Equipped for life

Sometimes I feel like I am balancing so many things.

Homeschooling. Fostering. Tae Kwon Do. Parenting a teen. Housework. Parenting a pre-teen. Teaching. My own spiritual life. Cooking and health. Admin. Friendships. Writing. Supporting family. Creating a Spirit-filled home. Research and learning. Being a wife.

I truly love every single of one these parts of my life. (Well – maybe not the housework so much…) And when people ask how I am, I always answer – truthfully – ‘Busy! But good busy.’

Yet whilst I love the blessings of these varied callings, there are times when I feel like I haven’t got enough to give fully to each one. Recently I’ve found myself feeling like I’m not living up to a high enough standard. Guilt creeps in, and I worry that I am dropping a ball somewhere. There is so much more I could do, if only I put in more time.

But time is limited.

And the thing is, God knows that. He knew that when He called my family to foster; when He blessed me with an ASD and ADHD child; when He inspired me to write: when He placed a passion for Tae Kwon Do in my heart; when He entrusted me with a home, family and friends. He knew that when He gave me every additional purpose in my life, and He didn’t miscalculate my time or abilities.

Peter, a friend of Jesus, wrote that through ‘God’s divine power’ we have everything we need, both for this life and for eternity. And in Hebrews 13 we are reminded again that it is God who equips us to do His will.

So yes, of course there is more I could do. But God knows what is enough. If He has given me a work to do, He will see it through and supply what I lack. I don’t need to fret at what I can’t accomplish. Instead, I need to trust in Him to meet me in my weakness and perform His own feats of strength. When I take my tasks to Him in prayer and ask for His grace, wisdom and strength, I am relieved of the pressure to perform. Instead I can delight in what He has entrusted to me.

I am balancing so many things. But God is steadying my hands.

10 funny/not-funny foster care problems

We’ve been doing this fostering thing for nearly 18 months now. In many ways I still feel like the new kid on the block. We’ve only had six little loves, and there are veterans out there with 30+ to their names and in their hearts. But all the same, I’ve learned quite a lot over the past year and a half. Here are ten unexpected ‘problems’ that I’ve discovered come with the territory as a foster carer. Some are funny. Some not so funny.

Maybe, if you know a foster carer, this will help you to understand a little more of their crazy life.

  1. The complete inability to plan ANYTHING

    Let’s say you want to book a family trip to the zoo a few months in advance. You probably have a good idea how old your children will be in any given month. In fact, you probably have a good idea how many children you will HAVE in any given month. This, friends, is a luxury I no longer enjoy. I know I’ll have at least two… but will I have three? Four? Will one be a baby and exempt from entrance fees? Will I have 7-year-old triplets? Only God knows – literally.

    Or let’s say you want to arrange to go for a walk with friends next Thursday. Thursday is your free day, so you know you can do it, right? How lovely. Thursday was my free day, too – until one quick phone call changed contact plans and now my Thursdays are full. Cue me cancelling my plans… again.
  2. Your life becomes a series of acronyms

    “I need you to meet with the CSW, IRO and HV at the LAC review next Tuesday. You will be discussing the recent care plan change from Section 20 to ICO, with a view to a FCO. We will also be discussing the upcoming IRH, which was mentioned at the PPM we had a few months ago. Your SSW will be there to support you, and a FSW will be there to support birth parents. You can bring FC6 & 2 with you, as we can arrange care here. If the courts rule for a FCO we would like to arrange a meeting with you and an ASW to discuss where we go from here.

    “Got that?
  3. Being the mom… but not

    I cook their meals, clean their clothes, wipe their bottoms. I teach them to talk, take them for their first swim, steady their hands as they learn to walk. I comfort them through teething, get up in the night with them, nurse them through illness. I read goodnight stories, get sleepy morning cuddles, tickle them till they giggle. I can read their faces better than anyone, understand their incomprehensible babble, and pick up on their subtlest cues. In my heart, I am their mom. But the problem is – I’m not.

