Why I’m Glad I Was Homeschooled

stories made it possible

The smell of ancient paper still makes me want to sob, the way spines line up like soldiers on the wooden shelves of small-town libraries. I know they would defend me if they could, those armies of words.

I grew up in second-hand clothes and mushroom-cuts and plastic glasses. I grew up homeschooled until the age of 9, with my nose in books, stories of Pippi Longstocking and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables. Books whose characters were as real to me as every-day, as the few friends I made the houses between, for we moved fast and far, my father a pastor and so, I clung to these characters and they, to me. I could count on them to be there, when nothing else was. We became a family of sorts.

And Mum, she taught me the Queen’s language. A language lost to this texting generation. She taught me when to use “which” and when to use “that”; she saluted the apostrophe and shuddered when it was put in the wrong place. She set every word reverently in its place, in a sentence, and taught me the feel of a pen between my fingers.

I learned the art of penmanship, but not only that—I learned what it means to know a language inside and out, backwards and front, and to hold it in awe.

Throughout high school Mum pulled me out of the English classes and taught me herself because she knew what I did not: that with the age of computers we’d lose the craft of a noble speech. We’d add slang and acronyms would become actual words and kids would trade the romance of a hand-written letter for the convenience of a text message.

my goal since those days

Not only did Anne and Pippi and Laura befriend me; they paved the way smooth for an awkward girl. They made it possible for me to believe on days when my heart seemed to stop working. On days when I yelled at my parents and slammed doors and slipped dark into anorexia, on those kinds of days, only the story could reach me. Only the story could save me.

It pulls you deep, this literature, deeper than any technology could. It introduces culture, countries, religion and history and it whets the soul for learning. The story creates sympathy for a world full of characters, and provides boundaries for good and evil. It sheds light on people’s unspoken suffering and creates a longing for justice, for truth.

I will never understand the intrigue of a book-less library, of the e-book, of the Kindle, for the very charm of the silence and the old stuffed chairs lies in a library’s walls of literature. In the dog-eared page, the margin-scribbled-notes, the smell of dusty intrigue, the quiet hush of pages turning.

And my goal since those days has been to write a story that draws people in so they forget where they are, so they too befriend the people they are reading about, so they too, don’t have to be lonely, anymore.

 

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Friends? I’ve written a story (a memoir) and it’s releasing next month.

It’s called Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (www.atlasgirlbook.com)—and all proceeds are going towards a non-profit which TBM contributor Joy Forney and I have founded in the slums of Uganda: The Lulu Tree ~ “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.”

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Pre-order your copy of Atlas Girl HERE and receive a FREE e-book on How to Write Inspirational Memoir!

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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

What I’ve Learned from Praying with My Children {and a giveaway}

Dear Lord, Thank you for riding on steam train. Thank you for riding on trolley train. Thank you for riding on Thomas. You are my pray. A-men!

I have heard this prayer from my 3 ½ year-old son for some time now, and it never fails to make me smile. Although it sounds a bit like my son is thanking God for being a divine train passenger, he is in fact thanking God for his own various memorable train-riding experiences. I’ll admit I’m not sure what exactly he means by “You are my pray.”

What I do know is he loves to pray and he is enthusiastic and grateful, and it does my soul good to hear his prayers.

I love it even more when he occasionally changes it up, such as last night when, after reciting his usual prayer, he announced that he wanted to pray again, and added “Thank you for my new bike helmet!” The best is when he or his 6-year-old brother pray for another person without being prompted. Or surprise me with a new thought or question about God in our prayer time.

I remember when my older son was still learning to talk and every once in a while he would pop out a new word or phrase I was certain I hadn’t taught him. My first reaction was always surprise and a little uneasiness, but my next reaction was a sense of liberation and of letting go. What a relief to realize that I wasn’t responsible for teaching him every single last bit of knowledge that he needed to know to make his way in the world. Some small part of me had indeed labored under that misunderstanding, and occasionally I still fall prey to it.

The truth is that both my boys are going to learn a whole lot of things from people other than me, and thank goodness, because there are a lot of subjects I’m not all that up on. (I still don’t know who’s going to help them with their math homework after, say, fifth grade, and they’re definitely on their own if they decide to learn a foreign language other than Spanish.)

Not only have I come to accept how much they are going to learn from people other than me, I’m still amazed by how much I learn from my boys.

