Anika Turns Sixteen

Anika turned sixteen this week. I’m trying really hard not to slip into the whole theme of “HOW can she be SIXTEEN??!! I remember my sweet baby, and what it felt like to be a new mom, and she is growing up too fast…” etc, etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about how that’s all focusing on me freaking out because she’s growing up, and not about celebrating the person she is becoming. Those are thoughts to work through some other time, because our sweet sixteen year old should most definitely be celebrated!

Ben keeps playing the song “Sweet Sixteen” because he delights in Anika’s reaction. She delights in rising to the occasion. And I delight in watching her – watching her change, watching her grow, and getting these glimpses of what’s to come.

She’s been the one who’s taught us a lot – first kid, going through all the stages for the first time. I often tell people that she’s been very easy on us. Not a lot of teenage angst around here. (Hormones aplenty, but we can deal with that!) She’s always been mature for her age, pretty much from the womb, which has helped. We could reason with her already when she was two, so we haven’t really hit anything that couldn’t be talked through. Sometimes it takes a lot of talking, but she’s teaching me the art of agreeing to disagree.

Once when we were discussing a clothing issue, she gave in to my guidelines so easily, I was surprised. “Don’t you disagree with me?” I asked. “Of course I do,” she replied, matter of factly. “But it’s not that long until I’m 18, and then I can do whatever I want. I can wait.”

I know that in the world of social media, it’s pretty easy to make everything sound perfect. Obviously, nothing is perfect, and we’ve hit a few bumps during these teenage years, but for the most part, it has been delightful.

In the language of Myers Briggs and all things personality type, Anika is a thinker surrounded by a bunch of feelers in this home. (We’re fairly sure Everett will follow in her footsteps, but time will tell.) Everyone has feelings, of course, but thinkers will put them lower on the list of priorities. Anika will often calmly evaluate a situation, and bluntly call things exactly as they are, and cut right through the muddled mess in my head. She gets a bit annoyed when people respond with too much emotion. I’m still learning how to speak her language, because it doesn’t come naturally (it’s ALL about the feelings for me!!!!), but it has taught me a lot about how people communicate in different ways. I enjoy her perspective.

As we move towards a different stage of parenting, the long talks at bedtime explore different topics, the inside jokes keep growing, and I remind myself to soak it all in.This year has brought huge changes and new experiences into Anika’s life – her first job, learning how to drive, going on her first missions trip, touring with choir, going to the Counselor in Training program at Red Rock Bible Camp and being gone from home for the longest stretch yet. It is fun and exciting and a little bit scary and hard, but so rewarding. I love seeing the direction this is all going. I’m so proud of her, and just really thankful that we get to be her parents.

This week, Ben and I are taking her out on a birthday date, just the three of us. It’s funny to think that for many years, we thought that’s how things would always be – just the three of us. I’m so very thankful God chose to make Anika a big sister, because it’s formed who she is, but also because Kaylia and Everett are so blessed to have a big sister like her.

It warms my heart when she comes home and needs to tell Kaylia all her secrets, or when Everett shows me dance moves Anika has taught him (completely hilarious). She might regularly drive him to frustration because of her many requests for hugs and kisses, but at least he’ll know how to sing all the greatest Broadway hits.

So this week, we celebrate Anika, delight in all the things that make her Anika, and ignore the fact that this is all going by much too quickly, because right now, it is the time to party.Happy birthday, Anika!!!

6 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage

This week marks 19 blissful years of being married to Ben!

A young couple recently asked for our best advice on how to have a good relationship. I guess I choked under pressure, because this is the answer I gave: “Being married to Ben is just really easy! I don’t have any advice.”They seemed disappointed with that answer, with good reason. That answer is helpful for exactly…no one.It’s haunted me ever since!! I’ve wanted another chance to do better, and I’ve thought about what answer I would give, if I could do it over.It is easy to be married to Ben – he’s super easygoing, very patient and kind, and the most selfless person I know. He’s tons of fun to be with, and makes me laugh all the time.Our marriage isn’t always perfect, but we’re very compatible, and that helps! Maybe my marriage advice is “Date very, very carefully!!”Beyond that, there are a few other things I would say, if I could have another chance to answer the question:

1) There is no other option.

Ben and I both committed to this relationship for life, so we will make it work. I think that changes everything about how a couple faces hard stuff. If you have to make it work, you will do everything in your power to do so. If there’s another option, it will affect whatever you do.

