Gratitude: Unique Ways for Homeschoolers to Express It

Gratitude: Unique Ways for Homeschoolers to Express It

Thanksgiving is the month for gratitude. I started thinking not just about what to be grateful for, but to whom. That led to me to consider the people who are deserving of our gratitude as homeschoolers. There are specific ways we can express gratitude to bless these people in our homeschool circles.

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Unique Ways for Homeschoolers to Express Gratitude

Give Thanks to God

As a Christian homeschooler I always remember to be thankful to God for the privilege of homeschooling. That’s especially the case for me because homeschooling wasn’t my idea. God called me to homeschool even though I did not want to do it. I thought I would be so much happier as a writer and speaker and did not see how I could possibly homeschool. But here I am in my 17th year of homeschooling and I find myself more grateful for it every year. I don’t have time to list for you all the reasons that I am thankful to be a homeschooling mom, but I can tell you they are numerous. You might want to listen to the homeschool motivation on demand podcast episode. Gratitude always belongs first to our Heavenly Father but sometimes in the busyness of life as a homeschooling parent, we neglect to express our gratitude to other people. I have a list of other people whom we might choose to show gratitude to this month and every month.

Thank Homeschooling Pioneers

The first group of people I would argue we owe gratitude to is the men and women who bravely and sacrificially fought for our right to homeschool. This thought first occurred to me when I heard Zan Tyler speak at the 2:1 conference. She shared the legal battles she had to fight in order to homeschool legally in her state. By the time God called me to homeschool, homeschooling was widely accepted as a legal option. At the 2:1 conference I expressed my gratitude to Zan, but there are so many other pioneers in the homeschooling movement to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Whenever I have the opportunity, I want to take it and share with them how thankful I am that they made the sacrifice required for me to homeschool in freedom. I have never had my right to homeschool challenged. What a blessing!

Thank Homeschooling Advocates

The second group of people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude is the men and women who serve as our pro-homeschooling legislators and lobbyists. If you’re anything like me, you like to complain about those involved in politics. But I recognize that without favorable voices in our government, our right to homeschool may not exist now and may not continue to exist in the future. While I believe in the importance of sharing our concerns with our legislators and lobbyists, I also believe in the importance of thanking our civil servants and promoters. We could write a letter with our children simply to say thank you for being a homeschooling advocate. I know that letter would be greatly appreciated. We can also thank these individuals by staying involved in politics. I’m going to be honest. I don’t love calling and writing my legislators. But if we all stopped doing that, we could lose our rights to teach our children in the way God has called us to. We express gratitude to the pioneers and political advocates by taking a few minutes every so often to voice our opinion.

Thank Homeschool Support Group Leaders

The third group of people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude is the moms and dads who have founded and led homeschooling support groups in our communities and states. Without these organizations I know I would not have had the courage to homeschool. Not only would I not have had the information I needed to start homeschooling, but I would not have had the friendship support I needed to continue. I met the majority of my local homeschooling friends directly or indirectly because of my local homeschool support group. These hard-working men and women made sacrifices of their time and their families’ time so that you and I would be fully equipped to not only homeschool, but to thrive as homeschoolers. Every year my local homeschooling support group invites members to make a financial contribution to say thank you to its leaders. If your leaders are not adequately paid, I urge you to do the same. But a simple email or thank you note goes a long way to enable these fearless leaders to continue doing what they do.

A second way you can thank homeschool support group leaders is by volunteering. All the activities and resources they make available to us cannot happen without our help. Choose an activity or resource you are passionate about and offer your time. A third way you can thank your homeschool support group leaders is by attending field trips you sign up for. In my area, there are some educational sites who will no longer host homeschoolers because they know they won’t show up. What a terrible testimony! I know field trip organizers who have been frustrated and embarrassed by this behavior. We have great freedom in our homeschooling lifestyle, but that freedom should not be used to let fellow homeschoolers down or to make a bad impression on our community. Don’t sign up if you aren’t sure you can go on the field trip. Only cancel if it’s an illness or emergency.

