How Moms Can Learn to Read

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“A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink of it deeply, or taste it not, for shallow thoughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking deeply sobers us again.” ~ Alexander Pope

As our children head back to school, or our formal homeschooling studies begin again, I think the minds of mothers naturally turn toward learning. Setting new rhythms, making goals, developing great study habits- education is on our brains this time of year! Around our table lately, we’ve been talking a lot about what our children will study this year, but more importantly, we’ve been discussing how we want them to learn. What will the process look like? How will we teach them to think?

Motherhood has sparked my appetite to grow and learn along side my children- I want to be excellent so I can share with them and spur them further! I’ve also become more and more aware of all that is online and on bookshelves competing for my heart and time. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking in an endless Times Square, lights flashing, constant buzz, everyone crying out to be heard…marketing their ideas and wares in the way that will grab my attention the fastest and longest, enticing me to stay just one more minute to take the cream.

Among all the noise, all the headlines, all the messages coming at you today, how will you choose? How will you truly engage and really read, and know what is true? And how will you teach your children to do the same?

As I teach my children how to read, not for phonetics and fluency, but for meaning, I’m finding clarity in how I want to approach learning to read as a grown-up. I want my babes to drink deeply from the words they encounter, to measure them against the truth they know and hold.  I want their own impressions to be forged deep, to be marked with ideas that are unique to them and to their experiences so that they add to the conversation that has already begun.

Because the cream, really, is that sweet spot of connection, isn’t it? Its where relationship enters the scene.

You know the place. It’s where our knowing and understanding collides fully with the ideas expressed by another, where the truth of God’s Word is revealed and soon we are a little troupe banded by the experience of words striking deep within and becoming a part of us. Community grows like this,  even here at The Better Mom, with words exchanged and shared together.

With our children this means we talk. A lot. 

Its hard to share what you do not know, and  moms, we have to be ready for those conversations, so our job of continuing to learn and grow becomes even more important.

So how do you learn to read as a grown-up? How do you develop the art of knowing? 

First, mamas. . . . pray. God wants to see your capacity for learning grow and delights in the connections you make between different topics and especially to his Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your studies, your reading, even your math fact practice (shout out to my fellow elementary school moms!) Our God wants to be the one to lead you as you think deeply about ideas, history, blog posts and all the wonderful things He has made.

The Four Questions (adapted from the work of Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren) is another great way to approach what you read, especially as a way to breakdown material that you might find difficult at first. Its a classical model that gets at the root of how we think and interact with what we are studying and is really easy to implement. Here’s how it works:

1. Read. Keep Reading. Read some more. Immerse yourself in the work of great minds, of those who have gone ahead of you, of those you admire, esteem and even disagree with. Just don’t stop. Carve out time to apprentice yourself to great writers and great ideas. Read actively and with intention.

2. Ask What is this About? What is the main theme or idea, what is the message? What details are important and how are they being shared?

3. Determine if it is true. Measure what is being said with the Scriptures, with what you know and believe to be true about humanity, yourself, and the world that is being shared. Dig in to the details and don’t be afraid to disagree. {Conversely, don’t be afraid to have your opinions and thinking challenged and changed}

4. Decide if what you have read is significant. Why is it important to you? Why is it important to others? If you find it meaningful, Share it. Add to the conversation. Respond.

Friends, don’t won’t waste your reading. Engage it. And don’t forget to add to the conversation! Your insight and comments are precious and have the ability to build up the body of Christ and your children’s minds. 

I can’t wait to hear what you share,

Blessings,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

On Finding Home in New York

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He’s doing it again. My sweet beagle is staring me down, tilting his little head to one side. Its his passive way of begging me to take him for a walk. I need fresh air, fresh inspiration, and to move a bit in the great outdoors, and so I give in quickly, gather his lead and plop my shoes on to head out. Its not until I’m crossing the street and spot the sign of the CNN building that my surroundings hit me. Just beyond the next batch of trees, its there, peeking out: The Empire State Building. Seeing its spire has become a part of my daily rhythm, but every once in a while it catches my breath and I realize that I’m actually standing in Central Park. I actually live in New York City.

