almost two months

How do I say it? What do I even say? If I don’t say anything for awhile, then I don’t have to acknowledge it, which I think will make me feel better. I’m not sure.

On the late afternoon of Monday, December 7th, my Dad called three times in a row. It was strange, but neither my dad nor my mom left messages. I had been sick for a couple of weeks and had now completely lost my voice, so I texted him that I had no voice. I’d been texting earlier with my mom, and she knew this.

My dad texted back.

“Mom has gone with the Lord. I am sorry for you, for me, and especially for Samuel.”

(Samuel is my brother who has been living in a home with kids with special needs for the last several years.)


It has been hard. I know that we don’t grieve without hope, but we do deeply grieve. The Christian’s life on earth is only a preface for the true life that’s eternal in paradise. It wasn’t that my mom got cut off from a ‘good life’, nor was she taken unfairly compared to others who maybe should have gone before. She didn’t miss out on the grandchildren growing up. She didn’t get taken too soon. My mom is in glory forever doing what she was made to do – worship. The sole purpose for which we are called and created is to bring God the most glory. She has already reached the eternal rest where she adores Him with a pure heart and a pure mind – sinless.


I immediately called my dad when I read the first sentence of his text. At first hearing the news, I could only say, “No, no, no. It can’t be. It can’t be.” She had texted me just an hour or so before. My dad called after the paramedics had worked on her for a half an hour. She had a massive heart attack. Resting on the sofa with my dad next to her, she said that she thought she felt lightheaded. He took her blood pressure, and she wrote it down. It was the same as it had been in the previous weeks, so they weren’t alarmed. Then she said, “I’m dizzy.”

She was gone.

I can’t ever remember sobbing so painfully. “Be merciful to us. Make the path straight for dad. Provide the comfort to our souls as only you can. Your Almighty power alone can care for Samuel. Please, Father. You are good.” Prayer after prayer of supplication were my only thoughts.

Nathan looked for tickets for us the rest of the night, and although COVID made for a cumbersome trip, we were able to go to Spain. Alexander, Eva, and I arrived in time to see my mom at the funeral home. Oh how very grateful I am for this opportunity! Nothing ached more than the thought of not making it in time. I just wanted to see my mom.

As the weeks passed, I’ve had the strongest feeling that I am changed. Especially when driving to church or Nathan’s parent’s house, “Will they know I’m different? Could they tell?” As a good friend who has walked the journey of grief confirmed when I shared this with her, “Yes. Fundamentally changed.”

It hasn’t been so long yet, that I still think I could call her sometimes. “Today is not a busy day. I should call…” Or, after I take a picture of the kids, I quickly say, “I’m going to send it to yaya…” Then it stings again, first in my chest then in my eyes.

I am very thankful for His goodness. The Lord has been my comfort through the day, everyday. I perceive it and am overwhelmed by His mercies. Some days, I sense that I’m beginning to understand what has happened. I think I get it, and I’m going to be okay. The next day, it feels as if my dad has just told me. My brain is in a fog, and I am sorely sad. But God is my refuge in time of trouble. He is very near.

She is with her Savior. She is with her Lord.

 
"Praise the Lord!
 Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his hosts!
  Praise him, sun and moon,
    praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters above the heavens!
 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
    For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
    he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
 Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
    stormy wind fulfilling his word!
 Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock,
    creeping things and flying birds!
 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
    princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together,
    old men and children!
 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his majesty is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
    praise for all his saints,
    for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!"      - Psalm 148 
 with love, Damaris


an inheritance left to me

While I was in my dad’s car traveling to my mom’s burial Friday, December 11th, with a heart full of intense sadness and joy and through many tears, I recalled her loving care to me. I wrote these few words, overwhelmed by the thought of my mother’s legacy in my life. Later, I read them to those gathered at the cemetery.


The Bible teaches of the inheritance parents leave their children. This inheritance is not an earthly one:

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
    but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.”
-Proverbs 13:22

“We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,”
-Psalm 78:4,6

“One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.”
-Psalm 154:4

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” -Deuteronomy 6:5-7


Although the most precious inheritance isn’t earthy, my mom taught me to ride a bike, to obey, to pray little prayers, to clean, to sew, and to cook. She instructed me to take care of myself, and she taught me to drive. She also trained me how to take care of my husband and of my first baby. She showed me how to keep up with the laundry when there were so many little ones and how to tidy up the house before bed, so it’s ready for the next day. She taught me that a mother is always there.

