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An Update on Laurianna (and Mercy Ships)

It seems as though life has been going in spurts lately. Things have felt like we are in such a tailspin here. While we are dealing with the various things happening in our state because of the COVID-19 virus, we’ve also been staying in communication with our oldest daughter, Laurianna, who is currently serving with Mercy Ships in Dakar, Senegal.

Before I go too far – please know that I am not trying to be vague in some of the things I’m sharing, but we are respecting Mercy Ships as well by not over-sharing information regarding the field service. One GREAT source of information can be found HERE: https://mercyships.org.nz/2020/03/24/latest-news-covid-19-plan/.

We SO APPRECIATE the many emails, messages, and questions we’ve received from you all about Laurianna – and knowing you all are praying for our girl as well is overwhelming.

Our daughter has been in Senegal since July 2019, but serving with Mercy Ships since May 2019. With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, Mercy Ships made the difficult decision to suspend their field service in Dakar at this time to protect both their patients and the crew.

Although the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship, it is essentially a surgical specialist unit. The vessel is not suited to take care of patients with a highly contagious respiratory disease. – SOURCE

MercyShips.org.nz

As you can well imagine, the crew has been through a range of emotions regarding the suspension of the service, and our girl has struggled as well. We are so grateful to have the ability to speak with her via Facetime and there have been a lot of calls going back/forth along with a flurry of texts over the last several weeks.

Laurianna made the decision to remain with the crew aboard the Africa Mercy (with the possibility of extending her field service an addition 4-6 months). As parents, I’ll be honest and say that it’s tough being here and having your child (yes, I know she’s 18, but she’s still my kiddo!) across the literal ocean with so many unknowns.

There have been a few moments of panic from me, but quite truthfully, we do have an overwhelming peace about her and know that Mercy Ships cares immensely for each of the crew members on board – and everyone on board is healthy. :) (Continued prayers are appreciated for this!!)

Is the Africa Mercy leaving Senegal and where is it going next?

Yes, the Africa Mercy is leaving Senegal two months earlier than planned to begin the ship’s yearly maintenance according to maritime regulations. Our aim is to use this advanced maintenance to bring the Africa Mercy back to Africa so that we can continue our mission to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor once the restrictions ease.
Mercy Ships is also evaluating how, given our operational limitations, the ship can be utilized to assist in the global COVID-19 response. SOURCE

I wanted to share a quick picture with you. Since many of her co-workers on the reception team have gone, the reception team is pulling 12 hour shifts. This past week Laurianna had the night shift and to keep herself occupied she would update the whiteboard in the reception area with something fun – but I love this verse she shared with a drawing of the Africa Mercy:

“Why are you gripped with fear? Where is your faith?” Then he stood up and rebuked the storm and said, “BE STILL,” and instantly it became perfectly calm. The disciples were astonished by this miracle and said to one another, “Who is this Man? Even the wind and waves obey His Word.”

Matthew 8:26-27

If you haven’t already, you are more than welcome to follow along with updates on Laurianna’s Mercy Ships Facebook page. Again – we SO APPRECIATE your prayers and love for our girl and her crewmates.

Hello Friends – Life in the Moment

This weekend I’m in Nashville, TN, spending some time with one of my favorite people – Carisa from 1+1+1=1. We’re both speaking at Teach Them Diligently Nashville and the downtime has been much needed.

It’s times like this weekend that remind me so much of the WHY I’ve been blogging and sharing over the years. Making connections with other homeschool families. The opportunity to encourage parents as they are starting out. Laughing, crying, and sharing honestly from my heart. This weekend I have met some incredible families and just loved the time we spent at the convention (and soaking up the beauty of the Gaylord!).

The kids meanwhile – well, I suppose there’s quite a bit to share on that front too (you know, since I last shared in October!).

11th Grade (McKenna)

One of the things McKenna has jumped onto with both feet is snowboarding – and she has fallen in LOVE with it. We are fortunate to have slopes close by (the mountain resort is essentially in our backyard). While the snow hasn’t been optimal this season, she has spent as much time as she can learning how to handle herself and tackle the various slopes, no matter how difficult.

