Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Decisions & School Daze {Part 3}: Pay Yourself

When I first began my homeschooling journey, I spoke with more than a few moms who had traveled before me. I clung to any bit of information and guidance that would make this road-less-traveled a bit more navigable. 

And while I am so thankful for the wise counsel I was given, there are a few things I've had to learn by doing. Or not doing, in this case. 

What's the unconventional advice I'd beg my newbie homeschool self to heed if I could go back in time 5 years? Value what you do, value your {mental, physical, and spiritual} health, value your children...

And pay yourself accordingly.

We all agree that teachers should be paid. Most of us would even argue that teachers {good ones that is} should get bigger paychecks. They are, after all, responsible for educating future generations. 

We pay our public school teachers, our private school teachers, and our kids' tutors. We shell out big bucks in the name of well-roundedness for our kids to take dance classes and art lessons, piano and horseback riding. We write checks to club sports programs and community rec leagues and we don't bat an eye.

Educating and mentoring, these are tremendous responsibilities and we value those who devote their professional lives and extra time toward such noble ends.

But I have yet to meet one homeschool mom who gets paid {or who admits to getting paid.} We don't expect reimbursement because we love our children and we're their moms. And for various reasons, we have chosen to teach them at home because we believe it's best for them. 

No one goes into teaching for the money. And homeschool moms definitely don't do it for the money. 

But shouldn't we pay for the things we value? Shouldn't we take good and proper care of those who take care of and teach our precious children? 

I know what you're thinking. That I'm crazy. That I'm suggesting homeschool families should unearth a teacher's salary from their meager, middle-class budgets.

This will take some explaining but let me back up before I climb upon my feed-the-homeschool-moms soapbox.

This post talks about how we abruptly put our kids in public school 8 weeks ago after homeschooling them for nearly 5 years. And this post talks about the importance of really knowing who you are {the good, the bad, the unmentionable} as it relates to homeschooling. In it I share my own journey and confess some things I wish I'd known earlier.

I try not to think too much about what we're going to do with our kids in the fall but it's impossible not to. My husband and I are trusting God to show us the path chosen for our family and that may mean different avenues for our different kids. For the first time, I can honestly say I'm open to anything...which is both scary and freeing. 

But if we homeschool any or all of them in the future, there will be some big changes and getting paid will be chief among them.

So what kind of currency am I talking about? 

Well, that all depends on you. What do you value? What energizes you, renews you, keeps you sane? If you're not an introspective type, put on your self-awareness cap and start thinking. Talk to your husband and those who know you best. They may know your needs better than you do. 

My currency was simple to figure out. I want to get paid in time alonehelp with the home, and time with my husband. I made a mental list of what this would possibly look like:

  • A mid-week, silent retreat. I'd hire a sitter during the day once a week, someone to supervise my kids' schoolwork, keep them on task, and maybe even do some of my laundry. I'd sit at Starbucks and write. Or walk through the Botanical Gardens with my camera. Or sit in the sun with a book. I come back refreshed and recharged. My kids get a break from me. And I provide a kid-loving college student with some much-needed cash. It's a win-win-win.
  • Someone to clean my house once a month.
  • Takeout once a week. 
  • Date night once a week.
  • Taking a week off more often even though that makes the school-year longer. More and more, I value a sustainable pace over efficiency. This is the one thing on the list that's free.

If you're a homeschool mom you may look at my list and think that I'm a bit of a diva. In the past I would have looked at that list and agreed with you. That was before I realized the plain and obvious truth: educating children {various grades all at once} is a full-time job. It's a sacred calling and a tremendous responsibility. It's exhausting and demanding and it should be done well. {"Well" should not be confused with "perfectly"}. We need rest and help if we're going to live balanced and healthy lives and model those values to our children, something I have not done well.  

If I entrusted anyone else with this responsibility {like I'm doing now with my kids in school} I'd expect excellence from them.  But excellence is hard to come by when you're run down, burned out, and staring at chaos and squalor.

I totaled up the approximate cost for that list of "luxuries" over a 9-month period. It's less than 10% of the average public school teacher's salary. It's less than the cost of tuition to send one kid to an affordably-priced private school in my area. 

My family would be getting me for a steal. 

