Cheese, Some Thoughts About Homeschooling, and a Workshop for the Weary

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I’ve got two farmhouse cheddars in the cheese fridge this morning.  This is the first attempt at hard cheese I’ve made in years.  See, I didn’t have a proper place for them to age and cure before, so they would mold before it was time to eat them.  Surface mold, I don’t mind.  You can just cut that off and keep eating.  But this was a deep down kind of mold, the flavor of which permeated the whole cheese, even where it wasn’t visible.  So I’m trying two new things this time around.  The first is a special refrigerator for aging the cheese.  It’s actually a beverage cooler; it comes with scalloped racks for holding bottles of wine.  Unlike an ordinary refrigerator, though, you can set it for a warmer temperature, as high as 60°.  Perfect for cheese!

The other thing is a paste type of wax.  I worry that maybe I wasn’t able to get a tight enough seal between my wax and my cheese, which allowed mold to grow between.  If I apply the first layer, at least, with this paste wax, maybe it’ll all be more secure against our many and varied colors of mold.  You should see how many different kinds we can grow!  Honestly, before I tried cheese, I didn’t know we had so many molds to work with!

After this week, I will relegate my cheese making to afternoons or weekends.  Cheese wants regular attention and I let it interfere with school hours a bit this week.  While I admit that there is much to be learned over a pot of curds, the little ones still need to learn their reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic.

You know, one of the many wonderful things about homeschooling is our  tendency to see opportunities for learning and reinforcement across a broad range of experiences and venues.  Education becomes a lifestyle, something we do as naturally as breathing, and nothing is safe from becoming a “teachable moment”.  (Be subtle, though, lest the children catch on and lose interest!)  I think this is one of homeschooling’s most powerful benefits, but, if not exercised judiciously, it can also become one of its greatest downfalls.

A few weeks ago, I found myself at the grocery store during public school hours, replenishing our supply of produce.  Several of the children were with me, and the clerk, who is always a bit too familiar with us, remarked on the educational value of our errand that day.  First, that always baffles me, that people, both within and outside of the homeschool community, believe that you can get a decent education at the grocery store.  Second, several of the children this clerk was eying are taller than I am!  She is apparently one of those people who “doesn’t like math”.

You can’t be one of those people.

As parents, and especially as home educators, we have to have to have the foresight to look ahead through the years.  This is a long-range project, raising children, and we have to keep the end in mind so that we can guide our children steadily and surely toward the life God has in store for them.

To me, this means preparing my children for college.  Oh, I don’t care whether or not they actually attend, but they will not be hampered in any way by the simple fact that they studied at home.  And so elementary school becomes preparation for middle school, middle school for high school, and then, finally, we get four last beautiful years to set them up for college and/or whatever else may lie beyond family and home.

The preschooler who counts apples at the grocery store will be, more quickly than you think, ready for precalculus.

That is why the grocery store does not count as math class.  Viewing the movie version of a novel at the local theater is not literature class.  Baking cookies is not science or math.  And neither Klingon nor Elvish count toward the foreign language requirement.

I know that sometimes you need a break, and that’s okay.  I’m just asking you to call it what it is and not pretend it’s school.

Sometimes, though, what you need is more than a break.  Sometimes, you have this bone-deep weariness, and all the joy you ordinarily find in your children seems to have been sapped away, and you wonder if maybe you aren’t cut out for homeschooling after all.  I know that feeling, too.  Homeschooling is hard work.  It takes a level of dedication and virtue beyond what is usually expected of mere mortals.  It’s exhausting.  And lonely.  Add in these long, dark days of winter, everyone restless and cooped up, and it’s a recipe for burn-out.

I’d like to offer one of you a gift: Elizabeth Foss’s Restore Workshop, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

I think she does not know who I am, but I’ve known her through her book, Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home, since very early in my homeschooling career, and I’ve known her online almost since I first started blogging in 2005. (I think she started her own blog, In The Heart of My Home,  in 2006. 🙂 )  I remember reading her chapter on burn-out with a wave of relief, and I’ve enjoyed her gentle reflections on motherhood and marriage in the years since.  I’ve also re-read that burn-out chapter many a time, and I’m not prone to rereading very much of anything!

I find myself now in need of renewal, and so, when she announced the other day that she was offering this workshop again this Lent, I signed up.  Maybe you are need of some restoration and renewal, too?

I can only afford to give this gift to one reader, so if you’d like to be entered into a drawing for a place in the online Restore workshop, just leave a comment.  Share a little about yourself and your family and your homeschool.  No need to tell what your struggle is. 🙂  I’ll draw a winner on the evening of Saturday, January 31 and announce it Sunday morning.  Then we’ll get you all signed up!