But the greatest inheritance that she left me, is that she took me to the feet of the cross. Since then, she trained me to grow in the understanding the Word, to memorize Scripture, to serve, she showed me the ministry of hospitality and trained me in the ministry of mercy.

This is the inheritance of eternal value that my mom has left me, and this same inheritance I seek to leave to my children, and I pray that my children will leave to their children for the glory of God.

I give thanks to the Lord for the life of my mother.

 with love, Damaris


thanksgiving reflections

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”  –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Hence, since everything we possess, and everything in heaven and on earth besides, is daily given and sustained by God, it inevitably follows that we are in duty bound to love, praise, and thank Him without ceasing, and, in short, to devote all these things to his service.” -Martin Luther

“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” –A.W. Tozer

“True gratitude or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what he is in himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on other grounds, viz. [which is] God’s own excellency.” -Jonathan Edwards

“A sensible thanksgiving for mercies received is a mighty prayer in the Spirit of God. It prevails with Him unspeakably.” –John Bunyan

“Let us thank God heartily as often as we pray that we have His Spirit in us to teach us to pray. Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts.” -Andrew Murray

“The best helps to growth in grace are the ill usage, the affronts, and the losses which befall us. We should receive them with all thankfulness, as preferable to all others, were it only on this account, that our will has no part therein.” -John Wesley

“We are surrounded by God’s benefits. The best use of these benefits is an unceasing expression of gratitude.” -John Calvin

“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” –Charles Spurgeon

 “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that, I still possess.” –Corrie ten Boom

“The Lord afflicts us at times; but it is always a thousand times less than we deserve, and much less than many of our fellow-creatures are suffering around us. Let us, therefore, pray for grace to be humble, thankful, and patient.” -John Newton

“God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.” –Elizabeth Elliot

“Yes, give thanks for ‘all things’ for, as it has been well said ‘Our  disappointments are but His appointments.’” –A.W. Pink

 with love, Damaris


family currents: fall edition

our big red barn at dusk

It’s been a little while since I gathered a few pictures and filled you in on what we’ve been enjoying lately. So, let’s catch up!

Since Michigan summers are not unbearably hot, we extend hospitality weekly throughout the warmer months. It works well because we can easily host larger groups outside. Since the kids are now older, Nathan had the great idea to find a used volleyball net. It would be such a fun game to share with friends. After much searching, he came across a local ad for a volleyball net in great shape and picked it up. We’re so grateful. It’s been fun to help the older children learn and play numerous games with family and friends!


A few months ago, Nathan saw a never-been-used ice cream maker still in its box on craigslist. We picked it up and realized the ice cream maker is brand new from the 60’s. Our family used to have a small Cuisinart maker years ago, but it didn’t provide enough ice cream for all of us. This is a 5 quart electric ice cream maker, which yields a generous amount for us all and friends. We have been loving the varieties of vanilla and the simplicity of a handful of ingredients. Although we’ve been eating loads of ice cream, the old machine is still going strong. “A lot of ice cream making,” corroborates Eva, who was our ice cream maker.


For my birthday, William surprised me with a garden arch. He created it quietly in the barn and even made a “MOM” sign with copper strand. He was so careful to not talk about it or show anyone for weeks. Definitely surprised, and I love it so much! It’s right in the view from the north kitchen windows, and my heart is full of gratitude for the tender ways children seek to show devotion.


We’ve had the best bonfires this year! Our family and friends gathered around in the evening cooking all sorts of Sunday night simple suppers over the fire. We enjoyed grilled cheeses, hot dogs, fruit pies, and of course, roasted marshmallows. This recipe was a recommendation from my good friend Rachel, and it was a huge hit! The fire was so inviting that the boys made plans to sleep outdoors on cots several nights. Even during the cold fall season, the boys stayed warm by feeding the fire throughout the night, wearing wool caps and socks, coats, and thick sleeping bags. On Saturday morning, they would come in with a frosted nose ready for hot coffee (yes, they do) and pancakes. I’m glad we’re back to everyone sleeping in the house : )


Lastly, we are so thankful for a cozy place to live. It took us all a couple of Saturdays, but we painted the upstairs hallways and all the downstairs (except the piano room). I really like it. I love the calming white and also feel that it suits the age of the house. It was a controversial topic here for a little bit – ha! What do you think?

