Embracing Your Calling

This is me, “living my worst nightmare” (just kidding) speaking in front of 500+ people. Why does God call us to do things that make us so deeply uncomfortable, yet are such a blessing to others?

Let’s talk. What is holding you back from fully embracing your calling?

And FEAR doesn’t count.

If fear was your answer, in any way, shape, or form, give me a better reason why you are not totally living what you believe. You were put on this earth for a specific purpose and anything less is not acceptable. If you were called by God to accomplish something you will need to answer to Him alone for not doing it.

I promise, answering me is easier, and may be a first step toward living out your calling, because I’m going to pray for you to have everything it takes, especially the courage, to move forward!

If nothing else, get a book about someone with a similar calling who overcame all the odds and did it. Also, some dreams are not “realistic” and you gotta know when to let go and accept your limitations. But a calling is different from dream because when you take a step out into obedience to God, and start to take risks of faith HE WILL do everything within HIS power to provide, equip and protect you in this calling.

Maybe you are not a leader. Then get behind someone who is already carrying out a similar calling. What do you have to lose?

Is the problem “no support from your family”? Get down to the root of this issue. If you are married you should develop one vision for your purpose, and do the thing you both agree on! Don’t stay focused on the parts you don’t agree on. Build on common ground.

Are your parents holding you back because of their personal fears and failures? Are they trying to keep you SAFE in THEIR comfort zone for their “peace of mind”? Are they keeping you from fulfilling YOUR calling because it’s not quite what they had in mind, because you are all they have and they don’t want you to take any risks???? Honor them by fulfilling God’s calling. Go in faith.

After the event in 2019 in the photo at the top of this post, I heard many many stories about how hope was given, lives were changed, families were empowered to make brave choices… I stepped out of my comfort zone, and God blessed. And by faith, I’ve done it again since.

What’s holding you back?

The Fun-Schooling Story: The Branches of The Thinking Tree Spread Out!

What The Thinking Tree Offers

As we’ve grown our tree has branched into several different offerings. Today we have six “branches” on our Thinking Tree. 

Fun-Schooling Journals consist of our core journals, the first journals we created. We also have dozens of smaller “single subject” journals on standard school subjects like Language Arts, History, Math, Science, Art, and Geography. Single-subject journals on “elective” topics have also been created such as Dance, Foreign Language, Animals, Sports, and even Minecraft! There are about 300 Fun-Schooling Journals.

Dyslexia Games is our art-based Dyslexia therapy program. It was created a few years before the first Fun-Schooling journal. There are three series for different age groups. Throughout the years we have found it helpful for students with ADHD/ADD, Asperger’s, and other learning challenges too. Interestingly, we’ve also found children without learning challenges or disabilities benefit too. It helps children with creative thinking, problem-solving, handwriting, spelling, art skills, math, and more.

Click here to continue reading.

The Fun-Schooling Story: A Homeschooling Shift

The COVID Homeschooling Shift

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, approximately 3% of American children were homeschooled. In 2020 amid lockdowns, limited and frustrating results of online learning, and ongoing mandates, parents began to bring their children home.  As of the time of this writing in 2022, roughly 20% of American children are homeschooled. 

The Thinking Tree saw massive growth between March 2020-March 2022. Our Facebook group grew by over 20,000 and our social media accounts gained tens of thousands of new followers. Sales jumped and we had several journals make it into the top 500 of all books on Amazon during this period. This is a feat that is difficult to achieve, especially for the homeschool market. One of our Brain Games journals even made it to the top 200. 

This journal made the Top 200 Amazon list!

Families continue to pull their children from school in record numbers. It is expected a substantial amount of kids will remain homeschooled throughout the majority of, if not the entirety, of their education. The Thinking Tree has continued to add in new journals to meet the interests and needs of students. We even worked to incorporate COVID-19 into a journal so children could begin to understand the impact it has had on the world in a familiar way.