I’m not in any way affiliated with the Restore team, and Elizabeth Foss does not know me from Adam, as my mother would say. 🙂  I just wanted to share this little thing with another mother who may be struggling, too.  Lots of love, my friends!

49 Comment

  1. Just saying I love you so much and I think of you alll the time.
    Kiss those spectacular children for me and tell Evie Grandma hopes to meet her soon.

    1. Thanks, Mommy. We are hoping you get to come visit soon, too!

  2. Wow! How kind of you to offer this! I’ve got four kids. My oldest is 7 1/2. We joined a co-op for the first time and have all found it an enormous help and a perfect fit for our family right now. It’s been a big blessing! In between our weekly co-op meetings, life can get pretty lonely. I put Charles in preschool when he was four because I needed help and knew no babysitters! But I’ve known that I wanted to homeschool since before I was married, so after that year we began homeschooling in earnest. Mostly it is a dream come true, but the reality can also be downright arduous some days, especially when none of them are fluent readers yet and there is a two year old in the house. Anyway, thanks for the chance to experience this restore workshop. I’ve read Elizabeth’s book and loved it too!

    1. I’m so glad a co-op is working out for you! That can be a really great way to get out and find some community, along with more informal playgroups. I maintain memberships to a museum and the zoo so that we can get out and still be doing something educational when actual education is getting on our nerves. 🙂

  3. Beckie R. says:

    Dear Jennie,
    You made me cry a little just now; we’ve been struggling with anxiety in the children over the last two months or so and I can’t help but think that maybe our lifestyle of homeschooling is to blame. After all, Angie made it quite successfully through a year of public schooling last year with no ill effects. I’ve spent some sleepless nights evaluating myself and my goals and my reasons for homeschooling and wondering and debating the merits o public school vs. homeschooling. I’m coming out of my self-recriminations now, and reminding myself what a privilege it is to be able to do this, but this post definitely strikes a chord.

    No need to enter me in your drawing, I just wanted to say thanks, because even though you didn’t know you were going to help me out today, you did.

    With a deep and abiding love from your sister,

    1. I think every homeschooling mother wonders from time to time whether she’s doing the right thing. I’m sure it’s not the homeschooling itself that is causing issues with the children. Are you one who tries to hide from the children when things are going wrong? I think children always pick up on these things anyway. If so, maybe you can have a gentle discussion with them about what else is going on in the family.

      1. Beckie R. says:

        We’re actually really up-front with the kids about what’s going on. Perhaps that’s part of what is affecting them, all of the uncertainty with various relatives’ health. I forget sometimes that they are affected just as much as we are by it. But thanks for reminding me 🙂

  4. I don’t know if I even want to have my name entered, it seems like one more thing on my plate to commit to. However, I will admit I am deep in burnout and can’t seem to muster the strength or courage to fight my way out.

    I think you already know most of our homeschool history. Two older children, one in college, one working. One precious boy in Heaven. Four children still at home, 10, 8, 4, and 2. I seem to need to spend so much time with the 8 and 4 yo, that the 10 year old is being neglected, schooling wise. Thinking about signing her up for online classes in the fall.

    1. Oh, I know exactly what you mean by not wanting to take on one more thing. 🙁 You don’t have to keep pace, though. It looks like most of the material is downloadable and can be used more slowly or when you’re ready. Lots of love and prayers for you, Jenny.

  5. I would love to be entered. This has been a tough year for us (and my first real year of homeschooling more than one child plus a preschooler and a toddler). On recommendation I’ve been reading Better Late Than Early and Homeschool Burnout and both have given me a better perspective. I am the type that really likes curriculum and teaching and I get super excited about the school year and make lots of plans and then get discouraged when we just can’t do it all. I’m learning to step back a little and focus on the three Rs and then do more as we can.

    1. I think you’re doing it just right! Especially when you have lots of small children, less can definitely be more. 🙂

  6. It’s so kind of you to offer this gift, Jennie!
    I’m mama to 5, and 27 or so weeks into #6. My oldest is just in 1st grade; she’s 6. Our county schools aren’t what I’d want my children’s education to be, but sometimes I”m just so overwhelmed thinking about how I’m going to do this and I’m scared I won’t do it as well as I want to. I’ve been blessed with great fertility and a rapidly growing family of bright, eager little ones but I’m just one mama (and of course there’s Daddy too, but he has other responsibilities as well!). My 4 year old son has blossomed a sudden interest in learning to write his letters and count over the past month. Just trying to keep up with him and teach my first grader well, and love the other three little ones (which include 16 month old twins) is a busy day. Oh yeah, and housework too…and trying to build our 11 acre homestead from scratch…

