Quotes from Rae

Dad to Rae: "It's kind of chilly out, don't you want your hat on?"
Rae: "Not really. My hair is so beautiful when it blows in the wind."

We were reading the Bible passage, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me bears much fruit." I asked the girls what it meant for us to bear fruit, and then explained it to them. While we were still talking, Rae excused herself to go to the bathroom.

Moments later she burst back into the room with her pants at her knees and yelled, "Hey, Mom! Our pee is like the juice from the fruit we bear!"

Me: "Rae, will you please go tell Ruby to stop yelling and come talk to me."
Rae (up the steps): "RUUUUBYYYY! MOM SAYS STOP YELLING!!!!!"

I was on the floor folding laundry when Rae walked in.
Rae: "Hmm, lets see. How long have you been doing laundry?"

Then she whips out a tape measure and pulls it out to about three feet.
Rae: "Wow, you've been doing laundry for a while!"


Homeschooling, Part 1

A couple of weekends ago, JP and I attended our first homeschooling conference in preparation for starting Rae's schooling in the fall. The annual conference is hosted by an organization called the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators, or MACHE. Since it was our first time attending and all of our children are under the age of five, we had the added bonus of being able to attend for free.

The conference was awesome. There was an overwhelming amount of information, resources, training, and support to be gleaned everywhere you turned. I was able to get my hands on different curriculum I had been researching online and physically flip through the pages to see if each one was a good fit for our family; plus, I was introduced to brand new ones I had never even heard of before. But perhaps most encouraging of all was just seeing the thousands of people who are doing exactly what we are doing -- choosing to educate their own children from home.

Choosing to homeschool can be fairly intimidating. Even having been an "A's and B's" type of student all the way through high school and then having earned a 4-year college degree from a respected University, I still struggle with the question, "Am I adequate for this job? Do I want to be responsible for the education of my children? I don't even remember basic science! I'm horrible at math! How can I do this??" And yet we still believe this is what's best for our children. It was encouraging to meet other families taking the same intimidating step of faith and know that we are not alone on this journey.

Homeschooling is not for everyone. Heck, homeschooling might not even be for us! I don't know. I haven't tried it yet. We don't think we are better or more righteous because we've chosen to homeschool. But JP and I have a number of reasons why we do want to give home education a try. I'd like to list some of those reasons here not only for you all to know where we are coming from, but also for myself and for our kids, so that on the days I'm feeling discouraged, overwhelmed or inadequate, I can look back and remind myself of why I started along this road to begin with.

Then in a later post, I hope to go into more about the conference itself, what I learned, and some of the curriculum options I'm considering.

I want to stress one thing that people tend to assume about homeschooling families. Just because we are home educating does not mean we are anti public school. In fact, if when our children get older they want to go to public school, and if we feel confident in their spiritual maturity, we will let them go. It will be their first mission field! High school is not too young to be a light on a hill.

Without further adieu, here they are:

Our Reasons for Homeschooling

1. I Want to Be With My Children

I am constantly reminded how fortunate I am to be able to stay home with my kids. I know there are a lot of women who wish they could, but simply cannot. I do not take it for granted, and I want to make the most of it. It would feel weird to me to send them away all day while I stayed home. I want to be with them! I want to be the one who sees the light bulb turn on in their eyes when they understand a new concept for the first time. I want to be the one to help them through their struggles and rejoice with them when they overcome them. I want to be the one to answer their questions, and if I don't know the answers, I want to be the one to show them where and how to find them. I want to learn with them and talk with them all day long about the things that matter most in life.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9: These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Personalized Education

Everyone would agree that smaller classroom sizes benefit the children in those classrooms because each child gets more time & personalized attention from the teacher. Home education gives parents the opportunity to teach each child individually and personalize the education for that specific child. And who else knows that child better than her mom and dad?

3. Time

With homeschooling, we can be efficient and flexible with our time. If something or some event comes up that would normally fall during a school day, we can rearrange our schedule to accommodate it. We can do school four days a week instead of five, then leave the fifth day open for extracurricular activities, field trips, co-ops, or even just running errands. If something comes up and JP needs me to drop everything and attend to something concerning the business, I can do that and not worry. Once the kids are older, they can have their schoolwork done by lunch time and use the rest of their day to work a job, practice a hobby or skill, or get involved in something they care about.