It’s like my planking challenge that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago – my muscle therapist once told me, “Never start planking until you’ve decided how long you’re going to go. You need to have that number in your mind before you even start.” Same with marriage! 😄

*I feel the need to acknowledge there are circumstances when this is not possible, and there are many, many stories out there full of pain and suffering. Obviously, life happens, and heartbreak doesn’t need judgement on top of it, so that is not my intention. Just wanting to promote an attitude of commitment, with a huge dose of love, grace, and empathy for those who didn’t get their happily ever after.

2) Pray together, even when you don’t feel like it.

When I was growing up, my parents prayed together every night. I always knew that if I went to their bedroom after they had gone to bed, I would find them reading the Bible together, and praying. There was nothing that made me feel as secure as knowing I would find them there together. I loved to crawl into bed between them and have them pray for me.

I thought all Christian couples did that, because it was so normal for me, so when Ben and I got married, that’s what we did. But over the years, I found out that my experience growing up had not been “normal” and I realized what a gift my parents gave to me with the example they set.

Ben and I have stuck with this, and it is such an important part of staying connected to each other, and to God.Sometimes, I do not want to do it. If I’ve had a really bad day, Ben has sometimes just prayed for me. But most of the time, we make it work. It’s difficult to pray together when we’re frustrated about something, so it means we have to work it out before we go to sleep.

It is not always easy, but it’s worth it.

3) Make time together that nothing else can interfere with.

This is easier now because Everett needs to be in bed by eight, so we have to be home a lot in the evenings, but it was harder before having kids. Life got so busy, we would go for long stretches of time without having an evening at home together.

But then I read a book about managing your home, and it included a chapter on scheduling. The author suggested that every couple or family needs at least two weeknights and one weekend night at home, in order to keep life balanced and under control. This may not work for everyone, but we started scheduling these times in. It was HARD, but we found that it made a huge difference for how connected we felt (especially for me, because my love language is quality time!).

But we also found that we had to keep it a secret from some people, because others wouldn’t always see it as “necessary”, and thought we should be meeting demands from other people instead of guarding our time so carefully. But we kept it a priority, and all these years later, we still keep an eye on the calendar, to set aside that time together.

Because our girls don’t go to bed at eight, we make sure to send quality time with them, and then they spend time in their rooms, reading and unwinding before bedtime, which allows Ben and me to have time together in the evening without it getting too late.This has worked very well for our family, and I would do it all over again. Guard your time, because no one else will do it for you!!

4) Honour each other with your words.

Ben and I try very hard not to say negative things about each other. We don’t make mean jokes, and we don’t use sarcasm. I can be critical about stuff in general if I’m not careful, but this one has always been a big deal to me in our relationship.

It probably stems from the example of my parents, as well as being in ministry for the first 10 years of our marriage. Setting a positive example in our relationship has always been a big deal, because other couples have done that for us. It’s not that we’re perfect, but it’s something we hold as important.

5) Work together.

One of my favourite things at Ben’s parents’ house is the way they make meals together. Ben’s dad especially loves to cook, but it’s always a joint effort, and I like watching them work together.

At our house, I usually do the cooking because Ben is working and I’m home all day, but if he’s around, he will always help get meals ready. When he notices that I’m getting overwhelmed by the mess in our house, he’ll round up the kids and be the energetic leader we need to get things cleaned up quickly.

It’s just more fun to work at things together.

6) Leave room for different ways of working through and expressing emotions.

This was my biggest lesson this last year. It’s taken me a long time to figure out that some people want to talk about their feelings, and others DO NOT. And that’s okay!I am a verbal processor. Sometimes I don’t even know exactly what I’m feeling until I’ve been able to talk about it. I feel so much better if I can get it all out, have a good cry, and clear my head.

Ben is the opposite. Most of the time, he does not want to talk about his feelings. He needs a chance to think through things before he’s ready to share anything. This is super hard for me, because I’ve always felt like I’m showing love and concern by asking him about how he’s doing. I actually feel cut off from him if he won’t tell me about how he’s feeling.

