Don’t Be Afraid to Unschool

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This post is directed to Christian unschoolers but I hope it will be an encouragement to all who read it.

When the Lord led me to unschooling, I was so afraid. In fact, I was more afraid of this than even homeschooling itself (which had seemed crazy when I had first thought of it).

Unschooling just seemed so…risky. What about math? Did it mean gaming all the time? Did I have any say as a parent? What if…?

The feeling I had, waiting to obey the Lord, was like I was standing on the edge of a bridge, ready to bungee-jump off, and I was absolutely freaking out. Even though I know the rope will keep me safe, it is the fear that is overwhelming and preventing me from taking the plunge, as I stand high above the river and rocks below.

It is fear, isn’t it, that keeps us from willingly follow the Lord.

So, if you are sensing the Lord leading you to unschooling with your children, let me encourage you not to follow fear and be kept back from unschooling with these three points.

1. God has got them.

It was Sally Clarkson and Edith Schaeffer that first helped me realise that my children were not, in fact, mine. Both their books The Mission of Motherhood and What is a Family? respectively, were what confirmed homeschooling as the right direction for us as a family. A huge part of that confirmation was God pressing upon my heart how precious are these children and how much He loves them.

He loves them because they are His. He made them for Himself.

Julie Polanco, in her book Godschooling, also confirmed this by pointing out that God knows their future, not us, and therefore, He knows what they need to know and love as they are growing and learning. So let Him lead their interests, passions, and curiosities.

I can only see this in my own life. As I look back, I can see how God directed me to books, friends, places, movies, and many other things that cultivated interests and passions in my life that direct me to this very day.

We can trust God with our children.

2. You will be a better mother.

Now, I am NOT saying mothers who do not unschool are bad mothers – at all. This post is directed to mothers who, like me, have sensed God leading their children into an unschooling life – but it is scary. Unschooling is not the only way to educate children. I absolutely believe that.

Just like our children, God has got us, as their mothers. He knows what we need to be amazing mothers for the children He has given us.

When I release my fear to God and trust Him with the children’s learning, He opens my eyes so wide to them. Their joy and their love and their interests fill me with love and joy and interest. I really look into my children and enjoy them. I am a free, at rest mother.

God knows that I need this unschooling life just as much as my children because He knows, when I ask him, “Lord, please help me love my children” this is His answer to me.

3. He is trustworthy.

It really all comes back down to that. It’s simple. Trust God.

We hate being so finite – we want to know what the future holds for our children. If we knew, we could let go and not stress so much.

We also hear the criticisms of others – well-meaning, or not – and we doubt. Even if we have had clear guidance from God in Scripture that this is the way to go, as well as from those we trust, we still doubt. It’s like the serpent in the Garden, “Did God really say?”

But, God promises to give us wisdom and guidance and understanding if we ask Him. He is the only one who does know the future. We can rest in His providence.

And, we can trust Him that, as we go along the unschooling journey, if He wants to change our direction to something more formal or traditional, He will lead us. We just have to keep in-step with the Spirit, listen, and obey.

So…

…if He has been leading you to this way of education, trust God with your children. And, just do it – unschool. You’ll be absolutely amazed by what God has in store for your children, for you, and your whole family life.

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How Social Media is Killing my Homemaking.

I’m so ashamed to say it, but it’s true. Those beautifully curated square pictures are killing the fire in my heart for homemaking.

My feed of late has been inundated with beautiful pictures of beautifully clean and organised homes – and I love looking at them. There is something inspiring about them that keeps calling me back to scroll through them. Our hearts are designed by the Great Designer to love beauty (for He is Beautiful). And these homemakers have done wonderful jobs of making beautiful homes.

Yet, at the same time, there is only so much a poor girl can take.

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Honesty.

 

I will be straight up honest and say that jealousy does lurk in my heart. I feel jealous, not for the homes per se (I love our derelict-doer-up-villa) nor the things in their homes; rather, I am jealous of the ability of these incredible women.

And I mean that, to me, they are incredible.

They do what I do each day. We cook, clean, mother, homeschool, wife, garden, mother culture – and probably heaps more (especially if they farmstead or work outside the home). But, in all honesty, they do it better.

That can be hard to swallow.

