Monday, October 17, 2016

A Joy Not a Jerk: How You Best Not Be Trash Talking

When you trash talk, you, yourself start to smell like trash.  

Soon the only people that want to be around you are those who enjoy the delectable aroma of a nice pile of steaming trash...which is you.  You’re the pile of trash.  

If you homeschool, don’t trash talk traditional schools in front of your kids.  You never know what a day may bring.  You could wake up tomorrow with an illness or a financial crisis that causes you to need to go to work or just a different leading from the Lord for your kids and they need to not think they’re walking into a lion’s den.  If your kids go to traditional school, don’t trash talk homeschool moms and their kids.  You never know if a situation will cause the need for you to pull your kids out and bring them home and they need to know that this won’t make them feel like they're going to live on an island with just their crazy mother.  

Don’t trash talk the parenting choices of others around your kids.  If other parents are making different parenting choices, maybe even some obviously bad choices, don’t trash talk them in front of your kids.  Tell them parenting is exceptionally hard and every set of parents has to weed through all those hard choices and decide what’s best for their kids.  

Don’t teach your kids to love the smell of trash.  You making trash talk okay is like not showering for a year and teaching your kids that that is perfectly normal.  It is quite not normal.  

Our sinful hearts love to tear down our neighbor’s house so our own house looks all the more impressive.  When you explain to people why you homeschool, that does not mean you need to tear down the traditional school system so your school looks like a shiny mansion next to a bombed out shack.  I’ve made that mistake too many times and then I feel like complete trash afterward.  

I have four grandparents and one uncle that have been public school teachers all their lives.  My mother has a degree in education and my father also taught at a public high school for a short while.  I finished my associates when I was 20, half way to my teaching degree so I could be a high school English teacher like my uncle.  I don’t trash talk schoolteachers and tell my kids that I’m saving them from the lion’s den.  I don’t trash talk you; I want to be you one day!  (Please tell all your teaching connections that I would like a position teaching English and history at a classical Christian school and that I’ve been practicing on four bright, young children for the past ten years and I haven’t ruined them yet.  Also speak of my large intelligence.  Thank you ahead of time.)  

God had a lot of work to do to remove the trash talk from my wicked heart.  This was an especially difficult extraction.  Some of us deal more with anger, or addiction, or depression, but me…I was a very self-righteous teenager.  My holiness was a huge source of pride.  My choices of piety and purity turned into putrid pompousness.  It was stinky.  It wasn’t until parenting got really hard, around the time I had my third child, that I realized how much I smelled like trash.  Through my husband’s example of a humble and gracious attitude toward people and God’s abundant forgiveness of my own trashy pride, my heart and thoughts were changed from looking down from my high tower to looking up to Jesus on the cross and realizing how much I’ve been saved from.  

What a wretched pile of trash I am next to Jesus.  God gave me abundant piles of grace and took away massive piles of trash that I had piled up all around me.  He tore down my trash fort and ushered me into a sparkling home where His grace and forgiveness dwells.  

Grace is extending love, understanding, and forgiveness when your natural reaction is to judge and put down and trash talk.  Grace does not smell like trash.  Grace is sweet and gentle and loving.  Second Corinthians 2:15 states, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”  

I want to be the fragrance that draws you in from the rain and the cold to be surrounded by comfort and warmth and not the pile of steaming trash that only attracts other piles of steaming trash.  I long for the same thing for my kids.  This is all part of the master plan of raising them to be a JOY to this world and not a JERK.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sermon Notes...I Can't think of a better title right now

Of course, my soul is again overflowing with restful goodness after another blessed time in the Word at church today.  It brought a definite, final shove in the direction that God is taking us in for this coming school year.  You see, for the first time in maybe the past seven years, we have no extra curricular activities planned for the kids.  No ballet.  No wrestling.  No homeschool co-op.  No clubs of any kind.  It feels very weird.

