If you look at the date of my last post, it’s been a few months since I’ve posted a blog. Not that the world can’t continue without the musings of Jessica Schaub (there are far too many opinions on the web anyway), but the lack of blog posting reflects a reality common among all homeschooling mothers: We are too busy to do what we want.

When I read that statement over, I cringe. It sounds harsh. Selfish. Whiney. I can be all those things, but I don’t mean that only homeschooling mothers are busy, just that I’m a busy homeschooling mom who feels the pinch of helping other people at the expense of my own hobbies and passions. I also don’t intend that statement to make mothers sound stuck in that rut. If I know anything to be true, it’s that mothers need other mothers as friends, confidants, and prayer partners. No woman can be a mother alone and those who are not mothers, try as they might, can’t understand the full scope of what it means. Even within mothers, there is just a vast scope of experiences: terminally ill children, learning disabilities, autism, bullying, divorce, and mental illness.

Motherhood is not a stagnant vocation. It ebbs and flows with the needs of others. There are meals to plan, shoes to tie, sleep to lose. How do those great moms do it? How do they just make it to the end of the day without copious amounts of coffee, wine or chocolate? (or all three?) My answer is not a full answer, but it does feel like a good start.


Yep. Rivers.

The image of a river has come to my attention several times. From bible verses to inspirational quotes on Pinterest, the analogies I can draw from the picture of a river are nearly endless.

I was recently discussing parenting and motherhood this with my husband and how that determines where we are in life, not just our skill as a parent. The more I thought about it, the more meaningful the analogy of the river of motherhood became.

Are you the water in the river? Do you go with the flow, riding out every rush, every stagnant corner, following the crowd to whatever destination is at the end?


Or are you the river bank, watching the action from the (supposedly) safe sideline? Are you a muddy bank, steep in your convictions to not become a part of the rushing waters? Watch out for mudslides.


Are you that giant boulder planted firmly in the center of the river, stubbornly resisting change and forcing everything that comes near you to get out of the way?


Are you the tree on the edge of the river gripping the bank tightly as to not fall in, but gaining the nourishing waters from the current?


Are the fallen tree that landed in the river and is now collecting debris?


Are you a slow, muddy river whose surface is difficult to see through? Are you a crystal-clear stream with light trickling noises as your water slides over a pebble-bed?


Are you a white-rapids river, daring rafters and kayaks to survive?


Are you a tributary river? A Delta? An Amazon?


Are you the Nile and you flood the surrounding area with life-sustaining nutrients?


I do not believe anyone can be stuck as one type of river. As we grow, we move from stagnant waters to rapids, from the watchful tree to the fallen debris-collecting corpse of wood. For today, however, I will be a river of change, moving toward a specific place. As Steven Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.” While true rivers happen as a result of weather and land formations, I will begin today with a sunny disposition and the goal of moving mountains. I will be the river that charges toward the valley, picking up nutrients in the soil, carving the landscape, creating beautiful music as I determinedly move forward.

Yesterday I may have been a puddle, a stagnant collection of water left from a downpour, which will, in a few months, be frozen solid. (I live in Michigan).

Last week I had a day of responding to the world like a slow, mildew river. After a torrent of raining prayer, I was refreshed and filled with new energy.

Tomorrow? Perhaps I will be like a waterfall that washes away all the clutter in my home.

Yes. That sounds perfect!

wpid-0710151654a.jpgI have wondered at the infatuation with Zombie novels and movies. As a believer of living life to its fullest, the idea of being intrigued by the walking dead has left me puzzled. Wanting to be slightly informed, but cautiously aware that I’m the type that would probably really enjoy a good zombie movie, I watched World War Z last week. Based on the expressions of various friends and acquaintances who have equally various opinions on zombies, I’ve either gone over the edge or I’ve wasted my time with a glorified-yet-disappointing movie.

Either way, I have a feeling that I haven’t truly experienced a true zombie. To be honest, that is okay with me. From my limited knowledge of a zombie apocalypse, it’s a plague that drives zombies to bite healthy individuals. In the movie, the plague killed first, then within 11 or 12 seconds, the bitten rose to spread the disease. The faces of the zombies were distorted with bulging eyes, snarling lips and a hunger to devour others. When left without noise or stimulation, they became listless, wandering from room to room with no purpose.

Zombies sound like an antagonist of fantasy literature.

Actually, they are real.

I saw a young mother at the grocery store who leaned heavily on her shopping cart, moseying up and down the aisles, staring blankly at the items on the shelf. When her child whined for snacks, her lips curled into a sneer and she launched cruel words toward the toddler.

During a visit to the mall, a swarm of zombies lurched around the shoppers, biting into the souls of others with snide remarks about that one being too old, that one being too fat. Within seconds, those within ear-shot withered into piles of nothing.

The walk of a person who had come to the mall with a purpose was instantly replaced with the wounded crawl of defeat. Employees can be zombies. They thirst of money and power and success. Their eyes bulge with desires for these things, their calendars are riddled with meetings and appointments that direct them away from their real hopes and toward the desires of a society without a purpose.

The expression of a child watching a video is reminiscent of a zombie expression. Childhood – and all of life – is not to be wasted living someone else’s adventures.

