Shame and Parenting

“I’m sorry I’m such a bad kid,” one of mine said to me a few years ago.

I was perplexed, didn’t know where that was coming from. This wasn’t the ‘I’m trying to make you feel bad for not letting me do something’ ploy my kids are good at (they do know how to push my guilt button), this was a real apology. I dug around a little to get a look at what might be going on in that tender heart.

“I just don’t do things right. I leave stuff on the floor, I cause trouble. Everyone’s always yelling at me – I’m just not a good kid.”

That would not not do. I wrapped my arms around my child and held on for a while. I breathed in the smell of their hair, and tried to let my love just permeate through all those bad feelings that were churning around. After a quick prayer I knew what to say.

“You’re right. You are messy. You do leave things on the floor. Sometimes you do things that do make more trouble for me, but THIS is what I signed up for. This is what I expect. Kids are supposed to mess up because they’re learning.”

“Really?” my child asked, surprised that any one would want someone to muck up their life.

“Yes, really. I love being a mom. I love the mess, and more importantly I love you all. I mess up all the time, too, you know. I don’t do everything right, either.” Then I pointed out all the things I can do wrong, and soon we got silly and laughed and moved on from that teary moment.

 I came back around to it later, though, because I am not okay with my kids feeling shame because of who they are or what they’ve done.

That was about the time in my life that I walked away from nagging (although I still battle that), blaming, yelling, and completely blowing my lid because my kids were acting like kids. I walked away from expecting things to go like my favorite family sitcoms and began looking forward to the chaos that kids bring into your life*.

I had to get intentional about the way that I talked to my kids. Phrases like, “What were you thinking?” and “Why would you do that?” were nixed and replaced with, “How could you do this differently?” and “Well, what did you learn from this?” Sometimes I search for a list like this and print it off so that I can pull from there when I’m stretched too thin.

Now listen, we’re all human here on this planet, so sometimes even the best intentions go to waste.

That’s why I’m thankful for grace.

As a parent it is guaranteed that you will lose it every now and then. Even the best laid plans can get blown to heck when jobs, bills, medical issues, or flat tires enter into the picture. What I think is more important is what you do from there, where you go after the losing-it occurs. 



I have known some parents don’t think that they should ever apologize to their kids, maybe because by apologizing they feel that they’re showing weakness. Apologizing to your kids is not wrong – it’s essential. I think it’s the most profound thing my parents ever did for me, and I have seen it change my relationship with my kids. A sincere acknowledgment of regretful behavior is a great start to ensuring that your kid doesn’t walk under a cloud of shame.

The difference between shame and guilt is this: shame convinces a kid of their wrongness as a human and leaves them defeated. Shame makes a kid feel like they’re carrying around a dirty secret;  leaving laundry on the floor, eating all the cookies, not doing their chores, and fighting with siblings are not dirty secrets. It’s not a secret at all because it’s developmentally appropriate behavior. 

I actually don’t believe in dirty secrets, but we can talk about that later.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection over and over for the past few months. Brown is a shame researcher and what she has to say on the subject has seriously changed the course of my life. Her research uncovered the truth that sharing the thing that shames us is the only way to break the cycle.

“Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgement. When shaming happens and we keep it locked up, it festers and grows. It consumes us. We need to share our experience. Shame happens between people, and it heals between people. If we can find someone who has earned the right to hear our story, we need to tell it. Shame loses power when spoken. In this way, we need to cultivate our story to let go of shame, and we need to develop shame resilience in order to cultivate our story.”  ~ Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

She doesn’t mean on the internet, but with close trusted people. Your tribe. Your person. Whoever will say, “Man, that is the worst feeling. I’m so sorry that’s happened.”

That’s who I want to be to my kids. I want my husband and I to be the people they can share their shame with and have us say, “I’m so sorry you’re feeling that. I totally get it.”

I want to be that person even when- especially when – I have accidentally caused that shame.



It’s easy to start throwing perfectionism onto our children, especially if that’s something you do to yourself. Simply recognizing that tendency is a great first step in changing that. Maybe as you read this, you find yourself nodding, recognizing your own tendencies. Don’t get stuck there.

I know first hand how debilitating it can be to wake up to the fact that you’re doing something as a parent that you know is wrong, something contrary to what you believe is best for your kids. If that’s the case you need to find your person and break the shame-hold on you, because ain’t nobody got time for that.


Find someone to share your story with. I suggest you start with Jesus, who loves you more than anyone, and go from there. 

