Tag Archives: Jessie Mattis

23 Tips and Tricks for the Frazzled Homeschooler

Is your mind frazzled at the thought of planning your next homeschool semester? If you feel overwhelmed by the things you don’t know you don’t know, I get it. I’ve been there, and sometimes am still there. This blog covers topics that inspire and ignite our Christian faith, but a big part of my Christian walk involves homeschooling our three children (ages 12, 10, and 8), so today I want to encourage homeschool parents to embrace this mighty calling without embracing the pressures and comparisons that so often accompany it. Trust me—it doesn’t have to be as hard as some people make it.

A peaceful scene to help you take a deep breath. 🙂

I’m currently staring my eighth year of homeschooling in the face, and even though there’s always more to learn, I want to share a list of tips (in no particular order) I wish I’d known eight years ago. Hopefully it will be of some benefit to you. Here are:

23 TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE FRAZZLED HOMESCHOOLER

  1. Curriculum. Don’t waste weeks searching for perfection; it’s elusive anyway. Settle for “very good” and be prepared to experiment with new methods in the future as needed.
  2. Cathyduffy.com is an invaluable curriculum review website. Super helpful.
  3. Make the curriculum work for you; don’t let it run your days. Who cares if you don’t finish a textbook by the end of the year? We rarely did when I was in public school and I’ve survived. Just start with a review before diving into the next book.
  4. Going with my point above, there’s no need to stay on grade level for all subjects. I have one who zips ahead in math because he loves it, but lags a little in language. At one point he was in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade at the same time. Not a problem!
  5. Hold lesson plans loosely. Plans are made to be changed. Honestly, although I always have ideas for the week and we’re always moving forward, nowadays it’s more common for me to document in my planner the things we’ve accomplished each day, rather than the things I plan to accomplish.
  6. Don’t strive to recreate traditional school. It’s not the same, and that’s a wonderful thing. Do what works for your family, whether that means kids sprawled throughout the house on separate screens, or you leading group discussion as they sit at desks.
  7. If teaching multiple ages, get olders to help youngers when feasible. (giving spelling quizzes, doing flashcards, etc.) Anything taken off your plate is a win for your sanity.
  8. Do have consistency so your children (mostly) know what to expect each day. Children thrive on routine, even if said routine is pretty relaxed.
  9. With multiple kids, do what you can together. We love to start mornings with “living room time,” where we do devotions, take turns reading a poem, and do history together. It’s my favorite part of the day.
  10. Your own settled, peaceful spirit is more important than checking off your to-do list for the day. Kids pick up your attitude and will soon learn to hate school if you’re always stressed out. I may or may not speak from experience. 😉
  11. Do subjects for a scheduled amount of time, not the duration of a scheduled assignment (as long as your kids are trying). My firstborn used to struggle through math, but I pushed to finish an entire lesson each day. Cue tears, frustration, and wasted hours for both of us. With an end time in sight, your child can be assured that even if they’re struggling to grasp a concept, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you’ll pick it up again tomorrow.
  12. Cut yourself some slack. Completely overwhelmed? Take a mental health day and have the kids watch educational shows/videos with no guilt. Learning is still happening, trust me—my kids learned everything they know about animals from Wild Kratts and I don’t regret it for a second. If they’re older, give them a great book to read.
  13. Your kids are learning more than curriculum. They’re learning how to run a family and live life as kind, respectful, critical-thinking humans. Isn’t that just as important, if not more, than book learning?
  14. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be forever, so release yourself from the pressure of making such a huge decision. People sometimes ask me if I plan to homeschool through high school. My answer? “We’re taking it year by year, kid by kid.”
  15. Ease into your semester. Start with a week of devotions and math review (or whatever is most important to you), then add subjects in from there as you all get accustomed to the school routine.
  16. Join a co-op if you can. Ours meets weekly and parents take turns teaching from predecided textbooks. It’s great for the kids to make friends and learn how to function in a group environment, and just as great for us to form friendships with other likeminded parents who support each other.
  17. Minimize. Saying yes to the three Rs, plus history, science, Latin, Spanish, typing, coding, piano, violin, soccer, and theater will only completely overwhelm you and your kids. Don’t try to do everything. Figure out your “musts” and choose accordingly.
  18. Consider rotating some subjects. You don’t have to do every subject every day. We rotate science and history. I also leave Fridays more open, requiring only math before jumping into art, cooking, or a field trip.
  19. Leave blank space in your days. When each minute is planned, your children don’t have time to form independent thoughts and ideas, or use their imaginations. Turn off screens, give them time, and see what they create or make up. Kids have the coolest, most random ideas.
  20. Hear this: You don’t have to love homeschooling to be glad you’re doing it. Most of the time I’d rather be writing, reading, or playing with my kids, than teaching and making lesson plans, but I’ve never regretted our decision. No guilt. No comparisons.
  21. Be okay with hard days. Trust me, they will come. Have your reasons for homeschooling settled in your mind so even if you take a day or two off to regroup, you can continue on without giving it up altogether.
  22. Rest time isn’t just for toddlers. My grade school aged kids still “rest” for an hour in their rooms after lunch, giving us all a much-needed break from each other. They read, listen to music, or play quietly. Even our dog has rest time in his crate, and I’m pretty sure he looks forward to it as much as the rest of us. It’s not a punishment; it’s a blessing.
  23. When all is said and done, there will always be gaps. You’ll always wish you had covered this or that. Kids are resilient. Teach them to enjoy learning and they can fill in their own gaps later. No guilt, so long as you’re trying.

