Welcome to my homeschool blog, which offers insights into loving learning, loving your family, loving history, loving homeschooling, and enjoying your life! With your cup of coffee in hand, take a break to laugh with me, to have your heart refreshed, to be reminded of how cool your kids really are, and to consider the amazing adventure of being a homeschool mom. AND, if you are interested in the History Revealed curriculum, be sure to check out my Teaching Tips!

The Flaw in “Hurry Up & Rest!”

The Flaw in Hurry Up & Rest

Christmas is over. Whew! All the work and flurry ended a few days ago, and, hopefully, you weren’t so exhausted that you missed the celebration. You may be wondering if this is a time to get some rest. . . Hmmm.

School doesn’t start for another week. This in-between week, where one project is finished and the next hasn’t quite started, can be tricky. That’s what I want to talk about today. . .

As homeschoolers, we have taken on not only the enormous tasks of teaching AND parenting our kids, we’ve also taken on a 24/7 workload—or, at least, from first thing in the morning until late at night. Once you gear-up for the task, the pressure makes it hard to take a break. You’ve put on the mind of a homeschooling mom, so that means you’re trying to fit everything in by scheduling every moment of each day.

We know that this is a perfect week to relax, to have the leisure to play, to sit, to read, to sleep. . .But, it is also an empty week in the schedule, where we could get SO much done from our never ending to-do list!

What if Susie worked every day this week on her math problems and caught up?
What if Johnny took this week to write that paper he’s been avoiding?
What if I cleaned out all of my cupboards and closets every day this week?

It looks so good on paper. . .An empty void, waiting to be filled. There is that voice in your head saying that, if you work hard this week, your to-do list will be finished. And if you can just persevere through Thursday, you can all enjoy a nice, long rest on New Year’s Day.

But there’s this odd thing that happens when, deep down, we know that every other teacher on the planet is taking this week off. Though we may try to accomplish a lot, it will feel like we’re wading knee-deep in molasses. . .And the hurrier we go, the more we’ll bog down. “Susie, stop complaining and get the work done, and THEN you can play!”
“Johnny, hurry up and finish that paper, and THEN you can go outside!”

You can't rest and get your to-do list done at the same timeAnd you tell yourself, “Hurry up!! Finish those cupboards and closets and THEN you can rest!!”

What I’ve learned is that you can’t fool your heart. It knows that this is a week off—a week that you REALLY need. And you can’t rest and get your to-do list done at the same time.

So, my advice is to acknowledge to yourself and to the rest of the world that you are a legitimate teacher, and that this week is truly a break.

And, then, enjoy it. All of you, enjoy it to your hearts’ content. Let your kids enjoy the break in the ways THEY find delightful. Even more challenging than that, let yourself enjoy the break in the ways that YOU find delightful. Then when the legitimate start date in January rolls around, you’ll all be refreshed and ready.

You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make!

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Creating A Family Tradition

Creating your own family tradition

Forging a family tradition takes time and effort. . .May my faltering experiences with this bring you hope and encouragement in this season.

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come..." As the disbelieving eyeballs of customers and tellers at our local bank peered at us in astonishment, my children and I continued to quietly carol as unobtrusively as possible in that most unusual setting. Why were we caroling in a bank? Because friends who worked there knew that we enjoyed Christmas caroling and that we were used to performing for strangers—we were headed for our local Mexican restaurant to carol next! How did Christmas caroling in oddball places become a family tradition? The answer took twenty years, with many fits and starts, to get us to that moment.

It all started when I visited a friend’s class in college. The professor said, "Tradition and ritual are the glue that holds families together. They give a strong sense of belonging and continuity, which is absolutely vital, especially in today's culture. . ." Coming from a broken family, I really wanted that kind of glue! It was determined right then: whenever I married and had kids, we would come up with family traditions and rituals to give us this sense of belonging and community. The problem I didn’t understand was that instituting a tradition—for the sake of tradition—could easily become a mere external effort with little meaning. . . Only when the traditions come out of your heritage, or from the things that give your unique family joy, can that amazing sense of family continuity and strength develop. And it will take time to find them.

