Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The things I have learned as a mother to many

If I had more time, I might write a book. 
I want to, but I also want to take a nap. 
Or go outside and play.
So, for today, I just made a list of things. Things I need to read. Things that maybe you will need to read, too. Lessons that I mostly learned the hard way, which is good, since they tend to stick a little more that way.

1. I do not have patience. 
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me, defined me, as patient, I would be able to pay off my house, or at least my car, and STILL be impatient. 

2. I cannot be "on" all the time.
I can be one super fun, exciting, adventurous mom. I can. And I do.
But I also can be the lock-myself-in-the-bathroom-for-five-minutes-of-peace mom.  
And that is okay. 
I need to be okay. I need calm.  I need peace. I need to breathe, so I can get back to facing and managing the mob.

while on the subject of silence (or at least a closed door)

3. Silence is NOT good.
Before you had kids, it was. You may forget and think it is still a good thing. It is okay. We all do that from time to time. But silence with a lot of kids never ends with silence. It fact it can end with hours of noise, mostly from you, and very little peace. It totally defeats the purpose of silence without peace.,

4. Grace is not just the name of my third baby.
No. It is a lifestyle.
You will need to give more grace than you ever knew possible. It will become a part of you, as much as breathing.
Most importantly, you NEED grace. We need people in our lives who can offer it. And often. Because having a big family can include letting people down, not showing up, and that at least one person will be having a bad day. 
And when given that grace, you will have to fight your own pride and sense of failure to receive it. It will feel impossible. It does for me. 

5. We will never have enough.
We will never have enough rooms, enough seats in the car, or enough food.
at least it feels that way
There will never be enough time.
But we will always have plenty. 
Plenty to share, plenty to give, plenty of love.

6. We need help.
There is a sad misconception that just because you have older kids, or many of them, that they are your live-in help. No. It does not and should not work that way. Yes, they have chores. Yes, they do contribute to your family team. BUT even the best team needs help to manage everything properly. The very best thing you could do for a large family you know is to offer to help. They may not even know how to ask, what to ask, but that offer can be a gift.
It can be a lifeline.

7. We are on display.
Like it or not, we stand out. 
We are a modern day spectacle. 
We live in a day when the most normal things of the past seem obscure. 
But what I wish you knew, is that your words, kind or not, leave an impact on the children of large families. Those children do not need to hear your questions, your concerns, your joking tones. They did not choose to be in a large family. They still need to make their own choices, individually, about how they will plan their futures. You may be impacting that, by your words, and that is not okay.

8. This is not for everyone.
I do not think this life would work for everyone. Actually the older I get, and the more kids I have, the more I know either God calls you to it, or He does not. There is a lot of struggle, sacrifice, and letting go that this lifestyle demands. There is a lot of "I don't knows." and "I messed  that one up."
And it is hard, but so is any life. It is best to do what God calls you to. Nothing else.

9. We need respite.
This one has been the hardest lesson for me. I grew up with my worth being based mostly on achievement. What I did defined me. It still does, whether I want to admit or or not. I feel the need to do all, be all, and love all. 
But I am going to be brutally honest here. This is where size does count. You are in a perpetual state of overworked, overwhelmed and over-needed. You will need rest from that. You will need a break. You will need to find a way to step back.
It will give you a clearer view, a better outlook, and peace and determination you cannot have if you just keep on pressing on, losing your light little by little. You will burn out before you can see it, and too late to repair the flame, if you do not tend to the fire.

10. Keep up or you will give up.
The everyday tasks of life cannot fall too far behind. They will devour you if you do not keep them on a leash. A schedule, even if loose, is a must. You need accountability. 
And when all else fails, throw a party, invite friends over, host an event of any kind, because if you do, then you know you will be motivated to start to catch up on the ever growing piles of laundry and dishes. 
And remember when all else fails, closets, use your closets to hide whatever you need to.

11. There is no such thing as happily ever after.
But there is joy. 
There is choosing it and there is feeling it deep in your soul, full to overflowing.
There is not always happily, but there is purpose, and purpose often feels stronger, and more complete than happily ever could.

12. Life can be lonely.
Often I wonder how I could be with so many people and still feel so alone. It can be sad.... tears flowing down my face lonely. There is left out, uninvited, and unwanted. 
But it is worth it. 

13. I am a failure by the world's definition. 
I do not meet many of the world's standards for success, motherwise or otherwise,. That is a lie that I need to reject. The world does not define my success, my Creator does.

14. I am more resourceful, creative, and hardworking than I would be otherwise.
I have learned how much more I can be. How much more I can do, figure out, and work for.  
I have learned how to make something out of nothing and to stretch things I never knew could be stretched. I have found talents I never knew I had, out of necessity, and I have been so blessed by it!

