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Notes on Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

With a houseful of children to both care for and teach, most homeschoolers feel their lives are anything but restful.  Most of us, like Sarah Mackenzie, wake up with our minds racing, doing four things at once just to make it through the day’s tasks.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, it shouldn’t be.

In Teaching from Rest:  A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace, Sarah Mackenzie reminds Christian homeschoolers of what we already know and shows us how to make it our own in a practical way.  The core message of this book is easy to write down but much more difficult to implement:

“…we ought to enter into God’s rest and then serve Him wholeheartedly—not out of anxiety, but out of love and trust.”

Or, in other words,

“As homeschooling moms, we are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful.  If we choose the good portion it will not be taken from us.”

In the first of three sections, “Whose ‘Well-Done’ are You Working For?’” we are reminded that rest is not ease, and that ‘teaching from rest’ takes diligence, attention, and a lot of hard work.   What is restful about it, though, is that we turn to God for wisdom to do the right things in the right way at the right time, focusing on being faithful rather than aiming for ‘success’.

In fact, success in God’s eyes may well be quite different from what we think it is; we are called to simply be faithful and trust God for the results.  We are called to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, in front of and with our kids, when we rise up and when we walk along the way.  We cannot make these dear little plants grow and bear fruit, but God can, and he uses our cultivating, thinning, and watering to do so.  We just need to be faithful in these mundane tasks.

When we are overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and the endless daily-ness of each little duty, we need to remember this:

“We are weary because we forget about grace.  We act as though God’s showing up is the miracle.  But guess what?  God’s showing up is the given.  Grace is a fact.”

So we need to begin everything with prayer, everything, including our day, our year, our decade, and our math lesson.

In the second section, “Curriculum is Not Something You Buy,” we learn practical things:  five ways to simplify the curriculum, a few tips for living this out, five ways to simplify the schedule.  Because we have so much to do, we want to work efficiently.  However, relationships just aren’t efficient “so how do we break the habits of productivity and efficiency…?”  If we are clear on our goals, know how to use our days to support those goals, and pray about all these things, then we will be able to simplify until there is rest in our homes without sacrificing peace in our consciences.

The final section of the book admonishes us to “Be Who You Are!”  Rather than trying to live up to the homeschooler next door, we need to learn the practical truths about how we operate best and then, playing to our strengths and learning to improve our weaknesses, we can be contented mothers who create an atmosphere where our children can thrive.  For, if we want to cultivate peace in our children and our homes, we need to cultivate it in ourselves as well.

We also need to remember who our children are and how they learn.  They are not projects, but little bearers of God’s image.   We are not the be-all and end-all of their education but often, as Charlotte Mason said, we just need to get out of the way and put them in direct contact with great ideas.

And finally, because parents, especially teaching parents, will be imitated, we need to ensure that we are worth imitating, educationally as well as morally.  We need to be serving God by “cultivating intellectual growth, nurturing creativity, diving into good books, learning new skills, working refreshment into a busy routine,” not in a frantic, checklist way but as an offering to him.

The book uses an analogy with the miracle at Cana—Christ asked that the pitchers be filled with water before he turned it into wine.  He can make wine out of nothing, of course, but he wants us to work on filling our own pitchers with water, and he will turn it into wine.  I’m not certain of the analogy, just as I am uncertain about a few Catholic elements in the book, but I do know it makes good educational sense for us mothers to learn and reflect so that, as we grow in loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, we are more able to teach our children well, from rest, by both example and curriculum.

As Sarah Mackenzie reminds us about our homeschooling efforts,

God doesn’t need you.  But He wants to work through you.

We need to show up in trust, leaning not on our own understanding and strength, and get our marching orders for the day.  We need to relieve ourselves of the burden we feel to do this work perfectly, to not mess up.  We should confidently go into our day, thinking to ourselves, “Well, I’m going to make some mistakes today.  Thank God for grace, His presence, and His promise to work through me!” and give it our all anyway.  We know that God will use our mistakes just as thoroughly as He uses our successes, and so we rest in that.

Amen to that.