Now go be brave, misfits.




Go get the book The Gifts of Imperfection. GAME CHANGER.


*Some of those issues have muscle memory and deep roots. I often have to work on not slipping back into that pattern because…human. If you can figure out the why of what you do you can change the how. If you have questions about that I’m happy to share a little more privately.


If you liked this post, please like and share. 🙂

Something Different

Our house church  has taken to meeting at parks around the city. The kids have room to roam and their noise doesn’t bother us, and we are all able to enjoy being outside together. Even in the summer the heat dies down enough in the evening that it’s been pleasant.

Photo Credit: .: mike | MKvip Beauty :. via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: .: mike | MKvip Beauty :. via Compfight cc

Last night gave the first hint of fall headed our way. A few of the women were shivering in the breeze, and some of the little kids were snuggling together in a hammock. It’s been dry here in central Kentucky and some of the leaves have just given up, turned brown, and fallen off their assigned branches. The crickets were noisy, as were the crows, and  the air had the smell of September.

The whole world seemed to be saying, “Change is coming.”

Change is always happening, whether we are aware of it or not. The world, our lives, the universe, it’s all in constant motion. We don’t necessarily feel it, and we don’t always embrace it.

Sometimes I want to stomp my foot and shout, “This is not how I planned it! This is not what was promised!”

I know that  I know the truth: God’s design will be more suitable for me than mine; prayers that seem unanswered are because God has something better for us; I’m becoming something different than I thought. Yada, yada, yada. I get it, I really do.

Knowing the truth and feeling the truth are two different things for me, though.

That’s a pretty constant battle in my life. My feelings are big, so very big, and often get in the way of what I know. Sometimes knowing something, even  with deep understanding, feels hollow.

That little nugget, though, that God has something better for me, and for you, (always) is so incredibly true.

I looked around my church family last night and let myself feel wonder that God has placed such spectacular humans in my life, in the life of my family. Because of them I’m able to remember friends that I miss, church families we had to say goodbye to, and not feel pain. Our lives have similarities and differences that allow us to mesh in a way that promotes growth. It is certainly better than I could have wanted for myself.

This church we have looks completely different than what I wanted for us two years ago, but it’s exactly what we need. We sing hymns, share where God is moving in our lives, scripture that got us thinking, struggles we encounter, and the good God-given moments, too. We’re still figuring things out and searching what God desires from our group.

It is so good.

This house church thing has gotten me out from the under the should and have-to’s that can plague me. It’s gotten me to ask questions and seek answers, to examine my heart and listen to God. It’s gotten me to wonder about Jesus and seek him out. It’s also allowed me to accept the changes God has brought into our lives with grace, if not understanding.

More than anything I am learning to embrace where I am at, learn to thrive in my present rather than lament the past or fret over the future. I am learning that my transformation is not always apparent to me because my life looks different to me than it does to God.

He doesn’t see me in 24 hour increments.

No, He sees the whole me; the beginning and the end. He knows the what and it’s my job to live the how. It’s so 70’s of me to say this, but it really is about the journey.

Nothing in your life is going to look the way you think it should. No matter how old you are you need to figure that out. Go ahead and dream, put the work in, there’s nothing wrong with that, but be prepared to allow that dream to be edited because how you live will always be more important than what you want your life to look like from the outside.

Life is just going to look the way that it is.

Messy, beautiful, complicated, amazing, broken, full, and everything in between.

My version of simple living is obviously not the same as God’s version of simple living.

Not much in my life looks the way I thought it would when I reached 40-something.

And that’s okay.

It’s not my job to worry about the what in my life.

I only have to work on the how of living.

What that looks like from the outside doesn’t really matter.


How to Find Stuff

The other night some of my friends and I were talking about how amazing, awesome, and handsome our husbands are.

Somehow we fell onto the topic of how one person’s family seemed unable to find anything in the refrigerator. We were each shocked to learn that ALL of our people shared the same affliction. It’s called  FRIDGE BLINDNESS.

It’s real, and our families have it.

It goes like this: the person looking for the food item stands in front of the fridge looking for said thing and they just can’t see it. It’s scary and they don’t know what to do so they call for the wife or mom.

“I can’t find the ketchup!” they shout, panicked at the prospect of a meal without the goopy red stuff.

You try to direct them, encourage them by telling them exactly what shelf it is on, behind the milk and under the relish.

It doesn’t help.

