I love to write. It makes me feel alive. There’s a freedom in writing that I can’t explain. It’s like abandon happens. I throw everyone’s opinions to the way side. My thoughts come barreling to my mind and I write non-stop.
I’ve heard over and over that in order to be a great writer you need to do 2 things: you need to read good books, and you need to write everyday. I love reading good books. My favorite of all is by CS LEWIS, The Chronicles of Narnia. If I could pick a hero author, it would be him, hands down.
But writing. (sigh). Well, I’m a homeschool mom who cleans the house and makes dinner, all while making sure my kids don’t die-that right there is like a full time job. Oh, and also we’re living in a fixer upper. But being a mom is the best job in the world. There’s no place I’d rather be. I say that because it didn’t used to be true. In my “young mama” days, I was stupid and immature-wanting my own dreams more than anything. I think that’s why I didn’t write-because of my own selfishness.
But now it’s time write.
The Writing Challenge Book
I purchased a book with 300 writing prompts. I’m going to write as often as I can.
So here it goes:
Writing Prompt Number One: What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day?
Lazy days. They begin slowly. The kids are still asleep, the house is just beginning to come alive with sunlight. Streaks of it stretch along the floor; shadows vividly reveal themselves on the walls. Stillness. Coffee. Silent conversations with Jesus fill my head as I sip my coffee and let my gaze drift out the big picture window. Gradually, the kids stir in their beds. I hear them stretch, turning over every now and then. And I wait, coffee in hand to see their sleepy faces and bed heads enter the room. Gradually, they come. Lots of cuddles. A bit of morning chatter-but still quiet. Bowls of cereal. Lots of crunching at the long wooden kitchen table. The chatting starts to increase and the sleepy voices disappear. They place their bowls in the sink-one drops his bowl in the sink crashing away the stillness. They slip on their flip flops and go romp in the dirt. And I watch them all day, enjoying their happiness and God’s incredible goodness. Lazy days are best spent at home with my family. There is no other place I’d rather be.
The Dreaded Debate: To Assign Homework or Not to Assign Homework.
If you’re like me, then you are familiar with spending hours doing homework after school while you grew up. It was considered normal. But I don’t think there is anything normal about it. Many people say homework teaches responsibility and it reinforces class content. While that may be true to an extent,I don’t think teachers need to assign homework to guarantee the success of the student.
Why cut out homework?
Homework is frustrating. It’s not only frustrating for the student, it can also be frustrating for the parent. I can’t count how many times I became a slave to a homeschool curriculum. My mind was set- the homework would get done no matter the cost. Even if it took my child an hour to do one assignment, I would make my daughter sit at the table until the work was finished. At the time, I believed I was being a good parent. But now, as I remember those battles, I cringe. I remember her tears of frustration. I cried lots of tears myself. All of this taught me that learning should not be a drudgery; if it is, then why would my child want to learn at all? Why give homework if it discourages them from learning?
Homework also limits playtime for the child. Children learn from the world around them. While they climb trees, have picnics, dig in the mud, or search for roly polys, they are learning. They are soaking in an education with their imagination. Grown-ups are so stuck up when it comes to imagination. Don’t you remember how you learned when you played? You thought about the bark on the tree, right-it’s color and texture? And while you had that picnic, you watched the clouds and noticed all the different kinds that God painted in the sky. When you played in the mud you noticed that some of the bugs drowned while others didn’t. The roly polys! How incredible they are to protect themselves by rolling into tiny balls. Why can’t we grown ups see that children learn while they play?
But what should the teacher do if she doesn’t assign homework?
Replace homework with narration. Narration is the child saying out loud what he knows. It’s a re-telling (it can also be written) of the reading from a living book. But it doesn’t have to be from a book. Narration can be applied to everything a student learns. For example, your student can teach you step by step how to solve a math problem. After reading a book, your student can tell the story from beginning to end. After learning the anatomy of a cell, they can draw a picture and describe to you how the cell works. Not only does narration give them an opportunity to share what they have learned, it also gives them a chance to share what they think about it. (Shocked!?) Why not let them share what they love or dislike about what they have learned!? Set them on fire with a hunger to learn by giving them the freedom to express their opinions (respectfully;-))! And as they learn, point them to the wonder of their Savior. Narration gives them the chance to tell about what they have learned and what they loved about it.