(You might notice I have no number dedicated to raising kids who love Jesus. This is always the filter through which I view all of the above. And don’t forget to start, end, and fill in the blanks with prayer along the way.)

This is the list I wish I had eight years ago. I hope it helps you find some freedom in your own journey. One more recommendation is a blessedly short book I discovered several years ago that literally changed my homeschooling/parenting life by leaps and bounds. I wish I could give it away, but since I can’t, here’s the link to Teaching From Rest….

Oh yes, one last thing. Please don’t forget to check and abide by your state’s homeschool laws.

 What would you add to this list? What questions do you have for me? Leave a comment or reply to this email to let me know! I’d also love to hear from you with ideas for future blog post topics that could serve you in the future!

And if you haven’t already, go ahead and subscribe below to receive super-occasional blog posts and newsletter updates from me, and to claim your free printable of my ten favorite quotes and verses (awesome to hang on your mirror for some daily inspiration)! Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Grit and Thankfulness

By the time you read this post, Memorial Day 2020 will be over and you’ll be back to work or your otherwise normal daily life (as if anything is normal these days, ha!). However, as I write, it’s still very much Memorial Day. I’ve had war on the mind for months as I’ve been researching and writing a new manuscript that involves both WW2 and Vietnam, so today, I’m feeling the holiday a little bit more than usual.

My Uncle David, my dad’s oldest brother, was a brave Marine who died in Vietnam, years before I was born. Every year I see his face in pictures and imagine his family receiving the gut-wrenching news. Every year I clench my teeth to hold back tears as I try to explain the significance to my own children. Every year, there’s a memorial service held in the country cemetery where David rests, and his father—my 93-year-old grandpa—still dons his own WW2 era Navy uniform and fires his rifle in the traditional, emotional, three-volley salute. Every year except this one. This year there were no Memorial Day services in Illinois. (I live in Indiana, but am usually able to travel back to my hometown for the holiday).

No in-person, official recognition of the men and women who, as Ronald Reagan put it, gave up two lives on the battlefield—the one they had lived up until that point, and the one they would have lived in the future. Another point for COVID-19.

Uncle David.

Most of us use Memorial Day to plant gardens, go boating, or cookout—or, if you’re like my kids, wash the car with the hose and water guns. And there’s nothing wrong with that! It’s fun! Thanks to our selfless military, we have freedoms and liberty and, unlike most generations before us, the option of choosing leisure on a regular basis.

But as we enjoy our freedoms, let us not forget that Memorial Day is gritty. For many, it is filled with tears. Memories. Regrets.

Let’s take more than a fleeting second of remembrance, and spend some time being deliberately thankful. Thanking God for the men and women who have laid down their lives to help shape America into what it is today, so that we can live in peace and safety and help other countries do the same. Thanking families who have courageously lived with a gaping hole after losing a family member. And thanking the soldiers among us for living their lives with the bravery of knowing that on any given day, it could be them.

Lord, thank you for each of our nation’s fallen soldiers. Encourage families today, Lord. Provide comfort for those who are sad, guidance for those who are lost, and hope for those who are lacking. May we see your greater purposes as we go about our lives, and may the eyes, ears, and hearts of America—and the world—be turned to you alone. Thank you for your provision and endless love.