Parents can be zombies. The disease of striving for success while not having a meaningful purpose is a plague. Are we working at something we love? Or are we working to keep a roof over our children’s heads? A recent study revealed that the average father gazes into the eyes of his children for less than 38 seconds a day? But how many hours does that same man watch TV or play video games? Talk about a zombie! This mind-set is a disease. It’s a bleak landscape that offers no life-giving fruit. It’s a life without hope, a life without purpose. Is there a cure? Yes.

Fight the disease of purposelessnessitis. (I know that’s not a word, but it should be. Our society is plagued with it!)


Find a mission.


Seek a purpose.


Align your mission and purpose in a career.


Each day find something that is living and gaze at it. A child’s eyes. A blooming flower. A radiant sunset (okay, that’s not living, but there is atomic energy in that sun).

sunset-morrisionlake I am not immune to the plague of zombies in this world, but I will also actively seek a cure. I believe the cure is found outside, by talking with other living souls, or inside a book. I’m no longer puzzled by the idea of zombies. For some, it’s a fad genre that is entertaining. For others, perhaps death feels more appealing than living. That’s backwards. It really is. LIVE backwards is evil. Live life. We have it only once and for a short time. Why waste it on walking around like the dead?

The lessons for children of how to act in public, how to treat friends, which manners are appropriate for the bathroom but not the dining room table are endless. It would be lovely to say that there will come a day when my children will know all the rules, but that day won’t ever arrive. Why? Because as an adult, I still don’t know all the rules.

 If faced with a formal dining set of multiple forks and spoons, I would need instruction as to which to pick up first. I’m still reading books about writing, public speaking, personal relationships, cookbooks, and homeschooling. I’ve been living as a married woman for seventeen years, so it would seem that my personal relations and communication skills would be top notch. Not so. I’ve homeschooled my children for ten years, and taught school for 6 years before that, so I should know everything about education, right? Nope. I’ve only recently enlisted in a self-education challenge; learning everything I really need to know about life but wasn’t taught in school.

The truth about education is that it has very little to do with how well a child reads or how quickly they can answer one hundred multiplication problems. Education is more about the teacher helping the student learn who they are, how they learn and how to learn.

It was in this educational atmosphere of trying to learn with my children about our faith that I stumbled across a line from Matthew Kelly that I truly believe will save lives.


Just do the next right thing.


That’s it. Just do the next right thing. It’s so simple, it’s easy to remember. Is it easy to put into practice? Not usually.


For example, a parent is struggling to bring her children to church. With claims of being bored during the service and being denied sleep just to go, she’s at a loss. Should she threaten to not feed them until they have attended Mass? Should she sign them up for a volunteering group at the church so they have more fun and meet more people? Should she just go on her own and hope that while she’s worshiping the Lord and her children are sleeping, she’s somehow inspiring them to attend?


If this sounds like you, I don’t have a solution. But just do the next right thing. The circumstances always change, but the principles of what is right never do.


In the last 24 hours, I’ve paid closer attention to difficult moments by keeping the “Just do the next right thing” idea on my mind. I wrote it on my hand to help me remember. When my son challenged my authority by speaking to me disrespectfully about having to help with the dishes, I wanted to yell at him. But I know that yelling isn’t right, as it makes me lose my posture as a parent. Instead, I told him that if he didn’t help wash the dishes, that was fine. He would eat off the same dirty plate until he did.

He helped.

Laundry is another sore spot for this momma. It’s everywhere. It’s never completely finished. It’s not a good idea to go around naked, so I don’t see an end to this problem any time soon. When I walked into my children’s bedroom, there were five full baskets of clothes. No one could tell me which baskets were filled with clean laundry and which ones needed to be washed. One daughter suggested that her sister should smell the clothes to determine which was which. Needless to say, the sister didn’t go for it. Another sibling suggested that they just wash all the clothes again. I wondered aloud how that was going to solve the problem as it isn’t the washing part that they struggle with, but the putting away. I also reminded that that it was movie night and the room must be clean before 7:00 PM if they wanted to watch all of the movie.

What was the next right thing I did? I talked them through the problem (laundry) and listened to their solutions, guiding them to a resolution that helped them meet the goal of being able to watch the movie that night. I suppose you are wondering what their solution was. The answer is, I don’t know. The next right thing for me to do was to walk away and let them figure it out together.

This line is becoming the tag line to difficult situations. We are repeating it often, applying it as a family with the hope that when we are faced with really difficult situations, the right thing will be more obvious.

To those who like to spark new discussions: I could get into an entire discussion about what is right and what is wrong. There is an argument that will likely never be resolved and objective vs. subjective truth lies in the middle. Despite any potential disagreements concerning what is right or wrong, the main focus with the “Just do the next right thing” idea is that you choose the right thing based on your information at the moment.  

