Monday, October 10, 2011

4 Words to Never Say While Canoeing

If you ever find yourself canoeing down a river…or worse yet, heading back upstream to the boat launch after having been on the river for a while so you can go home…I would like to caution you against saying four little words. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those words, in fact, they really are good words to say. Just not when you’re in a canoe. Heading upstream…

My husband wanted to check out a potential area for duck hunting, so we packed up his newly-camo’ed canoe and headed to a fish and wildlife area about four hours away. It was a beautiful day…I saw gorgeous fall foliage on the way and was able to read a really good book I’ve been enjoying recently. 

A very nice guy helped get the canoe off the van at the boat launch and we set off down river. The scenery was beautiful, we saw all kinds of interesting things…blue herons, a boot, a crazy little house that looked like some place the team from Criminal Minds might end up at to investigate some gory crime (Dueling Banjos danced  briefly through my mind as we floated on by), several eagles – even a male Bald Eagle. It was lovely and relaxing. And I  enjoyed just spending the day with my husband.

We turned around to head back, which meant we were heading upstream. Against some pretty strong currents at times. We were very thankful for the trolling motor hubby had brought along. All was going well as we headed back to the boat launch.

And then…I had to go and silently whisper Four Little Words.

Like I said above, there’s nothing wrong with those four words. But, as I keep forgetting…they are just entirely too vague. They leave so much open to wild interpretation. I really should know better by now.

What did I say?

speak to me god
Here I am, so naively inviting God to speak...

In a moment of Creation-inspired awe and wonderment, I invited the God of the Universe…YHWH…Adonai…to speak to me. I wanted to hear what was on His heart. I wanted a glimpse of the multitude of thoughts He has toward me. Which are all good, according to my favorite verse:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace (wholeness, well being, health, blessing) and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Isn't this serene and beautiful?
Can you see why I was all caught up in Creation-inspired wonderment?

So there I was: heading upstream with my beloved, in awe of the beauty around me, filled with joy at being a Daughter of the King. Feeling fortunate to be part of God’s glorious and magnificent creation. And then…


He did not speak by tipping the canoe, for that I am very thankful. But, He spoke with an Object Lesson.

ob·ject lesson, noun \ˈäb-jikt-, -(ˌ)jekt-\ : something that serves as a practical example of a principle or abstract idea

Mere moments after offering up that silent supplication and posting via cell phone praise for the inventor of the trolling motor and the fine folks at Minn-Kota, the trolling motor got caught on a log. The new prop, fortunately, was spared any damage but the switch that controlled the speed of the motor was stuck on one speed, which was not Fast. 

I thought I was prepared for our trip, I even had a little first aid kit packed and snagged some toilet paper from a Walmart restroom…just in case. But, we did not have any tools with us. What we needed was a long philips screwdriver. My husband tried every MacGyver trick we could possibly come up with. If only we had some gum, a paper clip and a comb…

We were then faced with paddling back, for the most part. Fortunately, the trolling motor was at least not stuck in reverse. But the current was so strong in some areas it didn’t help at all. And the river would randomly go from deep to so shallow our paddles were hitting bottom with each stroke – no way could you have the motor down in the water in those places. And we were several miles down river…this was not exactly what I meant when I said “Speak to me, God.”

But God was speaking, and what I was hearing was that whenever we decide to go our own way and do things in our own strength, it is just like trying to paddle upstream. You paddle, paddle, paddle and don’t hardly get anywhere. You wear yourself out and get frustrated. Things go wrong. You find that you are completely unprepared and completely alone. It takes longer to get where you were going, and often times it is right back where you started…because you went off on the wrong way to begin with.

I know I have been through this object lesson before. Several times. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to go through it again…only, we are currently trying to discern God’s will for our family. My husband is looking for a job, we are willing to go where God says to go – we just need to hear where…and when. I feel like now is the time to go, and we are pretty sure about where. But, I guess it’s always good to be reminded NOT to try to force things before their time and not try to do them in our own strength.

Our canoe trip adventure sure didn’t go the way we expected. Why that might have been a surprise is beyond me. But, we stayed dry and unharmed, learned that we work well together in adversity, and were reminded again how important it is to "go with the flow" when it comes to God's plans for our lives. And, in spite  of it all, we had a really good time. Just ask my husband about the frog…

michigan j frog

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Don’t Miss That Train

trainThe older I get, the more I realize how important it is to make good decisions. The kind that don’t leave the bitter aftertaste of regret behind. The kind that bring enrichment to the lives of those around us, not just to ourselves. Even with that realization, though, it can still be hard to step out and do something new when the destination is unclear. But that is where faith is important...

I read something this morning that fits our situation these days very well. It’s in Time to Rejoice: Devotions Celebrating God’s Love by several Women of Faith authors. This particular selection was written by Lisa Whelchel and was called Catch That Train.

She talked about a time when her mom called her up and asked her to go on a bike riding trip in Vermont. Neither of them were “cyclists” and she hadn’t been on a bike in years. They really had no idea what to expect and were surprised on more than one occasion. The rest of the group were obviously experienced in such things…from their gear to their abilities.

Still, they didn’t give up. They made the best of it and enjoyed the trip.

What really spoke to me was the following passage at the end of the story:
I hate to think what I might have missed had we not impulsively decided to do something we’d never done before. Or if we’d been daunted by the fact  that we didn’t have all the right training or equipment. Or if we’d given up when we learned that the journey would be longer and harder than we anticipated.
This wasn’t the first journey in my life when I truly didn’t think I could make it to the end. And I’ve certainly grumbled before like the children of Israel. But I learned that God was the one who set me on the path; He promised to go with me, and He would bring me to the destiny he planned for me from the beginning. I want to have the same attitude about these harder life journeys as my Nanny had about her life: to hop on that train. I’m sure God has something good planned!"
Her beloved Nanny  always told her “Catch that train while you can because you never know if it will pass this way again.” So it is with opportunities in life. We have to trust that the Conductor knows where He is taking the train and that we will arrive at our destination.

I have to remember right now that God is in this and He knows what He is doing. It doesn’t matter if I have the right experience or equipment right at this moment – God always equips and empowers those He calls. We will have what we need when we need it, we only need to trust Him. And listen when He speaks. He will never let us down and always has good in mind for us. Don’t miss out on the best adventures God has for you by being afraid to hop on that train!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Coffee With the Enemy

soldier drinking coffee
We all have people in our lives who rub us the wrong way. Some have even gone as far as to plunge a long, sharp knife deep into our back. So what do you do when God says “be a blessing to your enemy”? You have a choice to obey – or not – just like with anything else. But when God is asking you to step out and be vulnerable, He is not doing it to harm you. There is a greater purpose involved. We may never know what it is, but then that’s why HE is God and we are not. Fortunately, God created coffee on the third day and called it good. I completely agree. As for sharing with my enemy…well, I’m not real crazy about that but I’m doing it anyway.

