Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

Shot from Olive Branch Farm, courtesy of Toni Jackson-Lawrence

I try to infuse beauty and creativity into the simple things of life wherever I am, when we have little or much. It’s all about seeing the ordinary and everyday things as opportunities for wonder, spice, faith and shared delight.

In 2010, a realtor came to look at the house we are moving from, she said we need paint over all the murals because people want ordinary houses to imagine their own ordinary lives in.

Some people are talented with paints and pencils, others craft with words, still others are creative in providing memorable experiences. Truly, anyone can make the ordinary extraordinary–because what makes life beautiful are the people, the shared moments and smiles, baby giggles, the love and learning, the music, making and experimenting, time in worship, perhaps some furry cuddles, investing time in doing things together…and maybe a sweet treat or two!

Join us for about 5 minutes with the Brown family on a rainy day over a decade ago. The same things that made life feel magical back then still create the same wonder today!

Your Husband & Homeschooling

Ladies, just a word of encouragement – Thank each of your husbands today, or this evening, for all he does to support you as a homeschooling mom. Husbands often feel like they are not part of what is happening with homeschooling, and if you are a super busy homeschool mom – well, that can be hard on the marriage.

When I created all the Fun-Schooling books I wanted to provide my family with a method of homeschooling that wouldn’t wear me out. My relationship with my husband is the most important in the family, my whole life is built on my bond with my husband. So don’t be too busy or too focused on being a teacher that you don’t have time and energy for your husband. Homeschooling can make us forget that we are a wife and mom, so be sure to enjoy your role as a wife.

If you are enjoying using Thinking Tree Books – Be sure to show him your appreciation for making it possible to buy the books. Be sure to let him know that the books have not only been a great tool for the kids, but also bring you joy.

If homeschooling is dominating your whole life and you are finding distance in your marriage because of the stress of homeschooling, you may need to change something. You may need to get out of the box. Delight Directed Learning, Fun-Schooling and Un-Schooling can really bring relief and joy into your family.

As you launch into this year’s homeschooling adventure be sure to consider your marriage. Don’t choose a curriculum that is going to sap you dry. Choose a method that allows you to keep your marriage #1. My husband often says “Happy Wife – Happy Life”.

Don’t feel like you are failing your kids if you choose methods that make you, and your kids, and your husband happy. Many people feel like they are not doing “enough” if school isn’t rigorous and stressful. What you may need to do is write down your LONG TERM goals for your marriage, your family and for each child. You can feel good about letting go of anything that is irrelevant to your long term goals. Don’t do anything in your homeschool out of guilt, pride or fear – learning should be joyful.

Let learning be part of life, and enjoy a life of learning together with your family. Amen? Here is a great resource for Dad to get involved:

Taking Risks Together

Written ten years ago, but still as true today

Josh and I have been married more than 14 years, and every day is sweeter than the one before, love grows deeper and joy keeps stirring. Some people think that marriage always gets old and stale as the years go by, that doesn’t have to happen. My mom and dad have been a great example of keeping love alive. Josh and I have seen many of our friends end up with broken marriages, and it is so sad…

Josh has a silly quote “Change your life – not your wife!” He’s famous for this! To keep the excitement and fun in marriage… have an adventure, do something new together, take risks while you still have the energy and time to bounce back if things don’t work out. Learn a new skill together – like sailing, move to the country and back to town, get in over you heads on some crazy dream and hold tight to God and each other. Support each other’s goals, give each other time for refreshment, travel to new places, read books together, get a babysitter, say sorry a lot, start a new business, go on a mission together, ask God for new direction, redecorate the house, go to garage sales together, have a new kid! 🙂

There are lots of things to do together to keep the fun in marriage. The idea is to be on the same team. Some people get dizzy watching our life – they can’t understand why we are always doing new things. But, we are young, in love, energetic, and have lots of ideas and lots of dreams. Our ideas, and ventures may not always be a big success. Sometimes our plans flop, but really – if our marriage comes out stronger, our friendship sweeter, our family closer, and we wake up a little wiser and humbler – it was worth the risk.

