Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling

Living with integrity

While talking through character study with my eldest grandson this morning, we discussed the difference between dishonesty and integrity.  At seven years old, he seemed to have a handle on dishonesty with no problem.  Stealing, lying, telling half-truths, etc. are dishonest behaviors and we shouldn’t indulge in them.  Integrity took a bit more explanation.  Not committing any of the aforementioned offenses is obviously part of living with integrity, but it goes further than that.  We talked about the need to be true to yourself and others, choosing to walk away rather than participate in activities that you know are wrong, and doing your best.  He seemed to “get it.”  And now his grandma is thinking… and thinking…

What does living with integrity mean in my life?  What does it look like?  This is what I decided living with integrity means to me:

  • Being true to myself, the Lord, and my priorities.  If I can’t get to everything on my list, I need to focus on the most important, and trust Him with the rest.
  • Trying to be wise.  If my health, time, or finances won’t stretch that far, admit it.  Walk away.  Move on.
  • Recognizing what each day allows.  Some nights I can put on a full roast chicken/mashed potatoes/biscuits/salad dinner.  Some nights we have box mac-n-cheese and bottled fruit.  Other nights we may just grab take-out.  Trying to create a masterpiece for each meal is just not reasonable.  We are either too busy, too stretched, or too much in need of “down time.”  This goes for getting dressed everyday including doing my hair and a full-face of make-up, having a spotlessly clean house, perfectly done laundry, flawlessly weeded garden, or even an articulately written post.  I need to do be content with what I can actually do at the time.
  • Allowing others the same.  I can’t expect perfection of those around me.  If I am letting go of that expectation for myself, I have to afford them the same courtesy.  Some days are just not the best.  If the children are having an off day, or are not feeling tip-top, let things go a bit.  Do a crossword for spelling.  Don’t ask for perfection in their math assignment.  Let the unmade bed go a bit longer (they may need to crawl back into it at some point).  If my husband had a crazy day at work, I need to lighten up on the “honey-do’s” and let him read the sports page, etc.
  • Honesty matters.  I can only do what I can do.  I believe what I believe.  I am not obligated to negotiate any of that to make someone else happy.
  • False modesty is akin to lying.  If you are good at something, be good at it!  I can cook a mean pot of spaghetti, and my bread is yummy!  I love assembling curriculum and helping others teach their children, and they come to my home for that, so it must be worth their time.  On the other hand, I am hopeless with a needle or playing sports.  Those are things I joy in as I watch my children participate.  My daughter, her husband, and oldest boy all knit and/or crochet.  My other children are gifted artists, athletes, and designers.  I do what I do.  They are good at so many other things!  And we all love to play with words!
  • Gratitude is vital.  I have no integrity if I refuse to see the amazing blessings and tender mercies that shower down each day!  I have a good man for a husband, loving and contributing children with great priorities, and the cutest grandchildren ever! (They really are!) 166766_10200951243442301_2055576302_n IMG_6477    I live a comfortable home, in a stunning part of the country, in a great nation, and have friends and faith to get me through the challenges of life.   Denying or letting go of any of that is a betrayal of all I know and love.

I can’t live each day with full excellence or perfection.  There is too much about me and my life that is human or challenging.  But “til I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”  (Job 27:5)

Home and Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Climb in all the way!

There is an oft-repeated story of a young child who keeps falling out of bed.  When his parents inquire what the problem seems to be, he responds, “I wasn’t in all the way.”  This observation applies to so much of life!

If you are experiencing difficulties with home organization or finances, it may be helpful to examine your level of commitment to being organized or living within a budget.  If you are only committed to an idea, you may find that achieving your goal is harder than anticipated.  Decide if you actually want it, get a plan together, and then stick with it!

Wanting to be healthier can only succeed if you are willing to walk more and drive less, or snack on veggies rather than chips!  Living on take-out or restaurant meals may be simpler than learning to cook, but it can sabotage any success you hope to have.

Probably the area with the longest lasting effects for “climbing in all the way” is parenting.  Choosing to become a full-time mom, hence a one-income family works better if both parents are on board with the idea.  Raising well-behaved, respectful children is much easier if both parents have the same goal, and are willing to spend time learning what it takes to get there.  Homeschooling requires dedication, commitment, and follow-through.  If you can’t stand the idea of spending a few hours a day focusing on your children (and only your children), you may find homeschooling a chore rather than a joy.