    I send them off with strangers to visit their parents. I teach them to love another instead of me.   hand them over when I’d rather keep them close. I build in their now, so others can share in their future.

    I’m their mom – but I’m not.

  4. Getting the names wrong

    You know that thing you do as a parent when you try to call your kid, but call the wrong name first? Maybe you say, “Come here Jon – Davi – Lewis.” Well, my list of names is growing longer very quickly.

    “Come here, Ash – Am – Mar – Eliz – Bri – Luc – Ame – Charity…”By this time next year I might just call all kids by one generic name to save on memory space.  ‘Jo’ sounds good.
  5. The joy of the UNANNOUNCED VISIT

    So we all know the mad tidying up we all do before visitors arrive. But what if that visitor was a social worker? And what if, in addition to the 100 odd scheduled visits a year that social workers made to your house, there was also the promise of one unannounced visit a year. At any time a social work may just appear at the door, ready to record their findings of the state of your home and kids?

    Yep. Oh-so fun.
  6. The conflict of feeling new and experienced all at the same time

    When a new child comes to live with us, it’s like having, er.. I don’t know… a new child. Crazy, but true. And if that child is a baby, it’s like having a new baby. Obvious when you read it, right?  But the thing is, no one treats you like that. No one cooks you meals, asks if you need help, or sympathises with the demands of a sudden extra body in the house. (Okay, not strictly ‘no-one’. Some very wonderful people in our lives go out of their way to check if we need anything. If that’s you, know just how much it means to us. Thank you.)

    But at the same time, you’re not a new parent. And the longer you foster, the more experienced you are. You get used to constantly dipping in and out of parenting a variety of ages. You become experienced at dealing with different stages of childhood, because you’ve just done it so often and so recently. You don’t want people treating you like the newbie – you’ve most likely got more experience than them.

    We’re hard to please, us foster carers.  Sorry about that.

  7. Storage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Now I know here in England we’ve all got small houses and not enough space. We all need more storage. But seriously, foster carers take this to the extreme. In addition to the stuff our core family unit own and need space for, in our house we also store:

    a full size single bed; two toddler beds; a cotbed; a moses basket; bedding for all those beds; three chests of draws; a wardrobe; two carry cots; two pushchairs; two car seats; a booster seat; a playmat; a bouncer; a walker; a toy ring; two play mats; a baby bath; a highchair; a nappy bin; two nappy bags; a night-light; a baby monitor; bottles; dummies; toddler cups, plates, and cutlery; bibs; girls’ clothes from newborn to age 6; boys’ clothes from newborn to age 6; toys and games suitable from newborn to age 6; spare suitcases; memory boxes; contact bags;

    I think God gave us expandable walls.
  8. Awkward introductions

    It used to be easy – “Hi, nice to meet you!  These are my kids.” Not any more. ‘These’ aren’t always ‘my’ kids. Sure, it doesn’t matter if I’m just meeting you in passing. You don’t need to know that one (or two) are not really mine. But what if you’ve moved to the area and you’re joining my social group? Do I tell you now? Do I tell you later? Do I just let you figure it out? And what if I’m signing a borrowed baby up for a mother and baby swimming group? It’s just so complicated. Maybe a more experienced foster carer has a good system worked out, but I’m still floundering in this one.
  9. Knowing too much

    We did a lot of learning before becoming foster carers. Then we went through the assessment process, where they put us on a course to learn some more. Then they require that we do a minimum of five training course/books a year, every year. Then we started fostering actual children, and the REAL learning began in earnest.

    Suffice it to say I know an awful lot about attachment, trauma, loss, and transitions, both in theory and practice. The trouble is, I know more than the professionals who I rely on for help. So when it comes to transitioning a child from my home to another, I am often helpless to make things better. I know what needs to be done, but there are too many others in charge who don’t know, and my voice is not enough to get it done.
  10. A really long prayer list and a head full of dreams

    The more kids we have, the longer my prayer list gets. By the time I’m 40 I think it’s going to take me all day just pray for each child.  This a good thing.  But time consuming.