I’m actually sitting in a local coffee shop right now. Waiting to meet with someone I honestly wish just did not exist. I’m going to buy this person coffee or tea or whatever. And I’m going to use a gift card that I won just yesterday. Because God said to do it. The worst part is that God also said “just listen.” I don’t want to “just listen!” I have an earful to give this person, if only I could. I imagine I will be nearly biting my tongue off by the end of it, but I’m going to do what God said to do. And I’m going to trust that He knows best. He knows what the purpose of this is. And He knows what the outcome will be. He even knows whether or not I will actually keep my mouth shut, something else I do not have knowledge of. My heart is <mostly> willing, but my flesh is about as weak as they come.

My guest is four minutes late. I came half an hour early, to kind of get my bearings and quiet my spirit as much as possible. Every time the door opens I cringe inside.  I don’t want to do this. But now my guest has arrived…

Well, that was just weird. And awkward. And I don’t really know what to make of it. A lot of uncomfortable silence. A lot of talk about this that and the other thing. I made small talk. I agreed with some things that were said. But for the most part, I kept my tongue in check. Not like I was planning on going on some kind of rant and rave…although I could have reached down deep inside and pulled that knife out…and used it.  

But…God said “just listen.” There was even an offer for me to get whatever I had to say off my heart, but I said “No, God said listen and that’s what I’m doing.”

I can’t tell you what a miracle that was. That I was obedient. That I was immediately obedient. And that I kept my tongue under control…well, that is definitely an amazing feat of biblical proportions, believe me!

What will come of it? I don’t know. I didn’t notify my guest that I planned on buying and they bought a drink before sitting down. So, I explained about the gift card and slid it over. I blessed my enemy today. Only good can come of that, right? I’m trying not to think about the times before when treachery followed blessing. I’m trying to trust that God will use this situation for the good of all involved.

I am afraid the other party thinks we will do more of this in the future. It’s not something I’m necessarily wanting to do. But if God says “Do It” then I will. I don’t have the privilege of seeing the Big Picture, so I don’t know how this odd-shaped piece fits into the puzzle. Guess that’s why He’s God and I am…simply not.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

DIY Planner: Revised and Improved for 2011-12

It’s that time of year again! Do you have your planner ready? Do you buy one already made or do you design your own? Last year, I learned that I can make my own planner very inexpensively. AND I could make it however I wanted. Determined to not end up with a bunch of pages unused because they just don’t suit my record-keeping style, I designed my own and took it to a local office supply store with a print center to have it coil bound. You can read about that here and see what that planner looked like. This year, I made some drastic changes…

I was quite surprised and irritated to find that I still had a bunch of pages that I didn’t use. It looked good, but that planner just did not suit my style. I was trying too hard I guess. After heading back to the drawing board with K.I.S.S. in mind (you know, Keep It Simple Sweetie), I finally had to come to grips with the fact that we are, in fact, UNschoolers. Unschooling does not lend well to traditional record keeping.

My biggest beef with trying to keep track of what we do every day is that the majority of our learning is cross-curricular. I don’t want to write an activity or lesson down in three different subjects every time. I want to write it down once and be done with it. And I would find myself agonizing over where to put something because I only wanted to write it down once…paralyzing the decision making process and driving me nuts.

So, I decided, why fight my nature? Why not find a way to embrace it in all its disorganizedness creativity? We don’t just “do school” at home…we learn where ever we are, whatever we are doing, whomever we are with. Life is our classroom! And something as large and complex as life is not going to be easily contained in little squares on an 81/2” x 11” piece of paper. Life is also messy and frequently goes outside of the lines.

I found a website called Homeschool Launch where you can download TONS of free worksheets, forms, and other helpful documents for home schooling. You can also create your own account to upload documents to share. You can find the forms I created for my planner this year at my page on Homeschool Launch.

What did I do differently? To start with, I had more time to put into designing the cover. Since we learn all year long, I chose pictures of things we did over the past year and this summer, such as my daughter using a magnifying glass on a scorcher of a day to start stuff on fire. We LOVE science!

1 front cover
Front cover...covered with pics of my kiddos!

The guy who did my planner there last year accidentally forgot to put something on the cover page before laminating and had to double-laminate it, which I really liked, so I asked them to do it again. Especially since the paper I chose this time was thinner.

On the inside cover, I made a copy of something I have hanging on our school cabinet. It’s an adaptation of something Nancy Campbell wrote in The Power of Motherhood. I figured it would be a good reminder, in case I ever forget how to homeschool…

2 inside front cover

I only have three, yes three, planner pages bound in this planner: a yearly goals sheet, an attendance sheet, and a yearly evaluation sheet. Well, there’s some monthly calendar pages, but more on that in a minute.

3 yearly goals
Yearly goals, right there when I open it up
so I don't write them down and forget them later!
4 attendance
Attendance sheet, courtesy of
used this last year and really liked it.
5 yearly evaluation
Yearly evaluation, where we can write down
what worked and what didn't, what we liked or disliked
about the school year
Now this is where I got innovative. I bought six two-pocket folders without prongs when they were super cheap and had them bound in the planner. The first one will hold miscellaneous forms and records that we collect through out the year, such as important papers for Friday School, for example.

6 misc forms
Miscellaneous forms and records and important papers
will go in here
I created my own monthly calendar pages for the year and printed them out on cardstock. I have them facing each other, and used the blank back sides as a place to jot down notes and reminders. I searched online for a few minutes while trying to create something fun and interesting for a place to scribble notes, looking for something resembling a yellow legal pad for a background or graphic I could use. Then it hit me – I have a color copier/scanner and a yellow legal pad. Duh. So, I grabbed the Sharpies and ended up with this:

7 notes and reminders
I always need ample space to jot stuff down
8 calendars
I also need calendar pages to face each other so
I don't forget important dates coming up in the
next month
There is a set of two calendar pages in front of each folder. I used photo paper to print “labels” because it looks nicer. Not sure if the glue stick I used will sufficiently hold them after using it for a while, but that is easily fixed. I used Avery Design Pro to design the cover and the folder labels. Each folder will hold the Daily Learning Log Sheets for two months. This was the genius idea birthed at the drawing board. Planner pages don’t work for me because that is just not how I roll. This sheet has five large boxes to write lesson plans, activities and spontaneous learning opportunities. To the right are several check boxes with categories such as science, math, english, etc. This way, I can write in our unit study or when we stopped at a pond and observed the activity in the habitat or whatever and just check off what subjects were covered. I’ll print out 90 two-sided sheets of these and we will use them to record what and how we are learning each day. Of course, we can use more than 180, but that is to be sure we log in enough learning days to meet our state’s requirements.

