10 Ingredients to Working and Homeschooling

10 Ingredients

Don’t hate on me, because it is the calendar’s fault. We are past the mid-point of July, and we all know what that means — back-to-school is barreling down on us. My calendar is screaming at me that studies start in two weeks. I don’t even have most of my school books.

Don’t judge me.

As I make my book-order lists and check them twice, I’m thinking of and praying for several of you I met this past spring. Particularly you Oklahoma and DFW friends I talked with in conventions. Remember, when we commiserated on the work/homeschool tightrope and how hard yet rewarding it is and how do you do it I don’t know how I do it but we survive. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Thinkin’ of ya. You can do it!

And while I was chatting about “how do we do this” with my coworkers, I was struck by how varied we all “do” it. There really isn’t just one easy solution to the chaos that is our life. But we all use some combination of the following strategies.

So, like a salad — no, a delicious SMOOTHIE! with Vanilla Extract! — pick your own ingredients and make the combination that is right for you. Then enjoy your crazy concoction! Cheers!

Ways to Make Working and Homeschooling … Work. For You.

1) Block off specific work/teaching times. I had an epiphany this past year. Setting specific times for working and teaching and resting and reading and errands … these time blocks did not merely make sure I got stuff done. Though that is great. More importantly, it set limits to what I’m doing so I don’t let my Mommy-is-in-the-zone over-run my priorities.

2) Be creative with work times. This is awesome. I grab “found time” during a sports clinic, a choir rehearsal, a Dad-has-to-go-into-work-on-a-Saturday … any spare hour that looked like “wasted time” could usually be redeemed by a drop-off and dash to the Starbucks at the corner. Bonus — no one whining in my ear. BINGO!

3) Limit teaching time, but not learning time. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but my husband was persistent in reminding me weekly until I started to believe it. I don’t have to be sitting next to my child for him to be learning.

GASP.

Let that sink in.

I’m not condoning educational neglect, but there is a great truth here. Once I started holding my student responsible for the learning and limiting my lecture/explanation times to specific blocks of time, I noticed my children grew in their own study skills. Mommy doesn’t need to spoon feed what they are capable of reading and understanding themselves.

So, maybe the actual teaching time you invest is 15-20 hours a week. Your students can double that in learning time with their independent reading, research, experiments, homework … youtube viewing of frogs mating … duct tape wallets …

4) Involve your spouse. Hey, you are not only a mom of many hats, you are literally (I used that word correctly!) literally working two regular jobs. He has to give you fist bumps for that. And it is not ridiculous of you to ask him for help. Ask him what he would like to do, and he’ll probably already have a “favorite” he wouldn’t mind taking off your hands. Errands? Cooking? Laundry? Spanish class? Sports taxi driver? He also works for kisses.  Can’t beat the price.

5) Enroll in virtual classes. True confession: I never wanted to see my child sitting in front of a computer screen as a replacement for the awesome-sauce education I can give him one-on-one. Ok, we homeschool moms have an extra helping of self-confidence, but you know what I mean. I did finally come to the point where I had to admit that a) I was not able to give awesome-sauce education for eight classes to four children while working full time, and b) students need to learn how to learn from someone not related to them.

So I tried two classes, one each from Red Wagon Tutorials and Lampstand Learning. And it was the best decision I made after deciding to homeschool. My son got deeper instruction in these areas, enjoyed conversing with me about both every week, and woke up to academic commitments in the real world. And I freed up hours of preparation and instruction time on my end. Win-win-win for everyone!

6) Enroll in co-op classes. Similar to the above, but in “real life.” The downside is the travel, but if you use class time as “found time” to work, it can be a big help.

7) Enlist help from older siblings. I actually stuffed my face with breakfast burritos a couple months ago while a gifted (she is gifted, and she teaches gifted math students. I have awesome friends) public school teacher took me to task on this. Why am I not letting my children grade each other’s math papers? I thought it was a cop-out on my part, and she gave me a withering gaze. No teacher worth her salt will try to be-all and end-all to every student. Use the people you have to maximize your teaching ability. Yes, Ma’am.

8) Reduce the electives. Is it hyper-important my middle-school student study government, art history, and ancient church literature? um, probably not. And does my second grader need to build his own timeline, create a topographical globe out of paper mache, and articulate the differing theories on global warming? help me, no!

