Being Intentional During Lockdown

We are on Day 3 of lockdown here in New Zealand. It is Saturday and feels as if we have been on holiday in a remote place for a week. I am both loving it and thinking what a challenge it will be in many ways, for all people. We are made to be with people and interact with people – yes, even us introverts! – so it will be by Grace that we all will get through this time.

I believe deeply that God is Sovereign and therefore, I believe this time of isolation is ordained by Him. It needn’t be just about surviving four weeks (or more) of lockdown, we can thrive during this time! We can redeem this time for His glory and our good as we live simply at home.

I’m realising how important it is to have both a routine for our days and to have goals to work toward over the next month. I mentioned in my last post two specific ones, but I have been pondering more since, and I have come up with a broader vision for goals, as well as specific ones.

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I am not usually a goal-setter. Perhaps it is my Type-B personality or that I don’t like feeling like I am failing at something so I just tend not to make goals for myself. I am generally happy just pottering and slowly working on something over time (like the garden).

But I am coming to see that goals with intentionality doesn’t have to be the hustle-like goals I see around that make me feel like I would never live up to them. I believe that being faithful toward little things is something I can, by Grace, do. And, at a time like this, how important it is to have intentionality about our days.

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I have a bullet journal that is where I record my weeks and lists and homeschool things. I call it my Homeschool Mother’s Journal, though I actually record what we do for schooling elsewhere. This is more of my Homeschool Mother planner with books we read, curriculum plans, daily tasks etc.

In my Mother Culture section (more specific to me and my own education), I have a two-page spread of my goals for the lockdown. I have created six categories with three different goals beneath: Faith, Reading, Hands (or Hobbies), Homemaking, Homeschooling, and Home Projects.

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If I complete only half of my hopes, I will still feel good. In the end, redeeming the time during lockdown is more about how I am using this unique time for the Lord rather than achievements. I dislike so much that our world is all about how much we do and not who we are. This time ought to be a cultivation of our character, a resting in His grace, a seeking of Him, and spending our days with submissive hearts.

This blog post by Rebekah at Ready to Be Offered shares my thoughts so well on accepting where we are right now, laying down before the line, and embracing the limitations put before us. This period of social isolation and home-living will be fruitful and peaceful as we do this, rather than a time of chafing and biting at the bit.

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So I encourage you to sit down and pray about redeeming this time and being intentional about lockdown. How can you cultivate your faith? How can you grow your habits? How can you improve your mind? How can you nourish your children? How can you build your home? How can you have a settled and joyful heart?

Friends, we can really flourish during this time!

What are some goals you might have during lockdown?

Lockdown: A Call Home

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Tonight, as of 11.59pm, all of New Zealand goes under lockdown. Our Prime Minister make the announcement on Monday in our bid to stop Coronavirus and protect the vulnerable people of our country. (In horrible irony/hypocrisy, this week our Parliament also voted to decriminalise abortion – but that is another complete post.)

After the initial sense of “oh my, a whole month”, I am now settling into the reality with relish. Obviously I am not happy for the reasons for being on lockdown, as an introvert and homebody, I am thrilled to have no outside pressures of “have to’s” demanding my attention and pulling the children and I out of the house.

We are allowed to go for walks around the neighbourhood, or go grocery shopping for essential supplies, but other than that, we must stay home.

This view will keep my soul still as we live in a still half-done house.

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In many ways, it is a call for an entire nation to simple living for a whole month. To step back out of the crazy busy world of 2020 living, and take a breather, and live the way (I believe), we are meant to. And I really pray that God uses this time to turn people’s hearts to Him and, for Christian families who have been caught in the current, draw them back to the peaceful waters of living a quiet life.

There is nothing more that I love is being home with my family, pottering around the house, and doing things I love like reading, writing, and growing in Jesus.

And I have two goals for this lockdown month: 1. Get in a good daily rhythm of learning with the children and; 2. Paint the stairwell and downstairs hall. (I haven’t done an update on the house in a while but will do so soon.)

I plan to finish reading Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer (a reread from many years ago). Have you ever read any of the novels by Georgette Heyer? They are so witty, delightful, and full of regency goodness.

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I also plan to start getting back into writing a novel. I have always desired to write about what it was like going from England to New Zealand as a colonist. There is a story in me but I am my own worst critic. Yet, through God’s grace, I will do it (eventually).

So I hope to enjoy and delight in this time and use it well for His glory.

How are you going to spend your lockdown?

Monthly Unschooling Highlights: February

Welcome to another Monthly Highlight of our unschooling life! This is such a great way for, not only myself to see what we get up to, but for other mothers to see how natural learning looks like in a month. It gives us a bigger picture of learning in our family, rather than the nitty-gritty details of the day-to-day.