Amen.

Quick update on me – Power Up is officially the winner of a Christian Indie Award! It’s such an honor, and I pray God will continue to use this book to guide kids and adults into deeper relationship with his Holy Spirit.

Also, as I alluded to above, I’m working on a women’s Christian fiction manuscript. I would appreciate prayers for this project, as it’s turning out to be bigger than I originally thought, and I only want to follow where God leads on this. I’m actually in the process of turning my one completed manuscript into three separate manuscripts. Exciting, but a lot more writing, which takes a lot more time! I couldn’t do it without your support—thanks for sticking with me and caring about the words I’m putting down.

May they be pleasing to you, Jesus.

A Taste of the Afterlife

Hello, friend! How are you holding up these days? I know this is a time of difficulty for many, so I wanted to start by telling you I’m saying a prayer for you as I type, and I appreciate you taking the time to open and read this post today, when you have so many other things fighting for your attention. Alright, let’s jump in. 🙂

What if everything we experience on earth is really a taste of what’s to come in the afterlife? And if it is…so what? Hear me out and I’ll keep it brief.

On earth, we are perpetually stuck in the in-between. We live in a world where good and evil co-exist, and so our lives are filled with both at any given moment.

Maybe we go on vacation to the mountains, but when we arrive, the hotel lost our reservations. On vacation in the mountains? Good! … Lost reservations? Bad.

Life is a balancing act of the good and the bad, right?

Occasionally we experience times of extreme good or extreme bad—like a long, fun, health-filled summer break, or these days of learning to live with the reality of COVID-19. Life can be hard. And confusing.

Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but simply put, good comes from God, and evil is the result of separation from God.

Heaven is a place full of goodness, love, peace, joy, light, wellness, and God’s perfect love.

Hell is a place separated from ALL of the above (because all good things stem from God). With that separation comes anger, hatred, pain, and loneliness.

The question I opened with is an idea that recently blew my mind: What if everything we experience on earth is really a taste of what’s to come in the afterlife? Good and bad alike.

We think we’re intelligent now…but we’ll know and learn so much more in heaven!

We think we know beauty now…but we’ll experience views, colors, and beauty so much more exquisitely in heaven!

We think we know what loves means now…but we’ll experience love so much more completely in heaven!

The converse is also true.

We feel pain now…how much greater the pain will be if we choose eternal separation from God (hell).

We feel lonely now…how much more intense the loneliness will be in hell.

We get angry and perform violent acts…how much worse the violent acts will be in hell.

It’s like God is giving us a glimpse of both sides, and giving us a lifetime to make our final choice. A lifetime may feel like forever, but really it’s just a tiny dot on the map of eternity.

And so we must choose. Some may be thinking, “but nobody chooses hell, Jessie.” But just as choosing to eat Oreos for every meal is equal to choosing poor health, ignoring God is the same as choosing to reject him. Jesus is pretty clear in Luke:

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” –Luke 11:23

Do we want to embrace our loving God now, choose his all-consuming love while we’re on earth, and live forever in heaven experiencing pure goodness and perfect peace? Goodness and peace that is incomprehensibly greater than that which we experience now?

Or do we want to spend our lives claiming we don’t need God, mustering feeble attempts to be a “good person” in our own strength while denying the existence of God altogether, and then spend eternity separated from all that is good and right? Experiencing pain and sorrow in measures far beyond what we know of it now?

I don’t know about you, but I choose God. Here and now. Sure, you’re free to say yes to God in your dying breath, but why wait? Why not experience the fullness of life he has planned for you starting today?

If the wonderful things on earth are only the smallest glimpse of what awaits us in heaven, I’d say it’s beyond worth powering through the tough times until we get there. And I don’t even want to think about the alternative, do you?

God, thank you that you love us so deeply. Thank you that your goodness is better than our human minds can fathom and that you desire each of us to be saved and in relationship with you, the Source of all goodness and love. I pray for those who haven’t experienced you yet, and ask you to open their hearts and minds to you. Thank you for being good and trustworthy. Amen.

I’d love to hear what thoughts or questions you have on the matter—just drop a comment below!

