Homeschooling: A peek into my life and living room*

Imagine purchasing a house and not living in it, or a new car and never driving it, or a vacation and never going anywhere. We homeschool, yet we pay thousands of dollars in property and sales tax every year into the school systems we do not use. On top of all that cash, we purchase all our own curriculum and other educational supplies. My students don’t buy their own pencils, notebooks, backpacks, lunches, or Kleenex.

This post is not a persuasive essay on why we need school vouchers (no thanks to government intrusion!), nor is it a lament on the woes of homeschooling. I just offer a peek into my classroom, I mean living room. Let me just move that laundry so you can have a seat. Oh, there’s that book that’s been lost for weeks…

As a homeschool mom, I not only teach all subjects of our school, but I also serve as the nurse, counselor, bus driver, event coordinator (which might be a stretch since I’ve heard Mom, you never want to go anywhere!), cook, custodian (kids, do your chores!), IT specialist (which means I ask a kid to fix an electronic thing), librarian, referee (I haven’t tried a whistle and a striped shirt yet), discipleship program coordinator (ain’t no sermon like a mom sermon), disciplinarian (do you want me to call your dad at work?), personal tutor (I dare you to stay awake in your 40s while a small, snuggly person sounds out word after word during a reading lesson), office administrator, assistant to the superintendent (I date him, too 🙊), and playground supervisor. Just kidding on that last one. If it’s hot, cold, or snowy, you’ll find me inside the house.

This teacher’s paycheck doesn’t come in the mail, nor is it auto deposited in my bank account. My paycheck comes in the form of intangible rewards such as enjoying more time to develop relationships with my kids, the joy of being present for every milestone (except driver’s ed-Lord, help me, where is my medication?), and the blessing of knowing I am obeying my Lord. My paycheck even comes on the refereeing-fights kinds of days. (But just for the record, those days don’t fall in the My Favorite Blessings category and I don’t look good in stripes.)

The thing is, if we are going to follow Christ, it’s going to cost us something. Whatever you feel called to do, it will cost you something. The cost (and it’s not only monetary) of teaching our kids at home is a price we have been willing to pay these 19 years and counting. Because you can’t put a dollar value on things of eternal value. Oh, but if the government ever succeeded in levying a tax on such invaluable things, who could pay it?

Janice Powell 2017

*No actual photos of our living room are shown in order to protect my image of Perfectly Organized Homeschool Mom. Please don’t ask my neighbor friend who could totally shatter the image, but since I serve her tea and cookies on a fairly regular basis, maybe I’m safe.

To My Son – A Graduation Letter

For our son’s graduation banquet presented by our church, we were asked to write a letter to him then read it at the event. On the way there, he asked me what was in it, and I told him he’d have to wait and see. He was just sure it would be “too long, too sappy, and too personal.” Well, for once the 18-yr-old know-it-all didn’t know that he’d actually like what I wrote.

To our fifth child and second son,

We have great memories of your little diapered self sliding around in spilled cooking oil, you dumping out Mary Kay powder all over yourself and the carpet, of you biting through your tongue when you were one and again when you were two, of my having to purchase a playpen so we could both survive your baby- and toddlerhood, of you hanging from the tailgate of the truck by your belt loop, and of the Christmas your dad asked you what Santa was bringing you, and you informed him with all your 4-year-old knowledge and authority, SANTA CLAUSE IS FAKE!

You endured pranks by three older sisters who thought it was great fun to feed you lemons, put you in dresses, and scare you with the vacuum cleaner. At least to my knowledge they didn’t do all three at the same time.

We’ve watched you being drawn toward government and politics, figure math problems differently than the lessons teach, grasp science and history way beyond what your mother has taught you, and exhibit a sharp wit that makes us laugh–and sometimes scratch our heads and wonder how you got to be smarter than we are.

Along with the privilege it is to be your parents and to have taught you at home, the greatest joy we have experienced is when our faith in Christ that we have so imperfectly shared with you became your own. It is a day we will never forget.

We look forward to watching you hone the skills you will need to walk through the doors God opens for you as your use your gifts and talents for Him.

We love you. 

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
My son, let them not vanish from your sight;
Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
So they will be life to your soul
And adornment to your neck.
Then you will walk in your way securely
And your foot will not stumble.

Proverbs 3:13, 21-23

Janice Powell 2017

A Different Way

Another school year has begun
Summer’s gone away~
Kids are filling up the chairs
Of classrooms every day.

Perhaps some parents celebrate
Their empty homes with glee
But not this mom because I like
My children home with me.

Our summer isn’t over yet
For we tell it when to end
And we decide when we would like
Our school days to begin.

We watch the buses drive right on by
If we’re even up by then
And thank the Lord for these kids
And the freedom to homeschool them.