I wish you were walking with me, gazing across the water of the reservoir at the Guggenheim, eyeing each curve around the path until we reach the rowboats and see the silhouette of the Plaza Hotel to the south.

The iconic scenes that make up my day sometimes go unnoticed, but when I remember to really see them, I love to drink them in. They are welcome moments of beauty in the midst of my routine and remind me of the glimmers of grace God has revealed to me during my time here.

You see, dreaming of New York, holding hopes and imagination about this place, and actually finding a home here are two very different things entirely. 

I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust. The urge to go, to move, to see all I could and experience everything new has always propelled my life choices. I deferred my college years to be a missionary in Asia and if I hadn’t met my husband just months before and fallen madly in love, I’m not sure I would have looked back. God has placed something inside of me that has always been up for a grand adventure. So when my husband’s job led us to consider a move across the country, away from all family with four kids in tow? My response was instantly, “Yes, of course! Let’s do it!”

It was quite a cultural shift moving from the green woods of the Pacific Northwest to the famed concrete jungle, but we couldn’t wait! Challenges felt like part of the adventure, we faced life in a 1000 square feet apartment with gusto, we loved embracing the simplicity that came with small space living. Our children were all sharing one bedroom and I’d homeschool them around our kitchen table, that is I kid you not, mere inches away from my front door as it swings open. I found it somehow charming that my garbage was to be sent down a shoot in my hallway to a mystery incinerator and that to get fresh air one must first ride an elevator and greet the doorman on the way to the sidewalk. Without owning a car we’d walk everywhere: to church, the grocery store, the movies, play dates, and the park. When I’d be feeling wild we’d hop on the subway. Figuring out how to live day to day felt like the adventure for nearly a year and kept us busy! Before long though, I just felt tired.

About two years in I began to crash.  Slowly, discontent grew, and I began to long for my old life. I wanted my minivan, my house in the mountains, my family close by and all the ease of a life I knew how to control. I was ready for the adventure to end, ready to get back to regular life.

The New York of my imagination was not the New York of my everyday.

In my everyday felt foreign and uncomfortable. I questioned why I was raising my children in a place that felt nothing like the home we’d left, the home we’d loved, the home waiting for them every summer and Christmas with grandparents and cousins surrounding them. My husband’s job continued to be a great gift to us and one that he adored, but I couldn’t stop shaking my own quick judgement, my lust for adventure that had not considered the cost of this move and I wished I could take it back. Everywhere I looked, I began to see the gray and soot of the city , it lacked color and seemed over-run by litter and grime. Our apartment began to feel even smaller, and my own bleak attitude only multiplied its gloomy atmosphere. I longed for home.

Here’s where I misplaced my desire though: I longed for a place and a history that was tangible to me, that I could describe to you by the landscape and the people and the scent in the air. We all long for places in our past that hold meaning and memories, and we all experience sadness when we have to leave them behind. When we have tasted something so sweet, experienced love and beauty and seen a shadow of heaven in the process, there is a pain when we have to leave it. What God showed me in the strangeness of New York was that I had a deeper longing, not for my own hometown or a place I held dear, but that my longing for those sweet places were guideposts to show me my truest longing for him.

What I really longed for was to find my home in Christ alone.

It didn’t happen instantly, but little by little, Jesus is leading me by faith and I am learning what it looks like to abide in Christ in all circumstances, in all cities, among all people. That’s why I write, because I know that like me, so many of us  are striving to find rest in our seasons of motherhood. I know how quickly it takes to go from a place of expectation to despair and how important it is to remind one another of our Great Hope- to gather it and sing of it daily together. All the glimmers of beauty lead us to One who is Beautiful, and so I drink them in and gather them like feathers and share them with you.

