Beth Mellot has been homeschooling for 21 years. She has graduated two children and has one more in 11th grade. Her hobbies include reading, writing, gardening, discovering field trips, and putting together curriculum. By far, her favorite thing is spending time with her kids and watching the "light bulb" come on. Beth serves on the HAHA board as Director of Activities.
September 1, 2021
When Your Child is NOT Like You
My husband and I are very much alike. And our oldest and youngest are practically mirror images of us – quiet, shy, and introverted. Then there is our middle child. From the moment he learned walk, he has been a literal whirlwind of constant motion and energy. From the moment he learned to talk, he has. Constantly. He is loud, uninhibited, and outgoing. I love him dearly but his personality challenged us all. Power struggles were a daily thing in our house – between him and his siblings and between him and his parents.
Fast forward to present day: He is now 23, on his own, and he comes home, on average, about once a week for dinner and to catch up. When he got sick with the stomach bug a few weeks ago, he came home because it was his comfort zone and he knew we had everything he needed: hot tea with honey, cough drops, etc. And he stayed for 4 days – successfully passing the bug on to his father and younger brother. (I think we may need to refine the definition of sharing in our household)
So how did we survive his journey to adulthood? I’m glad you asked. (If you don’t wish to know my “dark side” then stop reading here because the rest of this article is going to be real and raw.)
1. First and foremost – PRAYER! I hate to admit it but there were days when I could not conjure up any love. None. At. All. I was exhausted and depleted. I vividly remember the morning when I heard the pitter-patter of little feet upstairs and just that sound drained me. I cried out to God begging Him to give me HIS LOVE for whichever child was coming down the stairs because I didn’t have any left of my own. The moment my whirlwind peeked his face around the corner, God filled me with an overwhelming amount of love. It practically took my breath away and I felt my face light up with a smile as I said, “Good morning, Sunshine!” I was rewarded with a 3 year old dashing across the room and launching himself into my arms. God is good and faithful!
I also spent quite a bit of time asking God WHY? Acts 17:26 (Amplified version) says, “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands and territories.” (italics mine) Hello, God? I don’t get it. Why did You put this child in our family and in this birth order? That’s not the way I would have done it. Surely it would have better to have done “xyz.” (Please tell me I’m not the only one who questions God at times) But I clearly heard in my heart that this child and his specific place in our family unit was no accident. There is something in my husband and I that God wanted imparted into this child, and likewise, there is something in this child that God wanted to use to grow us. This understanding helped me immensely.
2. COMMUNICATION. I had to learn how to effectively communicate with our whirlwind. I can “hint” at a need and the other 3 people in our family would hear it and respond accordingly but not my whirlwind. A simple comment like, “The garbage needs taken out,” would bring about the anticipated groans but someone would get up and take out the garbage. But never my whirlwind. Which would then cause resentment to grow from the others. It ends up, my whirlwind just never heard it. It was a general comment and not a direct order so it went in one ear and out the other. I had to learn to make specific requests, “Whirlwind, it’s your turn to take out the garbage. And it needs to be done now.”
3. CONSISTENCY. Our whirlwind has never been able to overlook inconsistencies. A “do as I say, not as I do” situation makes his blood boil. If we asked something of him, we needed to be sure to hold fast to the same standard. A push-in-your-chair-after-dinner rule would ultimately be met with, “Mom, you didn’t push in your chair!” It didn’t matter that I left the table with both hands full of dishes. Things are very black and white with our whirlwind. And although that trait has been difficult to deal with at times, it did force us to see and deal with inconsistencies in our own lives.
4. REASSURANCE. Because our whirlwind was different from everyone else in our family, he frequently felt like he was “wrong.” I wish I would have known this when he was young but, alas, I did not understand his personality then and often made the mistake of assuming his behavior was rebellion. As I learned more about his personality, I began to see that not all was rebellion – some was simply his need to understand the WHY behind the command – and a “because I said so,” while perhaps true, did not bring about obedience but rather frustration on all sides.
As I grew to understand his personality better, I learned to couch my criticism with reassurance. “God created you with a loud voice and He will need you to use it someday. But today, inside our house, is not the day.” Or “There is gold inside of you. You are an amazingly loyal friend. However, what you just did (insert issue here) is going to turn people off and they will not hang around you long enough to discover the gold which God put in you. And then you both will lose.”
