Adoption, Homeschool, Lifestyle, Parenting

Why we stopped homeschooling

I am sat drinking coffee alone in my favourite coffee shop reflecting on the last 12 months. Today is the first day back at school for our boys after we spent a year home educating them. The irony is not lost on me that it was in this coffee shop that we spent our first morning of homeschool last Easter.

There were many reasons for choosing to bring our children home, but the main reason was that we wanted Jesus to be at the centre of everything; our home life and the children’s education. They were in a faith school, and one that they loved, but we felt that we needed to give them something more. I was more concerned with their character than with their class performance, and decided to spend a year working together as a family at home.

I was more concerned with their character than with their class performance

The homeschool lifestyle is incredible. We thrived outside of timetables and schedules, we loved the freedom and spontaneity that homeschooling afforded our family, and we found such incredible friends within the homeschool community. We read books on books, we spent endless hours outdoors and learned a great deal about ourselves and each other. It was such a privilege to watch my boys grow in confidence, learn new social skills and make new discoveries.

So why end it all? That is a very good question.

We always said that we would homeschool for a year and then review our decision. On reviewing, we realised that our eldest was missing school terribly, and the truth was, I was floundering under the demands of educating two very different children while running two very different businesses. Home education is most definitely a ministry in and of itself, and is a huge sacrifice for parents.

I felt that God called me to homeschool, however it wasn’t my ‘calling’ and at times, I struggled to find my identity over the last year. I loved being with my children all the time, but as God continued to speak into my heart I felt a tension between teaching them and spending quality time with them, alongside doing things that I wanted to do or felt called to. It is fair to say that the children have missed corporate learning, and although their social lives have been off the charts, the majority of their education has been in the home, one on one with me.

So what was the purpose of these last twelve months? Well, I believe that this year has not been about heart education not head education.

Our homeschool journey has been about heart education not head education

Prior to homeschooling, we were struggling at home. We were still blending as a family of five following our daughter’s adoption and still recovering from my maternal mental health challenges. Last Easter we needed to press the reset button. So we did.

As we took school out of the equation, and put God and family first in our home, we have gotten to know each other again. I believe that we have grown tremendously, in faith and in relationship. As we leaned in, God bound us together and we have now laid the foundations for a stronger family unit going forward.

Since December, God has been challenging me, guiding me and equipping me in so many areas; business, serving, faith and family. I believe that He called me to homeschool to lay down the foundations for our family future. God never said for how long we would homeschool, He just asked us to step out in obedience. We now believe that this season has come to an end and we need to build on what we have started. I am pressing in and listening hard. It feels like I am listening to a new song on the radio and God is tuning the dial so I can hear it clearly. I can hear the melody but now I need to let him refocus me so I can hear the words too.

Can you homeschool? Of course you can. Should you homeschool? Yes, if you feel led to.

I absolutely advocate home education and have seen firsthand how my children have thrived in the home environment. But I have also seen the delight on my children’s faces as they walked into their classroom, watched their eyes widen with excitement about the things they will get to see and do and the friends they get to meet.

So although my heart was a little sad as we waved them off this morning, I also felt incredibly excited for this new chapter of our story – both for them and for me. Here’s to the first entry on the page.

R x

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Parenting

Why new moms need new expectations

Expectation. What a word. To some it can bring excitement, to others it can bring exhaustion. To one, it can bring fun and to another, it can bring fear. We all have expectation in our lives, whether that is how we expect our day to pan out, or how we expect our careers to pan out, whether we expect to build a FTSE100 empire before we are 30 or build a family home.

I love having a goal, a dream, an expectation. My expectation was to get married and be a mom before I was 30. I happily achieved said expectation, but did the reality live up to the dream? Not quite. Rest assured that I am happily married and couldn’t be more grateful for the blessings that have been bestowed on me in the form of my three little ones. But that doesn’t make my long-awaited expectation of the motherhood experience any less challenging.

My first son was born (relatively) easily in a peaceful water birth, but he soon made his presence known by keeping his poor unsuspecting parents awake all hours for the first three months. I expected to cherish these first few weeks of his little life as I blissfully washed his bamboo nappies (yes, really), however, these were some of the hardest and saddest weeks as we desperately tried to fathom out our new family member and survive on next to no sleep. I vividly remember one night, around 2am, when Dave and I were literally on. our. knees. and I placed our son in the middle of the bed and stepped back, not knowing what the heck to do next. In our sleep deprived state, we had tried everything, except swaddling, and this turned out to be the saving grace for our sanity, as we turned a corner and saw our firstborn sleep for more than 2 consecutive hours.

Then came the second son. Another much loved, much planned for baby, albeit with a much larger gap than I would have liked. Surgery necessitated the long wait, and my health was more important than expanding our family, but when he came oh what joy I awaited.

Only the joy didn’t come.

Don’t get me wrong, I was head over heels in love with this little one who snuggled up to me so calmly, but my heart raced as I contemplated juggling two children. I expected to breeze into motherhood second time round, but as reality set in, my fears became nerves that grew into anxieties. I soon felt so overwhelmed that I just couldn’t face being a parent to anyone, much less the precious boys I have been blessed with. All this, despite a hands-on, supportive hubby and a fantastic network of family and friends.