When it comes to praying with them, I so often start from the point of view that it’s all about me teaching them. I do have some theological wisdom and experience to share with them, and yet the intensity and the wholeheartedness of their prayers, the interesting questions they ask, all of these things teach and strengthen me. When they ask questions of me, such as the other night when my older son asked me just how Jesus could be God’s son and God too, I have to sift through my own thoughts on the subject, at times dust off some long-ago-learned theology, and at other times simply marvel at their take on a subject about which I have ceased to wonder, to my detriment.

Praying with them is theologically interesting and faith-strengthening. More often than not, I find praying with them to be the most connected I feel to God all day. They just give me so much for which to be grateful. They remind me of all the things that are right with the world and the blessings, and they even help me to get upset about some of the things that are wrong. When my older son passionately declared the other day that we should all live in trees so we could avoid tearing down all the forests, OK, it made me smile but it also made me think about sustainable living and what kind of job I’m doing with that, what kind of example I’m showing them.

I’ve also realized that the prayers I pray with them, far from being some kind of watered-down “example” prayers to show them how a good Christian might talk to God, have more clarity and purpose and purity than most of the prayer I do on my own. It’s not such a far leap to say that they might be more effective too.

It’s funny, isn’t it? I spend so much time trying to make my boys more like me, and a surprising amount of the time, I end up realizing that I should try to become more like them.

Julia RollerJulia Roller

Julia Roller is the author of Mom Seeks God, the story of her journey to reconnect with God through ten essential spiritual practices that she did her best to fit into the chaotic life of a mom with small children. She lives in San Diego with her husband, two sons, and miniature dachshund.

For more information about Julia Roller, her book, or the live chat visit her online home at juliaroller.com, become a fan on Facebook (JuliaLRoller), or follow her on Twitter (@julialroller).

 Guess what?? Today we are giving away 3 copies of Julia Roller’s book Mom Seeks God!

Enter to win via the rafflecopter below!!

Mom Seeks God (1)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kid’s Crafts Delivered to Your Door!! {coupon code & giveaway}

Green Kids Crafts

I am so excited to share this fun company for kids with you today!! There are some concepts that I come across that leave me thinking, “What a genius idea!”. Green Kid Crafts is one of them! It might be because I am a little challenged in the “crafty” area, but I am telling you this is such a fantastic service for families!

Green Kid Crafts delights over ten thousand kids across North America each month with fun, creative and eco-friendly craft and STEM activities (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), delivered right to their door through the company’s subscription program.

Every month’s Discovery Box is packed with 3-4 unique and engaging activity kits designed to foster a child’s creativity and confidence while helping to raise the nation’s next generation of creative leaders. We received the Mad Scientist kit to try out and my children loved it! It was educational and simple for them to put together and understand. Here are three of my four kids below putting together the glow in the dark lamp to learn about density.

Mad-Scientist-Photo Green Kid Crafts

 

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Below is a bit more about the company and what they offer:

  • Green Kid Crafts’ Creativity Kits, STEM Science Kits, and monthly Discovery Boxes are developed by teachers, crafty moms, and STEM experts to support key developmental skills for kids ages 3-10.
  • Green Kid Crafts’ award-winning products celebrate creativity and activates thinking, questioning, inquiring, and original creation while aligning with the company’s Happy & Healthy Child criteria. Each activity is also kid tested and parent approved for fun.
  • Each month brings a new theme; past themes have included Mad Scientist, Nocturnal Animals, Around the World, Outer Space, and Feathered Friends.
  • Green Kid Crafts has won a variety of awards including Dr. Toy’s Best Green Products of 2013, PTPA Seal of Approval, a recommendation from Parents’ Choice, MACT Excellence and MACT Green Awards and Red Tricycle’s Award for Most Awesome Subscription Service.
  • Green Kid Crafts is a mom-owned, green company founded by Penny Bauder, a mom of two and an environmental activist from Alaska.  The company operates a virtual office, employing a network of passionate team members based across the US from California to Alaska to Connecticut.
  • Subscriptions are available in month-to-month, 3, 6 and 12 month durations, and also make great gifts! Subscriptions start at $16.95 / month, and sibling subscriptions are also available.

Green Kid Crafts are only $16.95 per month when you sign up for a 12 month subscription. That includes all of the supplies you need to make 3-4 unique and engaging crafts! For The Better Mom community only Green Kid Crafts is offering a $5 off coupon!