I want to be like them. I want that ability or skill or energy that enables these incredible women home-make like they do each day. Yet, for some reason, I have only little amounts of these to be able to achieve what I do each day.

 

How.

 

I think mostly, though, I don’t understand. I don’t understand me. These words in Psalm 40 resonate with me deeply in regards to my struggles with homemaking:

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me” (vs 17).

As much as I believe and love and try to create a home that looks like these dream pictures on social media, I just cannot do it. I get overwhelmed, or I burnout, or I stress at the children when they ruin my hard work, or I just don’t know how to do it and maintain my work.

And in my weakness, I wonder – why bother? I’m not going to be able to do that, so I wonder why I keep killing myself over those pictures.

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This is not my kitchen.

 

Upwards and Outwards.

 

Thankfully, Psalm 40 continues on for the poor and needy, like me:

“You are my help and my deliverer; You are my God, do not delay.”

When I am struggling and feeling like I cannot keep up, the Lord gently lifts my eyes upwards to Him, the very reason I do this anyway.

My flesh wants to serve myself in homemaking. I want to feel good about myself and the way I home-make. If I make it a day creating and working in our home that meets my standard, I feel good. But why? I have been serving myself. So, the next day when I can’t because the children are sick or I’ve used up all my energy the day before, then my self-worth plummets.

I need to check my heart about why I am trying to make our home a certain way. Who am I really working for? I know the answer by how the state of my home makes me feel about myself.

And this is why social media has such an effect on me: I make it all about me – what inspires me, what my things look like in a picture, and how my home compares.

 

True Homemaking.

But why am I a homemaker?

It is because God has made me one. I live in a house He has provided for me. I care for a husband whom He clefted me to. And I nurture two children who He brought to life through me.

Homemaking is about God and responding to what He has given me.

This post by Mystie was so encouraging to me today. And when I read the dictionary definition of homemaking, my heart smiled. The definition is this:

homemaking (v): the creation and management of a home, especially as a pleasant place to live in.

A pleasant place.

This was a word straight from the Lord to me, knowing how poor my heart has been feeling lately.

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Am I the best homemaker in the world? No.

Is my home perfectly curated? No.

Do I have all the Waldorf toys and Charlotte Mason posters? No.

But – and this makes all the difference – is our home a pleasant place to live in?

Yes, yes it is.

That is the standard God wants me to live up to. And it is so easily attainable, even for a poor and needy homemaker like myself. And, for you too, dear friend.

Let us put social media where it needs to stay and just seek to make our homes a pleasant place. It won’t be hard nor a yoke to serve the Lord and our family in this way.

Christian Unschooling: Is That Possible?

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A Little of My Story

Though I first loved the idea of the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education when I began looking into homeschooling, I was soon drawn to this thing called ‘unschooling’ after getting over my initial (and typical) scepticism of it. But, as a Christian, I worried that unschooling wasn’t biblical or something that would please God. I didn’t know of any other Christians who did it, yet, no matter how much I tried other (more accepted) methods (like CM), we just kept coming back to what felt most natural. 
 
But, because it felt most natural, that got me worried.
I’ve always thought (rightly or wrongly) that, as Christians, if something was natural or easy, then it is likely not good for me. I had the idea that something was more biblical if it was harder or something I needed to “overcome”. So, when we tried less natural approaches to learning (for us), I thought it must be the right thing to do because it was hard.
There were tears and fights and frustrations. It was not nice. I felt like a failure and my son resisted my efforts, causing friction between the two of us. So every time I tried to “do things properly”, we ended up quickly going back to what felt normal: exploring interests, hanging out together, playing games, talking, going out and about, and just doing life together. Basically, what our life together had been since they were born.
This has been my story for the last three, going into four, years since our oldest was four (he is now almost seven). I have swung between confidence and worry frequently, but I hear that this is perfectly normal, no matter how a mother works out homeschooling with her family.

But for any Christian mother out there who has a sense in her spirit that God is leading her to living a more relaxed, organic and whole life homeschooling experience with her children (unschooling), but she is worried or concerned or just plain confused, I really hope and pray this page might be a help and encouragement to you.