I think this would be a very interesting discussion to have. But for now, I’m going to do the next right thing and make dinner for the children who are staring at me with hungry faces :)


Yesterday, the idea of expectations was brought to my attention several times. In reading Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass, he stated:

“Start with each scene, chapter, or other unit you use to break up your manuscript. Rate the following: external actions, expectations vs. what happens, discovery, and change. Making a scene “better,” “tighter,” or “punchier” is an okay intention, but it’s imprecise. A more reliable path to high impact is to focus on the effect you seek. You’ll get it by directing expectations, building an emotional roadbed, working out what your characters will discover about themselves, and making sure that at the end something is distinctly different.” (page 57)

Because I had read this and managed to go through just a few scenes of my current manuscript, the idea of expectations was on my mind. Several moments throughout the day surprised me.

At Lowe’s, my youngest daughter said, “I want my new room to look like a princess room, a castle!” A slight pause, “Or like the Avengers headquarters.”

We rented the movie Into the Woods. By the cover, it looked like the typical broken fairy tale. Just the kind of movie I love. With several well-known actors cast, I actually drove a little further to rent it from a Redbox because for two weeks, the Redbox nearest us hadn’t carried it. Turns out, it’s a musical. You probably knew that. I hadn’t a clue. It wasn’t a goofy Mary Poppins style, but a little dark, fast-paced musical. Twists in the plot, unexpected deaths, and a Prince Charming who was “more charming than sincere,” I was surprised by the vast emotions it stirred. I laughed so hard I missed several lines, I cried at the lyrics in the songs sung by the mothers in the story, and I wondered if this was a waste of time or if watching the movie would improve my life. It was so unexpected, so gritty and yet so musical, I was entranced. Finding something entrancing is rarely a waste.

That is the trick to being effective – delivering the unexpected. I’m not advocating springing something unexpected just for the sake of shock or surprise (I picture reality TV, and I picture it in a mostly negative nature), but to strive to be effectively unexpected.

As a mother, I can create a unexpected and memorable memory for my children by setting aside the school work and household chores and spending the day on a city-wide exploration for the best playground. As a friend, I can surprise loved ones with a fully prepared dinner. As a writer, I can turn a character’s behavior on its head with a simple unexpected line, gesture, or decision.

As a blogger? I don’t know. This is a new concept for me. Give me time :)

A word of caution. Throwing the unexpected out – in writing or any other art form – can be a very distasteful flare if not done well and will class. The world is full of entertainment that casts out bits of surprises for shock value. Shock value never has moral value. Moral values are what the world is thirsty for. Let’s give the world what it needs instead of what sells. How’s that for a twist?

When I first started thinking about homeschooling my oldest daughter, she was four, the middle child was two, and my youngest was not quite one. My days were filled with three little girls dressed in pink fluff, dancing to music, messing up my clean floors, and taking naps all over the place when they reached the end of their energy. We entertained the idea of homeschooling not because the school district we live in was struggling, but because I really love being a stay-at-home mom and I wasn’t ready to send my daughter to full-day kindergarten.


That’s it. Plain and simple, we homeschool because I was selfish. I didn’t (and still don’t) want someone else to have the privilege of enjoying educating my children. (Note: this does not mean that I look down on parents who utilize the public or private school systems! I know that every parent does what is best for their family.)

Our first year of homeschooling was a trial run. I used desks at first because that’s what I knew from my career as a school teacher. I slowly realized that learning at home rarely happens at a desk. Real education — the character development, faith formation, and samplings of all that is truly important — happened in giant piles of children on my lap as I read stories, as I read from recipes and followed directions (or not), and as I kept my cool (or not) in stressful moments that are natural when your children are with you ALL DAY. My children have seen my best days and my worst days. I’ve seen theirs. And there is still much love between us.

But we have a new challenge. He is adorable and energetic and infatuated with all things tractor and truck related. He’s the only boy and the youngest by seven years.


He doesn’t have to share my lap with any other siblings. I have to purposefully set aside time for him. It’s too easy for me to be swept up in the busy-ness of having three high school and junior high students. The clutter of a preschooler, the hands-on learning that I know he’ll need in kindergarten have been put away for years. As I’m unpacking them, I’m realizing that he learns very differently from my daughters. I’m in for the challenge of a lifetime!

For the past few months, I’ve felt pulled in two different directions: Studying Homer with the girls vs. teaching the boy how to read; moving the girls to advanced music classes vs. taking away wooden spoons from my son who drummed on the wooden furniture; trying to further my own education with classical literature and leadership development books vs. reading about giving pigs pancakes and Green Eggs and Ham.

It’s time to re-think my homeschooling.

Not that I’m going to give it up or send him to school. This is my chance to learn more about him, to discover new things about me. I wouldn’t let that opportunity pass me by for anything! (I’m going to repeat that again and again to myself on difficult days!)

Here’s my plan to bridge the gap between my children’s academic levels:

First, feel assured in the fact that I haven’t neglected my children’s education. Going back to my mission statement for homeschooling, I know that ‘education’ is pretty low on the list. The order of importance looks like this: faith formation, character development, family (household and farm chores, annual traditions and practicing effective communication), learning to love reading, music, and then the more formal aspect of education.

Second, I need to be more prepared to help my son learn according to his strengths. He’s all boy – meaning that he’s busy, loves all things with wheels and motors, enjoys cuddles, and thinks more clearly when he’s making noise. As such, I will need to teach him while he moves. Small motor skills are a little lacking and he isn’t reading yet, but the interest is there. My job is to not destroy that interest.