Many people don’t understand
And think we’re pretty weird
But that’s okay because we see
That what’s not known is feared.

Perhaps you could try to see
That what we want to do
Is raise our kids up in the Lord
Which makes us just like you.

Like you, we love the kids God gave
But choose a different way
To have more time to spend with them
And make the most of each precious day.

When we look back we’ll have regrets-
Parents always do.
But one of them for sure won’t be
Keeping them home for school.

Janice Powell 2015

 

Motherhood: Lord, I Lay Me Down

I’ve been a mom for nearly 26 years. I birthed seven babies, and I’ve homeschooled them for 16 years. I’ve doctored them, comforted them, cheered them. I’ve bought their clothes, changed their clothes, washed their clothes, washed their hair, cut their hair, fixed their hair. I’ve read a million books to them, cooked a million meals for them, prayed a million prayers for them, hugged them, tickled them, disciplined them. I’ve carried them, dragged them, drove them, chased them, watched them, laughed with them, laughed at them, cried with them, and cried because of them.

Even so, God is still teaching me what it means to lay down my life for these people he has entrusted to me.

For I find myself being tugged away from them, urged to do my own thing, to spend less time with them. I recognize this tugging, this pulling in the opposite direction of where God wants me to go. And it can only mean that I need to run toward them more. Toward Him more. Because there is a very real enemy who so desires to thwart our efforts to pour Jesus into their hearts and minds and souls.

So I have a choice, every moment of every day. I can disconnect and just let them grow up, as is tempting (and regrettably, what I’ve done sometimes) when I’m tired or frustrated or overwhelmed or tired. Did I mention tired? And I don’t mean just physically.

Or I can lay down my life each moment and purposely raise them up. I can, in God’s strength, do the thing that needs to be done in the moment, even in those moments I am tired and frustrated and exceedingly selfish. Especially then.

So I pray. God, help me lay myself down. Help me focus on the moment and do what I should do for that moment. Help me purposely and sacrificially sow into my children. Help me know that my surrendered life is a seed sown in love and faithfulness that You will cause to flourish in Your kingdom. For this generation and those that follow. For now and for eternity.

Finally, continue to help me understand and wholeheartedly appreciate this divine gravity, this hallowed calling of Mother. May I never, ever, not for one millisecond, take it for granted or cast it aside or sacrifice it on the altar of self. For it is far too precious.

 

Janice Powell 2014

 

29 Reasons Why We Homeschool

I’ve been a little mealy-mouthed about homeschooling over the years. I haven’t screamed from the rooftops that everyone should homeschool, mainly because I know that for various reasons, not everyone can. Neither have I adequately defended or explained our choice beyond a meek, well, it works for our family.

I have a few excuses for my meekness. First, I don’t want to hurt the feelings of those whose kids attend a brick and mortar school — although there are a few people out there who haven’t extended the same courtesy to me.

Also, I do not wish to offend my teacher friends who are godly men and women working in rather hostile environments in public schools. These teachers have their work cut out for them. Yet I know they are making an eternal difference in the lives of their students.

But about 17 years ago, the Lord put it on my heart for us to remove our children from public school and educate them at home. Our reasons have been more and more solidified over the years since the world, as the saying goes, is going to hell in a hand basket. And the enemy has engaged warp speed. A cursory glance at news headlines any moment of the day confirms this truth.

So here are 29 reasons why we homeschool. Some of you might be irritated by this. Or offended. But know that if you send me hate mail, I’ll just use it as a teaching moment for my kids because that’s what homeschoolers do. And I might even have them write you back.

Blessings to you,

Janice

Why we homeschool CORRECT JPG

 

Janice Powell 2014

Mom Stuff

I thought it would be fun to add a little commentary to some entries published in my book, Blessings for Mothers. Enjoy!

This first poem was the result of my thinking about the things we chase after, only to discover that God can use the joy of motherhood to fill some of our empty places.

Mothering (Day 243)

My body is tired
My mind is mired
It has become distressing.

But just when I think
I’m on the brink
God gives me another blessing.

Hugs and a kiss
Heavenly bliss
Upon me He’s impressing

A child’s love
Is far above
Others worth possessing.

This next writing was inspired partly by my own tendency to compare myself with other moms who seem to have it all together. The funny thing is, they’re probably also looking around at all the other moms who seem to have it all together. Just who are those other moms anyway?

Nobody’s Perfect (Day 224)

Say this with me: There is no perfect mother. There now, don’t you feel better? No matter how it appears, no matter how perfect someone looks, no one gets this motherhood thing exactly right all the time. We are all works in progress who make mistakes – sometimes big ones. Good thing our goal isn’t to be perfect. It’s to be perfectly usable.