copen blue by sherwin williams
pearly white by sherwin williams

I hope you enjoyed our little fall family update. Stay in touch!

 with love, Damaris


kids’ chores and responsibilities

photo credit: Eva L. Kirkpatrick

We had a couple over for dinner last week, and after the meal, us ladies came into the kitchen to see how the meal clean-up was going. Just then, she noticed the “responsibilities list” on the wall next to the slate chalk board. She quickly took a picture of it and seemed equally amused and intrigued by our little list. It’s a humble note paper cut to a square and taped to the wall with washi tape (I love washi tape – I can finally display all the children’s drawings!). I’ve seen many a fancy bordered chart ,or better yet, chalk-art-decorated board for displaying the assignments. Ours is simple, folks!

I have a friend who makes a very valid case for calling the children’s job’s for the family home assignments, because chores has the connotation of burden or drudgery. Whatever the semantics, our family’s been trying to clean up messes for 15 years : ) The mess is not peaceful for me. I feel calmer, happier and can think much clearer when the spaces are orderly and tidy. I think it is this way even for children.

Our family’s chore list is for the year. At the beginning of the school year, we sit down and discuss all the old chores and how they are changing hands. Everyone is usaually happy to switch it up and understands, so the only purpose of the paper chore list is mostly for reference (in the case that Nathan or I forget or there’s a need to switch it up for a day). The children don’t really look at it, because they’re doing it all the time.

I read a quote years ago from an older mom who said, “Life is messy, so clean it up.” I couldn’t agree more. Have grace to allow the mess, and be adamant about cleaning it up. Even though tidying up is agreeably necessary, each household has a cleaning routine. If it is part of the family’s regular rhythm, it hardly is much effort to have visitors. This has proven true for us many, many times! When the children were younger and schooling was less rigorous, we cleaned before the weekend in efforts to enjoy all the time with Daddy when he was home. I always knew I’d have to forgo this little luxury when schooldays grew longer and our days got fuller. So here we are, a few years into the routine of cleaning a little everyday and a little more on Saturday morning : )

Cleaning the family home for us is divided into two categories: Daily and Weekly Responsibilities

photo credit: Eva L. Kirkpatrick

Daily

  • collect laundry and wash (first thing in the morning), flip, fold, and put away (by dinnertime)
  • wipe bathrooms, change hand towel (morning)
  • empty trash bins (morning)
  • feed the animals (morning and evening)
  • wash dishes, dry and put away, wipe counters (after each meal)
  • wipe table/chairs, vacuum kitchen and dinning room (after each meal)

Weekly

  • vacuum stairs
  • clean mirrors and spot clean windows
  • dust
  • vacuum all floors
  • mop all floors
  • scrub bathtub, sinks and toilets
photo credit: Eva L. Kirkpatrick

A few things that we try to remember:

  • Involving the children in cleaning and taking care of the family home takes time and patience both for the children and the parents.
  • Always look for age-appropriate tasks.
  • Try to find a home for everything. It is too overwhelming for a child to tidy up if there is no specific place for things.
  • Remind little ones to clean up one activity before moving on to the next activity. Small habits make a big difference!
  • Set a regular tidy-up time. Before lunch or naps, before supper and before bedtime may be a natural rhythm.
  • Work along side them even if it isn’t on the same assignment.
  • Take a break and then keep going.
  • Encourage and praise them profusely during the task and when they’re done. Celebrate small victories together. A little reward like a high-five and reading aloud one picture book can feel special.
photo credit: Eva L. Kirkpatrick

It is a joy to take responsibility in the care of the possessions God has entrusted us with. We all enjoy the sense of accomplishment and equally appreciate the reward for our efforts when we can use the tidied up spaces.

 with love, Damaris


fall soups: what we’ve been eating

Happy October! Autumn turns our little farm into a golden-hued, hazy dream. As September’s light fades, the colors go from bronze to orange, and we’re all enchanted. Baskets of freshly picked apples and pumpkins brought in from the garden sit in my kitchen, for which I am grateful. We definitely know that fall has knocked on our door when we see the soups and pies make their way to our table. These soups are our favorites around here, and I think they’ll soon be your favorites too!