The benefits of narration are numerous. Narration teaches responsibility. The student listens with urgency so they are able to tell back the lesson to the teacher. Narration also encourages the student to communicate his thoughts in an effective manner. As the student recalls the lesson back to the teacher, the content becomes cemented in his mind.
A few thoughts before you go…
The child’s heart is the most important priority. We can teach our children facts and give them knowledge, but teaching them how to follow after the heart of Christ is the ultimate goal. A child following after God’s heart will grow in his desire to please Christ in the mundane tasks-even if those tasks happen to be homework. So whether you agree or disagree with a no homework policy, don’t forget that our eyes ought always to be set on Jesus Christ. How does he want us to teach our children? Are we chasing after the heart of Christ? If we, as parents and educators, are not chasing his heart, why would our children want to?
Lightroom. I finally made the plunge. I’ve been working with Photoshop for the last six years (Maybe longer?), and I was hesitant to take on the challenge of learning a new program. Almost every photographer I talked to said, “You need to make the switch to Lightroom. You’ll love it!” And I finally did.
All of the Lightroom versions confused me at first. Apparently, there are three different options. Lightroom 6, on Amazon, is $149.00. Basically, it’s the original Lightroom. The difference between Lightroom 6 and all the other versions is that Adobe is no longer offering updates for Lightroom 6.
Another option is Lightroom CC. It’s offered on the Adobe website for a monthly subscription of about $120 per year. This is the version I bought. I figured that at $10 a month, it may be worth the convenience. The subscription includes a limited amount of online storage, a Lightroom CC editing app on your IPhone, and a “cloud” based simpler version of the original Lightroom Classic CC editing software. It’s specifically for photographers who are “on-the-go” and consistently taking and editing photos on their phone. But it can easily be used on your desktop as well.
And finally, the last option is Lightroom Classic CC. This is like Lightroom 6, but now you get all the updates. There are more editing options in this version of lightroom than with Lightroom CC. Lightroom Classic CC is made more for the photographer who is editing photos from a desktop computer.
If I’m honest, I find it all bit overwhelming. I wish the versions of Lightroom weren’t all so similar! I ended up making my own personal chart to compare them all. Ha! Just being real here. I’ve been researching all this information for a few hours now, and I’m wondering if I should just stick to the world of Photoshop. But I’m no quitter. (Grunt, Fight Face)
In order to compare Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC, I bought the Lightroom CC subscription and downloaded the trial version of Lightroom Classic CC. My initial reaction is to lean more toward using the Lightroom Classic because it seems more like Photoshop(which I’m more familiar with) than Lightroom CC does. I have a seven day trial period to decide which editing software I prefer.
Here are some shots of the user interface.
This is Lightroom CC.
This is Lightroom Classic CC.
Ok. So I’ve played around with both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC. I think the choice you make between the two depends on the type of photographer you are. If you want fast editing options on the go, I’d recommend the Lightroom CC. But if you are the photographer who sits at a desktop and wants to have more in depth editing options, I’d recommend the Lightroom Classic CC.
For me personally, I found myself wanting something in the middle. I’m not an on-the-go photographer. I like to sit at my desktop so I can see my photos at a larger scale. But on the other hand, I have no need for the extra editing options. My editing style is usually very minimal. But the accessibility that Lightroom CC offers tipped the scale for me. I love being able to access my photos from multiple devices.
If you aren’t sure which one would work best for you, download the trial versions and test them out for yourself.
Basement demolition started last week full force. Everyone-including the four kiddos joined the hammering, ripping, bashing, and breaking. All of us have enjoyed the adventure so far. We decided we would do the basement because the last 2 summers we’ve been without air conditioning.
Basement Before Photos
In these photos, you can see the asbestos tiles. We had those removed before we moved into the home. The basement is actually sectioned off by that large orangey wood wall. The man who built it took pride in how he put it together. It was tough taking that wall down! When we first moved into the house we found some treasures hidden in the cupboards of that wall.
In this photo, the boys are standing where the wood wall was. It’s gone now! Most of it. We still have a few studs standing near the fireplace, but you can’t even tell it was there.
