About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Year Reflection

Do you set 'new year resolutions'? I used to when I was younger, but over time I have come to realise that if something needs to be changed, the time to start is today. I also know that many goals actually take time to achieve, and to seek to suddenly change habits, bring in a healthier lifestyle, mend relationships, take up a new hobby and always to speak kindly and lovingly to others is simply a recipe for failure, disappointment and discouragement. I believe that as Christians, we are in a process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ - but that this is a lifelong process which will have triumphs and setbacks along the way.

Having said that, I do like to take time at new year to reflect on the year gone by and broadly consider the year ahead. Recently I've posted on some of the encouragements we have enjoyed; whilst I believe it is important to think and speak positively, like every family we face challenges from time to time (and indeed that was one of the reasons I started this blog a couple of years ago).

Areas of Encouragement:

1) I am pleased with how Bible education is so fundamental to the structure of our family life. Every day begins and ends with a time of Bible reading, prayer and often singing. No matter what we have planned for that day, or no matter what kind of day it has turned out to be, this is as much part of our daily routine as brushing our teeth or eating. When I read about challenges faced, I realise that many families find a regular family devotional time a struggle. For us, it is important that this never just becomes part of the daily routine with no deeper meaning or value, and it is something we pray about daily. If this is something you struggle with, here are some tips that we have found helpful:

  • It can be short. At first, we would just read a psalm together after breakfast
  • Whilst I try to have the boys sitting with me on the sofa, I sometimes let the two year old play on the floor whilst we read - there are times when it is more important that we have quiet for the older two than try in vain to have all three sitting perfectly. (However, we do try to get them used to sitting together nicely at this time - it reaps dividends on Sunday mornings in church because it is so much part of our daily life.)
  • I ask the boys what they would like to read - they are coming to know and love many of the Bible stories, and there are days when they want a particular story. When their attention is on it, they can listen for long periods
  • We use the 'adult' Bible - usually the New King James, but sometimes the NIV. I've commented on this elsewhere, but I think there is a tendency to dumb things down for children a bit too much these days, and if we use a childrens' Bible, they often get distracted by things that are not actually in the Bible (such as one where Goliath shouts to the Israelites, 'I am going to eat you on toast!') - we do have several childrens' Bibles with different levels of English and different styles of illustration, and I think these are a helpful adjunct and we often use these, but when it comes to family devotional time, we find it much easier and less distracting to stick entirely to Scripture
  • If there is a particular thing that has happened, or something we are struggling with, I try to find a relevant passage - this helps the boys to see that Scripture is timeless and applies to all situations. They realise that our God is a living God who cares about the details of their lives
  • We try to choose songs that tie in with what we have been reading
  • At night, we follow more of a structure, reading through a particular book
2) Their education is taking a bit of shape. For quite a while I wondered whether we should be using a curriculum or just maximising the opportunities in daily life. Without really realising it, we have formed a pattern that works well for us - so well that we keep going on Saturdays, or when we are on holiday, very much because (quoting Charlotte Mason), 'education is an atmosphere, education is a life'. Now, we have reached the point of looking at materials and we are quite excited to be starting Sonlight in the new year (we have not yet chosen the specific materials, but I've been enjoying their Forums and some local Facebook pages for advice). We have chosen this because our learning tends to be very literature based - we spend many hours cuddled up on the sofa reading, and particularly enjoy 'living books'. I am pleased when I reflect on how things have evolved, because one of the joys of home education is that each family is different, each child is different, and each pace is different - it would not be right to do something simply because others do, or to reach some kind of imposed target, but rather because it is what helps your children learn (and enjoy learning!).

3) I've written elsewhere about travel. For the past 10 years, we have been a mobile family, and to be honest have never really felt 'at home' back in the UK. When I reflect on this, I understand that as Christians, our true home is not really in this world at all. The boys are quite content to move between cities and between countries, and I particularly enjoy seeing them grow with a global worldview and perspective. We have some helpful resources from Operation Mobilisation (a map on the wall with statistics and figures, and a childrens' version of Operation World); the children understand how blessed they are with so much materially and a stable family home, and are learning that there are others who have far less. One of our sons was briefly in an orphanage, and now that he is five there are sometimes more questions asked. We receive calendars every year from the charity which tell the stories of other children who have been looked after by the orphanage, and I hope we are providing a balanced perspective of the situation.