I learned this the hard way. I kept trying the traditions others raved about, growing weary and grumpy as nothing seemed to stick. My children watched me with puzzled faces as I kept growling instead of grinning my way through all these attempts.

I had forgotten the reason we were doing this.

The external rituals and traditions are valuable only as they come from the heart of the family.The point wasn't to hear exclamations from friends about how incredible our traditions were or have magazine-worthy photo shoots! The point was to simply give our children and ourselves a special sense of belonging, an ongoing sense of being the "Waring family," a delight in the distinctives which make our memories. I slowly discovered that the external traditions and rituals are valuable only as they come from the heart of the family.

Somehow, the tradition of caroling began to rise to prominence for our music-loving, concert-giving family of singers. It was such fun to see the delight on friends' faces when they opened the door to our homemade music. There was a camaraderie with one another as we raced from house to house to give our special "Waring" gift to people all over town. And, there was the continuity of caroling year after year, since it didn't take much time and required no monetary funding, just a warmed-up voice and a stout scarf and hat. . .and gloves. . .and boots. . .and parka!

I realized how important this tradition had become when my college kids began to ask over the phone, "When will we be going caroling?" and to express, "I can't WAIT to go caroling!" This was the one tradition that stuck. It was the one Waring tradition that brought all of us joy and satisfaction.

So that is how, several years ago, we came to carol in a bank. . .and a Mexican restaurant. . .and a music store. . .and all over town.

May you discover this season some repeatable expression that can give YOUR unique family a special tradition that brings joy to you all!

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Is it time for Christmas Break?

Do you find your thoughts running to Christmas?

Have you noticed that your kids are more fidgety, more distracted, and less enthused about studying Daniel Boone than they were in October? Why is that?

Actually, are YOU less enthused about math and science and history right now? Do you find your thoughts running more and more to Christmas—when to get the tree, when to decorate, when to clean the house before guests arrive, how many cookies to make, and what gifts would delight the hearts of your family?

Are you feeling guilty about your lack of “commitment” to homeschooling and frustrated with your kids because they’re not with the program, particularly if your lesson planner tells you that if they could just finish THIS chapter, THAT project, and THOSE books, you could be “done” in time for Christmas? Is the pressure mounting?

Believe me, I understand. In the words of a good friend, “Been there, done that, got the bumper-sticker.”

I’ve been learning a lot lately about the value of listening to your heart when it comes to these kinds of struggles and pressures. Though, like you, I can force myself to do things I don’t want to do, ignoring ongoing internal messages like, “I wish we had time to enjoy this season,” often means ignoring what the Lord is offering us.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that I’ve missed a lot of wonderful opportunities to take in and enjoy the moment, the season, the special time of year because I was so busy trying to get my impossible to-do list done BEFORE I could rest and enjoy. These moments, these seasons, these Christmas-when-my-kids-are-home don’t last forever. . . If we’re determined to keep marching through our planned out schedule, the precious gifts—the laughter, the fun, the making-memories-that-happen-when-you-do-unexpected-things—will be lost.

Throw textbooks in the closet & enjoy the next 3 weeks!So, dear friends, if I could share a bit of wisdom that I wish someone had shared with me when I was homeschooling, when you see your kids and yourself longing for Christmas break, consider carefully throwing the textbooks in the closet and thoroughly enjoying the next three weeks!!

Play with your kids, plan special times, decorate cookies together, make a snowman or go swimming (depending on your climate!), go caroling at a senior citizens’ home, and all of the other things you’ve wished you had time to do. Immerse yourself thoroughly in giving and celebrating this Christmas in the ways that matter to your family.

And, just so you know, when you take this kind of a thorough break, when you come back to “school,” your hearts will be refreshed and ready to go. That’s what makes listening to your heart a win/win!!

Remember, stay relational.

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What's Right with Christmas?

I know. There are a LOT of things wrong with the way Christmas is celebrated in our culture. . .

      • the Christmas merchandising season now begins the day after Halloween;
      • Santa Claus is more prominent that the Child born in Bethlehem;
      • Gift giving is increasingly more harried, hurried, and expensive; . . .to name a few.

