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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Faith, Parenting

Learning lessons

At first glance this looks like a father and son moment; a lesson in handling a saw and managing a garden. The truth is it is a lesson in handling consequences and managing poor decisions.

Look closer at the picture, do you see the tree on the right? It has a huge branch torn off the trunk because my son swung on it and it ripped the tree.

That wasn’t just a tree, and the damage isn’t just a broken branch. That was my favourite tree, adorned with lanterns and bird feeders. It was special to me because it helped me manage my discontent in living in the city, it brought me such joy to seeing the wild birds hopping around in its branches and it provided shelter as we played in the garden

As a new homeschooler I am trying so hard to cultivate an environment of love and joy both in my garden and in my home, but I rarely seem to succeed of late. We have strong willed children who challenge us often and at the end of the a tough week this broken branch spoke of my broken my heart.

I knew parenting wouldn’t be easier but I never dreamed it would be so hard. I didn’t know how much it could hurt when your flesh and blood acts out. I want to fight for my children, not against them. I often wish I could ‘fix’ them, but perhaps this has more to do with my own iniquities rather than theirs.

I am not just a mom, I am a daughter of the King. And when I feel like I can’t, He can.

God created me to be a mama and He gave me these children to raise. I am going to need to learn some lessons of my own in raising my wildlings.

So today as I gather the remains of my beloved boughs, I gather my thoughts and give them to God. Time to go back to the Source to find our Selah. 

R x

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Faith, Homeschool, Parenting

The Home School Diaries #3

I got it wrong today. Okay not just today, but spectacularly so on this occasion. This time it was with my middle child, my easiest by far and my least demanding. He is so often overshadowed by his more vocal siblings or overlooked as he is generally happy to go with the flow.

We were doing our daily devotions (yes I know, the irony is not lost on me) and I was asking him to read aloud from his Bible, like I do every morning. He was dragging his feet, messing about and flicking through the pages at a snails pace. My impatience boiled over, my little boy crumpled, his tears tumbled and my heart broke.

I drew him into my arms and said I was sorry. He said he didn’t understand how to find what I had asked him to read and I realised he needed me to explain it better. All too often I expect so much of him as I am busy dealing with his two year old sister (I had already dealt with two potty incidents before I finished reading my devotional page aloud).

I lifted my son onto my lap and I asked if he wanted me to sit with him and talk it through with him. He looked up at me with tearstained cheeks and nodded. We then spent a happy half hour together, my boy snuggled on my lap while I spoke softly and encouraged him. I showed him the different parts of the Bible, how it is made up of the Old and New Testament, and contains 66 books. We looked at the content page and we found today’s scripture together. He read it beautifully and we finished our devotional with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts.

Being a mom of three, I feel constantly pulled in every direction, and never more so than when it comes to teaching my children. They all need different approaches, different atmospheres, different content. But one thing that they all need is love.

The one thing that my children need most is my love

I need to teach them from a place of love, of patience and of acceptance. I am their mom first, educator second. My job is to love the bones off those kids so that they feel safe and cherished, which will empower them to learn. I need to not bark out instructions but learn alongside them.

That is just the way that God works too. He is a loving Father who wants to love the bones off us, if only we will let Him. He doesn’t want us to flail around or panic because we don’t know what to do. He wants us to come to Him and say Papa I don’t understand. Then He can swoop down and scoop us into His arms and talk us through it.

When I experience the love of God it makes it far easier to love in all circumstances.

As they say, every day is a school day, and this new homeschool mama is on a learning journey too.

R x

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Homeschool, Lifestyle, Parenting

The Homeschool Diaries #2

So by the school calendar, we are about to complete our first half term as homeschoolers! People keep asking me, how is it going? How does it feel? The short answer is liberating and exhausting!

First off, my favourite thing is no school run. Let’s be honest, NO ONE likes the school run. Getting three people out of the door by 8.20am required the patience of a saint and a miracle of God. In their absence it resulted in rushed breakfasts, tired kids, shouty parents and tears on the journey. Not fun.

Now our days start slower. Still early (thanks boys) but not rushed. We have a leisurely morning, and try not to arrange things before 10am. Our girl is in nursery two days a week so the boys and I hit the library or attend home ed groups such as CHEW (Christian Home Educators Warwickshire). Other days are taken up with National Trust trips, picnics and park dates.