John Holt + “Unschooling”

When I began to properly look into unschooling (and not just read about it on blogs etc), I bought John Holt’s How Children Fail, How Children Learn, and Learning All the Time. They were brilliant and insightful and deeply encouraging.
Firstly, the term ‘unschooling’ was coined by the late John Holt who advocated for children learning at home. As a teacher, he saw schools failing children by creating a system that caused children to figure out how to get gold stars instead of truly learning. That system created fearful and insecure children who were more worried about how they appeared and if they failed than about living a full life. He saw that school’s could never, or would never, be able to truly help children get a true education, so he advocated homeschooling.
His idea of homeschooling was ‘unschooling’, that is, allowing the child as much freedom to learn that the parents could feel comfortable with. Children do not need to be taught how to learn to speak, or crawl, or walk, or any other of those vital parts of being a growing person. Why then, when a child reached five, were they suddenly incapable of learning on their own?
When the time comes for learning to read or count, for example, Holt encouraged parents to follow the child’s readiness and to not become a “teacher”. Instead, come alongside and, in time and freedom, walk with them as they naturally come across letters, words, sentences, books, numbers, animals, peoples, histories etc. The joy of discovering these ‘Big People’ things on their own is reward enough, so no need for charts and incentives.

I think fundamentally, however, unschooling to John Holt was about children learning from love.

When they love the world, which they do from birth, they absorb and learn like sponges. They thrive and reach heights we believe they are uncapable of (at their age). It is only when they reach school that this innate joy of life and learning dies away.

Can Christians Unschool?

Many unschoolers are not believers and much of the theory is based in humanism. So, understandably, many Christians are hesitant about unschooling. But, like Julie Polanco says in her book Godschooling (see link below),
“Some people criticize unschooling by saying that it is unbiblical. Are the public school and its methods more biblical? Is reproducing the public school methods in the home more biblical…?”
So why do I trust John Holt?
In his books, I clearly understood that, though he wasn’t a Christian, his belief about learning came from truly loving children and desiring children to have the respect they ought to have. Acquainted with his ideas, I saw that he wasn’t as radical as I thought he must be (from my experience of radical unschoolers) and I clearly saw that his fundamental principles of how children learn were aligned with Christianity – that is, God made children to learn.
 

God is Knowledge. All things come from Him and are for Him and are about Him. We, made in His image, are born to seek Him. And children do this naturally and fully.

As my research unfolded, I began to discover other Christians online who unschooled. I couldn’t believe it! Could this way of life I felt drawn to be possible? Then, in 2017, I met a kindred spirit who had the same desires as myself: giving our children the freedom to become who God had made them to be. Together, through so many discussions and joining our families together, we picked unschooling apart and back up again, accepting and rejecting what we believed to be biblical or not. She was a gift from the Lord and I treasure the work He did in us both through our times together. (Love you, Lucy.)
And then, over a space of a year (2018) I read four Christian books that changed my life (click title for link):
Each book spoke deeply to me as a mother and as a follower of Jesus. Though letting go of control over my children is still scary and difficult, these women gave me the encouragement, the confidence, and the joy of stepping out of the status quo and giving our whole family the freedom to be our family.
Through these women and their words, there are essentially two spiritual principles that lay the foundation for Christian unschooling. They are:

1. Jesus Modelled It.

What do I mean by that? Simply put, He didn’t sit them down at a synagogue and school them on what it meant to be an apostle. The apostles didn’t understand what was going to happen to Jesus nor did they know what was going to happen to them after He was gone. Interestingly, Jesus didn’t even tell them His plans for them in the future.
Rather, as they walked along the way and watched Him and talked with Him and were taught by Him in conversation and experience, they learned exactly what they needed to know. Then, when the Holy Spirit came, He fully equipped them for the task He had uniquely called them to do.
Now, I’m not saying that because Jesus didn’t “school” them that children shouldn’t be schooled. I mean, essentially, that the education Jesus gave His disciples was holistic and organic. And it was complete for them as they needed it.

