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The world has changed so quickly in these past weeks and suddenly, those of us who are homeschooling our children are no longer in the minority! The current world Coronavirus pandemic has forced most of the world into isolation in their homes which means millions of people are now homeschooling their children.

Many mums and dads seem to be feeling quite anxious about the situation and I’ve had more than one request for some advice and tips! While I want to be very clear about the fact that I most definitely don’t have all the answers, (and every family is unique in their characteristics and needs) I thought I’d share some tidbits that have helped us over the past 14 years of homeschooling.  Hoping it might be a help to someone!

First, if you’ve been thrust into homeschooling, I recommend that you stop and take a deep breath.  Give yourself permission to find this challenging (even us veterans have really difficult days!).  Homeschooling is just one of the many changes our families are experiencing at the moment and it’s a lot to face all at once.  Be very patient and gracious with yourself and your children.  Pay attention to their emotions and also your own.  Give yourself and them time to adapt to the changes, including the fact that they will be learning at home.  Let them know you understand the changes are not easy.  There is no rush to find the perfect rhythm! In fact, it doesn’t exist! One of the things I find constant as a homeschooling mum is the continual need to adjust – our schedules and routines, curriculum and everything!  Flexibility is so important.  Under ordinary circumstances, when families begin homeschooling, they often take a period of time called “de-schooling” (which is just a time for the children to get used to being at home and a brand new way of doing things) before actually starting back into formal academics.  Feel free to take a period of time like this if you need it. – guilt free (for whatever reason!)

Second, don’t expect homeschooling to look or feel like normal school. It will take time to find a good routine, but try to create one based on YOUR family’s needs and don’t try to replicate the look or feel of a classroom!  I do believe children thrive with a (flexible) routine but make it your own personal family routine with your own style. Don’t try to force a 9am-3pm timetable (think about how much school time is spent in things like moving from activity to activity, classroom management, etc). I really think that children 7 and under realistically only need a maximum of an hour of formal schooling a day (ie the amount of time they actually sit down at a table and do work). Having said that, all of the rest of their day can be extremely educational!! Board and card games, arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, taking care of pets, stories being read aloud, the list could go on! And of course free play is extremely good for children in so many ways – lego, playmobil (our personal family favourite for fostering creativity!), dressing up and creating imaginary games are so wonderful for their development!

(NOTE: The availability of screens will most definitely squeeze out these creative and highly beneficial activities! If children have a choice, they will always choose the screen.  This isn’t the place to write about the immense damage to the brains of children being done by screens and the addictive nature of them but I’m confident you won’t ever regret limiting the access your children have to them! Remember, there might be an adjustment period while your children are getting used to being at home all the time. If screens are not a constant option, their creativity will eventually blossom and you will find that their “boredom” motivates them to try all kinds of new and creative play. If you resist the temptation to use a screen as a babysitter, it will temporarily mean less “free” time for you as a parent.  But in the end it will pay off! And the brain and heart of your children will be protected.)

Thoughts on routine:

  • Children are usually much more able to concentrate in the morning.  So try to do the subjects first thing that they most need their brain power for (ie maths and English and for older children, science, etc).  Afternoons can be free for things like reading, read-alouds, crafts, outdoor play (if possible under the current rules!), cooking, lego, music practice, projects, etc.
  • If you have multiple children of different ages, I have found it helpful to work with the youngest children first.  They will be more fresh first thing in the day, and will benefit having your attention (it fills their love tanks!) before you get involved in helping the older kids.  I find my little ones have always been much happier to go off and play by themselves if they’ve had time with mummy first. If they are not school aged, you can read them stories, play a game or with toys with them  – try letting them pick what they would like to do with you! It will make them feel special and show them that you have time just for them.
  • When a child is about 6 or 7 years old, I have found that making a daily list of school work for them really helps them to learn responsibility and self-motivation.  They can tick off the items themselves and it stops you having to constantly be telling them what to do. (Of course they should know they can come to you for help if they need it!).  Older children can have a weekly list, rather than daily, which teaches them to manage their time and decide what needs to be done each day.
  • Having a routine is so helpful but don’t become a slave to your routine.  Give yourself permission to throw the math lesson out the window once in awhile and make play dough or cook something together or whatever.  Embrace joy!
  • Include in your routine a time in the day where everyone goes to their own little corner and does something quietly alone (screen free if you can!).  With everyone being together in the same space for long periods of time, it’s super healthy to get a break from each other! It’s also very helpful for you as a mum or dad to take some time to rest, nap, read or call a friend.  We all need time to rest and recharge our batteries!
  • Another essential part of a homeschooling routine is a regular time or times for tidying up. More people in the house for more time means more mess! Choose regular times where everyone in the house participates in bringing some order back to your home.  We have a time before we eat dinner where everyone has a job to do.  And we have after meal clean-up jobs too.  And then deeper cleaning jobs on the weekends.  In one sense we have an advantage in that we have a big family and therefore more hands to help (but more people in the house means it gets messier more quickly too!) Doing chores (or contributions as we call them) is absolutely part of education for children too and teaches love, kindness, responsibility and working as a team. It takes effort for a parent to organise the jobs, teach them and make sure they are getting done.  But your children will grow up with invaluable skills and hopefully some wonderful character traits!