By the way, this conversation isn’t just for adults! Kids wrestle with these same big concepts too, and need people and resources in their lives to support them. That’s exactly why I wrote POWER UP. This novel is for anyone 8+ who needs an entertaining reminder of God’s goodness and power, and his desire to speak to each of us personally. Trust me, this Selah Award Finalist book is not just for kids. And the kindle version just so happens to be on sale for $0.99 through this Sunday (4/19/20)!

Pressing the Reset Button

I promise not to weigh you down with Coronavirus chatter; that info is already being slammed in our faces from every direction. Let’s take our thoughts in a different direction for a minute. Let’s think about the new face of families in the midst of this pandemic.

Home, At Home, Decoration, Wood, Canvas

 Families are “stuck” at home, schools and lessons cancelled or adapted, many parents either out of work temporarily or working from home. For many, family members are under the same roof for longer than just the gap between dinner and bedtime.

There are currently plenty of excellent posts out there focusing on how to fill the extra time. These posts are helpful and relevant, and will hopefully prevent many parental headaches. But that’s not the intent of this post.

Would you agree with me that social activities are somewhat of an addiction to some families? You know the type—if there’s a gap in their schedule, they aim to fill it. These kids are used to going to school, running from one activity to the next, then waking to do it all over again. That’s a pretty standard family rhythm these days, I’d venture to say.

We used to run our lives similarly. Not because we chose to, necessarily. We just didn’t pause long enough to choose not to. In this day and age, we have to be deliberate to choose not to overfill our schedules; saying “yes” to all. the. things. is a given. During seasons of high busyness, I’ve always known we were missing out on something greater by coloring in all our white space. We’ve since made some good changes, and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Yes, our kids are still in outside activities, and no, as we’ve changed our lifestyle they haven’t missed running around like mad. And no, we’re certainly not perfect at maintaining balance (I wish).

Many families operate in task mode 24/7. I don’t believe relationships have what they need to thrive in task-mode circumstances. There’s peace to be found in life’s white space when it’s no longer filled with rushing.

My prayer for families during this time of “self-distancing” is for families to remember how to function as families again… For free time when kids can remember what it feels like to use their imaginations. For parents to remember how it feels to sit on the couch with a cup of tea and play a game with their kids. No time limits. No, “we have to leave in ten minutes” rushing here and there. No short tempers due to high demand schedules. My prayer is for relationships to rekindle as the breakneck pace of life slows.

Read, Socks, Coffee, Morning, Woman

As easy as it is to complain about restaurants closing, stores being sold out, and isolation being encouraged, let’s be proactive to reverse our thinking. Let’s do all within our power to embrace our situations. Of course there are hard times included with this social isolation, financial difficulties not the least of these. I’m not denying the difficulties here. But look around. Breathe it in. Your home. Your loved ones. The freedoms you still have, which are still abundant.

“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:7

I don’t believe God is the source of evil and sickness, but I do believe he uses all these things for good. Could it be that God is taking the opportunity to press the “reset” button? Could it be he’s reminding us how central our families truly are to a healthy, functioning society? Let’s not resist what God wants to do in us and with us during this history-making time. Come, Holy Spirit. Bring your Kingdom. Change our hearts. Amen.

I’d love to hear your insights and questions in the comments below! And now, since so many people suddenly have lots of time on their hands, let me recommend a few great books you can find on Amazon…

For tween boys (or girls!), I recommend Joey Flynn’s Extraordinary Tale by Meghan E White. My 9-yr-old son loved it!

For parents of tweens (raising my hand), I highly recommend Hal and Melanie Young’s No Longer Little: Parenting Tweens with Grace and Hope. And I have to be honest–I’m only halfway through this one right now, but I’m hanging on its every word. If you have a tween, please check it out!

For women of all ages, I love Morning Meditations at Marina’s Kitchen Table by Marina Bromley. It’s all you could want and more in a morning devotional.

For cozying up with your little girl, this picture book by Chip Mattis is the sweetest… Under the Dancing Tree.

And if you’re needing something to keep your kids (8 & up) growing in their faith, even if church is unable to meet, I recommend Power Up by Jessie Mattis…yep, that’s me. Shameless plug I know, but still. It’s relevant. 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a blessed, peace-filled week!

Kids: Kingdom Hungry

When did we start expecting so little of our children? Sure, schools cram kids full of information before sending them home to juggle homework, extracurricular activities, and family, but that doesn’t always mean we expect much from them, aside from excessive busyness. As a society in general, we’ve loaded kids down with a lot of “stuff,” while also lowering our expectations in many ways.