2. We Have the Freedom To Unschool

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm then, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” ~ Galations 5:1
Just as we are free, when we seek His will for our family, to educate our children the way we feel called to, so when we homeschool, are we free with how that looks. I truly believe there is no one “right” way to homeschool our children. When a particular way is blessed by God, how richly wonderful it is! And, of course, we want to share and encourage other families with that joy.
But, when a particular teaching or dogma becomes a yoke under which we adhere religiously to, judge others against, or hold too tightly on, then we are not walking in the freedom of Christ. And, even though I use the term ‘unschooling’, I am not bound to it. I do not have to ‘unschool’ like others do or obey another person’s unschooling rules. I am free because I am Christ’s.

On a personal level, when I look at our children and all that they accomplish through their joy and interests and questions and passions, unschooling makes the most sense for our family because the children have the freedom to grow up to be who God made them to be.

Just as the disciples did not know what their future held, neither do we as parents for our children. But God does. And unschooling enables me to lean on Him, and not myself or a curriculum or a leader’s ideas, and trust Him with His children.
Whether an interest or love for something seems “legitimately educational” or not, I actively trust God that He has planted that in their heart for a reason. My love for writing came from The Babysitter’s Club, something my father despaired of. But God had a purpose in all those books I read and pictures I drew and stories I wrote.
“If God has prepared these works for your child to do, then won’t He make sure that s/he is adequately prepared for them? Doesn’t He prepare you to do His will in the most miraculous, mind-boggling ways that have very little to do with your own efforts? Do you think that the Creator of the Universe would leave your child’s future, His future, entirely in your hands?” ~ Julie Polanco
So, friend, be encouraged. Unschooling doesn’t have to be something scary and radical. If you have been thinking of trying it, stop all the bookwork and see what happens in a week of trialling unschooling.
  • Pray each morning that God would guide your day.
  • Have a simple routine of together time and free time.
  • Partner with your children in their interests.
  • Answer questions and, if you don’t know the answer, try, “Let’s find out.”
  • Fill two bags of library books that relate to topics you know your children are interested in.
  • Watch some YouTube videos or documentaries.
  • Sit down and play board games, even Pokemon!
  • Snuggle, talk, laugh, tickle, and enjoy your children.
  • Pursue your own interests in front of your children.
  • Go on walks, visit people, go the museum.
I promise you that, if for a week, your write down everything your children do and say, you will be amazed at how much they are learning. And, more importantly, how much you are all enjoying your days. My heart regularly cries out in joy to the Lord with all the amazing little things He is doing in the children.

It is a beautiful place to be, in a place of trust: Trusting God, and trusting my children.

 

Our 100-Year-Old Villa + Our New Life

In October 2019, we sold our house in Christchurch and moved five hours down south to Dunedin. Caught up in the whirlwind of when God (seems to) finally act on all your prayers and petitions, we hardly tapped on doors and they flew open. It shocked everyone, not just ourselves, how quickly everything happened. Even three months before we moved, I would have laughed if someone had told me we would be living in a very run-down house on a hill in Dunedin. I would have laughed hysterically. Perhaps we should name our house ‘Isaac’, from Sarah’s surprised laughter.
The first weekend our brick home was on the market, we had five offers on it. Within in a month it was sold to one of those buyers. In fact, it was sold exactly ten years, to the month, of when we had originally bought it. Suddenly we had to find a house to live in, quick smart. So we drove down to Dunedin one weekend to see what was on the market. Unfortunately, not much and what was for sale was way overpriced. Tim was going to be studying for three years – how could we afford such places? And then, we discovered the green house.

The green house is over one-hundred-years-old. The floors slope downwards, the roof leaked, the foundations had sunk, the front right-hand corner drooped. The title of the real estate ad was ‘DETONATE OR RENOVATE’. We found out later, once we bought the place, that we were the only ones at auction that were not destroying the house.

Tim has had to put 21 new piles into the foundation of the house because it had sunk so badly.

 

When Tim wanted to look at the house one more time before we left that weekend, I thought he was joking. It smelled horrible, there was graffiti on the walls, it felt like it was going to fall in. But, that second time through, I cannot explain it…We had prayed and prayed for the Lord to guide us and help us find the right house for us. The only other house we thought was possibly good was a 1.5 bedroom home, on a busy street, and pushing our financial limit even without the necessary renovations that would be needed.
As we walked around, though we saw how bad it was (though I really don’t think we knew how bad), it is as if we both saw the house in the future. We saw it revitalised, restored, redeemed. We saw love in it again and family life.