Clearly this is not all we did or learned or explored, these are just the highlights. If you want to see what we got up to in January, click here.

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Nature

We did so many walks and explorations outside this month. The weather was more settled than it had been over Christmas, so we took full advantage of it! Forest, beach, outside play – the late summer sun was delicious. Even with some rainy days, with our new invested rain jackets, we still set out to be outside.

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Because we are still only new to Dunedin, we are enjoying getting to know all the amazing walks and places to be. There are so many. I have also started a Nature Day once a month with our homeschool group, and we spent three hours at the shore. The children played and explored, while the adults relaxed and chatted.

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Building

Lots of work was done on the house in the final month of summer before Tim started university. Windows put in, cladding put up – major construction work that made our days often noisy and topsy-turvy. The children handled it so well and still use the three-storey scaffolding as a jungle gym! I think the greatest blessing, other than being able to pitch in, is seeing their Daddy work so hard (even when he really, really struggled).

This life that we live, with Daddy home so much more, is so different than what we have had before. The children and I are used to Daddy being out 50+ hours a week (plus church commitments) and so we are adjusting to all being together so much. But now, the children actually have been able to SEE their father working rather than a second-hand thought that ‘daddy goes to work’.

It reminds me of John Holt’s thoughts that children need to be involved in adult work more and more so they can see how something is made from start to finish, and to understand the discipline and effort that is needed to work hard and to finish a project well.

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Our Chapter Book Reader

I think our biggest celebration and highlight this month was Josiah taking the plunge and started reading chapter books! We have read around five or six Magic Tree House books the past few months, and I suggested to Josiah if he wanted to try one himself. I was surprised and pleased when he took my idea and ran with it. In a space of two weeks, he read three or four MTH books all for himself! It was a pure joy to see the way he has taught himself to read, from comic books and picture books, to now chapter books and harder books (like National Geographic magazines). I am so, so proud of him.

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We did so many other things within this month – art creations, LEGO, play dates, Friday fun with our homeschool group, documentaries, and loads of books (always lots of books!). But these were the things that, as I am looking back on the photos that I have taken, stood out to me for the month.

What has been happening in your homeschool life this month?

 

daring to be different (even if it is hard)

I have always been different. Not always radically, but always slightly.

I married young. I never worked full-time. I was a stay-at-home wife before children. We had our children close together. After a short stint at preschool, we have never sent our children to an institution. And, after beginning our journey, we unschool.

Some people may look at me and think that I enjoy challenging the status quo. My parents taught me from a young age to look deeper at things and ask why. So perhaps I am predisposed to being different.

But I think, really, the more I have sought God on our life, the more He has asked us to go deeper into being different. And I always said I would go wherever He asked me to go. But sometimes, just sometimes, being different is hard.

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I go through periods of time when I feel quite confident in how we homeschool. That is, I see our joyful our days are and the fruit of our children’s learning. It builds my trust in the Lord as I see how His leading brings life and rightness in our family life. It also encourages me that maybe I am not crazy in how I have sensed the Lord leading us, and all the moments when something I’ve read resonated and made sense to me, whether in the Bible or through someone else, it was the Holy Spirit guiding.

But then, I go through periods of time where I freak out and worry that we’re not doing enough, that I am not doing enough. I compare myself to other homeschooling friends, or I feel awkward answering genuine questions, and the arrows of self-doubt come at me red and hot.

I start doubting everything and negating all the wonderful things that have happened over the last months or year, and think, “The children are a little older so now we need to knuckle down and start doing more.” And because I love the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, I start planning and spreading out the feast of books and enrichments. So much of Charlotte Mason’s words ring very true to me and make so much sense. It seems like a no brainer to do them.

I learn my lesson very quickly every time.

Tensions rise, tears are shed, and the self-doubt grows bigger and deeper. Though I can see learning connections and growth, the joy goes away. The connection I sense between my children and I, but particularly in my son, becomes strained. I become even what Charlotte Mason tells me not be – above my children as the teacher. But my insecurities tell me that I am supposed to be the teacher – that is how I know the children will succeed, right? It’s comforts my doubts.

This usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks. When I finally submit to what brings peace to our home, it feels like the beginning of spring – light, joyful, ready to run the hills. Fighting diminishes, I see the learning everywhere again, and we’re a genuinely happy family again. My heart praises the Lord for His patience, kindness, and pattern for our family.

So how do I stop worrying what people think…or be at peace with being different?

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I keep my eyes on the Lord.

For awhile now, I know that this may be the single most important reason why we unschool: it keeps me on my knees before the Lord. Instead of relying on myself, my trust in the educational system, or in a curriculum, I am trusting in the Creator and Sovereign God of our children (that are actually His).

