An Open Letter to Homeschooling Moms

Dear Homeschooling Moms,

Every homeschooling family is different in their schooling methods, expectations, and purposes. Inspiration from other families can be a positive thing. You can discover some techniques or methods that you wouldn’t have found otherwise. You can gain some confidence that your chosen methods are appropriate if another family is further along than your’s and has used the same method successfully. You can be uplifted and encouraged to keep working toward your own goals by seeing other families working diligently toward their goals.

However, sometimes this inspiration turns to an internalized pressure. Even if the other mom doesn’t outright say that her method should be your method, women often say it to themselves. When the inspiration becomes a source of comparison, a source of feeling inadequate, then that should signal us to step back.

Step back into your own ways. Stop looking at what others are doing and use your own mind to decide what you want to do. Let that be sufficient. There are a lot of voices in the homeschool community saying what one must do to be successful. I know in my heart that the only things you must do are the things legally required of you in your state or country of residence and the things you find that build your children up.

If you don’t enjoy reading aloud, then don’t. It is better for a child to have a happy mother than one who trudges through chapter after chapter with annoyance in her voice.

If you don’t enjoy or have the time or the skill set to write your own unit studies, don’t do unit studies.

If you and/or your children don’t thrive in the unstructured environment of the currently popular “unschooling” method, then don’t “unschool.” Traditional homeschooling with a single packaged curriculum is sufficient.

If your children work well in workbooks, use workbooks. Don’t let someone convince you that “kids can’t learn using workbooks because it’s counter to their nature.”

If you don’t like cleaning up arts and crafts projects every day, save them for a rainy, lazy afternoon. Children don’t require free access to (very messy) paint and Play-Doh to learn creativity.

If your children don’t enjoy notebooking and nature studies, don’t do them. They are unlikely to grow into adults ignorant of their environment, so long as they have free play time outdoors.

Of course, if you do like “unschooling” and notebooking and messy crafts every day and developing your own unit studies… then do those things happily. I simply want to encourage you mothers who aren’t fans of fad homeschooling methods to keep to your own paths and not let outside pressures influence your decisions.

Also, remember that what is shared on social media is a small glimpse into a family’s life. It is easy to misconstrue an Instagram feed or YouTube channel — one sees a post of children painting scenery outdoors on a gorgeous autumn day and extrapolates that those children have that experience every day. That’s not realistic. Reframe what you see online through the lens of reality.

But even if those children do paint scenery outdoors and every day is perfectly gorgeous in their climate and they never whine or argue… those children aren’t your children and their lives are not your family’s lives.

So let go of the pressures and be the homeschooling mom you were designed to be.

With blessings for your homeschool year,

A Fellow Homeschooling Mom

Thank You (For the Work)

“Here are more clothes for you to put away, son.”

“Thank you, Mama!”

“You can wash the dishes, daughter, and I will rinse.”

“Thank you! I like this job!”

“Would you like to clean the kitchen floor while I clean the dining room floor?”

“Yeah! Thank you!”

My children thank me for giving them work. They work eagerly and enthusiastically. They perform the task to the best of their (albeit limited) abilities. They smile. Sometimes, they even sing while they work.

Do I thank my Father in heaven for giving me work? Do I work with eagerness and enthusiasm? Do I always try my best, even if I am working on a new skill? Do I smile and sing with joy?

Little children want work. I would argue, even, that they need it. They gain fine and gross motor skills, an appreciation for the work others do for them, useful life skills, physical stamina and strength, mental fortitude to stay on-task, and good personal habits.

In fact, we all need work. But somewhere along the way, many of us lose our desire for it. We grow weary and bored of menial tasks. I urge you to look for the joy in such chores; see your tasks from the perspective of a 2- or 4-year-old.

What fun to play in bubbles while washing the dishes! What kind of pattern can be seen in the water as the floor is mopped? How many articles of clothing can be carried at once? How many hymns can be sung in the time it takes to hang the laundry?

