New spring homeschool schedule

While many students are spending their Spring counting down the days of school remaining, our family is readjusting. Always with the readjusting.

In defense of year-round homeschooling

A few years back we made the decision to forgo the traditional 9-month, 5-day-a-week school year to instead pursue year-round schooling. Before you start groaning, hear me out.

In our home state of Pennsylvania, our schooling requirement is 180 days. Achieving 180 days in nine months can be cumbersome and– let’s face it– pretty boring. It can be especially difficult when days at home simply cannot be 100% focused on traditional lessons. Most days are also laden with housework, caring for younger children and many, many unscheduled distractions.

To attempt 180 days in nine months can leave even the most organized family feeling frazzled. One “simple” change– switching to a year-round model– can be so [so] much more relaxed and enjoyable. It has led us to adopt a life-is-school mentality, which we absolutely love. Instead of cramming lessons & “learning” into 38 weeks, we now have the entire 52 weeks to accomplish the same thing and more. Can you tell I’m a fan??

All that to say, here’s why, in April, we are changing things up and coming up with a new schedule.

New Spring 2018 Schedule

Monday– Meal & Home Prep

A little prep work can go a long way. That’s why we’ve decided to devote this day to just that. Everyone gets involved as we scoop, measure, peel and chop our way through the day. We also tidy our common spaces of the house and make sure we complete enough laundry to get us through the week.

Tuesday– Reading & Math

Today is for getting serious. Sorta. We pull out our books and bunker down for the day. We allow ourselves to get immersed in reading and math because the entire day is carved out for just that. We are big fans of RightStart and enjoy many math games and interactive learning strategies. The rest of the time you’ll likely find us with our noses in some books.

Wednesday– Interest-based learning

This is one of the places we plug Science & History/Geography into our weeks. But instead of forcing the kids to learn a certain topic, I encourage them to learn about what interests them. My son has studied farming; my daughter China and now Africa. In the Spring and Summer they’ll research plants and get hands on learning in the garden. The possibilities are endless and we’ve seen much fruit allowing the kids a say in what they’re learning.

Thursday– Preschool Focus & Math

The older kids pitch in to help teach our 2-year-old & Kindergartener basics like coloring, shapes, letters and music in the morning. Though math practice and worksheets occur all week long, Thursday includes another scheduled math lesson with mom in the afternoon.

Friday– Flex Day

For sanity’s sake, our schedule must include built-in day for friends, field trips and service. We like to keep Fridays super flexible (hence the name). We know how important it is to get out there in the world and be with other people whether for building up, learning or serving.

Saturday– Catch Up

Some Saturdays we do extra lessons around the breakfast table, other times we work on our garden. We use Saturdays however we see fit and I’m not at all opposed to using it as a “school” day!

Sunday– Family Learning

Sundays are great because our whole family is together. We often wind up reading, visiting with friends & family or, lately, catching up on an episode of Drive Thru History.

What every day includes:

✅Silent reading

✅Devotions/Bible study

✅All ages read-aloud time

✅Chores

✅Outdoor play or physical activity (we love Mr. Mark!)

And, if you’re not needing a scheduling change quite yet but are already thinking about SUMMER, check out our summer schedule from last year.

Happy Spring!

Jenny

Recipe: Banana Blueberry Almond Flour Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Bake time: 18-20 minutes

Ingredients:

• 2 cups almond flour

• 4 eggs

• 1 banana, mashed

• 2 packets stevia

• 1/2 tsp baking soda

• 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

• 2 drops DoTERRA Wild Orange Essential Oil (you can purchase here)

• 1 1/2 cups blueberries

• Coconut oil, for greasing pan

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl mix together all ingredients except blueberries.

3. After stirring well until combined, fold in the blueberries.

4. Grease muffin pan with coconut oil.

5. Scoop muffin batter into pan, filling each slot about 1/2 full.

6. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until slightly browned.

