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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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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Parenting

Just a mom?

You are more than just a mom. Those words actually make me wince.

Today is International Women’s Day and social media is all lit up with phrases like ‘you are more than just a mom, you are a woman, you can rule the world’. Hashtags like #girlboss #bossbabe #girlpower and #thisgirlcan constantly remind us that we can have our cake and eat it, that our identities are not found in the mouths we feed or in the nappies we change, but are found in the very core of our being, in our passions, gifts and talents.

As the next generation of powerful women, we are called to use our passions and become entrepreneurs, CEO’s, politicians and public speakers. We are women, hear us roar, and we are destined for greatness.

But what if you are destined to be a mother?

But what if you are destined to be a mother? What if, since you were a little girl, all you have dreamed of is holding your very own baby in your arms and raising a family?

What if you just wanted to be a mom?

I am a big advocate for women achieving all they can be and more, and I don’t want to offend anyone who thinks I don’t approve of their life choices. Your personal path in life is exactly that; personal. I love that women can run FTSE100 companies and manage to run a household at the same time. I love that women can hustle with the best of them in the board room then come home to read bedtime stories. I love that women can lead our country, do all these things and more, providing that they are happy and fulfilled while doing them.

As for me? I have always just wanted to be a mother. Sure I have talents; I am a voracious reader and as you might have guessed an avid blogger to boot. I love networking, communicating and being creative. I am passionate about writing, in pretty much any form, from web content for a client, to worship songs on my piano. But I don’t see myself as a writer who is also a mom, I see myself as a mom who is also a writer.

I don’t see myself as a writer who is also a mom,
I see myself as a mom who is also a writer.

Rightly or wrongly, motherhood is an identity that I truly identify with. I see it as less of a label and more of a mantle bestowed upon me by God Himself. Yes, there are days when I might gladly trade my beautiful children for wild animals, in the hope that the animals will be easier to control, but by and large, motherhood is, in my humble opinion, the greatest role I will ever have. And if you don’t agree with my thinking, then guess what? That is ok too!

Alongside my husband, I am responsible for shaping three little lives. I am responsible for keeping them safe while teaching them how to eat, drink, speak, dress and navigate this dark world in which we live. As a mother, my role is to ultimately prepare my children for life without me, and I don’t want this responsibility to fall on anyone else’s shoulders but mine.

I am so incredibly grateful for my self-employed businesses, which means I get the best of both worlds; the freedom to raise my family and the finances to help support our home lives. I love my work and I don’t take it for granted. But I do want to acknowledge the stay at home mom’s who have chosen to commit to the most incredible, selfless and, at times thankless, job of raising their family full time.

On International Women’s Day 2019, whether you are high flying career mom or homeschooling hippie mom, (or both!) please remember this:

You are not just a mom, you are a manager of a human being.

And that, my friend, is pretty awesome.

R

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Parenting

Why first days break hearts

This week social media has been awash with smiling cherubic faces proudly wearing their school uniforms, and behind most camera lens is a misty-eyed parent. Walking my son to school for his very first morning was more than a tad emotional’ his little knees peeping out beneath his freshly ironed shorts and his chubby little hands clutching his book bag. Tears pricked my eyes for the umpteenth time that hour as I watched him skip into the playground to see his friends. Selfishly, I wish that I could stop time and keep him with me always, a small dependent little man who needs me always. The reality is that my four going on fourteen-year-old is more than ready to start school, just like his brother.

Once through the door, rather than waiting for the roll call, my cheeky chappy simply said “It’s OK Mommy, they know me here,” and with that, he bounded down the corridor and grabbed his teacher’s hand. All the feels.

As hard as it was for me to watch my baby step into the world of education, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I want to be front row and centre in every step he takes, and the idea of missing this momentous occasion fills me with horror.

Yet so many parents don’t have a choice.

My heart is heavy for the working mama who couldn’t get the time off to wave her daughter off and had to send Daddy instead. I think of the separated parents who missed out on the first day

I think of the separated parents who missed out on the first day because it ‘wasn’t their week’. I think of the dad who works away for months on end and had to wish his son good luck via FaceTime this morning.

I think of the parents who had to drop their precious child off at wraparound and missed out on the hustle and bustle of 30 excited four-year-old in shiny shoes and new shirts. I think of high profile parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; poor Catherine, pregnant with her third child and suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, was unable to watch her firstborn take his first steps into education. As she witnessed the milestone on social media like everyone else, it must have broken her heart.

Then there are the parents whose doorways are empty. The moms and dads whose babies grew angel wings far too soon and didn’t live to their fourth birthday. These parents know all too well that their child should have had their first day at school this week, yet there are no new shoes in the hallway, excited chatter in the home or pictures on the walls.