And then, thank your Father for the work He has given you. Whatever task He has set before you — motherhood, a career, homemaking — thank Him for it, work diligently with eager hands and a joy-filled spirit.

And don’t forget to smile.

JB’s Denim Quilt

I had the general idea for this quilt in my head for a long, long time. Nate used to wear through blue jeans quickly at his last job where he did a lot of forestry field work. These jeans were paint-splattered with tiny rips from blackberry bushes and briars. When the knees would inevitably rip completely, he had to retire them.

The jeans accumulated quickly. All but the knees were still useful. I tried once to make denim patches from the back legs of one old pair to sew onto the front of a newer pair in order to help the knees last longer. It didn’t work out, though, and the jeans kept stacking up.

An 18-gallon plastic tote nearly full of old blue jeans was moved to our new house. The idea for the quilt tumbled in my brain. The jeans waited. The work of cutting up those pants, sewing the thick layers together, doing the arithmetic for it all loomed over me.

Progression Info
Started – February 19
Completed – July 22
Duration – 153 days = 21.9 weeks

For my own reflection, a timeline…

On February 19th, I finally sat down with a pen and made a plan. I measured the width of the pant leg just above the bottom hem, the narrowest place — 6.5″ with 1/8″ play on either side. Perfect; I have a 6.5″ square ruler.

How big should this quilt be? Would it be a picnicking blanket? A crib quilt? No. We have a son, and it would be perfect for him, so it needed to be twin-sized, about 72″ by 96″. That would fit him from little toddler-boy-size up to grown-up-man-size.

This denim fabric would be bulky — how well would my machine handle it? What’s the simplest quilt block I could make? Four-patch blocks.

How should I assemble them? Well, if I sewed four-patch blocks into bigger four-patch blocks, and then those sixteen-patch blocks into strips… that would be 3 strips of 4 sixteen-patch blocks… I would need 192 6.5″ fabric squares in total. Wow, okay then.

That day, Nate helped me begin cutting apart the jeans along the inseam so that they would lay flatter. That same day, I cut the first 30 6.5″ squares.

By April 3rd (6 weeks later), I had cut as many 6.5″ squares as I could. I didn’t count the number of blue jeans I used — I would guess it was a dozen pair. I ended with 151 denim squares, plus 15 special cuts from the waistline, side seam, pocket, or ripped knees. I determined, then, that I would use 150 of the plain denim squares, the best 12 of the special cuts, and 30 flannel squares for the quilt top. I needed to assemble 6 four-patch blocks of all denim and 42 four-patch blocks consisting of 1 flannel square and 3 denim squares. I would mix in the special cuts into those 42 blocks.

Then I considered how I would back this large, heavy quilt. As I complained to Nate one day over the idea of buying enough flannel to back the quilt, he asked if I had any old sheets large enough to use as the backing. Brilliant!

The cut squares hibernated for 14 long weeks, during which time I birthed our third child and made a quick recovery. On July 10th, I finally remembered to buy flannel to finish the quilt top. And lucky me! I found flannel on sale, marked down 75%. I bought 1.5 yards and cut 42 squares.

I worked quickly, and on July 12th, I had all of the four-patch blocks sewn. I laid them out on our bed in a very orderly way, I thought. Nate liked it. I liked it. So I stacked up the blocks in order and went to bed (I worked late into the evening!).

I began assembling the four-patch blocks into sixteen-patch blocks the next day, and by the 17th (just 5 days later), I had the quilt top completed. I layered cotton/polyester blend twin-sized batting under the top and chose an old set of queen-sized sheets I never use for the back. The top over hung the batting on two sides by an inch or two and barely fit on the flat sheet. But it would do. I pin-basted it and began tying it in the center of every other block with 3 strands of black embroidery thread.

