Naps & Snacks
By Malissa Custer
One of my very favorite Bible stories is that of Elijah. In 1 Kings 18, this theatric story unfolds. The challenge has been given to the prophets of Baal, and what a dramatic scene unfolded there. My God, the same God of Elijah, showed up that day and proved Himself, just like He has done for me every step of my life. The still small voice that has shown Himself to me in every stage of my life in a variety of ways shows Himself here in a very big way. I always wonder what I would have thought if I was in the crowd, how would I have felt, reacted, responded? Anyway, I love that story, because Elijah succeeded in being an instrument of God to show Himself true, real, and powerful, while that “little g” god of Baal was completely absent. This time, reading it, I really focused on what happened after the story.
The pressure did not let up for Elijah after he killed all the prophets of Baal by the brook of Kishon. Old, nasty Jezebel soon heard of what occurred and promised, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” Elijah’s response to this makes me feel weary for him. The Bible says he left his servant in Beersheba and “went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (1 Kgs. 19:4) Then, he fell asleep. He was completely exhausted. Physically, spiritually, and emotionally spent. Nothing left to give. No more fight or grit left to face Jezebel. What did God do next? Well, it says, “As he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.” Then, the angel touched him again with more food and water and told him to get up and eat, as he needed to build his strength.
Have you ever come to the place of being physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally spent? I have. Recently, if I’m honest. Little Miss Farrah joined the family just a couple of weeks ago, and nothing has been easy. The entire journey of her time in utero has been challenging in all those ways. God chose to stretch and change us in this way, and even though I wouldn’t change it, I was overwhelmed and exhausted at her arrival. It was as if the car ran out of gas and the exact moment I reached my destination. All of the gauges hit zero at exactly the same time. I had nothing left to give, and was struggling with just the basics.
I was frustrated with myself for not feeling very spiritual. Shouldn’t I be filled and overflowing in this big moment? Why am I so unspiritual? Why can’t I come up with feelings about all this? I felt thankful to God, but right then, mostly just that it was over, and that I survived. Not very deep. Pretty shallow, actually. I was reminded of this Bible story, and the verse, “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” (Ps. 103:14) God was so kind and gentle with Elijah in his moments of complete exhaustion. He was gracious, and helped to take care of his physical needs first. I needed to deal with my body’s physical needs first. I needed sleep, time, and food to start feeling better. I needed a break. How could I expect the rest of my being to respond correctly if my physical body couldn’t catch up? It was true, too, after about 3 days of cat-naps and newborn nights, I was starting to feel a little less spent. My body was getting small amounts of rest to recover from my cold and fever, and thankfully Farrah was being kind to me at night, too. I was now able to eat real food, regularly, and slowly it was making a difference.
So, what is the point? I’m certainly not writing all of this to conjure sympathy. I think that almost all of you moms can relate to my feelings. At some point in motherhood, you have been completely spent, with nothing left to give. Children have a way of taking more than you ever thought you could possibly give. Lately, the term “self-care” has been floating around a lot. Normally I don’t like things like this. They rub me the wrong way. Get over it, give more, do more, man up, quit whining, is more my mantra. At the risk of condoning laziness, I must campaign for self-care. You cannot run on fumes and expect success. You have to take time to refuel, in order to be able to give to your family. It is not weak or sinful to admit and ask for what you need. When I am spent in the areas of physical and emotional/mental needs, there is no real way for me to be spiritual. God saw that in Elijah, and was kind, gracious, and merciful to him. He provided him with what he needed, which was a nap and a snack, and then provided it again. After that, He expected something from Elijah again, and helped him along.
It was hard for me to admit. I had to, through tears, have an honest conversation with Aaron and ask for his help. I had to explain just how terrible I was feeling, and try to tell him what I needed, even though I wasn’t sure I knew. We were partners in this whole thing. After all, he’s my person. He appreciated me telling him my thoughts and feelings, instead of just reacting to everything. (I have a tendency to do that if I’m stressed out.) He also was more than happy to give me what I needed to help me feel better. Men like solutions, so if you have a problem, but you know the solution, they are usually very happy to sacrifice in order to help. It was important for me not to make him (my partner and best friend) into my enemy. Slowly, I’ve been feeling a ton better. The physical side of things has resolved, with many naps and snacks. Of course, the rest will come as the Lord sees necessary, but I have been counting my blessings to keep my head above water.
Know yourself. Know what is too much for you. Realize that you cannot be spiritual if you’ve run yourself ragged. Don’t react. Communicate what you need to your husband. Spend time with God, even when you don’t feel like it. Take a break. Take another break. Pick yourself back up again, and carry on. Determine to be the best mom you can be. Give 100%. No regrets.
By Barbara Russell
I considered homeschooling a privilege. To me, school was more than just academics; it was preparing my children for life.
Part of me enjoyed the school months, because of the routine, but the other part of me would hyperventilate every August when it was time to prepare for another school year! We chose not to school year-round. We were dedicated for 9 months, and took the summer off. Living in North Dakota where the winters are long, the kids and I needed a break!