Also during this time, our collection of Art & Logic Therapy journals grew! They have helped so many kids and moms deal with Covid brain fog and other mental clarity challenges. Something good that has come out of this season of challenges, and we are very grateful!

The Fun-Schooling Story: The Thinking Tree Grows!

The Thinking Tree Grows

At first, we weren’t sure any of “this” would catch on beyond our circle of friends. As we were contacted by families asking for journals with different themes, we knew something special had come. I got to work creating more journals. Each was based on the same concept with different covers and interior artwork to appeal to kids’ interests. These core journals became the foundational journal for Fun-Schooling families.

 

We named our new company The Thinking Tree when we published Dyslexia Games. My kids got involved in creating journals based on themes they were interested in and subjects they wanted to cover. I created smaller journals to use as an in-depth study on a single topic.

A Facebook page and group were started. We got the attention of a few Mom Bloggers who shared our journals with their audience. I added in Math and Spelling journals. Thinking Tree was invited to homeschool conferences. A few of our journals became available through Barnes and Noble. I created a series of Mom School journals so moms could pursue their interests and be a good example. Word kept spreading about our Fun-Schooling journals and I became an unintentional entrepreneur! 

The Thinking Tree grew by leaps and bounds during the Covid 19 lockdowns…read about it in this post!

Read the beginning of the story here!

The Fun-Schooling Story: How We Began

Unlike other entrepreneurs, I never intended to start a company. My goal was to help my children develop a love of learning while simplifying homeschooling. I was tired of having a million notebooks for school. They all got mixed up. Kids couldn’t keep track of their stuff. Frustrated and overwhelmed, I decided to create a solution. There was no way I could have imagined my solution would turn into a business that would change homeschooling for thousands of families.

How Fun-Schooling Began

We were preparing for an international move and I was pregnant with baby number 10. I needed a way to have everything for my children’s education in one place. Nobody enjoyed having separate notebooks for math, copywork, spelling, narrations, nature study, history- you know the drill!  I also wanted my children to be able to be more independent with their schoolwork while I tended to the baby. I decided to use the ability Amazon offers to self-print books and create something different for my children.

The first Fun-Schooling journal was made for my children to use. We designed different pages based on all the subjects I wanted to make sure they covered. I added beautiful artwork- to keep them engaged and provide brain breaks by coloring. I broke each section up with a “start your day” page so they’d know how many pages to do at a time. When it was all said and done, I created a journal my children could use on their own, pursue anything they wanted to learn about, and cover everything.

We uploaded the file to Amazon and a few days later got our first journals in the mail. My family was thrilled. The kids loved having everything in one place. It turned out to be extra helpful for my children who were a bit more forgetful! I loved not having to remind them to cover different subjects or trying to keep track of which kid had done what every day. The kids were enjoying school more than they ever had before and I had much less stress. 

In the coming weeks, we shared our journals with a few homeschooling friends. Because of Amazon’s printing service, we could give them the link to get one for themselves. Before we knew it, we were getting checks from Amazon in the mail. Our friends told their friends and, as the story goes, a company was born before our eyes!

Our newest release available on Amazon!

A Fun-Filled Homeschooling Plan for Busy Parents and Active Kids

My Real-Life, Home-Learning Plan that is simple for parents and delightful to kids! Created by me, a mom who is currently Homeschooling 10 of her 15 Kids!

1. Logic Games2. Read Favorite Books
3. YouTube Tutorials
4. Nature Time
5. Online Math Games or Serious Stuff
6. Kitchen Time
7. Spelling Games
8. Complete 5 Workbook Pages or 5 Fun-Schooling Journal Pages
9. Play Outside
10 Art & Drawing
11. Just Dance
12. Chores
13. Online Games (a reward for chores and school)
14. Family Time and Board Games
15. Movie Time
16. Music Practice
17. Games for Dyslexia: DyslexiaGames.com
18. Fun Homeschooling Curriculum: FunSchooling.com
You can do these activities in any order, but Movies and Online Games should be close to last.