After five months of juggling schedules and struggling to keep my head above water, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. The diagnosis came as no surprise in the end, and if anything, it was such a relief to know that I wasn’t losing the plot and that I wasn’t a bad mother. I was not alone. Accepting the diagnosis was no problem. If anything, I almost wore it as a badge of honour to explain that actually, I wasn’t failing, I was a work in progress, and within 6 months I was back to my normal self.

PND is no discriminator of people or circumstance. My baby was wanted, planned for, prayed for. Yet when he came, I was so overwhelmed with the responsibility; the sudden influx of hormones, the sudden immersion into baby world, and the sudden subjection to his every need. I was an experienced parent, who knew what to expect, and my son was a relaxed little man, yet I was so completely overcome with emotion and anxiety that I could barely think straight. I thank God for the medical professionals who helped me through this difficult time, not to mention my faithful husband and my many friends who had journeyed this path before me or with me.

So onto baby number 3. She was no less planned for, prayed for, and prepared for than her brothers, if not she was more so. The nursery was decorated, the work schedules were created, the books were read and the home was ready, yet when she came I felt the old anxieties creep into my mind as my expectation stood at odds with my reality. There I was, with this sweet little one who fell into our arms with a smile and fell into a routine without batting an eye lid, yet I found myself feeling totally overwhelmed by the now enormous task in front of me. How was I ever going to juggle three children along with a writing career, keeping my home (and me) in a half reasonable style and state of cleanliness, oh and build a blog and write a book….. and manage more than 5 hours sleep in the process.

To raise another is the greatest privilege. As a mom of three, I can safely say this is the greatest, most rewarding role I have ever had, however, coupled with my expectations, it has caused the most pain, upset, anxiety, and, at times, even depression. A classic ‘achiever’, my character is such that I want to do everything to the best of my ability. This means holding it all together, at all times, having the tidy house, the contented babies, and the completed deadlines. My ambitious striving, of course, can be a strength, but for those, like me, who place too great an expectation on themselves, it can be a curse.

When it comes to motherhood, the thing I have craved, dreamed of and desired, I expect to succeed, I expect to flourish. I expect to sail through because I am a ‘do-er’, and ‘achiever’. I constantly measure myself against impossible standards, then wonder why I fall short. The advice I dish out to others I can barely swallow myself. The prayers I pray for friends are barely audible for myself.

Why? Because I expect too much of myself.

It is OK for a friend to fall apart, but I cannot. It is OK for a family member to need counselling but not me. It’s OK for a loved one to ask for help but I must march on. How ridiculous.

I recently read this quote from the inimitable William Shakespeare;

Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises or in modern day language; Expectation is the root of all heartache. 

I put too much expectation on myself, and the resulting wave of heartache that accompanies feelings of disappointment when I don’t ‘make the grade’ hurts like heck.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed, with wanting to achieve, with having a dream. New mom’s do not need to cast off all their ambitions and put their lives on hold in order to raise their baby, but friends, we need to stop putting too great expectations of ourselves. Stop trying to have the Pinterest worthy house, the picture perfect family, the insta-flawless selfie. We need to embrace our flaws, our failings, and our frustrations because this is what makes us human. And I am speaking to myself before anyone else.

So next time I feel overwhelmed, fall down or mess up, rather than just painting on my face and marching on I might just let someone in. If someone texts to check in on me or taps me on the shoulder at the school gates, I might just let them know how I am really doing. I might just say, “Do you know what? Motherhood is a gift, but man is it hard work!” I might just accept the offer of a hug, a prayer, a cuppa or a meal.

Fellow parents, let’s stop being proud and start being real, and today, this starts with me.

Just sayin’.

R xx

 

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Faith, Parenting

To moms who need their moms

I just read a beautiful instagram post where a new mom honoured her own mother. Her simple statement read; “when Mom arrives and everything’s OK again”, and the deep vulnerability in this heart offering brought tears to my eyes.

Being a mother is such a magnificent, messy miracle. As a mom, I get to hold my babies every day, to kiss their sweet faces, to breathe in their scent, to ruffle their hair, to throw them into the air and hear the fits of gleeful giggles. I get to pour love out on to them, I get to build them up and tell them they can do anything, they can reach the very stars in the sky if they want to, and I will be the first one with a step-ladder to help them do it. As a mother, I get to hold their hands and guide them as they walk, to catch them if they fall and to carry them when they are tired. I get to kiss them and make them feel better if their teeth are poking through, or knees are grazed, or their temperature is raised.

Mother’s have an ability to make things OK. To reassure that you are safe, that you are loved. That you are doing great, that you have got this and they have got you. And even if you fail;  if the grades weren’t good enough, you stumbled at the last hurdle, you didn’t make the cut or one of the plates you’d been spinning came crashing down, your mother will scoop you up and soothe you.

But what if your mother can’t be there?