I deeply appreciate how blessed I am to be a mom of three. I have always dreamed of being a parent, and although I fail massively on a fairly regular basis, I wouldn’t trade the tantrums and tears for anything. This week has been a week of firsts, the first year in Juniors for my eldest, the first day in school for my second son, and the first day juggling three children on a school run. But it was a moment that I was able to be part of thanks to being self-employed, thanks to a loving God, and a supportive husband, and a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

As much as it hurts to let them go and let them grow, the ability to be able to stay home and nurture three little lives is a privilege. So as I blink back tears at the unfairness of time not standing still and feel sorry for myself this coming week, I will remember in my prayers those who would give anything to be in my position.

R x

 

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Parenting

You make it possible

Wednesday is my favourite day of the week. Why? Because it is a downhill slide on your backside to the weekend! Anyone who is parenting one small person (or multiples if you are truly reckless like me) will know that when your other half walks through the door on a Friday you can finally relax knowing that no longer are you the only source of entertainment / food / drink / discipline in the house.

To all the Dad’s, Step Dads, partners and parents of stay at home or self-employed moms; we salute you.

You make it possible to face another day of refereeing bickering boys and darling divas. You make coffee. Seriously, this is better than diamonds for most mommas! (OK maybe not quite). You make it possible for us to cook a reasonable dinner once or twice a week while you entertain the masses. You make it possible for us to resist cracking open a bottle of Pinot Grigio before 7pm (just).

But, more importantly, because you are working all the hours of the day (and night) you make it possible for us to do the school runs and wish our babies a great day as we wave them on. You make it possible for us to sit in assemblies with tear-soaked tissues as we watch our little one make their stage debut. You make it possible for us to cheer them on at sports days and you make it possible for us to be at home to mop fevered brows and give cuddles on demand when needed.

Children need their mommas, whether that is a birth mom, step-mom, foster mom, adoptive mom or spiritual mom. To be a full-time parent often requires a full-time salary sacrifice, and this usually has to be made up for somewhere else, be that benefits, partners or your own parents.

Being a full-time parent often requires a full-time sacrifice

To other halves everywhere, and especially to my own, thank you for enabling me and other mommas like me to raise our babies at home. Thank you for then coming home to take some of the load off us, despite having had a crazy week yourselves. Whether  we are juggling diapers or deadlines, you are our constant source of love, support, encouragement, guidance and strength. On the days when we can’t go on, or flat-out just don’t want to, it is your hand that pulls us up, dusts us down and sets us on our way again.

You make it possible.

We couldn’t do it without you, and quite frankly we wouldn’t want to.

R x

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Parenting

Working Mom Woes

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So here I am, sat in soft play, trying to bottom out some deadlines before the weekend. It is quieter than usual – possibly because most self-respecting parents don’t palm their kids off to soft play as soon as school’s out on a Friday – and I am trying to dodge the deprecating stares from moms who think I shouldn’t have my head stuck in a laptop.

Just to reassure you, I do know where my kids are. Mainly because I can hear their 100 decibel shrieks echo around the building, but also because I have placed myself right next to the exit with a full view of the entire place, so there is no way that they can escape without my knowing.

But alas, the mommy guilt is still there.

Yes, I am not playing with my boys right now, but that is because mommy has to earn to pay for their future. I also don’t want to be glued to the screen for the weekend as I firmly believe in setting aside Saturday and Sunday for quality time as a family, but in order to do that tomorrow I need to work now. The fact that the boys were ecstatic at the prospect of soft play madness straight after school is irrelevant, however, I still feel guilty. Then there is the distinctly un-homemade sausage, chips and beans dinner they have just wolfed down that gives me guilt pangs about processed food, despite the fact that I know they wouldn’t touch the Spanish paella I have planned for later.

This is not an everyday occurrence. Most days, my boys play outdoors, in parks, woods or wherever they can get to a patch of grass or puddle of mud. Most days they eat homemade food with me around the dining room table. Most days they keep me entertained for hours with Lego building and ninja battles.

But today is not that day, and that is OK too.

R

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Parenting

To the mom at the nursery gates

“It does get easier I promise”.

The words I gently spoke to a mom at nursery this morning as her son buried his head into her shoulder, crying before we even got through the front door. Her own lip wobbling, and tears filling her eyes, she tried to smile and spoke in a soothing, singing voice to reassure her toddler that he was doing so well and everything would be OK. She was dressed for work, and this was only his second week in to childcare, and the novelty of new toys and new faces had clearly worn off as he cling to her side. He didn’t want new toys or new friends today, he just wanted his momma.

My heart broke for them both. I wanted to tell her to quit the job, to scoop up her baby and take him home. I wanted to tell her that he needed her more than her manager did, more than her clients did. I wanted to tell her that she needn’t miss out on a single second of his precious little life for the sake of a few pounds in the bank.

But of course, that is ridiculous.