Several years ago I went to a seminar given by Andrew Pudua of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. He listed the different ways boys and girls learn and suggested that schools with gender separate classrooms were showing amazing academic results. At the time, my son was only an infant, but as he nears kindergarten, I am beginning to experience those differences. I still have a bit of learning to do on the subject, but here’s my plan so far. I will post updates and changes to the plan as I learn :)

Things he can do while I’m working with the girls:

Sensory Bins

We are putting together more sensory bins which are available for him to purposefully play with during the times I’m working with older children.

Rice, beans, tiny toys. Cheapest and most popular toys ever!

rice, beans, tiny toys. Cheapest and most popular toys ever!

Rice and beans

Shaving cream on a tray

Pattern Blocks

Salt tray and Letters

Threading beads on yarn – randomly first to master the small motor skills, then adding patterns to follow

Play-dough – Making it together and working on small motor skills. I love this the best. It’s time in the kitchen, working on a recipe together, seeing the ingredients that are mixed together to make something new. Then, we practice those small motor skills that are so often late in developing in boys, and make shapes and letters and action figures.

We also have tried all the easy recipes on Pinterest for different types of texture dough. Our favorite is mixing equal parts of shaving cream and corn starch. It’s slick and easy to clean up. I would recommend buying a non-scented shaving cream if possible. Our house smelled like a cologne store for hours.

Legos – That’s right. Legos. Who doesn’t want to play with them? Great for small motor development, creative 3-D building and can be used to make mazes (with a marble), to sort colors and sizes, and will eventually be used to teach fractions.


Things he can do with one of the girls while the other two are working:

Cutting and Pasting


The girls help the boy with a craft each day. We each take a turn prepping and helping him follow the directions. This has turned out better than I expected. His fine motor skills are improving, he is sitting (or sometimes standing at the table) for longer periods of time as his attention is stretching longer. The girls are also finding opportunities to practice patience. It’s a win-win!

Obstacle course:

For the active days, I set up our rebounder and put tape on the floor to create an obstacle course. He builds it with me and then runs, jumps and rolls all over the place. This doesn’t create a very quiet atmosphere for us, but these are his favorite days!

We’ve also made the masking tape obstacle courses in the shape of his name. He drives his smaller tractors all over it as we work at the table on Bible readings, Science or Writing. I don’t know why I was surprised, but after he played with that tape for a day, he no longer wrote the letters of his name backwards.

Things we can do just because:

Park Trips

When the girls were younger, we spent one summer exploring our state’s playgrounds and state parks. Each week we packed a picnic lunch, traveled to a different park and explored. If there was a geo-cache nearby, we did that. We took pictures (what child doesn’t love to take pictures?) and rated the playground on a scale of 1 – 10 based on the quality of the playground, the proximity and cleanliness of the bathrooms, and the dirt. Remember, I have girls. If a playground was too dirty, it didn’t score well. They preferred woodchips, shredded rubber, and pea stones.

Summer Reading Program:

As always, I have a goal for the summer for all my children. We usually make these goals together, but my son seems to balk at the idea of planning something out. They only thing he plans on doing everyday is riding the lawn mower with me. The rainy days are almost unbearable for us all!

The girls will make a list of books to read:


They are too old to participate in the libraries summer reading program, so we make up our own.

To motivate my son to participate in the Summer Reading Program with us, I’ll make a chart of books to read with different siblings and my husband and I.

The teeter-totter of homeschooling such vast ages doesn’t have to be a wrist-breaking, butt-dropping experience. There are rules for playing nicely on the teeter-totter just like there are rules to follow to meet the goals of a successful year of homeschooling.

In all of this, there is also time for me to read and write. That’s really the beauty of it – mom is happy, too!

Quite often in my readings I find quotes used to punch a point home. But sometimes, if I just look at the quote in terms of my own situation, it raises more questions than answers. But, I suppose that is the point, right? That if I just take the quote at face value, I’m missing the deeper potential.

Here are three quotes I found in the book, Ladder: Climbing Out of a Slump, published by Obstacles Press

“When you come to the edge of all that you know,

you must believe one of who things:

either there will be ground to stand on,

or you will be given wings to fly.”

-O.R. Melling, The Summer King



What do I know?

What is the edge of my knowledge?

Is the obstacle to more knowledge a small creek blocking my way, or do I need to build a bridge to reach the other side?

What kinds of knowledge keeps my feet on the ground? How can I grow the wings to fly?

”It possesses possibilities–both towards danger and success.”

-Winston Churchill

 stop and ask for directions

What possesses possibilities? Ideas? Actions? Lack of one or the other? Or both?

Is danger different from success, or is it just that a danger needs to be overcome in order to reach success?

Can danger and success co-exist or should they be mutually exclusive?

“Wash on Monday,

Iron on Tuesday,

Mend on Wednesday,

Churn on Thursday.

Clean on Friday,

Bake on Saturday,

Rest on Sunday.”

-Laura Ingalls Wilder,

Little House in the Big Woods


What happened to this simplicity? Was it radio, T.V. or public schooling that took this away?