9 month folders
Each pocket would only need to hold
15 sheets at the most. That's logging in
learning every day of the month!
91 daily log sheet in folder
I was very happy that the coil binding didn't
take up too much of the folder's edge so
the papers will still fit nicely.
I like having a full year’s calendar to look at in a place that is easy to find. Last year it was on the outside of the back cover. This year I decided I wanted it on the inside of the back cover. No particular reason, really. That’s just where I wanted it this time.

92 inside back cover
Always knowing where the whole year can be seen
is a huge benefit for me. I hate flipping through pages
to find things!
I was afraid it would be too bulky, but it’s really not. Of course, it’s not full of papers yet, either…

93 size comparison
This isn't one of those fancy smart phones, just an LG Rumor2
but I thought it would give a decent size comparison on
how thick it is. 
I would have preferred different colors for the folders…like orange and blue…but hey, they were only like  15 cents apiece or something like that. We are trying to do school free or as close to it as possible this year in order to save money for a family trip to California in a few months to see the middle of the oldest boys graduate from Marine boot camp. Guess how much this planner cost me this year? Less than last year!
  • orange polka dot paper, 25 cents each at Michael’s    $0.50
  • two-pocket folders, 6 @ 15 cents                              $0.90
  • printing costs, text documents                                   $0.60
  • paper (negligible, due to rebates making the ream
    • practically  free!)                                             $0.05
  • printing costs, color glossy photos (paper was free)    $0.10
  • double laminating, 8.5 x 11 coil binding                    $4.44    
    • 20% off coupon!
  • GRAND TOTAL……                                                    $6.59

I’m really excited about using this planner/organizer this year. It’s simple. It’s flexible. It didn’t cost an arm and a leg. And, it’s got cute pictures of my precious children on it. What more could I want?
If you make your own planners, what do you do? Do you change it every year or pretty much stick to the same format. Or, are you still trying to find something that works for you?

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Reflection of the Heart

cluttery heart
This was my front porch a little over a year ago.
A big cluttery mess. Almost worthy of a visit from "Hoarders"
Have you ever just been sitting there in church, minding your own business, and all of a sudden God drops a megaton of revelation into your lap? And then you realize that He probably wants you to do something about that? Something that is most likely difficult and unpleasant? That’s what happened to me today, and it kind of tied up some loose ends for me in the Processing What I Heard At The Women Of Faith Conference I attended last weekend. Finally, I feel ready to blog about it, but I’m also left with some hard decisions to make.

That’s exactly what happened to me this morning at church. I’m just sitting there listening to the pastor, minding my own business. Not looking for the proverbial choir of angels to break out in the hallelujah chorus right above me, or even just one of those evil incandescent light bulbs to pop on over my head, destroying the environment in all its megawatt-ness. I just wanted to have a nice morning at church, you see. I didn’t want to have to come face-to-face with a difficult truth.

Let me back up a bit, so you can fully appreciate the revelation I received.

A few weeks ago, my bestie told me she won tickets to the Women of Faith conference in Indianapolis. She wanted me to go with her and that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I went to one years ago, but only for one day…this was for both days! I know that someone who lives in a very hot place didn’t want us to go. We encountered quite a few obstacles, but in the end, God made it happen. We had a great time of bestie bonding, lots of laughs and some really yummy pitas! We also were served some quality "meat" from the speakers.

Dr. Henry Cloud talked about necessary endings (I definitely want to read his book by the same name) and how everyone needs a monkey in their cage to help them through stressful times.  Sheila Walsh is one of those speakers that I could listen to for hours and hours. Something she said socked me in the gut: “Guilt says you’ve done something wrong, shame says you ARE something wrong.” Nicole Johnson said something that brought tears to my eyes, as I could so relate to this…”Are you there God? Did you see what happened? Because that really, really hurt.” She also said something that I need to examine further in my own heart: “God-anger will destroy our families, paralyze our husbands and terrify our children.” And Lisa Harper was great too. The thing that stuck out to me during her talks was that “all addictions are a disorder of misplaced worship.” Ouch…

I’ve had my share of heart-wrenching experiences, but I’ve never lost a child and I don’t know if I could get up in front of thousands of people to relive that even one time, let alone multiple times. But the testimony of God’s grace and tender mercy that Angie Smith shared is simply amazing and definitely encouraging. You can read about Angie Smith’s daughter Audrey, here at her blog. Just be sure to grab a couple of boxes of tissues. Lucy Swindoll was very positive and upbeat while encouraging us to live life with no regrets…I guess she was the balance to all the heartbreaking testimonies before her.

Between when my friend found out she won the tickets and now, I have become obsessed with watching the show “Hoarders” on Netflix. I don’t know what I’ll do when my free subscription is up, I really don’t like to pay for stuff like that but I just love this show. Partly because it inspires me to clean and declutter, partly because I can really empathize with those poor people. Many have had a tragedy occur in their lives that turns messy and disorganized into hoarding so bad that the homes are unfit for human, or even animal, habitation. I recognize some of their thought processes and justifications. I have experienced that feeling that comes over them when they try to part with something and just can’t. I can’t explain it, it’s almost like a dark shroud envelops you and you just can’t think of anything other than the anxiety you’d feel at getting rid of something. You simply must keep it, even though you haven’t looked at it in 10 years. And then I think, “Am I just one tragedy away from becoming one of those crazy cat-lady hoarders?”  It’s scary to think that I just might be that close.

That being said, I have made significant strides over the years in overcoming clutter. I’ve found that as I have dealt with the internal junk and clutter, the external clutter becomes easier to deal with. I still have too much stuff, and having a three year old in the house doesn’t help, si I have resigned myself to the fact that for the next few years at least there will be a definite “lived in” look to our home. I can deal with that. 

It wasn’t until church this morning that I made the connection between what I heard at WOF and have seen on Hoarders…and my heart. The speakers at WOF were amazing…each one touching on an area in my heart, mind or life that could use some attention. The main theme for the weekend  seemed to be Letting Go. Letting go of the things that hold us back…the old wounds that hinder our ability to be all that God has designed us to be, the old thought patterns (or internal scripts as the psychologists on Hoarders call them) and ways of justifying the things in our lives that we are not particularly fond of (like my quick-flaring temper or my tendency to turn to food for comfort, for example). It’s easy to accept letting go of the bad things, but harder to  let go of dreams yet unrealized and people we love and trusting God with those precious things.

