Take the Rest

Sometimes I need permission to ask for help.

Asking for help makes me feel desperate, and I hate feeling desperate.  I like feeling capable.  There’s a high that comes from juggling everything thrown at you, like an air traffic controller.  There’s something guilt inducing in needing help.  It’s admitting we are weak, and not sufficient.

A few years ago, this whole concept was turned upside down for me, when my husband and I listened to a sermon series by Colin Smith on the 10 commandments.  When discussing the Sabbath, he said this was a commandment not just for an individual, but for a community.  Many jobs, he argued, cannot be laid down for a day without the structure of a community.

I’m thinking being a mother is one of those jobs that requires a community in order to get rest.

Usually my husband is usually the guy who gives me the day off.  We try to look out for each other.  However, this weekend, he had an opportunity given to him to go to a fun sporting event on his day off the farm.  Then next weekend, I’ll be spending my sabbath throwing a birthday party for one of my kids.  Throwing parties is fun, but let’s be honest.  Birthday parties are about as relaxing for moms as “family vacations.”

Recently I was listening to a Bible teacher reflect on the context of when the 10 commandments were given.  A whole people…in the millions, had just walked out of centuries of slavery.  They had a slavery mindset, and had a slavery culture.  What does he do?  He brings them into the wilderness and hands them the 10 commandments.

It wasn’t about making them slaves again.  It was about retraining them to understand what freedom is.

On top of that (God has a way of layering these messages from all angles, so that we don’t miss it!) the kids and I have been reading through the book of Romans for our morning devotions.  There I read chapter after chapter talking about how we are not slaves to the law, and how it’s about looking to Christ for our salvation, not the law.  It talks about how Christ fulfilled the law, and that looking to Christ is the standard.

It’s hard to leave the slavery mindset, isn’t it?  Freedom is a difficult thing to grasp to someone who has lived in slavery.

And I’ll be honest.  Motherhood is a job for which you are not paid, and it often feels like you are meeting the demands of others night and day, as though even your body is not your own.  Hmmm…any parallels to slavery there?  (Don’t get me wrong.  Motherhood is a gift, not a curse.  However, the pace and demands of motherhood are nothing to balk at.  It’s hard, hard, good work.)

All of these Bible messages have been sinking deep in me the last few years, and as I looked ahead to the next 2 weeks, I saw that I wasn’t going to get my next 2 sabbath rests.  The draining pace of up at 7 (or earlier) and working non-stop in my home, until midnight when I fall into bed, that is shared by various children at various watches of the night, would be my life for the next 14 or more days.

And I realized, that not only can I ask for help, but I should ask for help.  

The guilt of needing help has switched in my brain.  God’s Spirit has changed my heart on this issue.  Now I feel that pang of guilt when I try to do it all by myself, not asking for help at all.  He has brought me to a place of understanding that needing rest is part of my design, and going, going, going, going without stop is actually an act of pride, as though I was above my design.  It’s a rejection of the freedom God offers me to rest, and saying that I’d rather take up the yoke of work for yet another day…so as to not bother anyone.

We can split hairs on what is work and what isn’t.  We can talk about emergencies and kids just needing us and there’s no way around it.  But harvest isn’t some surprise that happens every year.  We aren’t shocked by harvest as though it’s an emergency that we didn’t see coming.  It comes every year, and I’ve learned that I have the freedom to work within my design without guilt.


So today I dropped my kids off at my friend’s house.  I kept Bjorn with me because he’s still feeding on demand.  But he’s an easy-going, great napping kind of kid.  However, I’m going to spend the day letting my brain rest.  Bjorn and I stopped by my favorite cafe so I could get an egg sandwich.  Then I’ll probably window shop for a few minutes, and then head home and work in my sewing room, and just let those creative juices flow.

I’m waiting to hear back from someone about next weekend too.  Because God doesn’t say that we are designed to rest once or twice a year.  Every 6 days of labor we need a day without.  I know that the next 6 days will be grueling, so I’m planning on getting some help to rest after that.

I no longer feel guilty in asking for help.  I feel like it’s obedience.  I’m moving to a place of feeling guilty for accepting help, to not feeling guilty for asking for help, to not feeling guilty for asking for help.