Read more of Josh and Sarah’s story here:

Sarah’s Mom Tips: How to Triage

Triage: A process in which things are ranked in terms of importance or priority.

Being a mom of 15, I’ve learned a thing or two about triaging life for our kids. Play, chores, reading, quiet time, research, exploration…all of them are rearranged pretty fluidly for each child. Just as medical professionals triage their patients, evaluating their needs in terms of urgency and precedence, so we homeschooling moms are continually evaluating our kids and what their needs are not only educationally, but also emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Here are some tips that have worked well for us.

As you plan to Fun-School a child under 10, don’t feel like you need to do everything on your list every day.

Listen to your child and watch for what brings them joy -You will learn what subjects and topics your child is passionate about, and those are the ones you should do every day and spend more time on (if the child wants to spend extra time researching their favorite topics).

Many teachers focus the most on the child’s weakness and problem areas. I do not focus more than 20 minutes a day on the problem areas if the lesson or activity burns them out. If reading is a struggle, I use Dyslexia Games, but only 15 minutes a day – unless they want to do more. Usually they like Dyslexia Games, so it isn’t a struggle.

If math is a struggle, use games and calculators, and our book 100 Numbers.

If they seem confused when trying to learn math – stop using a memory approach and teach them the WHY and HOW of numbers. They may need time to mature to be able to grasp new concepts. Children need to understand, not just memorize.

Make a lot of time for play, curiosity and discovery.

Children who are entertained constantly, over scheduled, or are addicted to gaming have a lot of issues. You can avoid MANY problems by making sure your child has time to use their imagination and PLAY without constant electronic stimulation. Kids often opt to be entertained. Boredom is okay and leads to innovation!

Healthy children often can’t sit still for more than 20 minutes at a time. They are wiggly by design, children need to move their bodies while learning.

If there is a topic or book that you want to use that they don’t enjoy, you can let it go OR do the work together OR you do it while the child watches you do it.

Make sure your child watches you write – in print and cursive. That’s what the Mom-School books are for.

Feel free to use audio books in place of reading, so the child can learn on a higher level.

Throw out anything that makes your child miserable when trying to learn. Try the fun and joyful methods. If there is no fun and joyful way to learn, you may be dealing with a maturity issue.

Kids on sugar may seem crazy and out of control.

Kids who do not sleep enough may seem moody and out of control.

Kids who see adults fighting or are exposed to violence on games and movies may seem depressed and unmotivated to learn.

Kids who text all night are often lazy all day. Is your child sleeping with a phone?

Find your child’s passion, and feed it.

It is good for kids to learn to research. Research is an awesome skill, that is learned best when a child studies their passion.

Some of most important things to teach your children involve:

1. Reading

2. Research

3. Relationships

4. Responsibility

5. Resourcefulness

6. Rest & Reflection

Put first things first. Outline your goals for each child and help them grow in the things that really matter.

The Days Are Long, but the Years Are Short

Grandad and Anna (4)

We all have moments and seasons that we look back on and wonder how we made it through. Enjoy one of my Facebook posts from a decade ago…

I found a journal from 2004 – Moms – you need a laugh… I had a made a list of all the “toddler trouble” Anna got into in one week.

The Setting: Rachel is one month old. Estera is 1 1/2, Anna is 3, and Isaac is 5.

Anna’s Top 20 for the Week of May 5th 2004:

1. Anna mixes ice-cream, sprinkles, popcorn and cat food.

2. Anna plays with a slug until she kills it.

3. Anna gets baby out of swing all by herself.

4. Anna glues paper to the floor.

5. Popcorn dumped all over floor.

6. Anna & Estera put celery in the potty.

7. Anna dumps Wheat Chex into bath tub.

8. Anna makes art with peanut butter.

9. Anna cuts her hair.

Remnants of an experiment…

10. Anna spreads glue stick all over.

11. Anna dumps the chalk twice and eats it.

12. Anna paints and colors everything but the paper.

13. Anna sprinkles poppy seeds all over the house.

14. Anna goes bug hunting.

15. Anna sneaks off with a plate of spaghetti, and decorates house with it.

16. I look out the upstairs window to see diapers scattered all over the roof – Anna?

17. Anna sneaks away with the popcorn popper and knocks over a large glass container, shattering it all over the laundry room.