What on earth, you’re probably thinking, does any of that have to do with “Hoarders”? As I sat there this morning listening to my pastor, I suddenly got this flash of an image in my mind, probably some conglomeration of all the hoarders’ houses I've seen in the past few weeks, and I realized that…

I am a Spiritual Hoarder

No, I don’t have thousands of bibles stacked all over my house or feel paralyzing anxiety over throwing away a church bulletin. God showed me that I have rooms in my heart that are, just like the homes on that show, packed from floor to ceiling with junk. It’s been there for decades. It’s dirty. It’s unhealthy. I don’t even know what most of it is because I haven’t seen it in years. And yet, I can’t get rid of it. I can’t let it go. I actually feel anxious at the thought of throwing it out without looking at it, touching it, reliving it. And I can’t bring myself to to that, either.

God wants me to have a clean heart. I want me to have a clean heart. But I don’t want to go through an excruciating process to get one. Our pastor read out of Leviticus 6:9-13
9"Command Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the law of the burnt offering: The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.10 And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen trousers he shall put on his body, and take up the ashes of the burnt offering which the fire has consumed on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. 11Then he shall take off his garments, put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. 12 And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.
I’ve heard this teaching before, about keeping the altar clear of ashes. Keeping the junk out of our hearts. But somehow, in light of realizing that my heart has too many areas full of garbage, it just really seems to hit home. I need to let God into those rooms. I need to let Him in to burn it all up. And I need to be diligent in keeping the ashes cleared. Do you know what happens to a fire when the ashes are not removed? It chokes and dies. God says the fire is to always be burning on the altar…and if my heart is the altar, do I want the holy fire of God to burn out within it?

The hoarders on the show agree to let a team of people come in and clear out the junk in their homes. Other people come in to clean areas that haven’t seen a broom or soap or water in years. It’s nasty work in a lot of cases. I am truly impressed by the gentleness, respect and grace they show to the hoarders. In fact, a couple episodes showed people praying beforehand, and one in particular was a group of ladies from a maid service…who prayed to be a blessing to the person and ended it in Jesus’ name. That kind of blew me away.

I have had my share of shame so I know the feeling all too well, but I can’t fully imagine the shame associated with the amount of filth in some of these homes. I cried when one lady shared that her own mother would tell her all the time that she hated her and wished she’d never been born or that she had given her away. I have long believed the condition of our hearts is reflected in our homes. This lady basically lived in a landfill. She felt worthless and unlovable. I just wanted to hug her and tell her that she is not worthless. That Jesus loves her. That He wanted her, even if her mother didn't. What a waste of a precious life – she was in her 70’s I think.

I know that as the rooms in my heart are cleared out, that the Father will be gentle and loving. He will not condemn me or shame me. He will clean up the mess in my heart and make it beautiful, just as He always intended for it to be. But once again, it’s my choice. It’s always my choice to make…

cozy nook
This is my front porch after some serious decluttering. A beautiful, cozy space. This is what I want my heart to be like...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The K12FREEHOMESCHOOL & Mimi Rothschild Experience

Some time ago, I wrote a series of posts on my experience with K12FREEHOMESCHOOL and Mimi Rothschild. I did this for two reasons…one, to truthfully share my experience – there are some unflattering accounts out there on the web and I felt that I should share my own experience in the hopes that those considering joining the academies that are run by Mrs. Rothschild can use it to make an informed decision. But, there was also another reason…to use this experience to (hopefully) attract more readers to my blog. I didn’t stop to consider the ramifications of how I presented the information.

Since I can be long-winded and detailed, I broke the story up into three parts. I reasoned that since it was such a long story, people would be more likely to read three shorter posts instead of one big, long one. It also gave me a chance to practice writing in a way that would entice readers to come back and find out what happened.

But…would they? What if they just read the first one or two posts, the ones that outline the not-so-flattering parts of my experience and didn’t read the last post which show how the whole thing turned out? Is that helpful or hurtful to those involved? I certainly don’t want to hurt Mrs. Rothschild or her business, so I have made the decision to consolidate all three posts into one. I’ll summarize my experience before going into all the details…so, you can read it all or not…but please, at least read the summary. I want you to get the whole picture, not just bits and pieces. I have cut and pasted the original blog posts and have changed nothing. The links to the other “parts” will lead you to the original page, but that has been changed to lead you back here. I don’t want anyone just picking the bad parts to link to.

And so…if you’re interested in all the details, pull up a chair grab a cup of coffee and stay a while. If not, I hope that you’ll at least read the summary with careful consideration.

In January of 2011, I looked for an online program to use in our homeschool. I was dealing with some health issues that made keeping up with everything difficult and was hoping to find something affordable to relieve some of the pressure on me.

I came across K12FREEHOMESCHOOL and loved that there were basic classes that were tuition-free…with our tight budget, that was perfect! I enrolled my daughter in 5 classes and waited for the discs to arrive. But while I was waiting, I looked around on the parent’s forums and it seemed like it wasn’t well maintained and a few parents were complaining about some things, like not receiving materials. I started looking around on the internet and came across some accounts of experiences with K12FREEHOMESCHOOL and Mimi Rothschild that made me begin to fear that I had, perhaps, fallen for a scam.

The disks arrived as promised, we started the classes without any problems. My daughter enjoyed the classes and I even began to see some improvement in the areas she was struggling in and was very happy about that.

After a couple weeks, it was the end of the month and when the new month started, I discovered we couldn’t log in until a mandatory donation was paid. I was irritated that there was only option for the donation amount – $24.95 – and logged into the live chat again for help. I was told that the amount was fixed and couldn’t be changed and that was made clear on the website. I argued that when I enrolled, it said it was a  “free-will offering”! A “mandatory donation” is not a free-will offering, it’s a fee! I was told that there was nothing that could be done about it, that’s just how it is and once the full amount is paid, then we can log in and use the academy again.

Now, I really felt like I had been scammed. This was not what was portrayed on the website when I enrolled my daughter. As a safety precaution, I cancelled my debit card. I wrote a strongly-worded letter to Mrs. Rothschild about how disappointed I was that an academy that portrays itself as “Christian” would conduct its business in such an un-Christlike manner and that I was sending the disks back.

After a few days, I got a phone call from Mrs. Rothschild herself. She apologized for the experience I had and explained that she had been going through some personal difficulties that made it hard to keep up with the academy. She explained that her son had unexpectedly died the year before and then shortly after, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and during dealing with all of that, there were some issues with her staff and the website. Several families had signed up believing it was free, only to find the same thing I did, that we couldn’t use the site without paying a “mandatory donation.”