It takes awhile to get out of the slave mindset.

I’m slowly learning that spiritual maturity isn’t doing better all by yourself, and reaching a state of perfection.  It’s leaning heavier and heavier on Jesus who cares for us.  It’s listening to him when he says “rest” and looking to him for what he plans next.  The more I sink into God’s Word, the more I see the spirit of independence is not always spiritual maturity, sometimes it’s full on pride.

We need to remember both on the giving and receiving ends, that God’s laws…for our good… were not given to individuals, they were given to a community.

Tips for Morning Hour (and a planning printable)

Last year was the first year that we instituted the “Morning Hour” which is all the rave in homeschooling right now.  It’s sometimes called a morning basket or a morning meeting.  I have found it to be one of the most productive additions to our homeschool day.  It took awhile to work out what worked for our family.  I took awhile to grow into it. My favorite place to get inspired about Morning Hour has been this site.  (Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.  Most are not.  All are honest recommendations.)

Morning Hour is the first start of your day.  It’s when you gather all the kids, regardless of age, and be inspired to learn.

Morning hour is about inspiration.  It’s not about checking things off a list.  It’s not about sitting still.  It’s not about being school-ish.  Although those things may happen during the hour, they are not the goal.

Morning hour is about setting our minds on things that are true, beautiful and good.  

It’s about setting our children’s hearts in the right direction, at the beginning of the day.

I have our morning hour broken into 5 parts, based on what I want to tackle with my kids when we are all together:






I need to figure out another word for History and Geography that fits with the rest.  We just study history and geography as a family, and it’s easiest to do it when we’re all together so that I don’t have to gather them all later.



We read either a devotional or a chapter of the Bible.  We have gone through several devotionals that are well done, and I would recommend, I have recently been inspired by the book For the Children’s Sake in which the author says that most of children’s exposure of the Bible is through stories, or watered down children’s books.  She says we should be reading straight from the Scriptures, and exposing them to God’s actual Word from an early age.  So this year for our “Truth” section we are doing just that.  We started reading through one of the gospels (John) and are currently in Romans.  I intend to read through the epistles with them for the rest of the year, as I’ve realized since they are not story-heavy, they have not heard any of it before.  It’s really been enjoyable and encouraging for all of us.

Then we work on our Bible memory work.  This year we are working on memorizing the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are adding roughly a verse a day, and I don’t know if we’ll make it to the end of the sermon by the end of the year.  I haven’t counted it out.  We just keep moving forward.  If we finish earlier, we will start memorizing something else.  If we finish later, than I guess we will just continue memorizing it next year.


We are on a 4 day week at home, like many homeschooling families, because we spend 1 day a week at our co-op.  Each of our days at home have a theme.  We pull from a variety of poetry books.  This one is my favorite for studying poetry from a child’s perspective.

Day 1: poetry

During this portion, we work on: memorizing a poem together, and reviewing past memorized poetry.

Day 2: Music

I have found my favorite resource ever for learning about classical music.  It’s free, I don’t have to do any work, and it lasts exactly 6 minutes, which is perfect timing for our morning hour.  It’s a podcast that I’ve subscribed to called “Classics for Kids.”  It’s a 6 minute show explaining a piece of music or a composer, and giving the background story.  My kids were skeptical of this at first, but it has turned out being their favorite, as they are often bent over laughing from the stories.  The little girls often dance to this portion as we listen.

Day 3: Art appreciation

We have been using the art prints through Simply Charlotte Mason.  Basically we work on our skills of observation.  I set an art print on the table, and set a timer.  The kids have to look at the art piece together for 2 minutes without talking.  When the timer is done, they can raise their hands and tell me what they noticed about the art piece.  I’m always astounded at their observations.  They notice things in the background, reoccurring themes, or say what they like or hate about it.  The little booklet that comes with it has a paragraph or two about each piece, and I’ll usually read that after we are all done talking.  If the kids are chatty, sometimes we’ll discuss more once they know the background combined with their observations.  I don’t force this discussion if it’s not flowing.  They usually want to talk about it, though.