Hold up...I need to add a couple of disclaimers to what I'm really trying to share here.  Firstly, I LOVE extra curricular activities.  I am a very extroverted person and love to be around people and bring my people to people and have people pour into my life and me pour into their people's lives.  It energizes me and excites me.  I thrive on teaching.  If I don't have something to plan feverishly for and have students gathered around me, having their mind blown by my wisdom then I go batty.  Secondly, I think activities away from their mother provide growing in many, many areas of life for our kids.  My daughter recently spent a very intense year of ballet training and I was very pleased with the maturity that came from it.  Same thing with my boys in wrestling.  It provides a challenge and kids need to taste failure and hard work and learn to respect coaches and teachers.  It's a training ground for overcomers.  I hereby state that I will put them right back in all those activities when the time comes.

So here I am on this day, in this year.  The year of staying home.  The year of the library.  The year of hikes through the woods and throwing rocks into the Puget Sound.  The year of my daughter and I learning the guitar together in the quiet of our living room.  The year of flashlight tag and taking the kickball to the small field next to our house.  I know this sounds like a dream come true to you introverts but you need to consider the shakers and movers in this world...and also the show offs which is glorious me.  This year I will be learning what a quiet schedule looks like.  It's a little unnerving.

It's also humbling in its own way.  I want my children to get really good at things.  I don't know if you are aware of this, but my children are the most talented, the most intelligent and most assuredly the most ridiculously good looking children in all the land.  I mean in all the northernly, southernly, and all that lies inbetweenly land.  It's probably the cod liver oil.

I started the year kinda bummed for the lack of extra learning...

And in walks the Lord and His steady TRUTH and His reminder of what is TRUTH.

 John does not say that he has no greater joy then to hear that his children are walking on the floor of the Lincoln Center.

 John does not say that he has no greater joy then to hear that his children are walking on the stand of the olympic podium.

John says that he has no greater joy then to hear that his children are walking in


It is this TRUTH that gives a child the groundwork to be a godly leader, a loving spouse, a servant in the church body, a submissive worker, a patient parent, a man and a woman of honor.  It is this TRUTH that they will need to fall back on in the ups and downs of living in this fallen world.

It is in this learning to LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS that they will live out loud to their peers when they pick up their extra activities again.

Don't be discouraged if you are not able or are not called to give your child activities to excel at.  Be blessed and rejoice if you can and you are.

The TRUTH is free and it's right there in your home, accessible to all.

If they excel in LOVE and TRUTH, then that is a good life.

"...walking in truth..."

What a lovely place to walk.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Five Audiobooks I Could Listen To Over and Over

We listen to about one audiobook per week in the car.  I know.  It's a serious addiction.  There are five I can think of right now that are completely worth listening to over and over.  This is not meant to be a book report or a full book review.  Since these are audiobooks, they made it to this list because the actor or author performed the heart of the story is such a way that made me look forward to the daily commute.  They made me me laugh and cry and might have impaired my driving.  Don't E. B. White and drive, folks.  Very dangerous.

Mr Elwyn Brooks White, himself, read this to me and the kids while we were making all those carpool rides back and forth to the ballet studio in Idaho.  His New England lilt puts you right into the middle of the lakes, forests, and hotels that Louis finds himself in. I learned a great deal about work ethic from this swan.  He was born with a birth defect--he had no bird song but he didn't lie around drinking beer and living on welfare.  He learned to play the trumpet as his voice and that gave him his livelihood and a lovely swan wife.  White is such a delightful story teller.  I'm so glad that a journalist for The New Yorker thought it was worth his time to write for kids.  He only wrote three children's books but they are all on the must-read list for elementary age students.   There is something so unapologetically confident about the way he writes.  A mouse can drive a car, a spider can save a pig's life, and a trumpet swan can earn a living just like any man.  We live on a military base where they play a trumpet recording of the "Retreat" at the closing of every day.  I often say that must be Louis.  

Cherry Jones is the perfect reader for this series.  Her voice lends itself to prairie living.  Of course, she comes second to my Dad reading them to us in our living room.  My Dad is better than yours.  The kids and I listened to the whole series in one Idaho winter and we were devastated when it came to the end.  I don't agree with those who feel that these books would not interest boys.  I hope that by keeping my boys reading about girls like Laura, they will desire a wife like Laura.  It's my master plan.  Every man needs a wife with a dab of pioneer grit.  Remember Almanzo's pick up line he used on Laura?  "Can I see you home?"  Say that with a pioneer accent.  Isn't it the best?  We quote it all the time.  As you know, "Farmer Boy," is the one story in the series that isn't about Laura but about her future husband.  It is our favorite one.  Remember when they gave candy to the pigs and it glued their mouths shut?  I want to try that some day.  I think I'll email the idea into MythBusters.  

