Terri's Take... » Lifestyle /blog Living a Proverbs 31 Life in a Romans 1 World... Sat, 12 Jul 2014 08:30:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Finish Well the Race You Started /blog/2014/06/finish-well-the-race-you-started/ /blog/2014/06/finish-well-the-race-you-started/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 18:10:11 +0000 /blog/?p=1892 Finish Well – Part 3 of a 3-Part Series

Part 1 – Start Fresh

Part 2 – Stay Strong

Why should we finish well? Why should we continue down this path that we started?

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Frankly, I’ve seen the fruit and experienced the blessing of homeschooling my teens through high school. Does this mean it’s for everyone? Maybe not. But I can tell you how my family has been blessed with homeschooling, not just in the early years, but through junior high and high school as well.

Public schools, especially in the upper grades, are dangerous places. Bullying, verbal abuse and peer pressure are rampant. And it’s not that kids are just getting an earful; they can be physically attacked and coerced against their will.

But I’m not here to tell you about the dangers of public school. You have the nightly news for that. I would like to share with you the blessings of homeschooling to the finish line.

My kids are not perfect. We have had some rough moments as our teens have navigated their teen years, learning what it means to grow up and become an adult. We have had tense moments and times when we have cried like babies because we didn’t know what to do next, BUT…

Our kids are amazing young people! We love to be around them. But we don’t lock them up at home either. We have acclimated them into the “real world” through extracurricular activities and taking classes at the community college. They have spent large amounts of time with other teens through theater, sports and our church youth group.

Homeschooling our young people has allowed them some opportunities they might not have otherwise had:

  • Apprenticing and job shadowing
  • Classes at the community college
  • Serving at church and para-church ministries
  • Serving on short-term mission teams
  • Spending time with their younger siblings
  • Traveling around the country and the world
  • Starting small businesses

So, how do you finish well? There are two opposite approaches… which one is better?

  1. 1. Just keep going (AKA press on). Sometimes, it is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other because you see the light at the end of the tunnel and you are determined to get there. This light could be the end of a school day, a school week, a school year or an entire education. Don’t lose hope and don’t lose sight of that finish line. Focus on it and you will get there.
  2. 2. Look up (AKA stop and smell the roses). Look into the faces of your children and truly see them. Take a hard look at your schedule and determine if it needs tweaking. Open your eyes to the opportunities around you and make the most of them. Sometimes we are in so much of a hurry or so determined to accomplish something, that we lose the joy. Don’t lose the joy!

Is one of these approaches better than the other? Not really? Pick the one that will work for you today – either plodding ahead or stopping to smell the roses. You can always use the other approach tomorrow, right? I find myself using either approach, depending on my mood or whatever else is going on around me. Sometimes it is better to just keep plowing forward; while other times it is more necessary to stop and catch my breath and enjoy my surroundings.

The main thing to realize is that this journey we have chosen is exactly that… a journey. And a journey begins with one step and then continues with another and another, until before you know it, there are miles between you and where you started. You may still have miles to go, but take heart…

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” – Don Williams, Jr.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway

In a few months, I’ll be participating in my first race. I’m on a team with 11 other women for the Portland to Coast – a walking race approximately 130 miles from Portland to the Oregon coast. I am the first leg. Obviously my focus is on starting well so that I set my team up for a great race. The middle portion will be the hardest (I have a leg in there too), but the finish is the most critical in many ways. Don’t let it just happen by default. Be pro-active, positive and make the most of your final years with your student.

So, to recap what we have covered over these 3 blog posts…

Starting fresh might mean that you first need to take a break, even a vacation, or just change it up a bit to keep the material fresh and from becoming burnt out by routine and monotony.

Staying strong involves identifying the source of your strength, digging deeper for reasons and conviction to continue homeschooling. It also includes finding support, establishing a solid routine, and learning to say “no”.

Finishing well is something we do because we believe in the journey and we trust that this path we have started is worth finishing.

Do you feel like you need some help? Please check out our Homeschooling ABCs and Upper Level classes, which have been written for you, the homeschooling parent, to help you homeschool with confidence and for success. Why walk this road alone when you can have someone who has already walked it help guide the way for you?

Homeschooling is a journey, but it is the most rewarding journey that I have taken yet. Are you weary on this journey? Seek the help you need to make it enjoyable once again. Perhaps one of our courses will be the very thing that will lighten your step.

Are you lacking confidence? Lean in to your decision to homeschool. Embrace it, even if it feels uncomfortable for a time. You will go through peaks and valleys during your homeschool journey. It is inevitable. It’s important to remember that the most growth happens in the valleys.

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” – Arthur Ashe

And then remember that you can always…

God bless you!

Terri

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Stay Strong in Your Decision to Homeschool /blog/2014/06/stay-strong-in-your-decision-to-homeschool/ /blog/2014/06/stay-strong-in-your-decision-to-homeschool/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 20:05:10 +0000 /blog/?p=1881 Yesterday we talked about Starting Fresh when you feel stressed and burnt out with homeschooling. That was Part 1 of a 3-part series.

But how you can stay strong and run the race of homeschooling that you have chosen for your family so that you don’t get to that breaking point? That’s what I would like to address today. You need to follow a 5-Step Plan that will keep you from the cliff of burn-out and frustration and squarely on the road of successful, joyful homeschooling.

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Read on about the 5 Steps to Staying Strong in Homeschooling…

5 Steps to Staying Strong in Homeschooling:

  1. 1. Identify the source of your strength! For me, it is my Lord. Whether or not you share my faith, I believe that you have to find the source of your strength. When I have hard days, I look to the Lord for my strength and He promises that He will give it.

It says in Isaiah 40:

“Who has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and the hills on a scale?” (vs. 12)

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” (vs. 29)

“Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength” (vs. 31)

Psalms 121 reads:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

Ephesians 6 says:

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”

So, how do I tap into this strength? By spending time in prayer, mostly. I try to take daily walks and I use that time to pray. I also gain strength from the Lord when I read the powerful words of scripture, like the ones I just typed above. Reading the Psalms, Proverbs and the Gospels always strengthen me to press on.

  1. 2. Dig Deeper! Remember why you started homeschooling. Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. Write them down and refer back to them when you have doubts or feel tired.

Have you seen the Indoctrination movie? If you ever need to fuel yourself with reasons WHY to homeschool your kids, this is a great movie to watch.

We may start out homeschooling for reasons that don’t seem quite so important anymore, such as not being ready to part with your 5yo when it is time for him to start Kindergarten or you didn’t like the teacher. We began homeschooling because my 5yo had learned to read at 3 and was already reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level by the time she was supposed to enter kindergarten. I was afraid she would be bored in kindergarten, so I decided to homeschool her until the bulk of her peers had caught up in reading, maybe until 2nd grade.

Whatever reasons we had for starting homeschooling may not be enough to sustain the decision to continue. Sometimes we have to dig deeper and find the reasons WHY we are homeschooling and keep those at the forefront of our minds for when those bad days happen and we question what we are doing.

Here are some great reasons to homeschool:

Academic reasons – 1-on-1 tutoring is more effective than classroom instruction. A parent is acutely interested in her child’s academic success. You don’t need a teaching degree to effectively teach your own child, even through high school! Kids can progress at their own speed – not held back or pushed ahead unnaturally.

Social reasons – Social interactions in age-integrated settings are more appropriate and effective in developing socially adept adults than peer-driven age-segregated social groups.  As a parent, I can find better social situations for my child than the school playground, classroom or bathroom.

Spiritual reasons – Teachers and students have to check their faith at the door of the public school. Their hands are tied to pursue or discuss their faith in school, particularly if they are Christians. I can teach my kids about our faith all throughout the day. We CAN pray in school. (Deut 6)

Life preparedness – The majority of kids today spend 8 hours in school and 7 hours in front of a screen. There must be some overlap! We can finish up our schoolwork before noon and use the rest of the day for baking, gardening, hiking, etc. We can volunteer at ministries, apprentice or shadow a professional; we can learn new skills, start businesses, take field trips and so much more with our extra time. Classroom time doesn’t prepare a child for “real life”, but experiences do.

  1. 3. Strength in Numbers – Find Support! We need each other. It’s harder to work alone; it’s harder to exercise alone; it’s harder to diet alone; it’s harder to homeschool alone. It can be done, but it is harder. Find support. You may not have many friends in your local area that homeschool. Reach out and find some. Maybe they don’t go to your church or live in your neighborhood… maybe they aren’t part of your scouts club or theater group… but they are out there. Look for a local support group or co-op. See if there is a First Class in your area or other local grass roots support group. Maybe you have to drive to the next town over. You may only be able to connect with homeschoolers online for a season. It’s not ideal, but it is better than having no one in your life who shares your educational choice.
  1.  4. Rhythm in Routine. Having a daily routine and schedule will help you get through tough days. Routines allow children to do the next thing without having to ask you. Schedules help you stay on task and are a great reminder of what must get done each day. Routines and schedules take the “thinking” out of what comes next. This is homeschooling on auto-pilot! (a day doesn’t have to be scheduled out to the nth degree, but even an order of events make your days much easier to tackle.)
  2. 5. Power in Personal Boundaries – Say “No.” Sometimes you need to say “no”. You can’t do it all. This is a season of life – even if it is a very long one. Sometimes you can say yes, but not always. Understand your limits and don’t overcommit.

Stay posted for tomorrow’s post on Finishing Well. How can we finish well this race that we began so long ago (it feels like that, doesn’t it?)? Do you need any help staying the course? Check out Homeschooling ABCs and Upper Level Homeschool for the encouragement and equipping you need to homeschool for success.

Question: How do you Stay Strong during the marathon of homeschooling?

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3 Ways to Homeschool More Effectively /blog/2014/06/3-ways-to-homeschool-more-effectively/ /blog/2014/06/3-ways-to-homeschool-more-effectively/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 03:43:19 +0000 /blog/?p=1858 Part I – A Fresh Start

Are you tired after teaching for 9 months?

Do you long for a fresh start, to make next year better than this one coming to a close?

Would you rather just put your head in the sand and not think about it until August?

I hear ya! I have felt all of those emotions and then some. Yet today, our first day of summer break, I found myself thinking about next year, strategizing on areas I can improve, considering the ways to help one child excel in a certain subject and another child in a different subject.

How about you? Have you started thinking about how you can make next year better yet? Or are you still thinking about this possibility:

Great idea, huh? Well, maybe not!

Great idea, huh? Well, maybe not!

How can we find the joy in the midst of the battle of wills? How can we continue to create lesson plans and teach subjects day in and day out when we are getting tired? Or when we are getting bored? Or when we are plain old fed up?

Over the years, I have received many interesting comments, such as…

  • “Why are you trying to shelter your kids from the world?” Um, duh!
  • “What about you? Don’t you need some time away from your kids?” Yes, but not all day. J
  • “You must be some kind of super woman because I think that I might go loony if I had to be around my kids all day.” I understand.
  • “Parents make the worst teachers.” Really?
  • “Your kids are going to turn out to be unsocialized misfits.” I thought that geekiness was “in” these days?
  • “What if your kids can’t get in to college?” Well, that’s a reasonable, if misguided, fear.

Getting bombarded with these kinds of comments can really make you second-guess yourself, can’t it? How many of you have second-guessed your decision to homeschool at some point along your journey? I have.

But the lowest point that I have reached in my homeschooling wasn’t because of these types of comments. My moment of true doubt and fear came when I found myself alone with no one to turn to or talk to when I reached my maximum capacity.

It happened like this…

I had been teaching my kids at home for 11 years (this was about 5 years ago). My oldest child had just finished her sophomore year of high school. At that time, I also had an 8th grader, a 4th grader, a 3rd grader and a kindergartener. I also had a 3 yo.

I should have felt well established, confident and secure in my decision to continue, right? But I didn’t.

I looked around and realized that I was the only one left of my peer group still homeschooling. We had quite a crowd of friends homeschooling while the kids were younger. We swapped subjects and children with each other. We formed a co-op together. We took our kids to the same extra-curricular activities, field trips and events.

One by one, these families decided not to continue to homeschool. There were many reasons, but most of them boiled down to these two:

  1. 1. The parents didn’t feel confident to teach the higher grades.
  2. 2. The parents were tired and burnt out.

Our co-op could no longer continue because the number of homeschooling families plummeted. I found myself at a crisis point. My kids were feeling lonely and isolated. I was feeling overtaxed with 5 kids now to teach ranging from high school to kindergarten and a busy 3 year old to keep out of trouble.

We had been living this lifestyle for so long and yet I suddenly felt unable to go on.

I had reached a new decision point in my life. I could follow the crowd, or I could start fresh, stay strong and finish well. I chose the second option and I would like to share with you how I did it.

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“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it,” Anne Shirley of Green Gables.

Isn’t it great that we get to start fresh? We can make a brand new fresh start at the beginning of the school year. But you know, we can also start fresh each week, each day. We always have an opportunity for a fresh start.

Thank goodness, right?

Here are some ways to make a fresh start when you need one:

  1. 1. Take a break. You don’t want to reward stubborn behavior, but butting heads isn’t the solution either. Sometimes we all need a break from the daily grind. Some ways you can take a break would be:
    • field trip,
    • spring cleaning,
    • plant the garden,
    • science museum,
    • reading day,
    • serve a widow,
    • organize stuff for a garage sale,
    • go to the library, go to the park, etc.
  2. 2. Change it up! Try something new. Guess what? You are not married to your curriculum. There is really only one thing you are married to – your spouse. Try something different and see if it helps. Maybe the curriculum you are using isn’t fitting the way your child learns. Try something different. You don’t’ have to spend a lot of money on experimentation.
  3. 3. Take a vacation, especially if the weather is wonderful.
    • We do take a summer vacation because there is no place more glorious than the Pacific Northwest in summertime (well, that’s my opinion).
    • But we also take snow days for sledding and snowboarding;
    • Spring and fall days for festivals, hiking, biking and swimming.
    • We rarely take days off school on school holidays, such as Presidents Day, etc. We just keep plugging along.

Now, I probably made it sound like you should rarely have regular school days, with regular school subjects and regular school assignments. Actually, no, this couldn’t be further from the truth – you should have a schedule and a routine (it’s good for everyone) – but these ideas are for you to fall back on when you are feeling stressed and burnt out.

Because the truth is that the #1 reason that homeschooling families stop homeschooling is because the mom is fried. It’s not because of a job loss, health problems, aging parents or other external reasons. These can often be overcome by sheer determination and creativity. But the homeschool mom who is burnt out does not run the race like she wants to or the way that she set out to. These ideas that I have presented are to help you when feel a weight of stress pressing down on you or when you start to feel quick-tempered, sad, annoyed, confused.

Stay posted for tomorrow’s post on how to Stay Strong so that you are less likely to reach burn out stage to begin with! Do you need any help getting back on track? Check out Homeschooling ABCs and Upper Level Homeschool for the encouragement and equipping you need to homeschool for success.

Question: What are some ways that you start fresh when you need a “do-over”?

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Road Trips Should Be Fun /blog/2014/05/road-trips-should-be-fun/ /blog/2014/05/road-trips-should-be-fun/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 23:16:07 +0000 /blog/?p=1842 Are you wrapping up your school year or homeschooling through the summer? Because we live in the Pacific Northwest, we take a summer break to enjoy the glorious weather. There is no place lovelier than Oregon in summer. Well, that’s what we think anyway.

As an aside, when we lived in Texas, we schooled though the summer and took longer breaks during the spring and fall when it was more fun to go outside.

Anyway, we are thinking through our summer plans and the trips that we will take. We’ve got two trips up to Washington and a trip down to California planned. Plus, we’ll go camping at least once or twice.

In any case, it looks like we’ll be spending some time in the car. We don’t mind the kids watching a movie or two, but prefer that they spend the majority of their time in the car reading good books or playing games.

How about you? Do you have any road trips planned?

You may just need some great books and activities for all that time that you will be trapped (I mean, blessed!) with your kids in the car. Even a 2-3 hour car ride can get awfully long if you do not plan some activities or bring some good books for the trip. We have hand-picked our favorite KQ resources to make the time you spend in a small, crowded space for long periods of time… well, bearable!

In fact, there are only a couple days left to get some great resources for up to 50% off. You can check it all out here:

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Perhaps you are planning now for the 2014/2015 school year already? Good for you! You can never plan too early. If you are planning / hoping to include any of these resources – What Really Happened, A Child’s Geography, Presidential Scrapbook, Star-Spangled State Book and more – this is the time to stock up! Many of these titles will not be discounted below retail prices again this year. Prices discounted from 25-50% off. Enough said… the prudent shopper will know what to do.

Here is the link to the sale again:

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Sale continues through Monday, May 19th at midnight. If you have any questions or need any assistance, write to helpdesk@kqpublishing.net.

Bon voyage and may the wind be ever at your back!

Question: What are your best tips for making family memories on a road trip?

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Kickin’ it to the Finish Line /blog/2014/05/kickin-it-to-the-finish-line/ /blog/2014/05/kickin-it-to-the-finish-line/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 19:17:44 +0000 /blog/?p=1828 We’re nearly there! Pat yourself on the back for reaching the finish line! You are a superstar – a champ! Most homeschooling parents like to take a summer break of some length even if it does not last a full 3 months. And we’re so close, we can almost touch it. But with the sun shining brightly outside and the weather warming up, it can be difficult to stay focused and finish the school year strong.

And speaking of summer, check out our Road Trip Sale if you are planning to take one this summer!

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Here are 3 ideas to add some “kick” as you approach the finish line:

1. Change it up! Do something new to keep interest high as you compete for your kids’ attention. We asked our friends on Facebook what they do to regain their children’s attention or to stop fighting for it. Here are their ideas:

  • Go outside and run!
  • Turn up the music and dance!
  • Read aloud a chapter from an engrossing book
  • Do a unit study (like the free New Zealand one here)
  • Take a hike in the woods and collect something
  • Do push-ups or laps
  • Go to the park
  • Go to the library
  • 10 minutes on the trampoline
  • Play a board game
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Do an art project
  • Watch educational videos
  • Play educational computer games
  • Play Globalmania

2. Look Up! If you have been homeschooling your kids since August or September, then you might have your head down with your shoulder to the wheel. Sometimes we are just putting one foot in front of the other, homeschooling by rote, just to get by. Sometimes that is all we can do. But I encourage you to take a deep breath and look up!

Look into the faces of your children and truly see them. Take a hard look at your schedule and determine if it needs tweaking for your final weeks of school to make it work better for you (it’s okay to lighten it up). Open your eyes to the opportunities around you and make the most of them. Sometimes we are in so much of a hurry or so determined to accomplish something, that we lose the joy. Don’t lose the joy!

3. Throw an End-of-the-Year Party! We like to throw historical feasts 2-3 times a year, with one to finish up the school year. We dress in costume, cook period appropriate dishes and follow the social customs of the day. On our final day of school, we will also give out evaluations for our students up through 8th grade and updated transcripts with grades for our high school students. It is a fun night of recognition and makes for very fond memories. These memories last throughout the summer so that the idea of starting back to school is pleasant and doesn’t produce groans from the kids.

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Question: What are you doing to finish this year strong?

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The Truth About Chores /blog/2014/02/the-truth-about-chores/ /blog/2014/02/the-truth-about-chores/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 19:32:20 +0000 /blog/?p=1780 If your home life is anything like mine, then you deal with chores and messes around the house on a constant basis. This is a fact of life for everyone, but for the homeschooling family, a messy and loud household with many opportunities for cleaning up is an ever-present reality.

How can we best manage our homes and maintain our sanity?

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Here are my 5 Best Tips for Keeping Your Home and Your Sanity:

1. Remember that this is a season!

I know that you hear it all the time, words like… “Oh, they grow up so fast!” and “This too shall pass,” and “It’s just a season.” It’s easy to just stop hearing these wise words and not really believe them anyway. As someone who has been raising kids for 20 years, I have now reached that place where I can say with emphasis, “Oh, they do grow up so fast!” But I am still raising little ones too, so I also know that 18-20 years of raising kids and helping them manage their life and messes is a long, LONG process!

Here is where I have landed on this issue… I like a clean house. I just do! But I also realize that living with children means that I will live with a little bit of a mess, sometimes a lot of big messes. My husband and I find ourselves looking forward to a home with less stuff, where everything is almost always in its place, but know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will miss the squeals and the fingerprints when we get there. So, we have resigned ourselves to a “lived in” look in our home, cherishing these years with all the mess and work that they bring with them.

But that doesn’t mean that we give up and decide that all is lost when it comes to keeping an orderly home. We have daily and weekly chores that must be done in our home both by us and by the children. Here’s how we tackle them and the big question that we ask ourselves when faced with an untidy or even downright messy house:

2. What Can You Do in 5 Minutes?

When I look around the house and I find it not up to my standards of clean and tidy, I try to ask myself this simple question… what can I do that would make a difference in the next 5 minutes? Sometimes, it’s doing a load of dishes or a load of laundry. Sometimes, it is clearing off the dining room table or the bathroom counter. Sometimes, it’s interrupting the kids and doing a quick 5 minute pick-up of the living room. If all you have is 5 minutes, you can make a measurable difference in one small portion of your home. Will your house be spotless in such a small amount of time? No, but you’ve made a difference.

When the children and I work together, we place bets on how long it will take us to accomplish a certain job. I usually hear the kids shout out anything between 2 and 10 minutes. We then work as quickly as we can, timing ourselves by the clock and see whose guess came the closest. We are always surprised by how quickly we can get a job done when we work together.

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This shot was candid and not staged!

3. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

You are not the housekeeper of your home, you are the homemaker. Big difference! Teaching our kids how to work is one of our primary jobs as “homemaker” and “parent”. In our home, our children have pets that they care for, daily chores to accomplish and weekly cleaning that usually gets tackled on Saturday. They also have to clean their rooms on a regular basis, but are encouraged to keep it tidy all the time (some children do a better job at this than others, that’s for sure!).

Draw up a chore chart so your children know what chores they are responsible for on a daily and weekly basis. This will make your job so much easier as you can just check the chart if kids need reminders. Better yet, they can check the chart and not even need reminders. It seems to take maturity and diligence to get them to this point of responsibility though.

4. Shoes Make You Feel More Energetic

I learned a long time ago from the Flylady (is she still around?) that wearing shoes make you feel more ready to do work. You feel more like you are “on task” with shoes on your feet. I don’t always obey this rule. I find myself wearing slippers quite often during the winter months. But I do keep this in mind if I have some significant house work to accomplish in a given hour of my day. If my husband takes the kids on a field trip or out for a hike, I will get jazzed up by the idea of an empty house, lace up my shoes, tackle extra housework in record time and then enjoy some much deserved R&R in the solitude of my empty home.

5. Get Help

After 24 years of cleaning my own home with the help of my husband and children, I did something radical (for me!). I asked my husband if I could hire a teenager to come over every other week to clean the house. We actually argued over this one because Todd felt like we were “giving up” or not managing our home well enough by employing help. He also felt that it would make life too easy for our children if someone else did so much of the heavy cleaning. After I pleaded with him for a few weeks, he gave in and allowed me to give it a try.

We now have a young lady come over twice a month to deep clean our house. I must admit that I love it! We still clean thoroughly on the off weeks that she doesn’t come, but it gives me the breathing room that I need to focus on some other things, like school and our business.

Many people cannot or would rather not hire a maid, but it is working really well for us in this “season” of my life. She does a fantastic job and she works for a smaller fee than the large housecleaning services available. So, if you find yourself drowning in housework, employ some of the tips above. I’d rather give up some of my housekeeping duties and focus more on other things that seem more important right now. Besides let’s face it, a family of 8 will always keep me plenty busy with cooking, teaching, driving, piano practicing, and listening.

Question: What are your best tips for maintaining your home and your sanity?

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How to Get Seriously Productive /blog/2014/01/how-to-get-seriously-productive/ /blog/2014/01/how-to-get-seriously-productive/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 02:25:35 +0000 /blog/?p=1765 People have been asking me how I get so much done. I would love to tell you!

In the past year, I have written and published a book (A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World), created a new magazine (Quest Magazine) that publishes a brand new issue consistently every month, developed a new site (Map Center) where you can download Map Trek maps by the piece, and am nearly ready to launch a new web application (Map Studio) where you can create exactly the maps you want for your homeschool lesson, workshop, sermon or classroom. Oh, and I am also writing a 4th volume of A Child’s Geography: Explore Medieval Kingdoms.

How in the world can anyone get this much done? I have 5 secret weapons! And they are:

1. I will hire or outsource the stuff that I cannot do, such as coding or editing for example. It just makes good sense. Why should I learn something that will take me hours to learn when someone else already knows how to do it and can do it quickly and hopefully, inexpensively. (Guess what? I also outsource my housecleaning twice a month to a high school girl who works both quickly and at a great price!)

2. I get up early! Yes, I can get more done in 2-3 hours in the wee morning than I can the rest of the day. And staying up late usually doesn’t cut it. Those are your most worn out hours of the day. Get up early and use your freshest hours to accomplish what you really want to accomplish, whether that be writing a book, assembling a digital scrapbook, planning your curriculum, etc.

3. I get away (very occasionally). If you really need to get something done, like you have a looming deadline whether self-imposed or imposed by others, get a hotel room for 24 hours and just get it done. It’s best if you don’t take your spouse along, unless the object of the get-away is to connect with each other. Those are highly valuable times but different from what I am talking about now. I am due for a solo get-away so that I can tackle more of my book. I just need that quiet and interrupted time (on a rare occasion) to get some momentum.

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4. I walk every day. This time not only gets my blood pumping, but it recharges me. It also feeds my creativity. I will usually get some fresh insight while walking that I can use to push my productivity. I also use this time to pray, which is very good for my soul and emotional well-being, not to mention good for those who are being prayed for.

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5. I have an awesome husband that will help me carve out time to get something special accomplished. He really is an amazing man! And, in my work life, I have an incredibly talented administrative assistant, and it’s almost like having another “me”. Wow, what would I do without these two?

While I realize that most people do not have an admin assistant, nor does everyone have a supportive spouse, everyone still has the exact same 24 hours each day. To become more productive, you just need to know how to use those hours to your best advantage. Focus on just points 2, 3 and 4 and you will get more accomplished than you thought you could.

So, go out there and get something done!

Question: What is on your to-do list that you really need to carve some time out to accomplish? For me, it’s writing my book. What’s yours?

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3 Ways to Save Big in a Low-Interest World, Part 2 /blog/2014/01/3-ways-to-save-big-in-a-low-interest-world-part-2/ /blog/2014/01/3-ways-to-save-big-in-a-low-interest-world-part-2/#comments Sat, 18 Jan 2014 21:30:39 +0000 /blog/?p=1755 Let’s face it, our money isn’t worth much these days and it isn’t growing very fast either. Last year, at this time, I set out to begin saving in earnest. My husband and I have always made it a point to spent less than we make. In this way, our checking account has grown over the years. But, except for the IRAs we have, we have not been intentionally “saving” in a systematic way.

 Piggy-Bank-trans

Last year, I set out to change all that and you can read Part 1 of my journey here.

Now, I want to report back and reiterate some of what I wrote last January. First, here are the steps that I took to begin saving:

1. I opened my own personal savings account. I consider the money “ours” but I was tired of waiting for my husband to open a savings account for us. We’ve been married 25 years and he has not yet done it, so I asked if he would mind if I opened my own. He didn’t mind, so I did.

2. Into this savings account each month I deposit 10% of my earned income. I haven’t done this with my husband’s earned income, but he is watching me carefully and would like to begin doing the same now. Yay!

3. I also deposit 50% of any money I wasn’t expecting. Hey, that leaves me 50% to spend, right? So, it’s still super fun. This money comes in many forms, but mostly gifts or unexpected royalty checks. Sometimes it is money that I found somewhere that I had forgotten about. It’s still money I wasn’t expecting, so 50% goes into savings.

Now, I am watching my money grow at 1% interest in an Ally account. 1% is terrible interest, but it is way better (100x better!) than .01% that my local bank is offering. Last January, I had exactly $0 in savings when I started this process. Now, 12 months later, I have $6800. Of that, $27 is interest that I wouldn’t have gotten if it was sitting in my checking account.

I know, I know what you are thinking. $27! That’s really hardly anything! Right, but if I stay on track to save like I did last year, then next January, I will have made about $100 in interest over the course of the year ($127 for the 2 years together). Then the year after that, it will be something like $250 or $300 for that year. Do you see how this compound interest is working? In 3 years time, I will have accumulated about $450 in interest. That’s money I didn’t have before! Over time, this makes a difference, even at a small 1%. Think what could happen if interest rates go up!

So, my charge to you (no pun intended)… Open an Ally or Capital One account. Deposit 10% of your income + 50% of any unexpected money that you receive or find. Maybe next year you will report back on how well you money did in 2014.

Question: What is your strategy for saving money? I’d love to hear!

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Starting Chapter One /blog/2014/01/starting-chapter-one/ /blog/2014/01/starting-chapter-one/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 16:23:57 +0000 /blog/?p=1737 This is post #3 in a blog series on how to tackle writing a book. If you are planning to write a book or are already deep into the process, I invite you to follow along with me.

See Post #2 for help in finding the time to write. This post will help you get started with your research.

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Here’s a little disclaimer: My blog series will be most helpful for those who are writing non-fiction. I’ll be honest, while I love to read fiction, the idea of writing it scares me to death. I’m sure that I will have some nuggets of wisdom for fiction-writers in terms of organization and scheduling, but I cannot help with plot or character development.

A little background…

In August 2012, I began writing my first full length book. In the past 12 years, I have written a handful of short biographies, illustrated an entire book of maps (actually several) and published over 35 titles, so I definitely understand the book creation world. I already knew how to research my subject and tell a story. I also understood the diligence required in completing a large project. But I had never really written a book before. A real, full-length book, from beginning to end. I didn’t really know what that would look like for me.

So, I mapped out a plan and followed it. In that my book was a book on geography, I decided to write about one country a month. I was covering 10 countries, so I expected to finish up in May of the following year. I’m excited to say that I not only stayed on schedule, but finished the first draft a month early.

Now, I’m doing it again. This time, I will be covering 11 countries, so I am giving myself 11 months to complete the first draft of A Child’s Geography: Explore Medieval Kingdoms.

Here are My 5 Top Tips for Starting Your Book:

1. Break down your book idea into chapter subjects. Using sticky notes, write down topics that you want to cover in your book. Begin to organize these ideas by category. You can use a white board or a table to organize your notes by subject. Once you have them clustered by category, you can determine how many chapters you plan to write. I read a book by Dan Poynter years ago called Writing Non-Fiction. This may be very helpful for you in organizing your material.

2. Determine your writing schedule based on your content. If your chapters will be long, then plan a month to write each chapter. If they are shorter, then maybe you can write a chapter every one or two weeks. Make appointments with yourself to write. Mark it on the calendar. Take yourself out for coffee, if that helps. Look forward to these times. I like to write early in the morning snuggled up in a blanket on the couch before anyone else is awake.

3. Pick a chapter to write and begin your research. You do not have to start writing Chapter 1 first. Pick the chapter with the content that you are most excited to dive into. It’s important to gain momentum early and the best way to do this is to write the chapter that looks easier, maybe you have less research to do or maybe you just visited a place that is fresh in your memory to write about. My favorite places to research material are my local library and the internet. Always fact-check by verifying the information on more than one site. Wikipedia, for example, has been known to be riddled with errors. Always double-check your facts.

I just started my research a few days ago. Before diving into Spain, I knew there were certain topics that I wanted to cover in this chapter, such as the historical significance of the Strait of Gibraltar, the UK holding of Gibraltar, the Moor kingdoms, Castile y Leon, Ferdinand and Isabella, Christopher Columbus, Basque Country, travel by train, bullfighting and origins of Spanish dancing. Who knows what I will find, but I am exciting to dive into these topics!

4. Start a Pinterest board. I’m a visual person. I like to see what I am writing and refer back to images often during the writing process. Last year, I started a Pinterest board to capture images of places I was writing about. I have just begun to do the same for this book. Here is my very new Pinterest board for Explore Medieval Kingdoms. I am looking forward to filling it up more.

5. Begin writing. Once you have picked your chapter to write, just start writing. Do not edit while you write. Do that later. The writing and editing processes are conducted from opposite sides of the brain – one function interrupts the other. So don’t do it! Write first, edit later. Don’t worry about grammar and flow until you have a good chunk of words on a page. Tip: One tool that makes writing topics and chapters out of order easier is Scrivener. With this software, you can write in your book at any place you want. It’s brilliant! You can even reorder chapters and keep track of your research links right inside the writing software. Check it out here - http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ – and download a free trial version.

I’ll post next week with my progress on Chapter One… Spain!

Question: Have you started your book? How’s it coming?

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How to Actually Write That Book! /blog/2014/01/how-to-actually-write-that-book/ /blog/2014/01/how-to-actually-write-that-book/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 23:53:25 +0000 /blog/?p=1726 Follow along and I’ll show you how!

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It’s a new year and time for a new project. I am ready to write a new book!

Do you have a book rolling around in your brain that you would like to get out onto paper this year? Follow along with me on my journey and by this time next year, you should have in your hands (or more likely, on your computer) a complete manuscript ready for publication. Sound like fun? It is, but it’s also hard work. But you can do it!

Let’s get started… (ready? then roll up your sleeves!)

The first thing we need to get out of the way is scheduling a time to write. I mean, let’s face it, if you are like me, you have many demands on your time, several people that need you all day long, a house that doesn’t clean itself and cupboards that continually need to be refilled with trips to the grocery store.

And no, we are not going to write in the bathroom with the door locked and the shower running!

It’s time to take a hard look at your schedule. What do you spend time doing that doesn’t really need to be done? Um, Candy Crush? Exactly, those little time-suckers are the kinds of things I am talking about… the modern, young to middle-aged woman’s acceptable addiction. This is going to sound cruel, but trust me, I’m doing you a favor… Delete those addictive apps from your device! Just do it now while you are feeling strong. Besides these are the kinds of games (as fun as they are) that take more time than you want to give and more money than you want to spend. Get rid of Candy Crush! Or Facebook. Or Pinterest (ouch). Or whatever your little habit may be.

Second, look at how you spend your evenings and your mornings. I’d like to make a case that the ABSOLUTE BEST time to write is between the lovely hours of 5 and 7… AM! I’m serious and this is coming from a very NON-morning person. Read my 2-part blog posts on how I became a morning person last year after being a NIGHT person for 45 YEARS!

Becoming a Morning Person, Part 1

Becoming a Morning Person, Part 2

Okay, I think this is enough to think about for now. Here’s your assignment for the week:

1. Work hard at retiring early so that 5am feels wonderful, not dreadful.

2. Start writing during the early morning hours. Don’t worry about organization just yet. Write down what you want to write about. Write down what you think you know and what you think will require some research.

Next week, we are going to break down our projects into bite-sized chunks and begin tackling this project in earnest. For now, just get used to some new routines. If the blank page is intimidating you, then spend your lovely, lonely morning hours reading the Bible (or an extra chapter or two than you usually do) and praying/meditating. Write out a short to-do list for the day, brew up a pot of coffee for you and your hubby, or pick up that book that you wanted to read last night, but didn’t because you determined to go to bed early.

And I’ll see you back here next week as we break down your book idea into manageable parts to tackle in earnest.

Question: Are you ready to join me and say to the world next year that YOU ARE AN AUTHOR?

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