Helping to reassure our whirlwind that his traits, which were so opposite of the rest of us, gave him the realization it was ok to be different; and that we loved and accepted him – differences and all.
5. NEVER, EVER GIVE UP. Just recently, Dutch Sheets had a Give Him 15 devotional on Pioneers. As he described the characteristics of a Pioneer, I kept thinking of my whirlwind. I couldn’t help it. It was him to a T. Unable to stop myself, I sent the link to my whirlwind and said, “This made me think of you today. Love ya!”
When he came over for dinner last week, he asked me to listen to Dutch’s message again along with him. Every single description Dutch gave caused my eyes to look at my favorite whirlwind. By the end of the message, my whirlwind, with tears in his eyes admitted, “When I listened to this, I felt like you finally understood me.”
Today our house is quieter since our whirlwind moved out. Sometimes, too quiet. I find I miss the noise and the energy. But life changes and moves on. I am so proud of the young man our whirlwind has become and I find myself looking forward to our weekly dinners with loud, spirited conversations and lots of laughter.
Do you also have a child that is different than you? I would encourage you to go to God. He doesn’t make mistakes. Ask Him why he chose you to parent that child. Ask Him for the best way to reach that child. Ask Him for whatever you need: wisdom, grace and/or love. He is ready and willing to come alongside you and help. I know it’s not easy to learn how to deal with those who are vastly different from us. It takes prayer, resolve and dedication but it IS possible to raise a child who is different than you!
PS. My whirlwind has read this and given me permission to share.
June 1, 2021
Don’t Let the Summer Go To Waste – Unless You Want To
When my kiddos were in early Elementary, we spent several summers doing relaxed science unit studies. That way we did not have to do as much science during the school year when we were trying to get everything else in.
It was only 2 or 3 days/week and each summer we covered a different topic. For example, one summer we studied Wildflowers and another summer we focused on Butterflies. Although I enjoyed both units, my favorite had to be the butterflies.
We spent several days each week, outside chasing butterflies with our nets. When we would catch one, we’d bring it inside, carefully put it in a jar with a “breathable” lid – ie. a lid with holes poked into it – and the children would draw a picture of it. Then we’d let it go. We would look it up in our Butterfly field guide (readily available online or from the library) and write its name in the margin of the picture as well as the date, time, weather, location, and any abnormality – if it had only 5 legs, or a torn wing, for example, that way we were more likely to know if we caught it again.
In that one summer, the kids had over 30 butterfly pages in their portfolio and knew a dozen of them by sight. We went to the library and read about their life cycle, their food source, and their predators. They wrote stories about “A Day in the Life of a Butterfly.” They discovered that butterflies were difficult to find when it was rainy and plentiful when the sun was shining bright. They learned that, in a few species, it IS possible to tell the male from the female.
To this day, those flying insects make my kids smile; and, ever competitive, they still try to see who can be the first one to “name that butterfly!”
May 1, 2021
Don’t Give Up, The End is in Sight!
Usually, by the time May rolls around, I’m so tired of our textbooks – the same ones we’ve cracked open every school day since the beginning of Sept – that I’m ready to toss them out the window (did you know there’s a word for that? It’s defenestration. According to Webster, it means “an act of throwing something or someone out of a window.” Honest! Look it up.)
So believe me when I say I understand how difficult it is to continue to plod on! But let me encourage you – do NOT give up. Give it your best and finish strong to the end.
But that doesn’t mean you have to stay in the same old wintertime rut. It’s a new season and it calls for new inspiration. So, instead of defenestrating your textbooks, I dare you to take the books AND the kids outside - to the picnic table or to a blanket on the lawn - and do your schoolwork in the sunshine and fresh air. It raises everyone’s spirits.
Here’s a pic of our daughter actually ENJOYING History!
Then make your last day of school memorable. A ritual I (accidentally) started when our oldest two were in elementary was to celebrate our very last day of school with
“The Contests” - in memory of the “Track & Field Day” I remembered from my elementary school days. I did it the first year “just because” and it became a permanent, highly-requested, last-day-of-school activity. We, literally, did this every year clear through high school - and I have the Excel spreadsheets to prove it!