Finally, frustrated, you go over and try to see what’s so scary. You realize the prospect of actually moving other things around is just too much. You are needed to move the milk and relish so that the ketchup is actually visible.

One of our friends, Linda,  has a genius plan. She tells the person looking for the thing in the fridge, “Close your eyes. Imagine the thing that you want out of the refrigerator. See the color in your head, the words printed on the package, imagine holding it in your own hand.” The person will look at her expectantly, excited about the picture in their head. Then she tells them, “Now  move things until you have the thing that matches the picture in your head.”

For reference, she says this in a kind, soothing voice NOT a yelling, irritated voice.

Just in case you were wondering.


This is not the printable. This is a friend’s refrigerator. A friend who wondered why I was taking a picture of her fridge. Now she knows.


We all thought this was genius, so I’ve made a printable for our refrigerator.

Just click here to print your own:  #1Printable of The How to Find Things in the Magic Box that Keeps Everything Cold.

I’ve known for a while now that a major role of mine in the family is the FINDER OF ALL THINGS, I just don’t know how it happened.

It’s ironic because I am always losing my things. Mainly my phone. I am constantly losing my phone. I probably lose my things because I spend so much time looking for other people’s things.

It could be all their fault now that I really think about it.

Back to the fridge, though. It is completely baffling to me that my people will stand there, with a given task of retrieving something like salad dressing, and behave as though they’re at an art museum. They gaze as though the refrigerator is one dimensional, a painting to be observed, not a 3-D thing to be reached into, whose items can be shifted in order to find the thing being looked for.

The worst is when they open the fridge doors  just to figure out what to feed themselves. There is an inevitable shout, “Ugh! There’s nothing to eat here!”

I used to feel obligated to point out the cheese, meat, fresh veggies, olives, pickles, or leftover whatever. It took me too long to realize that this was a rhetorical question meant only to bait me into a rabbit hole of a conversation that inevitably ended with me fixing that person some kind of food. Usually a peanut butter jelly.

I do make a super awesome peanut butter and jelly.

Fridge Blindness carries over, in case you didn’t know. Remote controls are invisible, shoes hide in plain sight, and no one ever, ever knows where the dish detergent is. Ever.

If I complain about the fact that I have to know where everything is, I get a sweet hug and “At least you know you’re needed.”

Which, on one hand is true, but on another hand, I feel like a robot could replace me pretty easily.

Except for the peanut butter and jelly making.

That’s all me.

What Works for Me

I’ve always been like this, as long as I can remember.

I am a flibbertigibbet. A dillydallier. A loafer.

If I have something to do, something I really need to do, I put it off.

Pathological procrastination.

I had it beat a few years ago but it’s definitely a rut I can fall into if I’m not careful.

This August I find myself doing it again. I think it’s because I graduated my first homeschooled kid and my load feels lighter. It could be that we  took the whole summer off enjoying days of empty schedules.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching the Great British Bake Off and Marcella on Netflix. Perhaps it’s because I have been spending so much time planning a family trip to Ireland. I’m determined to stay in a cottage in Dingle. It may take us three years, but we’ll get there.

I feel so much better when I do what needs to be done in my life, but it’s so haaaaaaard to do it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an ENFP or because I have ADD or what, but getting stuff done can be difficult for me. 

Whenever I finally give in and start rolling with it, though, all is good. It’s all about taking that first step without focusing on perfection.

There are a couple of go-to’s for me when my brain is having a hard time helping me get done what I need to get done.

I love, love  FlyLady.  I borrowed her book, Sink Reflections,  from Mom a number of years ago and felt like her no-nonsense approach to house cleaning was awesome. One of the phrases she often repeats is “Start where you’re at.”  As the mom of young kids I needed to remember  that. As a chronic procrastinator that was the most freeing thing I’d ever heard.

Now, I’m going to tell you it can be overwhelming. I can’t handle her e-mails, they just make me feel like a failure, and I already have 1,000+ in my inbox.  FlyLady suggests you start here, and I do too. Just remember to do what works for you. For me, the Baby Steps and Control Journal were a game changer. I have a plan, and when I work the plan we stay on track with house cleaning. If we aren’t able to work the plan because of schedules or sickness I don’t freak out because the plan is there and I can get back to it. 

Ours looks like this:

Mondays: bedroom day; Tuesdays: bathroom, hallway, stairs; Wednesdays: living room, dining room, back porch; Thursdays: kitchen and grocery shopping; Friday: basement, laundry room, car; Saturday: yard work; Sunday: house blessing.