On the school front, McKenna is working through all of her classes when she isn’t working locally. We haven’t been able to sit down and dissect her shark yet – that’s coming up (and truthfully I’m EXCITED to work on it!).

9th Grade (Zachary)

Many of our days are spent cozying up on the couch together as we go through various subjects (Geometry is his love/hate subject at the moment).

There are quite a few times where he stretches out and takes a nap (Kaleb too), because the early morning swim practices are catching up to all of us. 4:45am is a lovely dark o’clock hour and I feel for them. :)

Our co-op classes have been going along smoothly too – next week we start dissections with a worm, something we’re looking forward to.

We’ve also been able to continue volunteering at a local soup kitchen (of sorts) once a month and I love that the boys are helping take more ownership of the meal prep alongside us.

7th Grade (Kaleb)

Kaleb prefers to do as much of his work independently, and as I’ve mentioned before, he isn’t the hugest fan of writing in any form. We’ve added in a simple map/geography workbook for him so that he has a better handle on using an atlas.

Both boys recently aged up in swimming, so they have been working hard to make cuts for some of the larger meets coming up. The next several weekends mean a lot of competition time for them, but it’s so much fun to see all their hard work paying off.

The Graduate (Laurianna)

Our oldest, Laurianna, is still in Africa with Mercy Ships. The above tree was HUGE. She is absolutely loving her time onboard and has extended her service time until the end of June 2020. And then she will be HOME!!!

Once she returns, she will be jumping back into school in August at both our community college and another local university.

If you are interested in reading what she has been learning, I would so encourage you to visit her blog, Deeply Rooted.

That’s the super-quick wrap-up of our lives at the moment. How are you all doing so far this year?

Refocusing in the “New” Year

Moving into the months of January and February is often a more sluggish time in our homeschool. It’s easy to get bogged down in the more dreary days of winter and find our footing after Christmas break.

We recently had the most beautiful snow storm, on our first day back no less, that seemed the perfect start to re-booting the year. Everything was blanketed with a pristine white covering, hiding all the imperfections around. A clean slate, if you will.

As we ease back into our year, pulling all of our subjects/materials out, decluttering our homeschool life/room, and evaluating our progress so far this year, the fresh snow has given me reason to pause and consider how we can best move forward in the remainder of our school year.

DeCluttering Our Homeschool Life

Now that the house feels cleaner and emptier after boxing up all of the Christmas supplies, I’m also a bit more in the mood to start de-cluttering our schoolroom and remove anything in general that is just making our days just feel (for lack of a better word) – blah.

A few years ago I wrote a post, 10 Things to Eliminate from Your Homeschool, talking about some of the distractions we allow to creep into our year. It’s one I revisit to remind myself and then take a good, hard look to see if there are few changes that will help bring a fresh perspective and motivation to our day!

Evaluating our Homeschool Life

It’s also the time to infuse our day with some much-needed pick-me-ups and things we maybe pushed aside because we felt we didn’t have time or were otherwise too distracted to remember.

There are routines and rhythms that we’ve gotten into over the past few months that aren’t the most productive in getting things done. Part of that ties in with the kids getting older (and having a social life – yes, homeschoolers CAN be social!!), but also in ways we cut corners and let things slide.

The boys and I have been sitting down together to map out what they have remaining for the school year, coming up with a plan to make sure it all gets accomplished in the upcoming months, and talking about what areas we need to improve.

To give you a few examples:

Our current read-aloud: Greystone Secrets: The Strangers
  • Reading together. We’ve let read-alouds fall by the wayside the last few months. At times the boys complain (one a little more than the other). I do believe that reading aloud is important to do with kids, so we are pushing that to the front end of our days to make sure it gets done.
  • Mapping out lessons. Last year, Zachary didn’t complete his math for the school year and had to work on the remainder of the program this fall. That meant some major digging in. We mapped out the remaining lessons/tests and came up with a game plan so we don’t have a repeat this year.
  • Going back to our morning basket. We’re adding in a few extra things with Kaleb in the form of a “morning basket” if you will: a few things we do every day and then rotating through a few specific activities to make sure they are included. Reading poetry, reviewing sight words, reading aloud, etc…
  • Putting a rest time back into our days. Yes, our kids are 13 and older, but there’s still something to having a quiet time, even if it’s just for 20 or 30 minutes each day, that causes us to pause and recharge. And as a mom, I need that time too!
  • Setting limits. Beyond knowing when to say “no” in our social life, I’m also reflecting on how much time we allow other things, especially technology, to creep in. For me that can mean social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc) and for the kids – well, devices of all kinds. So we’re pausing, limiting times, and making sure we are interacting together.