I remember a speaker at our church many years ago told the following story about himself. It stuck with me for good reason. How often do we ask God to do something He is already doing?

In His Hands (Day 72)

A man traveling out of town asked God to take care of his children while he was away. God replied, “Who do you think takes care of them while you’re here?” What a comforting reminder that even though we go to great lengths to ensure the safety and well-being of our children (and rightly so), the Lord is their supreme caretaker!

As I recall, I actually had been awakened on the morning I wrote this next poem by my seventh child who was three at the time of writing. Although it was always exhausting to be summoned in the wee hours by a small person, I did become more accepting of it as I had more kids and realized how quickly the time came when they didn’t need me in the middle of the night anymore. These days, with our youngest at almost seven, I just wake up all by myself for no apparent reason. So, in Heaven I will either sleep all I want to or sleep will no longer be required. Either way, I shall feel rested!

For Now (Day 16)

I awoke this morning
At three o’clock
To crying in my ears.
I calmed my child
Tucked her in
Then thought of all the years
Of diaper changes
Newborn cries
Feedings in the night
And told myself
Someday I’ll sleep
But for now I’ll hold her tight.

I guess I wrote this next one just to make myself cry. I shared a version of it with my oldest daughter on the day she married.

Never Again (Day 255)

Dinosaurs in my bathtub
Building blocks on the floor
Stuffed animals in my bed
Handprints on the door.

Peanut butter, jelly kisses
Macaroni and cheese
Picture books and bedtime prayers
Memories are made of these.

Homework, college tests
Career decisions then
Suddenly my child is grown–
Never small again.

And one more just for the fun of it. I think this one stemmed from my being continually frustrated with intricately planning our homeschooling days, only to wake up to kids puking or running fevers or the septic system backing up in our laundry room and running under the kitchen cabinets. The schedule flying out the window became so frequent that it went from frustration to just plain humorous. And at one point when my kids saw me making a schedule on the computer, they would moan, “Oh, I don’t feel so good…” Real funny, guys.

Flexibility (Day 293)

There’s the possibility
that planning is futility,
so employ flexibility,
that the fragility
of your security
doesn’t cause senility.
For in all probability,
your controllability
limits your adaptability.
So live in reality
and decrease your anxiety
by adapting to
changeability–
immediately.

Yes, controllability is a word even though my blog editor doesn’t think so. But it didn’t really matter because I would have used it anyway. You can get away with that in poetry. I think.

Janice Powell, 2013

(Selections from Blessings for Mothers are copyrighted by Barbour Publishing, Inc. 2010.)

Ahem! Lady!

books“Bring your books in to read!” I instructed then four-year-old H when we arrived at the gym where we would watch her oldest sister practice basketball. H replied indignantly, “Ahem. Lady. I can’t read.” Her comment has inspired much laughter in the five years since the little short stuff informed me of this gap in her education.

When last spring rolled around and she was struggling to grasp phonics, I began to worry that her declaration would always be true! And it would always be my fault! And that her husband would blame me! Now, at the age of eight, she was spouting complaints like, “Reading is too hard!” and “Reading is stupid!” Her personality is such that if she can’t do something perfectly the first time, she gets frustrated and gives up, tears fly, tempers flare (hers and mine), and everyone has a generally wonderful awful time…

Early last spring, I suddenly developed some medical issues that landed me in the ER and earned me a three-day getaway at our local hospital. Our academics were hit-and-miss after that (ahem, more hit-and-miss than usual), so when we stopped for the summer, H still couldn’t read very well at all. I always say we are going to “do school” during the summer, but we never do, well, because it’s summer. However, H has always enjoyed hauling home a basket full of library books, curling up on the couch, and burying her face in them. We also snuggle up and read together with her little sister at least once a day, usually twice, so books are always part of the picture at our house.

After another hospital stay for me and various summer activities, we began our formal academics once again in September. When I sat down with H to work with her on phonics, I realized her book from the spring was far too easy. All of a sudden, she was reading! I felt God’s grace just wash over me in that moment, so strongly that it was like He said to me, “I did this for you.” I felt His reassurance that I don’t need to fret and strive, that He will be strong for me when I am weak, filling in my gaps for His glory. This was especially comforting as I looked ahead to a major double surgery in October. I even ended up with an extra long recovery time because of a complication, but I was able to rest in the knowledge that the Lord would take care of mine and the children’s needs.

As for H’s reading, she is now devouring chapter books, disappearing to her room for hours at a time. What a joy to hear her response when I ask her what she is doing: reading.

And the smirk on her face is priceless when, just for the fun of it, we repeat her words back to her: Ahem. Lady. I can’t read.

Ahem. Praise the Lord, she can!

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting. Psalm 138:8a (NAS)

Janice Powell 2013