We have a friend who was homeschooled. At the age of 16, he used his free time to start up a small lawn mowing business. He would finish his school work early, then head out to earn money. Now, in his late twenties, he is the owner of a very successful, full-blown landscaping company, working for high-end clients and providing jobs for people during tough economic times. That's awesome. It's amazing what you can do with a little free time!

4. Family

We want to homeschool to build a strong bond as a family. We want our kids to look at each other as friends, playmates, and pillars of support in their lives. We believe that shared family experiences will enrich their lives and bring us closer together than if we spent our days apart from each other and only came together for dinner before dispersing again. We hope that by keeping our family tight-knit now, our children will one day choose to include us in their lives as adults.

5. Character

It's listed as #5, but this is actually the single most important reason JP and I have decided to homeschool our children.

JP and I both believe school is about much, much more than academics. Have you ever seen the show Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? That show is proof that every child who ever asked their teacher, "When am I going to use this in life," was right. Much of the trivia you learn at a young age is not going to be vital to your success as an adult. The most important lessons we want our children to learn are those of character.

With so many different sets of values represented in one community (traditional classroom), it's hard to expect the values you esteem will be taught.

Here is a bold statement, but one that we hold to: If our children earn only C's and D's, barely graduate, never get into college, and work at McDonalds for the rest of their lives, but they do their best, are honest, hardworking, responsible, attentive, fair, faithful, compassionate, industrious, diligent, forgiving, humble, helpful, self-controlled, and obedient (just to name a few), and if they love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strengths, then we will feel that we have accomplished what we set out to do as parents and home educators.

That said, we believe that if our children possess these traits, they will excel academically and in life.

What about private school?
Glad you asked. I and all of my siblings went to a private Christian school K-12 and we all loved it. But even though they did teach us Jesus and the Bible, private school was not where we learned good character; we learned that at home from our parents. In fact, any of the trouble we did get into as kids happened not at home, but at private Christian school.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, we feel that we can do a better job of teaching godly character to our children not because we're so smart or so godly, but because God appointed us specifically to do the job.

Aren't you worried about socialization?
No, I'm not. It is true, there are a handful of really socially awkward homeschool kids out there. Most of them are from my generation. But homeschooling today is not at all what it was when we were growing up.

I am amazed at how large the homeschool community is in our state, and the opportunities for involvement are astounding. There are tons of co-ops (homeschool families/groups getting together for things like science experiments, outings, field days, etc.) and outlets for extracurricular activities in group settings. There are homeschool sports leagues, or you can choose to have your child participate in the local public school's athletic program. There are musical outlets, like choirs and bands in which to play. Not to mention the socialization that goes on at church, AWANA, play dates with friends, and of course with their siblings!

I am a very social person, remember? I will wither away if I have to stay inside my house for the next 20+ years teaching my kids. We WILL be out in the world socializing and discovering. I am confident my children are not going to be socially lacking.

Aren't you concerned about over-sheltering your kids?
No, I'm not. JP and I fully intend to first teach our children from a Christian worldview; but as they grow, we also intend to verse them in other worldviews and philosophies and have them compare them to the Word of God. We don't want them to just "swallow and follow." We want them to think critically and be able to give an account for what they believe (I Peter 3:15). We want to hold them responsible for their own personal relationships with Jesus and questions about faith, not just depend on us for the right answers.

We are not going to shelter them from the evil in this world. We are going to teach them to face it head on and take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5).

There are so many other reasons I could have included as sub-points under these main ones, but when it all comes down to it, our top three reasons for homeschooling are right here:

Like I said before, I don't think homeschool is for everyone, nor do I think homeschooling makes a family better than any family who chooses not to. I really appreciated my educational experience, as did JP. If a parent's heart isn't ready to take on home education, I'm convinced things could end up worse than if they had just gone to public school.

Here is the bottom line: We feel we can do a better job teaching our kids the things we feel are most important. God entrusted them to us and has placed certain values on our hearts, and we feel it's our responsibility to teach them those values ourselves on a daily basis.

As always, I'm interested to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments. How did you choose your children's school? Do you homeschool? What were your reasons? Do you think homeschooling is a bad idea? Why/Why not?