    And my nights. They are filled with dreams of the little loves we no longer have in our homes, but are still in my heart. Here they visit me, sometimes happy and sometimes distressed. It makes for heart-achey sleep.

So there you have it. Ten things I’ve learned in eighteen months. But for all the ‘problems’, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Fostering has been the biggest blessing our family could have asked for, and we are so thankful God entrusted us with this beautiful life.

From loss to hope

Loss.

This one word sums up so much about foster care. First there is the children’s loss: they come to us to so full of it. They’ve lost just about everything by the time they move in – family, home, familiarity, possessions, belonging, security, trust… the list goes on and on. And then there is our loss: the empty hole in our hearts every time we let go of a little one we have loved as our own.

Loss hurts.

20180925_114603Last week we said goodbye to our fifth little love. Letting go just doesn’t get easier. But loss was not a part of God’s orignal plan. In the garden of Eden, there was no place for loss – all was perfect and so, so good. Yet now we live in a world marred by sin, and loss is rife.

But God was not content with loss. Instead, He decided to suffer the biggest loss of all, so that He could win us back and put an end to all loss and pain for good. Jesus Christ, the human personification of God himself, lost his connection to the God-head when he chose to die in our place. Of all the losses this world has seen, none can compare to this.

And now loss is not the end of the story. Jesus rose back to life, conquering death for us all. Now we can exchange loss for gain. We can exchange hurt for hope. We can exchange emptiness for fulfilment. Despite this broken world, God can work all things for good. He can turn the bad on its head.

This doesn’t mean that loss itself is good. No – the loss inflicted on the kids I love is painfully wrong. Desperately unfair. In no way good. But because God IS good, He can turn it around.

When we began this life of foster care we chose to embrace loss. We are priviledged to be co-workers with God, a part of turning bad into good in the lives of the children entrusted to us. And as we feel the pain of our own losses, God steps in and walks alongside us. He turns our tears to joy, gives us peace that passes understanding. As we follow His will, the richness of His presence in our lives makes the sorrow seem small.

Truly, we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.

The power of one gentle spirit

On Wednesday 28th February my dear Granny Merle went home to heaven. She went gently and gracefully, just the way she had lived here on earth.

It was long before I was born that Granny’s life was reborn. She became a Christian when my dad was just a teenager. Her conviction that Jesus Christ was real changed her life for good, and her life response to this conviction changed generations more lives to come.

Granny had her share of hurt in this world. As a young woman she became a single mother to four children. Later she was forced to leave the homeland she loved to start a new life in a new country. In her last years she was afflicted by a cruel motor neuron disease, which slowly robbed her of all independence and replaced it with constant discomfort and pain. Yet she bore everything she suffered with the most humble and loving spirit; never complaining, always grateful for what she had.  (Philippians 2:14)

Granny’s Christianity was a lived out faith. She was not a passive pew-warmer. Granny knew that the truth she had discovered was something that needed to be shared, and one way she did this was by going around the neighbourhood and inviting anyone who was interested to Bible studies, to learn more about the good news she had found. It just so happened that she knocked on the door of a lady called Margaret, a post-Buddhist agnostic who thought Christianity was a hypocritical fairy tale. However after throwing all her favourite trick questions at these Christians, and finding surprisingly sensible and irrefutable answers, Margaret eventually came to realise that this Jesus of the Bible was indeed real. Because of Granny Merle, Margaret and her children became Christians, too. Later on Margaret’s daughter would marry Merle’s son, and become my parents. What a rich heritage.  (1 Peter 3:15)

A life transformed by Jesus should look like love in action, and this is exactly what Granny Merle’s life was. Unable to find a job once she moved to England, Granny did find herself lots of spare time. She wasted none of it. For a while she became a Betterware representative in order to bring in a small income, and as she delivered catalogues to her neighbours she became aware of many lonely, elderly people in her local area. For years Granny faithfully visited and befriended these isolated folk, caring for them until they passed on, infusing their lives with joy and love.  (James 1:22)