I sometimes think that perhaps unschooling is more for me as a mother and Christian, than it is for our children (but that must be a post for another day, I think). But then, I also see the freedom the children are growing up in and I know that the Lord will show them one day that their childhood is a foretaste of the true freedom that awaits them, in their relationship with Christ and in the Heaven to come.

When I hear criticisms and concerns from fellow Christians about unschooling, it is easy to listen and get afraid. But this I always remind myself of when I do struggle with being different: fear does not come from the Lord, but from the Enemy. So if I am worrying and being afraid, then perhaps we’re doing something right for our children and the Enemy is just trying his best to get us off of the Lord’s plans for us. 

Now that is fuel for the fire to keep calm and keep unschooling.

 

How do you deal with being different as a Christian unschooling parent?

 

my favourite charlotte mason blogs

Reading blogs is one of my favourite past times. In fact, in reading blogs, the Lord led me to the idea of homeschooling – something my husband and I had never thought we would do.

I love finding blogs that help me grow deeper in my understanding of Charlotte Mason, as well as inspire me with ideas of curriculum, books, resources for enrichment studies etc. So I thought I would compile a list of my favourite online CM places that another reader might be equally equipped for this life.

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Farmhouse Schoolhouse

Even though Elsie is probably more heavily Classical, she is definitely influenced by Charlotte Mason. I appreciate Elsie because she has four boys and I, only having one, am always on the look out for mother’s who are able to home educate their sons in a more academic way. I find her posts helpful and encouraging, and I love following her on Instagram, too.

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A Humble Place

Rebecca produced a Kindergarten curriculum guide a number of years ago which inspired me because other CM sources do not. I love her Term Review posts to see how her homeschooling is going with her two children as they work through Ambleside Online. I appreciate her honesty when something doesn’t work, like when she dropped Trial and Triumph, and how she adjusts her schedule accordingly. Rebecca is a wonderful source of insight and practical help for the CM mama.

Charlotte Mason Kindergarten Morning Time - ahumbleplace.com

Afterthoughts

Brandy has a mix of Classical and CM, like other mothers, but she definitely writes more about her journey through Charlotte Mason. When I have been grappling with a particular idea of Charlotte Mason, or trying to work out how to apply a principle, I often turn to Brandy for an article that will help me. Her post I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will, OR: I Can Do the Work of Homeschooling is one of my favourite blog posts of all time. I return to it frequently for a kick and motivation to do the work I have been tasked to do.

Charlotte Mason's motto for homeschool moms -- another pep talk written to myself.

The Unplugged Family

I have loved Cassandra’s blog for years. She stopped blogging for a couple of years as their family went through some changes, but she is starting to blog again and I am so excited. When we did Five in a Row, I would look at her posts for help. But we have had conversations and she believes that children are capable of doing harder things from a young age, especially boys. So I am excited to read more of her CM posts and continue to go back through her others for inspiration.

Around the Thicket

Amy is a wonderful resource for mother’s with younger children, the early years. She is also really passionate about Mother Culture and encouraging mother’s to pursue their own education as a habit that, not only shapes her character, but is an example to her children as she exorts them in their own education. She has some great free resources, as well.

There They Are…

There are so many other blogs out there that are encouraging and informing about educating our children in the Charlotte Mason way. I hope to share soon my favourite Instagram accounts that inspire and encourage, too.

I couldn’t finish this post though, without naming a few more that I love, too. More personal blogs, like my own, that I get excited when I see they have posted something new.

Lessons Unfolded

In the Stillness

Botch Family Homeschool

The Grace-filled Life

Do you have a favourite Charlotte Mason blog I have missed?

 

 

Monthly Unschooling Highlights: January

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We have had an amazing start to the year, albeit a bit rocky with some of the building work going on around here. Living in a construction zone definitely adds layers to our days with noise, contractors, Mummy heading outside to help Dad etc. But, it is a blessing in the long run for the children, and we believe that God is using this to shape their character (as well as ours, obviously!).

So in between all the renovation work, here are some wonderful highlights from this month in January from a Christian unschooling family!

 

