Saturday, April 19, 2014

Seeing Green in More Ways than One!

This is what I intended to post several weeks ago but ran into trouble with our computer among other things...

It's that time of year again for all things green!  Green shamrocks, green leprechauns, green, green, green (and of course, rainbows thrown in for good measure).

While I'm sharing pictures of some of our "green" adventures, I'd also like to address a topic I keep coming across (and indeed have experienced myself):  the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side homeschooling syndrome.

Our leprechaun, Dooligan, shows up for the first time this year -leaving a note for the children.  He also spent time rearranging some flowers we had purchased earlier in a rainbow of sorts.

Let me paint a scenario (use rainbow colors, please):  homeschool mom hops online, begins browsing blogs for ideas and ultimately ends up overwhelmed and wants to give up.

Instead of being inspired, she feels inadequate and uncreative.  Her homeschool seems to pale in comparison to what she sees online.  She may even have thoughts such as these...

Wow, her kids must have so much fun in homeschool!  They probably never wish they were in a real classroom.  She probably never snaps at her kids or has to beg them to concentrate.  I sure wish I could be that kind of mom (you know - the infinite cup of patience, I-can-juggle-it-all-and-then-some-with-a-smile kind)...

Sound familiar?

You're in good company here.  I am guilty of wallowing in the mom and homeschool comparison mud as well.  I think everyone wants to be THAT mom.

But I don't think she exists.   The picture perfect painting in our hearts - now, THAT is very real.  It is a self-made image pieced together from mental clippings of various posts, pins, articles, etc. until we have indeed created a monster - an ideal no earthly person could ever completely live up to.

Please understand I am not talking about the Proverbs 31 woman who conducts the affairs of her household by depending upon the grace of God.  What I AM suggesting is a June Cleaver on steroids type of person.

Dooligan strikes!  School supplies in green jello!

Now, before you go blaming this grass-is-greener mentality on the blogger next door (after all, you felt the unrest begin after reading about her family's perfect homeschooling day), please consider this:

Bloggers are human.  They make mistakes, lose their tempers, etc.  They just don't always blog about it.

It is important to keep that  in mind when reading what may seem like "perfect life" posts.  Chances are, what you are reading is a moment in life - not a 24 hour lifestyle.

I cannot speak for other blogging moms, but THIS mommy is well acquainted with little people vying for attention, night wakings, early morning children, dirty diapers, meals to make, squabbles to handle, lessons to plan, loss of patience (mine), mommy guilt, school work reluctance, and laundry that seems to border on eternal.  ;)   I just don't blog about it.  I seriously don't have that kind of time.

Plus, let's be honest here.  Do you REALLY want to spend your precious nap time minutes reading about someone doing the same things you are doing (excluding those posts which offer wise, creative solutions to a problem)?  Probably not.

Yet another Dooligan prank - removing the children's pillows and stuffing the inside with green faux grass.

I believe there are many homeschool moms who blog to encourage others, offer advice, and/or to earn money to use for curriculum or family expenses.  They are well aware that this isn't going to happen without an audience.  Hence, they write about topics they know are of interest and not the daily grind.

Please guard your heart against blaming bloggers for posting inspiration rather than commiseration!

Trust me - as one blogger to her readers - more goes on behind posts than "reads" the eye.

Having fun with patterns using clovers and gold coins.

So what's a mom to do?  How can she resist being sucked into keeping up with the homeschool Jones's family? How can she avoid feeling self-doubt and despair every time she jumps online to read a blog or update her pins?

I believe very simply, it can be done by solely relying on the wisdom and grace of the Lord!  Would you like me to expand?

Creativity is a blessing from the Lord!  We live in an age when we have amazing ideas available to us with the simple click of a button.

But HOW we approach what we see is a matter of the heart.  

People may think I am strange, but it is a relief to me that my Creator knows every nook and cranny of my heart.  Every motive.  Every sinful thought.  Why a relief?  Because I don't have to hide from him.  He already knows me deeper than I know myself - AND STILL LOVES ME.  

He knows if I am hopping online to compare my homeschool with someone else's.  He knows if I am just online trying to find a more creative way to "one up" my homeschooling friends (inciting envy).  He knows e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g!  

And what does that have to do with how we approach what we see?  Consider a thief in an empty room with a precious jewel.  Now consider that same thief in a room with a witness and a precious jewel.  Will he behave the same way in both instances?  Probably not.

Well, guess what.  Unlike the witness in the above example, God is always in the room and our thoughts are an open book to him.  Because of my love for him and my desire to glorify him, the reminder that he is observing all I do AND think, can help me to make sure my time online is pleasing to him (and not an exercise in covetousness).