I have found my home in New York because I have never needed to rely and depend on Jesus so desperately anywhere else.

I’m free to see the wonder of this place anew because of the One who led me here, and leads me still, to find my home in him. May you find your heart in Him today too, sweet mamas.

Blessings, 

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

Five Ways to Find Hope When You Are Overwhelmed

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Back to School time is in full swing at our home, and while it has been eagerly anticipated, it is rocking our calendar and zapping the energy out of my crew who were really loving lazy days of summer  vibe we’ve had for the last few months. There are lots of things that I am good at, but juggling a schedule is not one of them. I feel like a wild beast is taking over my home with every email that arrives telling me that I (or one of my children) need to be somewhere. When you have a shift in routine, find yourself in a season where there are countless activities and orientations, how do you cultivate peace in your heart and in your home?  More than anything I want to cling to hope and help my babes have a blast, not be the crazy mom yelling at everyone while we rush to tie shoes and brush our teeth as we jet out the door. So, sweet mamas, I present, 5 Ways to Find Hope When You are Overwhelmed, because don’t we all need just a bit more sunshine?

1. Take Time to Look at the Big Picture

Carve out a few hours when you can open your calendar and see the big picture of what is happening in the coming weeks. Mentally prepare for what lies ahead and how you will manage the logistics. Pray for God to lead you by faith in all your commitments, and maybe even to help you say no to a few things that don’t fit for you in this season. Can you enlist a friend to help with pick-up or drop-off, adjust the baby or toddler’s nap to ensure that your homeschool time will flow a bit more smoothly, or prep any supplies in advance for an outing or event? Even small changes can make a big difference! There are certain days in my week that I need to rise an hour earlier, others where I know I’ll need to schedule a quick meal that could be on the go and a few times where I need to be two places at once and need to reach out to ask for help from some girlfriends!

2. Prep Like a Mad Woman

Nothing makes my family crazier than to being on the go AND starving, and even though I’ve been a mom for over a dozen years, nothing sneaks up on me more than dinner time (or lunch…or breakfast!) I need a game plan! If you’re stuck trying to meal plan, you can download the bi-weekly meal plan right here at The Better Mom- it is amazing! This month, I’m spending time grilling and freezing chicken and ground beef, slicing vegetables, and making sauces on the weekend when my husband can take a shift with the kiddos. Then on weeknights, my sous chef work is done and I’m able to put our meal together in a lot less time. Are there things you can do ahead? Laying out clothes the night before, packing backpacks for the next day at an hour that doesn’t stress you out, putting together daily snack bags ahead of time so you’re ready for life on the go or just for that child that is longing for something in the late afternoon at home? Take just a few moments to be ready and you’ll feel like a warrior mom!

3. Laugh a Little!

When my older girls were little, a wise older mom shared her secret for breaking up sibling arguments and grumpy attitudes and we adopted her trick into our own family. Whenever my children are squabbling, I make them hold hands and jump up and down, swing in a circle together, or try to out do one another with a goofy face to “win” the argument. They can usually go about 15 seconds before bursting out in laughter with each other! A good laugh is truly the most wonderful of reset buttons, moms! If you find yourself with a huffy tone, feel tense or grumpy on the inside, take a minute to make goofy faces with your kids, twirl until you’re dizzy or just google some knock-knock jokes together…I promise you will be ready to tackle what is before you afresh and your children will light up at the way you lead their hearts into a sweet connection with you!

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

At the end of the day, if you crawl into bed with a to-do list that isn’t all crossed off, with ideas of lesson plans that didn’t quite make it to life in your homeschool, with the realization that you completely forgot about soccer practice, ballet class, the PTA meeting or your mother-in-law’s birthday….take heart!  Sweet mama, you can take your burdens, concerns, heartache and even your schedule to the feet of Jesus every single day. Rest in him. Remember that you are lovely and that you will never get it all right or be perfect. There is grace and so so much to be learned when we stumble. Don’t be afraid that you won’t keep it all together!

