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!
So here is what’s going on lately. I’m doing this in list form, because like the title says-it’s random.
My husband passed his dissertation defense.
When Josh told me the good news, I got a bit emotional. There may have been tears in my eyes. It came out of no where. My throat got tight and there was a catch in my voice. I could hardly speak. It’s hard to believe that we began this journey four and half years ago. This May Josh graduates with a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration. I’m so proud of him. But mostly thankful that God was with us every step of the way. Now we wait and see where God leads.
The paintings for my book are almost finished.
Sara Jo from Bryarton Farm has been painting the illustrations for a year now. I couldn’t have done this without her. (Sara, you are amazingly talented, beautiful and real! Thanks for pouring yourself into this project with me!) After I receive all the illustrations, I’ll move on to finding an agent who will get the book to a publisher. The process is complicated and the odds are not in my favor. But God is bigger than the odds. Right? He’s the One who moved me to write this book. I will trust Him in the outcome.
Homeschooling is kicking my butt.
We’re in the middle of second quarter exams. Did I mention homeschooling is kicking my butt? I consistently have to remind myself that what I feel doesn’t define who I am. Feelings can be liars. So often, I feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel like everything I’ve taught them has gone in one ear and out the other. But it isn’t true. And a little encouragement to you homeschool mamas out there- your children hear you. I’ve learned more about Jesus when I feel weak and worn than when I feel like I have everything together. Lean into your Savior. He is enough.
Juicing will be an adventure.
I say adventure, but I’m not sure what kind of adventure it will be. On March 1st, I’ll be starting a seven day juice fast. People give me weird looks when I mention juicing-as if I’m an alien or something. I encourage you to do the research-if you juice correctly, it can be extremely healthy for you! In my own personal experience, I know that the food I eat directly affects my health. After I juice for week, I’ll be eating whole 30.
Amazon shopping is one of my favorite things!
The dress and scarf are from Amazon. Together, they make one of my favorite outfits. (The boots were from amazon, too. But they must have stopped selling them because I can’t find the link.) The purse is a great color with the blue dress! It’s small and compact. I only carry my wallet and keys, and maybe a book to read-no extras. My favorite thing about Amazon is that I can shop from the comfort of my home. There is no waiting in lines wondering how long my four children will last before they go insane.
Book reviews sound boring. Am I right? Yes, I know. I actually wondered if I should post a book review about Charlotte Mason’s book, Home Education. The nonfiction book’s primary theme is education, after all. We all have our views on education, don’t we? Ahem. We want our children to learn with the best methods possible, but often prefer that those methods be the same methods we were educated with ourselves. But Charlotte Mason’s approach goes against most philosophies in education today. Gasp! Controversial, you might say? Yes, absolutely. But nonetheless, her ideas deserve attention and close observation. Her book, Home Education, discusses her educational ideas, especially concerning the application of good habits.
There are six parts in Charlotte Mason’s book, Home Education. I will write briefly (wink wink) about each part and try my best to give you the ideas Charlotte Mason was so passionate in communicating. I would recommend you read the quotes I’ve included with a British accent. Go on, don’t be shy. Charlotte Mason was British. I often found myself reading the book aloud in my best British accent. I know, call me weird. But it’s fun.
Part I deals with the child. Many times we, as parents hinder our children. But they are not meant to be stifled; they are people, after all. Children deserve respect. They must be properly cared for mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. And what better atmosphere for a child to grow than that of the family? Charlotte Mason emphasized the importance of family when she wrote, “No pains should be spared to make the hours of meeting round the family table the brightest hours of the day” (page 27). The family ought to be the safe place for the child.
While surrounded by the safety of family, Charlotte Mason also believed that the child ought to live each day doing something with intentional effort. She wrote in Home Education, “Do not let the children pass a day without distinct efforts… and let them do right at the sacrifice of ease and pleasure…” (page 22). There is an obvious balance that Charlotte Mason encouraged between respecting a child for who they are and requiring of them effort outside their comfort zone.
In Part II of Home Education, Charlotte Mason discusses the importance of children spending time outdoors. She believed that children could learn simply by watching and observing the world around them. On sending children outside to play, Charlotte Mason wrote that one, “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without” (page 42). She also mentions that, if possible, we as parents or guardians ought to take every opportunity to go outdoors with our children.