We’d start off by weighing each child and then measuring anything we could: their height, of course, but then we’d move on to the length of their arm, their wingspan, the circumferences of their bicep, their thigh and their head, and even the length of their smile! Then the contests would begin….standing long jump, running long jump, how fast they can run around the house, how many jumping jacks they can do in 1 minute, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and whatever else they wanted to throw in there!
I didn’t know it that first year but it has ended up being a good record (at least the height and weight information). My oldest son has gone back to those spreadsheets and commented, “Oh look how much I grew that year!” or “Oh, yeah, that was my chunky phase.” Of course, NOW they laugh at the various things they wanted to be measured but it always made a fun and unique ending to our homeschool year.
So whether you create your own “Contest” day or “Track and Field” day or “Rita’s” day or whatever-works-best-for-your-family day, I would encourage you to sprinkle in some outdoor time this month and then finish with a flourish!
February 1, 2021
The Winter Doldrums
It’s cold. The days are short and often dreary. The kids don’t want to play outdoors and we’re still told to quarantine. It seems like winter has already lasted an entire year. How can I get my children out of the “winter doldrums” when I’m in there with them? If you’re feeling like this, don’t despair – you’re not the only one. Those stinkin’ doldrums have hit us all, at one time or another.
Over the years, I have tried various tactics – some successful, some not-so-much. A few of the ones that worked the best with my little ones was:
1. Cuddle up under a blanket on the couch (rather than sit at the dining room table) and read. Read what? you ask. Anything and everything! We read through a lot of classics this way. I would go to Progeny Press’s website: https://stores.progenypress.com/ and pour over their lists. (They are a Christian company that creates study guides for use with classic books all broken down by age.) I did not use all the guides but I did use their lists as a reference for fun, age-appropriate reading. Then at dinnertime, my husband would get a run-down of all the stories we’d read that day.
2. Do a craft to go with a book you’re reading. Ex: Read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Draw a boy and let them glue on yarn hair and put some Play-Doh in it to represent the gum. Dig out some tiny Band-Aids and put one on his hurt foot. Color the mud on his pants and if you have train stickers, they could be put on his shirt to represent his train PJs. Read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and make trees using their handprints for the leaves. The list can extend as far as your imagination.
3. Sometimes, especially when it snowed, we’d make hot chocolate and sprinkle on a few mini marshmallows. They would feel so grown-up drinking out of a “real” mug. (Of course, my hot chocolate was spiked with coffee but don’t tell them that!)
4. Play some new games. Do you remember all those cool ideas you found over the summer for indoor games? Keep some of them in your little “bag of tricks” and pull them out when everyone has the doldrums. If you have room, make an indoor obstacle course; do an indoor standing long jump; or race matchbox cars down a cardboard ramp.
5. Lay a blanket on the floor, pop some popcorn and watch the History Channel - or check out some science DVDs from the library. Or watch the movie of a book you’ve just read and compare the two. Which one did your children like better and why?
6. Put out a bird feeder and watch the birds. Note which ones come to the feeder for food and which ones pick fallen seeds off the ground; which ones are the “piggies” and sit on the feeder and eat and eat and eat vs which ones grab a seed and fly off to eat; which ones are the “bullies” chasing everyone else away and which ones seem to get along. Get a bird book out of the library and learn to identify your feathered friends.
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive but hopefully it gets your creative juices flowing again. Take a day off if you need to. Laugh as often as you can. And mix things up occasionally. Spring will come – eventually.
November 1, 2020
Thanksgiving – It’s More Than Just Turkey & Mashed Potatoes
Thanksgiving. It’s supposed to be a day of gratefulness, but at my house, Thanksgiving frequently seems to get lost in all the preparation for Christmas. Some years it even feels like Thanksgiving is just a last-minute stressor while I’m trying to make Christmas special for everyone.
And, honestly, that is frequently how my prayers feel as well. The thankful prayers are kind of “tacked on” at the end of all the needs and requests – like something that I SHOULD throw in there rather than something that I GET to add to my prayers because God is so good to me.
Today, I am making a conscience effort to change that. I am done with making my praises and gratitude a “p.s.” at the end of my time with God. I am determined that, from this day forth, my gratitude will be the “bookends” to my prayer life – they will reside at both the beginning AND the end of my time with Father God.
