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 “Not-To-Do” List!

God (of course) has the right idea…it’s not wise to compare ourselves with anyone else.

So often we try to look at what other people are DOING to figure out how to be more like them. We try to find the secrets of their success, blessing and peace by copying them. We wonder why we are doing so much, and don’t see the results of all the “successful” people we try to replicate. What is the problem?

I’m trying to do everything right, but the results are not the same.

It’s okay to learn from the lives of people we admire and want to be more like, but let me explain why doing what they do will never make your life better.

Take Instagram for example. You get lots of ideas of what clever moms are doing, so you squeeze that idea into your already squeezed up day. It only feels like one more thing. Just smashing a new idea on top of the busy life you are already struggling to live, and all you do is feel more stressed.

So how will you ever learn to embrace the same peace and victory these other amazing moms seem to live out so effortlessly. Is it even real?

Yes. It’s real. Those of us who are living the lives that others wish to emulate are really living peaceful and victorious lives. But don’t copy what I do! Why? What I actually do constantly changes and looks totally different from day to day. If you want to experience the victory and success I have, first you must forget about trying to DO things my way.

Who I am, and who I have become, is all wrapped up in WHAT I DON’T DO! It’s not what I do that makes me successful, it all starts with what I am not. It begins with what I say NO to. It is rooted in what I am NOT doing, thinking, watching, trying, eating, listening to, following, and practicing. What makes me who I am is what I’m not. I have had to let go of some many different ideas, beliefs, pressures, time wasters, bad role models, family expectations, requests, and anything that is irrelevant to my calling.

I had to clear away all the distractions, and all the weights to run with endurance the race set before me. Becoming successful, peaceful or victorious begins with a trip to the DUMP. Clear the clutter out of your heart, mind, body, soul, spirit, and get it out of your home, kitchen, fridge, bookshelf and desktop.

Start off empty, clean, and free. Before you think about doing one more thing, consider what you ought to let go of. So as you consider what you want to do in this new school year, change your mindset. Instead of choosing what you want to do this year, make a list of un-resolutions. First decide what you will say no to, and then… Begin again.

Share: What’s on your “Not-To-Do” list this year?

Your “Not-To-Do” list is the list that will bring you so much closer to living the life you envision, for yourself and your family. Choose from these great options to begin planning your “Not-To-Do” list–click the image below to read Linda’s amazing blog post!

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!

Mom-School Basket Inspiration for 2022-2023

September is back-to-school month for many of our families. What are you including in your Mom-School basket for this school year? Click here for some great journal ideas to add, in addition to:

  • Candles
  • A new coffee mug
  • Some nice chocolate
  • Essential Oils
  • Cozy socks
  • Nice pens and markers
  • Good colored pencils
  • Water colors/brushes
  • Ear buds
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Pretty blank books
  • Favorite snacks
  • Note cards and envelopes
  • Inspiring books and devotionals
  • Bible
  • Hand cream
  • Water bottle
  • Mints
  • Craft projects
  • Lip balm
  • Post-It Notes or index cards
  • Tea bags, coffee, or hot chocolate
  • Anything that makes you happy!

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!

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.

Sarah’s Mom Tips: “Important” vs. “Necessary”

This is a very handy tool for mothers.

Just TWO simple definitions:

The problem with being a homeschooling mom is that we feel so driven to accomplish the things that are defined as “Necessary” that we often push the “Important” things off our plates and procrastinate.

We MUST focus some of our time and energy on the things that are important, and therein you will find JOY!

If your life revolves around doing the things that you “HAVE TO GET DONE OR ELSE!” your life will be full of stress and anxiety and this feeling that you are doing SO MUCH but you don’t have time for what matters.

So often the “Necessary” things wear us out and keep stacking up. Tell me what is SO important about the IMPORTANT things and why is it NECESSARY to focus on the IMPORTANT THINGS TOO?

“Don’t sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate”–good words to consider when weighing this question. Ultimately, what is the lasting thing that I should invest in with my energy and focus?

One important thing? Self care. Your making self care a priority teaches them to do the same.

Let’s Play “What Will Happen Next?”

How to play:
1. Set up an interesting activity and take the first creative step.
2. Leave everything out. Take a photo of the set up.
3. Don’t tell the kids what to do. Just tell them what not to do…. ” No school until after lunch today. No computer time.”
4. Go have a smoothie or cup of tea. Do Mom School.
5. Come back in an hour and take a picture of the results.
6. Post both pictures in our Fun-Schooling with Thinking Tree Books – Mom’s Homeschooling Support Group under the blog post in the group!
The photo above is my “before”. Here is “after”. It took five minutes for 2 of the girls to notice the table. Even an hour later, Susie was still at it!