Adapted from this recipe at simplytaralynn.com.

The importance of IRL (in real life) community

I remember it like it was yesterday– turning 16, learning to drive and getting my first car. I was thrilled with the new freedoms and possibilities but perhaps what I was even more thrilled with was the fact that I now, officially, had a reason to own a cell phone. My parents hesitated but eventually approved so long as I paid for the service myself. It was a barebones Nokia (you know Generation Y’ers know the one) and texting wasn’t yet a thing but I was still beyond excited with this little blue piece of technology. It meant I could call people– mainly my friends and boyfriend– from anywhere. Amazing.

At the same time that I was celebrating my newfound coolness, I was also getting a first taste of social media. Of course, we didn’t call it that, we didn’t even realize that’s what it was but… it was. ICQ and AIM (@jenEbean) became a way to connect with my friends (and boyfriend @joeEbear) after school, so long as we had enough minutes left on our dial-up internet plan. So weird, I know. I also wrote a good bit of emails from my razzberry mail account. I was #killingit.

But life didn’t stop there. Many a weekends were still spent at high school football games and late night runs to Wendy’s for French fries and Frosties… all while we remained happily disconnected, technologically-speaking. Life was much simpler then, and not just because I was a teenager, but because most of our daily interaction with people took place In Real Life.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, we interact with one another so much more– with likes and thumbs ups and filter-laden selfies–yet majority of us are lonely, anxious and searching (read: scrolling). We spend evenings catching up on our friends’ IG feeds instead of picking up the phone to ask them how their life is going. We answer with emojis because our friends can’t see our expressions or know our hearts behind the keyboard. And somehow we think winks, thumbs ups and hearts are a suitable replacement for IRL smiles, hugs and tear-soaked shoulders.

I’m here to tell you that they are not. Yes, they can be a temporary, quick solution when life circumstances truly prevent IRL relations but they will never stand as an equivalent replacement for real human touch and laughter and quality time.

I enjoy social media, email, blogs, YouTube, text messages, video chat as much as the next person. And maybe even more so because I fell in love with my then-boyfriend-now-husband Joe over ICQ after he wooed me by sending me a flower (which, young people, was literally realized by the words, “joeEbear has sent you a flower” coming up in the chat box). However, today, more than ever, this world has a community-problem. We isolate ourselves like never before. And in the moments that we can be engaged in IRL community, we’re interrupted by dings and rings and other, often-unimportant notifications.

I believe that the first step toward change is to recognize there is a problem. Check. The second step? Do something about it. So here I am, trying to fight the overbearing pull from those temporal, pseudo-communities that can eat up all of my free time and swallow it whole. I am, instead, trying to exchange my time for IRL relationships that so desperately need pouring into.

I’ve also been thinking about what this looks like for the next generation. I’m working on writing a post “how to raise the next generation so they are not social media addicts” (or something to that effect). Look for it up soon.

In closing, I feel the need to say THANK YOU for being part of my online network of friends, I appreciate you and I enjoy your company… just don’t let me or any other internet-based community steal all of your time or replace your IRL relationships. Your community needs you!

Inspired to action,

Jenny

Five books I’m reading this January

January reading listbmom

1. Becoming Momstrong: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith by Heidi St. John
I’m reading it through for the second time because it’s that good! I did a book review back in September. Check it out here.

 

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2. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman

 

 

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3. Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith and Generous Love by Sally Clarkson

 

 

 

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4. Having a Martha Home The Mary Way: 31 Days to a Clean House and A Satisfied Soul by Sarah Mae

 

 

 

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5. The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight by Heidi St. John

 

 

 

For more of my favorite books, check out my Pinterest board!