You haven't lived until you've had David Hyde Pierce read "The Phantom Tollbooth" to you.  His comedic timing just ebbs through the car speakers.  Remember, he voiced the stick bug in "A Bug's Life" which is what makes that movie awesome, in my opinion.  This is one of my mom's favorite books and she was so delighted when I bought her this audiobook last winter.  Funny enough, this book was not read to me as a child and I never picked it up on my own either.  I can remember exactly where it sat on our massive bookshelf though.  What was I thinking?  This is such a treasure!  I guess I was too busy reading the Mandie books.  This was written by a math-brained, architect genius in the 1960's who just gathered together a bunch of his short stories into one hilarious adventure.  I love books that just happen because someone thinks words are fun.  It is themed around what I guess you might call "word nerd humor" and I can't get enough of it.

Of course, this list would not be complete without Narnia.  I can't really pinpoint why "The Horse and His Boy" is my favorite one in the series.  I think it has something to do with the utter depravity that the main character comes from which makes Aslan's redemption of him so much more meaningful.  Maybe it's because I don't remember this book from my childhood compared to the others in this series so it is fresh and new and exciting.  There is no way of listening to this series without weeping tears of joy that Christ touched the heart of an atheist, who then chose to turn his beliefs to the Savior of the Bible,  and God then used him to write the most life-changing fantasy books of all time.  The whole series was recorded by different British actors and Alex Jennings does not disappoint.  I can't hear an American read Lewis' stories anymore than I could hear a Brit read Laura's stories.  That would be ridiculous.

I love this story.  Yes, it's sad.  Yes, the little brother is unbelievably naughty.  But think of what unfolds from the first page until the last--a boy becomes a man.  A real man who faces problems and doesn't hide from them.  The version we listened to was read by Jim Weiss, the reader of the "Story of the World" series by Susan Wise Bauer.  My 9-year-old does a perfect Texas drawl of the line that Travis is always yelling at his little brother, "YOU GET THAT OLD YELLER DOG OUT OF OUR DRINKING WATER!"  We often yell this at our own old yeller dog.  Actually, our dog watched the movie with us and we have had to take him to dog therapy ever since.

I think I've given you a good starting point.  Send me your recommendations for I certainly don't know everything about every book.  I just try to be unapologetically confident like Mr White.  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How This Extroverted Navy Wife Makes New Friends

First of all, what a ridiculous thing to post about.  Extroverted people don't need help making friends.  That's so dumb, Rachel.  You could use some help at not throwing your friendship at people like a super happy puppy like maybe your husband says you do.  Whatever, husband.  I can't help that I'm friendable.   

I lived in one place, in one county, in one church, with mostly the same friends, all my live long life until three years ago.  Last January, upon my return to my majestic homeland, my close friends were asking me how the whole process of finding my place in a new community worked out for me. I guess I gave the most extroverted answer an extrovert could give because I said something like...

"Well, sometimes it takes a while for people to figure out how cool you are."

I didn't say, "Oh it's so scary" or "I missed you all so much and I just wanted to come home."  I genuinely (that means sarcastically) expressed how impatient I was with people not knocking each other over to be my new best friend.  

Apparently, there's a process for most people that aren't super happy puppies like me.  First they have to figure out I'm really sarcastic all the time, then they have to figure out I'm not an ax murderer, then they come to the conclusion that flossing is not a high priority, which explains all the other imperfections, and then they finally conclude that I might be a cool person.  

I thought of writing out a friend resume to speed this process along but I think that's pretty much what Facebook is, right?  

The truth is, I'm just using this blog post as an excuse to bring attention to this quote from my book friend who became my friend long before most of you became my friends. 

Why do dead authors have to be right all the time?

It's pretty much impossible NOT to make friends when you are a part of a church family.  This week of VBS has been some of the first significant interactions I've had with our new church family in the five months we've been here.  