I will live by Philippians 4 v6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.” The Bible tells us to be thankful but do you know why? Is it because God has an identity crisis and needs us to reassure Him that He is good? Let’s read on in v7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? We are not told to be thankful because God needs our praises to make Himself feel good. We are told to be grateful because thankfulness ushers in the peace of God. And who doesn’t need peace in this time of turmoil?
Giving thanks will keep my heart from despair and my lips from complaining. It will keep me focused on what I have and not on what I don’t have. Thanksgiving will bring me peace. And it is during the most stressful times that I need that peace from Heaven that goes beyond my human understanding – that peace that can keep my heart from trembling when external circumstances say I should be cowering in fear.
So on those days when everything seems to go sideways, and it seems as if all my mind can dwell on is the negative, I need to pray. But I also NEED to give thanks – even if it is simply begin grateful for my next breath. And with each thing I give thanks for, I will find another reason to be grateful. And that thankfulness will usher in more and more peace.
Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you….Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
May this Thanksgiving holiday bring you and your family grateful hearts and a peace that surpasses all human understanding.
September 22, 2020
Life is Messy! Keep Your Focus on the Important Things
May I be real with y’all? I’ve homeschooled for 20 years and I still don’t have it figured out. Some days are better than others. And then there are THOSE days – you know what I mean - those days when the world seems to oppose you and your well-planned lessons; those days when everyone runs out of socks (or underwear) at the same time.
In fact, just this week, we had one of THOSE days. We had a tight schedule. We had only so much time to get our lessons done before my son’s ZOOM class and then a quick lunch before he had to head off to work. We had just sat down at the table and cracked open the books when we looked outside to discover our heifer wandering through the yard and down into the neighbor’s woods. What ensued was nothing less than chaos.
Mind you, we’ve had cattle before but this one is just plain WEIRD! She’s super spooky and won’t let you near her so we knew we could not just walk up to her, toss a rope around her neck and lead her back into the pasture. To make matters worse, if we left the gate to the pasture open, our goats were sure to get out.
Long story short, the goats got locked into their stalls in the barn, food was put out for the cow and the pasture gate left open. Eventually “Miss Steak” wandered in for her food – when she was convinced it was her idea! Then we had to run out and close the gate, release the goats and turn the fence back on. Needless to say, it was not our most productive day of school! (It actually took us the rest of the week to catch up)
We can’t always predict what will happen each day, but we do get to choose how we will react to the curve balls life throws at us. Many years ago I found an article that spoke to my heart so much that I wrote down part of it and hung it on the mirror of my dresser so I would read it every morning to remind myself of what was truly important. I came across it the other day and felt to share it.
"Enjoy the children and cause them to enjoy you. Give them your time, your attention, your laugh, your approval, your touch, hugs, reading, silly funnies, rolling on the carpet or yard, pushing in the swing, or pulling in the wagon. But most of all, let them bask in your smile until they need it like they need their next breath. Cause them to feed on your fellowship, to relax until they are sure you care only for their good, that you live to enjoy their company and would not be happy without them." ~nogreaterjoy.org
Perhaps you think they go too far and that’s ok. But for me, it was a daily reminder that relationship was the key ingredient to creating a successful family – and homeschool. With all the distractions, commitments, and chores we need to accomplish each day, let us not forget our relationships – with God, with our husbands, and with our children. They are the key foundation of life.
July 1, 2020
An Open Letter to New Homeschooling Parents
To all of you brave parents who are embarking on the adventure of homeschooling for the first time. I am so PROUD of you! You are not choosing the easy road, the comfortable road, or the normal road. Instead you are choosing what you feel is best for your child. And you are to be commended. Not simply because I believe in homeschooling, which I obviously do, but because you are sacrificing YOUR time, effort and convenience for the good of your child. Parenting is not for the faint of heart and homeschooling is simply an extension of that. Do not be surprised, or dismayed, if this year starts off a little uncomfortable. Both you and your child are entering uncharted waters. It’s OK to feel a little off kilter. Just keep in mind that the majority of homeschool households do NOT look like traditional brick and mortar schools (it’s fine if yours does, but don’t panic if it doesn’t.)