I realize that there are those who believe homeschooling is just an extension of motherhood, a God-ordained duty that we should do cheerfully and obediently. I have never been part of that camp so I'm not really going to speak to that. The Man and I believe that homeschooling goes way above and beyond the responsibilities of motherhood. Way. Beyond. It's a huge add-on and we'd be wise to treat it as such.

If I teach my kids at home in the future, we're going to put our resources behind that which we value most. It will take some creative budgeting and resourcefulness, but isn't that what prioritizing is all about? We sacrifice and problem-solve and find a way. 

Most importantly, we trust God to provide. He has always been so faithful to provide for our needs, often at the last minute and almost always in ways I never expected. And even if you can't get your whole list paid for, wouldn't just one or two things make a difference?

Instead of teaching homeschool moms how they can be more efficient managers of their homes all by themselves, a subject of quite a few books you'll see at homeschooling conventions, maybe we should tell them that they don't have to. There are those who manage it well, moms who are organized and efficient and whose homeschools are run with military precision. 

And then there is me. 

And the host of weary, amazing, committed, exhausted moms who are my friends, the moms who want to keep going but man, it is so hard. They've read the books and tried being someone they're just not. Maybe there's another way? Think about it. Talk about it. Pray about it.

Maybe it's time to get paid. 


My lovely friend, Bonita, recently started a blog that I WISH had been around a couple of years ago. It's called Reality Homechooling: Where Ideal Meets Real. It's a great place to rest and be inspired.  Check it out. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dish: Chewing Gum Adhesive, Brussel Sprouts, & Make-up Worth the Splurge

What's going on around here...

Crafty Cupcake

The baby of the family has turned into  a craft-loving superstar. He finds all sorts of bits and scraps, throws them together, and gives it as a gift. It's really sweet. And exhausting. Because he would make stuff all the time if I let him and it is messy and sometimes takes a turn for the worse. Remember this?

Last week, however, he outdid himself. I was taking a nap and his big sister graciously let him hang out in her room. He woke me up and bestowed the loveliest gift: the back side of a post-it note embellished with jewels and a Dove chocolate heart. Impressive, I thought. How did he get these to stick on here so well? Still a bit groggy, I assumed he used glue and went back to my blissful groggy state. 

Minutes later the big sister burst into my room, indignant, and said, Mommy, you will not believe what he is using for his crafts... 


That's right, gum. The previously-chewed variety. I pulled out the "gift" he'd just given me and we cracked up. She is a serious child and easily upset but if you tip the scale just right and catch her eye just so, she will die of laughter. We're sort of alike in that way. Let me tell you, we had ourselves a moment over that one.  

Anyway, we attempted an adhesives intervention with the boy but he is still bent on chewed-up gum as the superior adhesive. I can't argue with him there. 

The New French Fry

I'm getting back to my vegetarian ways and in a quest for more veggie variety, I made Ina Garten's roasted brussel sprouts. They were divine. My kids did not feel the love but I gave them snaps for trying. The sprouts get super crispy and salty and were as addictive as french fries. I never thought I'd say that but it's true. 

Fancy Make-Up

The bottom of the concealer tube and my purply eyes prompted a trip to the Clinique counter a couple of weeks ago. Who am I kidding, it was more than that. I was having a rough week for lots of reasons and did not bat an aging eye at the thought of spending some of the clothing budget on make-up.

Long live the Bonus Week. I'd been planning to score some serious concealer and the lady in the white coat talked me into some serious foundation as well. When a girl is trying to age gracefully, good makeup is worth the splurge. {That's what I'm telling myself now that I have to say no to these cute leopardy flats from Target.}

Line Smoothing ConcealerEven Better Makeup SPF15

No one will be looking at my feet anyway. They'll be too captivated by the shimmery, age-resistant complexion I'm faking. 

The Dumb Dog

Do not be deceived. She is a menace. Jetta is like a fourth child--a furry, disobedient toddler who slinks under the furniture with lightening speed when she has chewed up crayons {again} or lincoln logs {again} or Crocs {again}. 

Seriously, there's no love lost between Jetta and me right now. And don't get me started on the fact that a bag of her food is the same price of my probably-now-sold-out Target flats. She is a rascal and a nuisance and expensive and oh, the things we will subject ourselves to for the happiness of our children. 