At home Granny was characterised by gentle kindness. It was impossible to visit without her making you feel loved. Her servant-heart, generous nature and always gentle voice were standard, and all too easy to take for granted. But the effect of her constant, daily tender love was profound, and has influenced all her family and friends for the better.  (Ephesians 4:2)

Granny has left a legacy of love which has spread across generations and to people across the world. Her faith in God has poured down to her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. Her gentle spirit has touched the hundreds of people who knew her, no matter how briefly. She was truly a reflection of the love of Jesus, and she made the world a better place.  (Psalm 103:17)

The beauty of Granny’s gentle and quiet spirit will never fade. The power of her humble, gracious love will go on transforming lives. Thank God for Granny Merle.

 

Granny Merle

‘Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.’  1 Peter 3:3-4

 

 

Becoming

A friend of mine put up a quote on Facebook recently, which really spoke to my heart:

God doesn’t give you the people you want. Instead, he gives you the people you need – to teach you, to hurt you, to love you, and to make you exactly the way you’re meant to be.

As a foster carer people often tell me that I’m doing an amazing job. They watch me hold, love and let go of children that I long to keep. And in one sense, they are right. I am doing an amazing job; it’s an amazing privilege to step into a child’s life and form part of their story. But I am not amazing.

We have just come to the end of a three month placement. E, age 6, and B, age 2, came to us last November, a week after our first little love went home. They had had a life full of trauma. E told us things so nonchalantly. Things that a 6 year old should never even know about, let alone experience. B was terrified of simple sounds, and she spent the first night screaming for hours, not knowing why she had suddenly been taken from everything she knew and put with strangers.

The first week was a big adjustment, but we took it in our stride. As time went on the girls began to relax. They began to feel safe. They began to open up, and this is where it got really hard. After three weeks E began to show us just how much damage the trauma had done to her. She became everything we had been told to expect during our foster training, but experiencing it in real life is something different. We began to have daily meltdowns over nothing, where E would scream, kick, hit, throw, pinch, spit, bite, and generally try to destroy everything. These meltdowns could last up to two hours, and could happen several times a day, especially during weekends and holidays. She just couldn’t process all the awful, awful things that she had experienced, and she was letting us know the only way she knew how.

‘Theraputic parenting’ is the term we use to describe our way of dealing with foster children. PACE – Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy: these are the tools we use, built on a foundation of love, firm boundaries and total acceptance. There were many times when I was being scratched and hit that I was able to respond with deep empathy. When I could look in E’s eyes and tell her that I knew she was hurting so badly, and that’s why she felt like she needed to hurt me too, and that was okay. There were times I could respond to spiteful words with humour and diffuse the situation. There were times when, yes, I was doing an amazing job.

But that’s only half of the story. There were many times when I did not want to deal with another meltdown, and wished the school day was longer. Many times when E’s deliberate attempts to hurt and provoke me, succeeded. Many times when patience was not a virtue I possessed. Many time when despite knowing it was not her fault, I felt like it was. There were times when, no, I was definitely not amazing.

Guilt. I am not the perfect foster parent that I want to be. Confusion. I truly believe God called me to this job, and that He has equipped me for it – so why can’t I do it better?

This morning I listened to a podcast by a very dear friend of mine, who was talking about why he believes ‘just be who you are’ is a message which means well, but does people a disservice. It stunts our growth and stalls us in our current place of imperfection rather than helping us move into who we are meant to be. No one is perfect. And although we are all created unique and wonderful in our own ways, we are not yet the best version of ourselves. God put people and situations in our path not only so we can help them, but so we can grow.

The difference between a master and an amateur, they say, is that a master has made many more mistakes. As we wait for the next broken lives to come live with us, my prayer is that I will have learnt from my mistakes. That next time I will be more of who God has called me out to be. That I will love better, and be a truer reflection of God’s grace and mercy.

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Foster love: why I can’t let go, but choose to anyway

So many people have said to me over the last few months, as we have been approved as foster carers and had our first placement,

“Oh, I couldn’t do that. I could never hand them back!”