Day 4: Handwriting

The younger kids work on handwriting everyday because they are still learning it.  I have added this back into art for the older kids who know how to write, but have gotten sloppy.  They will write out in their best handwriting a famous quote.  I have found some great printables for this HERE.  We talk about adding beauty to all parts of our lives, and leaving each job we touch more beautiful than when we found it.  Like I said before, it’s not about demanding perfection, but about inspiring them for the rest of their day.



My plan has always been to read the Story of the World on rotation during history time because it’s just so well done.  (It comes in 4 volumes, and we do one a year on rotation.  I linked to Volume 1.) The activity book has some great projects in there too which occasionally I’ll prepare for this time.  In reality, my kids prefer the audiobooks for this series, and we listen to it on our long car driving days.  Doing this, we go through the book for the year about 4 times.

So, for the history portion of morning hour, I read aloud to them from a different story book or biography.  Last year we read through the Magna Charta which talked about the history leading up to the Magna Charta, and the history directly following.  This year we have started with Poor Richard which is fun biography on Benjamin Franklin.



Sometimes we’ll look at a map related to the history we just read.  This historical atlas is great fun for that.  Sometimes we use the maps given in the activity guide for Story of the World.  Sometimes we work on drawing a map using this series.  (We have drawn the United States, and we are currently working on drawing Europe.)


This portion is where we work on subjects that we need to get done together, and are more technical.  Silje is excused for this portion, because she is past all these things, and is working on her own version of these topics at our co-op.  We review our Classical Conversations memory work.  This year we are also doing Sing Song Latin together.  Sometimes we work on grammar or spelling.  I have our school laptop ready for this portion as we watch a bit of the latin video, or play the memory work CD.

I used to avoid doing this type of technical work during morning hour.  I’m not inspired by the technical aspect of things.  I have since learned that some of my kids are absolutely inspired by technical things.  I’ve learned that my sons love grammar work because it’s the “building blocks” of language.  Doing something they are great at doing is a great way to start the day.  Not only that, but technical things are more concrete than “tell me what you think” about an art piece.  Adding a technical aspect has brought balance.

Starting Out

I don’t know about you, but my kids are squirrel-y.  We started off small.  Morning hour started out as no more than 20 minutes.  We started doing our Bible reading, and then either history or art.  Once we could do that well, we started doing Bible, history and art.  Then I started adding Bible memory work to Bible reading, and geography to history.  One we did those well, we added diligence to the end.  It now takes us a full hour to complete.

Feel free to add or delete whatever you like.  Last year we added some Shakespeare in place of history for awhile.  Sometimes we were wild and crazy and did Shakespeare and history, but skipped spelling and memory work.  You don’t have to study all the things everyday.  You can loop subjects like that.

Leave morning hour with everyone knowing what they have to do next.  We have our morning “tea time” at 10am.  So if it’s just 15 minutes until then, I’ll give them some free time.  If it’s a good morning, and we started on time, they may have 30 minutes to work on their instrument practice, reading, or math.  Don’t just let them scatter.  End the hour with an outline of the plan for the day, so they know what is expected of the

them what things they can do for fun when their work is done.  I don’t know why, but my kids need to review all this information everyday.  It’s like they forget they’re doing school that day otherwise.

Remember, it’s not about crossing a lot off the list (even though you cross a ton off the list during this hour).  It’s not about pushing them hard or exasperating everyone.  Morning hour is not about drudgery.

It’s about inspiring them for the day, lavishing on encouragement and pointing them in the right direction of curiosity, observation, and history, which teaches that they work not just for themselves, but that they are a part of a bigger story.

Seriously, morning hour is the best thing to hit our homeschool.


To use the 4 day morning hour planning chart that I use, you can find it ready to print HERE.

If you prefer a 5 day morning hour planning chart, you can use this one HERE.

Meal Planning Made Simple

img_64191Have you ever seen a small child at a restaurant, completely overwhelmed at the 4 choices on the children’s menu in front of her?  She just can’t make up her mind, and then her mom leans over and says, “You can choose the macaroni and cheese or the French toast.”  The child picks French toast.  The decision stress is gone.

Sometimes deciding what to do is the hardest part of a job.  

That’s what I realized about meal planning.  It’s not that cooking is hard.  It’s just that if I don’t intentionally make a plan, I will often stare inside the fridge at 5:45 every night, wondering what in the world we are going to eat.  I’ve got frozen meat in the freezer, some cans of stuff in the pantry, some spectacular cookbooks on the shelf that I actually read just for fun.  So…what’s for dinner?