The most tragic Jetta casualty of the week was my daughter's lip balm egg. This girl had been pining after the plastic egg filled with fruity lip balm. It had been calling to her from the Wal-Mart check-out aisle for months and I finally bought it for her last Saturday. She was as excited over her lip balm as I was over my new concealer. 

You know where this is going. The very next day Jetta was able to retrieve the egg from the edge of the desk and gobbled up all of that strawberry-flavored waxy goodness. My child was devastated. Thankfully she loves the dog more unconditionally than I do. 

Please tell me that the toddler dog days will end and that she will not always be such a menace. I cannot afford to keep drowning my anxiety and frustration in fancy make-up. 

{Can't you just see me at the Clinique counter asking for "the usual" and the gal in the white coat reluctantly slinging another tube of lip gloss my way and telling me I've probably had enough?} 

So that's the scoop around here. Between the chewing-gum fiasco, my dumb dog, and the gobbled-up lip balm egg, you can see why a girl can use some fancy new makeup and leopard-print anything.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Live Your Broken Story

He plays on the playground in the unseasonable February sun, undeterred by his doubly infected ears, painful sinuses, and chewed-up Crocs {compliments of the dog.} He does not ask to stay in bed and wait to get better. He's four years old and he refuses to let his impaired body or gnawed-up rubber shoes keep him from living life in a way that’s joyful, resilient, and beautiful.

He knows this one thing: to live full no matter what. He is living the story of this day, plowing through the playground with both pain and exuberance.

I’d be wise to take a clue from this tiny teacher that I love so much. My jaded, grown-up self has a default tendency to want to feel better and untangle all of the messes before I really give myself permission to live.

Fix this.

Resolve that.




Learn how to receive love.

Forgive and be forgiven.

Make sense of that.

Learn how to love.

I want to untangle the massive ball of rough, knotted twine known as my life until it’s a lovely linear line from here to the moon. Then I’ll wipe my chapped hands across my faded jeans, take a deep breath, and get about the business of living full and unrestrained. Finally.

I tend to see my problems and preoccupations--the big, messy ones--as a to-do list. Because I’m the sort of person who struggles to truly rest until most of the list is checked off, I tend to put off living until there's resolution. But I’m learning that these things on the list, they’re going to be with me for a while.

Recovery and healing cannot be rushed, manipulated, or checked off a list.

Though I complain about the laundry and the dishes, I wish that the messy, complicated stuff on the "list" was as easy as soaking and scraping off day-old marinara sauce or sorting through the sea of unmatched socks.

But it's not that simple. In fact, it is ridiculously complicated, lengthy, and layered.

So how do you live full in the midst of broken? {I’ve written about this before. I think it’s a recurring theme.} How do you find peace when there’s still turmoil? How do you rest when that monstrous ball of twine is mocking you in all of it’s knotted-up bigness?

You pick it up and hand it to Him, the ultimate untangler of knots. 

You do it every single day. Maybe many times a day. Every time you feel tempted to find a loose end and start tugging, just stop and hand it over. He loves you and it breaks His heart to see you struggling over the mess, trying to figure it all out yourself.

He won’t be as rushed to untangle it as you are. It may seem as though He’s set it aside for a while and forgotten about your knots altogether. But He hasn’t. I promise you He hasn’t.

Though we see an unfortunate, crazy, knotty mess, He sees a redemptive story. 

Though we don’t have answers and may not even know where any of this is going, He sees it all, from beginning to end, and He loves us with an everlasting love through every twist and turn, hill and valley.

I find sweet comfort these days when I consider Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.

Maybe it's because I like stories. I’m therefore inspired when I imagine Him as an author who loves His children in such a way that they become braver, wiser, and lovelier as the chapters unfold. The miracle of it all is that we don’t become braver, wiser, and lovelier to Him. He already sees that glorified potential. It’s how He’s always seen us.

He simply invites us to step into who we already are, to "get into character," so to speak.

Don’t you wish we could see ourselves the way He sees us? We can’t, of course, in our human finiteness, but He does give us glimpses, signposts along the way that we’re not who we once were. I don't know about you, but that gives me hope and spurs me on in the midst of a lot that is still broken.