I get that. I totally, totally get that. I used to say the exact same thing myself, when friends of mine became foster carers and I watched them take in these precious, tiny babies then let them go again after investing so much. How could they do that? I just knew I couldn’t.

But here’s the thing. Anyone who just ‘can’ will probably never make a good foster carer.

Because fostering is not just about taking a child into your home. It’s about taking them into your heart. These are kids who have suffered things you and I really can’t imagine. Kids who have been abused, neglected, rejected. When they are taken into care they need someone who is willing to love them fiercely, wholeheartedly. They need to be loved as if they were your own. And yes, that means when they leave you will be heartbroken, because it will feel like letting go of your own children. But that is what they need. They need to matter to someone. They need to be loved so hard by someone who never wants to let them go. They need to be worth someone’s heartbreak.

Having said goodbye to our first little love last week, I have had my first taste of heartbreak. She wasn’t with us long, but we loved her completely. Since she left I keep thinking I hear her. I woke last night thinking she was crying for me. I keep thumbing through photos of her, missing her so much.

There is an undercurrent to that phrase “I couldn’t do that”. It’s almost as if, without meaning to, people assume that the only way to let go is to love less. That somehow we must love less, if we can handle saying goodbye. And I’m not blaming anyone – remember, I said the same thing myself. It’s just that I came to realise that my own heartbreak was nothing in comparison to what these children are going through. If they have no choice but to live through trauma, fear and broken relationships, surely I can give of myself in order for them to experience uninhibited love, no matter the cost to my own heart?

So we will keep loving each child who comes into our home as if they were our own. And we will endure the heartbreak of saying goodbye. Because they need us to love without holding back, more than we need to be spared the ache of letting them go.

Seasons

Life has found a peaceful rhythm recently. We’re in a season of (relative) rest. Since January this year we have had more time at home and fewer pressing commitments. It has been a time of strengthening family relationships and finding time to pursue interests and education more fully.

Princess working in the sunshine. Window seat for the win!

Prince and Princess have settled into a routine of waking, personal devotional, Morning High Five, then on to Learning Fun. By the time I finish my own personal time with God and come downstairs they have usually started on their work. They have always been good at working independently, but this season has seen a real step up in this. It seems I have hardly noticed them getting older, and all of sudden they are Big.

Big is good. Big is exciting. I love the people my Littles are becoming. But I have to confess – I really miss the Littles, too.

Our days are a mixture of learning independently and together. We do the hard things together, because it’s so much more friendly with two. We do the fun things together, too – read-alouds, walks, picnics, games, day trips, play-dates, church. But we also have time to work, play and rest independently, completing our own tasks and following our own interests. Our days are rich in love and fun.

Enjoying this season; preparing for the next.

I’ve had more time this season for reading. As some of you know, we had been pursuing the idea of adoption over the past four years. This journey took a twist earlier this year, and we are now part way through fostering training and assessment. This season of rest has allowed me to spend more time learning about how to help the types of children who may come in and out of our family in the future. The reading has also helped me develop skills, understanding and new ways to help Prince and Princess during time of anxiety, sadness and change. My favourite book so far is Building the Bonds of Attachment – a great read for anyone interacting with traumatised or challenged kids on a regular basis.

I don’t know when the next season will come, or what it will bring. I suspect it will be much fuller – in both trials and joys. But for now we are soaking up this season, full of its own beauties and blessings.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Piles of washing and mountains of love

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Piles of washing, still waiting.

I probably should have spent the morning at home. There are dirty dishes in the kitchen and piles of washing waiting to be put away on my bed. I haven’t even finished unpacking from our mini holiday last weekend. But this morning called us to something better.

Over the years our homeschool life has gradually grown from a very free, natural learning style to a more structured approach. This has suited our family well, and helped us continue to love learning whilst also maintain a forward momentum. We have a rough plan, which involves Prince and Princess completing all the work on their ‘learning fun’ chart each day, preferably in the morning. This is mainly self-directed work, allowing me to get housework and other chores done as well as encouraging Prince and Princess towards autonomous learning.

