This is of First Importance

I am a homeschooling mother of four beautiful, amazing, intense girls.
Amazing girls
Intense Girls
This is not a homeschooling or parenting blog.
Except for every once in a great while when it is.
I usually prefer to write about topics other than homeschooling and parenting because I don’t often get a chance to step out of those roles and explore other worlds. Parenting and homeschooling can be fairly consuming, yet there are so many other pieces of me that need to be stewarded well.
Yet right now, in this season, I am aware of so many of you who are going to have your own children at home much more than usual this fall and are, perhaps, feeling a little at sea.
Feeling Lost
Some of you are homeschooling for the first time, some are distance learning with your school, some of your schooling will be done in some kind of hybrid mode, and still others of you are sending your children in-person full-time yet have a sneaking suspicion that there is a decent chance your kids will be back home with you before Thanksgiving.
For those of you who are living through this time of oh-so-strange schooling, may I offer one thought based on my own years of homeschooling? (For those of you who are not in this situation, feel free to skip this post and tune in for my regular programming next week!)
Remember what is of first importance.
First Importance
It is all too easy to get caught up in finishing the math and the grammar, in making sure the spelling and history are done correctly, and forget that our main mission is not filling up brains but shepherding hearts.
The multiplication problem, the misspelled word snatch at our attention and tend to take over our day, while truth, beauty, and goodness get pushed to the side.
Yet I would argue that truth, beauty, and goodness matter more. Much more.
truth, goodness, beauty
If my daughters become literal rocket scientists yet also develop into shallow, selfish creatures who treat others and creation with disdain, I will not view my parenting as a success.
How do you keep the loud and urgent from taking over the slow and important?
I feel certain there are many ways one could be sure to keep your family centered around what is most important, but one way I choose to do it in our home is through a practice I call Morning Time.
It doesn’t have to be Morning Time, of course. It could be Afternoon Tea Time or Evening Calm Down Time. Morning is just what works best for our family in this season.
For us, Morning Time is the way in which we take a moment at the beginning of our day to focus ourselves on truth, goodness, and beauty. It is the way in which we center ourselves around what matters most. It is the way we fix our eyes on Jesus and aim ourselves toward our ultimate goal of becoming like him.
What is Morning Time in a practical sense? There are as many ways of doing Morning Time as there are families who practice this habit, but if it is helpful to you, here is what we do.
I keep a basket with all of our Morning Time supplies by our couch. After breakfast, getting ready for the day, and morning chores, I pull it out and gather my girls.
I gather them by playing a “call to worship,” a hymn or worship song that changes each month. They all know that they are to be in the living room by the time the song ends. Theoretically, this gently gives them time to finish up whatever they are doing and get themselves ready for our school time. This sometimes happens successfully…and sometimes does not.
What follows is our ideal. Please do not imagine that I or my girls do any of what follows perfectly. Sometimes we do a hurried version or even skip Morning Time altogether. Sometimes one girl has a meltdown and I have to send her to her room. Sometimes all the girls, including me, have meltdowns and I have to send us all to our rooms to regroup. It is a rare day when all of this goes perfectly.
truth, goodness, beauty
Some parts of our time together happen every day; others happen in a loop.
Every day we read a short piece of Scripture. Last year we went through Proverbs a couple of times, this year we are reading pieces of Psalms from the Common Book of Prayer. Every day we also do our Scripture memory work.
After reading Scripture and memorizing Scripture, we do one item from our loop, whatever happens to be next in line. The items in our loop this year are missionary stories, a children’s theology book (when this comes up in our loop, I also use it to help my girls practice listening to God and meditating on his Word), art, music, and poetry.
Once we finish our loop item, we sing a hymn together. We are slowly working our way through a hymn book that I have, staying on one hymn for a month. Lastly we pray the Lord’s Prayer together, and I bless them with The Lord be with you. I have taught them to answer, And also with you.
And that’s it.
It usually only lasts about thirty minutes, but this short time during our day serves to remind all of us (me, especially, most days!) that while math, reading, and science are important parts of God’s creation, given to us to explore, it is of first importance to keep our whole selves centered around God.
Morning Time is one of the main ways I whet my girls’ appetites for what is true, good, and beautiful. It is one of the main ways I teach them to love God with their whole selves. It is one of the main ways I center our family around Jesus and make our home into a small piece of God’s kingdom on earth.
I pray that you can find the best way for your family to do the same.