Reading through 2018 with you,

Jenny

 

Becoming MomStrong book review

Motherhood is hard. There’s no way around it. Days can be long and morale low. But women like Heidi St. John help moms like me in bearing that burden just a bit, making life just a bit easier, a bit more lovable. Whether through an encouraging post on her blog The Busy Mom or in one of her books, Heidi has been shining light in this sometimes dark venture that is motherhood. And her latest book “Becoming MomStrong: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith” is no different.20626781_10214150313141256_4111742155754784941_oBecoming MomStrong hits on hot topics like a mom’s need for rest and the importance of community as well as less common yet relevant topics like avoiding drama and handling grief.

As a seasoned mother of 7, Heidi is generous in sharing her wisdom in a very personable, winsome way. The book is full of first-hand accounts (the perfect mixture of #momfails and #momwins) while constantly admonishing readers to stay the course, to become stronger through their unwavering commitment to being immersed in God’s Word.

Heidi says, “MomStrong moms know the Word, and they respond to today’s challenges with God-centered wisdom.”

Becoming MomStrong is an uplifting, fun read that’s more like a bunch of meaningful conversations between old friends over a cup of coffee.

Despite my somber introduction, motherhood is not all doom and gloom. We all know it’s also full of afternoon snuggles sessions, laughter and late-night heart-to-hearts. The truth is, motherhood is a beautiful roller coaster of ups and downs. Motherhood is a high calling that bears tremendous responsibility.

In the pages of Becoming MomStrong, Heidi reminds us of the challenges we face as mothers in a volatile culture.

“God has given this generation of moms a special challenge: to train future warriors for the spiritual battle that’s unfolding around us. God is asking today’s mothers to be strong in the midst of an incredibly powerful cultural shift away from the truth of God’s Word,” explains Heidi in Becoming MomStrong.

I’ve left this book not only feeling encouraged but also feeling empowered; empowered to move forward on my mothering journey– with goals appropriate for each season of life God has put me in (as Heidi suggests in the book)– and with greater determination to give my children the best of me, not the rest of me (as Heidi also suggests in the book).

And I’ve never been more certain of this truth: by being a mom, we are not just line cooks, laundresses or nurses, but we are world changers, not only through our own lives but also through the lives of those He has entrusted in our care: our children.

“Through motherhood, you are impacting the world for good, one young life at a time.” -Heidi St. John, Becoming MomStrong

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Becoming MomStrong releases on September 19, 2017. A supplemental Bible Study and Journal are also available. Fun and functional MomStrong swag can be purchased here on Heidi’s website.

 

Consider this

Sometimes we get so busy just trying to keep our heads above water that we don’t take to just stop and consider.

Consider a simpler way of doing things

Consider our gifts
Consider why a child might be cranky
Consider how to do make something work better

Consider where we want to be in 5 years

I am an answers kind of girl. Nothing grates me more than being told “that’s just how things are” or “you’re a mom, you’re supposed to be tired” or better yet “you have children, your house is going to be messy”. I’ve always refused to accept being stuck in a less-than-ideal situation because of any of those excuses. Offer me some advice! Make a helpful suggestion! Tell me how you do things! Pray for me! Something! Anything!

This summer has been a very enjoyable one for me personally. I’ve been taking a good bit of time aside to read, pray and consider how things are going in my life. I’ve been journaling my thoughts and challenging my old ways of doing things.

My first revelations have come through reading the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The book encourages us to take a closer look at all the things we fill our lives with. Not just worldly possessions (but those too!) but also the ways we fill our time, the things we say yes to.  McKeown argues that we can’t do everything and give everything our full attention at one time. We can either attempt to do too many things and do them not-so-well or we can pick and choose our “greatest contribution” and do those few things exceptionally. This totally makes sense to me and has me questioning just about everything.

I am now reading through Lara Casey’s book Make It Happen. Practical title, huh? But, all joking aside, it’s what I need to learn. I need to discover how to think things through, re-evaluate, set realistic expectations for myself and then… make it happen.