Thank Homeschool Conference Organizers

The fourth group of people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude is the men and women who organize homeschool conferences. Often the same people who run support groups organize conferences. If you have never planned a large event, you can’t imagine how stressful it can be. You have to try to keep three groups happy: the venue people, the exhibitors/ speakers, and the attendees. Often these three groups want different things! If I had not had homeschooling conferences to attend, it’s possible I would have quit homeschooling. The speakers convinced me that I was doing the right thing. They taught me how to keep my homeschooling sane. The exhibitors introduced me to materials that inspired me and my children. And the venue gave me an opportunity to see my homeschooling friends. I looked forward to conferences like a vacation! I even purchased fantastic gifts for my kids at them.

We can thank these hard-working men and women by first, attending conferences. We didn’t have the online resources and podcasts when I started attending homeschool conventions. But there are advantages of an in-person event even with those online resources. I plan to discuss these in a future podcast episode. For now, I will say that if you don’t attend, these events won’t be held. New, potential homeschoolers won’t see the size of our community, hear the encouragement, be able to ask questions, or touch the curriculum. Without in-person events, homeschooling numbers will shrink. After you attend a conference, you can thank these men and women by completing an evaluation. If you saw or heard something positive, whether it was a speaker or the helpfulness of a registration volunteer, share it. I try to remember this saying, “To think something positive and not share it is a sin.” I don’t know if that’s literally true, but I do know it’s a shame. Your positive comments and thanks will energize convention organizers all year.

Thank Homeschool Curriculum Publishers

The fifth group of people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude is the curriculum publishers. I still get questions from people who know nothing about homeschooling. They want to know how I know what to teach. The authors and publishers of curriculum have taught me so much. I feel like I’ve had a second, superb education. They have taught me how to teach my children and have relieved the anxiety I had about homeschooling. And they also have taught my children one-on-one through curriculum that can be used independently. Some of the books these men and women have written are so dear to me that I may not be able to part with them when my youngest has graduated. As a curriculum publisher myself, I know the hours, the expense, and even the anxiety that is poured into materials that bless homeschooling families. Most homeschool curriculum is not published by a giant corporation, but by homeschooling families who support themselves with this work. Even the large publishers employ homeschoolers.

How can we thank them? First, write them. My son emailed Stanley Schmidt, author of Life of Fred, years ago. Stanley wrote back that the email made all the late nights and long hours of writing worth it. I interviewed Mr. Schmidt on The Homeschool Sanity Show.  The second way we can thank homeschool publishers is to buy direct. Many homeschoolers do not realize that when you buy curriculum from discounters like Amazon, the publishers make a dramatically lower percentage of that sale. The discounter can make most of the money! Purchases from an online distributor are particularly discouraging to publishers who have invested great sums of time and money to exhibit at a convention. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you can purchase directly at the same or nearly the same price, honor these publishers who have blessed homeschooling by doing just that. Third, we can thank homeschool publishers by not violating copyright. Homeschool publishers as a whole are extremely generous. They offer discounted materials to homeschoolers, quantity discounts, and some of them even allow copying of materials for immediate family members. Not all materials may be copied, however. Check the copyright and ask the publisher. When we violate copyright, we are stealing, period. I have seen homeschoolers scan materials and make them available online for free. They seem to think they are providing a wonderful service, but they are stealing from a homeschooling family. We are also stealing when we share digital downloads we’ve purchased with friends or a homeschool co-op. Think of publishers as your friends, too. Encourage other homeschoolers to support homeschool publishers by purchasing from them directly. If we don’t, many publishers will stop providing the amazing materials we are blessed with.

Thank Homeschool Content Providers

A sixth group of people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude is the homeschool content providers: bloggers and podcasters. Bloggers and podcasters have given me so many ideas and free resources over the years that have allowed me to provide my children with an excellent, inexpensive education. I can’t imagine homeschooling without them! Many content creators are responsible for people choosing to homeschool. But like curriculum publishers, they invest huge amounts of time and money to serve the homeschooling community. Blogs and podcasts aren’t free. We pay to maintain our websites, to create content, and to share on social media, to name just a few expenses. Blogging and podcasting are also very time-consuming. Most would make a lot more money working a job outside their homes. But those who blog and podcast for an income do so because they want to continue homeschooling.