Honestly, as I thought about it afterward, it felt as if this house was a Gospel-picture of every sinner and what happens when Christ saves him. The sinner’s rotten brokenness is forgiven, wiped clean and, not just that, but every aspect of him, from his very core, is given new life. I believe God gave us that vision for this house.

The kitchen is usable but needed a good clean before we felt safe using it. The floor slopes toward the window.

 

Fast forward three months, with two-and-a-half months of living in it, as beautiful a picture as that Gospel-vision is – the reality is still very broken. The days have been long and hard. In fact, quite easily, this has been one of the hardest external things Tim and I have been through together.
We have had some dark moments, literally lying in the dark, wondering what possibly could have God been thinking of when He led us here. My darling husband, who bears the brunt of restoring this house, has been going through the Refiner’s Fire and it has been a joy and a heartache to see him through it. I, too, have struggled deeply with living in mess and dirt and cold and, well, discomfort.
But, this life is so good. Eight weeks with no hot water – God was good and provided. Ten weeks without a shower in our own home – God was good and provided. No carpet, wonky floors, draughty windows, rats in the roof, bad weather, and anxiety and fear and vulnerability. BUT, I could list the blessings and joys threefold more than the struggles. 

 

When a Christian follows the Lord and genuinely walks in obedience where He wants him to go, this does not mean that it will be easy. But it does mean it will be incredible. Your sins and weaknesses will be exposed, and the lies you believe about comfort and rights and needs are laid bare before you. Something as little as how the weather affects your mood will be from the Lord and is an opportunity to submit to Him. Yet, there is so much grace in Him and I have found so much deep JOY and REST in Him, even as I eat ice cream and mint biscuits every night.

We cannot see into the future, of course, but something in our spirits tells us that we will be here much longer than the three years of Tim’s theological study. This house, as it becomes restored, will be an enormous part of our family story – especially the children’s childhood. How they see their parents tackle hard things and awkward living and plain rough days will echo into their adulthood. Our school mornings around a table that leans with the front of the house. Playing on plywood floors that constantly have a layer of dirt on them. Watching their father sweat and battle and accomplish. Seeing their mother help, support, and make do with what they have…

 

Though this house and our living in it and making it new is now, I can see that this has eternal significance for our family. Eventually, all this work will pass away when Jesus returns to call us to our True Home, the sweat and tears and frustrations will be investments in something bigger, better, and more beautiful – in Tim and I, and our children. But that is something to rejoice in as we persevere and endure and believe in hope.
For now though, we battle on daily in grace. Each day, we make a little progress and genuinely rejoice, however small it may seem in the grand scheme of things. But one thing we are learning very clearly from the Lord in this time is this: we only have today, let us be faithful with the little things.