Mimi also refunded what I had paid for the shipping cost to receive the disks and offered, if I wanted, to send them back so we can continue with the academy and that she would make sure we (as well as all the other families that had enrolled during the same time as we did) could use the Academy for free until the end of June. After praying about it, we decided to give it another try. I didn’t have to give my new debit card number and she did all that she promised to do. She even sent me a lovely devotional journal.

I have corresponded with Mimi several times since all of this happened. I really don’t feel that she is a conniving, scheming person bent on taking over homeschooling, as one website has portrayed her. She went above and beyond to correct the wrongs and apologized for everything. I don’t feel that the gift of the devotional journal was any kind of “bribe” or attempt to butter me up. I feel that it was a sincere offering of reconciliation.

Now, I know that I don’t really know Mimi aside from the scathing reviews online by someone who may have an axe to grind and her own words. I can’t say for sure that her husband does indeed have cancer, nor can I verify that her son had died (only because I don’t know his name so I can  look into it) and it’s possible that she was just saying those things to gain my sympathy. But, I really do feel that she was sincere in all her communication with me. In my spirit, I feel that she was honest with me and I lift her and her family and business up in prayer.

Although I initially had some issues with the academy, in the end I was very satisfied. My daughter enjoyed the classes, I enjoyed some relief from planning and the stress I was under at the time. I don’t regret at all my decision to enroll my daughter in the Academy. Budget constraints this coming school year will prevent us from using the Academy again, but if we had the extra money I would enroll her in a class or two. My daughter had expressed to me that she did not want to do all her classes online this time…not because of the academy, but simply because she wants to do school like we usually do…because she likes to spend time with me. That made my heart smile to hear that!

What follows is the original series of posts consolidated into one. I simply cut and paste, I did not change anything. This is a true account of my experiences…

If you’ve been homeschooling for a while, you’ve probably heard about Mimi Rothschild and her Academies. Do a google search for her and you’ll find lots of opinions, some good, a lot not so good. How do you discern the truth from disgruntled people with an axe to grind? There is a lot of information on the internet…but as Clarence Day from The Crow’s Nest once said, “Information's pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience.” It’s been on my heart for some time now to honestly share my own experience with K12FreeHomeSchool and Mimi Rothschild.  It is, of course, up to you to decided whether to believe what you read, whether on this blog or somewhere else on the internet, or not.


We’ve homeschooled from the beginning, and it’s something I really enjoy. Oh sure, some days are better than others…and then there’s some days where I want to load up the kids and drop them off at the nearest public education institution…and then check my self into an institution on the way home. But, one of the things I love about homeschooling is how flexible it is, and how easily you can alter or change your school program when life throws a curveball at you.

My curveball, or curveballs, rather, were an unexpected and complicated pregnancy and the subsequent delivery of one Very Demanding Son, who has grown into One Very Busy Preschooler…and then Some Ongoing Health Issues that have made it difficult to homeschool. Or do housework. Or function normally some days.


So, when I came across a link to K12FreeHomeSchool and checked out the site, I was very excited! Could this be the reprieve I need to get myself together and to manage things better? My daughter seemed kind of bored with our regular routine, and frankly, I was too. She loves the computer programs and online sites we’ve used as part of her curriculum, so why not?

The other appealing factor was that it was a Christian school. It is very important to us to teach our children not only academics, but sound Biblical principles. That’s just not something they teach in public school anymore. So, to find an affordable online Christian academy seemed like a dream come true!


I went through the enrollment process and chose four core classes: math, science, English, and social studies. These classes were listed as tuition-free, there were other classes such as health or art and music, that had a substantial tuition amount, which was beyond our budget. Whenever I had questions, I was able to get in contact with someone on the the Live Chat feature who answered my questions satisfactorily. There was a $4.95 shipping fee to send the discs we needed for each class, so the total for all four classes was $24.75. You are required to keep a debit/credit card on file, which I was a bit uncomfortable with because if there was a mistake in billing or an extra charge I was unaware of it could be problematic with our lean bottom line, but then at the same time I do understand that people can be unreliable and not pay for things and any school or business needs funds to operate.

According to the site, the academy appreciated a monthly Freewill Offering, which is totally understandable. There was an offering form you could complete, and I found it interesting that the only option seemed to be the suggested $24.95. Since I planned on contributing what our budget allowed, and at a later time, I didn’t look into that all that much.

After I paid for the shipping, I was able to log into the parent and student websites, so I logged in and started looking around. In the forum area, I was a bit unsettled that there weren’t more messages, as in answers to parent’s questions about the program or problems they were having with the discs or payments. There were a few responses from academy staff, but mostly it was people looking for help and not finding it, and then complaining about it. Also, the forum posts were very sporadic, hardly any current, and some going back to 2009! It didn’t seem to me like it was administered very well.
I decided to do what I really should have done to begin with…a little investigating.

As I began writing about my experience, I realized that this would be an incredibly long post, so I’ve decided to make it a serial blog post. In Part 1, I chronicle why I sought out a program like K12FreeHomeSchool, my experiences with the enrollment process and checking out the site and why I decided to do a little investigating. This post, I’ll share what my investigation uncovered and continue sharing my personal experience. I hope you’re ready for the next installment!


I did a search on “K12FreeHomeSchool complaints” and that is where I first came across the name, Mimi Rothschild, along with hit after hit about K12FreeHomeSchool. It was quite disconcerting to see “DISTRAUGHT FAMILIES SEEKING TO EXPOSE FRAUD BY MIMI ROTHSCHILD AKA…” and text following stating “For years there have been complaints against Mimi Rothschild's companies. .... I 've left out many more complaints, but you get the picture.” I started to get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that maybe I had made a mistake.
Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment.  ~Rita Mae Brown
I read many statements by clearly unhappy people about the way the academy was run. Complaints about not receiving materials (or even the materials themselves), not being able to get videos or discs to work, and a host of complaints about the apparent lack of customer support – emails never answered, no phone number to call or if there was a phone number, you could never get a hold of anyone, rude staff, etc. Particularly distressing for me was one lady’s account of having returned the discs as directed only to have been charged over $200 for not returning them (there is a $10 fee per disk for not returning them). We are a one income family on a very tight budget so seeing this type of thing is not encouraging at all…especially when my debit card is on file with the academy.

There is one person in particular that seems to either have a very substantial case against or has made it a personal mission to “get” Ms. Rothschild. There is even a lawsuit involved - Ms. Rothschild has sued her because she believes this person has libeled or slandered or libelously slandered her and her academies. This was starting to look like one sticky wicket.