One of Dooligan's better tricks - filling the bathtub with rainbow balloons!

Keeping an eye on the attitude of your heart before, during, and after you hop online is critical to maintaining a healthy, realistic homeschool environment.  Are you getting online for the right reasons AND are you staying online for the right reasons?

If you tend to end your screen time feeling despondent about motherhood and homeschooling, perhaps (dare I say it?) it is time to unplug completely for a while.  Give your mind and heart some time to freely soak up the blessing of motherhood.  I would suggest seeking out some wise moms in your church, asking them over for tea and letting the warmth of their advice take the place of electronic chatter.

If circumstances do not allow for this, I would suggest searching for books by women whose lives as mothers are testimonies to their desire to live for the Lord (Sally Clarkson, Edith Schaeffer, etc.).

The kids loved this game!  I picked math facts Miss A was having trouble with and placed them under the hats (this could also easily be done with spelling words, letters, etc.).  One hat contained a picture of gold coins.  The kids would take turns peering under the hats and writing the math fact they found underneath (Mr. J would practice writing one of the numbers in the number sentence).  If they found the hat with gold coins, they received a treat!  They were willing to play this over and over and over - thus getting in plenty of extra practice with math facts.  ;)

When you feel strengthened and self-controlled enough to tackle the virtual world once more, I suggest trying to incorporate the following steps:

Step #1:  Thank God for creativity and ask him for discernment, wisdom, and self-control before you begin to browse blogs, articles, Pinterest, etc.

Step #2:  Set a time or idea limit and stick to it.

Ten minutes can turn into hours online if you are not careful.  Speaking from experience, a wealth of eye candy can definitely make you (heart)sick!

But what if I miss a really great craft or idea?   

You will.  Life is constantly moving on several levels all at once. If you're online, you might catch a great idea but miss the opportunity to spend time with your husband.  You might pin a super craft but forfeit snuggling in with your kids for a story before bed.

Life is full of choices.  I don't know about you, but I want mine to be ones that will count for eternity.  I can choose to spend a majority of time searching for memory-making opportunities (and never have any) or I can create special moments with my family, just by being present with them.

Moms, set a limit, and I think you and your family will be glad you did.

Step #3:  Inspect your heart and guard it well.  If you are being sucked into another person's virtual home reality to the point where you don't want to re-enter your own real home, something is not right

Ask the Lord for wisdom to help you recognize the seeds of discontent before they have a chance to take root.  As you wade through the barrage of blogs, tips, crafts, recipes, lesson plans, etc.  - take note of those which seem to continually leave you with a sense of "want" rather than joy and avoid them in the future (even if that means this one!). 

Our St. Patrick's Day note from Dooligan complete with leprechaun mustaches and hats so the children could pretend to be him for a day.  

Quick recap...

Mommies, if you are tempted - even just a teeny tiny bit - to compare your life to this blog or some "picture perfect grass is greener life" blog - DON'T. You'd just be comparing your experiences to a BLOG,  not real life.

Ask the Lord for wisdom and self-control when you hop online.  

If your discontent meter still surges every time you go "pinning" or blog surfing - it is probably time to unplug.

St. Patrick's Day breakfast:  Lucky Charms (a rare treat for us) and green eggs.

Final thoughts...

1.  God created YOU to be the mom of your children.  He can equip you with whatever you need to parent and instruct your children.

2.  Your weaknesses could very well be the things God uses to draw you and your children closer to him during your homeschool hours and throughout the day.  

No, I am not saying losing one's temper is a good thing (speaking from plenty of experience here).  HOWEVER, God convicting a mommy's heart and humbling her to ask forgiveness for snapping at a "wee someone" unnecessarily - well, now that is a teachable moment.

Moms - YOU can be a living example of God working out his sustaining grace in your life.  We are on a life stage, and little eyes and ears are attentive to our performance.  When we mess up, let's do so gracefully!  Apologize, ask for forgiveness (yes - even from your kids), take a deep breath, and move on with the day.

3.  You DON'T have to be super creative to have a warm, memory-filled homeschool.   Trust me on this one. Creativity is nice, but love is the defining thread in beautiful homeschool tapestry!

Acts of love don't have to be expensive or time consuming.  Plan a surprise hug attack on your child during a lesson.  Slip notes into your childrens' textbooks telling them  how special they are or how proud you are of them.  Pull your kids up on your bed and snuggle while you read a story or practice spelling.

And smile.  

Smile, smile, SMILE!  

The final trap!  Yes, those are Dooligan's feet sticking out from under the pan (and his pot of "gold" nearby).  He was a wee bit hasty trying to move in and was finally caught - much to the children's joy! 

See you next year, Dooligan! 

Have a happy and blessed homeschooling day!