We think they can’t handle losing, so we give everybody a prize. We think they can’t handle assigned chores (and we don’t want to listen to them complain), so we’ve stopped requiring that they pitch in around the house. They ask, we give.

What kind of kids are we producing? Hard-working, well-adjusted, and faith-filled? Or anxiety-ridden, self-conscious doubters?

*Disclaimer: My oldest is eleven and I don’t have it all figured out. If you feel like I’m pointing fingers, please be assured I realize I have three pointing back at myself, and we’re all on a journey. There are many contributing factors to who a child becomes.*

Here’s what I really want to focus on—what we expect of our kids in regard to our Christian faith.

First, a little about my family. My husband and I have frequent discussions with our three kids. Always have. We listen to their thoughts and share our own. We talk about implications to certain ideas and ask questions. We talk about Jesus and the Bible and its rich history and meaning.

We aren’t content to read with our kids about Noah’s Ark for the umpteenth time and call it good.

Faith is a complex, constantly evolving thing. We don’t want to overwhelm them with details and conversations they’re not intellectually ready for, but we do want to acknowledge their capabilities in understanding this three-in-one God who loves them more than they’ll ever understand (this side of heaven).

My son, always climbing to new heights!

Our family moved to a new area a couple years ago and we spent plenty of time church-hunting. Do you know one of the hardest parts for a family about finding a new church to call home? The children’s programs. It took us awhile to find a new home church, and although there are many great churches in town, we’re so happy we searched until we found one that shares our vision for kids.

Yes, we want our kids to have fun and love church. But that’s not the end-all. Unfortunately, for too many these days, it is.

Some churches are so seeker friendly that the more established Christian children get the short end of the stick. They get a bare-bones lesson about “love” or “kindness” or some other general value, play games, get a prize, and go home.

After being part of a church plant that had a rich children’s program before our move, our kids caught on to this seeker-sensitive dynamic quickly in our church hunting. One time we got in the car (okay, van) after church, asked how it went, and got this response: “It was fine. Played some games and watched a funny video.” To which we asked, “What was the lesson about?” The answer: “We didn’t really have a lesson. There was a funny video about being kind, but it didn’t mention God.”

I recognize that was our one-week glimpse into their program, but unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for children’s church programs to simply tout good values these days.

Why?

Well, one reason seems to be our lowered expectations. We want to be sure kids have a good time and come back next week; we don’t want to burden them with in-depth lessons.

Have we forgotten that children are often quick learners, capable of understanding far more than we give them credit for? Have we considered that they’re often craving deeper information about their faith in a time when life has a lot of changes and questions? Do we not realize how Kingdom-hungry children really are?

Do we really want to teach down to them only to have them meet our lowered expectations?

If we aren’t bold enough to teach our children that God loves them, sent Jesus to bring them into a lifelong relationship of love, forgiveness, and the assurance of Heaven, and then sent his Holy Spirit to empower them each day, what are we really trying to accomplish?

Let’s dare to be bold when talking to our children about God. Let’s talk to them at their level, and recognize that “their level” is probably much higher than we assume.

Children aren’t the church of the future. They’re the church of today. They’re only the church of the future when grown-ups tell them so.

What are your thoughts? What have been your observations of the kids in your life regarding faith? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!

My Christian fiction novel, Power Up, was written for the exact purpose of giving kids (8 & up) a boost in their faith. It’s perfect for kids who crave a bit more knowledge about God’s role in our lives than what they receive at church or home.

I’m excited to tell you that a companion study guide is now available as a free download on my website! It’s great for individual study or small group gatherings of kids who want to dive in. Check it out here – and encourage the kids in your life to power up! 🙂

Quick update on me…I’ve recently completed the women’s fiction manuscript I’ve been working on for over a year, and I’m so excited!! (Still plenty of editing to do.) I have to withhold details for now, but the story is near and dear to my heart, inspired by true events in my incredible grandparents’ lives. Pray with me, if you would, that the right publishing professionals would see its value, and give it a chance to become a real book one day! Thanks for your support! You guys are the best!

One last thing–Power Up has been named as a finalist in the 2020 Selah Awards! The winner will be announced in May, but it’s honestly an honor just to be recognized as a finalist.