This last year especially, it became clear that we needed to get better at dealing with this difference in our relationship. Here are a few tips we figured out:

  • Be honest. It is helpful for me when I ask Ben something and he says, “I will answer that question, but I don’t feel like talking about it right now.” I can’t read his mind, so I appreciate when he communicates clearly with me.
  • Don’t take it personally. I’ve had to work hard at understanding that Ben is just different from me. He’s not trying to shut me out, he just needs time to be quiet with his feelings, as much as I need to talk mine out!!
  • Be brief. Sometimes I’ve felt so worried about Ben, I’ve really wanted to know if he’s okay, and how I can pray for him. But I also want to respect his need for space. A compromise that’s helped is asking him to give me one sentence summing up how he’s doing, and then dropping the subject. It helps him to know we won’t dig into his feelings, but he can still honour my need to know where he’s at.
  • Find other ways to show support. During rough times for Ben, I want him to feel like I care, but if I can’t show that by listening and talking through emotions, I try to look for other things he appreciates. I turn the lights on outside if he’s getting home after dark, just to make our home look more welcoming. I make sure his comfy sweat pants are clean and in the drawer so he can find them easily. I keep the container of homemade granola filled and ready for his favourite snack. Basically, I do anything I can think of to care for his physical needs, because I can’t do much to help with his mental or emotional needs.

These things have helped a lot, and I always appreciate when Ben talks about issues even when he doesn’t feel like it, because he’s also making an effort to adapt to my way of dealing with things.

That’s what I’ve learned after 19 years! A lot of this is wisdom we’ve learned from other couples we know, or from good books we’ve read, so I’m very thankful for the positive influences we’ve had throughout our marriage.

I’m also just really thankful for how fun it is to be married to Ben! We’ve had good, good years together. There have been some hard things to work through, like my health issues, miscarriages, infertility, and some tough transitions throughout the years. But when I look back, I’m really thankful for everything we’ve gone through together, and for all the lessons learned. We have a beautiful life together!

Kaylia Turns 10

Kaylia had her birthday last week. On the day of her party, this is where we were at:

The next day, I asked her, “So, was your party as good as you hoped it would be?” She sighed dreamily, and said, “It was even BETTER!!!!”

I feel like that is a very accurate example of what life is like with Kaylia – always full of elaborate ideas, but completely overjoyed with the smallest, simplest things. It doesn’t take much to make her very happy. Hers is a life of extremes.

She lives in the most colourful, imaginative world in her mind, where anything is possible and everything is beautiful, and my biggest challenge as her mom is helping to navigate through the emotions when her world collides with reality.

Kaylia leaves behind her a trail of paper, glue, tape, and fabric scraps. When she’s not producing elaborate craft projects or Lego creations, she is curled up with a book in a nest of pillows and blankets, or she’s playing with friends, moving all of her sewing projects and painted rock collections outside to build elaborate setups on our front step. I was not surprised to find pieces of felt in my flower pots. I don’t know what their purpose was, but I’m guessing some kind of toy had a bed or nest or den in my plants.

Kaylia has the softest, kindest heart. She can coax Everett to come around to any idea, no matter how stubborn his mood. She is a faithful and devoted fan of her big sister, and is always a willing listener and cheerleader.

Her thoughts run deep, and she is constantly surprising us with what surfaces after she’s had enough time to process things.

Her plans for the future include getting married, having kids, homeschooling them, and teaching art lessons in her home.

Whether that comes to pass or not, I am quite sure her life will include all the colourful dreams and creativity that she can possibly fit into it.

Ten years with our sweet girl! It’s always an adventure.

Choosing Peace During Uncertainty

Yesterday, I shared the exciting news that Ben has a new job, but if you’ve ever taken a huge leap of faith, then you’ll know there’s always a story lurking behind a neat and tidy announcement.

Today I want to share a bit more about what we’ve been going through the last few months, as we’ve waited, prayed, and tried not to agonize over the whole process.

Late last fall, Ben decided to resign from his position as Executive Director of the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce. It was a hard decision, for many reasons, and it was a stressful time. He had some ideas about what could come next, but we didn’t know if anything would pan out. There was a lot of uncertainty and financial questions, and all the kind of stuff that makes me very anxious, because I do not have Ben’s gift of embracing the unknown as an adventure. He was excited, and I was a mess. I went through a bad stretch for a few weeks, and things felt very dark. My health took a big hit from the stress, and I was struggling badly to get my footing.

But one night when I was kneeling down to pray about our situation, it became extremely clear to me that something needed to change. I was so incredibly miserable and desperate, and I reached a point of just knowing I couldn’t go on dealing so poorly with the stress of it all – not now, not ever. I was suddenly overcome with an intense desire to be free from the thought patterns and worry habits that have controlled me for most of my life.