The next day (the 18th), I had finished the tying. I trimmed the excess backing and researched quilt bindings. I wanted a 1/2″ finished edge of double-fold binding around this quilt, but did not want to drive to town for pre-made binding tape. So I cut 3.25″-wide strips from the matching fitted sheet, pressed those in half lengthwise, stitched them together on the bias into one long strip, and stitched it onto the front of the quilt. I had to use the walking foot on my machine and work very, very slowly, especially over the bulkier denim seams. I knew machine-stitching the binding to the back of the quilt would be faster, but not as neat, so I decided to hand-stitch it.

I finished hand-stitching the binding onΒ July 22nd. The quilt ended at 70″ by 95″, pretty close to the size I intended. I’m happy with it. JB is very, very happy with it.

Pattern Info
improvised by me

This quilt design was born out of practicality, chosen for the speed I could stitch it, but I adore its simplicity. It’s perfect for a small boy, and will still be perfect for a large man.

There is something heart-warming about it — we cannot count the value of those jeans. How many miles were hiked in them? How much sweat did they absorb? How many chiggers crept through them? How many gallons of tree paint were laid onto trees, splattering across those pants? Which patches came from jeans that sat on a log while a man ate a small lunch and drank a bottle of water in the throbbing heat of the day before dragging himself up and on once more?

And now, how many hours of sleep will those jeans cover? How many sick days on couch? How many tears of boyhood sadness and teenage angst will they absorb? How many times will those pockets be filled with matchbox cars when I tuck a little boy into bed, kiss his forehead, tell him I love him, and say goodnight?

Miles to midnight slumber. Briars to bedtime prayers. Heat to winter warmth. A piece of my heart worked in those jeans. And now a piece of my heart will sleep beneath them.

Fabric Info
old denim
new flannel

Photos

How’s This Girl?

Yes, I am still here. πŸ™‚ Yes, I have been knitting. I haven’t posted projects because I haven’t had many opportunities at the computer. And the times I do have, I’ve spent inputting grocery receipts and answering emails, not blogging.

Also, one recent project is a gift, so that won’t be posted until it is received. And another, I’m not very happy with. I haven’t even woven the ends on that one because I was so ready to be done knitting it. I just shoved it in a bag and put it away. πŸ˜€ But Β I have a few knitting-related posts coming out soon.

Life is getting busy around here. I am sort of beginning preschool at home with Sprout (I intend to blog about that as we go, but we haven’t really started yet). I am being more intentional in my parenting — not micro-managing, but being diligent, available, and ready to guide. We have a move coming up.

Life is happening, here. πŸ™‚ I hope to share more as we go.

Not making any promises, though. πŸ˜‰

She is Three

Another year gone away… Sprout is three!

More Big than Little, every day, it seems. I asked her questions for a fun survey… she didn’t really understand some of the questions, so I gave my best guess at what her answers might be, on some of them. πŸ™‚

  • What is your favorite color? “I like blue.” (But later, she told Daddy it is pink.)
  • What is your favorite animal? “I want a tiger.”
  • Favorite book? Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss (It is her request just about every night.)
  • Favorite show and movie? Veggie Tales, Finding “Mee-mo”, “Pooh Bear” (Pooh’s Grand Adventure)
  • Favorite song? She said she didn’t know, but she sings “Amazing Grace,” “Twinkle Little Star,” and “Victory in Jesus” a lot.
  • Favorite food, snacks? She said “those holes ones” — a.k.a. veggie straws, but also wants yogurt, clementine oranges, and pasta most of the time.
  • Favorite clothes to wear or outfit? Her Minnie Mouse dress gets the most love, these days.
  • Favorite game? “My matching game” — Minnie Mouse Memory game
  • Favorite toy? She said she didn’t know, but she plays with her Alphie robot almost every day.
  • Favorite thing to do outside? “Hmm… swing. Yeah, I like that!”
  • Favorite place to go? “A big, giant Walmart!”
  • Favorite thing about your room? “Um… the floor!”
  • What is the yuckiest food? “The yucky muffins.” (failed peanut butter oat muffins)
  • What do you like to take to bed with you? “My dolly.” Her brother’s bunny is another favorite.