In the photo below, the light cement on the ground shows you where the orangey wall was. Taking the wall out opened up the space. We gutted the closet space under the stairs, too. Our plan is to move the washer and dryer into the space under the stairs.
Here is a better look at the closet space underneath the stairs. We still have to decide on whether we want to do a stackable washer and dryer or a side by side. I think I’d prefer a side by side washer and dryer.
In order to get the air installed, we have to relocate our water heater and move some pipes around. I’m excited to see how much space we gain after the air conditioning is installed. The unit we have now is huge and I know that once we replace it with a smaller more compact system, it will open up the space even more. You can see in the photos below where the original owners installed the venting for heat/air into the wall. It covers part of the fireplace. Since we have a fireplace upstairs, we plan on getting rid of this fireplace altogether.
And finally our pile in the garage-proof that we worked hard. 😉 I know a lot of people find this kind of thing crazy. Some people would never dream of living in a space like this while fixing it up. But I love it. It’s an adventure. My house is a wreck, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Both Josh and I, along with kids, have learned so much already. And we’ve made so many great memories together. I keep telling Josh that after this house is finished, we’re going to get another fixer upper. Ha! I think he’s good with it.
This is a our first year including Geography in our homeschool. I had never enjoyed geography in school and thought of it as “extra”. In fact, I didn’t learn geography until the 9th grade. My teacher was Mr. Arnold. I vaguely remember reading the news for class. Overall, Geography was boring. But when I read what Charlotte Mason thought about Geography, I tried to keep an open mind. She wrote, “But the mother, who knows better, will find a hundred opportunities to teach geography by the way…”
Charlotte Mason loved geography. “To teach by the way” means that the mom teaches her children in everyday conversation. Walks around the neighborhood become opportunities to teach how to tell the time of day by noticing where the sun is in the sky. Drives through the town become teaching tools to learn which way is north and which direction you take to get home.
Geography Should be Exciting
Geography should captivate the child’s interest. Charlotte Mason wrote, “But let him be at home in any single region; let him see, with the mind’s eye, the people at their work and at their play, the flowers and fruits in their seasons, the beasts, each in its habitat; and let him see all sympathetically, that is let him follow the adventures of a traveler; and he knows more, is better furnished with ideas, than if he had learnt all the names on all the maps. The ‘way’ of this kind of teaching is very simple and obvious; read to him, or read for him, that is read bit by bit, and tell as you read,…Here, as elsewhere, the question is, not how many things does he know, but how much does he know about each thing(Home Education, 275).”
With Charlotte Mason’s words, I found myself pulled into the wonder of learning. I set out to make geography an adventure. I wanted stories filled with “ideas”- ideas that spark a hunger to learn in my children. While searching, I found the book, Paddle-to-the-Sea. Paddle to the Sea is a story about a little Indian named Paddle. A little boy carved Paddle, who sits in a canoe, from wood. The boy leaves Paddle on frozen Lake Nipigon just before Spring. When the ice begins cracking, he sets out on a journey to the sea (the Atlantic Ocean). The story takes us along with Paddle through all five Great Lakes, the Niagara Falls, the St. Lawrence River and finally out to Atlantic.
Traveling with Paddle, I saw the animals at Lake Nipigon. I noticed all the steal mills in Michigan. Then I learned that there’s a lake that is a continual whirlpool near Detroit. Everywhere I went, I saw. I couldn’t wait to see Paddle’s next adventure. Then I noticed my children couldn’t wait either. My kids were eager to learn where Paddle would travel next. With sweet interest, they would find the place on the map and imagine all that Paddle had seen. Funny how it tugged at my heart strings.
After reading Paddle-to-the-Sea, I asked my kids why they enjoyed it so much. Here are their replies,
“It was adventurous.”
“Because of the maps.”
“Because of the waterfall and the whirlpool.”
Charlotte Mason was right. Together we followed the adventures of Paddle-to-the-Sea; “and we know more” and are “better furnished with ideas”. Instead of memorizing a list of facts, we’ve experienced a journey that we’ll stay with us forever. Now I’m thoroughly convinced Geography is exciting- not because Charlotte Mason said it was, but because I experienced the adventure for myself.
