A “wholly” day

Well, we made it.  Day one of school is over.  Whew!  I am exhausted.  At about 10:00 this morning, I was highly questioning my decision from earlier this week to switch to decaf coffee!  As tired as I am, words cannot adequately explain how my heart bubbles over with joy and a new found energy from the experiences today…and it’s only day ONE!  God is amazing. I can’t explain it, but even though our day was non-stop packed with school stuff, the pace and the general atmosphere of our house was completely different.  The day truly felt “holy”- set apart.  I was quick to take a mental note:  at the end of the next 9 months, how do we keep our days set apart for Jesus, even when life returns to normal.  (I don’t have the answer, but hope that God reveals it to me at some point between now and then!)

Our day was not picturesque perfect by any means.  There was a good hour to hour and a half in the morning when the baby was crying and wouldn’t take his nap, both girls were frustrated and had questions with their work, and Gideon, well, he was playing with silly putty on the carpet.  But, there were times, when everyone was quietly working at their designated areas and the house felt still and peaceful.

Here’s a quick overview of what our day looked like:

We began with breakfast as a family…never, hardly ever does this happen in our house!  Then we all headed upstairs to our make-shift school room and did our “kindness starts in the heart” bible study.  I planned for half an hour, but we spent an hour coloring, pasting and talking.  Gideon launched his heart over the balcony, but given the length of the lesson, he did pretty good.  

The best part was when the girls on their own talked about the examples of kindness that were hard for them.  It was so nice to hear them say it, rather than me pointing it out to them in the middle of disciplining them.  To know that they get it on some level was so satisfying and hopeful.  Helen said it’s hardest to let someone help her.  (Right on, for her personality.)  Ava said it’s hardest to let someone else have a turn, even though you have been waiting.  And they added their own act of kindness…wait for it…having nice manners!  We discussed how it shows respect and love and care to say ‘thank you’ and ‘your welcome’ and in our house, not smack your food while eating.  As we continued the day, they encouraged each other and shared…the pom-pom balls were definitely the motivator, but I pray Jesus is working in them.  We will see what happens when the novelty wares off!

Next we moved on to calendar time.  This was mainly for Gideon to learn the days of the week and daily weather etc.  Ava had to work on her handwriting by doing everything in cursive.  Hopefully tomorrow this time will go a little smoother.  There was a lot of explaining for something that was supposed to be relatively self-guided for the girls.  But at least we set into motion the routine.Image

From then we were off to working through our work binders.  They were my compromise to a workbox organization system in our small classroom space.  I think it worked well, but we need to make a few revisions.  Once I get the system down, I will have to share more.Image

(that’s my decaf coffee next to Helen, not hers.)  🙂

We learned about science safety rules, common and proper pronouns, expanded notation, Thurgood Marshall, Abigail Adams, and Sojourner Truth.  We started filling in our timeline on the wall and setting up our reading and writing journals.  It was a busy day, but a holy one.  And well, as it turned out, a wholly one too.

Gideon’s scissor skills need a little priming:


And Helen lost a tooth:


To end our first day, we celebrated by buying some wholesome chocolate and powdered mini doughnuts.  Ava said, “Can we do homeschool again next year?” (sigh… dude!  I am exhausted!  And it’s only been one day!)  I wonder if it was the doughnuts, or if she, too could sense feeling set apart.  I think that perhaps she, like me, could sense that this was what God desired for us.  We weren’t misunderstanding his command.  I think, that like me, she could feel the fresh start of a special little adventure for our family that has been designed to “set apart” the next 9 months to a year and focus on inclining our hearts to Jesus.

And maybe it was the doughnuts. 🙂

3 Days and Counting

Okay, yesterday was officially the last day of summer… Just the weekend and then we start school.  I have gone over our plans for the first week over and over again, just to make sure I have everything in line.  In my perusing of the beloved Pinterest for homeschool class rules, I came across a very lovely study on The Golden Rule.  http://growingupgodskids.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-golden-rule.html

I decided to steal the main idea from this sweet blog and make it my own for our year of family rehab.   I thought I’d share, because I found some elements of this list of “rules” very refreshing and Gospel based.

Here it is in a nutshell:  

Essentially The Golden Rule-  Do unto others as you would have them do to you…- starts in the heart and is all about kindness.  Kindness can look like a lot of different things, and I plan to discuss in detail with the kids about some of the many ways we can be kind to one another.  An important distinction is that this means we are kind even when others are not kind to us.  Jesus talks about turning the other cheek and loving our enemies.  So some of these acts of kindness that we will focus on, come with a clause.   

Here is our list:  (I plan on having the kids be creative and think of more to add)

  • Giving a soft answer to a sharp comment
  • Praying for someone who offends you.
  • Smiling and choosing a good attitude when things don’t go your way.
  • Listening to someone else.
  • Giving up a turn.
  • Cleaning a mess (when it’s not yours to clean)
  • Saying a kind word of encouragement
  • Letting someone help you
  • Waiting for someone patiently


Also, important to defining what The Golden Rule is, we will discuss what it is NOT.