I understand that not everyone is blessed with a mother close by, either geographically or emotionally, whether separated by words or worlds.  understand that no matter how old you are, or how far you have fallen or how you are hurting, everyone needs their mom, that unequalled individual who loves you so fiercely and so unconditionally, that person you can turn to, day or night, about anything and everything. My heart grows heavy as I think of

I understand that no matter how old you are, or how far you have fallen or how you are hurting, everyone needs their ‘mother figure’, that unequalled individual who loves you so fiercely and so unconditionally, that person you can turn to, day or night, about anything and everything. My heart grows heavy as I think of

My heart grows heavy as I think of moms who may be all alone, either single or without a mother or mother figure in her world. I wonder how on earth she could navigate the precarious path of motherhood without the guidance of a mother who has already dodged or overcome the pitfalls she is now facing. How would she be strong for her children with no one to comfort her, how would she know which way to turn without her own mother to lead her?

Then I remembered what God has said to me.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
    He gently leads those that have young.

Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)

He gently leads those that have young. The words sprang off the page and wrapped themselves right around me like a warm hug.

Dear friend, being a mom is the most precious gift, one that you will cherish for the rest of your days. One that will transform your world in every which way, one where you have to find your ‘new normal’ and learn to embrace it. There will be times when your little one doesn’t sleep, when you don’t know why they are crying, when you find yourself fighting back guilty tears as you dream about your old life. There will be days when you feel like a hero and days when you feel hopeless. There will be moments when you lock yourself in the bathroom because you just. need. five. minutes. alone.

You may find yourself in these moments wishing that your mom was here with you, and for whatever reason, she may not be able to.

But in every moment, good, bad or ugly, there is always Jesus.

When you feel overwhelmed or alone He will comfort you. When you fall, God Himself will come down and scoop you up into His arms and soothe you. When you don’t know which way is right the Holy Spirit will lead you.

If you are a mom who needs her momma, please remember that Papa God is here.

He always has been and He always will be, watching and waiting for His daughter to seek His face and rest in His embrace.

R xx

 

Feature Image Photo Credit: sundaywomen.com 
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Faith

What does your bloodline say about you?

I love my parents. I had an unconventional, if slightly turbulent childhood at times however if it wasn’t for my Mom and Dad I would not be here today, and for that alone I am so grateful! The picture perfect family of a married couple and their 2.4 children are so rare they are practically on the endangered species list. A couple who have made it to ten years of marriage are hailed as heroes as the divorce rates rise in 21st century Britain, however it is for good reason and in extreme cases for safety that some couples choose to or are forced to separate.

Over my three decades on this earth, I have learned that there are so many men and women, boys and girls who have lived through parent relationship breakdowns, abuse, neglect and the resulting dysfunctional family unit. It is not the norm to live at home with mom and dad, much less to have a good solid relationship with either. Secrets, lies and heartache are central to more families than ever, and the cycle simply keeps repeating as hurt people hurt people and we perpetuate the past for generations to come.

If you are dealing with the secrets of your past, processing the scars of abuse that happened so many years ago or are agonising over the heartbreaking split of your parents, please know that I am not going to write and tell you to that everything is going to be OK and to move on and forget about it. Your past pain is very real and very valid. You have every right to feel sad, anxious, depressed or even angry about what has happened and I would urge you to seek professional help and counselling to process things fully in the right way.

However, I want you to know that you are not defined by your parental bloodline.

Your parents are human. Humans mess up. They have done ever since that fateful day in the Garden of Eden when Eve persuaded Adam to sample fruits that were not his to take. Please understand that I am not making excuses for those who have hurt you, whether they let you down, neglected you, hit you, abused you or did all of the above to you or the ones you love. The mistakes made by your parents are not yours. They are not your fault, nor are they your burden to carry. My friend, I want to tell you that although our lives are indeed shaped by the circumstances that surround us, they do not define us and we can choose to change our mindsets and direct our lives in a different direction.

Your biological mother may have abandoned you at birth, your earthly father may have favoured the local pub over time spent with his child but beautiful one, you have a supernatural, heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally, perfectly and completely. God created YOU in your mother’s womb, He knew every detail of you whilst you were formed and has not taken His eyes off you ever since.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.” Jeremiah 1:5 NLT

‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.’ Psalm 139:13 NLT

Whether you know God or not, you have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus, who died on the cross for you. His death, His shedding of blood has given YOU a NEW BLOODLINE.

No longer are you known as the son or daughter of parents that failed you, if you accept what Jesus is offering – a relationship with God – you can have a new bloodline, a new heritage, with a perfect heavenly Father. You can be free of the guilt of your past, you can remove the shackles of shame that have bound you and kept you from experiencing a life lived to the full. Why? Because that it exactly why Jesus came to earth;

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 NIV.

I don’t want to belittle the burden you have carried during your life, I only mean to reassure you that there is a meaning and a purpose to your life regardless of the turbulent start or tumultuous journey you have faced. And the first step in discovering that purpose is surrendering your heart to Jesus Christ. I promise you, you will never regret it.

R

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