I usually have no idea.  

One of these days I’m going to tell you all about how lovely a bullet journal is.  I’m only a few months into the system, and I’m just figuring out what works well before I write about it.  It’s really fantastic.  I have a page on my bullet journal laying out my new system for meal planning, at least for the evening meal.  I’ve been using this meal system for a few weeks, and while it wasn’t instantly working, as I slowly grew into it, it’s become my best friend and an enormous sanity saver.

I reference my meal planning pages often, and I have them tabbed and marked.  I attempt to do this planning every weekend, so I can get my shopping lists ready for the week.  On the top of my page, I have our weekly evening schedule.  When planning meals I’ll also grab my calendar to see if there will be any other disruptions to supper or variances to that week that I should accommodate.  I basically put anything on here that will interfere with making supper.  Either it’s an activity that makes supper late, or just an activity that happens right when I should be preparing supper, I have that right in front of me to keep in mind.

On the bottom of the page, I have listed some sort of category for each day of the week.


Monday is crock pot day.  I’ll tell you a little secret.  Meat is the most expensive item on my grocery list.  Want to know another secret?  Deli meat is usually the most expensive meat you buy per pound, and it’s full of all sorts of additives.  I buy deli meat less than once a year.  It’s usually on vacation in a pinch or something.  Except summer sausage.  For some reason my family loves summer sausage, so I’ll buy that for something quick for lunch.

Monday is a set up day for the week.  My focus has to be getting my kids back into routine.  I don’t have time to do anything fancy.  I want my full attention on setting up the routine of the week.  So the Monday category is meat in the crock pot.  I will cook a beef roast, or a whole chicken, or some pork for shredding.  I can mix it up from week to week.

Monday nights, we will eat some meat, probably some easy baked potatoes in the oven, and a steamed vegetable.  Every Monday.  The only decision I have to make is what kind of meat do we want Monday night, and that same meat is what we going to have on sandwiches for some lunches during that week.


Tuesdays are our crazy activity day.  There’s no way I can cook anything during the day this day, or even set something up and do some chopping.  The theme for Tuesdays is: tacos.  Taco Tuesday.  Tacos are a crazy fast meal for when we get home on Tuesdays.  The only thing I have to do in the morning is set out some meat to thaw.

Sometimes, if I’m really on top of it, I will cook up and season a bunch of meat at once, and freeze it like that, so I just have to warm up the meat mix.  I’ve also learned I can stretch that expensive beef by mixing it with rice and/or refried beans and/or black beans.  I usually line up in a 9×13 pan a bunch of tacos, fill them with the meat mixture and some cheese, and stick them in the oven to let the cheese melt for about 3-5 minutes.  Then the kids each grab a taco that has meat and cheese in it.  Then they put lettuce, more cheese, salsa, sour cream, tomatoes, or whatever else we have on hand to taste.

We haven’t found any taco shells that my son with food allergies can have, but we have found corn chips he can have, so he will often just make a nachos-version of what we are having on tacos, with most of the same ingredients out.

Sometimes I just make everyone nachos on Taco Tuesday.  We could do fish tacos one day with fish sticks, or change up the salsas. Sometimes we’ll add beans and other times we’ll add rice.  I can be creative when I know that the category is tacos or basically anything Mexican.


This is the lovely day when we can be home.  This is a great day to make a meal from scratch.  This is the day that I try out new Pinterest recipes, or search through my cookbooks the weekend before for something I meant to try.  Salmon is a great meal on this day, just to get some healthy fish in.  But once or twice a month I try to plan to make a nice casserole from scratch, or a nice soup or stew.  Those are all 3 things that freeze nicely, and I’ll make 3 of whatever it is instead of 1.  That way I get a couple of ready-made home-cooked goodness in the freezer, ready to go.  My kids can’t seem to handle me doing all day freezer meal cooking anymore.  But I can manage to make a handful of 1 thing from time to time, and it saves a ton of time.  So Wednesdays’ category is fish, (which is not a freezer meal, but yummy when I’m there to cook it and watch it) or some kind of meal that is made in bulk for eating 1 portion, and freezing the rest.