We can thank them by commenting. Bloggers, no matter how popular they are, read their comments. Comments can make their day or crush it. If you enjoy something you read or hear, tell the content creator. You don’t know whether some mean-spirited person who commented has them wondering if they should quit. Second, share their content. The more people who read or listen, the more income that content creator can make or the more encouraged they are to continue doing what they do. Third, support them through your purchases. Many bloggers like me use affiliate links. Those links don’t cost you any more, but help cover the many expenses they have. The other thing you may not realize is that many bloggers’ affiliates are their homeschooling friends. When you purchase an affiliate product through me, I am triply thrilled. You have supported me, my homeschool publishing friend, and have purchased a product that will bless your family. If your favorite blogger produces a product you’re interested in, purchase it instead of Googling for a free version. Fourth, if you like a blogger or podcaster’s content, subscribe. Many people sign up to get a freebie and then immediately unsubscribe. Bloggers invest a lot of time and money into creating free resources so you will know the value of what they offer in a paid product. When we only grab the freebies and go, it’s like eating the samples at Sams Club without purchasing every time. A worker deserves his wages as the Bible says.

I want to end this post by expressing my thanks to you. I am not only blessed to be able to teach my children at home, but I’m blessed to be able to speak and write about this incredible calling. You have made this possible. I sometimes have to pinch myself because I’m doing everything I love to do.

Which of these unique expressions of thanks do you want to make first? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.

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The Thanksgiving Challenge: Week 44

The Thanksgiving Challenge: Week 44

The Thanksgiving Challenge: Organize your Thanksgiving meal, decorations, and gratitude activities so you can enjoy a peaceful holiday.I love Thanksgiving, don’t you? What I don’t love is not being able to find my tablecloth and napkins and trying to thaw an overpriced turkey in record time. This week we’ll get organized for Thanksgiving so we can have a relaxed holiday.

#1 Discuss last year

What did your family love about last year’s holiday? What was a disappointment? You may be surprised by your children’s answers to these questions. You may also want to ask if your celebration made them more aware of God’s goodness as we want gratitude to be a prominent feature of the day.

#2 Plan the meal

Plan time-savers. Several years ago, I determined that I really didn’t like getting up super early to bake a turkey. So I made it the day before and it made Thanksgiving a joy. My husband slices the turkey (we make two when we host extended family) and we store it in turkey broth to keep it moist for the next day. Look for ways to make the day of Thanksgiving less stressful if you’re cooking.

Plan the meal itself. If your family does Thanksgiving pot-luck style, now is a great time to decide who will bring what. I like to make more than I think I’ll need because we absolutely love Thanksgiving leftovers. If you don’t have your holiday recipes organized, now is also a good time to find them. Fortunately, I’ve posted my mom’s stuffing recipe on the blog, so it’s easy to find!

Plan the decor and table settings. If you are hosting Thanksgiving and you already have the decorations and tableware you need, just make sure you know where they are! If not, look at some of the great ideas I’ve pinned on Pinterest. We have a large enough group, that I use paper for Thanksgiving and I found some fabulous paper goods at Hobby Lobby. I have also purchased my Thanksgiving decorations there for 50% off.

Thanksgiving co-op

#3 Research gratitude ideas

This is the perfect time to plan a Thanksgiving unit study. Blessed Beyond a Doubt has put together a list of unit studies that you should definitely check out. Our homeschool co-op reenacted the first Thanksgiving one year, complete with a feast with our friends. If you’ve never done this, I highly recommend it!

If you’re not ready to go all out with a unit study, decide on a special way of helping your children focus on gratitude this month. Read this post on how to teach your children gratitude and I’ll be sharing another post on the subject this week. I’ve pinned some other creative ideas for teaching gratitude as well.

#4 Shop

It isn’t too early to buy non-perishable items for your Thanksgiving meal. Whenever you buy, plan to hit the sales. If you need linens, paper goods, or materials for your Thanksgiving unit studies, buy them now. You’ll be very thankful you did!

What’s your favorite time-saver for Thanksgiving?