This structure and set work has many benefits. Even though it isn’t always as ‘fun’ as I’d like to believe, the kids both work at it with very little complaining. It is good for us all to have some discipline and work ethic, and I wouldn’t want to drop it all together at this stage of our lives. But at the same time I never want our homeschool to be school at home. In the midst of structure, we still have space for freedom and flexibility. We have the blessing of being able to look at a sunny spring day and throw everything else aside to delight in it! And because we can, we did.

As we walked around Nymans with friends this morning, I smiled. “No one ever regrets spending ‘too much’ time with their children – only too little,” I said.

Prince’s drawing of him and me; mountains of love.

We all know that children grow up fast. Way too fast.

So sometimes it’s best to leave the piles of washing and bask in the mountains of love we share on our journey, together.

My Homeschool Day in Life with an 8 and 10 year old

Every year Simple Homeschool runs the Day in a Life series. I love how every homeschool life is different, and I am always on the lookout for great ideas to incorporate into our own daily rhythm. I also love taking part in this (even when it’s my only post of the year!) as it is an opportunity for me to reflect on how we grow and change through the years. Some changes are down to finding better ways to do things, some to changing interests and still others to the natural changes that occur as my ‘babies’ are growing up.

7:30 am

My alarm goes off. A combination of the tail end of a cold plus an emotional week has left me more tired that usual, so I hit snooze and catch an extra 15 mins of light sleep. I can hear the happy, soft voices of Prince and Princess in the background – my favourite waking up sounds. At 7:45 I wake fully, and pull open my Bible which lives next to my pillow. Personal time with God is how we all start our weekdays. I am reminded how much I love not having the school rush in the mornings, giving us the freedom to linger and fill ourselves up with the Lord for the day.

Science & snuggles!

8:30

When I’m done upstairs, I come down to find the kids already finished their Bible time and Morning High Five. They have started working; Prince is on the computer doing French on Duolingo, Princess at the table writing in her journal. I drink my water and grab a piece of fruit for breakfast, then potter around tidying the kitchen and sorting out washing. I have learnt over time that I find these kinds of job easiest in the morning, so I never worry about leaving last night’s dishes out. Work is always easiest when you find your personal rhythm, something I try to apply to Prince & Princess when I’m planning our schedule.

9:00

Wednesdays are our day for majoring on subjects we don’t get to every day, so I pull out one of our science books and we snuggle on the sofa to learn about muscles and tendons. We examine some of our own tendons and marvel at their strength. Then I do a quick search and pull up a few videos clips on the same topic for the kids to watch. Learning happens in different ways for different people, and so I like to solidify our understanding of topics through a variety of mediums.

9:45

As in previous years, I like us to have a morning walk at least most days. There is nothing like stretching our legs in nature and fresh air. It’s forecast for rain today, so we get on our wellies and waterproofs and head out to Nymans, my favourite place in all the world. As we walk we talk about nature, and how things are changing in the spring. There are plenty of puddles which provide much delightful splashing, and I feel my spirit soar as I walk through the incredible wonders of creation in the company of these two incredible children.

Strolling down the Lime avenue at Nymans

11:00

After a deliciously beautiful (and dry!) walk drinking up the spring beauty we get back in the car and head over to Little Crafter’s Pottery to pick up the ceramics we painted at a half-term family outing. This was a fabulously fun activity, and we are all delighted with the finished products. In the car we listen to our history CD, Story of the World. This is one we’ve used for a long time, and done several reviews of, but we all love it so much that the kids beg for more and I am only too happy to oblige.

11:45

Once we get home again the kids head upstairs to play while I prepare lunch: scrambled eggs and veggies, a staple quick fix at our house. When lunch is ready I set mine aside and while the kids eat I pull out the Kindle and read the next chapter of our current read-aloud. We are working through the Anne of Green Gables series and we’re in book two, Anne of Avonlea. I love the wonderful use of language, which stretches both our imagination and our vocabulary. After reading a chapter I turn on BBC iPlayer and let the kids watch the next episode of The Big Painting Challenge. The series is meant just for fun, but it includes some great art tips for my budding artists, and I know it will fire them up with enthusiasm. While they watch I eat my own lunch, check Facebook and do some more pottering around.