+ Family Visiting: Both my brother and Father visited over Christmas and into the New Year. Some friend’s let them stay at their house on their farm to look after the house while they were away, so we were at the farm daily. Around this time the Australian bush fires were at their worst, and strange yellow clouds hung heavy in the sky all the way here in New Zealand. This created some good conversations and lots of prayer for Australia. There was also a lot of Pokémon card playing with their Uncle!
Later in January, my Mother visited also. Rosalie went with her to see Frozen 2 (the second time!) and we enjoyed visiting thrift stores and the beach. It was wonderful to spend time with her as we had not really been able to have a proper goodbye when we left Christchurch.
+ Otago Settlers Museum: The children had been wanting to visit this place since we arrived. Josiah has been so interested in the age of all the amazing historic buildings around the city, memorising which ones were the oldest. We were so impressed with this museum and I think our favourite room was the Gallery Room which held paintings and pictures of many of the early settlers. Josiah was fascinated with them.
+ Warm weather finally arrived and we have been to lots of beaches and enjoying our new natural home. Sometimes we have met up with other families, or we have just gone by ourselves. We’ve spotted creatures we’ve never seen before (shrimp!) and just enjoyed God’s amazing world.
+ Homeschool Group: After Christmas break, our group is starting up again. We mostly meet on Fridays for sport and play, but this year I hope to start a nature/outdoors group from mid-February.
+ Meeting the Otago Highlanders: Rugby has been such a massive part of Josiah’s unschooling over the last six months, so when we came across the 2020 Highlanders squad signing autographs we jumped straight into line! It was a dream come true! My Mama-heart was very thankful to the Lord for providing such a surprise for us and for filling Josiah’s boy-heart with happiness. It makes learning come even more alive.
+ Big Cats: Anything to do with lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards – anything Big Cats! I can’t remember how this began, but he has been reading many books about them and absorbing lots of facts and new ideas. We’ve watched a couple of BBC documentaries about cheetahs and jaguars, as well as some Wild Kratt videos. Josiah has read quite a few National Geographic Kids books and magazines, too.
+ Rosalie has been doing lots of art. This is not unusual but I have intentionally sought out art and craft books from the library, and we have had fun trying out new ways of doing art. I think our favourite has been using pastel and watercolour together. And we have enjoyed doing some craft activities, too.
+ Magic Treehouse Books: We have read about six MTH books this month. The kids have devoured them! And the adventures have often tied in with interests we have been looking into (eg. Sunset of the Sabertooth) and sparked new interests (eg. Afternoon on the Amazon). We love how short they are so our read aloud feels really attainable.

 

Of course, there have been so many other things that we have done, read, talked about, and seen. Much of life is not “documentable” and yet, is very much meaningful and all part of education. I love seeing all that we have lived in only one month and makes me thankful that our children are living such a full and joyous life!

What did you and your children enjoy this month?

Having a Vision For Motherhood

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Have you ever thought about having a vision for your mothering? If you feel like you are floundering in your days with your children, and you feel lost in your role, I would love to encourage you to cultivate a mission in your heart as a mother.

 

“The more clearly you can define your vision for your children, and the more specific your plan for carrying out that vision, the more confident you will become at the daily process of building your home.” ~ Sally Clarkson, Seasons of a Mother’s Heart

I remember holding my week-old son, rocking in his bedroom, trying to get him to sleep. Finally I was a mother, but, despair filled my heart. Was this really motherhood? It was so mundane and repetative and, well, hard. The sunny ideals that I had unknowingly cultivated in my heart for so many years were not at all like reality.
Yet, my ideals were not misplaced. Coming from a broken home, God had created in me a deep desire for motherhood and marriage for His glory. Motherhood is a beautiful and incredible ministry for His kingdom here on earth. I was so thankful for my son (and then, daughter!), but I didn’t know how to mother.
By His grace, I discovered Sally Clarkson.
When I got my hands on The Mission of Motherhood, my heart was filled with joy and relief: here was a woman who wrote all that I believed about motherhood and showed me how! And, the first thing her book encouraged me to do was, not just to believe in the mission and ministry of motherhood, but to have a clear vision of its’ worth and meaning.
Sally says,

 

“If your plan is based on clear biblical principles, you won’t be easily swayed by the conflicting voices of other opinions that will try to convince you that you are not doing it right. And if you are secure in your vision and plan, your children will be more secure because of your confidence.”

So, how to we create a clear vision and plan?

Ultimately, God will cultivate a passion for motherhood as you seek Him in His Word. Have you ever gone to the Bible and studied some of the many passages that speak about or image mothering? Here are a few of my favourites:

 

“He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who have young.” ~ Isaiah 40:11
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am convinced is in you as well.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:5
“But Mary stored up all these things in her heart.” ~ Luke 2:19

 

These verses, and so many more, have built up in my heart the conviction that being a mother to the children God has given me is the primary calling, under being a wife to Tim, in this season of my life. Obviously, I will always be a mother but I will not always be needed as much as I am now. The hearts and minds of these two precious ones have been given to me to steward, and to no-one else.
When I realise the vital importance of this task and, especially that they are not mine, but His, then the vision God has for them becomes the vision for me as their mother.

 

“So, start with a good plan. Know where you want to go with your family, and what you want our children to become, and start building. That’s how God planned it.” ~ Sally

If you need encouragement and guidance from a beautiful mother who has walked this path before us, I so recommend starting with Sally’s book The Mission of Motherhood. It is just amazing!