Being a bit uneasy about the endeavor upon which I had just embarked, I sent an email to inquire about when I should expect our discs to arrive. After a couple days, the email was returned…I don’t remember the exact error listed, but it wasn’t the standard “undeliverable” error. Still, when the website says email is the fastest way to get a response, and two days later it’s returned unanswered, well, that doesn’t look so good either. So, I logged onto the Live Chat, got a person just about right away, and asked about the shipment of the discs. I was told I they were shipped and I should receive them within 7-10 days. Ok…nothing to do now but wait. If we didn’t receive the discs, well then, that would help me make up my mind about this academy for sure.

On the seventh day, we received the discs as promised. I was very relieved, and decided that we would give it a try and see what happens. We had no problems with the discs working or logging into and using the parent or student websites. There was a bit of a learning curve, of course, in learning how to navigate and use the site, but overall it was pretty easy. Everything was going along splendidly (aside from one day that we couldn’t log in, which after another Live Chat session I learned it was due to an ice storm in their area that knocked out their servers) until the end of the month.

On January 30, I logged in to get my daughter started on her day’s school work, only to find a message directing me to complete the required donation form before proceeding. So, I went to the donation form as directed, where once again the only option was to “donate” $24.95. There was a link to the donation form in a sentence on the right (which had mysteriously disappeared the next time I was on that page), so I clicked on it and was able to put in my own amount instead of the $24.95 and completed the process. There was a message thanking me for my contribution so I assumed it went through.

I waited a bit before trying to log on, but was not able to. So, once again, I contacted someone on the Live Chat feature. That was where I learned that it was not a Freewill Offering, as I believed. The person I chatted with this time, however, was quite rude and not helpful at all.

After stewing about it and talking to my husband, we decided to cancel our debit card, return the discs and withdraw our daughter from the academy. She was very upset about the whole thing as she really liked the coursework and activities the academy provided. I sent the discs back, along with a strongly-worded letter addressing my disappointment and dissatisfaction with the way the academy handled its business, especially in light of the fact that this was purported to be a Christian academy.
I never expected to receive a response from Ms. Rothschild. And after reading a couple accounts online of other people’s interactions, I wasn’t sure I wanted to anyway.

If you’ve read Part 1 and Part 2, you’re up to date on my experience with the academy and Mimi Rothschild so far. This final installment will reveal my own personal contact with her as well as what conclusion I came to after reflecting and praying on the whole matter.


Fridays are my errand-running days. My daughter is enrolled in a local homeschool support program where she is in classes for four hours each Friday. She loves it – she gets a little taste of what “real” school is like, more socialization opportunities, physical education and a locker. Mom gets time to run errands with Mister, although some days it’s more fun than others to have Li’l Busy Man along to “help” mommy.

The Friday after I had sent the discs back, I was in the drive-through line at the bank when my cell phone rang. The caller ID showed a Pennsylvania number that I didn’t recognize and I almost didn’t answer it. It never crossed my mind that it could be Mimi Rothschild, but that’s exactly who it was. The connection was very bad and she said she’d call back when she got to her office and could use a land line. I wondered if she really would, but when I was in an Asian grocery store picking up a 50 pound bag of khao niao, my cell phone rang again and it was Mimi. I said a quick prayer that the conversation would go well - not only that she would be pleasant to deal with, but that I would as well and that we would be able to resolve this issue in a way that honored God.


She apologized profusely and expressed her disappointment about what had happened and said that she would be dealing with her staff, possibly including firing someone. Not just because of what had happened to me, but because this type of thing had been happening, apparently, for some time and there were many families affected by this.

She continued to explain about some things happening in her life that made it difficult for her to be on top of her staff and the goings-on at the academy. They were also making the switch from being a donation-based service to a monthly fee-based service and the webmaster, who had assured her that everything was copacetic, either made a mistake or lied about it because clearly leaving wording on a website that leads one to believe a free-will offering is, indeed, an offering that is freely made of one’s own volition and not mandatory for using the service is at least confusing if not misleading.
I don’t feel that going into detail about all of what has been going on in her family’s life is really the thing to do here – I told her I was going to blog about this experience, but have not asked her permission to reveal the details. I would appreciate the same discretion myself. But suffice it to say, I can certainly see how dealing with some truly tragic and devastating circumstances such as those would make it difficult to stay on top of everything going on in a person’s life. I know I would have a hard time as well.

The whole time I was listening to her explain things, there was such an internal struggle going on for me. I don’t know this lady…I’ve read some really unfavorable things about her on the internet…she could just be making all this up, how would I know? Yet, I want to believe the best about people, I want to believe what she is saying is true, and I don’t want to hold a grudge against her.


She offered to refund whatever I had paid, including the cost to send back the discs I had returned by certified mail. She also said that anyone who had signed up within a certain time period, during which all the confusion arose over whether it was a free-will offering or not, would be able to use the service for free until the end of August, 2011. If we wanted to re-enroll our daughter, we just needed to let her know and she’d send the discs back to us at no charge. I told her I’d have to discuss it with my husband and I’d let her know. We did decide to let our daughter continue on in the school because she really liked it, provided, of course, that Mimi followed through with what she said.

And she did. She even sent me a very nice devotional journal and when one of the discs we needed was overlooked and had to be sent to us, she included a book for my daughter as well. Some may think she’s just trying to bribe me or butter me up…but I have chosen to believe, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, that she was doing her best to right how I’d been wronged. Not only was I disappointed and felt deceived, but I was also very much inconvenienced with the whole affair. As a Christian, I believe it is right and proper to not only right whatever wrong has been committed, but to go above and beyond what is expected, just as Jesus has done for me. I don’t deserve his death, or the continued mercy and grace He lavishly pours out on me…and I am the one who did the ‘wronging’, not him!


I can’t answer why others have written such horrible things about her, maybe there is truth there…maybe they just have an axe to grind…maybe they are just miserable people who are not happy unless others around them are miserable. She talked a bit about the lawsuit I had read about and said that she had offered to fly the other party out, at their expense, so they could see for themselves the office and staff but they refused. Again, it is her word over theirs…I can only go by my own experience.

While I initially had a disappointing experience, I do feel that Mimi was sincere. I truly hope that I am not wrong in deciding to believe her story…I have been praying for her and her family, and text her from time to time to let her know I am thinking about her and praying for them. I also pray that if the accusations swirling around on the internet are unfounded, that the Lord’s justice will prevail…well, regardless of the veracity of the accusations, that the Lord’s justice will prevail in this situation.