Vegetarian Lentil Stew

Since I grew up in Spain and lentils are a staple, I introduced them to our family pretty early on. They ask for this lentil stew so often! I usually make it with a ham bone, but meatless is great too. It does well in the freezer, and we eat it with muffins or just baguette slices with pats of butter. This is on the menu for Monday : )


Zuppa Toscana

This is Nathan’s favorite soup of all time. Eva and Isabel have been making it the last couple of times because it always tastes good no matter what : ) Really, we’ve been skipping the onion and sometimes the cream, and it’s still so succulent.


Butternut Squash Soup

photo credit: wholefoodsmarket.com

This soup is very mild and super delicious! I prefer this recipe over other butternut soup ones, because it doesn’t have the added cream. Cream is yummy, but sometimes I want something lighter. We serve it with biscuits or paninis so everyone stays full. Our whole family eats it even though the children wouldn’t say they enjoy eating butternut roasted or cooked in other ways. I’ve also frozen it with good success. A great soup to cook once and eat twice!


White Bean and Smoked Sausage Stew

This soup is as easy as a meal can get. You can’t beat SEVEN ingredients and a pot that does all the work for you in no-time! I love to serve this white bean and smoked sausage stew hot in generous portions with fresh crusty bread. It makes wonderful leftovers and freezes very well.


Potato Soup

two bowls of potato soup on a wood cutting board with a blue and white towel to the left
photo credit: farmhouseonboone.com

We all love this soup! This recipe is vegetarian if you skip the bacon as a topping. Our family likes the color, texture, and taste of gold potatoes, which is what we use in the recipe. I often make it on a Saturday afternoon to have ready when we come back from church on Sunday. I serve it with biscuits and call it a day. Since it’s his favorite, Alexander has made this potato soup for us the last few times. It’s really satisfying and flavorful. I have never frozen potato soup, but let me know if you have.

Do you enjoy soups as much as we do? I love preparing them in the morning and either just letting them slow cook in the dutch oven, turn the Instant Pot on and forget about it (it will stay on warm mode for the rest of the day), or even making the soup a couple days in advance (because we all know they taste better t hens to day). Now that the older children are starting to help in the kitchen, soups are a great place for them to begin. Bonus: they’re a one pot meal!

Enjoy a hearty and healthy bowl of goodness!

 with love, Damaris


farm update: early fall

Pigs

Alexander bought two shoats (weaned piglets) on Memorial Day when they were just a few weeks old. He takes care of their fencing, feeding, and a little back scratching too. He makes sure their water tank is full and that they have shelter. He plans to take them to the processor around Christmas or after the New Year. This is his business now, and he’s doing great with it.


Llama

Larry is almost 6 years old, and he’s so watchful. He’s been our shepherd for over four years, and we have never had coyotes in the barnyard. Even through laming season, we’ve been so grateful for his presence among the sheep. When neighbors walk their dog down the road or ride their horses, he’s always on the alert and lopes to the fence line staring down the passersby.


Sheep

We recently sold five rams and will be looking for a mature ram in the near future. We currently have 14 ewes in the pasture and 4 going to the processor soon. Eva manages the flock. She feeds them morning and evening, keeps their water tank full and clean, and gives them fresh hay bales. Eva also keeps and eye on any pregnant ones. She loves and dreads when lambing season starts. Eva’s really quite astute with the sheep, and we trust her judgement and responsibility.


Chicks!

We have 14 chicks that will be egg layers in a few months. Isabel takes care of the chicks keeping them warm with a heat lamp and safe in the pen in the barn. They eat like there’s no tomorrow, so she fills their feeder often and water too. They’ll join the 17 hens and 2 roosters in the chicken tractor in the next couple of weeks. William takes care of the chickens. He opens the coop at dawn, makes sure they have feed and water, and he closes the coop after dusk. Sometimes he remembers to add straw to the nesting boxes. Isabel and Providence gather eggs daily after lunch. Nora washes the eggs and puts them in egg cartons. When we sell farm fresh, pastured eggs, the profits go to lots of different hands.


Kittens!

Our barn cat Pearl had 5 kittens. They get held all the time. The kittens sit on girls’ laps while they do school, get carried inside warm sweatshirts in the yard, but they do sleep with their mama on the hay. Nora feeds the mama cat and tries to keep the rooster away from her food throughout the day.


Garden

The farm stand went really well this summer. The girls are a little but older and took more responsibility. Isabel and Nora sat at the farm stand speaking to neighbors, meeting their dogs, answering their questions about our farm goods, and giving them their change back. Alexander, Eva, William, Isabel, and Nora had helped to plant the vegetable garden and had weeded it for many weeks, so they earned the profits of the farm stand.