I hereby state that I like them very much.  

I also hereby state that I will try to do as my girl, Louisa, states and not parade my gifts and virtues but wait for you to figure out how fine a genius I am and also a very cool person.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Our School Menu for 2016/2017

The minute I knew I was going to homeschool my kids (I think I was about two-years-old at the time), I knew I wanted to do literature-based learning and have stacks and stacks of living books everywhere and hours and hours of cuddling on the couch with all the books that my parents read aloud to me.  I bought full multi-subject boxes of Sonlight and had three years straight of marvelous reading.  I discovered Classical Conversations somewhere at the end of those three years and I was hooked on the whole concept of classical education and the tremendous fruit the trivium-based learning brought but it just never seemed that God opened the door for us to be a part of a CC co-op.  I honestly was very bitter about it for about two years.  Then God just gave me a peace that my children were not going to end up hobos just because they weren't enrolled in a CC and that His closing of that door meant that He had something better for our family.  It was a big deal for me to let that one go.  All my friends were in a CC and I only have cool friends and I, myself, am very cool.  So, here is where you find me today.  I am a combined teacher of the Charlotte Mason style of literature-based learning and a trivium, memory work supporter of classical education.  I call it... 


and she looks kind of like this

By the way, that's how my face and hair look before coffee.

Now to answer my most frequently asked question-what curriculum do I use to achieve this CLASSIC CHARLOTTE education?  Here's my line up for this coming year.  We keep to the history cycle that CC is on because it gives us an outline to follow along with the memory work app that we do on our iPad.  We've always enjoyed the Foundations memory work and we fall back to it every year.  This year we are in the Middle Ages which is way more fun than Ancient history though I do enjoy Greek mythology and Roman history...okay so I like ancient history too.  I've never met a history I didn't like.

This is the math the three older ones will be doing.

I like Teaching Textbooks for my kids because it is very to the point and doesn't take all day.  I find they retain and understand better by doing the work with paper and pencil rather than the computer software.  I have one 8 year-old math wiz, one super slow/distracted math wiz that usually makes the least mistakes, and one disliker of math that would rather go write a novel but does pretty well at math wiz.  This program works for all three of them because it's done quickly and painlessly. Keep in mind that TT is generally a year behind most other curicculum and the first half of each book is usually review.  That's why I can skip my kids ahead a couple of years.  My second grader will be in the 4th grade book because he is incredibly observative of his older siblings and TT is very easy to follow.  

Our History will include hundreds and millions of great works of fiction and non fiction.  We have an audiobook on in the car every single time we are in the car.  We make up errands just so we can listen to our books.  "Um, yeah, I think we need some milk but let's get it three towns over from us." This audiobook is the main history source.

We'll also have a co-op class to back up and fill out our brains with this amazing time period. 

My kids love coloring while I read aloud to them and I always get a couple of Dover coloring books to go along with whatever history cycle we're on.  I make copies so they can color all year long.  Here's the one I'm most excited about it. 

And here is where history really sticks in their brains-when they rewrite it!  I love IEW so much I could marry it.  The history-based books make these great historical events become so much more memorable when they spend a week on their own history essay.  Behold, the glory. 

My daughter LOVES to write.  My sons tolerate it.  Anna writes novels in her spare time, armed with her IEW student handbook.  My heart could burst!  My ten-year-old can write some pretty entertaining works of fiction but it takes him about an hour per page because hand writing is an art form to him.  My 8-year-old would rather get just the essential paragraph done in twenty minutes so he can go play with the 7-year-old.  IEW has been such a blessing to both sides because they give you such a perfect structure to write with that doesn't stress anyone out.  Even I have learned to become a better writer! Hey, I didn't say a better grammarian.  Calm down.  I am still exploring grammar options  for this year.  I think I found a very cheap online program that has what I'm looking for.  I'll update you later.  I'm not too keen on adding another workbook full of writing or the kids and I will take ten hours to do school every day and IEW and SWR cover grammar but not deep enough for me. I need to find a way to cover the grammar rules and typing class that integrates into our IEW essays.  I also want them to learn how to diagram sentences but I keep moving it to the back burner.  This is the year, I tell you!