By high school, my students need certain courses covered and thus-and-such electives in common areas. But my elementary and middle school students need the basics and all else is gravy. I get the reading, writing, and arithmetic down every week and celebrate any other learning. WOW! I’m super-super-super mom! You had history AND science this week! Don’t you feel like a genius?

9) Become more eclectic. I love classical homeschooling. But my children use a textbook for math. And … true confession time … they do grammar worksheets. But the more open I am to whatever works for me, the more freedom I have to teach how I like. Consider throwing out the rule book and doing it your way.

10) Limit other commitments. The guilt comes on fast and hard every time I’m asked “would you like to help with …”. There is no way I can be AWANA leader, community volunteer, team mom, and children’s club sponsor. So, I choose one volunteer activity that is meaningful for me and politely decline the rest. I still blush all shades and stammer incoherently while trying to defend my decision, but by the time I get back home, I’m glad not to have one more thing on the calendar.

So, how do you make working and homeschooling work for you? Do you have more strategies to help balance the chaos?

Posted in Working & Homeschooling | Leave a comment

How to Lead, Even if You Are a Failure

Leaders fail. Great leaders suffer great failure.

Failure

Joshua, one of the greatest political and military leaders of Israel’s history, suffered one of the greatest setbacks in Isreal’s history, too. When this hit me recently, it changed how I view leadership forever.

Look at his situation: Joshua marched out of Egypt a freed slave with the rest of his countrymen. He spent the next several months getting as close to his own leader as possible — literally shadowing Moses every step he took. When Moses went up Mount Sinai and the people started partying, Joshua crept as close to the mountain as he could to make sure he was the first to catch Moses on his way down. When Moses went into the tabernacle to see God, Joshua waited outside patiently and then dashed into the tent to pray after his mentor. When Moses, at his father-in-law’s advice, organized the entire nation into an organized managerial system, Joshua quickly rose to the top. When Moses selected twelve tribal leaders to be the first eyes inside the Promised Land, Joshua was an obvious choice for the mission.

But what happened next is mind-blowing.

Joshua came back with his friend Caleb, giving glowing reports while calling the troops to battle.

But no one listened.

Joshua was not only unsuccessful in persuading his countrymen to fulfill their goal, he could not even rally his own tribe behind the plan. Every single Israelite, every member of his tribe and family, everyone utterly rejected his leadership and tried to not only oust him from power but to even execute him publicly. If not for an act of God, that would have been the end of Joshua altogether.

It was a crushing leadership failure. That night, Joshua went back to his tent to face a family that dishonored him publicly. For the next forty years, he watched nearly every single person he knew struggle in a miserable existence and ultimately die in the desert all because he could not convince them to do what they had intended to do all along.

In a leadership sense, this was the ultimate failure of massive proportions. It not only cost the goal, but it cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

Epic Fail

How did Joshua recover from such an epic fail? What made him get out of his tent the next morning? What propelled him from this depth to even greater political and military success, ultimately achieving the very task he failed at so miserably?

Joshua doesn’t lay out a 10-point plan for leadership recovery, but I think that by reading the rest of his account, we can learn some valuable tools for recovering from failure.

How to Lead, Even if You Are a Failure

1. Joshua returned to his values. Rather than doing what I would have done – crawling into the tent to weep and wail and never emerge again — Joshua seems to have spent his forty years wisely. His leadership became more internal (dare I say, introverted?) as he quietly focused on his spiritual life. By reconnecting to the why of his life, Joshua strengthened his own foundation. It is this long-term vision, the growing knowledge of who God was to him and to his people and what God was doing with the nation as a whole, it is this vision that sustained Joshua during the wilderness years and ultimately propelled his leadership forward in Canaan.

2. Joshua started at home. Joshua’s family life is not detailed in Scripture, but two stark contrasts tell a compelling story. Before his epic failure, Joshua was a leader (maybe the leader) of his tribe of thousands. And no one followed his advice. By the end of his life, Joshua said, “As for me and my house,” and the entire nation heard and followed his example.

I think this is a significant change in Joshua’s perspective. As a young leader, he was focused (and probably very talented) with the power and prestige of leading the masses. But his painful lesson taught him that change starts at home. He had forty years to rebuild those close relationships and mentor his own family toward godliness. It appears it was time well spent, as those relationships became a model for the entire nation to follow.