Suddenly, I got this very clear, kind of strange picture: I saw a bubble, like the kind our kids blow in the summer, that floats aimlessly on the breeze, gently bobbing around until it finally twirls over the neighbor’s fence and disappears. Our family was in that bubble, bobbing along, without a care in the world. I could see everything passing by us, but it felt a bit distant, because we were safe and sheltered and separated from it all by that bubble.

Photo by fotografierende from Pexels

And just like that, the fear and anxiety were gone. For weeks after, I bobbed along in that bubble. My thoughts and emotions were changed in an instant, and it took absolutely no effort for me to stay in that place of peace and calm trust.

I’ve never felt that way in my life, and it was heavenly. I never wanted it to change. I bobbed right through Christmas, amazed that life without a paycheck could be so relaxing!

Then January hit, and my bubble burst hard. It was a harsh return to handling things the old way, and it was terrible. For two weeks, I tried to get my bubble back, but it was just gone. It felt as though God had removed His protection from me, and I was disappointed and confused. But one day as I was praying about the whole thing, I realized that God had never removed it – silly me, in all my humanness, had somehow gotten the idea that I didn’t really need the bubble so much anymore. Surely once Christmas was over, Ben would quickly find a job, and this hard time would soon be over. I had climbed out all by myself.

When I realized this, I knew I didn’t want to handle stress the old way, on my own. I was ready to climb back into my bubble, and there I stayed. I’m still bobbing along. Sometimes the temptation to take things into my own hands and get lost in worry comes creeping back, but the more time passes in my bubble, the less appealing the old way feels to me. I can usually catch myself pretty quickly when I start down that path, because it feels so panicky and miserable. I try to spend time praying and getting my focus back on God’s protection and provision, and off we go again. There’s only room for one day at a time in the bubble!

That may sound ridiculous, but it’s what’s working for me right now. Or maybe it sounds too easy, and it is and it’s not, at the same time. I have to be hyper-vigilant about staying in a good place. If I let my guard down for a moment, I’m sucked into the old mess, but if I stay focused, I can stay in my beautiful, safe bubble. In the beginning, I think God was just gracious with me, and I could stay there without trying, but now it takes effort. Overall, I’m learning that it’s much easier to stay there than to try to get back there after the damage has begun.

It’s hard to explain it without it sounding too simplistic – although we’re called to faith like a child, so maybe it’s okay for it to sound very simple. And maybe it sounds like I’m trying to be oblivious to real life, but it’s not that, either. It’s more like a visual reminder for me, in my head, to protect myself from mentally running too far into the future. The bubble is about staying in the moment, and trusting that God will carry us where we need to go. I still have rough moments, but I’m learning to choose peace instead of worry.

Now, while all my lessons in bubble floating were going on, God was up to something else. On the morning of the very same day Ben resigned from his job, a man from our church was on vacation, taking a stroll with his wife. He had started a consulting company two years previously, and had been on his own journey of trusting God, as he developed a company focused on leadership training and team building.

As Darrell and Elaine walked along that morning, he said to her, “I think God is leading me to get a partner.” And that afternoon, Ben happened to email Darrell to say he had resigned from the Chamber.

They met for coffee numerous times those first weeks, but I was not excited. Out of all the employment options Ben was considering, this one scared me the most, because it didn’t involve a regular, dependable paycheck. It was by far the riskiest option, and it was the one Ben was most drawn to. He would come back from coffee with Darrell, bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, and I would pretend to be interested until I just couldn’t fake it anymore, and then there would be tears and panic. (Obviously, I was a very lovely, supportive person to live with during that stretch!?)

Part of the reason I was so nervous was because Ben was so excited about something that felt very unpredictable. He’s talked about this kind of opportunity ever since he got his Masters in Leadership years ago, and it’s what he’s wanted to do most. But we weren’t planning on it happening right now. It was always a dream for the future, when we would hopefully be more financially stable, and our kids would be older. Yet here it was, and I didn’t want him following a dream. I just wanted a regular paycheck, so we could feel safe and secure – not in a worldly way, of course, just a practical way, I’d tell myself.

But Ben’s enthusiasm did not disappear, so one day I prayed, “God, if you want this to happen, change my heart.”