It’s like we spend our life getting into character, becoming who He's created us to be, living a story that He's written just for us.

And that makes me want to get out there and really live, not in a blasé, head-in-the-clouds sort of way, but in a trusting, there-is-purpose-in-all-of-this sort of way.

Maybe you’re stuck in your story. Believe me, I’ve been there. {In fact, I've only recently become unstuck.} But you don’t have to stay there. Table that list, hand Him the tangled twine, meet me at the playground, and let’s get into character.

We’ve got some stories to live.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Dish: Mustachio, Graeter's Ice-Cream, & Preschool Picasso

I'm still here. I've just been absent. And eating Graeter's ice cream. In the morning. Before I've even had a proper breakfast.

I have plenty of oh-so-important things to say but I'll start fresh with all of that next week.

Until then, I have some different oh-so-important stuff to dish about.

Mini-MLK, Jr.

My 2nd grader was Martin Luther King Jr. for the "Famous African-Americans Wax Museum" in his class. He was so excited. Once his ensemble was put together, I did not have the heart to tell him that his hairstyle {which he re-coifs after I've fixed it...much to my chagrin} plus the last-minute mustache I scribbled on looks a bit more like Hitler than MLK Jr. {Now there's an irony of historical characters.} 

The kids in his class were so cute. They all stood in costume, posed and completely silent, in front of their tri-fold boards for an hour. There was a tiny Jessie Owens and itty-bitty Michelle Obama {her blonde hair poking out from under her big wig.} And I just wanted to hug little Ruby Bridges and mini Rosa Parks {both sets of them} and thank them for being so brave.

But that would have been weird for them. So I just had to behold their irresistible cuteness and restrain myself.

As for my mini MLK, Jr., the eye-liner'd mustache remained on his 8-year-old lip for the remainder of the day, earning him the fantastic moniker, "Mustachio Mo." He hopes it sticks forever. His friends at school think that the Mo is awesome and asked if his mom would paint on another one tomorrow.


In other news, my favorite ice cream ever, Graeter's, has arrived at my local Publix. The Man and I became fans of Graeter's, a "French-pot" ice-cream, when we lived in Lexington, Kentucky years ago. We could actually walk to the Graeter's shop. Oh how we took those delicious days for granted. 

Well, last year my extended family discovered that the Kroger in Hilton Head carries Graeter's and we went through 20+ pints on vacation last year. Don't judge unless you've tasted it. If 20-something pints is wrong, I don't want to be right. I would say "all things in moderation." But there's really nothing moderate about that many pints. 

So I predict that 2012 may be the year of big and broke. At $5.39 a pint and with heavy cream as a heavy hitter on the ingredients list, I am done for. But I also feel as though I can weather whatever storm comes my way now that Graeter's is within arm's reach. It's like sweet, creamy, frozen insurance.


Cupcake, mon petit artiste in residence, has branched out. Deciding that Sharpie Monet was way amateur, he's moved on to acrylics. Last Friday morning we went to Wal-Mart and got ourselves some art supplies. I painted a canvas. He painted a canvas. We totally bonded in our creative arts.

I oohed and aahed over his masterpiece. And then when I wasn't looking, he moved the party to the wall. In our foyer.

And I had no words. I still don't. My walls are literally evolving into an art gallery with permanent exhibits.

Which got me thinking...

I bought some empty frames at Goodwill to create a gallery in the foyer. The kids are at the ages where they make such great stuff and Blondie is turning into a bona fide artist with her oil-pasteled horses sketched still-lifes {"still-lives" if it's plural? That looks wrong}. Plus I resolved to make and display more art in my house this year. I saw this on Pinterest and am going to give it a try.


Speaking of Pinterest, my friend is a self-professed Pinaholic and has joked that we need to change her password so she doesn't whittle away hours on end, day after day. I told her she needs a Pintervention. Totally cracked my self up over that one. If someone else has already thought of it, don't tell me. I have a deep need to feel inventive.

So that's the dishworthy stuff around here. I hope to get deep-ish again next week. {I should call that "deep dish." Still cracking myself up.}

Have a great weekend and if you are one of my local peeps, do not buy up all the Graeter's. 


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