Well, it’s finally the day. Almost a year ago, I asked Sara over at Bryarton Farm to illustrate my book. And now, for the first time, I held the paintings in my hands. It seems surreal. And so incredibly satisfying. There really are no words. But I have to give credit where credit is due. Credit doesn’t belong to me; it belongs to the Savior. He alone gives me the ability to weave words into pictures. It isn’t about me, it’s all Him.
Sitting at my desk, I mindlessly scrolled through my Facebook feed when my eyes caught her name-Kristin Schmucker. A friend slash acquaintance, Kristin and her husband had recently lost their daughter Sophia in stillbirth. Kristin’s Facebook post stopped me in my endless scrolling: “Losing Sophia has taught me to go out and try all those things I’ve always wanted to do.” I paused. It was a long pause…
I thought, what have I always wanted to do? Life is short. Of all the gifts in the world, the gift of life often falls unnoticed. What am I doing with this gift? The answers muddled together. I thought, I’m too old for this. Ha! No really, I felt old. My fourth child was just one month. As a wife and homeschool mom, I had to do things like laundry and make dinner (have I mentioned how much I detest cooking?). But now there was this big, bold question flashing against my messy reality, “What does God want me to do?”
I had always wanted to write. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved making stories with words. After reading Kristin’s post, I knew that’s what I was going to do.
We were living with my in-laws because of our recent move from Alabama to Michigan. I was still writing. The “chasing your dreams” craze occupied most of my thoughts. When I finished the book, I anxiously awaited my husband’s critique. But his honest opinion crushed me. (I was incredibly immature). He said the book was missing something. He said it didn’t make sense!
What? Discouragement settled in and regrettably I ended up stuffing the book in a drawer. The book stayed in that drawer for about six months. During that time, I struggled with my health. Lots of tests, but never any answers. I also struggled with panic attacks and extreme anxiety. But we grow the most when we walk through the valley with Jesus. In that valley, the Lord taught me about fear. Fear can paralyze you-if you allow it, or it can chase you to the arms of the all knowing Savior. I learned to trust and fear God. I learned that my health did not have to determine my happiness. True joy is knowing Jesus.
Eventually, God moved me to open that drawer. The “chasing your dreams” mentality changed to “chasing Jesus”. When I wrote, I worshipped. I prayed and labored because I wanted every word I wrote to be full of Him. When I finished, I nervously gave the new edited version to my husband. My heart pounded as I waited for the verdict. I’ll never forget when he read it for the second time. I was sitting in our 1970’s Ethan Allen retro green chair when he came over to me and laid the book in my lap. Then he bent down to kiss my forehead and said, “That’s it.” His voice rang with approval.
I later sent the book to Kristin. After reading it, she emailed me, “…This is beautiful. Sitting at my desk in tears because it is so simple and powerful and such a beautiful display of the gospel. I love it…This will touch so many hearts.”
Afterward, I sent my work out to a Christian Publishing Company. When I recognized their number on my phone, my heart literally skipped a beat. What would they say? Would my book be rejected? I answered the phone and waited. “I have good news for you, Rachel.” The rest of what she said is a blur. My head buzzed with excitement. That is until I got the other news. I had to pay between $3,000-$4,000 in order for this company to publish the book. What? I thought they would be paying me? My limited publishing knowledge discouraged me. I didn’t expect the excitement of my manuscript being accepted to end so abruptly. But I was hopeful, and so I decided to turn down their offer.
I realized I needed to educate myself about the publishing world. After talking with someone who had years of experience in publishing, I came face to face with the facts. Traditional publishing has it’s challenges. Apparently, you need to be a people-person. He called it a “platform”. But honestly, it sounded like a popularity contest. You also need to hire an agent. He even mentioned that publishing companies can spend up to $500,000 on a single book and author. The conversation left me feeling small and extremely inadequate. Why in the world would a publishing company invest that much in me?
I’m not popular. I never have been. Ha! Ever since 2nd grade when I told Meredith that she was a jerk because she talked smack about a someone, I knew that popularity wasn’t for me. In public school, I sat at THAT table-you know the one where no one really fits into a mold? Introverted, with a quiet confidence-that was me.