Dyslexia

(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)

Anna is the author of “Heroes & Villains of History” and “Writer’s Fun-Schooling Journal”

Isaac started reading at age three. Back then, I thought homeschooling was going to be easy. Anna, our second child, was born dancing, drawing, and dreaming, but at age nine she was still reversing letters and forgetting how to sound out three-letter words. She continued to struggle with pencil and paper, and I didn’t know why. I had started both children with the same reading program, but Anna wasn’t learning to read.

I tried several reading programs over the years, but nothing helped. Nothing interested her. Reading was exhausting and confusing. I really began to feel like there was something wrong with her, and because we were homeschooling, I blamed myself. I was afraid to talk to anyone about Anna’s problem with reading. I never suspected dyslexia. I just thought I was a bad teacher until Estera, our third, taught herself to read and write at age five. She would always play school with the workbooks that Anna couldn’t use. By then, we had dozens of them.

One fall day a couple of years earlier, Anna and I were sitting under the big tree in the backyard working on reading lesson number one for the 30th time. I was still trying to help her see the difference between b and d. We were making a new set of colorful flash cards but seeing no progress.

She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “Mom, there is NO difference! I will never read!” she said. “Can’t I just be an artist and a mommy when I grow up?” I remembered having the same dream when I was a little girl and the same struggles. I had blamed the school system for my problems with reading, but Anna was being homeschooled, how could the same thing be happening to her?

I looked up into the sky and asked God to show me how to help my child. The first thing I realized was that I didn’t have what it takes to help her and needed to seek out a professional. I had to get over my own fear and pride and ask for help. The first reading tutor we hired was mystified by Anna’s problem too, but we eventually found a specialist who understood Anna. The teacher evaluated Anna and revealed that she had dyslexia. (click here to continue reading)

“Ready to Pop!”

(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)

“You look about ready to pop! When are you due?” a stranger asked me one day in the checkout aisle of the supermarket near our home in Fortville.

“Oh, last Saturday,” I said, smiling.

Her eyes got big, her mouth dropped open, and she didn’t know quite what to say. I could tell she was afraid that my water would break any second and the baby would drop out, right in front of her.

“Don’t worry,” I replied. “My last three were over a week late.”

“Uhhh, how many more do you have?” she asked, her eyes still big.

“This will be number six.”

“So . . . and then are you done?” she asked.

I smiled. “On no, we are just getting started!” I joked.

She laughed, but a concerned look remained on her face.

“How many do you want?” she asked, as if I were collecting snakes. It’s funny the things complete strangers want to know right there in the grocery store.

“We’d like to have as many as we can get,” I replied, as if I were collecting treasures.

“Goodness! I have two, and they drive me crazy!” she said. “Two is enough for me!”

“The first two were a challenge for me, too,” I agreed. “With the first couple, you are getting all your practice. You are learning to be a parent, and every phase is new. But just like anything else, the more experience you have the easier it gets. I think it’s sad that so many people stop at one or two. I’ve been able to enjoy my last three so much. I have all the joy of parenting, and not as much of the stress. And now that my oldest children are big, I’ve got some wonderful helpers. I think that many people imagine that having six kids is like having six two-year-olds all at once.”

“You look too young to have so many,” she said.

“Well they keep me in shape. I don’t have time to sit around eating Twinkies and watching soaps,” I said.

“So how old are they?” she asked.

“My oldest, Isaac, is seven. Anna is six. Estera is five. Rachel is three, and Naomi is one and a half,” I told her, as if rehearsing a poem.

“I bet you are hoping for a boy this time!” she said, keeping a tally of girls versus boys.

“Isaac would love to have a little brother, but I don’t mind having a house full of little girls! So I’ll be happy no matter what I get.”

“Just wait until they are teenagers!” she said.

“I’m really looking forward to that!” I told her. And once again, her eyes got big, her mouth dropped open, and she didn’t know quite what to say.

“I had wonderful teenage years!” I continued. “I think my kids will too. Those were the most fun years of my childhood— camping with my family, learning to sew, starting a business, making Thanksgiving dinner, falling in love with my husband . . .”