Here is the October 2014 Organized Homeschool Calendar and a list of previous week’s challenges:October 2014 Organized Homeschool Calendar

Organized Homeschool Challenge

Week 1: Daily Devotions Challenge

Week 2: Daily Routine Challenge

Week 3: To-Do List Challenge

Week 4: Memory Keeping Challenge

Week 5: The Decluttering Challenge

Week 6: The Organized Computer Challenge

 Week 7: The Marriage of Your Dreams Challenge

Week 8: The Confident Parent Challenge

Week 9: The Extended Family Challenge

Week 10: The Bring on the Spring Challenge

Week 11: The Spring Cleaning Challenge

Week 12: The Organized Easter Challenge

Week 13: The Serve the Church Challenge

Week 14: The Chore Challenge

Week 15: The Organize Your Finances Challenge

Week 16: The Curriculum Challenge

Week 17: The Friendship Challenge

Week 18: The Family Celebrations Challenge

Week 19: The Organized Clothing Challenge

Week 20: The Organized Vacation Challenge

Week 21: The Organized Summer Challenge

Week 22: The Outdoor Activity Challenge

Week 23: The Used Curriculum Challenge

Week 24: The Homeschool Space Challenge

Week 25: The Goal Setting Challenge

Week 26: The Homeschool Planning Challenge

Week 27: The Bible Time Challenge

Week 28: The Special Study Prep Challenge

Week 29: The Extra-Curricular Challenge

Week 30: The Core Curriculum Prep Challenge

Week 31: The Elective Curriculum Challenge

Week 32: The Back to School Challenge

Week 33: The Fall Bucket List Challenge

Week 34: The Organized Bedroom Challenge

Week 35: The Clean Out the Pantry Challenge

Week 36: The Meal Planning Challenge

Week 37: The Grocery Shopping Challenge

Week 38: The Organized Kitchen Challenge

Week 39: The Freezer Cooking Challenge

Week 40: The Hospitality Challenge

Week 41: The Blog or Business Challenge

Week 42: The Hobby Challenge

Week 43: The Charity Challenge

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Stuff It!: On Food, Family, and Friction

Stuff It!: On Food, Family, and Friction

stuffing recipe, family problems, holidays, humorWhat is it about the holidays that makes us want to be close to family? Close enough to beat them over the head with a turkey drumstick anyway.

I would argue it’s the food.

The Food Fight History is a Long One

All our problems began with food.

We were cursed after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, yes. But more salient to this discussion, the first marital spat then ensued over who caused whom to blow their specific-fruit-free diet.

One brother stabbed the other in the back when the Father liked the food he brought to the table better.

The Israelites complained about nothing more than the lack of food variety in the desert.

And early Christians bickered over what foods were okay with God to eat.

The Food Fights Continue

Today, everyone seems to have their own diet: organic, vegan, raw, allergy-free, clean, low-carb, low fat, sugar-free, two-year-old (only what you don’t want me to eat) and my dad’s favorite–seefood (you eat only what you can see).

While it can be annoying to accommodate all these preferences and necessary restrictions, the friction we have about food in our families isn’t really about the food.

But you just said it WAS about the food.

I know. Irritating. If I were your family member, I’d give you plenty of reasons to come after me with that drumstick.

It’s NOT about the food, but we act as though it is. Why?

  • It’s easier to gossip about Aunt Ginny bringing one can of corn to the feast than it is to admit she’s disconnected from the family, much less to wonder why.
  • It’s easier for your sister-in-law to complain about your cooking than it is to admit she’s incredibly jealous of you.
  • It’s easier to complain about the food being cold than it is to talk to your brother about showing up late for every gathering.

Food becomes a displacement for hurts and hostilities that are too threatening to admit or deal with. Remember that next time someone asks you to stab them a potato.

Stuffing: the Ultimate Food Fight

There may be no food more subject to personal preference than stuffing. You love it, you hate it. You make it from a box or from scratch. You have regular, cornbread, or gluten-free. You put in giblets, sausage, cranberries, or none of the above. You drench it in gravy or you don’t.

And most people think their stuffing (even if that’s NO stuffing) is the best stuffing. Why?

Because stuffing represents the holidays and holidays represent family and deep down we’re all still little kids who believe my-dad-is-bigger-than-your-dad and my-mom-cooks-better-than-your-mom and we’re willing to get a black eye to prove it.

Don’t believe me?