And then I promptly forgot about praying it, because I knew it would never happen!

Fast forward a couple of months, along with all of my bubble dwelling, and one afternoon, Ben and I were driving around running errands, discussing his employment options. He had kept moving forward in discussions with Darrell, but after awhile, he began to get cold feet. “It’s the riskiest option,” he said. “Maybe it’s best just to forget it.”

And then I forgot about this being the moment I’d been waiting for, and instead of agreeing with him, I passionately responded with something like this: “Ben, it’s your DREAM!!! It’s what you’ve wanted to do for years, it’s exactly what you’re gifted at, and who cares if it’s risky!!! We’ll find a way to make it work in the beginning until things get easier. When you look back in 20 years, you’ll wish you would have done it. We should just trust God, and go for it!!!!!!”

And suddenly, after months of not thinking about it, that desperate little prayer popped into my head, and I thought, “Oh my goodness, who am I, and what am I saying???!!!” The miraculous had happened, and my heart had changed.

From that point on, I was in. As a friend said, “This whole thing smells like the Holy Spirit!” And that’s really how it felt.

It wasn’t an easy decision process, though, because it was a big decision to make, and Ben loves to take a looooooong time making up his mind, but none of that bothered me very much, in my bubble. I just had peace because I knew it would all work out somehow, and then finally it did.

Ben and Darrell officially became partners just over a month ago, and God is good, and I want to stay in my bubble forever! We feel really blessed and thankful to Darrell and Elaine for their part in this process. They opened up the business they started from scratch, and we’re excited to experience this adventure with them.

So that’s what we’ve been up to for the last six months – a lot of growing, transitioning, and learning to trust. It’s been hard, rich, and very good. There’s still a lot of work and trust that needs to happen, but right now, we celebrate the start of something new and exciting!

To see what Ben is up to, check out the SCOPE website.

Ben’s New Job!

We’re walking around here feeling like our load is much, much lighter these days, because Ben got a job! It’s been quite a journey over these last few months, and it feels like I’ve been waiting to write this post for a long time, to share what God has been doing. I’m so delighted to finally be able to do so!

Late last fall, Ben decided to resign from his role as Executive Director at the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce to explore new opportunities. It was a hard decision, for many reasons, and it was a stressful time. He was excited about a number of potential new directions, but we didn’t know if anything would pan out. There was a lot of uncertainty and financial questions, and all the kind of stuff which makes me very anxious, because I do not have Ben’s gift of embracing the unknown as an adventure. He was excited, and I was a mess. I’ll post more tomorrow about what God’s been teaching us during this past season of waiting, uncertainty, and trusting Him to lead us.

But for today, I’m excited to share that Ben has recently joined SCOPE Leadership Development as a partner with Darrell Kehler, who began the company just over two years ago. SCOPE has been growing, and right around the time Ben resigned from the Chamber, Darrell was considering expanding. Just over a month ago they shook hands to finalize months of discussions.

Ben has talked about this kind of opportunity ever since he got his Masters in Leadership years ago. It didn’t happen in the way we expected, but it’s exciting to see how God has worked out the details.

If you happen to know of anybody needing a team of the best consultants ever, you can check out their website right here, or head on over to Facebook. Be sure to follow their page to see some of the exciting things they’re up to!

How Do You Homeschool?

When Anika started homeschooling, we were living at Red Rock Bible Camp. To get her to the closest school, we would have to drive 20 minutes to the nearest town so she could catch a school bus for a 40 minute ride to the next town.

Homeschooling just made sense. By the time we left camp, we’d been homeschooling for four years, and it had become a normal way of life for us. We loved the freedom and flexibility, the creative approach to learning, and most of all, the time with our kids. It’s the relationship aspect that makes me want to keep doing this as long as I possibly can.

When we moved to Niverville, everyone assumed we’d put our kids in school, but it was too late – we were hooked!😉

It was scary, back in the beginning, though – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and desperately wanted direction. I pounced on any experienced homeschooling parent I came across, to ask all my burning questions: “What does your day look like? How do you know what to teach your kids? Do they have any friends? What about high school?”

After ten and a half years, those are the same questions people are asking me, whether they’re considering homeschooling their own kids, or they’re just trying to understand why someone would make the decision to homeschool.