Something Casey wrote about was the unhealthy aspect of going to extremes in life. While her intent was to discourage us from doing so– or at least make us aware of our tendency to be extreme– something clicked with me. I actually think I do really well if I can focus on one thing for a shorter period of time than if I try to do too many things for a long period of time. (I more struggle with consistency… but that’s for later improvement!) For instance, today, I decided to focus on laundry. I spent the entire day– in between my other motherly duties and a little work time– catching up on laundry. I used to do this but got away from it. I thought it made “more sense” to just do one load a day. But considering how I am bent and my tendency to be all or nothing, Monday as laundry day actually makes a whole lot of sense for me. And I think Casey would be okay with this sort of extreme. 😉

So, my point here being, instead of just staying stuck and saying, “I’ll never have this laundry thing figured out,” I can stop and evaluate the unique way that God made me and how I might be able to set myself up for success in this area. And, of course, other areas as well.

Though I hadn’t realize it, I am already applying similar principles in our homeschooling. When we start a subject or begin learning about a certain topic, we do best when we are all in– no interruptions! We’d rather blow through our entire History book in three months than stretch it out the entire school year. We’d rather learn all we can about the ocean than just study fish for a chapter in our Science book. This is what works for us. And when learning begins to just work and become sort of effortless, beautiful things happen.

It’s that same effortless approach that I am now trying to apply to other areas of my life. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent far too long stammering around trying to get a handle on things that are fairly simple– cooking, cleaning, laundry. I’m ready for these things to be second-nature so that I can better focus my attention on other very important things that God has called me to.

What about you? Have you taken some time to just quiet yourself, remove the distractions around you, remove the preconceived ideas in your head and consider how to better your life? Stop fighting against the tide and go with the flow. Stop making things harder on yourself than they have to be. It’s liberating and I can’t wait for you experience it!

On this journey with you,

Jenny
for Eco-friendly Destinations

Living intentionally with a summer schedule

Copy of beauty review (1)

I don’t know about you, but I am super excited that summer is upon us! Last year I established a summer schedule and it was very helpful in structuring our weeks and limiting the chaos. I decided that it was a good idea to continue the tradition this year.

In addition to a weekly schedule, we like to keep a routine going. Our routine hasn’t changed that much from last year. Our day generally goes in this order:

  • breakfast & morning devotional
  • AM choretime
  • free play
  • lesson or discussion
  • lunch
  • PM choretime
  • quiet time/silent reading
  • snack
  • afternoon nature walk
  • quick house tidy
  • bathtime/dinner prep
  • dinner
  • reading with Dad
  • bed

We like for our summer schedule to be theme-based. Here’s what we’ve come up with for Summer 2017:
Summer Schedule

At our house, Mondays must be mellow! We seem to have so much catching up (and calming down!) to do. Today’s the day to do some laundry, straighten up the kitchen, bake bread, plan our week and menu plan.

Tuesdays we like to go to Panera Bread for the Baker’s Dozen deal. It also happens to be our allotted day to take our trash to the local dump, so we’re in the car already! This summer we are going to focus on reading and going to the bookstore this day too.

We’ve decided to open our house to friends on Wednesdays. If the weather is nice, our friends know that they are welcome to come over and play outside with us.

There’s so much science to learn in the summer! Tinkering Thursday is set aside to do just that– science experiments, gardening, scavenger hunts, bird watching. Today’s the day we will also work on large creative projects like building, drawing & crafting.

Field Trip Friday is the day we will venture out the playground, zoo or creek. We might also go hiking or for a walk in the park. On special occasions we’ll check out a local museum or wildlife preserve.

How about your family? Do you like to structure your summer? What do your days look like?

With excitement,
Jenny

Stitch Fix review

Well, friends, I took a leap of faith and signed up for Stitch Fix! If you’ve never heard of it, here’s a little bit about them straight from their website:

“Stitch Fix is an online styling service that delivers a truly personalized shopping experience, just for you. Fill out your Style Profile and a personal stylist will hand pick pieces to fit your tastes, needs and budget—and mail them directly to your door. Each box contains five items of clothing, shoes and accessories for you to try on at home. Keep what you love, send the rest back in a prepaid USPS envelope. Shipping and returns are free—even for exchanges!”