Remember, your family is unique and wonderful! Some families like to do a lot of art and craft, others love music and dance, and still others love science and nature.  Maybe you love them all or something else entirely! But please, please try not to compare yourself to other families.  They are not you and you are not them.  Go with the interests of your children and remember you don’t have to imitate other families or live up to anyone else’s expectations. Keep things simple and remember that your family relationships are vastly more important than academic success.  You are teaching precious little people, not school subjects.  Value them as people – mind, heart and body.

This has gotten very long and I still have quite a lot more to say! So I will come back with part 2 (and maybe 3) in the next few days. I hope to write a bit more about the “how to” of homeschooling and the things I believe are truly important to prioritise as we are educating our children. As well as resource ideas.  Stay tuned! And do let me know if you have any specific questions you want me to address.

Mead Family Europe Trip

Melanie —  July 10, 2019

We had the opportunity to take a family road trip in Europe just after Easter.  We’d saved and planned for this trip for quite some time – it was such a special time!  We were able to be together as a family and see so many beautiful and historic places while enjoying a break from our normal busy lives.  It’s taken me awhile to get the photos together to post . . . but here they are!  We are so thankful to God for this trip. It was such a gift.

Our first stop was Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther’s hometown and the place of so much history from the Protestant Reformation. Here we are in front of the famous door of Castle Church where Luther nailed the 95 theses.

 

Climbing the tower of Castle Church. It was quite a climb but the view at the top was worth it!

 

The Luther Museum was fascinating. Here’s Kaylah in front of a printing press.

 

The Mead ladies posing with Luther’s wife, Katerina von Bora. May we all be used by God to change the world as she was!

 

We loved Wittenberg. It was quiet, non-touristy and the weather was perfect. This is the Castle Church tower.

 

Jessah was served the most enormous bowl of spaghetti at this open air cafe. The older couple sitting near us took great delight in watching her tackle it – as did we!

 

During our crazy 16 hr. drive from England to Wittenberg, we drove by Wartburg Castle – where Martin Luther famously translated the New Testament into German in just 11 weeks. We couldn’t go inside but it was amazing to see the castle even from a distance.

 

Mariah and Hannah

 

All in all, the first leg of our trip was a super fun success!

 

Our next stop was Prague. We spent only half a day there but it was wonderful and thankfully we avoided getting drenched by a thunderstorm which broke just as we returned to our van. This is part of Prague Castle (which you climb a very steep flight of steps to reach.)

 

The beautiful Vltava river.

 

And the famous Charles Bridge.

 

Hannah and Aliyah in front of the astronomical clock (which has some very strange symbolic features . . . google it if you are interested!)

 

We tried the Prague specialty cake – trdelnik – yum!

 

Our next destination was Austria. This is the beautiful town of Halstatt in the Austrian Lake District.

 

Such a gorgeous place!

 

And my gorgeous girls – at least in this mum’s humble opinion!

 

All the Meadlings in front of the lake (see) at Halstatt.

 

After a couple of rainy days, it actually snowed all day on the 1st of May! Let’s just say we were very unprepared for weather this cold! Thank goodness for warm blankets. We did really have fun outdoors in short stints but we also enjoyed staying warm inside in front of the fire, reading, playing games ,etc.

 

This was the view from the house where we were staying.

 

And this was the view just 2 days later!

 

We took advantage of the one sunny day to see Salzburg – probably my favourite place that we visited on this trip. Such a beautiful city.

 

Quite a bit of The Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg. We had lots of fun finding some of the sites from the film. Here we are in front of the Abbey where the children went to find Maria after she had left them. It’s also the location where the real Maria and Captain Von Trapp were married.

 

Gorgeous view from near the Abbey!

 

The fortress on the hill is a famous Salzburg landmark.

 

Kaylah and Jessah on a stone lion (near where the von Trapp children sang Do Re Mi on the steps in Mirabelle Gardens.)

 

Mariah and Joel with a gnome that also appears in the film.

 

The day we left Austria, we drove up this mountain and rode a chair lift up and bobsleds down! It was one of the most fun things we did on the trip!

 

At the top!

 

Breath-taking views!

 

The next day we made a quick stop in San Marino, the world’s 5th smallest country. (Built on top of a hill!

 

View from the top!

 

Our final destination was beautiful Italy. We spent one day in Rome, which was fun (but had a sad ending as we discovered our van was burgled while we were sight-seeing. Among the things taken was Aliyah’s Bible, so we pray maybe God is using it to reach somebody for him!)