Some mothers work. Some mothers have no choice but to work, some are single moms who are fighting to keep the bills paid and food on the table. Some are high flying business women who have overcome incredible odds to establish their enterprise and they need to keep their business going. Some are climbing the career ladder now while they are young so they can provide for their children’s future. Some just flat out need a break from motherhood, and being an employee for several hours a day allows them to have the mental stimulation and adult company that they have craved during the last 12 months of maternity leave.

There is no right or wrong here, and far be it from me to judge any mother, whether she works full time in the office or works as a full time mom. In my humble opinion both roles are equally challenging and equally rewarding. But I do want to reach out to all the moms out there this week who have had to leave their crying babies at nursery or preschool, for all the moms who tried to hold back her tears until she got back in the car, for all the moms who are clock watching until it is pick up time.

I want to tell you that you are a good mom.

You are doing your level best for your babies, and sometimes that means walking them through difficult but necessary separation as they grow. Tears will cease and smiles will take their place, and you will both get through this tricky transition time unscathed.

Take a deep breath, take one day at a time, take the pressure off, and know that this too will pass.

He gently leads the mothers with their young ~ Isaiah 40:11

R

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Faith

Burning the candle at both ends

This is a topic that I feel hugely qualified to talk about. The craziness of life, juggling school runs and toddler tantrums while managing a family home and a writing business is a daily battle against the clock. I feel like I’m in a never ending episode of countdown with the second hand whittling away the minutes left in my day as I try to achieve my writing deadlines before ironing the uniforms for the next morning.

There are some days that I win my battle against the clock with remarkable aplomb, chores done, deadlines smashed way in advance and I find myself in the surprising state of relaxation, glass of wine in hand and Netflix on my laptop rather than Google Drive. There are others, however, that I fail miserably, forced to admit defeat as I fall asleep at the laptop and wake up in my fifth paragraph of ttttttttttttttttttttttttttt. I can’t count how many times I have wished for two or three 28 hour days in my week just to try and catch up with the mountainous laundry pile or clean my bathroom, much less spend time with my wonderfully supportive, long suffering husband.

But it’s just a season right? Burning the candle at both ends is an activity long endured and at times celebrated by hardworking parents who juggle life in order to provide security and stability for their family. A self confessed night owl who can’t function in the mornings before 7am, my days are frequently (and voluntarily!) fuelled by exorbitant amounts of caffeine that makes my evening routine far easier to bear.

This need to be awake and alert is not uncommon, and in fact God has recently been speaking to me a great deal about remaining just so in my daily walk with Him. I have found myself returning to the parables of the Ten Bridesmaids in Matthew 25 over and over again, and when it was preached on at church last week I realised that God obviously wants me to hear this, and hear it thoroughly. This story, told be Jesus, is of ten bridesmaids who were required to keep their lamps burning into the night so that they could welcome the bridegroom when he came unexpectedly to take his bride. Unlike my less successful evenings when deadlines beckon, the bridesmaids were able to sleep during the night while they waited but they had to be prepared and alert, lamps filled with oil, ready to receive the bridegroom at a moments notice.

The first point God whispered to my heart was that they wouldn’t have been able to be alert and ready if they weren’t first rested.

To expect someone to function fully at a moments notice in the night requires them to have had the right amount of rest beforehand, and God revealed to me that unless I am fully rested, finding my peace and fulfilment in Him, then I will never be able to fully function in the night; the dark world that I find myself in today.

Whether we like it or not, darkness reign on this earth, and night time has come. BUT there is a glorious dawn on the horizon, when our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ WILL come again to reclaim God’s creation and redeem His sons and daughters.

My friend, we are in dark times, and I believe that God would say to us that we need to be awake, alert and aware of what is going on around us, and in order to fully function at a moments notice, like the bridesmaids we need to be filled and fulfilled by God Himself on a daily basis.

Seek Him for your healing, seek Him for your spouse, seek Him for your financial miracle, seek Him for your children. Don’t allow previous disappointments and doubts for the future cloud your ability to seek first His face, to rest in His presence and be filled with every good thing that you need.

The second point God spoke into my heart was that without their lamps burning they wouldn’t have been able to see who was coming.

We are in dark times and the devil is on the rampage. You may be quietly going about your life, doing great things for the Kingdom of God, building your business or raising a family, but know this; the thief comes in the dead of night, to steal, kill and destroy. And he will do everything in his power to distract you and throw you off track. You need to make sure that your lamp is burning brightly so that you can illuminate the darkness and make sure that the person leading you forward is Jesus, no one else. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the devil cannot influence you. True, when we are born again he has no power over us, he cannot touch us, but he can cause us to doubt, to be distracted, to be delayed and ultimatley lead us on a path of self destruction without us even realising it.

My friend, as a believe you are the bride of Christ. You are His perfect, spotless, beautiful bride and He is coming back for YOU. Rest in Him, find peace and fulfilment in Him and Him alone, and keep your lamp burning bright so that you let the bridegroom and only the bridegroom come to claim you.

R x

 

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