Part III suggests the importance of habits. Charlotte Mason believed that without good habits, one would never achieve a good education. Habits go deeper than the mere act and involve the whole entity of a person. She asserted that once you formed a good habit, it was no more a grueling task: but something that made the doer of the habit happy.
Habits In Education
Part IV discuses the relationship between habits and education. All of the child’s attention must be given to the task at hand. Charlotte Mason believed that we ought to “…never let the child dawdle over copybook or sum, sit dreaming with his book before him. When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task” (page 141). She believed short lessons worked best for children 8 years and younger and recommended the time allotted be no more than twenty minutes. Charlotte Mason also discusses other habits like imagining, remembering, and many more.
Lessons in Education
In Part V Charlotte Mason tells us how to use lessons in education. She stresses that education is not the memorization of facts but the understanding of ideas and the ability to communicate those ideas to others. When discussing the value of ideas, Charlotte Mason wrote, “In this way: give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information…” (page 174). She also discusses how to approach teaching each subject in detail.
And finally, in part VI, she wrote concerning the will. She wanted the child to know that he had a will and the power to control his every action. He only has to set his mind on doing the right thing. The teacher plays an important role here, as well, because it is she who invites the child to make the right choice. How often do we as parents/ teachers/ guardians go about forcing instead of first inviting? We must appeal to the heart of the child and in our appeal reveal the heart of the Savior.
Some parts were a bit dry. I’m not going to pretend there weren’t times I wondered when I would get to the “good stuff”. For example, she wrote about the brain and how it functions. While I understand her reason for including it in her book, it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Also, I admit that the way she wrote was difficult for me to understand at first. A few times, I found myself going over a paragraph more than once so I could follow her train of thought. This may be because the language between 1842 and 1923 was very different than ours is now. But overall, I understood it after reading it again.
But even with the dry bits and the re-reading, I’d still recommend this book for anyone interested in children’s education at school or at home. Charlotte Mason gave clear instructions in how to teach children. After reading her book, I am no longer bound to a curriculum or held captive by an endless educational to-do list. I am free to enjoy learning right along side my children. We find ourselves enjoying our homeschool now more than ever. Charlotte Mason’s book opened my eyes to the delight that a good education holds. Education isn’t something we have to do; it is something we get to do.
I recently heard my children say, “Shakespeare is my favorite.” My children are 10, 8, 7, and 4. Never did I even consider teaching Shakespeare to my kids until I read Charlotte Mason’s book, Home Education. Our homeschool has changed because of Charlotte Mason.
Her book reminded me of the privilege it is to be a mother. She wrote, “The wonder that Almighty God can endure so far to leave the very making of an immortal being in the hands of human parents is only matched by the wonder that human parents can accept this divine trust with hardly a thought of its significance.”
I never want to forget the significance of parenthood. It is a privilege, after all.
If you are anything like me, you aren’t entirely committed to coffee. I know-some of you out there almost choked. But it’s true, tea will always have a piece of my heart. I love it. It’s especially yummy in the Autumn months when the leaves are falling and the wind is rattling your windows. (We live in an old house.) But even now, with this thick blanket of white snow covering my Michigan world, I still want a chai tea latte.
Now, a few things before I give you the chai tea latte recipe. ( I promise I won’t be long. I hate to have to scroll endlessly to the bottom of the page to get the recipe. Why do people do that!?) Let’s talk about the milk for this latte. You can do whole milk or almond milk. If you choose almond milk, I recommend making your own. Homemade almond milk tastes 100% better than store bought. My kids hate all almond milk except for the homemade kind. I promise the work is worth it! I ate paleo for about 5 months last year and I thought the almond milk tasted great. Now that my stomach can handle dairy, I use the whole milk. But either works. It depends on your preferences and needs.
Also, you can cut out the brown sugar. I usually do. But if you’re in the mood for some extra sweetness go ahead and add the brown sugar. I usually just add another spoonful of maple syrup. Maple syrup is my all around go-to for a natural sweetener; it has this warm creamy flavor that I absolutely love in hot drinks! Overall, this recipe is very forgiving. Don’t freak out if you don’t get the measurements just right.