 

There is no city quite like Rome. Here are the Meadlings in front of the Trevi Fountain.

 

And on the Spanish Steps.

 

Yes, we’re still in love after 20 years! 🙂

 

Apart from Rome, we didn’t do much sight-seeing in Italy. We mainly just chilled (literally at times in the cold pool, before we got it warmed up!)

 

The kids and Peter had so much fun in the pool! (It was mostly too cold for me!)

 

And shivering on the beach!

 

The place where we stayed was quite remote and I really enjoyed walking the country roads.

 

We even got to try making focaccia in the pizza oven.

 

We made so many sweet memories which we will treasure as Hannah flies the nest soon and heads off to university in America.

 

Meadlings 1 and 2

 

Keep on smiling girls!

 

Not long after we got home from our trip Aunt Carol came to visit. Another special time with great memories.

 

Well done if you’ve made it through this long post! We are so grateful to God for this special trip and his faithfulness to us in the weeks since.  The almost 2 months since we’ve been home have been very full . . . Peter had his annual trip to Poland for the European Leadership Forum.  We’ve performed the Mark Drama at church and many other things have happened in family and ministry life. Thank you so much for your continued prayers for us.  Our hearts’ desire is that we would serve Jesus with love and grace, out of the overflow of the the love and grace we continually receive from Him. We sense our weakness daily and the fierceness of the supernatural battle around us.  We value your prayers for us so much as we look to him daily in faith and trust.  He is the best Father!

 

 

 

 

 

February Fun!

Melanie —  March 3, 2018

February begins our birthday season, with four girls’ birthdays in four weeks.  We’ve made some special memories!  In the middle of all the festivities, Hannah and I took at trip to Oregon so she could check out two universities she is interested in applying to attend.  Wow, I can’t believe this season in our lives has arrived!  My family and Hannah’s close friend, Anne, had no clue we were coming; it was super fun to surprise them all!

Also, this month, we are running a parenting course in our church life groups, Peter has been preaching on Sundays through the life of Joseph (Where is God in This?) and Cor Deo has held a one-week women’s course.  The last day was sadly cancelled due to snow, but they covered some of the last day’s material on the fourth day and they’ll have an evening next week to finish off for anyone able to attend.  From all accounts it’s been an impactful week in these ladies’ lives.  We have another women’s Cor Deo week coming up in Devon the week after next.  We are so grateful for your continued prayers for us as we serve at church and beyond.  Our hearts are full of gratitude to God for his blessings, including a much waited for mini-snow storm over the past few days which provided hours of fun for the children (and yes, Peter and I too!)

Here are some photos for you.  (Also, check out my “Currently Reading” page which I just updated. And if you haven’t explored the rest of the website recently,  we have done a long overdue update to all the pages!)

On the 1st of Feb, Kaylah turned 6! She requested a “donut” cake.

 

A party is always so exciting! (Even if it’s just a family one.)

 

Wiggle scooter!

 

We did outings with Mom and Dad this year instead of big parties with friends. Kaylah asked to go ice skating. Peter and I had a lot of fun with her!

 

Next up was Aliyah – she turned 15!

 

Lunch at Costco!

 

We thank God for Aliyah!

 

Next up was Mariah – she joined her sisters in the teenage world – 13 years old!

 

Our 3 lovely teenagers!

 

We (and all our relatives) surprised her with a bike for her birthday. We took her into the store blindfolded. Jessah said, “Bike!” just before we took the blindfold off. 🙂

 

 

Fun at the climbing centre!

 

Just before her birthday, Mariah became the 4th person in our family to earn her blackbelt.

 

As I have done with her older sisters, I took her away for a night for her 13th – we had fun playing bananagrams (such an addictive game!), watching War Room, eating and shopping.

 

Here’s Hannah and me on the plane getting ready to fly to Oregon. It was a memorable trip for both of us.

 

Hannah and my Dad – we surprised the family and showed up at his birthday party!

 

Hannah and her friend (after sneaking up on her in the library and surprising her!)

 

Hannah and I drove by the Hillsboro apartment building Peter and I lived in during his time in seminary. Ours was the upstairs one on the left. We have so many memories here, especially of Hannah and Aliyah as babies!

 

It was super special to spend time with my sister . .

 

. . . and my nieces and nephews.

 

Amy and I with our Mom.

 

Hannah and her friend Anne at Corban University.

 

And here we are at Multnomah with dear friend, Carley Wecks (we ran into her in the salad line in the cafeteria!). What a joy to reconnect!

 

Please pray for Hannah as she prays about her future and prepares for it. She really liked both universities so she’ll probably apply to both and keep praying.

 

Yesterday was Hannah’s 17th birthday! We were snowed in so it was one she won’t soon forget!

 

Even though we had to postpone her cinema trip and birthday dinner til tonight, we had so much fun in the beautiful snow!

 

Au revoir for now . . .

 

Thanks so much for praying for us!