Conversely, the happiest people I know (and the ones I love to be around) are the ones who have grabbed on with both hands and are in for the long haul.  They are exactly who they are, and they stick with what they set out to accomplish.  They don’t waste time living in the past or wishing time away- they are too busy living now.

Decide where you would like to be in a year.  Five years.  Twenty.  What road should you be on right now to get you there?  Then start.  Detours happen, but don’t lose sight of the end goal!  You can do hard things!

Home and Family

Planning for the coming year

It is spring in Utah!  The tulips are budding, the clothesline is out again, and it is time to start looking at what the next academic year will bring.  Because conventions and vendor fairs occur during the summer, it is a good idea to know what you want to study as a family before you attend.

I have always tried to have a basic plan of attack before the convention, and then I do the actual planning after visiting the vendor fair.  I plan one year at a time, otherwise I seem to have a hard time fitting everything into the our study schedule. ( I have never found a pre-planned curriculum that I felt met the needs of my family, so I would pick and choose from the best I could find, and assemble it myself.)

There are many ways to do it; this is simply how I put a year-long plan together.  I pick a two-week period during the summer between gardening and canning projects and focus solely on school.  I plan ahead for this time so that I have simple meals already planned or I assign a family member to cook, and spend minimal time cleaning. During this time:

1. For older learners, I determine which history block will be the basis for this year’s study.  (For younger children, I plan foundational academic goals and build activities around those.)

2. Gather everything I have for that history block.  This includes books (reference and literature), kits, games, math activities, art supplies, videos, music, and anything else that would apply.  Look for scriptures and religious history to be included.  This mountain of stuff lives in our library/schoolroom until I have finished planning.

3. With the help of the resource guide in The Well-Trained Mind and the librarians at the local library, find supplemental supplies to fill in any obvious gaps I found.  Make purchases if you desire.

4. Put together a plan in eight-week blocks.  (We skip traditional curriculum in December and July, so there are five blocks.  During those months, we focus on the primary holidays for that time of year.)  I plan lessons for six out of the eight weeks in each block.  With rare exceptions, we will need the extra two weeks for further research in order to dig into something in the block that sparked our interest.  Or someone will be sick and then we will all be sick. Or there can be some other kind of emergency. (Just remember that emergencies that get in the way of schooling need to be just that- emergencies!  Heart surgeries, Grandpa in the hospital, the neighbors house burns down, etc.  They have all happened to us. )  I also plan to get four good days of study in per week.  I leave one day for errands, appointments, catching-up, cleaning, and cooking.

5.  Other ideas for year-long blocks can be things such as holidays throughout the year, take a year and travel around the world at home (learn about each country, learn a few phrases, read their literature and history, try new foods or music, etc.), learn about your own family history going back multiple generations, or perhaps study music/fine art and build your history and literature around that.  For teens, study the various governmental systems around the world-who started them, how  it worked for the “common man”, what documents did or didn’t they have, etc.

Note-while I am not a fan of co-op learning as a primary, on-going method throughout the year, often in my planning I will find a topic of interest that I cannot address adequately during the years’ study time.  When this happens, I plan a four to eight-week block for the summer to allow for concentrated time on that subject.  Summer classes have included: Constitutional Studies, Comparative Literature, and American Ballads.  Often we invited (home and traditionally schooled) friends of my children to join us.  So much fun!

However you teach your own, be sure to have a plan so that you know where your home school is going.  Otherwise you might end up where you do not want to be.

Home and Family, Homemaking, Organization

Spring cleaning

Its that time of year again.  The tulips and daffodils are poking out of the ground, the trees are budding, and everyone is ready to get outside and shake off the cobwebs of winter.  Just remember- your house could use a good airing too!  We don’t need to go the extremes of a century ago, (they dismantled and cleaned even some of the furniture) but it is a good idea to clear some things out, and make sure you have a house that will make the coming-and-goings of warmer weather simpler.