A friend asked me the other day why I don’t write about homeschooling on my blog, and I wasn’t completely sure how to answer that. This isn’t a homeschool blog, so I have a good excuse, but it’s more than that. I think part of it is because it’s such a deeply personal thing – we all love our kids, and want the very best for them. When someone chooses to do things very differently than we do, it can bring up strong opinions. It’s often felt easiest just to stay quiet about the whole thing.

But it was because people were so open with me many years ago, and were gracious enough to answer all of my questions that I began to get a picture of homeschooling as something that could be beautiful and life-giving, and something I wanted our family to be a part of. If I share about this journey we’re on, I could be doing the same thing for someone else.

So today I’m answering the questions about homeschooling I get asked the most. Let me know if I’ve missed anything you’re curious about!

Why do you homeschool?

If I had to pick only one reason, it would be the relationship. I know parents can have a good relationship with their kids even when they’re in school, but there is just no other way to have this amount of time with my kids. (Can you tell that quality time is my love language?!)

I also really love the way it grows curiosity, and provides so much flexibility and freedom to learn about what interests them the most. I love how my kids have so many extra hours in a day to just be kids, and pursue what brings them joy.

Another huge benefit is being able to learn in a way that fits my kids’ learning styles. Anika is an audio learner, so she needs to think out loud. She often talks to herself while she’s working, or mutters cutely and quietly under her breath as she tries to work out a problem. Kaylia is very tactile, and is always creating things. She draws while she listens to me read, or cuts and glues and creates things based on what she is learning.

It made a huge difference to figure out what they needed most to learn well, and I’m happy to have the freedom to meet their individual needs. Because I’m a hands-on learner, I remember how frustrated some of my teachers would get when they had just finished teaching the class, and I’d go up to their desk for individual help, and ask them talk me through it again while I tried to work it out. I always felt really bad for doing it, but looking back, I can see clearly how I just couldn’t learn the way I was “supposed” to. There are different ways to learn, and I love having the ability to pursue education in a way that’s specifically suited to my children’s needs.

I’m sure teachers try to address these needs, but I can only imagine how hard it would be in a class with so many kids.

Creativity is also a huge deal for me. I love watching my kids using their imagination all day long. A school guidance counselor I know once said to me, “Keep homeschooling your kids. Every day, I watch kids at my school going from class to class, listening to a bell signaling where to go and what to do, and I see them losing their creativity and individuality.”

I was listening to a podcast this week that had nothing to do with homeschooling, but I found it very interesting when CJ Casciotta, author of Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret Success, talked about how we spend all our years in school and college living by the rule that we must fit in to survive and succeed. The goal is to become like everyone else so we don’t stand out, but then we graduate and apply for jobs, and every employer wants to know what makes each of us different, unique, and able to offer something the other candidates can’t. He talked about how hard and confusing it is to find our individuality after spending years trying to hide it.

Seems to me it’s a better thing to keep it all along. In my experience, homeschooling is an excellent way to do that. 😉

How much time do you spend on school work each day, and what does your day look like?

Actual time spent on school work is a hard question to answer, because school work and everything else we do runs into each other a lot. Some school work becomes play, and lots of learning happens through life lessons, and not specifically during a set “school time”.

Anika keeps some school books right by her bed, so that when she wakes up first thing in the morning, she can get a bunch of reading done while she’s still cozy in bed.

Then she comes upstairs, we make breakfast and eat, and then she gets to work on subjects that require DVDs (for math), or the computer (for writing, French, or typing for answering questions for literature and science).

Kaylia takes a bit longer to get going in the morning. She would love to have hours for reading or playing when she gets up, but then it’s hard to pull her away from those things to focus on school, so we try to get her work done as early as we can so she has the rest of the day to spend as she chooses.

We get all her written work out of the way first, like math, grammar, handwriting, and spelling, and then we spend as long as we want reading social studies, history, and science. Sometimes there are activities or experiments to do, or we get distracted with looking up more information and videos on the internet about stuff we’re learning.

After she’s done, she spends time with Everett, who is very eager to play at this point, so I can spend some focused time with Anika on math.

Then we have lunch, do chores, and have “Rest Time”, which means napping for me (if Michael Hyatt naps every day, I should too!), writing fiction for Anika (I think she’s writing her 12th book), reading/playing/crafts for Kaylia, and audio stories for Everett in his room.

After that, it’s time for exercise or playing outside, and then Anika does some reading for social studies and history. I make supper while Kaylia and Everett play together, or have friends over.