I tried to treat homeschool like “real” school. We started each day with the pledge to the American Flag and to the Bible. Allowing my children to get out of bed whenever they wanted, stay in their pajamas, and do school when they felt like it, was not going to instill the character I desired for them. I had seen too many homeschooled children struggle through life because of a lack of structure and consistency in the home.
I’m not saying my way is the only way, but after homeschooling for 14 years, I did learn a few things. Homeschooling is NOT convenient. It doesn’t just happen; it must have structure. The purpose of this article is to give ideas to others who endeavor to homeschool.
Plan ahead- Decide what curriculum works best for your family, and then be consistent. Set a date to start school, and then get prepared. Order the curriculum in enough time so you can prepare and start on time. Don’t be afraid that you aren’t “smart enough” to teach your children, especially K-3rd, their foundational years. Just follow the teacher’s manual.
Designate a school area- It is best to have a “desk” where all your child’s books/writing utensils are in one place. Your teacher’s books should also be in one place. Having school throughout the whole house, searching for books and pencils, losing papers, etc., is a waste of time and a frustration! Children need consistency with few distractions. Suggestion: Have your child wear a headset if the distractions are too great. Use a school box (a large file type box with a handle) for each child to keep their books/writing utensils in, if a specific “school area” is just not possible.
Lesson plan- Have a weekly “goal card” for each child. List each day -Monday through Friday- and the student’s subjects. Under each subject, write the lesson # (or pages) they are to do for that day. Indicate if there is a quiz or test scheduled. This was extremely helpful for us. The kids knew what work they needed to do, and it was always fun for them to cross off a lesson, when completed.
Time schedule- Give each child a list of their responsibilities. I helped my Kindergartener and 1st grader to stay on track, but by the time they were in 2nd grade they knew how to follow a list. Example:
7:30 Get up, make bed, get dressed/fix hair
8:00 Breakfast and brush teeth
8:30 Bible Class (Mom, use this time to train younger ones to sit still and not talk, so church will be easier ☺)
9:30 Practice piano
10:30 Morning break
10:45 Spelling … I think you get the idea. Every year, the schedule was different because some subjects took longer than others, and new activities were added. Since I taught each class until 5th grade when they started video, I arranged each child’s time/activity so while I was teaching one child, the others could practice an instrument or do their seat work. This type of schedule proved to be a great asset. If I got detained, they couldn’t give the excuse, “I didn’t know what to do.”
Combine- I grouped my children for teaching sessions, whenever I could. Flashcards, phonics, and reading were some I could do together.
Interact- Play learning games. Children learn best with visuals/ “hands on,” and when learning is fun.
Attitude- Be excited! YOUR attitude will rub off on them. If YOU treat school as drudgery, so will they. Be in control; don’t get frustrated. Keep the room bright! A dark room can cause a child to become sleepy and feel gloomy.
Breaks- These are important, especially for elementary age children. After each subject, I gave the kids 3 minutes to stretch. They could run around the outside of the house to get fresh air, run up and down the stairs, do jumping jacks, etc. A rebounder was especially helpful since outdoor activities were limited.
Set timers- For meals, breaks, everything! Timers kept us on track so no one could play the “control game.” For instance, when the timer rang for breakfast to be over, whatever food wasn’t eaten, went in the fridge, and was brought back out at break time if they were hungry. Those who finished their meal could have a snack later. My children knew when I said, “One minute,” that they had better be in their school chair when I called out the word, “time”. If they were late, they lost 5 minutes of their next break. For lunch break, they got 30 minutes. If they spent the whole time eating, then they didn’t get to play. Again, when mealtime was over, uneaten food was put in the fridge, and the next class began. You may think, “This sounds so militant!” Remember, I was preparing my children for life! Oddly enough, my most laid-back child is now a firefighter. I dare say, in that profession, every second counts!
Check their work- Daily is best, especially with K-3rd, because if they are spelling a word wrong or doing a math problem incorrectly, they get very good at doing it wrong, simply because it wasn’t corrected right away! Also, some children write down anything, just so it appears they have completed their work.
Preschool-aged siblings- Have a plan for them too. You know the verse, “…a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” Well, this is when it really becomes a reality! I rarely had my child, under the age of 3, in another room without me for a long period of time. Put magnets on the fridge; have a basket with a few toys that can be carried from room to room; line up 3 or 4 laundry baskets with a few books and toys in each one, and tell your little one it’s his “train;” give them a color sheet/sticker book with letters, numbers, or animals. Let them participate in the group activities (pledges, flashcards, phonics, etc.). You’ll be surprised at how much they learn by the time they start school!
A schedule is designed to help one stay focused and on track, but don’t sacrifice disciplining your child, or the opportunity to build their character, in order to “stick to the schedule.” After faithfully teaching my children how to follow a schedule, and always stopping to discipline them when needed, by the time they were in 7th grade they no longer needed mom to keep them motivated. They had learned how to discipline themselves. Yes! That was the plan!
Homeschooling is very demanding, and the more children you have, the more complex it becomes. It is definitely a sacrifice, both physically and financially, but if you decide to homeschool, make it a priority! Your children are depending on YOU to give them the education they need and deserve.