The Easy Way Out


Once in a while I write about things that help get me through difficult seasons, that remind me easier days are (most likely) coming.  Today I realized that I don’t often write about tools that make educating my kids easier, and this is weird because helping them learn is such a huge part of my life.  I’m correcting that now.

Books/reading material we love:

Solid Joys daily devotional (online);  I love these thought-provoking snippets.  They’re easy to access and take about 10 minutes to read through.  They help the kids and me focus our minds and hearts on God and have become an essential part of our day.

101 Famous Poems, by Roy J. Cook;  Anyone who knows us well can tell you that we’re all a little crazy for poetry–yes, even the boys.  This book is a one-stop shop for many of the great poems and it’s helping us to sample words widely and well before starting more formal studies in the morning.

The Chronicles of Narnia;  You know how sometimes you just need to reread books that bring back good memories and make you feel safe?  We know that feeling.  This winter I’ve been rereading the entire Narnia series aloud, book by book, to my giant teenaged kids, not because they can’t read for themselves, but because doing so both reinforces positive feelings in all of us and doesn’t take much effort on my part.  We need these good vibrations because Algebra.

Educational tools that are transforming everything:

Pimsleur Spanish CD’s;  I’ve mentioned before that I was a German major in college and lived in Vienna, Austria for a time.  Later I moved to India and learned to speak Hindi both through hours in a classroom and with informal conversation practice.  But nothing has helped me or my kids learn to speak a language faster or more easily than this set of audio CD’s.  By following the program’s (somewhat intense) thirty-minutes-a-day speaking practice we’re netting huge language gains in this house.

Code Academy;  My middle son wanted to learn to code.  My idea of awesome computer skills was learning how to insert links in my blog posts.  This free website is serving both of us well.  He can teach himself (easy!), and I can remain a semi-Luddite.  Win/win.

Pandora Radio;  I talk about Pandora a lot, I just realized.  Whatever.  I’m a cellist so, naturally, music is important to me.  But I want my kids to learn to appreciate a wide variety of musical styles and artists without my having to work hard at it.  Almost nothing is easier than creating a variety of genre stations on Pandora and playing them while we go about our day.  I don’t have to create big “music appreciation” moments.  If my kids have questions about a piece, they look at the TV (where we play our stations) and read the provided information.  If they want to know more, I help them find it.  They know so much about music these days–and I haven’t broken a sweat.

The longer I homeschool my kids, the more convinced I am that not everything has to be so darn hard.  Sometimes easier is better.


Things That Are Saving My Life This Winter

Over at Modern Mrs. Darcy folks are writing about the things that are saving them this winter–not necessarily in sweeping, existential ways, but in small, everyday ways.  When winter holidays have come and gone, and summer is still months away, many of us struggle to stay motivated in our daily routines, to stay hopeful, even.  This is not because we’re particularly wimpy (though *cough* some of us are).  Usually it’s because it’s dark outside.  Dark and cold, day after day.  What helps to beat back winter gloom is to think about what’s going right in our days, what’s actually working.  To that end, I jotted down my own list of things that are saving me this winter.

Getting up early.  I’ve mentioned this already but I’ll say it again:  I’ve been waking hours before my kids do for a couple of months now, and the effect the quiet is having on my soul is transforming.  This is not only because I’m able to write consistently (and I am, hallelujah), but because I’m able to read my Bible and pray without feeling rushed.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to sleeping in.

A nightly cup of chamomile tea.  I splurged and bought an expensive kind so that I’d see it as a treat and actually want to drink it.  It’s working.  I brew a cup about an hour before bed and drink it slowly.  It’s become a signal to my brain and body that it’s time to wind down.  Since I sometimes have trouble falling asleep, I’m especially thankful this ritual helps me feel drowsy.  Then, of course, better sleep equals better days–even if they’re overcast and cold.

Pandora radio.  I’ve spent time cultivating a few stations (by pressing ‘like’ and ‘skip’ on various songs) so that now I mostly hear artists and albums that make me happy.  It’s amazing what listening to good music does for my mood.  I usually have it on while I get ready in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoon when I’m taking a break.  It’s free and better than a cup of coffee for perking me up.

Old-fashioned wall calendars–in the kitchen and in my bedroom.  I may one of the last people in America to write appointments down on actual, paper squares, but I’m fine with that.  It’s soothing for me to be able to see a month at a glance on my walls.  I watch the days fill with activities, and then whizz past me.  Having a visual reminder of the time not only helps me to stay organized, but it also shows me that this season is passing quickly (despite how it feels, sometimes).  While I use calendars all year long, I find them especially helpful in the winter because they offer me perspective during the draggy days.

Those are some things that are saving me this winter.  What about you?  What things are saving your life these days?