Basic items you may find useful include vinegar, cheap shampoo, baking soda, your favorite essential oils (we love grapefruit and eucalyptus),  a good non-toxic  cleaner,  cleaning rags, garbage bags, music you like to listen to,  boxes or bags for donations to charity, and a feeling of abundance.  (If you can recognize the multitude of blessings you have, you will think more clearly and be more objective about what you truly ought to keep and what is excess.)   This project is not just for Mom.  Get the entire family involved.  Little ones can refold and sort linens, use a whisk broom, help carry smaller items as you clear, or wipe down lower surfaces.  Once they can read labels easily, allow them to organize things by size, color, or type.  (No toxic substances should be handled by young children.)  Bigger kids can learn to scrub (even in the corners), clear, and sort.  Everyone in a family should be a participant in maintaining a clean and tidy home!

Start in the room that needs the least amount of work.  (If your bathroom needs a good scrub, and a few shelves straightened, start there.)  The more quickly you have one room sparkling, the more motivation you will have to keep going. Do the next area that is not too bad, and so forth.  If you can do a drawer or two, or a closet, or room a day, you will get done fairly quickly without being chained inside when the weather is good. Set some goals, and get to it!

In the bathroom, use the vinegar (with essential oils added if you desire) on shiny surfaces and tile.  Buff glass dry with crumpled newspaper; use cotton rags for anything else.  Cheap shampoo is great for anywhere body oils collect.  Clean your tub, your combs and brushes, even ring-around-the-collar with it.  If you need something with just a bit of a gentle abrasive, baking soda is your friend.  It also is a great deodorizer.  Pour about half a cup down your drains followed by a cup or two of vinegar.  Stand back and watch the action!  The foaming will help clear your pipes, and freshen them. Polish the hardware.  If your toilet bowl needs a good soak, use good quality denture tablets.  Let them sit overnight, swish in the morning, and most stains under the waterline will be gone.  Sort your linens.  Clear and wipe down any shelves or cabinets.  Check your medications for expiration dates.  As you finish, take a minute to enjoy what you have done!

Clear out one cabinet or closet as a time.  Touch each item long enough to decide if you need/want it.  Does it fit?  Do you use it?  Do you hate it, but it was a gift?  Keep the good.  Donate the unnecessary.  Toss/recycle the trash.  Have a day when you gather the toys, games, and other playthings.  Mend the boxes.  Do you have all the pieces?  Put all the Legos/blocks/toy soldiers in their own container.  Doll stuff needs a central home.  Are there games you just never play?  Puzzles you have never put together?  Schedule a time to do so, or donate it!

As you dust, take EVERYTHING off the surface.  Clean it.  Then put back your favorite things.  Only re-place those things that add to the look of the room or serve a purpose.  If you had too much on there to begin, don’t put it all back!  What would look better somewhere else in your house?  What items need a nice box or basket to be stored neatly?  What do you no longer need, or which items are not adding anything to your life?  Donate them.

As you clean, have a box or basket for items you need, but they belong somewhere else.  Whatever lives in a different room, put in the box.  Don’t leave where you are currently cleaning; you may never finish the job.

Paperwork can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of any organization project.  If you have file folder, a sturdy box, a recycling bin, and a way to shred or burn anything with personal information, you can take an afternoon and just plow through it.  This may be the one area where family help is not a good idea.  Put a system together for paperwork, finances, etc. so that it can be maintained.  I have five file drawers where all of my household, school-related, financial, or personal paper lives.  Give your older children and teens a box of their own.  Help them create a system for papers, certificates, pay stubs, letters, etc.

Your children can, and should, help you go through their rooms.  What do they no longer need?  What have they stashed under their beds, or in their drawers?  Clear it out.  Sort it.  Put back what really matters.  Help them share in the excitement of having created a clean, organized, fun place to be; help them learn to share their excess with others who need what we take for granted.

If money is tight,  take not needed (but still nice) clothing, toys, or other household items to a consignment shop for resale, or box them up and hold a yard sale this summer.  If you talk with your extended family, neighbors, or friends you will often have enough to create a good-sized, therefore better attended, sale.  (Just be sure to have a system to keep track of how much money goes to each family.)

We do not need to have a professionally decorated house, or a lot of money in order to live in a pleasant, inviting space.  Clean it up.  Clear it out. You can fashion a refuge from the outside world where people want to be with a little elbow grease and lots of love.  Happy cleaning!