1:30

Predictably inspired, the kids pull out the painting supplies after the show and get to work on some masterpieces.While they delve into the world of acrylics I use the time to have a deep clean of Prince’s bedroom. Although they both tidy their own rooms regularly, every once in a while I like to do a major sort out. Feeling focused I plow through it and feel very satisfied with the end result. I always have high ambitions it will stay this way, but experience tells me it never does…

3:15

By now the room is tidy and the painters have packed up, so we return to some of our daily work – music practice. Prince has recently decided to try out the flute instead of drums, and is enjoying it so far. I help him with this, as I have been progressing well with flute myself. I’m considering doing a grade five exam this year. After flute Princess gets out the violin. She’s still doing keyboard (taught by her lovely older cousin), but has been wanting to do violin for a while as well. She is blessed to have an aunt who plays wonderfully, so we have picked up some tips and she is starting to learn the basics.

3:45

While I do my own flute practice the kids get on with some geography games I’ve set for them. Then we pull out our geography book and snuggle back on the sofa to read about the core of the earth. Prince remembers a model he made several years ago and runs to get it for a visual aide while we read. Princess colours in a card she made for one of her cousins while she listens.

4:30

Tae Kwon Do buddies

We eat early on Wednesdays, as the kids and I have Tae Kwon Do, so I work on dinner while the kids do some tidying. Daddy comes home just as I’m serving up – perfect timing! I love it when we eat together at the table.

5:30

We start getting ready for Tae Kwon Do. This is something the kids and I all enjoy very much. The three of us don our doboks and belts and we all head out the door. The kids train from 6-7 while Ben and I enjoy watching and chatting. Then my hero husband takes the kids home, where he reads them some of their bedtime read-aloud, Lord of the Rings. In the mean time I get to enjoy an hour and a half of Tae Kwon Do. I’m so thankful for a husband who helps me do the things I love.

8:45

Prince is still awake when I get home, and greets me with a big hug at the top of the stairs. He’s nearly as tall as me now, but I love that he still wants to cuddle. After kissing him goodnight, Ben and I enjoy the rest of our evening close together, chatting and watching things together.

We are in a phase of life where each of our days are different, but they have a common, comfortable rhythm. We are flexible, and fallible. Some days don’t work out as planned. But we have fun. We learn. We love. There is so much beauty in our homeschool lives. Thanks, God.

It’s so much more friendly with two

Have you ever faced a challenge alone? Gone somewhere new for the first time? Tried to learn something complicated without help? Gone on a long journey with no companion?

It's so much more friendly with two.

It’s so much more friendly with two.

Being alone can be adventurous, at times. But when you are facing something difficult, something scary, something big – being alone can be daunting.

Life has many daunting moments for our children. The world is full of amazing possibilities, but getting to them can mean facing some tough challenges first. Challenges which can seem so big to their little minds. The dark feels frightening; sharing with friends seems impossible; the new class looks impenetrable; maths work feels lonely. If we leave our children to face these challenges alone, they can become overwhelmed.

The symptoms of an overwhelmed child are varied. Maybe he cries when maths is suggested. Perhaps she throws a tantrum at bedtime. He may be shy and clingy. She might become withdrawn around peers. The important thing is that when we see symptoms of an overwhelmed child, we don’t ignore them. They are a cry for help – and aren’t we our children’s primary helpers? We need to walk through the hard things with them, not leave them to flounder.

It doesn’t always take much. Often just a friendly smile can make the challenge seem smaller. Sitting with your son while he does that hard homework.  Holding your daughter’s hand while she stands up for what is right.  Encouraging words can give strength. A hug, a wink, a squeeze of the hand – just to let them know they are not alone, that we’ve got their back. Sometimes it takes more from us; issues can be deep-rooted and need long term understanding, care and encouragement before they can be conquered.

I am convinced that A.A. Milne knew what he was talking about.  It’s so much more friendly with two.

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