Debt-Free Homeschoolers

We became completely debt-free while we were homeschooling our four kids, and that was hard enough, but I’m completely blown away by this homeschooling family, who are also debt-free but have 13 kids! You can learn a lot from how this smart couple handles their finances, which is spelled out in the article.

Blast from the Past: Must Homeschool Success Equal Homeschooled Grandchildren?

It alarms me when I hear someone say (usually in a homeschool convention speech) that our homeschooling efforts will prove successful only if all of our children homeschool their own kids someday.Yes, I think it would be wonderful if that happened, but I’m not going to hold my breath for it. And we have not told our children that they must homeschool our someday grandkids. For one thing, God called us to homeschool. It wasn’t a decision we made because someone here on earth expected us to do it (back then, nobody expected us to do it…they were all pretty surprised, actually.) So how can we demand that our kids do it? That request has to come from God.

I don’t believe the goal of homeschooling is to perpetuate it. I think the goal is to allow children to grow up naturally within the protective circle of the family, to live in the real world (as opposed to the unreal world of the classroom) and to learn what they need to prepare them for life. Once they’re adults, they should have the freedom we have to make their own decisions, with God’s direction.

(Originally published 10/11/08. We now have one grandchild and another on the way. Our grandson is in full-time daycare. He is sweet, bright and we are all quite smitten with him!)

Take Control of Your Family’s Schedule

The doctor found Jodi Smith sitting in his office, sobbing quietly into a tissue.

“Why, Mrs. Smith,” he exclaimed. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, everything!” She began crying louder.

“Now, now…” the doctor soothed. “Tell me what’s made you so unhappy.”

” I’m just so tired all the time, and I feel so overwhelmed. Each day is harder than the last.”

The doctor’s look of concern eased a bit.

“Are you trying to do too many things? Many women today have that problem. Tell me, what’s a typical day like for you?”

“Well, I have three children, and I homeschool them. Every day we do school from 8 to noon, and then we grab a quick bite and head out to Spanish class, and then we go to…”

And Jodi spent the next five minutes describing her weekly schedule of soccer, co-op, music lessons, language classes and field trips. By the time she was finished, she was crying even harder, and the doctor looked somewhat distressed.

“Mrs. Smith, I’m afraid you’re on the verge of a nervous collapse. You need some rest, that’s for sure. You can’t keep on this way. I recommend that you put your children in school and get a job with far less stress than you’re used to….say, as a 911 operator or an air traffic controller.”

The good doctor has a point. Once we become slaves to an overscheduled homeschooling life, we’re living in a high-stress atmosphere. There really is no opportunity for us to rest.

Believe it or not, this wasn’t really a problem when I began homeschooling. For one thing, there weren’t nearly as many opportunities for outside activities. In some states, homeschooling parents were being put in jail, and so we tended to stay at home a lot during school hours.

When we did venture out, it was often for field trips to plays and museums, places where people expect to see schoolchildren in the middle of a weekday.

As homeschooling became more accepted, parents began to feel more comfortable about going out and about during the day, and so we had weekly park days, where the kids played freely and the moms sat with their babies and ate and talked. It was all very low-key and relaxing. Occasionally, we’d gather at someone’s house for a visit, and once again, it was the kids’ job to find something to do while we relaxed and had our own “socialization” time.

There were few if any outside classes or lessons other than organized sports or swim lessons at the Y. And yet our kids did not grow up to be slackers. Almost every child my children knew back then turned out to be a responsible hard-working adult, at least that I’m aware of.

I look back very fondly on those days, because everyone was having such a good time. It made for a very nice lifestyle, one that I’ve tried to replicate with my younger kids. That’s not easy, because there are so many “enrichment” options today that weren’t available back then. But I’ve lived in that low-stress atmosphere so long that I’m not willing to give it up.

I just wish I could convey to some of the moms behind me on the homeschooling road that it can still be done. I get email from them about how stressed out they are, and how much trouble they’re having keeping up with everything, and I feel sorry for them. Some give up and send their kids to school. They can’t keep up the pace, or they’re tired of the responsibility of keeping their kids occupied 24/7.

We do our kids a disservice by keeping them busy all the time. They need to learn to keep themselves occupied. They’re completely capable of learning and playing freely, but they have to be given the opportunity. And when they are, we’re given a break, and that’s what moms like us need. Driving kids around all the time means you get very little free time for yourself, much less time to cook or pay the bills or touch base with extended family. Those things on your to-do list get pushed aside because there’s no time after the kids’ activities. Those neglected responsibilities weigh on your mind, adding to your stress level.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You’re in control of the family schedule. Unless you thrive on a very booked-up agenda, one with enough stress to wear out an air traffic controller at LAX, consider paring down the number of things your family is involved in, so that all of you can have a more relaxed way of life.

(Excerpted from Stages of Homeschooling (Book 2): Enjoying the Journey, available HERE.)

The Downsizing Chronicles: Where is Home?

We lived in a lovely, large house for many years. But when we took vacations at a small Door County condo, we were always surprised at how quickly we got used to being there and having it feel like home. Even so, we were always happy to get back to our house and would echo Dorothy in saying, “There’s no place like home!”

Since we had to sell our longtime home four years ago, we’ve lived in three more houses: two rentals and now the little house we just bought. And one of the interesting things we’ve learned on this journey is that each place felt like home rather quickly. Considering we moved out of state, this really surprised me, because each time we had to get used to a new town, new library and stores, new church, etc.

But what I finally realized is that home is wherever our family is gathered together. I recall a Christmas soon after we left Illinois. Four of us were living in Door County, our eldest was in Chicago and our son and daughter-in-law were in Missouri. Rather than have them trek up north, we rented a hotel suite in Illinois so all of us could gather there for Christmas. Never before had we exchanged Christmas gifts in a hotel! Yet it felt like home because all of us were there together.

Many people are being forced to move in this economy. Some are downsizing like we’ve had to do. In fact, someone very close to me has gone from owning two lovely homes and a tract of land in an island paradise to living in a tiny rental townhouse. It’s a painful process, no doubt about it. But once you discover that being together is the most important thing, you can get past your material losses and realize that the real gift is being with those you love.

Back in the 80s, when country decorating was all the rage, there were lots of folksy wall plaques emblazoned with geese or quilt blocks along with the saying “Home is Where the Heart Is.” Now those plaques look kind of dated and cheesy, but the saying is true: if you’re surrounded by your family, you’re home, no matter where you are.