Keeping it Simple

Overall I’m trying to keep it simple. Too many changes can make me feel overwhelmed right away, and then the likelihood of follow through is slim.

Personally, I’m making a simple daily checklist and keeping it in plain sight so I don’t overlook anything, but have a visual to keep me focused. I’ll admit I’m a list girl, so checking off those boxes is a help for me, but do what works for you: be accountable to a friend, another homeschool mom, even your kids!

Are you making any changes or tweaks in the new year? How do you stay focused and accountable?

Each Year is Different…and New

Tonight I’m sitting here and pondering. Feeling immensely behind in all that needs to be done and started for the upcoming year. 

Because here’s the truth you all – I haven’t completely wrapped up last year yet

There are so many excuses I could give and they are all valid, but the biggest one is this: we put stuff on hold because our girl was leaving to head across a huge ocean and would be gone for over a year. (gulp)

Every moment we had with her was precious. Filling out course descriptions for kids that aren’t close to graduating – well, that could be put aside. The focus was on the most important thing: relationship.

And yes, now I’m feeling a bit of the crunch in this moment. Each year isn’t just a “cookie cutter” year of what our older children have done. While that may have been a bit more so when the kids were younger, as our children have aged, both their interests and abilities have varied drastically. 

One kids loves medical stuff. 

Another one is a sports enthusiast. 

Still another – drama and music.

Each year is different and new, offering a chance to reevaluate decisions we’ve made in the past and the opportunity to make changes for the future. 

You know what I love about each new year though? Each year is an opportunity for me to learn all over again along with my kids. Sometimes that is in a new subject area and other times it’s an area that originally filled me with fear, but now I look forward to with anticipation (biology labs, I’m looking at you). 

In the next week I’m tackling some of the areas that have been driving me crazy. Curriculum that hasn’t been put away will find its way to the proper shelf. New curriculum to be ordered (and hopefully some missing items will show up…). A semblance of order should hopefully be established for the upcoming year.

Here’s the thing. We may not be starting as early as I had initially hoped, but we will be starting. One of the kids may be working on a few lessons that weren’t wrapped up last year (oh yes, it’s true) before launching into the upcoming year, but we will get it all in. 

And the focus? 

Enjoying the learning together and finding the JOY in the opportunity that we have: being with our kids and guiding them in the learning process. The past few months with our oldest out of the house have shown me nothing short of this: our time with our kids is so precious, so we need to soak up every second we have!

How are your plans coming for the upcoming year – no fear, friends! JOY!

What We’re Reading – June 2019

Why hello there lovely people. It’s been so very long. For both talking to you and reading in general. 

What are you reading? 

Truthfully, I haven’t had the time to read at all. Period. We’ve had a lot of traveling, but since I was doing the driving it made it a little hard to read. Yes, audiobooks, but I don’t always do so hot with those. 

Never mind my brain has been a bit preoccupied the last few months as we readied Laurianna for her graduation. And a trip to Africa. Sigh.

Add to that getting our local pool and swim team ready for the season and it’s been truly non-stop, not sitting down, never mind picking up a book. By the time I get to bed at night, I don’t last long in my attempts at reading. 

I actually sent Laurianna a picture on Saturday of the first time I’ve been able to sit down and read. For real.  Ironically, the book is  It’s All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee. So far LOVING IT!!

My 2019 Reading List.is technically making progress, but rather slowly. lAt the moment seven of the 14 books on the list have been marked off – so there has been progress! This month ONE of the books in my pile are from my core list, one from my fiction list, and one is from my “if there’s time” pile. They look so very good!!

*all links are referral links

What the Kids are Reading

Nada. Nothing. 

Call me a crazy mom, but we are focusing on wrapping up the few things that have taken a backseat while we tried to get things ready for Laurianna to head out. 