Socialization gets me all awkward inside. In large groups, I tend to blur into the background. But in order to make friends, you have to be friendly, right? Friendliness is a choice. But being friendly doesn’t come easy for me. How is this going to work? The honest answer. I have no idea.
After praying about it, I decided to look for an illustrator. I found Sara through a mutual friend and paid her to do the illustrations.
She just finished the last painting. What’s next? A whole lot of prayer. I don’t know what will happen with this book. Will it get published traditionally? Will everyone hate it? What if I fall flat on my face? But not knowing is part of the journey. That’s what faith is-jumping without seeing where you’ll land. I’m not sure what God’s plan is for this book. But I know His plan is always for my growth and his glory. And that is what I pray for.
This week, the hubs and I are going to start a three day juice and bone broth fast. I want to be ready. Without a plan, I know I’ll fail. Also, posting a blog keeps me accountable. Obviously, I don’t want the whole world to watch me fail. But without “a vision, the people perish.” See, it’s Biblical. Not the juicing part, the planning part. It’s good to visualize where we want to be. It’s good to know the why and the how.
I want to kick my sugar habit. Also, the habit of eating large bowls of cereal as snacks must stop. My caffeine addiction gives me headaches. I think most of you can relate to that one. But the main reasons for me are simple-candida and hormones. Candida is a form of yeast…don’t Google it. I promise it’s disgusting. Some people are more prone to it than others. Candida grows when a person eats sugar-and other certain foods. You are more prone to candida when you are taking antibiotics. Ever since I was prescribed antibiotics a year ago, my body can’t handle certain foods-especially sugar. It’s like the antibiotics corrupted me or something. I have no scientific proof of this. But I do know my body. I used to be able to eat things like bananas, avocados, and bacon. Now, when I eat those foods I end up doubled over in pain. Sometimes the pain is so bad I feel as though I’ll pass out.
Not only do I want to kill the candida, I also want to regulate my hormones. Recently, I’ve been in bed with flu like symptoms because of hormones. It should not be this way! The pain is unbearable. Suffering from pounding headaches, nausea, and extreme cramping, I feel like I’m pregnant (trust me, I’m not!).
I’ve been anxious about what might happen. Sometimes, the pain scares me. The doctors can’t help me. I’ve been down that road, and honestly, I come out feeling like a psycho. God never meant for any of us to live in a constant state of fear. So instead of focusing on what might happen, I want to be proactive and take a preventative approach to these symptoms. I want to do something to help myself.
The plan is to drink juice, water, bone broth, and tea for three days. I’ll also be taking supplements, making sure I get all the nutrients I need for the full seven days.
At the end of the juice fast, I’m going to be eating Whole30ish with a little Paleo. My hope is that the pain stops and my hormones get back to normal as I change what I eat. We’ll see how it goes.
(Also, just a note here. I have no medical experience at all. I encourage you to do research if you want to try juicing or doing a bone broth fast. Talk to your doctor. Because of my health conditions, my way to health may look a lot different than yours. Do what is best for you and your health!)
(The rest of this post was written the third day of the juice and bone broth fast.)
The first day, I tried juicing and drinking broth equally, but sadly, many fruits cause candida to grow. Honestly, I should have been more careful. By the second day, the candida symptoms grew stronger. But I didn’t want to give up entirely. Instead, I decided to drink only bone broth. The switch did wonders. I’m on my third day of having no food. I feel surprisingly great. Whenever I feel the least bit hungry, I get the homemade broth from the freezer and heat it on the stovetop. It’s fast and easy.
However, my husband lasted only a day and half. Ha! He hated it. He decided not to include the bone broth in his fast- only straight juice. By the middle of the second day, he called and said, “I’m feeling hangry.” I told him to try the bone broth, but he was done. He came home and ate pears, grapes, and chicken. He’ll never do it again. Trust me. Ha!
Would I do it again?
Well, I would never do a juice fast again. Even if I try to stay in the “safe” fruit category, the risk isn’t worth it for me. But I would do a bone broth fast again. I’m surprised at how it fills me up. It isn’t like food, but if I keep drinking the broth, I feel fine.