When was the last time I mended my clothing?

Churning? I know she’s churning milk into butter on Thursdays. When I read churning, I feel the churning of nerves, expectations, and hopes in my stomach. It’s not always pleasant.

Rest on Sunday? Yes, please.

How different would the world be if we all rested, truly rested on Sunday? No restaurants, no shopping, no going into work. Instead, if we gathered with friends and family to share our skills and talents, to prepare a meal together, and talk, laugh and cry together. Yeah. What would that world look like?


There are more questions than answers in the world. All I need to remember is to ask the right questions.

The winter doldrums usually never visit the Schaub household. With four children participating in homeschooling events and a house lined with books, there is rarely a dull moment. But, alas! The doldrums came knocking this year. It wasn’t during the winter, but the early Spring just as Mother Nature teased me with two days of warmth and sun which she nestled into the bosom of a month of cold and rainy days.

In those two days, I gardened until I had to chip the dirt from under my fingernails. My arms were slightly red, my eyes were dry from the intensity of the sun, and my back ached from tilling the soil. Overall, I felt alive.


When Michigan’s April spring temperatures returned, the weather forced me back inside. The tasks that a mother needs to attend to cluttered my day; meal planning, actually making those planned meals, laundry, homeschooling and the endless list of trivial to-do’s.

As that to-do list grew longer every day, I noticed that my drive to cross things off that list was waning. I had entered a slump. A swampy-low dump. Not a happy place to be.

“When you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.

Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

-Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I needed a little inspiration, a bucket of motivation, and a reward at the end.

My inspiration? To model the behaviors of dedication to my children. To inspire others to read more, learn more, to find positive associations that will build their lives toward love of God.

My Motivation?

Wait…how is that different from inspiration?

Inspiration is the fuel that drives me.

Motivation is the destination to which I’m driving.

I needed to remember that my motivation is to live a life steeped in the riches of God’s love and passion. My husband and I are the two major players and driving forces in our family. While we aren’t perfect and our children certainly know that, we are expected to live well, learn as we go, and do our best to not repeat mistakes. If we can work our way toward establishing an ever-developing strength in our marriage, that will carry over to our children and their perception of live, love and faith.

My reward?

Before I can select a reward, I need to measure the rate of my success. Yes, I’m a Type A, Dominant Personality, a Choleric-Melancholy, for those of you familiar with personality types. My children tease me about the amount of notes, charts, and the depth of detail I go into in our family life, lesson planning, writing (plot organization) and budgeting. But, heck! It works :)

What is success for me? Well, I have a goal for this year that will lead me to my 5- and 10-year goals. To reach that annual goal, I have an ongoing list of books to read and write, articles to explore for this blog, people to learn from (including my children). There are places to visit, experiences to have, and communities to participate in.

With my 10- and 5-year goals charted, I wrote down what I could do this year to make that possible. Every month I revise my “This Year” list to bring me closer to my 2020 goals. I also reserve the right to change those goals for 2020 and 2025, but only in an upward direction. If I find that I’ve underestimated how many books I can sell each month, I will raise that goal, but I will not lower it.

Getting back to the reward…each month I set down a list of to-do items. The typical list includes:

  • listening to 2-3 inspirational and informational audio recordings each day, which can accomplish as I drive my children to their activities, while I cook, fold laundry, or walk.
  • Reading 3 books on personal development (see my current reading list here) and 1-2 novels in the genre I write.
  • Write a blog post each week
  • Make an actual dinner (pre-planned, prepared and enjoyed) at least 3 times a week. That might sound like a low goal. I do have four children who do eat dinner seven times a week. They also eat breakfast, lunch, and two snacks a day–all at home. Three of them are old enough to prepare meals on their own, so I have them do that. You can call it Home Economics. I call it ‘time to write’.
  • And because I need to stay healthy, I set an exercise goal for each month. In warmer months, I’ll set a walking/jogging mileage goal. In the winter, I set out a stack of 4-5 exercise DVDs on Sunday night and do them all by Saturday morning.

If I can put a check mark next to each of these goals, then I know I have earned my reward. Sometimes it’s a Saturday morning specialty coffee from an upscale coffee shop. Sometimes I will take an entire day or, if possible, an overnight mini-vacation to a local retreat center and just relax, read and write. This month, the reward is a trip to Barnes and Noble where I will spend all the gift cards I received for Christmas.

A friend of mine laughed when I told her what my reward was for this month. “You already have the gift cards, just go and spend them!”

But I didn’t earn those cards. If I gain something, I want it to be because I’ve done the work and have earned it. It means more.

I encourage you to do the same. My mentor inspired me to try this reward system, using the idea of delaying gratification from the simple, easy-to-buy things until I had completed the work toward a dream. By adding this reward process to my life, my dreams of becoming a writer, author, and public speaker aren’t just pie-in-the-sky wishes, but realities. If there was ever anything you want, make a plan and implement it. At all costs, make it happen. There will be hard work and set-backs, but there will be no regrets. If you work long enough and hard enough, every dream can be reached.

This post was inspired by the book: Ladder, Climbing out of a Slump published by Obstacles Press.

