Month: May 2015

A Day in the Life of an Expat Homeschooling Student Mom

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There are tons of posts out on the Google about a day in the life of a homeschool family.  I thought about writing one because I find it so fascinating to read about how other people spend their days.  There are as many ways to approach family learning as there are families, and it can be super inspiring and even liberating to read people’s different schedules.  And since this is my personal blog, and not a family blog, I decided to approach it by giving you a glimpse of my own daily routine. Because I’m a mother, my life is intricately woven into my children’s lives, so my schedule will inadvertently show you how school works for them.

8:00am    Wake Up
I know, right?  Reason #1 why I love homeschooling.

8:00-9:30    Workout and Devotions
Because if I don’t do these first, before I leave my room, they won’t happen later.  This time also involves daily What’s App’ing with my friends and family who are just going to bed back in Canada.  In general, this hour and a half to myself is my sanity saver for a mom who never saw herself homeschooling and spending all day, every day with her kids.

9:30-2:00    Kids School Hours
The kids usually wake up around the same time as me.  They have their own morning routine which they take care of at their own pace, without me.  Get dressed, brush hair, make bed, eat breakfast, take vitamins.  When their list is complete, they can watch Netflix or play Minecraft, or whatever suits their fancy until 9:30.

We start by reading the Bible together.  Right now we’re working our way through the book of Romans.  We chat about it and pray together.

Most school days we move right from Bible into History.  We are in year two of The Story of the World, which is all about the Middle Ages.  There is a reading we do together, usually map work, maybe coloring for Abby, sometimes a short video, occasionally a related read-aloud, or other supplemental activities.  Josiah often has additional reading and writing work to go with the topic of the week.

20150212_2443We usually wrap these 2 subjects up by 10:00 or 10:30, and the rest of their school day is free to structure as they wish.  J & A each have a weekly checklist including each of their school subjects and how many times they must work on that subject each week.  It’s color-coded.  Red for subjects that must be done every day, like math, independent reading, chores, and writing.  Black for subjects that only need to be tended to 1-3 times a week.  Josiah’s black subjects include typing, logic, coding, and Arabic.  Abby’s include spelling, grammar, geography, and handwriting.  And green for subjects we do together or at least with mom or dad’s lead, in varying amounts throughout the week.  These are things like history, science, art, and family read aloud.

20150224_2709Josiah does much of his daily work independently, so I basically just check in now and then, or answer his questions as they come up.  We come together for green subjects, which I’m grateful for, since it’s nice to still do some work with him.  Abby needs more of my assistance in getting started on certain subjects, or even leading her in them.  She asks a lot more questions throughout the day, and regularly interrupts her brother for social time.  This is an obvious personality difference..  At some point in the day, they will usually decide together that it’s time for recess, and head outside to play or just do something loud and boisterous in the house.  And at lunch time we go over whatever memory verses we’re working on for the week.

One day a week we get together with our homeschool co-op for various activities, like yoga, art, or whatever one parent has become inspired to organize.  The kids only do their red subjects on co-op day.  There is also a homeschool swim day at the Hilton every Thursday morning, so if we reach the end of our week and decide we need play and social time more than work time, we scrap our checklists and head to the pool.

During the chunks of time the kids are working independently, I do housecleaning stuff and take care of the couple of things on my daily to-do list.  Occasionally I’m doing planning for the next day during these blocks of time. Because the kids also do chores at some point in their school hours, they are completely done housework and school work by 2:00, just as Dwayne arrives home from work.  There is no more expected of the kids after this, other than dinnertime help.  They’re free to enjoy their childhood.

2:00-4:00ish  My school work
20150331_3024Once Dwayne is home and school is done, I usually take anywhere from 1-3 hours to work on my classes for my Natural Nutrition diploma.  This is a big undertaking, so I’m chipping away at it every day.  I also aim to do some writing during this time, as well as my Arabic work on Rosetta Stone, if I have any mental energy left.  Dwayne and the kids usually play together and have down time during these hours.  A couple of days a week J & A have activities during this time, like ballet, drama, DI, and basketball, so I take my school books along and do my work there instead.  Or some days I skip this work section entirely and I head out to do errands or we go out as a family to do something fun.  These days though, we hunker down with the a/c and wait for the temperature to drop below 40 before going out.

After 4:00ish  Dinner and free time
At this point we figure out dinner, and then the evenings are our own.  We have a few evening commitments through church and Dwayne has played volleyball, flag football, and soon dodge ball, so sometimes the kids tag along to play with other kids there.  But for the most part, after dinner, our work is done and our evenings are free for relationships and relaxing.

I love my daily life.  It’s seriously dreamy for me.  I wouldn’t change anything about this routine, even if I could.  Some people would say to me, “Well you’re lucky that you have time for such and such because your daily routine allows for it.”  But, it’s important to note that we made certain intentional life choices to create this sort of life.  We chose to homeschool, in part, so that life wouldn’t be so hectic and that we’d have more control over how to direct our learning energy.  And I am very blessed to be able to work on a diploma right now, without having to work outside the home, but that was a benefit that came from this whole big package of choosing to move overseas for a season.

All of these good daily things came along after very difficult decisions, loss, and surrender.  We sacrificed good things for better things.  It wasn’t easy to pull our kids out of a great public school.  It wasn’t easy to walk away from a job I loved.  It wasn’t easy to sell our dream home and leave our family and friends behind.  To be honest, we did not see why God was asking us to make some of these decisions at the time.  But, in hindsight, we can see that he had a very different life in store for us.  And as hard as those experiences were, and still are in some ways, we wouldn’t trade the people we are now for the people we were then.