Unless the kids are awful on Wednesday, or I’m feeling sick, or I get pulled away from cooking that day for some reason and I get nothing done.  Then it’s “baked potato bar supper.”


This is another day for us when supper will be late because of activities.  This is my freezer meal day.  I will pull out a freezer meal (casserole, soup, runzas, calzones, etc.) that I have made on a previous week, and have it waiting for us in the oven for when we get home.  If I haven’t been on top of freezer cooking the from scratch meals, then I will have a bought freezer meal in the oven like a frozen lasagna or pot pies.


The category for Friday meals is rice-based.  Fried rice is a favorite of my kids.  Basically, I cook up rice, and then in a electric frypan I stick some oil and fry up the rice, some leftover meat (if I have no leftover meat, a pound of ground beef browned) and leftover vegetables, or just some frozen ones.  This is really great fried up with soy sauce too, but then my food allergy son couldn’t eat it, so we just put the soy sauce on the table for those to add who what it.  Or I could do a stir fry.  Or I could do my kids MOST favorite meal, and that’s chili and rice. (I linked our chili recipe, although I use canned tomato sauce instead of tomato soup, and gluten free flour so our whole family can eat it without cooking any separate.)  I make up a big pot of chili, and a big pot of rice.  (Chili freezes well too.)  This is how my husband grew up eating chili.  I still like my chili in a bowl with cheese, but my kids like to put a pile of rice on their plate and heap a bunch of chili on top of it.  The rice stretches the meal budget-wise so that’s fine by me too.  So Friday is our rice-meal days.


I just have to pick some sort of pasta meal for Saturdays.  Most of us eat wheat noodles, and David eats rice noodles.  Whether it’s spaghetti, ravioli, or baked ziti, I write down a pasta meal that sounds yummy that week.  Depending on the vegetable content of the sauce chosen, I’ll sometimes make vegetables on the side too.


I give myself as much of a break on Sundays as possible.  We bring home pizza after church and eat on paper plates.  For supper that night, I make a big batch of popcorn and we watch a family movie.  Done.  It’s not a lot, but it’s a tradition I grew up with and don’t mind passing down.

There’s something about not having to look into the abyss of all the possibilities of what to cook, and narrow it down to categories to make choosing easier.  Having a plan saves hours of time, and tons of money as I don’t pick up expensive food on the way home because I know that otherwise we will eat at 10pm.

Most of all, I like how giving each day a category eliminates or at least reduces my decision stress.  Decision stress is totally a thing.  Believe me.

Protecting the White Space


The first days of homeschooling feel empty. I remember feeling like a failure when my daughter went through our daily curriculum in less than 2 hours. I often said, “That can’t be all.” Most homeschoolers will tell you that those early elementary years have very short days, but once they get to the upper grades, they will spend more of the day on schoolwork. We ended up filling our days by taking walks, playing outside, reading lots of stories, and having tea parties. We followed our curiosities and worked on projects that sounded fun.

However, like any vacuum, activities and responsibilities soon filled up our days to overflowing. Eventually, I found myself saying, “Yes, but when will we do school? We have to fit math in here somewhere.” Right now, that same 1st grader from when we started homeschooling is in 7th grade and not only does she volunteer at the library, she is in a sport, plays 2 instruments, is part of a challenging co-op, and does church youth activities. Our days are full to the brim.

She’s not my only child either. If we’re not careful, our desire to let the kids deepen their interests and our plan to respect their individual gifts can become an overwhelming assault on our family’s downtime. Our lazy days get robbed, our moments curled up with a book just for fun, and evenings playing a family game can become a far-off dream.
The question can quickly turn from, “What can we do with all this free time?” to, “How can I prevent school going to 5pm every day, and our toddlers spending 4 hours a day in their carseats as we trek our minivan all over town all evening?”

The longer I teach, the more I see a need for white space in my kids’ lives. It’s necessary not only for our sanity, but in order to enable depth in their comprehension. When we just rush through the day, checking subjects off a list, my kids’ learning is like a rock skipped across the surface of a lake. The information never sinks deep.

I’m honored to be contributing to The Unlikely Homeschool again today.  Head on over to read the rest of the post there today.