3. Joshua learned who he was. This is where I am all conjecture, but if you stick with me, you may find I’m not too far off base. Joshua faced the worst possible scenario for his leadership — failure that cost the lives of everyone in his entire nation. It would never get worse than that. And when that happened, he learned the most important lesson any leader will ever learn: Who am I? Am I a leader? Do I have the right stuff?

When he found that he could get out of his tent the next morning … when he had the courage to hold his wife’s hand knowing she would soon die … when he patiently taught his children and grandchildren his nation’s history … when he listened to more grumbling from his neighbor and did not beat him down into the sand in frustration … when he ate manna for the 18,495th time while looking wistfully at the horizon … he learned how much he could endure. He saw his own character brought to the light of the hot desert sun, and he found God gave him strength and grace for each and every day.

I love Joshua’s story. When I fail (every day), it comforts me to know that my failures of leadership don’t cost a million deaths. And it reminds me that each failure is part of who I am.

My failures today will shape the success that will one day come.

And that is God’s Promised Land.

Posted in Leading Women, Working & Homeschooling | Leave a comment

The One Thing You Need to Be a Leader

The 1 Thing

There are a lot of people who call themselves leaders, but you and I both know they really aren’t. These pseudo-leaders (fake leaders? wanna-be’s? leaders in word but not in deed? not sure what to call them) are all around us. You know who they are. They have a title, but not a tribe. A name, but no respect.

And pseudo-leaders don’t really bother us, because the impact they are making is much less than they think, or less than they wish, and they aren’t really in the way of what we’re doing, just annoying.

BUT … the one thing they can do, is get us to question ourselves.

Because when I see a pseudo-leader and the disconnect between what he says he is and the harsh reality …

I start to wonder if I’m a pseudo-leader, too.

That would be scary. What if we aren’t the leaders we think we are? How do we know if we have what it takes to inspire others, to challenge the status quo, and to make a difference in people’s lives?

This is a question that has haunted me for years. Over a decade, if I’m going to be really honest. It has kept me up at night, haunted my dreams, and ruined my milestone celebrations. And a couple times, when people have actually voiced that concern to me, I felt like my stomach was punched out. It’s the one fear, I think, that can paralyze a leader in any capacity.

Is it worth it? Am I making a difference?

And now I have the answer. Are you ready?

There is only one thing a leader needs to lead. There is only one magic ingredient to the secret sauce, one thing that separates the girls from the women, one trait that guarantees no matter how big the mess-up, there is always hope.

A Leader is a Person of Influence.

That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

A mother has leadership in her home so far as she can influence her spouse and children – young or old.

A church member has leadership in so far as she influences her fellow members for godliness and service.

A community member has leadership if she changes her block, her town, her community for good.

A business woman has leadership to the extent she influences change in her company, the business relationships they have, and the greater market they serve.

A year and a half ago, a woman of real influence and genuine leadership sent me this anonymous quote:

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He doesn’t set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. In the end, leaders are much like eagles… they do not flock; you find them one at a time.

The more I meditate on the influence of leadership, the more I stand in awe at the tremendous leaders I know. I am blessed to work with some of the most talented women leaders of our day, no doubt about it. They have changed —  and continue to change —  minds and actions by their steadfast service and determination. I’m in awe.

I also have met mothers, business women, homeschoolers, and ministry leaders that have tremendous impact on the lives of thousands. It boggles my mind! They don’t have titles, or business cards, or huge social media following.

But they change lives every day.

I want to be more like them. I’m making lists of them, to pray for them and watch them, support them and emulate them. You might want to do that, too.

And add your name to the top of the list, my friend.

You are changing the world.

Posted in Leading Women

Can We Really Trust Women Leaders?

Can We Trust (1)Joshua and Caleb were already tribal leaders when they spied out the land of Canaan. As spokesmen for their people, they returned with a glowing report, urging everyone to follow them into the promised land. But ultimately, ten other spies convinced the Israelites to go the opposite direction — with disastrous results. As in, everybody died. Joshua and Caleb were great leaders. But the people didn’t trust them.

I was thinking about that while reading my library book, See Jane Lead: 99 Ways for Women to Take Charge at Work by Lois P. Frankel. On page seven, Dr. Frankel lists on ten negative reactions to women leaders that she noted in her research on female leadership. I recognize these reactions from my experience in leadership. If you are also in leadership, you undoubtedly have experienced these signs your group doesn’t trust you.