  • It is NOT being envious of others. (James 3:14-16)
  • It is NOT being boastful. (Romans 1:30)
  • It is NOT being selfish. (2 Peter 2:10)
  • It is NOT thinking evil of others. (Philippians 4:8)

(Again, I plan on getting the kids to think of what being kind in NOT, and add to the list.)


We will discuss how Jesus asks these things of us not because He wants us to modify our behavior and just to “perform” like good little children and parents.  He tells us these things so that when we do see kindness overflowing from our heart we know that it is Him living in us.  When we see things that are from the “NOT” list, we know that it is our flesh getting in the way of Jesus living through us.  And when that happens, there is freedom and forgiveness.  Our WHOLE family lives with The Golden Rule as a guide and reminder that Jesus lives in us.  These homeschool rules are not just for the kids to follow, but for everyone.

Much like an athlete would train to run faster and prevent injury, we too need to train our flesh to respond to situations and people kinder than we often are feeling in our heart.  When someone wrongs us, or things don’t go our way, it’s okay to feel frustrated and disappointed.  But we are called to a higher standard than just letting ourselves “blow our lid” or respond in passive aggressiveness.

SO, here is our training plan for the year.  (Again, from the previous mentioned blog.)

First and foremost, we will pray nightly for the areas of kindness in which we struggle.  The kids will cut out and decorate a heart that will hang by their beds.  In the heart they will paste little reminders of what kindness looks like.  For example, “soft answer”.  Each night during our bedtime routine and prayers, we will include praying for those things that we have been struggling with.  

Here’s my bedside heart:


Secondly, during the week we will also have a prayer journal time and encourage the girls to do a little “bible scavenger hunt” for pieces of scripture that speak to their particular struggles.  If our actions are an overflow of the heart, then we need to be filling it up with good things.  We want to empower our children to search the scriptures for themselves, introducing them to the concordance etc, so they know what to even do with a Bible when they are alone.  Much like learning how to use a dictionary, they need to learn how to use their Bibles without Mom or Dad or the Sunday School teacher.

Thirdly, I have 3 clear cups labeled with the three oldest kids’ names.  (The baby would just stick it in his mouth.) When someone is recognized as showing kindness to another, as listed above and on our Golden Rule Chart, they get a little sparkly glitter pom pom in their cup.  When the cup is full, that child gets a reward.  I am thinking a trip to the store with $5 or something- spend it how you like.


I am really excited to have found this idea, and really excited to have a tangible way to be intentionally teaching our children about caring for others, not because that’s what makes good little children, but because the powerful Jesus who transforms hearts is living in them! 🙂  I hope to wrangle in my flesh and look a little more like Jesus in the process, too. 

Our Intervention

Intervention: 1 Interposition or interference of one state in the affairs of another 2 Action taken to divert a unit or force from its track, flight, path, or mission.

Many addicts need a carefully planned intervention by loving family and friends to realize they have a problem. Patients need a doctor to prescribe a course of physical therapy to nurse an injured body back to health. Our prescribed “family rehab” came from an intervention of another kind. You might even say a combination of several interventions over the course of almost two years.