You Can Always Start Fresh: On Purpose, Daily Life, and Moving House

This past Thursday, we moved out of the house we have lived in the past ten years. Even though I have spent weeks slowly packing, decluttering, and cleaning, the day was ginormous and exhausting – but we did it. Tim, my lovely husband, drove the truck down south to the new city we are moving to – Dunedin – and our new house, the derelict 100-year-old villa on a hill. The children and I have come out to my father’s, a beautiful bay in a harbour. Very few people live here. It’s just the sea, the native birds, and clear and clean time.
I grew up here from about nine. Though born in the city, I quickly adjusted to quiet and slow country life and it has been in my blood ever since. I remember days at home, reading or writing, walking the hills or throwing rocks into the sea. I remember days at the beach doing nothing but play. I remember fishing, and exploring farms, riding horses, and just spending a lot of time in real life. By real life, I mean that which God has created and which has been life for people for thousands of years: slow, day-by-day living, anchored by the rising and setting of the sun and the meals eaten.
I have longed for country life ever since I moved back to the city. But, as yet, it is not what God has for me or our family. That is something I have to often lay down at His feet, trusting that He knows the yearnings of my heart. Though our new home and our new life is still in the city, Dunedin itself is a beautiful harbour city, situated over bushy hills. It isn’t a large city, and it has the old-New Zealand feel still. Our home on the hill overlooks a valley. And it feels as if God has given all of the family a piece of their dream altogether: convenience of city living, the beauty of hills and valleys and views, the relaxed way of Southern New Zealand, and a home with history. Honestly, we are just blown away by God’s kindness to us.
But here I am, still in Wainui for a few weeks, enjoying time in my childhood home with the children enjoying all the nature and stunning surroundings that I did. I am thankful for this time and I see it already as a time apart, ordained by God for us to rest, refresh, and restart our home life together. There is literally almost nothing modern to do here. It is only time outside, or books, or conversations, or walks, or helping Poppa garden, or kicking the ball around, and a little television.
For me, I am relishing time focused on the Lord. I have had a difficult year in my faith, and only in the last few weeks do I see Him easing me out of several valley’s. Hunger for His Word is coming back and I am seeing clear answers to my pleas in the passages I read, thrilling my heart and lighting that flame more fiercely. I also see God helping me to step back from all the busyness that has been these last few months and enable us to reset our purpose in homeschooling together and our daily life.
I’m asking myself,
What do I believe about our home learning?
What do I want for the children?
What do I need for me as a homeschooling mother?
What do I want to anchor our days together?
What am I failing in?
What am I strong in?
Where do I need to speak Truth to doubts?
What do I continue on in?
It is easy to get stuck in a rut, or to feel like you cannot get a hold over your days. It is easy to feel like we can’t do anything different because the term is half way through and we’ve hardly done anything we wanted to or we need to complete the workbook. But, actually, none of these things really need to determine how we spend our days. We can never kid ourselves into thinking we are in control of our lives, yet, God’s Word exhorts us to make the most of each day – to “number” them – so we are responsible for our purpose and our daily life. And we can always start again.
And, even though moving house – and city! – is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate daily life, I am reminded that each and every day is a fresh start. We can always re-evaluate, or start anew, or be refreshed. We are not bound by anything – not even the philosophy or curriculum we love. We are bound by the Saviour of our souls and every new morning is fresh with His mercies (Lamentations 3:21-25).

“Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” ~ Psalm 9:10

A Homeschool Day: Stepping Back In Time (+ Life Update)

Today the children and I went to our local heritage centre with some of our homeschooling community to see what it was like when the English first started settling in Canterbury. I love, love New Zealand history. And, being a European descendent, settler history is a deep passion of mine. So I felt like this field trip was just as much for me as it was for the children!
It was a lovely morning, even when the weather turned a bit cold. Though we had gone to Ferrymead as a family a year or so ago, this time as an education group, we had classes and interesting activities to do. The first thing the children did was get dressed into their colonial outfits. And, honestly, they looked adorable! All us mothers were gushing over the children and dreaming of Avonlea days!

We learned what it was like to live as a settler. Before the first cottages were made in Christchurch, many settlers lived in tents or V-huts. They were the real deal of modern-day tiny homes. Around the V-hut we practiced cleaning, washing clothes,roof thatching, ironing, gardening, and sawing wood. My children loved the cleaning (?!) though they are allergic to it at home.

We saw what kind of toys children played with. We baked biscuits. And we looked around the quaint little cottages. As the children were playing, I walked around, taking in the simple goodness. Though I dream of living in such days, I am not unaware of the hard work it was. Yet, that life still appeals to me. Not just because of the slow and simplicity of life, but because of the goodness that was commonplace. From the way they raised their children to the way they made their clothes – quality was the backbone of their ethic. 

It was a fun, interesting, and exhausting day! I can see that both the children absorbed and took away different ideas and learned new things about the past. And I am positive they made connections of what they saw to their present day.

Life Update

As I mentioned a week or so ago, a new adventure is awaiting us. This past week, we made an offer on a house and it was accepted! Our potential home is an old gold miner’s cottage. Built in 1903, it is very similar to the houses we saw today, which made it more real and thrilling for me.
If this cottage comes through, God will be giving me a delight of my heart. I have always longed to live in a cottage. I cannot wait to bring all that I love – history, quaintness, simplicity, homemaking, gardening, quiet living, and thankfulness – to fruition in this new season in our lives. Hopefully I can share some pictures of our new home soon.

How has God been blessing your heart lately?