The moral of this story is, of course, buyer beware and be sure to investigate anything on the internet…but also, don’t just believe everything you read in the blogosphere. I really believe, based on my own experience, that…in spite of the plethora of damning blog posts out there…Mimi Rothschild was sincere in her apology and truly wanted to make things right for me. I declare that every word I have written about this situation is true, to the best of my knowledge, and I have not written this to mislead anyone – only to provide an honest assessment of my interaction and experience with Mimi Rothschild and K12FreeHomeschool.

I encourage you also to pray about all decisions you make, especially those that affect your children and their education, whether you homeschool or not…and listen to what God tells you.
Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on me…

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gunked Up Stoves and Hearts

stove top and cleaning toolsDoes God use the ordinary and mundane things of life to speak to you about deep, spiritual matters? What spiritual lesson could one possibly learn while cleaning a stove anyway? What started out to be a post centered on cleaning, procrastination and elbow grease has turned out to be something much more profound.

When we moved into the house we live in now, the stove in the kitchen had a lot of gunk burnt on around the burners. Like carbonized…nothing I tried would get it to come off. I thought about using a knife or something to chisel it off, but I was afraid that I’d ruin the surface of the stove, so I left it alone. After a while, I got used to the way it looked and even though I hated it because it looked like I never cleaned the stove, it eventually bothered me less and less. There was nothing I could do about it, I thought, so why bother.

Periodically, I’d get an urge to try again to get that gunk off the stove. I’d try some new cleaner or cleaning tool. I’d have minimal success. I’d give up and once again go back to not noticing the burned on, carbonized, black nasty gunk on the pretty white stove top.

Yesterday, I tried again. I got out a can of scouring powder and a scrubby pad. It seemed to be working, then I thought “Well, that’s probably just new stuff…it’s probably not working on the old gunk.” I wanted to give up…it’s been 90+ degrees and humid like a rainforest here for what seems like years this summer. I don’t really want to be scrubbing my stove, to be honest. Then, I considered using a knife again.

What did I have to lose? It couldn’t possibly look worse than it did right then…right?

gunky burner
This burner is only half as bad as the main burner I cook with.
 I forgot to take a picture of that one!

I grabbed an old steak knife that would barely cut butter and went at it. I was surprised, and pleased, to see that it was chipping off easier than the one time before that I tried this technique (and discovered it left little marks behind). Perhaps the scouring powder had loosened things up this time. I carefully hacked away at the burnt on, carbonized, black nasty gunk on the nice, white stove top.

As I was working on this, it occurred to me that this gunked-up stove top was a perfect analogy for a deep, spiritual principle. Leave it to a blogger, huh?  I thought about how we’d lived in this house for nearly four years…how many meals I’d cooked on that stove…how many times I’d cleaned it, but only the surface…not the deep down, stuck on, burnt on nasty stuff. I’d hated the way it looked that and yet was able to ignore it for the majority of that time. And was able to justify not doing anything about it because I was afraid of ruining it and upsetting the landlord.

Then, I thought about things in my own heart…which I want to be nice and clean, pretty and white as snow. There’s things that dirty up the surface and are easily wiped away…and then there are the things that are black and stuck and won’t come off without a fight. Things that have been there for years and years. Things that I hate, and yet can overlook because after a while, you just get used to it being a part of you.  Cleaners don’t work. Scrubby pads don’t work. It takes a knife to remove those old, nasty black spots on my heart.

But, I’m afraid.

Afraid of the work involved. Afraid of the pain. Afraid it might change me too much. Afraid of what others would think, even. But shouldn’t I be most afraid of upsetting the Lord of my heart by not tending to those things? God is good. God is for me, not against me. Pain is not always bad, if it brings life and beauty in the end. And He promised never to leave me or forsake me, so why should I be afraid?

I finally got the stove top clean. There was only one burner area that showed any kind of evidence of being hacked at by a dull steak knife. Minimal scarring, really. Did it detract from the beauty of the stove top as a whole? Maybe, if you focused on that. But just taking a look at the clean stove top, it looked new. And I finally loved my stove, which has served me well for years and helped me to prepare nourishing meals for my family. I no longer felt ashamed for anyone to see it, either. It was a nice feeling.

This morning, I cooked on my lovely “new” stove. I made a pot of oatmeal for breakfast. I wasn’t paying attention and it began to boil over…leaving a nice gloppy mess on my clean, white stove. The analogy continues…if we don’t pay close attention to what is in our hearts and minds, they are easily soiled again.

gloppy oatmeal
Watched pots never boil...but unattended pots boil over

I cleaned it up right away. I didn’t let it sit there. I didn’t ignore it so it would become a black nasty spot that would be difficult and painful to remove. The stove is once again nice and clean…

all clean
Almost looks like a brand new stove again!

…well, except for the back part, which apparently had the paint scrubbed off at some point. I think I can get some appliance paint maybe and fix that. But at least the area where I prepare food daily doesn’t look dirty and nasty anymore. Thanks, God…You have such a way of using the ordinary to speak to me about things that are extraordinary, like your love, faithfulness, forgiveness, mercy and grace. I love You!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Love, Lies and Internal Tapes

smile god loves you emoticonIf you truly understood that God loves you, it would transform your life. Every area. You would never be the same again from the moment you accepted that truth. So why do so many people struggle with moving beyond “knowing” that God loves us (because, after all, that’s what the smiley faces tell us) and believing that He does?  What stands between reason and faith?


God’s word is full of His promises and His declaration of undying, unconditional love for us. We read it, we hear it on the radio, and in the pulpit on Sunday mornings.  Other people tell us.  And we even say it ourselves. But when we take a look at how we live what we believe, there is often a discrepancy between head-knowledge belief that God loves us and hearts that believe without a doubt that He does. And if we look very closely, and listen carefully, we will most likely see that while we know we should believe God loves us, and think we do, our internal dialogue tells a completely different story…
 “If God really loved me, He wouldn’t let me suffer like this…”
“God must love her more than me, look how “blessed” she is while I struggle just to get by…”
“God only loves me when I get it right…”
Our thoughts are a combination of endless input from those around us, from the media, from what we read or listen to. Our "original" concepts of ourselves and of God and others may not be as original as we think they are sometimes. Do the advertisements on TV tell you that you're too fat?  Did your father tell you that you were incompetent? Did your group of friends talk about the neighbor down the street at your last coffee klatch? Our minds take in so much data, and left to its own devices the mind can truly make a mess of all that information.

role models…

father hand baby handOur view of God as a Heavenly Father is often shaped by our experiences with our earthly fathers. If you father abandoned you, if he abused you, if he was harsh, demanding and critical, it can be hard to not think of God in the same light. Was your father loving, kind and supportive? How blessed you are! But even then, all it takes is a little seed planted at the right time and a harvest of doubt can be reaped.

lies and feelings…

There are at least two things that can get in the way of believing in your heart what your mind already knows. Lies and Feelings. Satan, who is the Father of Lies, is really good at whispering little questions in our ears…questions that get us to doubt the Truth of God’s word. "Did God really say that?”“Is that really what He meant?” And sometimes, he’s not subtle at all…“He promised to meet all your needs, so where is He now that the mortgage is due and you don’t have the money to pay it?” Those little seeds of doubt can take root and grow into bitterness, envy, and anger at God.