Here’s an interesting video on How Curiosity is Crushed that was shared by Faraday’s Candle on a comment on Three Critical Errors I Made in Homeschooling


What do you think? Does testing and memorization ruin the beauty of science?

Michio Kaku states that we are all born scientists, that we all wonder why? We wonder ‘how is that possible?’ He’s absolutely right! Every child is curious about the world. I remember tearing apart dandelions to examine the base of the flower petals. Every puddle still draws me to it, wondering if there are any tadpoles or worms slithering along the bottom.

I do believe this is just one problem that schools face today. To examine even two issues of public education would fill a book, so I’ll just focus on the one that I believe is at the core of them all: Too much emphasis is put on Testing and too little on Character Development. Someone will comment that their school has a character quality of the week and therefore the children are learning about character.

That’s a good start.

It’s my belief that true character is formed on the back of discipline and faith – or the lack thereof . Within the word ‘discipline’ is the word ‘disciple’. A disciple is a student, “one who receives instruction from another”. Therefore, discipline is a lesson that is taught. When a character trait is flawed, it must be corrected. Disciplining a child doesn’t instinctively mean punishment, but a corrective action must take place. That action needs to have meaning.

Just Don’t Kill

The pessimistic side of me fears that Character Development in our American Culture is nearly a lost cause. Political correctness, the span of opinions between the intensely liberal and the overly conservative, and the desire to fit in make it almost impossible for a basic character quality to be agreed upon. But my optimistic side declares that there is hope. Most cultures believe it is wrong to kill. Telling lies is generally viewed as bad. Being independent and intelligent are desired, but the means to gain these character qualities is being forgotten. But we have the ‘no kill’ agreement. That’s a start.

Mr. Kaku calls the years of junior and senior high school the ‘Danger Years’. In an education system that houses 200-500 students of any particular age level, what else can be expected? Going back to the beginning of time, people aren’t meant to be grouped in large numbers with people their own age. The results are disastrous! If you disagree, read Lord of the Flies or go visit your neighborhood school and watch what happens when the teacher’s back is turned. Based on the souls that are forever wounded during these years, that ‘no kill’ quality appears to be lacking.

The Death of a Soul

Speaking from my own experiences, high school was not an academic pursuit. It was a social endeavor. An obstacle course of clothing, economic status, country-club memberships, and brands. That, I believed, was the stuff people were made of. There were, of course, exceptions to those rules, but they were few. How much more has this worsened with the onslaught of technology? Cell phones with cameras and video capabilities that catch every person’s nightmare, sharing it on social media in an extended version of global bullying.

I remember a beautiful girl from my high school who came out of the bathroom with her skirt tucked into her panties. It was horrifying for her, but thankfully a good friend rushed up and corrected the problem, quickly tugging at her skirt to fix it before too many boys saw. Everyone’s face burned with embarrassment for her. No one would have ever thought of taking a picture and posting it anywhere. That idea never even occurred to us. But that is the norm now. And what do the adults do about it?

Bullying makes the headlines. Taunts and language do break bones, no matter what childhood poems say. Bullying kills the soul. It can also kill the person. Many bullied students can’t cope and end their life.

“Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.”  http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-and-suicide.html

From http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2010 CDC WISQARS)
  • Suicide is the THIRD leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. (2010 CDC WISQARS)
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.

Education, Basic Needs and Eric:

When I did my student teaching, I went downtown to a public school and worked in the kindergarten room. Many of the children were bright and eager to impress the teacher, to learn how to read, to do the crafts, to play with others. But there was one boy, Eric, who miraculously made it to school every day on his own accord. His mother, whom I met at parent-teacher conferences, had needle marks up both arms. With a toothless smile, she openly shared that her profession was the oldest profession.

Her son came to school dressed, but usually not dressed well enough to protect him from the winter winds, nor were his clothes always clean. He came to school for breakfast and lunch. Numbers and letters meant nothing to him. After breakfast, while the other children huddled around my chair for a story, Eric was usually asleep in the reading corner. With his belly full and his little fingers and toes warmed, his eyes finally rested in the only safe place he knew.

The basic needs of food, water and shelter must all be met before an education is possible. I don’t know what Eric learned that year. I do know that I will never forget him.

True education happens in small groups or in one-on-one mentoring situations, but mentorship is a dying entity. The “flowers of curiosity” that Mr. Kaku mentions in the video don’t just keep blooming from childhood into adulthood. They must be nourished and tended. Safe environments, encouraging mentors, availability to classical literature and quiet hours spent without music or distractions are what makes a student a scholar.

There are facts to learn and poetry and formulas worth memorizing. But not for the purpose of passing a test and not at the expense of failing in character to make the grade. What do our children truly need to learn except to learn how to learn? What more do they need than the desire to enhance their minds? My answer: First, they need to know it’s possible. Second, a mentor to show them what it looks like to learn. And third, the time and space to learn.

They need mentors. Not ‘Danger Years’.

Let this be your next experiment: What would happen if children read classical literature and studied any subject of interest to them? How would that impact their education and love of learning if they did that for three months? What would the ‘beauty of science’ look like in that environment?

I Will Until

The entire world wants something. Peace. Money. Fitness. Beauty. Happiness. True Love. Family. Joy.

What is it that you want more than anything? Write it down. Don’t just think it. Thoughts are fleeting and easily lost in the breezy whims of life. Seal it onto paper with ink.

Do you really want that? I mean REALLY want it? Is that the something that wakes you up during the night? Does thinking about that cause you to daydream? If you so, keep reading. If you aren’t sure, keep reading anyway. If you want it but don’t feel like it’s something you can achieve, then you definitely need to keep reading!

Let me preface this with a disclaimer–I want something too. I’m learning how to reach my dream by studying people who have already reached theirs and are onto their second, third, fourth or tenth dream levels.

What do I want? I want everything listed in the first line and Perfect Faith. I don’t ever want to doubt God’s plans for me. I also want to be the most successful Independent Author who walked the earth. Lofty? Sure. Possible? Absolutely! I mean, somebody has to be the best…why not me? Am I there? Certainly not today, but tomorrow, if I live today correctly, I’ll be closer.

As I’m learning from mentors and as I read books on success in business, leadership, and faith, I am continuously finding a common theme: Not everyone is capable of competing for what they want.

Competing for that ‘one thing’ doesn’t necessarily mean that people are in a race to ‘get there first’. My greatest opponents in that competition is usually me. I am my greatest naysayer, the perfect enemy, the one who really knows what I have and have not accomplished. If I talk myself into something, I can talk myself out of it just as easily. That’s why I believe that not everyone is capable of competing for what they want. It’s also why I don’t want to be in that incapable group.

When I think of the word capable, I think of ‘having the ability’. But my friend Webster describes it differently: “competent; gifted; skillful.” To have capability means to “have power”. My definition is weak, but seems to be accurate for today’s culture. According to my old thinking, to be capable means that I have the ability. There are many people in the world today who are capable of doing great things. We hear that often, particularly from frustrated teachers and parents: “I know he/she is capable, but he/she just doesn’t!”

I much prefer Webster’s definition. It’s forward in its meaning and implication. Taking each of the words in the definition, here is what it breaks down into:

Competent = properly qualified

Gifted = possessing natural talent

Skillful = expert, dexterous

Do I feel competent as a writer? Sometimes. There are days I write scenes that just drip from my fingers onto the keyboard as if it takes no energy at all. Other days, I claw at the words, digging them out of my brain and pasting them to the page where they stick into gooey clumps.

Write BIG, write little, just write!

Write BIG, write little, just write!

Do I possess a natural talent for writing? Nope. Everything I’ve written has been toiled over, rewritten, thrown out and resurrected through several edits. In fact, a college professor told me that I had no natural ability whatsoever. I was furious. And as my mother can verify, when I am furious about something, I work diligently to prove that person wrong. I’m still in the process of following the map toward the treasure of great writing, but I’m better than I was a year ago. Next year is looking golden.

Skillful writing is not writing like an expert, although there is certainly a place for that. Skillful writing is more of a dedication to a skill, devoting time and energy to the practice of, to find mentorship, to grow thick skin in order to perfect it. Skill comes to those who want it and work for it over a period of time.

My first manuscript was a massive collection of sentences with no clear focus or destination. I spent over a year working on that story, but I didn’t heed the advice of the experts. When I did, I could see the gaping holes in my story. I had no natural skill. The intense amateur status of my writing was blinding. There was only one thing to do: throw it out and start over. And I did. I deleted every copy on the computer and shredded every paper copy I had.

The greatest gift I received from that ‘do-over’ was the freedom to start fresh. I read every book on writing I could find. I read other novels in the genre I loved. Years went by before I had a manuscript that was even worth sharing with someone else. My days were (and still are) filled with caring for my children and homeschooling, so the only times I had to write were early in the morning, late at night, and during nap times. But, I found that my capabilities to do that were tied to my motivation to make that dream of becoming an author a reality. That gave me power.


My first book. I still feel goose bumps when I look at it :)

I told myself: I will write until I have a complete and well-written story.

Then I said: I will polish and submit this manuscript until I find a publisher.

Then: I will continue to write until each story idea is taken to its fullest potential.

The “I will…until” concept was only recently put into words for me, but as I look back over the last decade of writing, it’s exactly what I did. Now, with that motto in my head, I feel more motivated than ever to continue forward with new and bigger goals. More books, more stories, more speaking opportunities. More books to read, more people to meet, more abilities to uncover.

The “I will…until…” phrase is an attitude. It’s a frame of mind that creates a willpower fueled by ability that grows into expertise.

As a former classroom teacher, I approached the idea of homeschooling with a very strict, organized mindset. Students need desks and a schedule and textbooks. School should start at 9:00, lunch at noon, and we would wrap things up at 3:00. My children will be intelligent and polite and will compete well with traditionally schooled children.

The truth is, none of that matters. There are hundreds of misconceptions about homeschooling. All of mine were based on the fact that I have a Master’s degree in Education. It ended up being a setback for me as I had to reconstruct the philosophies behind classroom management and align them with the reality of a household.