Anika takes voice lessons, Kaylia takes art lessons, and I teach them both piano. They practice after supper, finish any chores that need to be done, and spend time playing, reading, or relaxing. After Everett is in bed, Ben and I take turns reading to the girls one on one. Anika is out more evenings now as she gets older, attending youth and worship team practice, or babysitting and hanging out with friends, but the majority of our evenings are pretty slow at home, just the way I like it! Staying home is the new going out.😁

Do you ever get a break?

Yes!! Everyone needs breaks! I get up early so I can start the day quietly, getting my mind and body ready for the day by doing devotions, meditating, and exercising.

We have “rest time” every afternoon, so we can all have a bit of time alone, and Ben and I enjoy quiet evenings after the kids are in bed. Our girls love books, so they enjoy having time to read and unwind in bed before going to sleep, which gives us a longer evening.

How do you have enough patience?

I don’t have enough, so I pray a lot! I also make sure to take care of myself so I am in a better place to take care of my kids – no one has patience if they’re eating junk food or not sleeping well.

But another important piece is that when my kids are very annoying, it can often be a sign that they need more attention and time with a parent. When I spend time connecting with them, they are more enjoyable to be with, and require less patience! Also, the less my kids use screens and the healthier they eat, the happier they are.

But the truth is that it can be really hard at times. There are good days, and there are very bad days, but we press on, and it is so worth it.

How do you know what to teach your kids, and are you qualified to do so?

You guys, the world of homeschool curriculum is a wild, wonderful place. There are SO MANY amazing options, and you can choose resources that do most of the work for the parent. In Manitoba, we’re provided a list of subjects we are required to cover, but we have complete freedom as to how we want to cover it and what material we use.

It’s up to me to find what curriculum is a good fit for our kids (using online reviews, recommendations from other homeschoolers, or by trial and error!), but once we choose our books, the lessons are clearly laid out and easy to follow. The curriculum is specifically written for parents to teach their kids, so it’s not hard to use. We’ve had some bumps along the way, but with all the resources available to us in the form of books, DVDs, or online programs, we’ve always found a way through.

Here’s the thing – the class doesn’t move ahead until the student is ready to move on. That means Anika WILL understand her math, for example, before we move on. Her lessons introduce concepts in small, manageable chunks, and we get each chunk under control before going on to the next thing.

I almost failed math in high school because I couldn’t keep up, and no one had time to help me. I wasn’t dumb, I just needed more time and practice. But I spent years thinking I was dumb, and couldn’t do math. I am so thankful that my kids have the time and one-on-one attention to learn, because it was what I needed.

Am I qualified? Well, I care about my kids’ education more than anyone else ever could (except Ben!), we have all the resources we could ever want or need, and all of us have the desire to make this work. I’m satisfied with those qualifications.😉

What curriculum do you use?

Anika uses Math U See, Essentials in Writing, Progeny Press literature studies, TruthQuest History for world history, Donna Ward’s historical fiction list for Canadian history, a boring textbook I wouldn’t recommend for social studies (I make up my own assignments using the textbook, or let her research topics she’s interested in), Discovering Nature Series for science, and Duolingo for French.

Kaylia uses Math U See, Growing With Grammar, Pathway Readers (Amish readers so good I have to hide them because my kids want to read them for fun but I want to save them for school!), Spelling Power, Donna Ward’s social studies series, Story of the World, Apologia science books, and Duolingo.

Is there any way in which their education is monitored?

I need to send our plan for the year to the Manitoba homeschool office each September, listing all the subjects we’ll be covering, and what curriculum we plan to use. In January and June, I have to send in progress reports to update how things are going.

There is no final homeschool exam before kids can graduate or anything, which is something lots of people ask about!

Do they have friends?

Our kids have wonderful friends, some who attend school, and some who are part of our homeschool group.

In the beginning, I was concerned about the social aspect of homeschooling, as well, but I don’t worry much about it anymore. I want them have great relationships with people, but I’ve learned this can happen in a variety of ways. As siblings, I think their relationships are much stronger than if they were in school, because of the time they spend together, especially considering the wide span in their ages. I also feel that they have opportunities for enjoying relationships with a wide range of ages – school can make us slip into thinking that “socializing” means spending time with kids the exact same age, but that only happens in school. In the real world, we spend time with people of all ages, and I like the variety our kids enjoy.

Will you homeschool your kids all the way through high school?