Signs of Leadership Distrust

- Being called names (usually behind their backs) that assault their femininity.

-Anger that is expressed blatantly or passive-agressively.

- Having their ideas openly challenged, rather than built on.

- Having their ideas overlooked only to be repeated as original by men in the group.

- Being excluded from future meetings.

- Having information that enables them to make good judgments withheld.

- Challenges to their “right” to lead (i.e. “Who does she think she is?”).

- Later being given more menial assignments that are designed to keep them in their place.

- Being placated.

- Being openly derided.

If you have been in leadership for any amount of time, I’m sure you have experienced these. What surprised me the most in my nearly two decades of leadership in ministry and business, is that women distrust other women leaders, too, and often seek to undermine their influence. That is sad.

There are many tangible ways we can support the women leading us and help broaden the opportunities for future women leaders. Here are some ideas I came up with.

How to Trust Women Leaders

1. Speak publicly and privately about women leaders with respect. Whether they lead in politics or business, community or church, large groups or small, their position signifies achievement and influence.  Even when we disagree with their methods or decisions, we can respect the title.

2. Discuss differences of opinion fairly. I am all for a great debate. Let’s stick to the facts and figures, though, rather than resort to emotionalism or character attacks.

3. Give credit where due. Give praise often. Take responsibility every time. Good leaders male and female understand that the credit belongs to the team, but the blame belongs to me.

4. Communicate openly. Being closed-fisted with the facts is a serious form of corporate dishonesty that cannot be tolerated in any organization. Holding back the entire story undermines teamwork at best, and ultimately steals innovation and revenue from the entire company. Strive for as much transparency across the entire organization to build trust and respect 360 degrees.

5. Promote qualified women. I don’t merely mean give them more job responsibility and a higher paycheck, though that is great. Do it. But I also mean verbally, socially, and financially support and promote women around you who are going against the flow to make a difference.

No matter where in the leadership journey we are in, there are many ways we can build trust in leading women. Can you think of more ways to support the women leading around you?

Posted in Leading Women, Working & Homeschooling

Get Over It

Just Get Over itSometimes it isn’t what is on the list that inhibits, that hinders us from being successful.

There are several roadblocks to success, little things that stand in the way of achieving our goals — big goals in life, and little todo list tasks. We simply can’t move forward when there is something in the way.

What are your roadblocks? I encounter several types of roadblocks every day. Here are a few types that come to mind:

  • Interruptions
  • Phone solicitors
  • Family drama
  • Bad weather
  • Physical illness or pain
  • Automobile issues
  • Household repair problems
  • Friends in need
  • Technical difficulties
  • Work project delays
  • Teenage attitudes
  • Childishness

You could probably add even more to the list. Life is hard, and no matter how beautiful my schedule and clean my todo list, there will certainly be road blocks that need to be overcome.

And can I let you in on a secret? Every one of those roadblocks happened to me this past weekend. I kid you not, it was a weekend full of unforseen events.

But it was also the most relaxing, enjoyable weekend I’ve had in a long time.

Before you start asking how much vanilla extract I was downing, I have to tell you — I did not have to personally attend to each of those interruptions. I witnessed them, was slightly inconvenienced by them, but I didn’t take it upon myself to right the wrongs of the world.

That’s what a husband is for, right?

Seriously, though, I am learning (not perfect at this yet!) that so much of life’s road blocks can be surmounted successfully if I remember one thing:

Get over it.

Move on! Keep going! Launch plan B! Enjoy the new reality!

Automobile smashed up? I can get a lot done around the house this week since I’m staying home.

Phone won’t stop ringing? That’s why God created silencers. And for phones, too.

Not feeling well? Time to catch up on that rest and reading!

Teenagers giving the lip? Break out the popcorn. The hilarity will never end.

Air conditioning out? It works in the car!

I have observed so many people who live miserable lives. They define themselves by their adversity, publicly categorizing their inconveniences as though it is a badge of honor.

I don’t want to live unhappily. I want to enjoy the dream life God gives me.

And you do, too.

Stuff will happen today. And tomorrow. My friend Jenny says, “Just keep swimming.”

I’m not as sweat as she is. I say: Just get over it.

Posted in Leading Women, The List, Working & Homeschooling