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When You Don’t Have a Proverbs 31 Day

24 Oct

By Elizabeth Thomas

I do laundry, pay bills, wash dishes, return movies and library books (sometimes on time), shop for groceries with coupons I spend hours clipping, buy birthday cards and gifts, wash the car, take care of three cats and a dog, cook dinner, and, once in a while, I get the house clean. I currently do not have cable or Internet service and almost never have time for my personal hobbies, which include sewing, scrapbooking, and gardening. I also have a part-time job that I’ve had for about six years. And if that’s not enough, I am the mother of not one or two, but four daughters that I also homeschool.

Sometimes I wonder: How did I get here?

Some mornings I wake on on the “me” side of the bed and think, “Why me?  How did I get here?”

As a young teenager, I used to say I would wait until I was 30 years old to get married and have just one kid, a boy! I was into my social life and, well, myself. The very idea of becoming a housewife who homeschooled really never crossed my mind. The insanity of it all makes me laugh now! Sometimes I think my life today is more like that part of “Cheaper By the Dozen” where everyone is screaming and yelling in total disorder.

I was reading in my devotional a few days ago about these verses in Proverbs 31:27-28: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” I almost threw my devotional on the floor when I read this! I can’t put into words how far from this verse I felt that day.

I was having issues with church, feelings, and family — and in the moment, nothing seemed to be going the way I thought it should! I felt like I was under attack by Satan, and I was about to bust into a million shattered pieces. I was emotionally drained. Blessed? Ha ha — I didn’t feel that way.

There will always be days like this — at least I know there will be for me — but the truth, God’s truth, is the light at the end of the tunnel. The truth is this: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).

If I keep my eyes on Jesus and His plan in my life, all these “speed bumps” become irrelevant. Satan wants me to feel inadequate, to fall down and stay down. It’s a huge job to be a wife and a mother and a homeschooler, and inadequacy is an easy feeling to get trapped into. The truth is I am blessed! I can do this because I am blessed with the gift of prayer, and God’s strength in my weakness! Everyday is a new day, and we can start that day in devotion and prayer.

Staying in the Word really helps us focus.

Homeschooling is another gift I’ve been blessed with because we have the time to learn this important truth! We can spend eight hours a day learning how blessed we are as a family, even when we don’t always realize it. Being able to do this with my girls gives me the opportunity to not only get to know them and who they are, but it gives me an understanding of my parents that simply was not there before. Everyday I think, “Wow, my father taught this to me so much better, I wish I would have paid more attention.” I respect and honor my parents a lot more now, and that is really a gift in itself.

My children amaze me, frustrate me, and bless me with so much patience and love that I don’t think I would have if I worked full time. I honestly like them for who they are! Yes it’s rough and heavy work, but I honestly wouldn’t trade it for anything. And yes, I like to think, Proverbs 31:27-28 is talking about me.

Staying in the Word really helps our daily focus and keeping our “feelings” in check. I just have to remember that in my weakness, He is strong. When I look back on the past couple of weeks and what we’ve been through, I can see this clearly now.

— Elizabeth Thomas is a blessed wife and mom of four girls — Stormie, Rachael, Faith and Cadence — who are all homeschooled. She was homeschooled all through her school years and has been homeschooling for three years. She lives in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

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Toys, Toys, Toys!


19 Sep

By Elizabeth Thomas

During my first year of homeschooling, I realized that play has an important role in our children’s education. I also discovered that the kind of toys we had in our home could make a huge difference.

If you are like me and have girls, you may find toys in your house like: My Little Pony, Zhu Zhu Pets, Brat Dolls, Polly Pockets, etc. These are all OK toys — don’t get me wrong — but my advice is to save your money and think a little more simple and educational. Your kids will love you for it in the end.

Blocks provide endless possibilities for educational use

I try to use toys with my girls as much as possible. We play math games on the driveway with chalk. I have used wood blocks to teach shapes to my three-year-old daughter, as well as manipulatives for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and even algebra and geometry with the older girls. Paper dolls can be dressed up like Puritans, Vikings, police officers, nurses, doctors, and more. You have to start thinking like your child to find ways to teach them something they think they don’t want to learn. What better way than with a little fun and lots of toys, toys, toys?!

Toys can play many roles throughout your school day. So when your children lose interest in the textbooks and seem to be daydreaming, surprise them with a toy. Throw it into your lesson! After all, we want them to love learning.