Even though the summer garden has yielded up it’s fruit, several varieties of pumpkins, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash are still going strong. We harvested the last of our cabbages yesterday and made this delicious stew. The meal was simple and hearty and bread pudding was baking while we ate. The air has been quite crisp in the evenings, so it all felt very much like an Irish night. Hey, a girl can dream.


Raspberries

The variety of raspberries that we have produces in June and in September. This is the largest berry we’ve harvested to date. The bushes are so full everyday! We add raspberries to everything, and this year we finally made raspberry jam.


Honey

William transitioned to being our main beekeeper this late spring, although Nathan sometimes does still gear up with his bee suit and checks on them. This is our first year doing honey comb. It is so delicious in hot tea! Samuel likes it on yogurt while William eats it by the spoonful. It is fine to chew the wax and eat it. It’s also fine to chew it and then spit it : )

I hope you enjoyed hearing all about our recent farm days!

 with love, Damaris


healthy chocolate banana bread

I’m so excited to share this easy recipe with you! Although we have made countless banana breads, the chocolate and banana combination was new for us – and we love it! The bread will remind you of a tender crumb chocolate cake with a subtle banana flavor. This recipe is healthier than most because the Greek yogurt adds protein, and the honey enhances the natural sweetness of the bananas. Also, there’s no need for oil!

I’m telling you, this is a recipe that you will want to double or triple and freeze the loaves for another day. It truly freezes great. When you’re ready to eat it, just allow the bread to thaw and then warm it in the oven at low temperature while wrapped in foil. We love to eat this healthy chocolate banana bread for breakfast with a little spread of almond butter or peanut butter. Since we’re entering soup season (my heart sings), this bread makes a nice side to a hearty soup. Nothing more cozy than a thick slice and with a pat of butter. Okay, I’ll confess: we like it so much that we ate it yesterday for breakfast, and we’re having it today for supper with a spinach strata. Perfection : )

Healthy Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe:

3 medium very ripe bananas

2 eggs

1/2 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (whole or 2% will give the bread a better texture)

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional – we skipped it this time, but my family prefers it with the chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the eggs, honey, and vanilla. Combine well and add the flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Incorporate the Greek yogurt and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

 with love, Damaris


simple homeschooling schedule

I can’t believe it, but we were able to start school early this year, so today completes our third week of school. Currently, our family has children in four different stages of learning, but we try to weave everyone into the same daily rhythm. We have shared about our school day here before.

It is more fruitful for us to begin early in the morning, although no one at our house is an early riser – not daddy, not mommy, not anyone. For us, it really is rewarding to get into the rhythm of starting early. Our day’s routine has slowly formed over years of tweaking. When we were not getting done until supper, it was very frustrating to the children. When I was losing them to various activities in the morning or during lunch, it was very frustrating to me. This rhythm has helped to shape our days, and we have followed a very similar version of this schedule for several years.

STAGES OF LEARNING

1 – Alexander and Eva are part of the Classical Conversations homeschool group where they receive tutoring once a week on all their subjects. Hence, for the most part, they require little input from me. Their days are mostly outlined by their assignment guide which has a checklist of what to work on for each day at home. Alexander (15) does Bible reading, geometry, British literature, Latin, Spanish, biology, Western Cultural History, debate, and Traditional Logic II. Eva (14) does Bible reading, math, Latin, History of Astronomy (science), American history, exposition and composition (language arts), and Introductory Logic.

2 – William (12), Isabel (10), and Nora (8) do Bible reading (devotional), math, handwriting, spelling, grammar (William and Isabel), writing (William and Isabel), and reading aloud (Nora). These subjects they do daily. History (early modern) and science (astronomy) we only do three days a week. William, Isabel, and Nora require some help like answering questions, grading homework, taking tests, and listening to them read aloud. They are learning to follow instructions and understand the lesson’s directions without my guidance. Nathan’s mom comes one morning a week to teach grammar and writing to William and Isabel. We’re so grateful for her help!

3 – Providence (6) is doing kindergarten. She does letters (phonics), numbers (easy arithmetic), and handwriting. I sit with her for all her lessons.