Here are the three most valuable lessons I’ve learned about home-schooling in the past ten years:

  1. A school schedule is not a home-school schedule.

The first year I homeschooled, my oldest daughter was five. Outside of dealing with guilt for ‘denying’ her a kindergarten school year, I felt pressure to be the best homeschooling mom. Ever. I quickly realized that the full load of lessons that I used to teach a classroom of kindergarteners was quickly completely by my one five-year-old.

I will never forget the very first day of our official home-school. We began promptly at 9:00 with prayer and the pledge of allegiance. We read stories, practiced handwriting, and did a craft. We made play-dough from scratch and formed all the letters in her name. And then her sisters’ names. Then mine and my husband’s. We played outside and I was careful to provide time for her to run and jump. Those large motor skills are important, you know.

At 11:00 we called it a day. She consumed my plans as if she was a fish and all my carefully formulated lessons were nothing more than water over her gills.

What was different from teaching 25 students? Much of the time I spent as a kindergarten teacher (1 semester – my experience in this world is quite limited) was used in teaching songs and steps for the daily projects, managing transitions, discipline, academic testing, walking up and down halls for special classes, managing recess, and communicating with parents. With one five-year old (and younger siblings – a 3 year old and a one-year-old), my duties were drastically different. I was the teacher, custodian, lunch lady, and principal. Parent communications were constant (I do talk to myself). I didn’t need academic testing because it was clear to me what she grasped and what needed more work. Special classes – gym, computer, library – were all right there in the house, but we still fit playgrounds and libraries into our schedule as weekly stops.

Note the map in the background. Every home needs a map. This mural map is from National Geographic.

Note the map in the background. Every home needs a map. This mural map is from National Geographic.

That was ten years ago. Our typical day is very different and we’ve gone through several different schedules and plans. For now, we work for 4-6 hours a day on reading, math, science, and music. We are going to add a foreign language to that mix in May. When most schools are winding down for the summer, we are changing gears and keeping the learning fresh with different subjects. Our schedule evolution could fill a book. Hmmm…maybe one day it will. It would be a comedy.

  1. Too many subjects a day keeps the Scholar away.

Because we only focus on four subjects at a time, my children don’t (typically) feel stressed about the amount of work they have to do. This feels like freedom to them because a year ago it was a different story. I had enrolled them in a faith-focused, accredited home-school. I needed the direction, the pre-planned lessons, and the books they use are amazing! When the lesson plans arrived, I unpacked three, four-pound bricks of shrink-wrapped lessons. Each brick had nine subjects spread out over a 36-week school year. They had several different recommendations of how to organize these lesson plans. I’m sorry to say, that after using this curriculum for two years, no suggestion worked well.

It was in the throes of a bitter winter that I noticed four things about our home-school:

  1. My daughters spent so much time at their desks, I didn’t really see them during the day. They may as well have been in school.
  2. The volume of subjects was weary. Mathematics, Religion, English, Reading Comprehension, Reading Thinking Skills, Spelling, Vocabulary, History, Science, Physical Education, Music, and Life Skills. Not one of these subjects overlapped.
  3. We were always behind. The lesson plans were organized by week and day. The only day we were on target was Week 1, Day 1. By the end of the first week, every child was on a different day in every subject. Despite the fact that the school said that was fine, to go through the lessons at your own pace, mine is the personality that doesn’t jive with that. By December, we should have been on week 16, but no one was. We felt like failures.
  4. That feeling of failure lead to short tempers. Mine, mostly.

Our solution was to return to what we love. Reading. We read and write for at least two hours a day. While this is the cornerstone of our education, there is also Math, Music and Science.

The kid's bookshelf. They have read far more than I have.

The kid’s bookshelf. They have read far more than I have.

  1. I am my own worst student.

Ten years ago as our home-schooling adventure began, I made a critical error. I believed that my degree in education gave me everything I needed to know about how to best teach. Only in retrospect and after many tears and prayers, was I able to admit that I had not studied enough.

My children’s education is only as good as the habits I exhibit. In other words, I can’t teach them anything. Every critical skill that my children learn, they learn from observation. If I want them to flip their lids when the dishes aren’t done, all I have to do is model that behavior once and they have it. They will take that lesson and apply it to moments when a sibling doesn’t return a borrowed jacket or absently leaves a glass on their desk. If I want to teach my children how to gently guide their youngest brother through the four-year-old stubborn streak, I have to model that day after day.

My bookshelf. I'm working my way through these books. Some are classics, some are based on leadership development. All are changing the way I see the world. And that is the goal!

My bookshelf. I’m working my way through these books. Some are classics, some are based on leadership development. All are changing the way I see the world. And that is the goal!

If I want my children to be avid, always-hungry readers, I must be an avid, hungry reader. If I want healthy children, I must follow healthy eating and exercise guidelines. The same is true for any circumstance: gentle nature, neatness, respect, gossip, etc.

To remedy my education in Education, I turned to un-schoolers, read about Montessori schools, dove into Classical Education and read up on Leadership Education. Taking the bits and pieces from each, I’ve applied what works for our family and am striving to create a household of learners who are eager to wake up each morning to join me at the table to read and learn. They have their own projects and books they are working on, but essentially, our family has taken a bold step to become Scholars.


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