Challenging Areas

Whilst seeking to focus mainly on that which is good, there are some things which remain quite a challenge:

1) Discipline. There are days when it seems that the whole day is devoted to correcting and disciplining the children. Sometimes it seems we can't even move on with the more interesting educational activities I have planned because there is so much need to talk to the boys as individuals, spank when necessary, sit them on the bottom stair, have them tidy up the messes they have made and so forth. It can seem that we are just getting over one problem when something else happens and round and round it goes. I find these days quite exhausting. I also know that these are the times when I have to watch my own attitudes and motives, particularly if I am tired or unwell. I must take care not to discipline in anger. What reassures me (at least a little) is when I read other blogs or home education pages and realise that other families feel like this at times too. And whilst there are days when I find myself wondering whether they would not be better off out at mainstream school, when I actually think about it, I realise that one big advantage of home education is that we can devote the time that is needed to character formation. And that as Christians, we can pray about all these things and teach the children to rely on the strength that God can give.

2) Loneliness. I think some of it is simply a phase of life. My husband and I both work part time (which can be 30-50 hours in a week, involving antisocial shifts and quite a bit of work in the evenings).  (This itself can make us seem a bit different, in both our church/ Christian communities and also in the workplace. The key thing is, that we are 'fully persuaded' that this is the right pattern for our family at this present time) The children are still young and quite dependent, so it can be difficult to have a conversation (by phone or face to face) when they are around, and often once they are asleep, there is other work, or tidying/shopping or planning to be done, so we don't spend much time in relationships. We moved church about a year ago after returning to the UK, and although it is on our doorstep, don't really feel that we have deep, encouraging relationships there either. I don't know how much is because we are a bit different, how much is the pace of our lives, or whether there is something we also need to change. With the coming new year, both of our jobs will change, perhaps becoming a bit more regular. We are praying for wisdom in how we use our time, and that we can build relationships with those around us.

3) Sleep/ tiredness! I have always thought we had quite good sleep patterns (all 3 have always napped together, and have the same bedtime). But over the past year (or maybe a bit longer?) the middle boy has woken shortly after 5. And once he is awake, he decides the world should be awake with him, and will sing at the top of his voice, make frequent bathroom trips and try to wake his brothers. We spend the next couple of hours periodically getting him to go back to bed until it is really morning. It sounds a small thing, but over time it does get quite exhausting. (We are usually up in the night with the youngest too, but that isn't quite as irritating because it is just for a toilet trip and he then goes straight back to sleep). It is something that can try our patience, and we need to be careful that we get enough rest (and if worn out, try hard not to allow this to make us grumpy!). We don't tend to talk about tiredness (because who isn't tired? And it can so easily degenerate into moaning, self-pity and competitive 'I'm more tired than you' type conversations that never helped anybody). But these past couple of weeks, whilst we've all had a succession of viral illnesses, it has been tough!

There have been more challenges and encouragements and there is plenty more to reflect upon as the New Year beckons. But for now, I am going offline and plan to enjoy a peaceful evening with my husband! Happy New Year!


  1. Happy New Year!
    I use a devotional with the younger two in the morning. We recently finished "Leading Little Ones to God" and I haven't quite decided what to use next. I would be interested to know about the book you use in the evening. We have found family devotions have become more difficult to arrange and to engage all ages in as the family has become more complex. I am sure you are right to make meaningful family devotions a matter of prayer.

    Discipline is probably a matter for all of us. We are struggling against overuse of the computer-it is easy to use it as a child minder but not always easy to see an alternative. For us, having my husband's elderly mother living with us does mean that there are times when I can't devote all my attention to the children. It is easy to arrange an appointment for a late afternoon; leave the children at home because they have been to so many appointments already and leave them with the computer because Dad is working from home. This is my New Year challenge!

  2. Hi Sarah - when I said 'book' I meant something like Luke or Exodus, rather than a devotional. We do have a copy, highly recommended, of 'Leading Little Ones to God', but I have found it quite difficult to use. I should try again now they are a little older.

    Sometimes I wish we had a computer or television, for some of the wrong reasons! We do select things for them to watch on youtube (ie Beginners Bible) but there is no way I would leave them unattended with the computer because of fear of it getting damaged (we only have laptops). I don't think carefully selected materials have to be a bad thing - and as they get older and are busy with lots of other commitments, I can see that some 'down time' is sometimes helpful. But I do see your point about knowing where to draw the line, and its for that reason really that we haven't got the facilities to use these things more often because I know it would be a fine line for our family too (and one of the boys more than the others!)

  3. Wow you covered my key three areas - We thank God for His grace through Jesus Christ. We don't have a TV and they only watch selected worship videos - I have noted when we visit others that they have no appetite for television. They are most happy with copying mummy or reading the KJV (declaring aloud as they are not reading yet)!

  4. Thanks Ren! It is quite encouraging to know that we are not alone in our priorities. It is interesting how children are captivated by the 'real' Bible if we give them half a chance!

  5. Thanks Ren! It is quite encouraging to know that we are not alone in our priorities. It is interesting how children are captivated by the 'real' Bible if we give them half a chance!