18. Anna removes ink stick from a red marker. Anna fills a container with water, adds the red ink stick, makes red water.

19. Anna spills red water all over the house.

20. Anna gets the ice cream, all by herself.

What was I doing while Anna was making all these messes? I was nursing baby, homeschooling Isaac, recovering from birth, and cleaning up glass, wheat Chex, peanut butter, glue stick, chalk…

The saying is so true…”The days are long, but the years are short!” Cherish each moment you can. Today, Anna is a beautiful, talented, inspiring young woman. You will survive, and they will thrive. Stay faithful, mom friends!

See this post for some survival tips! See this one to read an update on Anna today!

Mom-School Art & Logic Therapy

Sarah’s Survival Tips!

Bad Days. We all have them.

Here are some ideas for how I try to turn a bad day into a good day.

1. Turn on “Just Dance” for the kids on YouTube.

2. Don’t try to do school as planned. Find a funny way to repurpose a page in a workbook or Fun-Schooling Journal. Let your kids turn the Nature Study page into a Zombie Study page.

3. Take a break from everything that is stressing anyone out.

4. Get out of the house, with or without kids. Preferably without. Haha!

5. Get out a board game or UNO. If you want the older kids to be busy for a long time offer a nice prize to the winner of the Monopoly game.

6. Turn on Secret Garden – White Stones.

7. Assign each big kid to play with each little kid, and escape.

8. Let the kids bake something.

9. Light candles and ask one of the older girls to make tea for two.

10. Sit in the corner and cry. And then find the chocolate. And then color in a Mom-School Journal.

12. Read a blog post by an inspiring person, like deeprootsathome.com

13. Ask husband to take a bunch of kids to a park. (If you are a single mom, reach out to grandparents or fellow mom friends for a swap play date…and then return the favor!)

14. Get everyone outside for Nature Study.

15. Make an early dinner.

16. Tell the kids that we will have a movie night if they get the house clean, and turn on the happy music while they work.

17. Snuggle on the couch with littles and read Goodnight Moon. Or read “Christian Heroes – Then & Now” in the living room while kids work in their Fun-Schooling journals.

18. Send a group of older kids to the corner market to get ice cream for everyone.

19. Figure out how to turn tonight into a date night.

20. If all else fails, ask husband to put the kids to bed early. Then clean your room really nice, set out a treat, light a candle, turn on peaceful music, ask husband to bring the wine, lattes, or fresh squeezed orange juice. Be sure to sweetly ask husband to get the kids to bed while while you take a long hot shower. In this case HE WILL do what it takes to get the kids to bed early!

What works for YOU? Share in the comments!

The Four Sisters and the Chocolate Chip Cookies

Anna and the girls, 2017

(from Sarah’s blog archives, dated 10/13/2013)

I love to make up stories that teach little lessons to my children.  Here is one of their favorites, that they want to hear over and over.

Four Sisters and the Chocolate Chip Cookies

There was once a family with four sisters.  The oldest girl was about eleven her name was Lily.  Next was Lucy, she was eight.  The six year old’s name was Seashell, and the toddler’s name was Daisy.

One morning their mom woke up early to bake chocolate chip cookies for a Valentine’s Day party. After the cookies came out of the oven she started making breakfast.  The smell of the cookies filled the house as the daughters woke up one by one to wander into the kitchen.

Lily came into the kitchen first.  She saw the big plate of cookies on the counter, warm and yummy.  She saw her mom at the stove cooking breakfast.  “Good morning mom! Are these the cookies for the Valentine’s Day Party?  They look yummy!”   She didn’t ask for a cookie because she knew that she would have some at the party; besides she didn’t want to spoil her appetite for breakfast.  Her mom smiled, and told her they would be leaving for the party after breakfast.  

Lily was helping her mom set the table for breakfast when Lucy came skipping into the kitchen.  “Mom! I want a cookie!  I NEED a cookie now!”  Her mom stopped stirring the oatmeal and explained that breakfast was almost ready, and she could have cookies at the party.  “That’s not fair, why do I have to eat oatmeal?  I want a cookie!  All the other moms give their kids cookies before breakfast!  Why can’t I have a cookie now?”  The mom didn’t give in, and Lucy had to wash the mixing bowl, sweep the floor and and scrub the cookie sheets, and every time she complained her mom gave her another job. It wasn’t long before Lucy quit whining about the cookies.

While Lucy and her mom cleaned and cooked in the kitchen, little Seashell peeked around the corner. She could smell the cookies, and now she could see them.  She was in the other room when she heard Lucy throwing a fit.  She really wanted a cookie but was afraid her mom would say “No.” Seashell took a look around the kitchen. When no one was looking, she snuck quietly into the room and grabbed six cookies, hoping no one would notice.  Once she had stolen the cookies she dashed into the bathroom, hid in the bathtub and ate everyone of those cookies. The first four were really yummy, but the next two gave her a tummy ache.  She wasn’t so sure if she would feel like going to the party after all.

Rachel, 2012

It was almost time to eat breakfast when little Daisy toddled into the kitchen. She saw the cookies and could not resist. Before anyone could stop her Daisy reached up to grab a cookie, but instead of taking one cookie Daisy grabbed the whole plate!  All the cookies came crashing to the floor–what a mess!  Smashed cookies were everywhere, all mixed up with the broken glass from the shattered plate.  

Lily rushed into the kitchen, picked up Daisy and carried her out of the room so she wouldn’t step on the glass.  Daisy was crying, but then she noticed that she still had one cookie in her hand, that’s when she stopped crying.  Lily helped her mom make another batch of cookies, but there were no more chocolate chips, and they were late to the party.  Most of the family had a lot of fun anyway… well everyone except Seashell, who felt so sick from all the cookies she had stolen that she couldn’t enjoy all the fun, games and treats at the Party.  

After I tell this story to my girls I ask them what girl they want to be like, and everyone of them tells me that they want to be like the big girl, Lily.  Then I ask them what girl they usually act most like, and they shyly confess that they usually act like Lucy and sometimes even like Seashell. This story always gives me a chance to teach them about the stages of growing up, becoming more mature, and developing self discipline, patience, and self control.  I tell them how it’s normal for little kids to whine, sneak and make messes but big girls need to know how to make good choices.  Then I will ask them if they want to pray and ask God to help them become more like Lily.  This lesson has proved to be very powerful and effective in their little lives.  

Teen Boys: What’s a Homeschool Mom to Do?

(In this post, we’ll go back in time to a Facebook post from 2015 and look at the model we followed (and still do) for homeschooling our teens. Sometimes it helps to see what it “looks like”!)

People often ask me what I do with my teens for school.  Here is a question that must be answered to start going in the right direction:

If you knew what your child was going to be when he (or she) grows up what kind of education would you provide?

Public educators expect kids to choose a “minor and major” when they go to college.  I expect my kids to study specific “minors and a major” starting in elementary school, and getting very serious at age 13.  For their 13th birthday we have a themed party based on their “career dreams” at the time.  Isaac wanted to be a chef at age 13, Anna wanted to be a baker, Estera wanted to be a photographer.  So you can imagine their parties!

Isaac, age 14

This is what my 16 year old son is studying this year–everything is relevant to his life and goals:

#1 Creative Online Marketing

#2 Publishing

#3 Personal Money Management

#4 Project Management (He is building a Minecraft server for homeschoolers with a history and inventions theme. He has a couple nerds working for him.)

#5 Music & Video Production (click here to see a documentary video he created!)

#6 Cats – He wants to breed and sell show cats, and make coloring books, an online community and a website for cat lovers.