Remember, my children’s ages range from three to 12 — all girls — but they also have male cousins who are homeschooled and show up from time to time to join us. So I  keep a range of toys around to cover all our bases.

Here are my suggestions for toys that are helpful, educational and fun to play with. I have many of these toys in my home:

  • Paper dolls
  • Shape sorters
  • Chalkboards and chalk

    Chalk can provide creative outlets during lessons

  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Art supplies
  • A large mirror
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • Magnetic letters, numbers
  • Frigit refrigerator toys and magnetic gears
  • Toy cars and garage items
  • Toy doctor’s kit
  • Dolls
  • Puzzles
  • Play Dough with cookie cutters
  • Stacking cups
  • Doll house
  • Toy barn
  • Large variety of plastic animals: zoo, farm, sea life, dinosaurs, etc.
  • Board games (peg-board, checkers and chess, Monopoly, etc.)

    Board games have many educational applications

  • Bubbles
  • Balloons
  • Balls (all sizes)
  • Marbles
  • Jacks
  • Toy kitchen with play dishes and food
  • Toy money and register
  • Flash cards
  • Coloring books
  • Reading books
  • Foam bath letters and numbers

Try to stay away from battery operated toys — you are looking for creativity, not distraction. However, I do like Leap Frog toys.

— Elizabeth Thomas is a blessed wife and mom of four girls — Stormie, Rachael, Faith and Cadence — who are all homeschooled. She was homeschooled all through her school years and has been homeschooling for three years. She lives in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

An Unexpected Path to Homeschooling

16 Sep

By Elizabeth Thomas

I’m not what I would call a typical homeschool mom — someone who got fed up with the public school system and made the choice to homeschool. Noooo, not me: I never wanted to homeschool my children!

My parents made the choice to homeschool me, along with my two older siblings, when I was just four years old. In 1985, nobody we knew homeschooled — it was unheard of! My sister (eight years older) and brother (five years older) understood what was going on a little better than I did. I remember my friends going to kindergarten and telling me what I missed and getting picked on at church for not going to school.

My Mom holding me, the youngest of three kids

As far back as I can remember, I felt I had to defend my education — convince people that I could read, write, and do math. I fell short a lot, and it didn’t help that we didn’t have a lot of money and my mom was the one working full-time. We probably seemed like a weird family. I had to play with kids younger than me, and even as an adult, I felt like I couldn’t relate with people my age.

My perception of the experience was different than my siblings. They seemed to have had a wonderful experience, while mine felt horrible. I thought I was missing out on everything: riding a bus, packing a lunch, having teachers, playing sports, and getting new clothes, shoes, haircuts, bookcovers, etc. Most of all, I was missing other kids my own age! Other adults would ask me about my “social life,” and I began to wonder if I had one. Homeschooling seemed like an isolation from the world to me, and I began to rebel against my father, mother and God.

I grew up going to church, my closest friends were Christians, and most of them went to Christian schools. My parents did what God asked them to do, but I was in my own little world, where I felt like the victim of “weird” parents. I thought that made me weird too, and I didn’t want to be different, I just wanted to be normal!

So at age 18, I met “the guy” and ran off — breaking my parents’ hearts, my friends’ hearts, and my own heart (later). My parents were against it and didn’t come to the wedding, and I believed they had “disowned” me. The guy I ran off with became abusive less than a month after we got married. I would try to leave but kept taking him back during the four years we were married. I saw everything my parents tried to protect me from: drugs, alcohol abuse, adultery, child abuse, homosexuality. I was living in low-income housing, on welfare, and had three babies — far from where God wanted me to be.

I didn’t have a high school diploma or a G.E.D. The only work experience I had was as a seamstress. I was no longer attending church, and my husband was not only extremely adulterous, he was very abusive in every way! I tried to leave several more times and had even filed protective orders against him. He followed me, and one time he convinced two other women to help him kidnap our eldest daughter — they held me down as he ripped her from my arms.

I finally got out. In October 2002, I loaded up the van with my three-year-old, two-year-old and six-month-old daughters, and I drove to a women’s shelter. I spent five months there before moving to be closer to my sister. In the end, I won full custody, and their father has no visitation rights.

I spent four years as a single mother working two to three jobs and going to school part time. Slowly, the puzzle pieces began to fit. The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6)  This is my verse. I did hear my parents teach me, but the seeds they planted had landed on hard ground. But now God was starting a work in me and softening my heart, and the seeds started to grow.

