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:

Unplug!

Last year I did an experiment, and over the weekend, from Friday morning to Monday morning, I deleted Facebook, Instagram and Messenger from my phone–and I learned something. I made a concerted effort to be more present, less distracted. I put first things first. Sometimes I feel like my presence on social media is so “valuable” that I overlook my family’s needs, and even my own need for focus and a deeper prayer life.

It was so refreshing to me to unplug. Have you tried it? How did it go? Post a picture! You didn’t miss ANYTHING while you were offline, I promise. But how much would you have missed this weekend if you had been distracted by that endless newsfeed and the confusing voices of Social Media? Our families need us far more than we need Facebook.

I decided at that time that for the following 2 months I would get offline every weekend and just be more present in my home, with my family, in my marriage and in deeper prayer and devotion. It was so good for my soul to let go.

Here’s a book I published a few years ago to help with such a mission. It’s only $10 – the best $10 you could spend today on your much-deserved self!

Get it here: https://amzn.to/3oXzBmS

Friend, do you need more time to focus on what really matters? Do you need more peace, more strength, more energy, more focus, more devotion and more joy? You can have it all! It’s waiting in the quiet place where you unplug and unwrap all the good gifts your home life has to offer you. Try to unplug one, two or three days in the week. It will be so, so, so good for your body, soul, mind and spirit! It will be so good for your family, for your marriage and for your life work.

When you unplug and refocus you will be in a place to remember your purpose, to reflect on your unique calling, and you will be in a place to treasure the gifts you have been given.

Social Media can be a thief in many ways and we must not let it have access to our hearts and lives in such a way that we become more responsive to our phones than we are to our husbands. Social Media can also give us an unrealistic idea of what we should be as women. Social Media can be a drain and steal words and energy that were meant for your children… instead of the masses. Social Media can be a troubling voice that shouts confusion, presents fake news, sucks us into weird videos, and plants into our minds a diluted vision of reality. Yuck, we must be on guard.

In the same light, Facebook can be a wonderful tool for connection, encouragement and a place where friends can be found, and good things can be discovered and discussed. But we must control it and not let it control us. Use your Social Media for good. Use it to be a voice of blessing, strength, hope, friendship, kindness and light. Use it to share wisdom, ideas and experience. Use it intentionally by going directly to the groups that fill your heart and inspire you in positive ways to be a better and smarter mama.

The point is: BE intentional.

Maybe turn off notifications and tune in to your own heart a little better. Turn off your phone in the evening so you can be focused more on your marriage. Listen to the precious little voices all around your home. So often we wonder why we are struggling so much in our relationships. Is it because we are distracted from investing in them? Let’s not shift the blame and say that we are lonely because of someone else’s addiction to their phone. We get sucked into Social Media at times to push away the loneliness. But is this the best? Change begins with you. Create a place of joy. Invent an atmosphere of fun, peace, learning and even romance. It’s actually up to you, because you can only change yourself and your habits. And you are not alone. We are in this together, as women who are unplugging together to build up our families and to be refreshed.

And after you unplug, return to our Facebook group, and bless the women there with your new ideas and your fresh joy! Share pictures from your weekend off! Show us what you would have missed if you have been scrolling Facebook instead.

This little book is a simple tool to help you change your daily habits, and it has been a blessing to many! I hope it is a blessing to you! Click the image below to get yours!

The “Why” of Mom-Schooling

Mom-School happens when you remember who you are through your passions, your interests and your needs. You fill a basket with learning tools for yourself, then in your free time you dig into your Mom-School Basket, read a book or watch a tutorial about something you want to learn… instead of watching TV, Netflix, or cruising Facebook.

Mom-School energizes me while the children curiously look into my basket, watch me learn, see me grow… and they discover that I am not just their mom, but a woman with dreams, goals, ideas, needs and desires.

They see me research and join me for an online class, they flip through my Mom-School Journal and see my careful efforts and beautiful handwriting. They see me as someone who is curious, they see me as a detective, an explorer, a creator, a follower, a leader and a friend.

Mom-School is waking up with ideas, and being full of wonder. It’s problem solving and crafting, it’s higher education or a new recipe.

Mom-School is remembering who you are in the midst of the busy season of mothering and holding on to your dreams so your children will be inspired to become who they were created to be, because they are basking in the example of you.

Mom-School is refreshing and calming, and it’s worth your time and mine. Mom-School is empowering to you as a woman and sets the stage for your children to follow your example because you make learning look so delightful.

Join our Mom-Schooling Facebook group here!

Praying for Your Family, Your Country…the World

Over these years Josh and I have traveled to several countries. During our time in each one we would feel called to sing and pray over the land and the people. These books each represent the counties we have traveled to and have committed to intercede for. The Lord had called us, His Bride, His Children, to pray for all the nations, and this is just one little idea for how to do it. Creating a book of prayer and blessings for each place we pray for.

I feel so strongly that these prayers are heard and answered and God is working in the world through the release of our prayers, supplications, decrees, songs and words of blessings over land and people.

God has given the earth to humans, it is ours to care for, protect, and nurture like a garden. Humanity fails and blames God.

But… in fervent prayer for the lands, the nations, the people, the governments, the church, the religious leaders, the sick, the bound, the suffering ones, the lost… we bring forth blessing, light, deliverance, power and healing on earth.

“The heavens belong to the Lord but the EARTH He has given to the children of men.” Psalm 115:16

I want so much to be a good and faithful servant and leader in all the authority God has given me… over my family, and over these places in the Earth where I have a calling and where I have authority to bring the blessings of the Kingdom of God down to Earth. Through prayer God releases power. Power of angel armies, power to bless, power to heal, power to bring deliverance and salvation! Prayer brings light into the darkness.

If you say you are part of God’s family, I just want to encourage you to take your authority in prayer and supplication over your family and over the land you have walked upon to pray… “Your Kingdom Come! Your Will Be Done, on Earth as it is in Heaven!”

Being an active member of the Kingdom of God is a great honor, joy, blessing and a great responsibility. To whom much is given, much is required. Don’t squander your role in your family or your role in God’s family.

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:

Take a Break!

Sometimes a break from school really gives parents time to help a child with a problem area so she can go back to school with new skills and confidence.

How do you do it? I would just let them play most of the time but spend about an hour focusing on the problem area. It’s a great time for dyslexia therapy or some multiplication games.

Sometimes the school schedule is so packed that a break like this offers us a chance help our kids grow in a specific area so they can go back to school stronger in the problem area.

Also, some kids have passions that they don’t have time for during the school year. I have a daughter who was obsessed with parrots and endangered species. It was a perfect time to let her “major in parrots” and learn to dig deep into a topic she really loves.

So we put together a Fun-Schooling basket full of stuff that helps her research birds and Endangered Species. It’s easy to focus because she’s so passionate.

So, during a break from school I would suggest only two things:

1. Zero in on just ONE problem area so the child can overcome some of her struggles.

We use DyslexiaGames.com for reading, writing and spelling problems. It’s so easy to use.

Try Math Craft for problems with basic math and multiplication.

2. Give the child resources based on their passion, and really make time for that passion. What is your child passionate about?

It’s exactly what we would do on summer vacation since this is a chance to focus on strengths and weaknesses, letting everything else go.

Besides that, the kids can have a blast and stay busy being creative, playing video games, watching movies, cooking their own meals, exploring nature, training a pet, learning new skills, and being together. The possibilities are endless!

Example of a Horse Lovers Fun-Schooling Basket

You Had Each Other First–Keep Each Other First!

Homeschool Mommy – Don’t forget that you are also a wife! (I know we have a few single moms here too.) We were just having a conversation about the guilt that some of us have experienced in the homeschooling community because we don’t always grind our own wheat, bake our own bread, do desk work for 6 hours, and look like pioneers. I think that it can be a beautiful life to do all that, I used to play pioneers with my children and do the whole classical education thing.

Here is the problem that I had… at the end of the day I was too tired from baking my own bread and arguing with my girls about wearing dresses… to give my husband all the love and cuddles he needed! So, first things first, you know! If what we are doing makes us too tired to be a good lover, we are doing too much.

Your marriage is first. The best thing you can give your children is the example of being an awesome wife who truly respects and adores her husband. Keep your husband happy, and let go of the things that make you tired at the end of the day. Save a bit of yourself for your lover. Give him your best. If you have little ones this may seem impossible… but it’s not. Find out what your husband and children really need and let go of everyone else’s expectations, and people who push academics as the key to success.

Follow the advice of the people you actually want to be like. If you have homeschooling friends who seem to have everything perfect, beware–their marriages are often suffering, and they have forgotten that they have husbands. Don’t trade your marriage in for the appearance of being a perfect homeschooling teacher. You are free to be a lovable wife, that girl that he married. That’s you!

Inspiring Your Child to Read

I don’t worry much about reading before age 9. The longer they play the better! When my children start asking me “Mom, how do you spell…?” That’s when I know they are ready for reading. When a child is ready to learn to read it’s so easy to help them.

When it comes to learning to read there shouldn’t be a struggle. Dyslexic children and creative kids struggle because we are trying to teach them too soon. Dyslexia Games helps prepare the mind for reading and writing without stress, and helps to teach reading in a self directed way that works for creative kids.

Still, sometimes the brain just isn’t ready for the job of reading before age 9. For some it may be age 11– kids who learn to read late tend to be very artistic and creative.

The first key to inspiring a child to read is to find out what the child wants to learn about and be attentive to what he is passionate about. Provide books on ALL levels about those topics. Look at the books together, and use books with a Fun-Schooling Journal. Allow the child to do a lot of drawing in the Fun-Schooling Journal if they can’t write, and please do some of the writing for him or her while the child watches and dictates (writing for your child once a week is enough).

The second key is to model a love for reading real books and writing on real paper – in front of your child – that’s what Mom-School books are for. When a child sees a parent reading and writing (not on a computer) they automatically desire to do it too. The brain is wired to give children a drive to do what adults do. (One big problem with classrooms is that all the kids are the same age, and kids are not getting an example of how people learn at a higher level.)

Curiosity will drive the desire to read, and the brain will begin to wire itself to read, write and spell. When a child is curious about reading they are going to learn quickly and efficiently. When a child feels the need to read, they WANT to learn.

When you try to force kids to read, write, and spell before they desire to do it naturally you are going to face a constant struggle. If the child desires to learn, they are going to be active in the learning, and actually teach themselves – it’s beautiful and joyful.

So, precious homeschooling mom, if your eight year old can’t read, don’t worry, just remember the two keys!

Raising Employees?

Joe does passion-based homeschooling. He is in charge of his education and uses Fun-Schooling Journals, Tuttle Twins Books and a lot of Usborne books.

Real life has no instructions. All children grow into adults who encounter situations and opportunities where no one explains what to do. We want our children to think and be innovative. Almost all normal schoolwork is based on following instructions and memorizing information. At our house we don’t do that.

When I created all of my homeschooling books I created them for my kids. I am specifically designing a method of learning to inspire thinking, problem solving and innovation. Because my kids have dyslexia and Asperger’s (like me), we are not going to follow a normal path. My kids would never make good employees so I don’t expect any of my children to be employees. I expect them all to have an awesome work ethic and to be business owners and managers of their own families and homes. The public system is training millions of children to be employees – who have a very watered down work ethic. I would never choose to hire common core kids. That’s not our goal, so we are traveling a unique path. Each child is unique and so we focus on their gifts and interests.

Now, they will learn to be good workers because I am giving them all opportunities to learn by working in the home and the family business, and they serve with missionaries and in church. When they volunteer, they really shine.

I never actually expected so many other people jump in and use my books, but I think that your children will really be blessed and your families will enjoy homeschooling with these methods.

I wasn’t creating school books that will help the children to fit into a mold that prepares them for “higher education”. SORRY! My goal is for my children to be innovative business owners with steady incomes by age 20, who do not need “higher education or an extended adolescence” to prepare for real life. If your child needs that, go for it! No shame! It’s all good! We need all kinds of people in the world. Just don’t plan your child’s education based on an antiquated view of what education should be.

Knowing our goals, I try not to waste my children’s time, brain space, and energy on schoolwork that doesn’t prepare them for real life. I am a bit of a rebel, and sometimes I worry that my kids might miss something… but they are proving me wrong. Whenever my teens need to learn something simple or complex, they get it done! They rarely ask for help anymore (unless they are trying to open a bank account, need a new computer, need an investor, or are filling out forms to become Amazon Associates).

Our kids are all excelling in their own way, developing their own talents and starting their own businesses – often before I even have a chance to show them how. They all have strong faith and family values.

One thing I have them do is read popular adult level books on marketing, business, and leadership. I also have them building websites and creating real books at a young age – check out our “Notebooks for Creative People” on Amazon. We don’t use textbooks, we always use well-written and interesting REAL books by passionate experts on every subject we want to study. We don’t just unschool, (though it works on many levels) because I really want to pass on my favorite books, family values, faith and traditions.

Sometimes I wonder what will become of all these creative thinkers and innovative children who adore my books. I would like to know what your children are passionate about, and how you are helping them to learn!