And, then there are the folks in the church who are quick to point out that, perhaps:

      • Christmas was just the Christianized version of the Roman winter solstice celebration;
      • The birth of Jesus was not in December;
      • Our cherished traditions—like decorating Christmas trees and festive holiday lighting—come from non-Christian sources, and, are thus, suspect.

It’s enough to remove Christmas cheer from your heart, isn’t it?

Leaving behind all the crass commercialism and religious arguments, I’d like to share with you a few things that are absolutely RIGHT with Christmas—the first, historic, Jesus-born-in-a-stable Christmas. We’ll consider the historic moment, the location, and the way-beyond-normal occurrences.

To start, Galatians 4:4 speaks of God sending Jesus “in the fulness of time.”

What does that mean? Obviously, it is not referring to December 25, so what made the timing of His birth so absolutely perfect?

It’s a question so rich and complex that one could spend a lifetime digging into the answer, but the short version would include these points:

      • The Greeks, Romans, Gauls (of western Europe), Britons, Jews, Syrians, and Egyptians were all, for the first time, combined into one peaceful and seemingly permanent Roman empire, established in 27 B.C.;
      • This Pax Romana,” or Roman Peace, allowed a more settled, peaceful environment in the Mediterranean region than had ever before been possible—and lasted for more than 200 years;
      • East and West were able to freely mingle during the Roman Empire, which meant large cities became the meeting places for different languages and people groups who lived within the boundaries of the empire.

This was an utterly unique moment in ancient history. It was now possible to take news from one end of the Roman Empire to the other in a very short time, and the metropolitan mix of languages and cultures allowed people to learn of other places and ideas in ways not unlike our current globalism.

Then, consider the geographical dimension of where the birth of Jesus took place. We know it was in Bethlehem, the city of David. But if we zoom out a bit, we discover:

      • Bethlehem was only about six miles from Jerusalem, the metropolitan city of the Roman province of Judea;
      • This province was at the strategic intersection of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Location, location, location. This was the perfect place—considering trade routes—from which to send out good news.

An utterly unique moment in a perfect location.

And, into this historic setting, we see supernatural events suddenly taking place:

      • Angelic announcements to Zachariah, Mary, Joseph, and shepherds in the fields with their sheep;
      • A baby born of a virgin;
      • Wise men from the East, led by a star, bringing kingly gifts to an impoverished family;
      • A heavenly warning to this family to escape to Egypt—with the incredible provision of gold, frankincense and myrrh at just the right moment.

The more we ponder the events of Jesus birth, the greater our awe will be at His entrance into our world. And, friends, that is what is right with Christmas.

For more of the wonder and details of this story, we offer The First Christmas, an audio CD by Diana, that will inspire you and your family this season.

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Teaching Tip 12 — Following the Rabbit Trail

What fascinates your child?

Many years ago, we had a basset hound named Max (think sleepy dog, drooping eyes, and s-l-o-w motion). There were only two things that got Max’s attention and caused him to hustle—food and the scent of a rabbit. At that point, we lived in a somewhat rural area, with wooded acres to explore. Normally, Max stayed close to home and the food bowl, but there were times we would hear his distinctive, “Ah-woo-woo,” and the crashing sounds of a rather large dog running for all he was worth.

I don’t think he ever caught one. . .but he never got tired of following the rabbit’s trail.

Now, let’s talk about kids. Specifically, let’s talk about kids when it comes to learning math, science, literature, and history. Do you ever notice a marked decline in their enthusiasm? Do their eyes start to droop when you bring out the books? Do they drag through the day UNTIL school is done?

If so, then a rabbit trail is just what you need.

First, we need to define just what constitutes a rabbit trail.  What was it that propelled Max out of his lethargy and got him bounding excitedly down the path? There was something hardwired into this dog that found the scent of a rabbit fascinating. It made him want to run (unlike his normal approach to life), it caused him to shout for joy (Ah-woo-woo), and he didn’t even notice how much physical exercise it demanded.

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