Newly married to Anthony Thomas

After four years as a single mother, I met Tony — a man who had hardly set foot into a church in his life. We fell in love. I had been taking the girls to church all along, and I knew the walk and the talk, but I hadn’t really changed my ways or pursued a personal relationship with God the way I longed to. I didn’t have a personal relationship with anyone other than myself and my needs.

Tony and I got married in 2007. Being a single mom for four years, being bitter with men, parents, the system, and God, I am amazed that anyone could fall in love with me — or I with him. I was lost, and God found me! I am that sheep the parable talks about, and my shepherd was watching over me all along.

Shortly after we got married, we made the choice to have a baby and I got pregnant. Three months in, I began to have complications. Doctors told me I was probably going to miscarry, and this went on for months. I was on total bed rest for six months. I went from working two to three jobs, going to school, and chasing three kids, to being stuck in a bed. My new husband went from being a free bachelor to watching and chasing after three kids, caring for a woman he couldn’t touch for fear of losing the baby, paying all the bills and holding down the household. I can honestly say that first year of marriage was love, 100-percent pure love.

Despite our lack of relationship with God, we were blessed with His love. Cadence (a fourth daughter) was born easily and healthy. I tried to go back to work after having her, and for the first time, I didn’t have to — which made it hard. Tony didn’t really like me working and that made it even worse. One day he said, “Please stay home.”  That was all I needed to hear: I became a “housewife” from that day forward.

Then one day when he took the girls to school, he realized Faith (who had speech problems and, we would later find out, some dyslexia as well) was being put in the back of the classroom to “color.”  The teacher had no control over her, and she was falling behind. She was “special,” so to the back of the class she went. She was in first grade at the time.

My four girls in 2010

Tony came home and told me I should take her out and homeschool… wait, WHAT?!?!? I marched right up to that school to talk to the principal. I was not ready to homeschool. But after talking to the principal, talking to my sister (who offered to help), and knowing that my husband wanted me to and my father wanted me to (“But wait, what about me?” I screamed on the inside), I gave in. I just took her out — only her.

But soon the other girls were begging to be homeschooled too. It was so strange how it all happened, and I still have moments where I think, is this right? Can I do this? But I know with God I can do anything, even homeschool four girls.

Tony was saved during that first year. He saw God and heard His voice before I did. My girls and I watched as Tony (nicknamed Tank — covered in tattoos and looking more likely to be found in a biker bar than a church) got baptized by his own free will. What an awesome gift that was to witness. God sent an unbeliever into my broken path to bring me back to the right one. Nothing about Tony’s life said he would someday be a homeschooling father of four daughters who believes in Jesus Christ! He brought me to my family, he helped rebuild our broken lives, and in the process, I rediscovered my Saviour, who I grew up knowing and had wandered so far away from.

We cannot protect our kids from the bad choices they make. We can only preach the Gospel, teach them what is right — teach them in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it. You are not just their protection, but you are the teacher God gave them! Lead by example, pray over them, and pray for their future husband or wife. And teach them!

My four girls posing for their photographer cousin Virginia

I can’t erase the pain I went through, or the pain I put my parents through. I had a dream when I was in the shelter — not one of the PTSD nightmares I had regularly had, but a different dream. In this dream, Jesus was being abused by several men, He was being called names, and I was standing there watching. He looked at me and said, “I understand. I took this pain so you don’t have to.” I realized I didn’t believe that I deserved a life without my ex-husband.  I thought I deserved the abuse somehow. That was Satan’s idea, not God’s, for my life.

I strongly believe in homeschooling now. It is hard work, but God gave me four daughters, and someday I will answer to Him for these precious gifts He gave me. I don’t want to say, “I gave the responsibility away to people who reject Your existence eight hours a day.”  All the knowledge in the world won’t lead you to salvation.

If I had to draw a map of how I got here, it would probably be a mess of scribbles, then a huge drop, followed by a lot of climbing uphill in zig-zag motions. The only thing I know now for sure is that teaching my kids is teaching me a lot. I don’t know if I will ever have to put my kids back into public school (I hope not) or if I will make big mistakes as a parent (I hope not), but I am thankful for the gift of today, and that today, I homeschool!

— Elizabeth Thomas is a blessed wife and mom of four girls — Stormie, Rachael, Faith and Cadence — who are all homeschooled. She was homeschooled all through her school years and has been homeschooling for three years. She lives in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

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