Then there’s our Feelings. We’re supposed to have “childlike” faith, right? That’s what Jesus said:
I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15)
Receiving God’s love like a little child does not mean that we let our emotions, which are often immature, rule our decisions. We receive God’s love by believing that He loves us, just as our own children so readily believe that we love them. But, their immature emotions will often lead them to the conclusion that we don’t love them…if we don’t give them what they want or let them do something they want to do.  We have the same tendencies toward God at times, too. We need to readily believe, as a child, while exercising self-control over our emotions, as adults do…or should, anyway.

When we let our childlike Feelings reason for us in difficult situations, we can also end up feeling bitter, resentful and angry toward God. We can feel like he’s being mean…just like mom is a big meanie when she tells her three year old that he can’t have cookies for breakfast.  The child doesn’t understand that eating sugary, unhealthy cookies for breakfast can ruin his appetite for healthy, nourishing foods that his growing body needs to mature and to build a strong immune system to protect against illness. Mom is really looking out for his best interest, she is protecting him and showing him love – because she cares about even little things like that and because she knows something the child doesn’t. The lack of understanding on the child’s part does not change, diminish or remove the love of his mother.

take a look inside…and weed the garden

If you struggle with really believing that God loves you, take  look inside for a moment. Listen to yourself as you think about the difficult situations you face…what are you saying? Is it really true? Is it a lie? Examine your feelings, too…what are they telling you? Are they ruling your thoughts and decisions, or are they under control? And, ultimately, do the thoughts and feelings you have line up with what God’s word says? If not, you need to feast upon the word and intentionally spend time with God, letting Him reveal His true character to you…which is Love.

Anything that does not agree with God’s word is a lie. It will produce fruit in your life, if you allow it to take root and grow, but that fruit will be rotten and destructive. Take time every day to pull the weeds out of your heart and mind. Ask God to show you the things you believe that are contrary to His word.

be encouraged…

God’s love really is simple. It’s huge, it’s unconditional, it’s free. It’s ours for the receiving, if we will but just believe. Paul prayed that we would
…[be] rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.    Ephesians 3:18-19
And while I believe it is impossible to fully understand, grasp and know the love of God in its entirety, I do believe it is possible to understand it as much as we are humanly capable. We define the ceiling of that understanding by what we choose to believe about God, about His love, and about ourselves.
“What a good earthly father would not do, God who is our Father would not do either; and what a good father ought to do, God who is our Father is absolutely sure to do.” ~ Hannah Whitall Smith

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We Do It Our Way: Embracing Our Homeschool Style

Are you struggling in your homeschool? Maybe you're trying to put the square peg in the round hole...

I have finally come to grips with the fact that we are, indeed, unschoolers.  However, I have a passion for forms. I love charts, planning pages and the like, but truth be told, I end up either using them for a while then fizzling out or not using them at all. I have been pondering on whether or not I can truly consider myself to be an "unschooler" if I am using forms and charts and planning pages. 

Why not?

Unschooling is not the absence of schooling. It is allowing your child the freedom to learn whatever captures their interest. Bats. Crystals. Snakes. Underwater basket weaving. All of these things have educational merits. You can teach math with bats (Suzy had 5 bats fly into her hair and 3 got stuck. How many bats are in Suzy's hair?), geometry with crystals, and physical education with underwater basket weaving (and snakes, if you find yourself needing to run away from some...). Actually, these things are more caught than taught. My kids prefer to learn by doing rather than by sitting and cranking out worksheets. They learn by seeing, feeling, hearing, moving and asking questions. I love that!

So, how do you keep records while unschooling? What about lesson plans? 

Daily Lesson Plan:  wake up, live life, learn something along the way

Yet, there does need to be some structure. Children also need discipline...left to their own devices, they are inherently foolish.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.   Proverbs 22:15 (NKJV)

Intelligent children listen to their parents; foolish children do their own thing.Proverbs 13:1 (The Message)

Intelligent unschooling parents, then, will be watchful for what interests their children and be mindful to guide their studies.  Just as guardrails on a road are not meant to restrict our driving fun but to keep us from danger so we can arrive at our destination safely, guidelines and discipline in the homeschool keep our children from their own inherent foolishness and keep them on the road to responsible, intelligent adulthood. And as parents, we need to be homeschooling parents, we need to be responsible and accountable.

Our state does not require labor intensive record-keeping. Thank God for that! We are only required to keep an attendance record. However, I do believe it is foolish to not keep any records at all of what your children are learning simply because the state does not require it. Many well-meaning (and some not so well-meaning) but uninformed social service agents would view that as evidence of educational neglect. So, in the event of any questioning about your homeschool and whether you are actually teaching your children, you can alleviate any fears by showing that your children are, indeed, learning at the level in which they are capable. 

So, what about those forms and charts and planning pages that I love to love, only to end up hating to use? How can I use them to keep us as disciplined as we need to be and as accountable as I should be?

The trick is to find forms, charts and planning pages that work with our family's style. That satisfy my need for writing things down, without confining me to someone else's idea of proper record keeping.  After searching through tons of documents online...some really great forms and planning pages...I've come to realize that the trick, then, is to make my own...which, it just so happens, is one of my favorite hobbies. 

And so, I have decided to make all of my own record keeping forms. I'll test-run them over the next few learning doesn't end here because the public school system says school is out. It's more relaxed, more fun, but there is still learning going on.

Today, I created my first PDF of a form I think will finally suit my style. It's a Daily Learning Log sheet, with ample space to write in what we did and to check off the subject areas that are covered. I can easily see at a glance if we have balanced learning going on or are neglecting other areas and can adjust accordingly.

Visit my page on Homeschool Launch to download this Daily Learning Log (there is one with subjects already included, and one blank for your own personalization). I plan to incorporate this sheet in my DIY Homeschool Planner for the coming year.  You can also find a TON of great forms for just about anything you need for your homeschool and homekeeping there.

Of course, this form may not suit your needs at all. That's ok...just find out what does. Then use it. You'll be a lot less frustrated and be much more successful at making learning fun, exciting and enticing for your children. How else can we raise up life-long learners?

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Integrity is a Lost Virtue, but I Choose to: