September 1, 2021

Guide Yourselves Back

My family and I recently made the decision to move from our long-time home near my small city’s center to one of its surrounding suburbs. If you’ve been through the buying/selling and moving process in the past several months, you probably winced as you read that, because you know from personal experience how daunting a task this is.

Moving is never easy, of course. It always involves sorting through belongings to decide what to keep, donate, or discard, as well as packing up what’s retained. Because we see our homes differently when we decide to move, it also requires that we deep-clean and repair things we otherwise ignore. And then there’s the whole process of finding a new place to buy!

In many communities around the country, that latter task has been ridiculously complicated for many months. We’re in the midst of an unbalanced sellers’ market in which inventory is so low that buyers feel compelled to engage in crazy bidding wars and sellers are, thus, raking in tens of thousands of dollars above the appraised values of their homes, often accepting inflated offers just days (sometimes hours) after listing. Though my husband and I never intended to bid irresponsibly, this meant we had to drop everything to see every possibly-viable new home almost immediately after it hit the market. We toured 17 homes in just one month and made offers on – and lost – two before finally getting an accepted offer at the beginning of August.

Needless to say, my husband, our adult daughter still living at home, and I all felt a bit frazzled during that time; in fact, sometimes it was a whole lot more than “a bit.” We know the importance of putting our faith and the facts ahead of our feelings, and we embrace the value of maintaining family unity in the midst of stressful situations. We did, however, sometimes let our feelings get the best of us anyway, causing us to think and even say unkind words to each other.

You may not be in our exact predicament at the moment. But if you’re raising school-aged children, I know you’re probably dealing with a great deal of stress at the start of another new school year. Whether you homeschool or have enrolled your kids in school away from home, this time of year is almost always too hectic – and this year (as with last) your angst is undoubtedly heightened due to all the complications related to the various and sundry institutional responses to COVID-19.

Though my family hasn’t dealt with our moving stress perfectly, we do regularly remind each other that our relationships with each other are more important than anything else – and we purpose to repent and make amends when necessary. The same is true for your family in the midst of new-school-year chaos.

Despite your best intentions, you will sometimes snap at your kids. They will dawdle so much that they miss the bus or cause you to be late for the first co-op meeting of the year. School paperwork or the fancy new curriculum you purchased will drive you to tears…and rants.

But remember that this too shall pass – you will find your groove in a few weeks. And no matter what, your family relationships should take primacy. Don’t allow busyness and stress to block your view of that truth. Repent and make amends – and coach your kids to do the same. Whatever “ick” is swirling around you, always guide yourselves back to the touchstone of relationship.


Photo Credit: Country Living

August 6, 2021

Homeschool Readin’, ‘Ritin’, and ‘Rithmetic with the 8 Great Smarts

Every homeschooler must contend with the parameters of the homeschool law in his or her state of residence. In addition to that, we aim to discern what each of our children may actually need – in due time – to launch successfully into adult life. We know that every child must be able to understand spoken language and comprehend a variety of written texts. We realize that each should speak comprehensibly and communicate clearly in writing. And we accept that the ability to work with certain mathematical constructs – particularly those related to arithmetic – is essential to managing as an adult.

But how do we figure out what else each child should study? And how can we most effectively help our kids maneuver through and master whatever we decide each one needs?

I believe that a powerful answer to such questions comes from what was originally called the theory of multiple intelligences – i.e., the subject of both Kathy Koch’s book, 8 Great Smarts, and my forthcoming companion for homeschooling parents, 8 Great Smarts for Homeschoolers.

In 8 Great Smarts for Homeschoolers, I examine the broad subject areas homeschoolers consider – math, language arts, science, social studies, fine arts, religious education, and electives – in light of each of the eight multiple intelligence strengths with which kids (and adults) are wired (i.e., body, logic, music, nature, people, picture, self, and word smart). Drawing from my own experiences and that of some veteran homeschooling friends, I give practical and creative suggestions for how to tackle each subject with each smarts strength in mind.

For example, it makes intuitive sense that a logic-smart child may resonate with math and that a word-smart teen may enjoy language arts. But what about the highly nature-smart kid who must still demonstrate mathematical competency, or the very body-smart child who must, of course, learn to read and write? And how can we use each smarts strength to facilitate the study of other subjects, such as science, history, and religious education? Beyond the basics, how can we harness the smarts to customize a kid’s elective studies in order to maximize his joy in learning and perhaps even guide him toward an eventual career path?

8 Great Smarts for Homeschoolers addresses these questions and more. My prayer as I wrote was that those in the homeschooling community I love would be blessed and encouraged to persevere in the task of holistically raising and educating their children. That is my continued prayer now as you pick it up and begin reading.


July 12, 2021

Don’t Kiss Summer Good-Bye Just Yet

It’s mid-July. If you’re like many homeschooling parents, that means you’ve already bid adieu to “summer vacation” in your mind and are right now at this very minute singing the “what curriculum am I going to use this year” blues. I get it. Even I – a year-round unschooler of sorts – sang that ditty now and then as my girls grew and matured and transitioned from one season of life to another.

I’m hoping, though, that I can help you, this year and going forward.

You see, through a series of circumstances only God could have orchestrated, I was led and empowered last fall to write a book – 8 Great Smarts for Homeschoolers – that Moody will release on Tuesday, August 3. And it was my prayer as I penned every phrase that my words would be God’s and that those words would bless the socks off every parent who reads them.

Is 8 Great Smarts for Homeschoolers “gospel?” Of course not. But I do believe God can use its ideas to revolutionize your homeschooling experience. I say that because Kathy Koch's general-audience parenting book, 8 Great Smarts – first published when my girls were toddlers – became one of the pillars upon which my husband and I successfully built their educational endeavors. We, of course, experienced inevitable ups and downs on our home-learning journey. But our road was observably smoother and more enjoyable than that of many of my peers, a reality I’ve always attributed to the fact that we’d been blessed to learn from the time my kids were young how the Lord had hard-wired them in terms of each one’s “smarts” strengths. So, when Kathy asked me to write a treatment of “the smarts” concept just for my beloved homeschooling community, I set aside other projects, pulled out the crockpot for my family’s dinners for a few weeks, and went all-in.

If you haven’t already read the original 8 Great Smarts, please do so – either before or after reading 8 Great Smarts for Homeschoolers. You can glean much from my book without having read Kathy’s, but the applications I make – specific to the home-learning environment – will resonate more deeply if you also understand Kathy’s theoretical framework.

In writing 8 Great Smarts for Homeschoolers, I seek to empower homeschooling parents. I want those who read it to feel capable of intentionally choosing learning materials and methods with confidence, knowing that the tools you utilize on your kids’ homeschooling journey truly match the ways in which God has specifically designed each of them. So, don’t kiss summer good-bye just yet! Wait, instead, to read 8 Great Smarts for Homeschoolers. Then use its ideas to help you make wise, logical, strategic curricular choices.


June 16, 2021

Giving Is Like That

The COVID policies instituted in August 2020 by the college my daughter Rachel had planned for years on attending kept her home last fall. The day she should have moved in came and went, and instead of settling into a dorm, meeting new friends, and wading through first-semester syllabi, she was with us – in her childhood bedroom, watching many of her friends acquiesce to similarly draconian policies in order to have “the college experience,” feeling rudderless. She knew she’d made the right choice – the choice to which God had called her for the sake of her integrity – but the blow still stung.

She tried to make the best of it. She opened her own odd-jobs business and landed some cleaning and tutoring gigs. But she was still lonely and sad. Then, near the end of September, we remembered that the woman who’d directed homeschool choirs and musical productions in our town for years had started rehearsals for the troupe’s rendition of “Beauty and the Beast.” Seeking a way to occupy some of her involuntarily-found time, Rachel asked if she could help.

She’d participated in the group’s plays and choirs since she was 10 years old; she’d quite literally grown up with the director, who, as it turns out, had been worrying about how to fill the role of stage manager. Rachel was an answer to prayer, and she threw herself whole-heartedly into the task. She gently but firmly managed the cast behind the scenes, continually analyzed backstage needs, monitored blocking and lines, and ran around – in the words of the director – like superwoman to ensure that all seven performances went off without a hitch.

She hadn’t volunteered to gain accolades. She’d done it because she wanted to contribute to something productive and positive in the middle of the COVID mess and was seeking companionship; she recently said, “It was always nice to look forward to Friday when I got to see ‘my people.’” Once she got going, she saw how much her help meant to the director, and that motivated her to pour even more of herself into the effort.

According to the director, Rachel’s hard work made the play possible. But Rachel would say she gained far more than she put in. As she gave of herself, she made dear friends among the cast members. Rather than remaining adrift for a year, she found purpose and direction. And she learned the extent to which the Lord has blessed her with the gift of administration, knowledge which enabled her land a new job working for a lawyer the week after musical production wrapped.

When we respond to a need with our available time, talents, and/or treasure – losing ourselves in the act of service – we surely bless those we’ve sought to help. And God then turns that blessing back to us in ways we’d never have dreamed possible. Giving is like that.


May 24, 2021

Make Sure Your Kids Remember

Next Monday is Memorial Day. How do you mark the occasion? Do your children know the real reason for the holiday?

I daresay many do not. If your kids attend a conventional public or private school – or if you follow a traditional “school calendar” in your homeschooling endeavors – it’s probable that they think of it merely as the first day of summer break or an extra day off before the final push to the end of the school year a week or two later. If they catch news reports, they may see it as “the unofficial start of summer.” Alternately, they may view it as part of the long weekend when you open the family cabin or host your first backyard bonfire of the year.

Even those who acknowledge something of the patriotic significance of the day often get it wrong, going out of their way to thank active-duty military members or veterans for their service. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the sacrifices made by such men and women any day of the year, but my military friends tell me they’d rather not be thanked on Memorial Day. They know the day is actually meant to pay homage to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and they’d rather you focus Memorial Day on those heroes than on them.

When I was growing up in the midst of the national malaise following America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, many people didn’t want to honor those who’d lost their lives in that campaign, believing that doing so would endorse our country’s involvement in that conflict. Perhaps the same could be said – to a greater or lesser degree – in regards to other wars in which the United States has been involved. But the fact remains that men and women who enlist in the military do so with the full knowledge that they may be called upon to give up their lives for others. They sign the papers anyway and then hop the busses to basic training.

In John 15.13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” He, of course, laid down His life for our souls, but in the context of the passage – which challenges people to love each other – He clearly indicates that those who sacrifice their lives for others are to be lauded.

You may not yet have educated your children on the real meaning of Memorial Day, but you can start this year. Even as you continue family camping or beach traditions, find ways to acknowledge the reason for the day: read appropriate picture books to your youngest kids, watch and discuss a war-related movie like Saving Private Ryan with your teens, attend a Memorial Day service at a local cemetery. Your freedom to partake in various recreational endeavors exists because of the service of others, including those who never made it back home. Always remember, and make sure your kids do too.


Photo Credit: joey zanotti

April 26, 2021

You Are Ultimately Responsible

Over the past year, I’ve had more coffee dates than I can count. In fact, I’ve had five such outings in just the last week, most at the same locally-owned venue. I’m now considered a regular, and I’m beginning to wonder if I should just set up office hours.

The vast majority of my meetings are with homeschooling moms. Some are veterans like me, but many are “newbies” seeking advice and encouragement in the midst of their inaugural home-educating year. I’m doing more meetings than before in part because I have time after graduating my girls from our homeschool in 2020. But the need is also greater than in years past.

In fact, some estimates suggest that the number of families privately educating their children at home for the current school year has more than doubled from the previous year. So – whether or not you’re among them – if it seems to you that homeschooling families are suddenly coming out of the woodwork, you’re not hallucinating.

We all know the bottom-line reason for the increase: COVID. Some parents realized during last spring’s lockdowns that their children floundered under pandemic-related distance learning. Others didn’t want to send their kids back to brick-and-mortar schools, either because they feared infection or didn’t want to subject the children to daily mask-wearing and social distancing. Whatever the case, millions of parents decided this year to give private home education a shot.

It remains to be seen if this migration to homeschooling will stick. The majority of parents with whom I’ve spoken intend to continue on their new home-learning journey even if schools “normalize” by the fall of 2021, but I know those who reach out to me aren’t necessarily a representative sample.

In all probability, a large percentage of COVID-motivated homeschoolers will hand the baton back to conventional schools sooner or later. But if there’s a lesson I wish all parents would learn from events of the past year, it’s this: You are ultimately responsible for your child’s academic education.

If you homeschool, that’s obvious. You choose materials, organize the schedule, plan lessons, and evaluate your children’s progress. But the educational buck stops with parents who utilize conventional public or private schools too. Classroom teachers – whether paid via taxpayer dollars or tuition money – are facilitators, but God isn’t one day going to hold them accountable for the knowledge and values your children embrace. That responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders. It’s your job to ensure that you can justify the educational choices you make for your kids by His standards.

‘Tis now the season for deciding where your kids will “go to school” this coming fall. As you consider all the options, remember your ultimate responsibility before the Lord so you can choose wisely.


Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Parent

March 5, 2021


Five or six years ago, I was in the midst of deciding whether or not to allow my then-young-teen daughters to begin engaging in social media. Like many parents at the time, I wrestled with the neurological effects that increased online activity might have on their still-developing brains. And I worried about exposure to cyberbullying and the possibility that they’d be targeted for trafficking.

Those with teens and younger children now have even more to consider. Neurological and safety concerns still exist. And now we’re also dealing with a level of extreme online vitriol the likes of which we couldn’t have imagined five years ago, along with its twin cousins of censorship and “cancel culture.” Whereas we used to fear that a child would be bullied online by his peers, now it’s just as possible that adults will unrelentingly go after a young person in the vilest of ways. And the platforms themselves feel entitled to monitor our every move and even – God help us – our thoughts.

Among those who’ve been victimized by such extremes, I’m seeing an exodus. Some have moved to alternate platforms, but many have opted to greatly reduce or even eliminate their virtual presence. I applaud them. I believe that more and more people are realizing that both they and their children are far better off focusing on the smaller-scale but healthier influence of offline, real-life relationships and activities.

I eventually allowed each of my daughters to open a Facebook account, which I closely monitored and to which I held the passwords. They both found Pinterest as well. But I was thankful that neither expressed more than a passing interest in Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. And I’m even more grateful that both were able to self-moderate their social media consumption.

But if they were young teens today, I wouldn’t let them near any online platforms. I would, instead, do even more than I did five years ago to help them develop and grow strong connections with local friends. I’d find more real-life activities in which they could participate. And I’d challenge myself to be a good role model by scaling way back on the social media influence in my life.

In fact, I’ve recently been working on that, and it’s already paid off. I’m going out to coffee with local friends more than ever before. I’m serving as the resident “veteran” at a weekly homeschool co-op. I’m reading uplifting books and digging into the Word. I’m cooking and exercising. I still interact online, but only in a couple of select groups on a limited basis. The longer I’m away from mindless newsfeed scrolling, the less I miss it and the more I wonder why it ever held sway over so much of my time.

I don’t know if what I’m seeing in others – for themselves and their kids – and experiencing in my own life is a “new normal.” But I sure hope so. During 2020’s pandemic-related lockdowns, we recovered an appreciation for our immediate families. Maybe now it’s time to learn the value of unplugging.


February 10, 2021

Count Your Blessings

Late in 2020, I happened across a meme picturing a glass canning jar filled with folded, multi-colored papers. The accompanying text issued a challenge: “This January, start the year with an empty jar. Each week, add a note with a good thing that happened. On New Year’s Eve, empty the jar and read about the amazing year you had.”

Aiming to push against an uncomfortable malaise that threatened some days to overwhelm me, I decided to give it a shot. I also purchased a “one line a day” journal, in which I take a few moments each evening to jot down some thoughts – positive or negative – about the day’s events. I keep the journal where I easily see it each night, and I’ve set a notification on my laptop so I don’t forget to do the weekly summary. Then, when I think on Friday night or Saturday morning about what to say for the week’s submission to the blessing jar, I refer back to my daily journaling and also reflect on what’s happened in the lives of each of my family members during the previous week.

Being a pessimist-leaning realist by my (human) nature, I sometimes focus first on the “bad” things about which I may have vented in the journal. I must actively choose to recall the positive. But I’ve seen so far that there’s always something – and often multiple occurrences – to document for the jar. Taking time to acknowledge that each week has, indeed, had its share of blessings has softened the sting of inevitable struggles. And recalling the positive gets easier with each passing week.

It’s not too late to start counting your blessings in a similar way. There’s nothing magical about January 1; helpful practices can stick no matter when we launch into them. In fact, you can even extend what I’ve done by including your children and spouse, perhaps assigning each family member a specific paper color to ensure that everyone participates fully.

And by now if – like me – you’re music smart, it’s probably inevitable that you’ve got Johnson Oatman, Jr.’s 1897 hymn in your head. Thus, I can’t think of a better way to remind you to get started counting your blessings than to get his song stuck there for the rest of the day!

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.


So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.



Photo Credit: Prayer Jar

January 15, 2021

Get Back to the Basics

Don’t feel sorry for or fear for your kids because the world they are going to grow up in is not what it used to be. God created them and called them for the exact moment in time that they’re in. …Don’t let your fear steal the greatness God placed on them. I know it’s hard to imagine them as anything besides our sweet little babies, and we just want to protect them from anything that could ever be hard on them, but they were born for such a time as this.

This is an excerpt from a Facebook post made on January 6 by Alex Cravens, a young father of two. The post went viral, garnering untold numbers of views and shares and over 22,000 comments in less than two days. And Mr. Cravens is right, of course. But, if you’re like me, you probably do fear even though you know you shouldn’t. And you likely wish there were something you could do to make the last year and all its future ramifications disappear.

Of course, none of us exactly knows what the coming days and months will bring. Our anxiety might actually be for naught. Perhaps both COVID and the virus of hyper-partisanship will soon be constrained, enabling us to resume our normal (not “new normal”) lives post haste. But, honestly, in the case of the latter at least, that would take a miracle.

And God can work miracles where we least expect them! However, if His will involves something different, we must choose to walk in faith – remembering that He’s not surprised by any of what’s happened and that He will sustain us through whatever is to come. We must model that faith for our kids so they can do the same.

There is within the homeschooling movement to which I’ve belonged for almost 20 years a call that I believe applies right now to all parents: Get back to the basics.

Those leading this charge have challenged homeschoolers to set their priorities aright, putting the basic needs of faith and family first. It’s not that other endeavors are unimportant. But getting back to basics means focusing first on our relationships with the Lord and with those in our own homes – putting time with the Lord before anything else and equipping ourselves and our children with deep knowledge of the Word – and then trusting that matters of secondary importance will fall into place as He’s ordained.

Astute mothers and fathers at other times of national crisis – the Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, the two world wars, to name just the most obvious – focused on these basics, and God saw them through. We can do the same thing now, for such a time as this.


January 4, 2021

Look In and Look Up

Last year at this time, I’d just begun the last semester of my homeschool mom career. I’d created each daughter’s final learning log and was facilitating their progress through the last of their coursework. Each had applied for and been accepted into her post-secondary study program of choice. One was in a serious relationship that I already knew would result in eventual marriage. I was coordinating our homeschool spring formal and our homeschool graduation ceremony. I was juggling our family schedule as well, aiming to coordinate the use of two cars between four drivers, three of whom worked outside the home on varying shifts.

And then COVID.

Without belaboring the point, we all know what that means. Simply put, nothing we anticipated at the start of 2020 played out as expected. Wrench upon wrench was thrown into the works of our lives, day in and day out. Every time we thought we’d rounded the bend toward the home stretch of our annus horribilus, we discovered that the markers had been moved on us without warning.

And now here we are at the dawn of 2021.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still grieving what I lost in 2020. I’m mentally drained. If I’m really honest, I’ll admit that I’m angry. And I’m sure I’m not alone. After all, we’re still in the midst of the circumstances that upended 2020, so we don’t yet have the closure that would allow us to fully move on.

But when “everything” feels too overwhelming, I’ve been coaching myself to redirect in two different ways. Specifically, I look in and I look up.

I look in by focusing on my home and family. I pay enough attention to politics and culture to be a responsible citizen; I even do what I can to affect change. But at the end of the day – to keep my equilibrium – I must hone in on my relationships with my husband, each of my daughters, and my son-in-law. I don’t know what will happen “out there” through 2021, but I can decide to love my family members no matter what. Knowing I have legitimate control over that brings peace.

Even more importantly, I look up – to God. I remind myself that He’s in full control of everything and that even I know the ultimate end of the story, as described in Revelation. But I let myself be “real” and cry out to Him, too, honestly admitting my fears and concerns. He doesn’t mind because I’m coming to Him like the father of the boy in Mark 9, who declared, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9.24) Knowing that He’s loving and strong enough to handle my stress and weakness brings peace.

Engagement in the wider world is good. Looking forward to what the future may hold – and making plans to accomplish various goals – is good. But if the events of 2020 bring us back to the importance of looking in and looking up, it wasn’t all for naught after all.


Photo Credit: Long Thiên
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