Writing to Silence: Blogging Alone

I have been blogging on and off for awhile. I think I started around 2010. Things have changed enormously since then. Significantly, blogging became a business and, more than that, social media platforms like Instagram became places for people to get their “quick fix” of people they had previously followed on blogs.
I think Instagram is amazing for busy mothers. It enables to share what is on their heart with a photo that feeds their desire for creativity, then once shared, the relationship connection is filled through like-minded mothers. I love Instagram for that.
But, I miss blogging like the “old days”. I miss seeing regular posts from online friends, or mothers who have a beautiful way with words. I miss feeling like what I wrote mattered. I have never written for accolades, but seeing the little (and I mean little) view counts each day helped me feel like there was something productive in what I wrote.
Nowadays, I feel as if I am writing into silence. And I wonder: do words matter anymore? 
I remember when Pinterest came along. It was amazing. I use it daily still. But suddenly, when I was blogging, I needed to make it Pin-worthy. Images needed titles and attractive design. My posts needed to be shorter so people would keep reading. It was as if blogging had become a fast-food industry.
Commenting on blogs also began to deteriorate. It was all about reading the post – was it useful? Yes, pin. No, click out. There was no more desire to comment and encourage. Yet, if you go on Instagram, photos can have thousands of comments. Why don’t blogs? Is it too hard?
Blog link-up’s were the best, too. Not only did it bring in many people to your blog, you could meet so many other like-minded bloggers too. To this day, I still follow women on social media whom I originally “met” on their blog. Many do not blog any more, and that makes me sad.
Do words matter anymore?
I think of that as a Christian. We believe deeply in words. God made the world with the Word. He saved the world with the Word. Christians drink deeply from the Word, their Bibles. To God, words matter deeply.
Is it a sign of our humanity when fast, click-bait images matter more than well-thought, well-planner, well-crafted words? 
So I ask myself: what is the point? Why am I still blogging? Does what I say have any point in this vast ocean of links and sites and images and noise? Is there purpose in blogging anymore when it isn’t to make money?
The answer keeps coming down to this for me: I must write and I must encourage.
It is in my blood. That is why I always come back to this screen with a draft post before me. It’s why, when I am vacuuming or washing the dishes or listening to a conversation between my children, ideas and words come to me and I have to write.
When I was younger, I wrote in my journals. And I still do, but in a different way. Now, though, I have to share:
“I have not hidden Thy righteousness in my heart; I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation: I have no concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation.” Psalm 40:10
Even though it feels like radio silence, even though it feels pointless, I will keep going on because He has put something in me to write. I cannot deny who He has made me to be, nor the story He has asked me to tell. From my kitchen table, where I sit, blogging is the best way for me to share His lovingkindness to the great congregation. Whether it is about home education or my faith or our home or our family journey – it is His story I am sharing, and I must trust Him that it will be used for His purposes, even if it is only ever seen by Him.

If you must write, keep doing it. Let us keep linking and commenting and sharing and supporting one another. Let us keep words alive.

Do you still blog? If so, please share below.

Christian Unschooling: How I Got It Wrong The First Time

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No matter how many times I try and bring our family into more structured/formal homeschooling, within in days or weeks, I drop it all to go back to what feels the most natural for us: unschooling.

Though I love how unschooling looks for our family, even though we’re still finding ‘us’ in this stage of life, I have really struggle with some aspects of it.

For one, the term ‘unschooling’ seems to trigger negative responses/emotions in some people. It seems to have so many negative conotations to it. People seem to not be able to get passed what is isn’t rather than what is is.
I have also struggled because the sheer breadth and depth of unschooling among families can make it hard to define. Unlike, say the Charlotte Mason method which has some firm principles and practices, unschooling – by definition, really – can look vastly different between two families. Allowing learning to happen through interest, conversation, experiences, books means the learning life for each child – and family – is unique. All I can say to that is, Yes!


Confusion

But, if you’re like me, this can also be confusing. I like clear lines. Perhaps that’s why Charlotte Mason appeals to me in many ways – I know how to ‘do’ her philosophy. But unschooling? Where is the clear line? Is this particular practice unschooling-friendly? Am I doing it wrong? 
And the big question for so many, including myself –

What is my role as a unschooling mother? 