Cole & Deb's Wedding

What do you get when the couple the nicest, most humble, genuine, selfless, Jesus-loving man you've ever met with the sweetest, most encouraging, genuine, faithful, God-fearing woman you've ever met? The Holy Spirit drops in on your wedding like a BOMBSHELL and lives are forever impacted. That was the wedding of Mr. & Mrs. Cole & Deb Ries!

These guys are amazing. They each knew they were going to marry each other more than four years before they ever said anything to each other or anybody else. She was in law school, he was finishing his degree, looking for a job, and eventually started working a new position an hour away in St. Cloud. They just kept their little (BIG) promises tucked in their hearts and waited for God's perfect timing to set things in motion. They shared their first kiss at the altar, and the moment was so powerful and sweet I couldn't decide whether to cheer or cry, so you know...I just did both.

Here are some pictures from their beautiful day:

Both the cake and floral arrangements were done by friends who consider themselves "amateurs." I beg to differ!

Beautiful bridesmaids and even more beautiful friends, Sarah & Christine.

Rock candy bar...so cute!

The kids especially loved it!

Congratulations, Cole & Deb. You've been a blessing to us and so many others. We can't wait to see what awesome and powerful things God has in store for you.


I almost don't have the energy to write this post. The last three weeks have been mentally trying and emotionally exhausting. But praise God, we are on the upswing now!

On the 16th of March, our well pump went out and had to be replaced (as well as our pressure tank). Three days later, our furnace went out. We called a repair man who said it was toast and needed to be replaced as well. We didn't have the funds for that, so we set up space heaters and thanked God for the warmer weather and sunshine.

Next, the spring thaw reeked havoc on our yard, and JP's van got stuck in the giant mud hole formerly known as our yard. We called out a tow truck (thank God for AAA), but the tow truck also got stuck. A second tow truck had to come out and rescue both of the mud-locked vehicles. This is what our yard looked like afterward.

JP has to be able to get his truck back to his workshop to access his tools, so we bit the bullet and purchased as much gravel as we could afford to lay down. It wasn't much and barely made a dent. We'e spent the last two weeks raking goopy, smelly mud and doing anything we can to clear away some of the mess and speed up the drying process.

Next, my car broke down the day before the rehearsal for our friends' wedding, in which I was singing. With JP's van stranded in his shop and my car out of commission, we had to rent a car to get me down to the rehearsal. That night, JP and his friend James were up until 2:30 am fixing my car so we would have it for the wedding the next day. They got it *mostly* fixed, but JP needed to go get a part in the morning to finish it off, then put it back together in time for the wedding. I took the rental down to the wedding (since I had to be there early for a sound check) as JP hurried to get my van fixed. He ran out of time and ended up having to drive his now un-stranded van. BUT, along the way, his van also broke down. The last I spoke with him before the prelude began, he was going to try to turn around, get my van put together and make it in time for the kiss (remember, we live an hour away from everything). When I called him after the ceremony, he was still under the car, dirty and frustrated. He missed the entire wedding of one of his dearest friends.

Somewhere in the midst of all of these calamities, Rae put the icing on the cake by taking a pink, permanent marker to our house -- walls, doors, windows, piano, bed, printer, toys, couches and the kicker, my wedding dress. Yes. Pink, permanent marker on my wedding dress. I wasn't home at the time (JP was on duty), and it's a good thing I wasn't or I probably would have freaked. As it was, I had time to calm down before I got home and, aside from a few tears, remained relatively calm. I took it to the cleaner and have yet to pick it up to see how it turned out.

Well then, let's think positively, shall we?!? We now have a new well pump & pressure tank! Awesome! And after three weeks of space heaters, we also now have a new high efficiency furnace, which should save us money on fuel costs! Great! (Although I cringe to think of our next electric bill!) JP (& James) fixed both of our vehicles and they're now running better than ever after full tune-ups! The mud is almost dry, and the dry cleaner sounded positive about getting the marker out of my dress. Plus, our friends had an awesome wedding, which I was very thankful to attend and be a part of, even though we are sad JP missed it.

All's well that ends well, right?

"OK, Lord! That's enough! We get it. You're in control. We depend on You for every breath we take. Shall we accept the good from you an not also the bad? No way. Now please, can that be enough for now? Thanks."