Art Credits: St. Peter’s Rescue from the Lake of Galilee by Herbert Boeckl; Fairy Tales by Jessie Willcox Smith; The Fairy Tale by Walther Firle

Hold Fast to your Ideals

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Intentional parenting is exhausting.
I am not a mommy blogger, nor am I a homeschool blogger. Being a homeschooling mommy, however, is a very large piece of my life right now, and every once in a while I need to speak of these things.
We are at the end of a school year, and I am worn out.
I have been weary and have thus become lax in my parenting.
parenting is hard
I have let behaviors slide that should have been corrected. I have allowed books and shows into our home that sabatoge the lessons of character I want to teach my children. I have not been as intentional about filling our home with Jesus.
parenting is exhausting
This past weekend, my husband and I went to a homeschool conference. Along with the practical helps and the curriculum browsing, I found my vision again.
We all have ideals for our homes. Whether you homeschool or not, whether you have children or not, whether you are married or not, you have a vision for what you want your home to be.
I have become lazy in reaching for my ideals. There’s not really a way to soften it, although I would love to make excuses for myself.
I was negligent, and especially when it is children’s lives and souls that are at stake, negligence should never be an option.
If negligence is not an option, I must instead find my resolve. I must find the resolve to hold fast to my vision for homeschooling, for parenting, for shaping my home into a small piece of God’s kingdom here on earth.
A lofty goal? Yes, but one toward which I believe God calls all of us to reach.
I am painfully aware that I will never attain this ideal.
I am joyfully aware that God has promised Himself, His Spirit’s help in bringing His kingdom into my home.
God has already won, His kingdom is steadily coming, even while I am still waiting for change to occur.
He has promised that if I will continue to be faithful, He will continue to help me. Even when my children have forgotten everything I’ve ever taught them, even when I yell at them once again, He is with me. He has never failed me.
I must simply take a deep breath
whisper a prayer for forgiveness
a prayer for help
and try again.
Try again to reach for perfection
to reach for Jesus.
I find that He is already here.

Are You Going Home for Christmas?

Are you going home for Christmas?
Christmas Tree
It is, perhaps, a time of year when we most think about home.  Many of us think back to a particular place, a place where we were given gifts of peace and compassion, grace and love.  We think of those people, or perhaps one person in particular, who gave those gifts to us.  Those who were not given such gifts had at least, perhaps, the dream of such a home.
Christmas Home
We try, in our own ways, to create that sort of a home in our adult lives, yet it is difficult sometimes to believe that such a home can exist in this world, this world that makes it hard to believe in much of anything at times.
In every home, however, no matter how full of beauty and love, there is something missing.  Something small but crucial.  Perhaps we can’t fully describe what that something is, but we search for it and long for it our entire lives.  It is something that gives us a sad and lost feeling, something that makes us feel a bit homeless wherever we happen to be.
Snowy Street
This small but crucial missing piece is what the author of Hebrews talks about at the end of that great chapter detailing those who lived by faith.  After naming some of the greatest heroes and heroines of our faith, the author writes,
These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
And so home is, after all, only where Christ is.  Home is at the manger where even the oxen kneel at midnight.  Home is at the foot of the cross and at the door to the empty tomb.  Home is the place we will find when we finally know even as we are fully known.
Home at the manger
I believe that…the home we long for and belong to is finally where Christ is.  I believe that home is Christ’s kingdom, which exists both within us and among us as we wend our prodigal ways through the world in search of it. ~ Frederick Buechner
Home with Christ
Are you going home for Christmas?