I have been homeschooling for 20 years with my youngest one entering 10th grade. If I were to offer 7 nuggets of wisdom it would be:
- Focus on the present. Try to avoid overwhelming yourself by looking too far into the future. (Obviously, this is easier to do with younger children than with highschoolers.) For the first 8 years of our homeschooling journey, I planned for one year at a time, saying to my husband, our children, and myself “We’re homeschooling this coming year. After that, we’ll see.” Had I known at the beginning that we were going to homeschool for 23 years, I would have been too overwhelmed to focus on the present. Keep your focus on the doable. And on those days when focusing on this school year seems too much, simply focus on today.
- Remember character lessons are ultimately more important than academics. There were days when we needed to focus on “conflict resolution” more than fractions. Although it was frustrating for me, my children did indeed learn their fractions but they also learned that empathy and the ability to apologize and forgive were more important life skills.
- Start slowly. Consider starting off slowly and easing into homeschooling: perhaps have them do a few worksheets that are a grade below them. This may seem counterproductive but it will help your child review as well as giving him/her a sense of accomplishment while at the same time allowing you to assess where their strengths and weaknesses are. (See the HAHA website: and scroll down to you find the FREE RESOURCES.)
- Make school a priority. I quickly learned that I needed to make their school work a priority in my life. Otherwise, I got distracted with laundry, dishes, cleaning, responding to emails, and just life in general. And if momma is distracted, then everyone’s distracted.
- Focus on building a routine. It will allow your child to anticipate what is coming next. Our family routine has always been: get up and brush your teeth, come downstairs for breakfast, take care of the animals (or chores like emptying the dishwasher, washing your breakfast dishes, etc.), get yourself a glass of water & meet me at the dining room table by 8:30a. While they are taking care of the animals/doing their chores, I am throwing a load of laundry into the washing machine or getting ingredients together for lunch and/or supper. Once my children are at the table, I must drop whatever I’m in the middle of and join them. My children always worked best having their individual subjects on a routine as well. Some children work better being able to switch things around to keep them from getting bored. Don’t stress – this is something you will figure out together.
- Remember you are not so much teaching as tutoring. That sounds strange, but hear me out. “Teaching” is what happens in a brick and mortar building where one person is in charge of 20-30 students. (God bless them. I know I couldn’t do it!) The teacher has to manage her time and the pace of her lessons to fit with the majority of her students – leaving those who understood the concept easily, to feel bored and those who haven’t grasped it yet, to feel left behind. YOU have the advantage of offering a more focused approach. Our elementary math book took two weeks to teach fractions. At the end of that time our daughter was still struggling. I was able to go back and redo those same lessons, over and over again until (after a month and a half!) the light bulb came on. Since she was our first, I figured I had just ruined her school year and put her too far behind to ever catch up. But, lo and behold, the next concept was graphing and she whizzed right through it. Who knew? She eventually graduated on time – with honors no less.
Tutoring actually takes less time because you can go at your child’s pace. A good rule of thumb that I’ve found is to do focused schoolwork for 15 to 30 minutes per grade:
Kindergarten: 15 -30 minutes of sit down work focusing on math, tracing letters, spelling his/her name. Other learning can happen out of the chair, such as digging in the flowerbed and finding insects. Playing with water and watching it evaporate. Feel the difference on your skin between standing in the sun and standing in the shade. And READ to them – often – and about anything and everything.
Then with each grade, increase the sitting time by 15 -30 minutes. By high school, they should be spending 3.25 to 6.5 hours a day on their schoolwork. Personally, our school time fluctuates almost daily but always manages to fall between that range. (Sometimes we need to stay on a subject/topic for longer than I expected and other times we whizz right through it quicker than I anticipated.)
- Enjoy this time with your child. It may only be for this year or it may be for longer, but homeschooling allows you to get to know your child in a way nothing else can. Enjoy getting to know the little person God has blessed you with. You won’t regret it.
Blessings on your new endeavor!
June 1, 2020
The Stress of Lesson Planning
Each spring, as I’m planning next year’s curriculum, I am temporarily thrown into a “tizzy” (as my grandmother would say). What if I’m missing something? What if I teach subject X and what my child needs is really subject Y? My child wants to dig deeper into Science but I was never good at that in school – how can I possibly teach him what he needs to know?
Questions and doubts assail me from every side as I desperately try to remember how I combatted them last year – and the year before that – and the year before that. This is a battle I’ve been fighting for 19 years. It HAS gotten better, easier to remember my purpose and goal, easier to correct an oversight but, especially in the beginning, the doubts and fears were overwhelming.