5. Don’t Neglect Your True Nourishment

It might just be the easiest thing to skip, forget, or let slide by when you are overwhelmed, but friends, you need time every single day in God’s Word. Search for treasure, seek wisdom, bring your petitions to his feet and listen for his voice. There is nothing that will sustain you more than meditating on his word and joining your heart to his in prayer. Don’t miss what God has made you for, don’t miss enjoying his very real presence, because your days are too full. Make time and let him carry you through the rest of this season.

Share some of your ideas for making it through September in the comments?  Wise women copy other wise women, and I’d love to copy all the wise things you do! Let’s get a big list going to help each other in this community.

Blessings,

Kristen

It Sounds Like You Could Use a Date…

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This smile brought to you by a “mom date”

Last week I had one of those days. You know the kind, mama. It was the sory of afternoon where you think you are going to glide thorugh just fine until dinner time and end up hidden away in the bathroom with a baggie full of goldfish.  I don’t particularly like goldfish, but  they were the fastest thing I could grab off the counter without being seen mid escape, and my weary body needed some (any!) kind of sustanance if I was going to really relish being alone for five glorious minutes.

I really am a stable person. This day had flattened me and cut right through all my firewalls. I was wrestling long and hard in a throw of words with my girl. Ever in the same room, the presence of the other seemed to grate on us both- she expressed her frustration with an eye roll here, a murmur there, and I over-corrected, under appreciated and became all together critical of everything she was up to. In the moment though, I just felt right, I wanted her to yield, to bend…I wasn’t about to be satisfied until she let me control her.

Naturally, while clutching the bag of goldfish and holding on for my dear emotional life, I phoned my husband and spilled out all my guts. “Wow, honey. It sounds like you could use a date” Yes! Whisk me away from here, where shall we go? I’ll make the reservation! Oh waitHe meant with our daugther.

His words rang true. Since each of our children was a toddler, I’ve found that when I begin to become irritated, when I’m easily offended or grasping for their ear, we could use a date. Our children know when we are over-tired, they can sense when we are frustrated with them or when our communication has been out of tune. The disconnect can be felt deeply by their little hearts.

It is in these moments that we are called to initiate restoration and love- to show our children they are our priority and to speak out with our words and actions that they are special to us. Time away with them reinforces the bond we have in our own hearts as well, nurturing our Mom Hearts in relationship with those we care for.

Here are some ideas for connection when you feel depleated or are struggling with your children.  I pray that if you are in need of connection with your babes, in need of re-building nurture, that these would be a blessing as hearts soften in your home.

-Get outside! Go for a hike or walk together, drive to a local hilltop and take it in together, play loud music and sing along on your way.

-Create a place for tea and a treat at home with your child. Pull out fancy tea cups, use doilies, light a candle and bake cookies. Invit them to sit alone with you to talk or read together. Keep the other children occupied with the rest of the cookie batch and an audio book or special puzzles.

-Kick around the soccer ball, run laps at the local track,ride bikes or hit the putting green. Enjoy movement together and talk as you exercise. Sometimes our stress needs help working its way out of our bodies, and being on the move is just the thing!

-Grab a cool drink and head to an area where you can see the open sky. Lay back and find as many cloud shapes as possible together.

-Create a project that you can work on together, all at once or in increments- organizing family photos and sharing memories as you sort them, beading necklaces or knotting frienship bracelets, working on a centerpiece of flowers for the dining room or building small furniture can be wonderful ways to connect.

-Plan and cook a feast for the rest of the family. Let your child design the menu and take on the big jobs in the kitchen!

Most importantly, pray and read God’s word together. Let your child know how you see them as a world-changer, endowed with incredible gifts from the Lord. Often, speaking out truth is the reminder we moms need as well.

Blessings,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

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