup! So, I missed most of the Games. That’s okay, though. The kids enjoyed reenacting some of what they observed.
Gold and Silver medalists!
Camping was fun! I love to be in the outdoors, away from technology, forced to commune with nature and my family. But I’ve discovered that my love of camping depends almost entirely on the weather. This year was a little wet and that made for less relaxation and more work. Especially upon returning home. We did have some good times, though. The kids loved riding their bikes around the campground and making new friends. We spent some much-needed time at the beach, playing in the sand and water. We went to church in the outdoors and had some great campfire moments. And of course, I dragged everybody on some hikes.

We were in one of my favorite places in the world, Ricketts Glen State Park, and I couldn’t let another year go by without hiking the Falls Trail. The last time we did this hike, Adrian was Eva’s age and he walked most of the treacherous trail himself, rather than riding in the backpack. Eva was just as motivated as Adrian, but after a while she seemed so tired that I forced her to ride on Todd’s back until we were away from the sheer cliffs around the waterfalls! She was not happy about that, but she got over it and took a nap.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

It's hard to stand still!

All smiles!

Mother-Daughter Selfie!

It seemed like we’d just come home from camping and Todd had to turn around and go away for work. He was gone a whole week, which is unusual for him. We kept busy with school shopping and soaking up the last drops of summer, but we were all very happy when he returned!

Getting ready to welcome Daddy home!
He came home just in time for his mom’s 80th birthday party! We had a great day honoring my wonderful mother-in-law. I’m so grateful for Todd’s parents, the way they raised him, and how they continue to pour into my children’s lives. They are truly a blessing!
The Birthday Girl with her granddaughter (one of them)!
And Camilla and Adrian started school Wednesday! The pictures tell most of the story. We had a little drama getting on the van, but all is well now. I’m looking forward to watching them learn and grow this coming year. So far, I am not feeling any regrets about being a “homeschool dropout.”

What We’ve Been Reading . . .

Not much! We finished most of the books we started last month. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is definitely one of my favorite Narnia books. I finished Chains, and it didn’t wow me at all. It was useful for research, though. It also reminded me that sometimes if your book is a bestseller, it just means you have a good marketer. My aim is to write beautiful prose, compelling characters, gripping plots . . . not sub-par novels that are marketed well. Of course, if I could meet those goals AND be on the bestseller list, that would be ideal.

I’m still listening to Cutting for Stone. It’s beautiful and haunting.

After finishing Dawn Treader, The kids and I started Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West by Marguerite Henry (famous for her book, Misty of Chincoteague). We’re really enjoying this story of the real life hero known as “Wild Horse Annie.”

What I’ve Been Listening To . . .

Mostly Cutting for Stone, but I’ve really enjoyed a few podcasts, too. Tsh Oxenreider of The Simple Show, talked with Katherine Pershey about Daily Spiritual Practices. I was super-intrigued by the concept of Lectio Divina and have been trying to incorporate it in my life in small ways.

The other day, Eva was playing with my phone and accidentally started Tsh’s latest episode, which happened to be and interview of one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist. I say she’s one of my favorite authors, but I’ve only read one of her books, Bread and Wine. I loved it, though, and I want to read more. Also, I really love her as a person and I wish I could meet her. Amen.

This episode of Hope Writers with Emily P. Freeman and her friend Kendra Adachi, was very helpful. It inspired me to evaluate the systems I use for writing.

Things I love . . .

Sweet Frog and their “Kids Eat Free” Wednesdays.

PB&J at the park

Curry. Apparently if I hear the word “curry,” I have to make it for dinner.


I hope your summer was as sun-filled as ours!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Letting Go

The other day, I was in my garden tying up the tomato plants. This is something I should have done in June. I looked around at the weeds and twisted vines and wished I had spent more time in the garden this summer. I get to this point every year towards the end of August.  The garden is such a mess of greenery I can barely see the vegetables.

I made a mental checklist for next May. Actually, it wasn’t entirely mental. I told the kids what I was thinking, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t paying attention.

I started to get inspired for next year’s growing season. I imagined how great our garden would look next year, when I finally achieved what I’d been trying for years.

Sounds a little bit like the trap I mentioned in my last post, but I didn’t quite realize that at the time. It seemed so romantic and attainable.
How wonderful to grow our own food! It’s like feeding your soul! To pick ripe vegetables and cook and eat them just a few feet away. To be in the sunshine and fresh air! Never mind the sweat dripping down my face and dirt making its way into the new gloves I thought were free of holes. No matter that I could be spending this time reading with the kids. Don’t think about the stress I feel when I look out my kitchen window and see all the weeds I’m ignoring. The “shoulds” and “oughts” that pop into my head when I send my children out to pull them while I stay inside to wash the dishes or vacuum up dog hair.

Then, another thought occurred to me.
I could be writing.

When I got back from the Montrose Christian Writers Conference, I was consumed with helpful self-evaluation concerning my life as it is now.  I wondered what things I could let go in order to allow more time in my schedule for writing.

I told Todd, “I’m just going to be a messy housekeeper from now on. I’m going to stop caring about the mess.”

“No, you’re not!” He laughed at me.

That’s not to say I’m a perfect housekeeper. Far from it. But I cannot ignore messes. Or maybe just certain types of messes. Regardless, that’s something I can’t let go.

I can let go some of the food prep. I can make simpler meals, requiring less time in the kitchen, less cleanup.

Cooking does feed my soul, though. There are times I want to make an elaborate dish or bake an amazing cake. And then I can take hold of that and cook or bake with joy!

But I can let go of the garden. In early spring, when I look ahead to the summertime, I don’t imagine beautiful moments spent pulling weeds alongside my children. That doesn’t feed my soul.

Soaking up the sun while I read on the beach? You bet!
Hiking in the woods? Absolutely!
Kayaking? Swimming? Campfires? Yes! Yes! Yes!
Writing on the porch while the kids play in the baby pool? Perfection!

But pulling weeds? Not so much.

I could let go of the ideal in my mind. It’s never existed in reality. We could join a CSA and eat someone else’s homegrown vegetables. Support the local farmers who are working so hard.
Let the garden become grass next year. Make it a volleyball court.

Like the slow dawn of a new morning, I realized it would be okay if we don’t plant a garden at all next year.

Don’t get me wrong. Gardening is good. Canning your own food is great. In another life I would be a die-hard homesteader!

I would also name my children Journey, Leaf, and Willow.

But we only get one life. Our time on this earth is finite. I want to tell the stories bursting from my heart. I can’t do that if I’m too busy canning applesauce. Or if I’m weighed down by the stress of thinking I should be pulling weeds. So I'm going to let that go for now. 

I'm going to rest in the knowledge that I don't have to do it all. I just have to do what I'm called to. I will keep learning this lesson. And I'll keep sharing it with you.

What can you let go to make room for something better?