Are you there, too? Are you afraid you will damage your child permanently? After all, that’s what we’re told will happen (they won’t be socialized enough, they won’t learn the correct things, they will be a drain on society). And yet … something inside still compels us to take the road less traveled. So how do you overcome the fear of failure?
I believe there are several parts to that answer.
1st – stay close to God. He will give you ideas and direction for He promises, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3) “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” (James 1:5)
2nd – find a more experienced homeschooler and talk about your fears. There’s a good chance she has dealt with those same terrors. As Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “…there is nothing new under the sun.”
3rd – be open to change. Sometimes a new curriculum is just the change you need; or perhaps it is simply a new way of doing things. I always found myself doing spelling first because it was the easiest and math was last because I always got attitude. Changing things around and saving a fun or easy subject for last seemed to give my kiddos a reason to get through their math lessons.
4th – evaluate your progress. Those irritating assessment tests do have some value – they give us an idea of where we are. And once we recognize an area of lack, we simply address it. I remember when my youngest took his 5th grade test. He did fine on everything until he got to English mechanics. He was horrified when he got his results telling him he scored at a late 2nd grade level! It took quite a while before I was able to convince him that his score reflect on ME and not on him since I had forgotten to teach that. Years later, when he took his 8th grade test, he was relieved to discover that he actually tested above grade level.
5th – stay close to God. (Hey wait a minute, woman, you already said that - look back at #1!) Yeah, I know. You are correct. I am repeating myself; but honestly, when it comes to our children, we all need every bit of help we can get. So I deliberately “bookended” my advice with God: let Him be the beginning of your search for wisdom, allow Him to direct in the midst of it, and seek His blessing at the end.
April 1, 2020
New Year’s Resolutions – Revisited
Well, today I (finally) got around to reading my new devotional – which started the first of the year! Yes, I’m three months behind – please don’t judge; I feel guilty enough as it is. However, I’m not writing to confess my shortcomings but rather to profess God’s goodness.
The devotional was about New Year’s Resolutions – something with which I have a love/hate relationship. I love the idea of starting something new. I hate being disappointed in myself for failing. This devotional spoke to that very struggle.
In summary, the author reminded us of how children learn – in particular, how they learn to walk. It is a gradual process. First, they learn to sit up, next to scoot, then to crawl and finally, they’re walking! This process takes roughly a year. And even though that sounds like a long time, when you look at it developmentally, that is HUGE progress.
Then the revelation hit me: God is more concerned with my progress than my quickness; He is more concerned with what I follow through and complete than in my grandiose plans.
Life Lesson: It is better to change my diet slightly and stick with that change for the rest of the year than to make a huge change in my eating habits but be unable to maintain it. Likewise, it is better to make small, manageable changes to our homeschool and finish the year strong than to make major changes that ultimately disrupt all our efforts.
So I’ll challenge you with my devotional’s ‘Faith Step’: “Take your first steps today in the three areas you have decided to grow. Don’t try to do too much. A year of baby steps adds up to a lot of growth if you stick with it!”
Lord, show us the baby steps we need to take to be better mothers and teachers to our children. You have given us these specific children, and likewise, out of all the parents in the world, you have chosen to give them us as parents. They are ‘little blessings’ which you’ve put into our lives. It is an honor and a privilege to be a parent. Give us the strength and the wisdom to be the parent they need us to be. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
Needing a little encouragement in your homeschooling journey? Check-in here once a month for a new article from a veteran homeschooling mom!
February 1, 2020
February is synonymous with Valentines’ Day. Who can think of February without thinking about roses, chocolates and romance? Like most other holidays, Valentines’ Day seems to sneak up on me. I have good intentions but somehow seem to never get around to buying cards or making dinner reservations. Then I wake up that morning with the realization that I’ve done it again – I’ve just overlooked another Valentines’ Day. But really, it’s not my fault. After all, it’s not religious. It’s just another commercial holiday created to drive up the price of flowers and candy during the dead of winter. Is it really necessary? I mean, romance is great but it is frequently practical. After all, who has time to plan a get-away or even a dinner date? Not me. Lately all my thoughts have been about deadlines. Some of my own making and some imposed by others. You see we are attempting to remodel a bathroom. Our daughter and son-in-love bought a fixer-upper this past summer. They replaced wiring, plumbing and windows, removed carpet, sanded and painted. All the living spaces are now habitable and they are working on the spare room and office. I’m so proud of them.