As we aren’t starting a curriculum until September it all feels very much like the school holidays with projects thrown in. But as any parent will tell you, 4-5 weeks into the summer break and we all ready to send them back to school. And we are there.

It’s not all fun and games finding a new rhythm

It’s not all fun and games, and finding our new rhythm as a family has been hard on us all. My eldest misses structure and routine. My two boys are bickering A LOT. And I have a two year old. Enough said. Our home is busy, but when you are together 24/7 things can feel very intense.

I have been tempted to start our curriculum early to placate my 9yo, but I know we all need this period of deschooling. Even their stomachs are run by the school timetable! They routinely say “we would have a snack now at school”. What I have implemented is a weekly homeschool planner to plot our events, groups, library visits and play dates so the children can see what’s coming up. This will also help me to indicate the days I need to work, so we can all be respectful of each other’s time.

That said, we are all loving not being tied to the school routine. I believe that children are meant to be wild and free. We can now play out a bit longer at the park, or linger over treasures found in the woods. We can read an extra chapter of a book or watch another episode. And all the time that we have this extra time, I am watching.

And all the time that we are together I am watching.

Watching what they like and dislike. Watching how they play and interact. Watching what they need and when they need it. Trying to be intentionally present so that I might better meet their needs.

Homeschool is hard. So is parenting. But I am choosing to be present over perfect and trying my best. And so far, it’s the best decision I ever made.

R x

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Essential Oils, Lifestyle, Parenting

Why Oils Are A Mom Essential

Motherhood is especially hard when your babies aren’t well. My girl has chicken pox, which is no surprise as she has been so exposed to it through many of our close friends. What has surprised me is how hard it has hit her, and my usually tenacious toddler is now feverish and fretful.

Fortunately this isn’t our first rodeo, and having had two boys who suffered with terrible cases of chicken pox, this mama is armed and ready. Last time round, I relied on over the counter drugs and oat filled socks in the bath, however this time I have extra help thanks to my natural wellness kit.

So far I have used 10 of the 12 essential oil in my tool kit. The main contenders are Lavender, Copaiba and Frankincense in the bath and also in coconut oil as a lotion to soothe her skin and calm her mind. Next up Thieves, Purification and Peppermint diffused in her room to help support her immune response and keep her cool. Because she feels warm we are also using Digize to help her tummy feel happy. Mama is slathering on Stress Away and Orange as I cannot bear seeing my babies suffering. That only leaves Lemon (which will be in my G&T later) and R.C. which I usually use for respiratory support! So to say that my oils are well used is an understatement!

Hopefully we will turn a corner tomorrow and start to see the spots drying up, but for now I will be powered by Jesus, coffee and essential oils! Prayers appreciated! In the meantime if you want the down low on how to get this wellness kit into your home, message me or comment below!

R x

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Lifestyle, Parenting

Dear Harry and Meghan

Two days in to being parents, congratulations! The adrenalin is still running, hormones flowing, body aching and heart bursting. You are besotted with your beautiful boy and cannot bear to take your eyes of him for fear of missing something. Netflix has nothing on watching a newborn sleep.

Any parent will tell you that raising children is the most exhilarating and exhausting, beautiful yet bewildering role they have ever had. Being a mother was, and still is, my greatest ambition and my greatest achievement. But it has not been without its challenges, namely around maternal mental health, which was overcome with a lot of love, faith, prayer and communication.

I want to encourage you both that you have a winning formula to start your new role as parents. When we watch you in public, we see warmth, love and respect, a genuine affection for one another that overrides the world around you. This love, this bond is your greatest source of strength as you navigate your new normal.

To any new parents I say this; keep checking in on each other. Sleepless nights can strain solid marriages, teething tests a mother’s bond to breaking point and tantrums can make the most patient parent tear their hair out. These seasons of motherhood are messy and miraculous.

It’s normal to find the days long and the nights longer. It’s natural to go into survival mode as the days blur from one to another in the early weeks and months. My advice to all new parents is to keep looking at one another. Keep locking your gaze and speaking words of love, encouragement and understanding through your eyes in the way that only couples can. Talk often and openly about everything and anything.

Be patient with each other, hold hands, hold your tongue and hold on for the ride. And above all, trust God as you embark on the best role there is.

Enjoy every minute.