Intervention #1: Life at home was hectic and we knew something had to change, we just didn’t know what. Our best friends and partners in ministry had just moved and looking at life without them seemed overwhelming and just plain sad. Then we found out we were having ANOTHER baby. Having a fourth baby was not in the plan, and timing of this surprise sure didn’t seem like the answer to stress and feelings of being overwhelmed! But, in hindsight, that little guy was the first of many interventions guiding us down a different path than what we envisioned for ourselves.
The little guy moved and shaked our comforts and expectations before he was even born. We had to move to a new house to make room. I personally had to put aside plans I had been making and personal goals I had been setting for the upcoming year. All three kids were going to either be in school or in Pre-school and I had been preparing for the two days a week I would soon have all to myself. Not anymore! That “intervention” was hard to accept. And I had no choice in the matter. God had decided for me that at least the next two years were once again devoted to changing diapers and settling cries.
Intervention #2: When we moved after the start of the school year, we moved to a new neighborhood not zoned for the girls’ school. We were given a courtesy transfer for the remainder of the year. At the time, the transition to a new neighborhood went rather smoothly because the girls stayed at their fabulous public school. I cannot praise the staff and teachers at Buda Elementary enough-especially, Helen’s first grade teacher, Laura Russian. Helen’s first grade year was a pivotal moment in her young life. I believe that because of Mrs. Russian, Helen is now set on a path for success.
Despite both of the girls having academic success during the year, homeschooling rose to the surface as a solution to our crazy home life. We were giving the best of our days to other people and the best hours of our kids’ days to other people. Evenings were tension filled due to fatigue and homework and baths and evening committments…it felt like chaos. And mornings were spent pleading with our children to wake from their coma-like state to hurry and eat and what soon became the most horrific part of the day: get Helen to wear socks with her tennis shoes. Then hurry off on our separate ways, only to come back together to repeat the cycle all over again. I know we were not the only family running this proverbial rat race. It’s not unique to our family exept that maybe we also struggled to have weekends also. Something had to change and homeschooling seemed to possibly be an answer.
However, I could not imagine actually spending all those hours inside the four walls of our house. I couldn’t fully take hold of an idea that seemed so overwhelming and brutal, again, already in the midst of overwhelming circumstances. We wavered back and forth constantly. Our thoughts about keeping the kids at home had less to do with “homeschool” and more to do with the health of our family. So in our moments of leaning towards public school for the next year, we knew something still had to change if it wasn’t school.
Because of our high respect for the teachers and staff at Buda Elementary and our indesisiveness, we scheduled a meeting with a few of them to help us find a solution. One had mentioned that our family had been through so many transitions over the past year, that maybe adding yet another change by homeschooling would not be wise. We took the advice to heart. Children function best in stable environments and perhaps keeping them at home would actually cause more harm than good due to yet another big family change. It was good advice- wise advice. That evening we finally felt resolve. The kids would stay at Buda Elementary and we would try to avoid change.
Literally, the next morning, we recieved a call from the vice-principal explaining that our courtesy transfer would not roll over to the next school year. INTERVENTION! We were decidedly pointed down one path and then Smack! Dead End. Now what? We visited the new school and it was great. We thought maybe this will work, even considered that this new school was maybe where God wanted us to serve and engage in community. But as I laid in bed for the next couple of weeks, I couldn’t sleep. I was sad. And I didn’t know why.
Intervention #3: Over the next month or so, God was at work on a final step of intervention. Much like the words spoken at a drug or alcohol intervention, He was speaking hard and convicting truths to my heart in love. Perhaps the first words of His hard message to me were, “Be thankful.” in particular, be thankful for the four children I have been blessed with. This new little baby was bringing the rest of the family together. All five of us were rallying around the newest little Goeke. What a blessing this “change” in our family was becoming! What joy I saw in our children when they caught a glimpse of his first smiles and heard his first little chuckles! Acknowledging how joy-filled a house full of little people can be was an eye opener. My calling was not to “get through” this stage of life with young children. My calling was to treasure it and thrive in it. Looking at my almost ten year old and my little 3 month old made me realize how true the cliche really is: It does go by fast. My love for my children had been renewed and the joy in my calling had been reissued. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 hit hard. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I have commanded you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” That verse speaks to an “all or nothing” mentality. You can’t do it half way or half-(fill in the blank). There are no “breaks” or “time off” in our walk of faith. Rest, yes, but not an abandoning of the call to serve self- which was the path of parenting that I had been headed down. I don’t think this Deuteronomy passage is soley for the homeschool family, nor does it mean only good parents homeschool. If anything, in my life it has meant that I lack the good parenting required to teach my children about the Lord and send them to school and fill my schedule with lots of other good things. I also believe this passage is not just for parents, but for every Jesus follower. Again, there are no “breaks” or “time off” in our walk of faith.
I also was impacted by a Gideon bible study by Priscilla Shirer. I was reminded how the Israelites failed to teach their children about their faithful God and how they missed opportunities for their children to experience for themselves God’s hand at work. I was reminded how it resulted in a generation in which “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” When Priscilla pointed out that the Israelites went from an emphatic “YES, we will serve the Lord!”, to a faithless and rebellious people in the span of ONE generation, I felt even more a pressure on MY calling as a parent-not just for my children, but also for my grandchildren. I heard God’s next word to my heart- “NOW.” There was an urgency present that I had not felt before.
Further study about the “partial” obedience if the Israelites gave insight to my sleepless nights. It was like a lightbulb was switched on. I couldn’t sleep and I was sad because I felt like I was disobeying God. For me, these were the final words God needed to speak in my heart’s intervention…”OBEY ME.” This was the point in our intervention when all the interrupted plans and all the voices speaking into my life converged. It was an overwhelming compulsion- “Where do I sign? I’ll do it. I’ll go to rehab.”
Our decision to focus on God’s Word, our children, our marriage, and our mission as a family, isn’t about a failed school system. It isn’t a fear-based response to secular culture. It isn’t about giving our children specialized and personalized academic attention. It is an act of personal obedience. God may not be calling everybody to homeschool, and the purpose of this blog post is not to cause a “homeschool movement”. I think families in similar situations can find other solutions apart from homeschool and still fulfill God’s calling to parent. But, I guarantee God is calling each and everyone of us to recieve His mercy and grace and to walk in obedience- whatever that may look like. Surrendering all to listen to Him speak through His Word and the circumstances He throws in our path can lead us to His voice. He is calling us to soecific tasks and people. I would place money on Him moving and altering plans and putting people in all of our lives to set up a divine intervention. It’s an intervention of His love, plan, and purpose for us.
Let’s obey. Let’s take a risk and trust His calling. Let’s submit to His Intervention. It’s hard for the addict to submit to needing rehab. It’s hard not to throw up defenses at the point of intervention. But there is health and joy, goodness and mercy at the end of His treatment plan. He is a Wonderful Councelor and a Great Physician. Your ‘rehab’ most definitely looks different than mine, your ‘intervention’ is unique to your heart. Praise God for being a personal and loving god who seeks us out individually to His perfect love and calling.
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:20-21