That’s it. (Told you I wouldn’t be long!)
CHAI TEA LATTE RECIPE
CHAI TEA LATTE
2 Chai Tea Bags
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp ginger
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs maple syrup
Boil water on the stove top or use an Electric Kettle. Then soak the chai tea bags in the water with the cinnamon, all spice and ginger.
At the same time the water is boiling get a small saucepan. In the saucepan, combine the whole milk, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Cook this until it’s heated through. DO NOT BRING TO A BOIL! You want it hot, but not boiling.
Fill 2 large mugs half way with the milk mixture. Fill the rest of the mugs with the tea mixture and stir. (Feel free to use less milk and more tea or vice versa! It’s all about what you like.)
Then put a generous mound of whip cream on top with a sprinkling of nutmeg.
Now, go enjoy that wonderful latte while reading a good book!
I’ve had lots of homeschool moms ask me what curriculum I use. When I answer with, “I use the Charlotte Mason method. It’s all about living books and narration,” I usually get this blank stare that says, “What in the world are you talking about?” I understand the stare because I used to be there! Not very many people are familiar with Charlotte Mason and how she approached education. Most of the information I’ve gathered about the Charlotte Mason method, I’ve gleaned from the books that Charlotte Mason wrote, and also from the Charlotte Mason podcast A Delectable Education. Today, I’m going share with you one of the most important parts of a Charlotte Mason education. It’s called narration.
Narration is the framework or foundation upon which a child’s education is built. Simply put, narration is the child saying out loud what he knows. It’s a re-telling of the reading from a living book.
As a child narrates, he starts at the beginning of what was read and goes in sequence to the end. The child tells not only what he knows, but also what he feels about the reading. Charlotte Mason believed that when a person is able to explain an idea to someone else, it proves that they know it. When your child is narrating to you, they are telling you what they know.
Let’s look at what part narration plays in a lesson. The first step is to review the previous lesson. This is called scaffolding in the Charlotte Mason method of Education. Don’t let that fancy word scare you, though. Scaffolding is simply reviewing the last lesson and connecting it to the new lesson. Reviewing the previous lesson should last about a minute.
The second step is to preview what is to be read. But be careful not to over-explain the next reading. Also, this would be a good time to define words that your child may not know.
The third step is to read two or three pages. Charlotte Mason encouraged the teacher to read an episode from a living book. Read it only once. Reading the episode twice is a stumbling block to the student. It teaches him that he doesn’t have to listen the first time. Find a natural ending where you can stop the reading.
Finally, the fourth step is to allow the child to narrate the reading. It’s important to refrain from correcting the child in the middle of their narration so that it doesn’t distract them from what they’re saying. Also be careful not to coax answers from your child- let the narration be fully his own. Sometimes, after the child is finished narrating, it’s good to ask open-ended questions about the reading. By open-ended, I mean that there is no right or wrong answer.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
What was your favorite part of the reading?
Who is your favorite character and why?
What would you have done differently if you were in this character’s shoes?
Why do you think the author wrote this?
What would it have been like to live at this time in history?
Tell me something you’d never heard before.
For one student, the lesson from the beginning of the reading to the end of the narration should last about 15. For larger families, the time would be longer to allow all the students to narrate.
Narration is important because it gives the child an opportunity to express his thoughts, to decide his opinions on the reading and as he does this, his knowledge grows. Personality shines through each narration and reveals what the child enjoys, and what the child dislikes. Narrations tell us what is important to the child.
Since narration shows us what is important to the child, it’s especially critical that as teachers we respect them during their narrating. Pay attention to your child as they narrate. Respect them. Mothers especially are known for being amazing multi-taskers, but when your child is narrating is not that time. Look at them as they talk to you. Show them that what they are saying matters. A child never ought to walk away from narrating discouraged. Correct your children with kindness. Do it subtly, and be careful not to talk down to them. We as parents often teach our children to respect others. But sometimes, we forget that they deserve respect as well. They are real people, after all. Remember kindness. If you as their teacher give your best effort to listen to them, it will encourage them as a student to give their best effort in narrating to you.