I found out about Stitch Fix a few years ago from a fellow blogger, scheduled my first Fix and then chickened out. I cancelled! I figured I’d just do my best to keep picking out clothing pieces from Kohl’s, ThredUp and Goodwill (no shame!). However, I am in love with my first Fix! And here are a few reasons why:

1. The stuff is just super good quality and will last for a long time.
2. My stylist did an awesome job at listening to my wants/needs and hit my style to a T. She clearly visited my Pinterest board that I linked in the initial questionnaire.
3. Everything fits! This was my biggest concern– that stuff would arrive, I’d love it but it wouldn’t fit. Each piece fits even the pants!
4. I am confident that with just 1 or 2 more Fixes I will have a nice, capsule wardrobe. I’m happy that I will finally have a few quality pieces instead of lots of cheap pieces that I don’t love and are of lesser quality.

Without further ado, here’s my Fix! Please excuse the poor quality of the pictures, I summoned my 8-year-old to help me out! 😉

Top left: Glenview Crew Neck Blouse by Kaileigh and Adorra Skinny Jean by Just Black
Top right: same paired with Martina Slub Knit Open Cardigan by Pixley
Bottom left: Judie Knit Dress by Le Lis
Bottom middle: samepaired with Martina Slub Knit Open Cardigan by Pixley
Bottom right: Poppyton Crochet Bib Top by Collective Concepts (Gap jeans not included in Fix!)

My items varied in retail value from $34 to $88. Because I will be keeping items, the $20 styling fee that I initially paid will be credited back to me and because I will be keeping everything (all 5 pieces), I get the 25% discount. So, overall I am getting each piece for under $40/each.

If you feel like giving Stitch Fix a try, I highly recommend it and if you use my referral link, I’d be so appreciative! Go here and let the fashion fun begin! 

Living life with a smile: in memory of Justin

May 1 holds a lot of precious memories for me. Mostly good ones but some sad too. It’s the day one of my childhood best friends, Justin, passed away from a hard-fought battle with Cystic Fibrosis.IMG_8801

Although my memory tends to be pretty poor, I remember the day very vividily and even the week leading up to the day. I remember a strong feeling in my gut that I needed to go spend time with him the day before, and the tear-filled night that followed as my heart was heavy and the Lord was preparing me for his passing. And then the next day, and that same strong gut feeling telling me I needed to go to the hospital at the first chance I got.

And how when I arrived there, I stood outside the room waiting to get the okay from the family to go inside to see him. The nurses’ eyes told me that Justin, body and soul, was no longer there but in heaven. Still I prayed as I waited.

When I walked inside those heavy doors, many relatives stood around and his sweet mom sat at his side. I had the chance to touch his cheek and pray over him and offer my condolences to the family.

The passing of a 16-year-old is emotional and it is never easy but through Justin’s passing the Lord taught me so much. And, little did I know, was preparing my heart for another loss– the passing of my dad– that would happen only 3 short years later.

But I write this post not to bring tears of sadness or pain flooding back but to bring memories of joy and happiness to the forefront.

Justin was a special soul. Anyone who knew him, knew him for his cheeky grin (which usually meant he was up to no good), his signature CF rosy cheeks and his laughter. His life, of course, was littered with the difficulties of managing a terminal illness but it was just as peppered with happiness and optimism.

His life and death taught me to not only make every day count but to not hold back and to act now. In some of the last moments I spent with him, I gave him an early birthday gift that I had been holding onto for a few weeks. I didn’t know that he would be gone before his birthday but I did know that the gift would bring a smile to his face and I wanted he and I to enjoy that moment now and not later. In those last moments he also showed me a card covered with signatures and messages from our classmates. The time friends took to pen a short message to a sick (dying) friend mattered. And rewind all the way back to our elementary school days, when I made the decision to befriend this little, blonde haired boy who was different than everyone else mattered… not only to him but to me.