“Teens are so troubled and sassy these days!” she said. “I guess there’s not much you can do about that.” (click here to continue reading)

When Children Make Mistakes

(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)

I’m learning to show my older children grace when they make mistakes. It is very natural to look at the older child’s mistake, forgetfulness, immaturity, and failure with a response that says to the child, “How can you be so stupid? How can you be so childish? Failure is NOT an option! I can’t believe you did this again! What’s wrong with you?” But I must ask myself—how do I want to be treated when I mess up? What did it feel like to be a child shamed in the sight of my parents?

Today, when I fail, what do I desire from the ones who love me? Mercy? Yes. Forgiveness? Yes. Restoration? Yes. Kindness? Yes. Help? Yes. Grace is what I long for when I fail. God our Father responds to his children with mercy. Shouldn’t I treat my children the way I would want to be treated? Shouldn’t I ask myself, What is the heart of God for this child who has fallen down, who has messed up, who has defied me? It’s hard to treat a child with grace when they fail. But if it is grace I want when I fail, shouldn’t I give that same grace to others when they fail me? It’s easy to judge, condemn, and ridicule. Do I want judgement, condemnation, and ridicule? No, not me—I hope for mercy.

My children are certain to make a lot of mistakes along their paths in life. They will do things that I think are stupid. They will hurt me with their words, actions, and carelessness. They will ignore my plans, hopes, dreams, and desires for them as they follow their own passions, callings, and desires. What will my response be then? I only hope and pray that I will show them mercy, forgiveness, and grace. I need to give them freedom to grow up, to become adults, to make their own choices, to learn their own lessons, and to find their own way.

I hope and pray they will know that there is hope, grace, restoration, and mercy to meet them in the dark, in the pain, and in the rebellion. I don’t want to reject them when they disappoint me. I need to hold them and teach them mercy and then guide them into the truth. I want to be like Jesus who said to the woman caught even in adultery, “I don’t condemn you; go and sin no more.” If Jesus can have this heart for such a woman, can’t I have a heart of mercy for my child who disappoints me with her actions or words? It’s hard to love with God’s merciful love, but now that I know the grace of God myself, how could I withhold this grace from my own precious children?

May the Lord help me to balance justice with grace as I raise all these beautiful little humans that He has so graciously entrusted to me. May I learn to love them with the compassionate heart of the heavenly Father, who remembers that we are just dust. May I show them mercy starting now while they are still young.

Learning At Home

(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)

Anna at our home on Connecticut Ave, Fortville, Indiana

When Anna turned five, she joined Isaac with homeschooling. I realized quickly she struggled with pencil and paper. She didn’t like workbooks. She just wanted to play, draw, and learn about plants and animals. She was a child who loved to learn from experience. So that year we took many trips to the Children’s Museum, Indianapolis Zoo, and the White River Gardens. We also turned our house into a tiny zoo complete with fish, frogs, and kittens.

Our garden proved to be one of the best classrooms of all. We turned the garden into a big science project, and all of the children claimed areas of the garden for their own. It kept them all busy.

Isaac happily shoveled compost, laid mulch, lugged rocks, dug holes, and welcomed his payment of a dollar an hour. He put the professionals to shame with his hardworking spirit. When he finished his own work, he helped me collect all the empty flowerpots and began filling them up with soil and compost. He spent the money he earned from his gardening work on flower seeds, planting them in the pots with hopes of a plant sale later that summer.

Anna loved to water everything: the flowers, the trees, even the cars, cats, and her little sisters. She also loved to make mud. Her section of the garden was obvious—she was growing mud pies. Anna also was our budding artist, and mud offered her a fun way to practice her skills. I had to watch her closely, though, because one day I caught her and the little sisters stripped to their undies and covered with mud from head to toe. All you could see of the girls were shiny white teeth and smiling eyes. It was Anna’s idea of course. They were “painting.” (click here to continue reading)