    1. Hello, Emily! I don’t think we’ve met before, and I’m glad you stopped by and left a note. Your family is indeed growing quickly. I have eight children, but they are all at least two years apart, so I’ve never dealt with so many little ones all at once. I’m sure it’s running you a little ragged, especially when I see all the other things you have on your plate! I know the first thing I do whenever I start to feel overwhelmed is to evaluate everything I’m involved in and decide just how important it is. Do I really need to keep doing this thing at this point in my life? Would it be better to let it go for now and pick it up later when other circumstances have changed? I found myself the other day seriously evaluating whether I really needed and wanted to run this little dairy business I’ve got. I love milking the cows and I would still keep two in milk for the children regardless. 🙂 Any sort of agricultural work on top of the big life you and your husband already have, though? Now might not be the right time. 🙂

      You have a big and extremely important job just raising those children.

      And I’m really, really wishing I could give away more seats for this workshop!

      1. I think I used to comment before, long ago. I’ve been reading your blog since before I got married. Back when Rosie was a baby, right after you started blogging, I think. Yours was the first blog I was a regular reader of. Anyway, truth is after reading more about the workshop I’m not sure how I’d fit it into my day. I think someone else might do a better job at that. So perhaps after all, don’t enter me. But thanks, I think one seat is very generous!

        The kids do have to eat, you know. 🙂 I had pretty good success last year just planting, and letting the kids plant, an enormous assortment of seeds. Things got tended a bit when we could, and didn’t get tended when we couldn’t, and we hunted all our produce out of that weed patch all summer long. It’s a start, right?

        1. I’m wondering a bit, too. But it seems a workshop on burnout shouldn’t be more work. I think Elizabeth would know this…

  7. I am not sure if I qualify to enter or not, because I do not homeschool my children. My five kids attend a local Catholic school. Regardless, this is such a thoughtful and generous thing for you to offer! Very sweet…

    1. I think you qualify just fine. 🙂

  8. I love this! I think it’s true that we sometimes need to step back and take a break, but this does not excuse the responsibility we have as homeschoolers. My oldest is in pre-algebra and my youngest is two. They do grow fast! I loved this workshop last time and can’t wait to do it again in lent! Thanks for this giveaway!

  9. Shannon Collier says:

    You’re a doll! I commented on your old blog so long ago when I was single and now I’m married with a 17 month old and one on the way. I’m seriously hearing God call us to homeschool even though it terrifies me! Blessings to you and your sweet family!!

    1. I’m glad you found me again, Shannon! I haven’t blogged much over the past couple of years, but I’m enjoying writing again. 🙂

  10. Susan Fuerst says:

    A long struggle here…I would love to be able to participate in this workshop for Lent, though I am sure there are many others who would also benefit. Thank you for your generosity in sharing this gift with a lucky winner!

    1. It’s so hard when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. My husband suffers from PTSD depression and anxiety, and it was nearly five years of darkness, angry outbursts, hatefulness before he got treatment. We have one child who still wilts every time he loses his temper. I don’t know what you are dealing with, but I’ll be praying for you today at Mass.

  11. I would love to be able to listen to this workshop. I am a grandmother now caring for my 5 grandchildren is various ways each day. What a gift to be able to Restore:))

    1. Nowadays, grandmothering can be just as challenging as mothering. 🙂

  12. I’m Lucy. I don’t homeschool, but I’ve got 4 kids, ages 6 to 8 months, all girls! I’m hoping to be able to join the retreat one way or another, i could use some restoring 🙂

    1. Good luck, Lucy!

  13. I’m one of those moms who asks herself if she can handle “one more thing.” I home school 6 children ages 9 and under, the youngest of whom was born last October, 7 weeks after we moved 800 miles from our nearest family and friends. It has been a crazy past 6 months and I am thoroughly burned out. Thanks for the opportunity. God Bless

    1. Hi, Katherine! We are a military family (retired now) so I know all about being far from family who could help support you. I’ve spent a lot of years parenting more or less on my own, as my beloved was often in the field or deployed, and the few years he was home stand out in my mind as some of the best. I wish I could be your friend and help you with your everyday till you got your feet under you! And you will find your footing, Katherine. It won’t always be so hard. Lots of love.

  14. Katrina G says:

    I am a homeschooling Mama of 5 soon to be 6. I love Elizabeth Foss’ blog and would live to have the opportunity to participate in the renew workshop. I am having a hard time justifying the cost but then I think can I not make the investment.