So, on May 1, I try not to think about what might have been, because truly nothing might have been. His being born and his dying, that was all planned out ahead of time by Our Father. He gave Justin just the exact number of days that were intended for him and I believe Justin used them to be a vibrant, shining example of life-to-the-full even– especially—  through the suffering he endured.

May Justin’s life be a reminder to us all that life is short, that God is good and that joy is possible.

With a heart full of fond memories,
Jenny

Confessions of a former martyr mom

Woe is me. Have you ever felt that way? At times I can be worse than a whining toddler. “The kids were so naughty today” and “the baby barely slept” and “little girl spilled her milk for the 127,829th time.”
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With each passing travesty, I can go from meek mom to martyr mom in less than 60 seconds. I can go from gentle to enraged just as fast. And– over what?– these little humans and their inevitable flaws because, in case you haven’t noticed, they’re pretty new here.

It’s so easy to forget that they’re young and inexperienced (yes, even at making sure their cup doesn’t get tipped over even though it is placed nowhere near their chubby, little flailing arms). It’s so easy to forget that, just like me, they often learn best by messing up. And that children messing up means parents jumping to the rescue and picking up the slack because that’s our job.

When I stop right there and think about this awesome responsibility in front of me I feel both humbled and a little bit ashamed. Ashamed that I often am so bogged down by the here-and-now, the do-this-do-that that something as basic as a troublesome toddler can set me over the edge and lead me down a path of martyrdom.

Martyr Mom says, “This work is just too hard, I need a break!” Martyr Mom says, “My life is so not glamorous, I wish I was in Tahiti.” Martyr Mom says, “I am the only mom who deals with these travesties, I just know it!” And then, “What did I do to deserve to be mistreated this way??”

And on and on and on.

If we want to get all technical about it, a martyr is a person who is killed because of their beliefs. Pretty intense. Pretty radical. And yet so many times I can be that martyr mom. That woman who feels like my life is dead because I’m a mom. Like my future is bleak because so. many. messes.

Then I live motherhood in this hurried cycle, rushing things along. How long until I can get baby out of diapers? How long until they stop eating like rabid beavers (who leave a trail of Goldfish crackers wherever they go)? How darn long until they learn not to spill the milk?!

And the answer, my friend, is not very long. In the blink of the eye the training wheels are off, the driver’s license is issued and the bags are packed. Oh, my heart honestly aches to think about it! And yet, I’m trying to rush things! What is wrong with me?

Motherhood does not have to be about martyrdom. It should not be about martyrdom. It should be about life. It should be about celebrating all the firsts and clutching onto all the moments– the good, bad, the ugly– that are being created for these little humans we are raising (and for us)! Everything that happens in our lives has the potential to shape us for life, affecting how we think about the world, how we love others, what we believe. That is anything but a dying cause. That is a living cause.

Motherhood does have to be about self-denial and self-sacrifice. A dying to self of sorts. The newborn babe is not going to feed herself just because you want to sleep instead. No, when you are a mom, you crawl out of that bed to nurture and sustain that tiny life that can’t live without your help. You give up part of your desires– be they for sleep or beauty or being fed first– because you’ve been given a tremendous responsibility to care for another life. I am not the same person I was as a 22-year-old new mom. Not even close. I’ve lost some aspects of myself but gained others I never knew I could have. Self-denial and self-sacrifice– at the expense of training up beautiful, beautiful souls– is so worth it. Every crumb-filled room, sleepless night, every drop of milk trickled on the floor, is worth it.

So let us shift our thinking away from this hopeless estate that is martyrdom and move toward living out a beautifully messy, oh-so-hard, yet worthwhile life as a kingdom-advancing, world changing, mother.

With hope,
Jenny