15. Life is a gift.
No matter what. 

so embrace it, live it, and spread it on, with joy

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Week 30: Resurrection, the Transcontinental Railroad, and Colorado

Week 30

(name of God)

"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, " John 11:25

This week we found some crafts we wanted to create as we read and learned more about the resurrection of Jesus. It is a lot to take in. It brought a lot of thinking. a lot of questions. In the end, it is also what brought two of my girls "down to the river" to be baptized...
and I am forever grateful and my heart is so full, exploding with joy.

The girls did a beautiful job with their verse notebook pages.

 These tomb crafts were simply made out of construction paper and a brad....
and helped us retell the story together.

The tomb was sealed....

but it did not stay closed...

the story does not end there. 

We also pulled out our "I Am" spinners and set it on "The Resurrection and the Life."
We have learned so much about the names of Jesus this year. It has been so good for my girls to break this down and really explore who God is and what He has gifted us with. 

Colorado (State Studies)

 We finished our state pages and also read Aunt Clara Brown: Official Pioneer  by Linda Lowery

The Transcontinental Railroad

We learned about the Transcontinental Railroad this week, reading from our favorite book: American Pioneers and Patriots. We also really enjoyed the book Ten Mile Day: And the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad by Mary Ann Fraser from our book basket.

We completed our student sheet "United States Grows" 

I love the differences in their coloring. It is such a reflection, not only on where they are in their learning, but of their very different personalities!

Another week done.

to give you a little more detail on where and what we are studying
you can check out our classroom reveal HERE

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Week 29 MFW Adventures: Kansas, West Virginia, Nevada, Nebraska and Magnets

Week 29

State Studies

We completed four more state sheets this week. The girls are learning a lot as we color, read and explore about each state. 


This time, I wanted to give a bit better view into how the girls complete these student sheets.

 First, the girls set up at their desks (or gather clipboards and find a spot inside or out) with their own sets of colored pencils, the laminated state card, removed from the ring, and their state page worksheet.

(this is a photo of our state cards, laminated, on a ring, which as clipped to our school cart)

and this time we snacked on
 sunflower seeds
which are also on their desks, as the girls worked

many of the states have suggested snacks to try, which is such a nice edition for the girls to have as they work on their pages

They finish all of the coloring first, moving on to the labeling of the capital and the abbreviation. We finish with reading the facts on the back of the sheet. If we have a special book or craft we have found, we also complete that activity or reading. 

Lastly, the finish pages are tucked away with the others, into the growing stack. 

(I noted between the snack and knowing they were having a few more pictures today, they did a really exceptional job on their pages. I am thinking they can do better than they let on, but since these are supposed to be fun, I will have to let that go for now.)

West Virginia

we read 
When I Was Young in the Mountains 
by Rylant, Cynthia.

We discussed coal mines, foods we had not eaten that were mentioned in the book, one room schoolhouses and even outhouses.

and mountains. and how they were enough.

and we talked about baptism. a lot. and decided that Solenne was ready. very ready. 
and soon enough that will happen.

This book made me happy. I enjoyed it so much. The girls did, too.


we created
this desert scorpion and a cactus craft

the cacti are simply white cardstock, painted in shades of green, crumpled pink paper for blossoms and toothpick spines

We talked about the Great Basin Desert, which is the largest US desert and covers 190,000 square miles. None of us have seen a desert in real life, so we enjoyed exploring this topic a bit more together.


we read
by Eve Bunting

and my girls wore some of our own special prairie clothes as we read this very sweet book

because dressing the part always makes it more exciting 

and they could become Rebecca and Zoe


Oh, the excitement!
Anyone who has done MFW Adventures in US History knows how exciting this week is. We finally opened up our magnet kit and we were so excited we actually completed all of the cards/activities! Next week, we will be playing some more, but I am sharing our pictures this week.

We used the cards in the kit for this study, adding in a reading from
 the First Encyclopedia of Science.

there was some spinning

and some balancing and floating in air

and some boats to lead around

I will say we all agreed the magnet kit was worth adding, and even more, worth the wait!

It was a very magnetic week!

to give you a little more detail on where and what we are studying
you can check out our classroom reveal HERE

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Week 28 MFW Adventures:The Good Shepherd and more Abraham Lincoln

Week 28

Jesus is the Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me."
John 10:14

On this post you can read about how we had learned that Jesus is the Lamb of God, but Jesus is not only the Lamb, He is a good Shepherd, too.  When we believe in Jesus, we become God's lambs, who are forgiven. We deserve to die because of the sins we do, but Jesus took our place on the cross. He died for us, taking our punishment, fully.
We have been gifted more than we could ever really understand.
 Now we are His.
His. Just like that.
We are His little lambs, and He is our great protector, provider, our Shepherd. And that gift is one that changed my life. Redeemed it.  I want my children to know that.

This week during our Bible lesson time, as we read the verses and studied, we created this shepherd with his sheep craft.

I provided the supplies, but I did not give any rules for how to complete this activity. I love how the paper towel rolls are just a little too big and the sheep have little polka dots.
The best projects are the ones I let go of and let them grab onto.

The girls completed their verse notebook pages, as well. I am so thankful for all the verses the girls are hiding in their hearts this year.

Abraham Lincoln

We learned a little about the Civil War this week. Adventures in Odyssey's For God and Country was a HUGE help as we studied, really bringing the story full circle for us. I cannot recommend this set enough for Adventures. 

The girls also completed these notebook pages, as our study on Abraham Lincoln came to a close.

This timeline was used a few times this week, as well. You can find more about that here (Week 27).

We also played this Guess Who game that you can learn more about on this post (Week 11).

It was a more simple week for us. Sometimes we need that.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Week 27: Abraham Lincoln, Minnesota, Oregon and the Meadowlark

Week 27

Abraham Lincoln

We began our Abraham Lincoln studies with something crafty.

We started reading about Abraham Lincoln in The Story of the US  and also in this book, which we adore:

Abraham Lincoln by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire

We made these fun paper plate masks, too.

serious faces

and sweet smiles

State Studies
(Minnesota and Oregon)

We read about Minnesota and added that page to our completed pages pile, which is really a nice stack of completed leaning now. We may have had some technical difficulties with the capital, but I did not have them change it. We just talked about. I like to keep these fun and less stressful, especially since they will complete 50 by the end of the school year.
That is a lot of learning, and coloring, and labeling.

and we studied a little about Oregon, as well, and spent a little extra time learning about their state bird, the meadowlark.

You can create simple silly meadowlark hand prints like these with just a little brown and yellow paint... and some willing hands, of course.

The Western Meadowlark is actually the state bird of six states: Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming. Only the Northern Cardinal is a more popular civic symbol, edging out the meadowlark by one state.

Here are our postcards for Minnesota and Oregon. We have been so blessed by our family, friends, and even friends of friends, who have sent us so many postcards from almost all of the fifty states. My girls have really enjoyed each one. Many have pretty pictures, facts and even little messages for the girls. I have seen them reading these, spreading them all over the schoolroom floor, many times throughout the day.

Thank you, friends, for taking the time to help us learn and making these girls feel so loved.

to give you a little more detail on where and what we are studying
you can check out our classroom reveal HERE

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Week 22: Illinois, Alabama, Wagon Trains, The Human Body

Week 22

State Studies 
(Illinois and Alabama)


The girls completed their state pages for Illinois. They came out so nicely this week.

The girls really enjoyed the Growing Seasons book (by Elsie Lee Splear) we read this week. It is full of beautiful photos and information on American history and seasons that sparked more questions and studying. We loved that it was a story about sisters, too. I cannot recommend this book enough.

We also pulled out our cardinal projects and resources from Week 15.

and two more postcards were added to our portfolio


We added these Alabama pages to our completed pages, also this very special post card.

We made sweet potato pie and learned about George Washington Carver. 
Did you know he created 118 products from sweet potatoes? 

We also read about Rosa Parks this week, taking some extra time, really brainstorming what her life, and her decisions would have been like. We discussed making bold, right decisions, and also living a life of humility, which Rosa Parks did beautifully!

On the inside they wrote some of what they had learned, in their own words.

Oh, those little windows are just so full of sweet. I love their little colorings at this stage of life.

We watched all the versions of the Helen Keller movie we could find on youtube and learned so many things about her life and were reminded how blessed we are! 
We also sent away for this Braille Alphabet card.
You can send away for one  here, It is free and a great addition to this week's learning. 

Wagon Trains

We read "West by Wagon Train" in our American Pioneer and Patriots book. 

And we looked through this book, as well.

We also created two wagon crafts this week.

These crafts just use things we already had around our home, such as craft sticks, paper, tissues, and oil pastels. And they are definitely imperfect. I love that about them, though.

Abraham Lincoln
(on money)

We talked about Abraham Lincoln a little bit and what US currency his face can be found on.

This girl completed this penny worksheet.

Here she is observing a five dollar bill.

Human Body Unit

We really enjoyed spending time in the afternoons learning and exploring more about the human body this week. 

Some of our favorite resources for this unit were

On a different note, we were supposed to make a quilt this week and my heart is so torn over it. I have fabric, even a US map panel, and we just cannot do it. I do not have the time without a baby or a toddler to sew. It hurts a little to just set the fabric aside, but it is what it is. That is life. Sometimes things get done, but sometimes they just do not. It is such a delicate balance in our homeschooling. My girls are always so gracious about these things, too. I really appreciate their tender, thoughtful hearts in these times of needed mommy grace. Really.

and if you have extra time and talent and want to help them make a quilt, the fabric is still sitting in a basket, just waiting to be a quilt someday, any day.