R x

Photo Credit: Chris Allerton ©️SussexRoyal
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Faith, Homeschool, Parenting

The Homeschool Diaries #1

We have completed our first week of homeschool, and true to form I’ll be sharing our journey here. I’ve been slathering on ALL the grounding essential oils to keep us calm and collected. Sacred Mountain, stress Away and Peppermint by day and Dreamcatcher by night 👌🏻

So what does homeschool look like? Well honestly, I have no idea yet. I am trusting God every step on this journey, and our homeschool is very much His homeschool. We aren’t doing any formal education until September, so truth be told this week has felt like an extension of the half term holiday. The general advice is that you should deschool one month for every year that your child has been at school, so for our eldest that means five months. I’ve got to be honest I don’t know if we will make it the full five months but it is vital we take it slow and strip it right back to basics.

This week we had play dates with some lovely homeschoolers and it was wonderful to watch the children just being free. Bee loved having her brothers with her all the time, and the boys enjoyed meeting lots of other homeschooled children. I think it opened their eyes to the fact that there is a whole other community out there! Our eldest especially loved attending a home we multi-sports event where he got to try his hand at golf!

I am constantly in awe of how much support and resource there is that we can access. We have felt so welcomed in our first week on this journey. Dave and I are headed to not one but two home education conferences this month which will help us find our feet too. First up is the Learn Free Conference in Coventry in a couple of weeks that we are going to together (child free!). It is also our anniversary weekend so will be surprising my man with a cheeky night away too. Then, the week, after I am part of the volunteer team at Wild + Free Europe conference in Stratford! I cannot wait to love on the mamas and learn from the best. May is going to be awesome!

R x

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Faith

Sitting in the Son

Sitting in the Son. Yes the spelling is intentional. Because God knows I need His presence today. I didn’t make it through ten minutes of church because my two year old had other ideas. My ten year olds behaviour has been disgraceful on and off all week. Our belongings are scattered between about sixteen different bags that are rammed into every available space in our car. Tempers are rising as fast as the temperature. It’s safe to say we are ready to go home.

I hate leaving Wales because the mountains and the ocean soothe my soul like nothing else on earth. But I also hate the temporality of holidays, and by the end of the week away I find myself craving the comfort and familiarity of home.

But where is home? It doesn’t feel like Birmingham. With its rising crime and pollution filled air. It doesn’t feel like the hustle and bustle, the traffic, the sirens. But it is where God called us all those years ago. He asked us to serve and serve we have. Through redundancies, depression, anxiety and adoption, we have served. After a much needed year of selah, where we have leaned on God like never before, we are finally steady on our feet. As I start to feel my strength returning and as we get ready to start a new adventure, it should come as no surprise that the devil starts knocking.

You can’t do this. You won’t do this. You are going to fall again. You are going to mess up.

His whispers mix with my thoughts and mess with my mind. But Jesus. Oh Jesus.

When He was nailed to the cross, my fears and failures were nailed with Him. When He rose from the grave victorious, I too rose with Him. He won the battle for my life so I could win the battles in life.

Jesus said I am with you today and always. You are not alone. I’ve got you and we’ve got this. You are loved, you are precious, you are a child of God.

Oh Jesus.

Don’t listen to the lies of the enemy of your soul. He will do everything He possibly can to derail your destiny. Listen to the one who defeated hell and holds the keys to hades in His hands. Listen to the one who loves you so completely and unconditionally, just as you are. His words in the Bible and His actions on the cross shout louder than any of the devils whispers.

Today I am sitting in the Son. Because His presence calms the storm in my heart, soothes the troubles in my mind and restores my soul.

R x

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Adoption, Faith, Lifestyle, Parenting

Everything I never wanted

It is Mothers Day, and this is the first one as a mom of three that I am actually looking forward to. Last year I was dreading the emotions (or lack thereof), that I would feel when my children bundled into bed with me.

I consider myself crazy blessed as a mom of three, but I wouldn’t wish my motherhood journey on anyone. Before I had my first child I knew a little about postnatal depression and knew of people who experienced it, but I learned so much more when I actually experienced it. I had moderate postnatal depression after my second son was born.

I put my tiredness down to juggling two, I put my desolation down to long days and sleepless night. It took me five excruciating months to get professional help with my maternal mental health and medication and conversation helped me through one of the darkest times. Fast forward a few years to the adoption of our daughter. A perfect princess to complete our family, yet when she arrived, my world came crashing down once again.

Motherhood seemed to be everything I never wanted

It seemed so unfair. I wanted to feel happy and proud but I felt terrified and trapped. I wanted to cherish and treasure my babies but I was angry and ashamed. All I had ever wanted was to be a mom, yet not once, but twice my mental health suffered as a result. I had done everything ‘right’, prepared, planner and prayed, yet postnatal and post adoption depression and anxiety tried to crush me.