So, for this season, this is what a day in my life looks like.  I have learned that our life is anything but stagnant, so I don’t know how long this particular routine will last.  But for now, I am spending my days investing in the people and tasks that are most important to me.  And although I have moments of insecurity about how our kids are being affected by our decisions, I am convinced that they are getting an amazing life education and are firmly grounded in God and the love of family.  That’s the best kind of school I could hope for right now.

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Speaking of Rivers

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So, my vision of culture as a river is not one that was impressed upon me since we moved overseas.  For the last few years, life has been teaching me that our own cultures are powerful rivers, moving people along in one general direction.  And choosing to make decisions that flow counter to your river is very difficult.  It requires a lot of intentionality, persistence, and courage.

For the most part, life on the Canadian river is supposed to look like this:

*have a childhood full of school work, bike rides, and extra-curricular activities
*graduate from high school and then go get some more education
*find a job
*get married
*buy a house
*have kids
*buy a bigger house
*be sure your kids are starting their own river journey in proper fashion
*work to pay off the house
*retire and maybe go on a cruise
*go on more vacations until you die

(Please note, on the Canadian river, the order of points 3-6 may be shuffled and still be considered acceptable.)

river-1920x1080-006You won’t find this in a manual, but I believe it’s the unspoken and expected life path of the people on my river.  Some may argue that this is not expected of everyone, but if you’ve ever skipped one of these steps you realize the expectation is real.  If you don’t get married in your mid-late 20’s, you start to feel like you’re going against the flow.  If you don’t buy a house, or plan to buy a house, you’re veering off the path.  If you don’t have kids by your mid-30’s, you start to feel you’ve missed the boat.  If you live in a small house as you approach 40, without plans to upgrade, you feel the flow of culture asking you why.  If you deviate in any way from the norm, people are baffled by your refusal to go with the flow.  Maybe you choose to homeschool instead of sending your kids to traditional school and people speak up about what your kids are missing.  You choose to pursue an artistic passion or a non-traditional job and people warn you of the danger.  You have kids before you buy a house and people gasp and wonder where you’ll put the children.  You have bigger dreams for your life than mortgage payments, and people assure you that there is no alternative path.

The expectation from our people is real.  And the flow is powerful.  And I’m telling you, if you want to go down a smaller arm of the river, you have to be intentional and paddle at it with all your might, in spite of the cries from others to stay mainstream.

Now here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with living the expected life on the Canadian river.  Please don’t hear me criticizing it, because I lived it and I often loved it, until recently.  I think it is a beautiful choice, with plenty of amazing and unique experiences filled in between each of those expected lines.  What I am saying is that many people live their lives this way, without ever asking if it’s what they want, if it’s what is best, or if it’s what God has called them to.  And what’s worse is that some have come to see that this way is not ideal for them, but they assume they’re trapped on this river.  They may even know the scary step they need to take to start changing direction, but they don’t take it for a whole host of reasons. They may say:

“This would be too hard on my family.”
“It’s not a good time because of my health.”
“It wouldn’t be wise, financially.”

Those are excuses they may say out loud, but these are some of the real reasons that lie beneath the surface:

“I don’t want my life to be too difficult.”
“I’m not sure I’m capable.”
“My comfortable lifestyle is more important to me than listening to God’s promptings.”
“I don’t want people to think I’m weird.”
“I’m scared of the unfamiliar.”
“It’s easier to stick with what everyone on my river does.”
“I don’t want to disappoint others.”
“I don’t trust God.”

The rivers we ride on are powerful.  And choosing to move against the flow churns up a lot of fear and doubt.  But if you have any inkling that something in your life needs to change or a sense that God is calling you to something different, please at least consider an alternative.  Consider what a change would look like, what it would require, and how it might free you for a higher purpose.  And then sit with it for a bit, because you may be surprised to find that the costs start to seem small in the face of the possible payoffs.  God may start to plant a vision in your heart, and you will realize that pursuing that vision is worth all you have.

Now, I must warn you, three years ago we decided to look behind the vines along the main path and simply consider an alternative choice, and here we sit, multiple alternative choices later in a new country with a radically different life.  That might not be how it turns out for you, but whatever happens, I pray that you would find the same satisfaction, transformation, and gratitude that we have found from paddling against the current on our river.

Rivers

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river 02I have come to think of culture as a powerful river.

When we grow up in one culture, we are only aware of that one river. It’s banks; it’s flow; it’s depth. We know of certain pitfalls and exciting rapids. We ourselves have not navigated the whole river, but we have been taught by those who are further downstream in the same river, so we are prepared. We are familiar with how life works on our river and we expect everyone lives in a similar fashion, on other rivers. Even if we hear stories of different ways of living, we still can’t truly comprehend the differences, unless we leave our river and make our life on another one. Not just a quick visit, but really settle into a new life there.

That is a challenge.

All the things we knew and had come to expect on our river, suddenly don’t happen or work in the new river. And this river is just as strong. And as you hesitate, confused and lost on the new river, trying to swim the only way you know how, you start to go under. You feel like you’re drowning. It’s overwhelming, scary, and disorienting.

It’s easy to blame the new river. “Why isn’t this river like my last river?” Or blame the people who live on the new river. “Why don’t people do things they way people do things on my river?” But it’s not the river’s fault, nor the people who have been navigating that river for generations.

It’s me.

I left my river and came to this one, and it’s up to me to adjust. I’m not here to change the river or everyone who lives on it. And if I am, I’ll knock myself out in a futile battle. I’m here to change. To learn about other rivers and other river-dwellers. To better understand my own perceptions, expectations, and prejudices. To grow in strength, love, and compassion. And mostly, I’m here to magnify the Creator of all rivers and the Passionate Pursuer of all river-dwellers. When I focus on Him, more than my old river, the ride becomes smoother, clearer, and much more purposeful.