On servanthood

I love to serve. It’s in my blood. I feel so much joy and purpose when I am intentionally serving other people.

What does intentional serving look like? Here are some examples:

  • Making a meal for someone in need
  • Babysitting a friend’s kids so she can go to an appointment
  • Picking up some extra groceries for someone
  • Performing random acts of kindness around your community

As women and mothers I think many of us have servanthood in our bones. Perfectly fitting that God has called us to a job that, to it’s very core, is serving. Three meals a day. Wash out the wazoo. Grocery shopping and errand running. Tucking in and cleaning up. And then cleaning up some more.

And while our families aren’t the only ones we serve, they are a large part of those who are blessed by our service.

For a long time, I’ve operated under the guise of availability. A few years back I heard it said that someone held a grudge against homeschooling families at their church because they were too busy to serve in church ministries. Though not directly aimed at me, you can imagine that I was saddened to hear this. Saddened, one, to hear that homeschooling families were viewed this way and then, two, saddened that more people didn’t acknowledge the fact that family ministries like homeschooling are church ministries.

From there forward, I vowed to be available, to never be viewed as “too busy” to serve. I also became overly sensitive, offended even, if I wasn’t asked to be involved in some project or need because “ohh, you’re too busy” or “you have your hands full already.”

While it is still one or our family’s goals to be available– because we are blessed with the flexibility of homeschooling– this homeschool season has had me tiptoeing a few steps back, saying no just a little more often.

And– ya know what?– I’m okay with that. This season is one of hardcore serving my family. I’ve been giving and giving and giving and I’m learning there really is a threshold of how much I can give. I’m learning to choose how quickly I dole out yeses, holding onto them a bit more tightly and reserving them for best opportunities– the ones that allow my family to serve alongside me or ones that don’t wear me so thin that I can’t carry out my first calling.

Lately I’ve also been leaving a lot more of what I like to call “white space” in my days. I’ve been looking at my planner as less of a fill-every-void-of-time challenge and as more of a place to block off the essentials and intentionally leave room for lazy afternoons on the porch and slow evenings playing Yahtzee in the living room.

For far too long I’ve viewed the service I render in motherhood and wifehood as less than [when compared to the other service I could be doing]. Less enjoyable. Less fulfilling. And I’m beginning to realize that part of the reason for my skewed viewpoint is because serving my family has not been intentional service. Instead its been obligatory and mundane.

In order to be more fulfilled in serving at home we must treat our services as unique and carry them out intentionally. As in, with purpose and clarity and conviction.

This is, inevitably, going to look different in each home. In our home it looks like Saturday Special Breakfast with my kids on Saturday mornings. It looks like fresh-brewed iced tea waiting for my husband when he gets home from a long day at work. It looks like supervising longer than necessary bubble baths with essential oils and a space heater and play dinosaurs. Lots of play dinosaurs.

Serving my family intentionally allows me to think– really think– about my work here on this Earth, leaves lots of room for gratitude and fosters contentment in my ever-exhausted, yet super blessed mama heart.

So even if you are serving hundreds at a soup kitchen or singing praises on the church music team, be sure you are leaving enough white space, enough energy and mental capacity to also love and serve your precious family. Your family will reap wonderful benefits from your selflessness and you, too, will be abundantly blessed in doing so.

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

Living intentionally with a summer schedule

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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

Schedule summer? Why, yes, I think I will!

While most kids are just beginning their summer vacation, we’ve been “free” for about 3 weeks now! While it’s true we do homeschooling year-round, we definitely kick it down a couple notches come May. The weather is just too nice to stay indoors so much and the whole family (me especially!) is itching for a change of pace.

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So, here we are the first official week of June and things are… already chaotic. The kids long for structure and I long for a cleaner house!

It’s been decided, in an attempt to abate the chaos, we are starting our summer schedule this week!

 

Monday Make Food Monday

(cooking/baking meal prep for the week)

Tuesday Friends Day

(we’re gone for the day at our co-op and then run our errands)

Wednesday Movie Matinee

(after a busy Tuesday the kids just need to relax so a movie & snack is perfect today)

Thursday Thoughtful Thursday

(work on projects like baking cookies for a friend or writing letters to a relative)

Friday Fun Afternoon Friday

(field trip or afternoon at the playground or creek)

On the days we are home in the morning– usually every day but Tuesday– we pretty much operate under the same schedule. It’s our afternoons that are a bit trickier to navigate! Here’s what our mornings at home look like:

-Breakfast

-Devotional Time

-AM Chore Time

-Legos or Outside Play

-Lunch

-PM Chore Time

-CHAOS

It is my hope that this afternoon time, when things tend to get a bit loose around here, will now be replaced with the activity of the day!

Now if only we can come up with a better chore plan…

With anticipation,

Jenny