But it failed.

Because my God is greater.

If you are facing tough times please know that you are not alone.

God will never leave you nor forsake you, even if you feel like He has.

I spent hours, literally hours on my knees crying and screaming out to God to fix the mess I was in, to take away the pain. I didn’t feel Him but I know He was there. And now as I look at my babies, I look back and see that while I was holding on to hope, God was holding onto them.

He cradled my baby when I couldn’t.

He soothed troubled hearts while mine was overwhelmed.

He did what I wouldn’t, then when I was ready He gently handed them back to me.

Mama, if you are reading this in the wee hours of the night because you cannot sleep, or with tears rolling down your cheeks because you know how it feels to want to just run away from everyone, everything, please know you are not alone. I was there, twice. I made it through and you will too.

Check out our Facebook group Moms on Mental Health for friendship and support with other mamas who have overcome depression or are still battling through it. We are stronger together and we would love to cheer you through the dark days.

R x

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Faith, Homeschool, Lifestyle, Parenting

Why we want to homeschool

When we become parents, education is quickly at the forefront of our minds. We want to buy the right sensory toys, read the right books, have regular tummy time, attend baby gym classes and so on. We go from teaching them to roll, crawl and walk, to talk, read and write. But what about their character?

I think that developing character takes time and influence, and we need to think about who has the greatest influence in our children’s lives on a day to day basis. Their Teacher? The Teaching Assistant? Their friends? My eldest was put into childcare just before his first birthday and has essentially been in some form of formal education ever since. For eight years my son has received excellent holistic care, ensuring his physical and emotional needs were met. But what about his spiritual needs?

It is for this reason that we chose a faith school for our boys when they reached school age. Both have achieved all the proper milestones and progressed through Early Years Foundation Stage in to KS1. We loved the fact that Jesus was discussed at every opportunity and the boys developed great friendships. In short, the school we had chosen felt like the very best option for our family.

But God had other ideas.

We have several friends who homeschool, some have been doing it for over a decade, others little over a year, and their journey’s have fascinated me. One dear friend has talked about homeschooling her children for years. I found myself facilitating a conversation with my curious friend and a homeschooler and I found myself listening intently and asking questions. I felt very much like my spirit had been stirred bu God, and started thinking about whether this was actually feasible for us.

I felt very much like my spirit had been stirred by God

I am often quick to ‘join the party’ so I wanted to make sure that my interest in homeschooling was from God, and not just my own whimsical musings, and sure enough He pressed homeschooling on my heart. Everywhere I went, I would meet homeschoolers, or homeschooling would come up in conversation, or I would read articles about why I should consider it. In fairness, I did consider it, but quickly dismissed the idea as there was no way my personality type could cope (or indeed wanted to cope) with my kiddos 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

But God. True to form, He softened my heart and revealed to me how beautiful this process could be. That homeschool is more than just teaching subjects, but nurturing tender hearts.

Homeschool is more than just teaching subjects, but nurturing tender hearts

To develop their young characters, my children need me, and they need Jesus a whole lot more. In order for me to best raise my children I need to get to know them better, and if they are spending upwards of 6 hours a day in the care of others then this is going to get difficult. In addition to that, I felt shortchanged by the education system that was taking my babies at 8.45am, sucking them dry then spitting them out tired and grumpy at the end of the day. By the end of term, the boys are almost on their knees, pale face and dark eyes. Then there is the excessive nail biting that occurs only when at school because my eldest finds it stressful to sit still for so long, and they are only in primary school!

Homeschool will give us freedom

I believe that God wants us to live differently and homeschool will give us freedom. Freedom to learn about Jesus, freedom to tie subjects together from a biblical perspective, freedom to take as much time as we need to over a topic and freedom to explore outdoor experiential learning. I want to spend time with my children. Now I realise for many working parents, this simply isn’t an option right now. For others still, they simply don’t want to, AND THAT IS OKAY. What is right for one isn’t right for everyone, and there is no judgement here against any mom or dad, guardian or carer who doesn’t want to pick up this mantel.

So that, in a nutshell, is why we are homeschooling our brood. In short, that is what God told us to do! I can’t wait to share the rest of our homeschool journey with you as we pull our boys out of school on Friday 12th April. Watch this space!

R x

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