This is my first year using the Charlotte Mason Method in our quarterly exams. This method has relieved all the pressure I felt when we had the true/ false questions with the occasional fill in the blank sections. Many standardized tests prioritize memorizing facts, but often lacked the child communicating ideas. They memorize information, but learn very little. I find the opposite is true when using the Charlotte Mason Method in exams. My child’s heart and his ideas are center stage. He narrates all he knows-what he loves, what disgusts him and why (they are opinionated!), and what inspires him. A Charlotte Mason Exam gives my child the opportunity to communicate how the facts apply to real life. The best part is that learning doesn’t stop when the exam is over. It continues because like Charlotte Mason said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”
Tools you need to give Charlotte Mason exams
Mead Notebook. You will need one for each child you teach. Divide the notebook into four even sections for each quarter of exams throughout the year. I break each quarterly section down evenly based on how many subjects the child is studying. For example, if your child is studying 6 subjects then the quarterly section should be broken down into 6 sections for each subject.
Pencil or Pen. As your child narrates, you will write down their response to the exam question.
Recording Devise. This is optional. I choose to record the exams. It’s a great way to see your child’s growth over time. I use my iPhone and then transfer the files to my computer.
List of open-ended questions. For each subject, I ask two questions. I write each question down in the Mead Notebook, and below the question, I write down my child’s narration.
What a Charlotte Mason exam looks like
First, I make sure my child’s Mead notebook is divided into four equal parts. I write down the subject and the two questions I’m going to ask them for the exam. It’s important that during exams, you try your best to keep the house quiet. If you have littles, do the best you can. But life happens. Don’t freak out if during an exam, your little one yells, “I’m done!!” at the top of his lungs because he needs you to wipe his butt. Like I said, life happens. Do the best you can with the season of life you are in.
I set my phone to record. I say my child’s name, the quarter (first, second, third, fourth). This makes it easier when I’m putting the files on my computer. After I ask the exam question, my child has center stage. He tells me everything he knows about the question. During his narration, I’m writing everything he’s telling me. This is not a time to point out what he doesn’t know. Never tell your child during an exam something he said wrong. Your job is to write-that’s it.
At the end, there are usually no comments or discussions about their narration. After they leave, I write down some notes I want to remember. I may even record my thoughts as well. Notes have more to do with me as a teacher than with my child because my child’s narrations directly reflect how I teach throughout the year. I ask myself these questions: What habits need to be a priority in myself and my child to encourage them to do better in their narrations? What are their strengths? Weaknesses? After I answer these questions, I can see what areas I need to focus on for the rest of year.
The journey you take when you embark in renovating a fixer upper is bittersweet. They eventually become what you dream about, but the journey to get there is long. I’ll be the first to admit that fixer uppers are hard work. But the stories these walls could tell, well, it makes all that hard work worth the effort. Just imagining the history gets me all nostalgic inside.
It’s almost been two years since we purchased our fixer upper. It’s our first one and although it has it’s challenges, I wouldn’t change it for the world. We were meant for this house, and this house was meant for us.
She (because this house is a she) was built in 1956. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and Nixon served as Vice President when the original owners built her for only $15,000. Yup, that’s right. Only $15,000. And let me tell ya, they made quite a profit. Ha! But the renovations have proved to be an adventure. We’ve found treasures under the floor and deep inside cabinets. So far we’ve found an old letter mailed all the way from Amsterdam, a puzzle from the 50’s, original retro packaging for the tile used in the bathroom, and the original blueprints for the home.
I can’t help but imagine the couple who first had this house built. She must have loved the beams in the ceiling, and that pink bathroom must have been incredibly chic in her day. I imagine her choosing the wallpaper and getting all giddy when she saw the finished look. And that retro car wallpaper!! Y’all, the man of the house had style.
As my husband and I do the grunt work and slowly begin to change what the original owners took so much pride in making, it reminds me to be thankful. Life is short and only God knows the number our days. Someday, sooner than I realize, a couple will move in after us. They’ll change the paint, maybe remodel the basement. And as they move in, we’ll move on. Time stops for no one.
But until then, I’m excited to share our fixer upper journey with you. We’ll be sharing a little bit of everything. Painting the fireplace, tiling the kitchen back splash, and removing some walls are just a few projects that are coming soon. Can’t wait to show them to you!