#7 Bible, Missions, Evangelism and Teaching Students

#8 History (This is his passion, he loves Uncle Eric Books)

#9 Family, Relationships – Preparation for being a dad and husband.  He jokes about how taking care of his cats is prep for parenting, and he does want to get married and have a family of his own, and he knows that he will need to provide for that family.

#10 Cooking – in the past he wanted to be a chef, so we spent a couple years to help him train, he had two jobs as a personal chef at age 14 and 15.  Now he isn’t as interested, but could easily get a job as a chef at any point, and has great references. We invested a lot of time and resources in his previous passion for cooking – now he doesn’t want to be a cook.  Was that a waste of investment?  NO!  His family will be thankful, and he has something to fall back on… and he’s only 16.  The boy has skills. 

#11 Voice Acting.. Why not? Someone has to do it!

As you can see he has no time for a typical learning plan. We don’t do any formal math just practical math.  I am not worried about higher education, credits, testing, college.  He isn’t going to need a diploma to get a job.  He will be an entrepreneur; he will be the one hiring.  I have talked to him about higher education and the things he would need to do to take that path in the future. He knows that if he wants to go to college later he can prepare for the testing on his own and do it. He has plenty of time for hobbies and is very good at sports.

I started allowing my children to choose majors and minor when Anna (my 1st dyslexic child) was seven. She couldn’t read and write, so art, gardening and cooking were everything for two years until I invented Dyslexia Games

When people ask me about homeschooling and what the kids are doing I might talk might sound like I am talking about a college student, not a 7 year old.

I am not at all worried about higher education, I start giving them a higher education at age 13.

What would each of your children like to major in this year if they had the choice?

If your child wants to be an artist and mommy – take her seriously! Help her to become the best artist and mommy ever! That’s what I wanted to be my whole life… and that is what I have become.

Today, our son is 23, married, finishing Bible College this May, and is a composer. He’s running a recording studio as well. He has been supporting himself for five years.

Our son Isaac and his beautiful wife, Margarita

Family Fun Days & Creative Ladies Retreats!

Indiana friends, we are hosting several “Family Fun Days” and “Creative Retreats for Ladies and teen girls”. We are focused on helping families that are strongly involved in the education of their children, homeschooling or seriously considering it, and families with foster children, adopted children and kids on the autism spectrum.

Join our group: Fun-Schooling Indiana Co-op- Thinking Tree Community Corp.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/294062695709343/?ref=share_group_link

Best Books for Big Families

Do you have three or more children? Congratulations. You are outnumbered! 
Here are some of the best books for busy moms! Be inspired with PRACTICAL ideas on how to manage a home full of children, and ENJOY IT! These books were chosen because they all give you tips and fun ideas about how to love your kids, without losing your mind! All written by experienced parents, who consider every child a blessing! 

1. Back to Basics: Raising Self-Sufficient Children
http://www.amazon.com/Back-Basics-Raising-Self-Sufficient-Children-ebook/dp/B003XVYHES

2. Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal
Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love 
& Giving Life to 10 Children  
Kindle:www.amazon.com/Windows-Our-World-Crossing-Children-ebook/dp/B00PBDOTLM
Paperback:www.amazon.com/Windows-Our-World-Crossing-Children/dp/1502510111

3. More Hours in My Day
http://www.amazon.com/More-Hours-Day-Emilie-Barnes-ebook/dp/B005WWN6HU

4. The 5 Love Languages of Children 
http://www.amazon.com/5-Love-Languages-Children/dp/0802403476

5. Loving Our Kids On Purpose: Making A Heart-To-Heart Connection
http://www.amazon.com/Loving-Kids-Purpose-Heart—Heart/dp/0768427398

6. A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family
http://www.amazon.com/Womans-Guide-Raising-Large-Family/dp/1423604512

Make this stack of books YOUR Christmas Wish List!  Just share this blog post with your husband, mom, sisters and friends! 

Have you read any of these books yet?  Write a review here for any of them! 

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