But that is only half of the story. You see we spent several days with them this past summer helping run wiring, repairing concrete and drywall, priming and painting. They seemed to have passed the “remodel bug” to us. We came home determined to get this bathroom, which I’ve hated for 26 years, under control. It has been a work in progress ever since.
Now understand we live in an early 1900’s farmhouse. So we gutted the room only to have our suspicions confirmed: nothing was square, nothing was plum and all the supports (studs, floor joists and rafters) were 24” on center. Basically a remodeler’s nightmare – especially if you don’t know what you’re doing! So we hired a plumber and a carpenter. It looked like we were starting to make progress when it was discovered that our newly ordered shower had a manufacturer defect. Back it went and we were forced to reorder another one – which put us a month behind as this all happened during the holidays. Then there was the difference of opinion between my husband and myself in regards to how we wanted the bathroom to look. It wasn’t a stream that divided us but an enormous chasm. Our children remodeled an entire house and I was concerned that our marriage wouldn’t survive a bathroom!
Today things seem to be looking up. The reordered shower is scheduled to be delivered on Friday while the plumber is here and I’m beginning to feel as if I can breathe again. But, in reality, you really don’t need a bathroom remodel to threaten your marriage. Sometimes, as homeschooling moms, the demands of housekeeping, chauffeuring and schooling can become so all consuming that the needs of our husbands can get tossed by the roadside. Not intentionally, mind you. But, if you’re like me, you can only store so much information before your “hard drive” locks up or gets corrupted. Then things tend to get forgotten or misplaced: that shirt your husband needs for his big meeting doesn’t get ironed or that meeting between your husband and your pastor doesn’t get put on the calendar and gets missed.
There are many ways in which life can overtake us, overwhelm us or even sidetrack us. Frequently these things cause a rift in our relationships. And THAT is why Valentine’s Day is so important. It reminds us to take time out of our crazy life and show our husband that he is important to us. You can’t afford to go out to a fancy restaurant? Go to Chick-fil-A or MickeyD’s. Or better yet stay home. Pop some popcorn, make hot chocolate and watch your favorite movie. Whatever you do, make sure your husband knows he has your full attention. When he knows your heart is for him, it will be easier for him to understand, and even empathize with you, when you get overwhelmed.
I understand. Marriage is work – hard work at times – but the rewards are well worth it and extend way beyond us to our children and community.
And, you know, just because society doesn’t make Valentines’ Day religious, doesn’t mean we can’t. Let’s make this Valentines’ Day the day we start to really live I Corinthians 13:4-8a “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
December 1, 2019
Beth Mellot has been homeschooling for 19 years. She has graduated two children and has one more in 9th grade. Her hobbies include reading, writing, gardening, discovering field trips and putting together curriculum. By far, her favorite thing is spending time with her kids and watching the "light bulb" come on. Beth serves on the HAHA board as Co-Director of Activities.
Help! The Holidays are coming!
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was in fact … the holidays (my apologies to Charles Dickens.) Christmas – the season of joy; the season of peace. Right! To me is was the season of unending stress: Christmas cards, Christmas shopping – for everyone and their brother, finding the perfect tree, decorating inside and out, baking all kinds of cookies and desserts, wrapping presents, grocery shopping for Christmas dinner AND keeping up with those pesky lesson plans. “It’s not fair,” I told my husband, “It’s impossible to do it all in just four weeks – four months, perhaps, but not four weeks!” It seemed like I failed – every year – and I was tired of trying. Christmas had lost its “magic” and I had become a slave to the commercialization of the season. Instead of anticipating that time of the year, I dreaded it. The wonder of the Virgin Birth, the awe of a holy God becoming a tiny baby, had been overshadowed by agendas, demands and constant stress. Something had to change!
Away with the cookies, away with the cakes; on Ebay, on Amazon, easy it makes. Ok, so I’m not a poet, but you get my point. Instead of doing everything I should do, I began to do those things that I enjoyed doing. So Christmas cookies went by the wayside. I admit, at first I felt guilty. Would I be scarring my children for life if I did not do the whole Christmas cookie thing? But you know what? My children did not lose out one bit. My sister-in-law and a girlfriend began to invite them over to their houses to help make cookies – which freed me up to do some shopping. And that shopping happened with technology (I didn’t even have to get dressed until it was time for the kiddos to come home!)