To sign up today for a subscription or to try out just one box sign up by clicking here at Green Kid Crafts and don’t forget to enter “bettermom” at checkout for $5 off!!

Also, Green Kid Crafts is giving away a 3 Month Discovery Box Subscription to one of you!! Enter the rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How to Write Books with Babies In Your Lap (Giveaway)

via Worth James Goddard on flickr

You don’t.

You don’t write books with babies in your lap, you don’t even check your email because four boys are honking your nose and pulling at your hair and coffee spills all over the overdue bills on your desk and you wonder again, why you said Yes.

Why you said you’d take in your friend’s two children when she called saying she couldn’t do it anymore, she couldn’t be a mom anymore. And rather than see that one-year-old and three-year-old go into the foster system you said you’d take them in, in addition to your six-month-old and his two-year-old brother.

Because some things are more important than sleep. Or a hot cup of coffee. Or that novel you’ve just been contracted to write because of course, you finally got a contract right after you took the boys in. Because God cares more about the least of these and he’ll reward you for it, too.

But it doesn’t feel like a reward. Especially when one of the boys forgets to lock the gate behind him and your six month old tumbles down the stairs in his walker and you grab him, weeping, you run with him to the office and close the door and hold your baby close to you and sob to God, I can’t do this.

Rock your baby and sobbing, and then somehow, God reminds you that you can. And you rise, open the door, turn on some music for the boys in the living room and they run dancing around the coffee table.

The story only gets written because you hire a nanny–a Dutch girl from your hamlet who makes homemade pasta noodles and laughs with all of her upper body and brings crafts to do with the boys. She brings her keyboard and songs fill the insides of your walls and she makes you mugs of tea and you call her Angel.

But even as the characters begin to form on the screen in your Word document, even as the plot thickens and you try to avoid those excessive adverbs and cliche descriptions, you hear the boys laughing outside the office door.

And you miss them. Your house is full of children but they’re no longer climbing all over you, they’re climbing all over somebody else, and you wonder if they aren’t the greatest story your life is writing?

These four boys whose noses and legs never stop running, who never get enough stories at bedtime, who always want more songs and more snuggles and more glasses of milk and more of you.

boys in the corn

All you’ve ever wanted is to be a published author and now you have the chance and you can’t help thinking, this isn’t what life is about.

It’s incredible to be able to make up stories but it’s even more incredible to live them. To hear the words tumbling from your child’s mouth as he talks about his favorite blue flashlight as you lie beside him in his bunk-bed. “Some flashlights are small, and some are big, and some are tiny and some are huge,” he says as he slips his hand into yours there in the dark.

Catherine Wallace writes, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

Yes, I write books, but I don’t make a living from them. I make a living from being a mother and a wife, from nurturing life and love through the main characters of my story: the Dutch-German man I fell in love with back in Bible School, the one who converts his car to run off vegetable oil, who cans his own salsa and snowboards mountains. Who hikes up his pajama pants and dances for me in the middle of the living room, who throws his boys on the bed and eats their tummies, who downloads Parenthood for me and goes geocaching with me and kisses me like he means it.

And the two Filipino boys who now only visit us once a month because they’re back with their mama, and she thanks me every week for saving her life last year, and my biological sons–the ones I wasn’t supposed to be able to have–who make me feel famous every time I enter a room. Who squish my cheeks together in their dimpled hands and say, “I lah you Mama.”

This, friends–this is the story worth telling. The one we’re in.

novel ad

I am honored to be giving away my debut novel, A Promise in Pieces--which releases this month–today to you friends… it’s about a woman like me, named Clara, who loves passionately while struggling to believe she is loved.

From the back cover: “It’s been more than 50 years since Clara cared for injured WWII soldiers in the Women’s Army Corp. Fifty years since she promised to deliver a dying soldier’s last wish. And 50 years since that soldier’s young widow gave her the baby quilt—a grief-ridden gift that would provide hope to countless newborns in the years to come. On her way to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Clara decides it’s time to share her story. But when the trip doesn’t go as planned, Clara wonders if anyone will learn the great significance of the quilt—and the promise stitched inside it.”

If you want to win one of two copies, just leave a comment below and we’ll choose two winners within the week. Otherwise, you can download a free chapter and purchase the novel HERE.

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

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