Sarah Mackenzie is right.  So let us learn to focus more on God and less on ourselves; more on our children and less on success; more on what is true, honorable, just, pure, and lovely and less on curriculum.  Let us find our peace in God and fill our homes with true rest—not ease or laziness but the absence of fretting and anxiety.

I have been homeschooling over two decades and, by grace, have learned many of these lessons already, though often through tears and often by mistakenly doing the opposite until God forcibly turned me around.  With this book, you will be able to learn the lessons earlier on, glorifying God and benefiting your children with peace in your home and heart.

One point needs to be made.  Sarah Mackenzie wrote Teaching from Rest when her six children were young.  Her advice to focus lots of undivided attention on the children is invaluable when they are young, but teens may feel smothered by too much of this.  Hanging out while doing something together can help them as they begin to spread their own wings.  Having interests of our own, as recommended in this book, can help us be able to give them the space to grow up.

I highly recommend this book for all Christian mothers and teachers, especially homeschoolers.  If you read it and take it to heart, you will be able to teach from rest.  Not always, of course, but more and more, as you grow closer to God and learn to love him with all of your being.

May God bless us all and give us peace in him.  Amen.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

Disclosure: I bought this book and encourage you to do so as well.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Holiday Photos

I am so thankful for the holidays we were able to have!  We spent much time with loved ones, much time in nature, and dozens of hours driving.  God kept us safe on the roads despite a dangerous tire problem and malfunctioning brake lights—and those were fixed relatively quickly.  Even though our homecoming was filled with the usual bustle of laundry, lawn care, and garden catch-up, we are rejuvenated, full of happy memories and fresh perspectives.

Chutes Falls

We drove north of Lake Superior through the wilds of the Canadian shield where forests, water, and landforms show the incredible vastness of our country and the greatness of our God.

Old Woman Bay on Lake Superior

Beautiful Lake Superior was our companion for hundreds  of miles, in glimpses and vistas and all sorts of moods.

Kakabeka Falls is one of our favorite places to stop.  The thundering waterfall can be heard throughout the campground and is amazing to see.  Unfortunately, I am currently unable to upload that photo to my blog, but I will do so as soon as possible.  In the meantime, you  can see it here.

As we drove further west towards Manitoba, the sky became hazy and dirty-looking due to forest fires in BC.  On the worst day, the sky was an eerie  yellow and the sun, high overhead, was pink.  In the days before modern communication such a sky could have caused terror.

I watched a hibiscus flower open.  While the plant was still, the emerging flower shook because of the speed with which it opened.  I cannot image the incredible activity at the cellular level, the complex, coordinated frenzy of growth that leads to observable motion.  Truly, God is very great!

Family, adventures, mishaps, and all this exposure to creation–it was a good holiday, and we are thankful for it.

I hope that you, too, were able to spend time with loved ones and time being awed by the majesty of the Creator.  And if not, I pray that God will give you rest and rejuvenation in some other way.

The Fall Homeschool

 


As we look ahead to fall, there are so many things to consider: formal schooling, school supplies, cooler weather, and, for many, some form of harvesting or preserving.  This is always an exciting time of year, full of happy and idealistic plans.  Such enthusiasm is good, as long as we pair it with realism.  I find it so easy to forget that there are only 24 hours in the day, that my children really do need breaks, and that the basics of life—cooking, laundry, and yard care—don’t miraculously disappear just because I forget to plan them in.

That is what I wrote as an introduction to a collection of autumn inspiration from the homeschooling moms at The Curriculum Choice.  Here is a sampling of their ideas:

  • Shirley Ann shares pictures of her family’s nature table. We used to have a nature table when we lived in the Netherlands, and it was a special treat to decorate a bit of space to celebrate the season.
  • Heather discusses her nature calendar and September activities.
  • Tricia’s family has always taken first day of school photos, something we have never done. I wish we had, though. If you are near the beginning of your homeschool journey, do make an effort to do this.
  • How many colors are there in a leaf? Cindy’s leaf chromatography experiments will show your children. Chromatography is a very powerful and important technique in chemistry, but this experiment is easy to set up at home. She also discusses a nature study club that looks like it would be easy to set up.
  • Heidi shows how she and her children made a fall pumpkin art project using oil pastels, chalk, and acrylic paints.

(To read more of these moms’ suggestions, check out “The Fall Homeschool.”)