I also decided that if the public schools could have half-days, well doggone it, so could we. So I started easing up on the intensity of our lessons about two weeks before Christmas. Instead of pushing through to the next unit, we paused and reviewed all that we’d covered thus far. We finished our experiments, art projects and writing assignments. Then we cleaned up our supplies, and lo and behold, the house felt more like Christmas and less like a disaster area.
Then I started to use the days between Christmas & New Year’s to implement some of those activities that we never seemed to have time for. You know, all those things I thought would add some spice to our studies but which we never seemed to get around to because I was so desperately trying to keep up with my lesson plans. (Please tell me I’m not alone in this!) So the word searches, the puzzles, the games, and the light reading took over this week, which allowed me to count the days while keeping the munchkins busy. Win, win I’d say.
So maybe you enjoy the whole Christmas cookie thing. Then by all means keep it. Just don’t let society decide what you should do. Take some time, right now even, and ask God what can go and what should stay. After all, He knows what will work best for your family. And He knows that if YOU are stressed, it will be difficult for your children to find the “magic,” the wonder and the awe in this most Holy Season. Trees, decorations, gifts and food are all wonderful but the truth is that Jesus really IS the reason for the season. Let’s make it a point to keep that truth in the forefront of our plans this year.
Let’s model that awe and wonder of the babe in a manger, and rejoice with the angels: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:14, NIV)
November 1, 2019
Beth Mellot has been homeschooling for 19 years. She has graduated two children and has one more in 9th grade. Her hobbies include reading, writing, gardening, discovering field trips and putting together curriculum. By far, her favorite thing is spending time with her kids and watching the "light bulb" come on. Beth serves on the HAHA board as Co-Director of Activities.
May I be honest here? Homeschooling is NOT what I thought it would be. In fact, it is NOTHING like I imagined. I had that famous Norman Rockwell picture of a happy family around the table (minus the turkey, of course) etched in my brain. And I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. Imagine my surprise when the grumbling and arguing began – on our first official day!
“Can I go outside now?” We just sat down at the table, what do you think?
“I hate math!” This is your first day of Kindergarten, how can you possibly know that you hate Math?
“I’m hungry. When can we eat?” You just finished breakfast; it’s physically impossible for you to be hungry!
“You gave him more crayons than you gave me!” I thought you hated Math?
On and on ad nauseam – so much for my ideal homeschool day. What have I done wrong? I wondered. Maybe I’m not cut out to do this; or perhaps my children are even less disciplined than I believed; or (gasp) maybe they would be better off in public school!
Does any of that sound familiar? Are you doubting the choices you have made? Do you feel as if you are hampering your child’s future by staying the course?
Be assured, my friend, your doubts are normal. I do not know ANY homeschool mom who has not asked herself those questions – sometimes on a daily (or even hourly) basis. And asking those questions is important because it proves you care about your children and want the best for them. Just don’t stay in the “pit of despair.” Give your self a chance to cry, or scream into your pillow if you need to, but don’t think this moment in time is the defining moment of your life – even if it feels like it. And don’t believe for one minute that you are not up to the task. (I used to lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes of peace and I still managed to graduate two children with our last one in 9th grade.)
So let me encourage you from (almost on) the other side. YOU CAN DO THIS!
You are what your children need and you, with God’s help, are enough.
And on those days when doubts assail you and your heart feels daunted by the task, remind yourself WHY you chose to homeschool. Our reason was simple – my husband and I know God told us to do this. And I went back to that reason time and time again.
So will you allow me to be bold and suggest that the reason you homeschool should be YOUR reason – not your neighbor’s, not your pastor’s, not even your in-law’s, no matter how well meaning they are? The reason needs to be yours. Period. You need to own it. For it is the lifeline you will need to hang on to during those difficult days.
But be encouraged because there WILL be good days, too. I promise. Maybe not today, but that is ok. Hang it up for today if you have to. Tomorrow will bring a new perspective and new chances to try again. And, as Jeremiah reminds us, tomorrow will also bring new mercies from above – for His mercies and compassions are new every morning (Lam 3:22,23 KJV)