Well, technically Laurianna is done with school, so anything she reads is all on her own time now. I am no longer responsible for her literature intake (or lack thereof). But she’s a reader, and books were definitely in her bags she took to Africa. 

Kaleb is still working on All About Reading Level 4  with me and will continue reading through the summer. We are also having him tested by a friend of ours who is a reading specialist to make sure we aren’t missing anything and can add in suggestions to help him out in his reading. 

What I Read Last Recently (and Quick Thoughts)

Here are the books I’ve read in the last few months along with a more detailed look at 

Parenting Beyond the Rules by Connie Albers – This is the book that I wish would have been around six or so years ago, BEFORE our kids were teenagers. Reading through this now, with four kids ranging in age from 12 to almost 18, I was nodding my head in agreement, especially as we learned some things the “hard way” on our parenting journey. 

Albers addresses so many various topics from building a strong foundation in your relationship with your kids to not giving into the fear that can strangle you as a parent (been there!). Her heart is encouraging parents, and that is so strongly achieved in this book. Through examples of family meetings gone completely off course and other extremely relatable examples, this book is a wealth of information for parents who are either embarking or wading through the pre-teen/teen years with their kids. 

Parenting teens is hard, but it can also be one of the most rewarding times in our lives and reap benefits for years to come. It’s the timeframe when our kids are waking up to all the possibilities that are in front of them – and we get to have a front row seat (and part) in the adventure! The best news is that it is never too late to learn from our mistakes, take a step back, and approach things in a different manner to connect with our kids. (5/5 rating)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – This is one of those books that will have your brain going in so many different directions as you get sucked into the story, but also all of the societal implications behind the story. As a nurse hesitates to perform CPR on a newborn (because she was ordered not to touch him), it spirals into criminal charges that will have you truly looking into your thought processes on race, religion, privilege, and justice. Definitely a great read. (5/5 rating)

The Governess of Penwythe Hall by Sarah Ladd – normally I’m a huge fan of Sarah Ladd, but this is one of those books that just fell a bit flat and short for me. If you don’t mind reading a few spoilers, you can read my full Good Reads review, but in short I’m personally just a little bit done with heroines having to be a part of the “action” in a sense when it borders on unrealistic. (Call me crazy) (3.5/5 rating)

You can follow along with me via the Goodreads app where I share my reviews and additional thoughts. What have YOU been reading this month? 

 

Tips for the Overwhelmed Homeschool Mom

Tips for the Overwhelmed Homeschool Mom

The homeschool year hasn’t even started for our family yet and last week there was a moment when all I wanted to do was sit down on the floor and have a really good cry. Ambitions were high for the summer months, and essentially nothing on my list was accomplished (according to what my brain and unwritten expectations were). Just so you know, I envisioned having co-op syllabuses completed in June and a huge chunk of my planning done that month as well. I thought I’d have it ALL done and just kick back and relax the rest of the summer. 

Sometimes those unwritten expectations can really wreak havoc on a person – and mind you, I’m a top contender in that department. 

But life intervened and between swim team duties and some wonderful family interruptions, summer didn’t go according to plan. And that’s all a good thing. I don’t want to get so wrapped up in my expectations that I miss the life to live right in front of me.

However, when walking into the school room last week to get started on organizing for the new year, it felt like a blanket of heaviness was draped over my shoulders. Piles of curriculum pulled off the shelf to relocate or sell were all over the place – even after baskets of books had been taken out. Stacks of supplies the kids had brought up to the school room for me – and then dumped somewhere random – stared at me. Our room is a huge blessing, but left alone where we don’t see it everyday left it at a point where it was just plain overwhelming. 

homeschool room before

I shared a picture on Facebook last week of the overwhelm I was feeling, and many of you chimed in or emailed me sharing your current state, which told me one thing: we are NOT alone in our feelings of being overwhelmed. Sadly, many of us sit and hold it in, adding to the mountain of feelings. 

Whether or not you have a week or more (or less) to get ready for the upcoming year, here are a few tips for when you feel overwhelmed as a homeschool mom. 

Tips for When You Feel Overwhelmed as a Homeschool Mom

Take a deep breath. I’d love to say that I didn’t tear up, but that would be a lie. I cried a little – and that’s ok! I needed a chance to stop for a moment, and getting that overwhelmed feeling out. After that, I sat back, stared down my nemesis, and took a deep breath. That moment of calming was enough to help me focus on the task ahead and realize it could be done. 