4 – Samuel and James sleep in and usually get up after 8. If we’ve already started school lessons, then they have breakfast, and I turn my attention to them for a little bit. My goal is to read to them during this time. They miss Bible study in the morning, so I recently ordered a Bible story book and look forward to reading to them a short story every day. I spend some time with the little ones while being in the same area where the children sit to do school. In our house, this is crucial for progress : ).

DAILY SCHEDULE

  • 6am – wake up. personal care. make beds.
  • 7 – instrument practice. chores (feeding the animals, wipe bathrooms, empty trash bins)
  • 8 – start school
  • 12 – lunch. chores (flip laundry, collect eggs, dishes)
  • 1 – back to school

During the afternoon, I do history and science with William, Isabel, and Nora (3 days). Alexander and Eva continue their schoolwork until 3 or 3:30. Providence and Samuel play, and James takes a nap.

The late afternoon is left for nature walks, going to the park, sewing with mom (mainly Eva), watercolor (mainly the older girls), writing letters/pictures of thank you or encouragement, baking/cooking with mom, outside projects (mainly the big boys), or just playing and riding bikes. The season determines much of what happens during this part of our day.

This is what this year’s homeschool schedule looks like for our family. It was really helpful for me to put this post together, and I’ll be glad to have this reminder of what the years with so many stages of learning looked like in our home.

 with love, Damaris


Homeschooling: staying on track

Here’s the truth: the unsettling part of homeschooling is that there is no track. Sometimes, structure is provided by the curriculum. The State regulations might have minimum requirements (like days of school and subjects/grades). Often, we can find expectations in a local homeschool group or co-op. Honestly, the choice of studies and the schedule is mostly up to the family. What to do in a day or a year is left to the parents to decide, yet this is both freeing and paralyzing at the same time. Considering that most people don’t have any experience homeschooling until they begin with their own children, staying on track seems intimidating.

Nathan and I regularly remind ourselves of the goals at large when we begin to get lost in the details of the moment. We are after their hearts, and all else is secondary. Praying for the new school year and pleading for wisdom from the Lord gives us peace. Trying to surrender our plans and our days is part of the call of a Christian to obedience and faithfulness.

As parents, we set the atmosphere for learning in our homes by our interests and experiences. Our family enjoys biographies, literature, music, hosting people, road trips, hiking and nature. Since we instill our strengths in our children, we can assume that we will not be teaching them everything they will ever need to know about God’s world. A seasoned homeschooling mom several years ago shared with me her schedule and her prayer request which I have treasured as a nugget of wisdom. She mentioned that she regularly prays “that the Lord would fill in the gaps.” This is part of the adventure of the journey. It would be so stressful to constantly compare what our kids know with the neighbor kids. It would be discouraging to always question if they’re getting ahead or if that other math program would have been perfect. There will be holes that others will fill in as God brings them along our path.

Every year I create schedules and checklists, but that is just because of how I think. I thrive on order, so following a curriculum and incorporating our interests has been a good flow for us the past 12 years of homeschooling. We simply complete the curriculum and move on to the next level. Although we have done hands-on projects, we have mostly depended on literature (reading aloud) and comprehension. We use copywork, converstion, and writing papers (if old enough) to evaluate progress. In the last seven years, we have found support through the tutoring and brief classroom experience of Classical Conversations. I have been tremendously grateful for it especially in the junior high and high school years as have my children.

Keeping on track requires a great deal of intuition, observation, and conversation. When frustration and discouragement seep in, we try to take a break and look at it again with fresh eyes the next day. Sometimes we have evaluated if the material was not suited for that year for that student. Often, we just prayed together and pushed through.

We have never heavily relied on testing. While it’s a constant challenge, Nathan and I have always wanted to inspire a love for learning rather than the academic tasks. We have required diligence more than perfection and required focus more than completion. In recent years, we have seen the fruit of this. Children that struggled to master concepts are able to embark on new and challenging themes with enthusiasm for learning. They don’t exasperate nor retreat. They’re aware of their stumbling blocks yet can fully enjoy their own level of engagement. They’re aware that the learning will take more and varied efforts, but they feel defeated. This brings us so much joy and triumph.

As parents, we tailor the year to suit our children’s interests and aptitudes. While creating a homeschool track can seem demanding, hopefully it is rewarding to each child. I firmly believe that if the parent isn’t enjoying it, nobody is. Don’t hesitate to deviate from what everyone else is doing! Learning should be interesting, fun, and appealing to everyone!

Enjoy as much as you can in a day, and the days will add up to a wonderful year.

 with love, Damaris