How do you feel if I tell you that my mother’s stuffing recipe is hand’s down the BEST stuffing ever? As you scan down to check out the recipe, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that YOUR (family’s) recipe is better or that I’m stupid to even eat stuffing. Am I right?? Am I, huh?

My Mom’s Best Ever Stuffing

1 Box Turkey flavor Stove Stop Stuffing Mix

1 package hot dog buns, torn into 1/2 finger-length pieces and left out overnight

1/2 loaf of bread, torn into 1/2 finger-length pieces and left out overnight

4 stalks celery chopped fine

1/2 medium onion chopped fine

1 stick butter

2 large eggs

1 tsp sage

1 32-oz box chicken broth plus 2 14-oz cans chicken broth

Tear up bread and leave out overnight to dry. The next day, preheat oven to 350F. Grease or spray one oven-proof, deep casserole dish if you plan to stuff your turkey or two dishes if you don’t. Saute celery and onions in butter until almost transparent. Meanwhile, put Stove Top stuffing, sage, and eggs on top of stale bread. Add sauted onion and celery. Warm 32-oz chicken broth on medium heat and pour on top of bread and mix well. Add additional chicken broth until it’s soupy. You’ll think it’s too watery, but if you bake it without enough liquid, your stuffing will be dry. If you plan to stuff your turkey, first make sure the stuffing and turkey are the same temperature (both warm or both chilled). Bake stuffing for one hour, covering with foil the last 20 minutes.

Beyond Stuffing It: How to Avoid the Family Food Fights This Year

You can’t control whether a family member forgets the rolls, whether Uncle Dave has a few too many, or even if your mother-in-law makes a nasty face when she bites into your dish. But you can control YOU and that’s a lot.

  1. Don’t Confront at the Holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are a little like weddings. Most people wouldn’t think of starting something with the bride before she walks down the aisle. Why? Because all her hopes and dreams are pinned on that day that she will remember forever.  Your family has high hopes for happy holidays, too, and they are remembered like no ordinary days. Do you want everyone to remember the Christmas of 2012 as the one where you finally lost it and told the big mouth off and sent her running in tears to her car after having too much to drink in a snow storm… You get the idea. Save any necessary confrontations for a less emotional time.
  2. Keep Your Expectations Under Control. We’d be better off watching the beginning of A Christmas Carol than the end before a family holiday. Unfortunately, people aren’t on their best behavior at this time of year; they’re usually at their worst. They’re tired, stressed, strapped for cash, bombarded with the temptations of food and alcohol, and feeling pressured to eat someone else’s substandard stuffing (i.e., yours). Instead of envisioning a scene of peace and joy, imagine you’re walking into a room of toddlers who’ve gone without a nap. If you get out of there without raising your voice or hitting someone, you’re doing well.
  3. Avoid Resentment. 1 Corinthians 13 says that our good deeds are worthless without love. If you’re going to be bitter about hosting the holiday ONE MORE TIME or if it makes you crazy that your lovely homemade gifts aren’t appreciated, don’t do it. Avoid doing or giving anything that will make you resentful. Romans 12:18 says as much as possible, as far as it depends on you, to live at peace with everyone. Sometimes that requires avoiding someone. Keeping suggestion #1 in mind, either avoid seeing someone if it won’t create undue conflict or spend the majority of your time talking with people who don’t push your buttons.
  4. Create Your Own Holiday. Even if you’re single, you can plan a celebration to include the food, decorations, and mood of your choosing. Don’t limit yourself to a certain day either. Would you like to have a peaceful Thanksgiving meal with friends or with just your immediate family? Plan it for another time so you won’t mind as much if the family holiday itself isn’t all you hoped.
  5. Invite a Loving Family Member. Cain took it personally that God didn’t approve of his offering, but deep down Cain knew it was because he hadn’t brought what God asked. God absolutely loves your stuffing, even if that’s no stuffing at all. Invite Him to your holiday celebrations this year and you won’t even notice all the racket the relatives are raising. Spend extra time in prayer and worship, asking God to help you be on your best behavior. I know He will.

I plan to take my own advice this year, but I want to hear from you. What do you do to make family holidays less stressful? Please share in the comments.

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