And here is my contribution:

August involves delightful things like back to school shopping, making sure we swim every possible chance we get, and eating sweet corn and summer apples.  It also is a month of happy dreams about the upcoming school year and hopeful resolutions for making it a good one.

Here are 33 Reminders for Homeschoolers and 6 Tips for a Successful School Year.  I also need to remember How to Have More Good Homeschooling Days and build or rebuild helpful habits before we begin formal learning again.

I am always inspired by lessons from older homeschoolers and have shared some of them in Notes on Things We Wish We’d Known:  50 Veteran Homeschoolers Share.

But it is important to remember that Each Homeschooling Mom and Family is Unique.  What works for others may not work in our situation.  There’s one thing that is always true, though, and that is this:  God Works Through Who We Are and How We Live.

I wish you an enjoyable end of summer and happy dreams of fall.

If you have any great traditions or ideas, please share them in the comments.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

Disclosure: We received free access to this online course for the purpose of this review.  We are not compensated for our honest opinions.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Review: The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy


When Deborah Harkness and her sister Gwen took three-year-old Maddie and noisy little Ronnie for a bathroom trip early one morning, they little expected this simple duty would save their lives.  But while they were in the tall grass, a band of outlaws attacked their wagon train, killed everyone, and made off with the loot. The young women and their charges were left alive but alone, and it was almost winter.

On his way back to his ranch after selling cattle, Trace Riley noticed the smell of the burning wagon train.  Even though every fibre of his being wanted to follow the familiar outlaws and destroy them, he instead took the girls and children under his wing.

A wagon train in Nevada in 1867, criminals, an escape, and a rescuer….  Mary Connealy’s Accidental Guardian promises to be a gripping story of life in the Sierras.  It delivers, too.  The main characters are realistic but idealized just enough, there is drama, romance, danger, and humor, and the plot has both predicable and unexpected elements.

Accidental Guardian was fun, silly, and exciting, and a pleasant refreshment.  I enjoyed it and wondered, as I often do about such stories, at the resiliency of its heroines who casually take terror in stride.  They expect trouble in life, as we all should, and as such they are great role models to counter the unrealistic expectations of many nowadays.  On the other hand, such novels usually set up very high expectations for men and a reader who devours them regularly may be setting herself up for disappointment in real life relationships.  As Elisabeth Eliot used to remind women, “You married a sinner (this idea would lead to excited nodding of heads) … and so did he.”

Yet, as an occasional treat such novels are a wholesome and refreshing diversion, bringing joy, wonder, humor, and little bits of the gospel into our relaxing hours.  Accidental Guardian does all of this very well and I recommend it.  It also happens to be the first in a series, High Sierra Sweethearts, and I’m already guessing the plot of the next novel.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

Disclosure: This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and is available at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Review: Homeschool High School by Design

 

We have been homeschooling high school at home for over a decade.  At the beginning I worried that I might destroy my teens’ chances for their future dreams, but now we have learned that homeschooling is an ideal way to investigate and work toward dreams even if life’s difficulties get in the way.

There are many ways to homeschool high school, and we have always taken bits and pieces from different approaches.  This often led to uncertainty and stress with regards to planning as well as documenting the work done, and I would have liked a helping hand.

Recently I reviewed Heather Woodie’s online course, “Homeschool High School by Design”, on The Curriculum Choice.  This online course, the first of two for the high school years, helps parents and teens create high school programs with strong academics as well as self-initiated projects.  It also discusses documenting the learning that teens do.

If you have already read half a dozen books on high school at home, enjoy making your own forms, and feel confident about the high school years, you will not need “Homeschool High School by Design” except perhaps for the inspiration.

On the other hand, if you want a quick yet thorough and practical discussion of homeschooling high school that covers all the bases and provides helpful handouts, you might want to check out my review of “Homeschool High School by Design” to see if it will benefit you.

Related Posts:

Documenting Interest-Driven Learning as a High School Course

Review:  How to Be a High School Superstar without Burning Out

Homeschool Mommy Marks and Universities

The Comprehensive Record Solution

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up, or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

Disclosure: We received free access to this online course for the purpose of this review.  We are not compensated for our honest opinions.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

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