    1. It does seem like a lot of money to spend so selfishly, but I bet it will pay off. 🙂 If you don’t win, I hope you take the workshop anyway.

  15. Oh, what a ray of light…such a blessed gift you are giving! I homeschool my 3 and the struggle has been real for a long time. So beaten down by life, but even hearing the word “RESTORE” brings peace and even tears. I know this is the time. SO ready.

    1. Oh, Lynn, I know just what you mean. Good luck!

  16. With 8 children and expecting my 9th I feel like I am constantly burning the candle at both ends. I have a difficult time thinking I can take time for myself. I throughly enjoy Elizabeth’s style and always reap many benefits from it. Thanks for the opportunity.

    1. Yes! I have eight children, run a small raw milk dairy, manage a large household and look after a husband who has post-war issues. One of my favorite stress relievers is a bubble bath, and I haven’t been able to take one in months! There’s no room, no margin, for just me. Which is to say, I know how you feel. 🙂 Good luck in the drawing!

  17. Cassandra Brungardt says:

    I am a mother of ten and they have all done or continue to home school. While all my children are no longer home I’ve found that life brings different stress and worries. Long ago I thought life would reach a point when it would be more relaxed. Now. I realize that it won’t and that’s okay but I also realize you have to take time to ‘restore’ or you will not be able to take care of yourself let alone your loved ones.

    1. I remember thinking, when all of mine were little, that it would be nice when they were older and more helpful. They are older and more helpful, but teenagers need so much more from us than toddlers and preschoolers do! And they don’t take naps! And they want to stay up past my bedtime! It definitely does not get easier!

  18. Gretchen says:

    I’m on the tail end of our homeschool journey. My youngest children are 15 and 17. My 3 oldest are married and two of those have started families. I have another working, living at home, and another at college. I would have thought I’d have *more time* at this time in my life, but I’m finding running teens to various activities and making time for them each to discuss their life concerns leaves me always feeling that I am “behind” in everything. I don’t think I was nearly as stressed when they were all little. Maybe I should have prefaced this comment with a warning not to read if all of your children are under 10! 😉

    1. Too funny, Gretchen! See remark above to Cassandra. 🙂

  19. I would love to win your giveaway! I participated in Restore last year while recovering from major surgery. It brought me peace and hope. This year, I am facing a new serious health challenge. I don’t feel like I have the time, but I know that I must make the time. I need to keep my focus on the Lord. It would be too easy for me to wallow in self pity now. I want to “restore” so I can be a more joyful wife and mother, despite my challenges. Bless you for offering this giveaway.

  20. Whoops! I forgot to say that I homeschool our 4 children. It has been difficult while I have been ill, but having my children close all day has been a tremendous source of comfort for all of us. My children say that we “hugschool”.

    1. It is such an amazing blessing to be able to keep our families close through all things, isn’t it? I’m sorry you’ve been ill; I’ll be praying for you and all these mamas at Mass this morning!

  21. Michelle says:

    Thank you for this giveaway! I am so delighted to have found you! I can already tell I’m going to adore your blog. God bless.

    1. Thanks, Michelle! I’m so glad and excited to be meeting so many new people today!

  22. Such a wonderful offer! I’m a homeschooling mom of 5 (4-11), and have somehow found myself as the leader of a rapidly growing co-op and leading a new homeschool Level 2 CGS Atrium. We’ve homeschooled from the beginning and I can’t even imagine having my kids gone from me all day, although that can end up leaving Mom feeling world weary. Thanks again for the opportunity to Restore.

    1. Yes, you are a busy woman! I hope Elizabeth’s workshop will help you feel, well, restored. 🙂

  23. Nichole says:

    Such a generous offer, Jennie! I would consider myself blessed and downright lucky to participate in Elizabeth’s workshop. We are in our 13th year of homeschooling here. Several kiddos are in brick-and-mortar schools and several are homeschooled. The oldest just turned 18 and the youngest is 2. College decisions, potty training, and the whole range of big and little things that come with raising a family are ALL in full effect here. 😀

    1. We’re in the same boat here, Nichole! Good luck!

  24. Mary Beth says:

    We have four children, ages 9, 7, 6 and 2. We cobble together different resources for core subjects M-Th and really enjoy our co-op for “extras” on Fridays. The theme of this year seems to be seeing how we can effectively accomplish lessons without the two year old causing too much destruction. I just discovered your blog and I’ve really enjoyed clicking around your space today. Elizabeth is so inspirational and I would love to be able to participate in her workshop!

    1. We have a newly mobile 11 month old who spends most of our school hours ransacking the room. 🙂 It’s nice to meet you, Mary Beth!

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