I usually hand science over to a co-op class but this year I have decided to do fewer co-op classes because our new co-op is much more expensive.  I love how Apologia books read like a story and integrate God's glory throughout its pages.  We'll be studying physics this year and will try very hard at mastering the CC memory work for cycle 2.  The kids mostly know it all but we need a refresher.  Here she be.

And now for what I am the most excited about and, of course, it also comes from IEW.  Just look at it!

It's so beautiful!  We will take the next couple of years learning those by heart.  I could pass out right now.  Poems and speeches from the world's greatest thinkers and writers?  I could just die.  Never underestimate the power of a brain that is conditioned to memorize.  The main component of classical education is that we learn by imitating the masters of thought and reasoning.  It is very biblical if you think about it.  We were created to imitate Christ and we were made in His image.  It is a good, good thing to teach our kids how to think and communicate by looking to His Word and the great thinkers that He created in His image.  I'm going to kiss this curriculum when it arrives on my doorstep.  I may also high five the UPS person.

Of course, we will continue with our Spell to Write and Read program.  I can't live without it.  It is my saving grace.  

We will also continue with our Visual Latin.  The kids have a co-op class using this curriculum and I am so excited to have some accountability.  I'm a bit of a Latin slacker.  I don't carpe the diem as much as I know Julius Cesar would want me to.

Our Bible time mostly consists of reading separately or together and discussing the passage.  I am going to plan out a memory verse outline for them this year that is centered around the gospel and why we study the Bible.  I write verse-by-verse devotionals for them because there is no such thing in all the land for me to purchase and I am usually disappointed with "cartoon fluff" Bible curriculum for kids.  I am editing away so that I can share them with you all.  Please let me know if you are interested and here is my face for you to behold. 

That right there is a face you can trust along with a couple of other faces that may give you pause.

I am so excited for this next year. It will be a very different one.  I'm not directing an entire co-op, teaching four co-op classes, and teaching ballet twice a week.  This is why I'm a bit stir crazy and I'm praying hard about leading a Fine Arts centered homeschool co-op.  It would be so cool to have theater, dance, music, and art for almost free and all on one day.  And you know me...all the world is my stage and life is better as a musical.  We'll see what doors open or close.  I don't want a repeat of bitter Rachel who didn't get what she wanted so come to my pity party.

So excited to be with my kids while their minds fill with knowledge or when "they can't remember what I just read" and when they discover a love of some subject in some heart-wrenching living book.  


Friday, June 17, 2016

Are You A Penguin Mom? Cuz That's Gross.

If I bumped into you at Starbucks or Winco and you got down on your mom jeans-clad knee and begged me to tell you all my advice on education but then I realized I only had time to tell you one thing because I just realized I had to catch a train, then I guess I could sum it all up with this...
Which of these two definitions define how you are teaching your kids to learn...

Definition of regurgitation

  1. :  an act of regurgitating: asa  :  the casting up of incompletely digested food (as by some birds in feeding their young)b  :  the backward flow of blood through a defective heart valve 

Definition of regeneration

  1. 1:  an act or the process of regenerating :  the state of being regenerated
  2. 2:  spiritual renewal or revival
  3. 3:  renewal or restoration of a body, bodily part, or biological system (as a forest) after injury or as a normal process
  4. 4:  utilization by special devices of heat or other products that would ordinarily be lost

Okay. Gotta go.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Benny turned 7 last Monday.  Isn't he cute? 

 He endures being the youngest with dignity, poise and valor, which makes what happens next so earthshaking.  Our move to this neighborhood has been perfect for the kids in every way except for one small thing...the filthy language out there is like a wild west saloon.  It's like every one's being raised by salty sailors.  It's like maybe kids are repeating what their parents might say when they stub their toes.

Anyway, we were just now seated around the family diner table, demolishing our steak bites, fried eggs, roasted broccoli, and rice without anyone saying a word.  I mean we were barely stopping to breathe it was so good... 

...when all of a sudden, Benny says 


Richard. Don't. Look. At. Me.  Must. Keep.  Straight. Face. 

Ben, let's not say that again.

Stare. At. Plate. Until. Composed.