People can have very strong – and varied – answers to this question! Talk about confusing.
But let’s add in the whole Christian element, too. We’re not unschoolers who are Christian. We are Christians who unschool. Does this make us a whole different kettle of fish? Probably!
Many unschoolers believe parents need to step back completely and let their children choose everything, not just their education. But, as Christians, we believe that God wants us to carefully and actively train and guide our children, so parental authority is involved in our lives. Where is the line between freedom for the children to learn and the wisdom/experience/authority of the parent?

So, naturally, this got me thinking –

can I be a Christian, obey God as parents, and unschool? 


The short story is, yes! Absolutely! (I accidently deleted a post that shared books that helped me with this question, but I will post it again soon.) The style of mother-child relationship that typifies unschooling is absolutely Biblical, and the respect for the free-will of the child (with sovereign-like overhead by mother) is also absolutely Biblical.
But I only see this now – a year and a half down the track of much struggle. 
Boy, have I struggled. If there has been a question asked about unschooling, I have asked it and sought the answer to it within a Gospel-framework. I have ran back and forth between styles of homeschooling because of this internal struggle and confusion. 
But as we are always drawn back to unschooling, I have faced these struggles head on.

Unschooling and the Mother

Because I was wrestling and struggling with all the questions and theology and practicalities of unschooling as a Christian; because unschooling looks so different with no ‘clear’ principal for a mother; I became afraid and confused about my role.
If I suggested something to the children, I felt I was ‘coercing’ them.
If I just let them be, I felt irresponsible and lazy.
Either way, I felt like an unschooling/Christian mother fraud.
In my favourite book on Christian unschooling, A Little Way Homeschooling, a mother expresses her similar struggle when she embraced more radical unschooling:
Radical unschooling was very liberating for me. I could feel myself throwing away checklists, embracing thinking outside the box, becoming free to be me. Or so I thought. After awhile, I found that I tended to hold myself accountable to some idealistic picture of the perfect unschool. I’d ask myself, Isn’t this coercion? Shouldn’t I let the kids make all their own choices? Overthinking every little thing soon became wearying…” ~ Leonie Westenberg (emphasis mine)
I understand her so much. Though we aren’t radical unschoolers, unschooling is a life of liberty! Or, so it should be a life of freedom, until you start overthinking everything and worrying that a particular practice for your family isn’t ‘unschooling’ enough.
I believe in unschooling as a Christian so much because of the freedom we have been given in Christ. But, being a human, I can easily exchange the liberty we have as a family for a law that wasn’t given by God.

Unschooling ‘Rules’

When I’m thinking about this dichotomy of unschooling and rules, I’m reminded of the conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees when they attacked Him about His disciples not washing their hands before eating (and thus, were being ‘defiled’). Jesus’ reply is so apt for me in this struggle I have:
[Quoting Isaiah] “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” ~ Mark 7:6-7
Though I believe the way of unschooling is so good for our family, I need to be very careful how I treat the ‘commandments of men’ about unschooling. If I am living in fear or confusion, I need to ask myself: Am I treating unschooling as a doctrine?

Unschooling is a beautiful way, a little way as Suzie Andres calls it, and it is precious to me. It is gentle, nurturing, and slow. But it is a way only and not a mandate. And, because it is education for the child’s sake, it will look differently from family to family. A mother’s role, therefore, will vary – especially a Christian mother’s.
I should not fear how it looks for us as a family compared to another. Nor should I fear rebuke or criticism from an unschooling mother who thinks I am doing it ‘wrong’.
As a Christian, I know my role as a mother. I will be a hands-on unschooling mother. That is a clear principle for me now. But what is even clearer to me is this: the Gospel of Christ is my doctrine, it is His commands I follow, and as He leads our unschooling/homeschooling life, I will obey Him, even if that lead our family down a different path to another.

And Leonie, the mother from A Little Way Homeschooling? Here is what happened after her struggle:
Just as I had let go of more formal homeschooling, so I had to let go of this concept of pure unschooling anf of my monolithic vision of the perfect unschooling mother. I decided, instead, to discard labels, to live with joy and to embrace what felt most comfortable for us and for our Faith.”

As an unschooling mother, have you had this struggle also?