I hope so! Anika has decided she wants to homeschool all the way through, and Kaylia says she doesn’t ever want to go to school, either. I haven’t started any formal learning with Everett, but he picks up a lot from being around the girls all day. Because he’s a lot more active than the girls, I like the idea of him not having to sit still for most of the day in school, once he’s old enough to start. We’ll see how it goes, but we plan to continue with all of them.

Are you worried about hindering their chances of getting into college or university, or holding them back from any other opportunities in the future?

No! Colleges and universities love homeschooled kids, and I’ve been told they “roll out the red carpet” for them, because they are such great students. In general, they love to learn, and are very self motivated. Because they have such a different education experience, I’ve been told they receive a private interview when they apply for university or college, which allows their gifts and passions to shine through.

Anika is very interested in music, dance, and writing, so we’ll see where this takes her. These are interests easily explored outside of school, and we see homeschooling as an amazing way for her to have the time and freedom to focus on what interests her most.

Are you concerned your kids will be too sheltered, and not transition well to the “real world”?

Attempting to shelter our kids has never been our motivation to homeschool, and it’s a good thing, because problems come up wherever you are – that’s just kinda how life works. We haven’t locked our kids in Rapunzel’s tower, and we encourage opportunities which will be eye-opening, and expose them to different viewpoints.

But when Anika comes home after hanging out with friends who attend public school, and passes on all the stories about drinking, drugs, and sex, I must confess, we do not search out ways to expose her to stuff like that, so I guess she is a bit sheltered.

But that issue is easily solved, if we ever feel like she’s needing more drinking, drugs, and sex in her life.🤔 Innocence is hard to keep, and easy to lose, so our kids should be able to catch up quick.

But seriously now, our kids are sheltered from some things, and looking back, I wish I had been, too. There was a lot of junior high drama that I would have loved to avoid completely. Challenges make us grow, but some types of challenges can have long term negative effects. Someone once told me Anika should go to school because being bullied would do her good. I’ve never tried to find ways for her to be bullied, but she has been in some tough relationship situations that have been difficult to handle, and she came through beautifully. I think she’ll be just fine.

Life is tough in all kinds of ways, and problems don’t just happen at school. Also, homeschooled kids know they’re different, and they feel the strain of growing up in a way that’s different from everybody else. That’s not easy, but it’s a valuable lesson to learn. Raising strong kids who are willing to live counter culturally sounds good to me.

From the book Simple Parenting, I’ve learned that a lot of kids these days are very sophisticated, but that isn’t the same thing as being mature. Knowing about life is not the same thing as knowing how to handle it well. My kids may not grow up to be the coolest, most sophisticated in the crowd, but that’s not what we’re going for anyway.

Attending school does not guarantee a child’s success, but a kind heart, determination, creativity, a good attitude, and a willingness to learn will take them a long way. I believe they can learn those things very well at home.

Homeschooling is not perfect, and it also doesn’t guarantee success. Ben often reminds me there are pros and cons to either option, and it’s our job to keep reevaluating, looking for ways to bridge the gaps. So far, we have seen a lot of pros, not very many cons, and we really love the fruit that has come from homeschooling. 😊

We realize there are some things our kids miss out on because they don’t attend school, but there are other things they gain. In the end, it has to be a choice each family makes, and do what feels true to who they are and what they hope to gain from an education experience.

Like I said at the beginning, we all love our kids and want the best for them. We are so blessed and fortunate to live in a place where we have the freedom to pursue learning and creativity in the way we choose!

Healthy Again

Three cheers for a normal weekend and the end of the stomach flu!! I don’t know when I have ever felt so overjoyed to finally clean my bathroom. It feels GREAT to be healthy again. As horrible as it was to experience two weeks of everyone in our family taking turns getting sick with the stomach flu, there is nothing like sickness for making a person feel thankful for health! It’s so much fun to eat again! I’m a fan. Just like that, my life is complete simply because I can eat and clean things. Simple pleasures!

I woke up this snowy Monday morning with joy and anticipation in my heart, because this beautifully normal day is full of possibilities – I could clean out my fridge! Or bake something with my kids! Or get caught up on the laundry! Or all of them! Because the stomach flu is gone, and all is right in our little world. Normal has become a novelty, and I will ride that wave as long as I can, because it won’t seem quite this exciting forever.

What are you doing with your lovely Monday?