Jump in and DO IT. While the list of things needing to be done would definitely take more than an afternoon, I jumped right in to work on what was in front of me, clearing the visible clutter since much of my overwhelm comes from the visual aspect of messes. You know what your own triggers are – tackle those first so you can relax a little. I grabbed a large trash bag, moved piles to the hallway for things to be taken out of the school room, shelved books, vacuumed, dusted, and focused on the giant task in front of me. I set an internal goal (remember how I said I’m good at those??) to get it cleaned up in an hour (call me crazy). 

Plot your attack and stay focused. Because I have trouble remembering things at time (I’m over 40 and a mom of four. Have mercy, please.), I took a small notebook with me to jot down things that came to mind as I was working. Print off planners for the girls. Plan out the first month of lit lessons for our co-op classes. Double check all curriculum for the year. Find all the US History books on our shelves. Organize science supplies.

The list may keep growing, but rather than getting distracted by little things along the way, stay focused on the task in front of you. My list was my mental dumping ground for what needed to be worked on later that day or in the upcoming week. When finished with the initial cleaning, I went over the list and prioritized what needed to be done. Some of the items were able to be checked off quickly (making me feel accomplished and more motivated!), and the rest – well, they’ll get done too – in time. 

Putting it down on paper puts it into perspective for you as well. Looking at it in black and white helps you see what really needs to be accomplished, or saved until later. While finishing off the baseboards in our school room is something that needs to be done, it doesn’t need to be finished before the school year starts. (grins)

Phone a friend. There is power in numbers, so don’t push aside the benefit of friends. My initial panic also involved chatting with a friend on the phone and commiserating our mutual chaos. We made a plan to sit down together in the upcoming week – me to help her with one of her daunting tasks (anything is more fun with a friend!), and she is going to work with me on one of my projects. Together is always more enjoyable! 

Friends also have the added benefit of talking you down from your proverbial ledges and giving you a nudge (or shove) in the direction you need to be headed. I have two local friends who are fabulous at holding me accountable on tasks and helping me stay focused. 

Let go of what doesn’t need to be done. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things you feel you should be doing. Earlier this year I shared 10 things to eliminate from your homeschool and in addition to those ten things, I would also encourage you to not overdo it. Don’t overwhelm yourself (or your kids) with subject areas that you don’t really need to work on solely because it appears it’s the right thing to do. From outside activities to 15 subjects per child, you can get yourself on the fast track to a certifiable mess. Limit and eliminate the extra stuff – and don’t look back. 

Pray. This just goes without saying, but remember to keep yourself grounded in God’s word, letting Him know your fears, frustrations, and dreams. 

Get rest and lots of it. It’s hard work being a mom and adding on the responsibility of being your child’s teacher ups the stress even more. You need to rest. And beyond rest, you need to sleep. Don’t burn the candle at both ends and hope to catch up on the weekend, or whenever. Get the rest now. Go to bed on time and strive for the rest your body needs to keep going. Take care of yourself as much as you care for those children of yours, otherwise you can put yourself out of commission quickly. Ask me how I know. 

Aside from your body responding better, sleep will also give you more clarity of thought. Tasks that seemed incredibly overwhelming the day before might be put into perspective or a different approach may come to mind. Know when to slow down, stop, and put your feet up for your own sanity (and your family’s)!

homeschool room after

While there are still many tasks ahead in the upcoming week, my perspective has completely shifted from feeling overwhelmed as I’ve taken a step back and plotted out what needs to be done. And that hour time limit I set for myself? It did wonders to ease my mind. It’s amazing what you can get done when you stop and focus on what’s in front of you. 

This won’t be the only time during the year that those feelings of overwhelm will creep up. Throughout the year, they resurface in different areas, but in those moments, pause and take a deep breath. You CAN get through this. 

Are you struggling with feeling overwhelmed? What tips can you offer to other homeschool moms in the trenches with you? 

 Tips for the Overwhelmed Homeschool Mom from Homeschool Creations


 


Another post you may enjoy….Why Your Homeschool Needs a Rest Time.

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