This doesn’t mean that our house is perfectly clean;  that’s not the goal. It just means I don’t freak out when people stop by unexpectedly or we have people over. 

Photo by Kiley Shepherd.
Photo by Kiley Shepherd.

One of FlyLady’s principles is that you can do anything for 15 minutes which is nothing but the truth.  This little revelation led to my next game changing discovery: The Pomodoro Technique.


Photo by Kiley Shepherd
Photo by Kiley Shepherd

This technique suggests setting a timer for 25 minutes and working really hard until it goes off. Then you get a 5 minutes break – better set that timer to 5.  🙂  For your break you can step outside for fresh air, do some quick exercises to get your blood pumping, organize a drawer, whatever floats your boat.  Basically anything that puts your mind somewhere besides the task at hand. After 5 minutes you go back to your task for another 25. I never work on a task for more than three 25 minute segments.

This has revolutionized our homeschool life, especially for the subjects that my kids hate. Especially for the subjects that I hate. When you know that there is an end in sight, that you won’t be doing algebra for eternity, you can work harder knowing you’ll get a break. I never have the kids work for more than two 25 minute segments at a time. After their two 25 minute sessions they get a 25 minute break to do whatever they would like. They know that even if a task isn’t finished we will come back to it the next day.

My goal in homeschooling is not to finish a book but to teach a love of learning.

Again, this method isn’t perfect and doesn’t make everything in our homeschool go smooth as a Little House on the Prairie episode but it sure helps. As with anything new there is a learning curve to using this method. For Spencer I had to set the timer for 15 minutes at a time when he was younger, and that’s like what I’ll do for Liam ( who is 6) when he starts doing tasks on his own. We’ve worked up to 25 minutes now that Spencer is 12. I probably need to revisit this method with Laurel, who is 16, and pushes herself a little too hard for my taste. Those 5 minute breaks are important, but so are the 25 minute ones.

I tell my kids this all the time because it’s true:  our brains need time to process information that we’re taking in. We need to be able to gaze at the sky and consider what we’ve read or watched on a video. I love Charlotte Mason and her theories on why small batches of really great information is much more effective than long (boring) periods of mediocre information.

My next step is to get a website blocker so that I cannot visit Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram until certain times of day. I’m looking at this one, called SelfControl. We shall see. In the hour I’ve been editing this post I’ve checked Twitter 42 times and opened up 5 other tabs. HELP!

Just writing this post has motivated to me to start where we are! I’m actually feeling excited about our day.  I can do budgeting, meal planning, house cleaning, homeschooling, web surfing, etc., for 25 minutes at a time and get everything on my list, and then some, done.

Also, here are three blogs that I love for helping motivate me,  great self care tips, and just general awesome information:

  • The Art of Simple – Tsh Oxednrider and her writer friends are awesome.
  • Goins, Writer – Jeff is super motivational for anyone pursuing a dream.
  • The ADHD Nerd – Ryan has become is a new favorite. He’s real and helpful.


Do you have any pro-tips useful to combat procrastination? I’d love to hear!

What if We’re All Special?

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.  2 Corinthians: 4:7



I love that this guy doesn’t care if people stare.

Well, he does care, but not when he’s doing something like sitting in a giant chair in the middle of a home and gardens expo, because then it’s fun to have people stare. He loves to be told he’s cute, or sweet, or awesome, or whatever. Who doesn’t like to be told those things, right?


My brother, Erik.


Sometimes his total lack of humility gets on my nerves.

Just being honest.

As his older sister I feel that’s something I’m entitled to.

Most of the time, though, I admire his audacity.

Erik is rarely afraid to ask for what he wants.

The crazy thing is people often let him do whatever thing he wants to do. Oh, you want to play guitar with the live band downtown? Sure, come on up, buddy! Oh, you want a free t-shirt from this or that restaurant? No problem! Take two.

That stuff happens all. the. time.

It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, and it’s sweet. I love it. I love it because it shows me, and him, and whoever is with Erik, that people are made of mostly really good stuff. People have been kind to my brother in the most unexpected, genuine ways. Gruff men, cranky women, people who normally would just bustle on by will stop what they’re doing and go out of their way to extend grace to Erik because he is developmentally disabled. He’s different and it shows.

Erik is special.


What if we’re all special?

What if we each have things that we deal with on a daily basis that make functioning in life difficult?

Maybe it’s not everyday, the way it is for my brother, but I’m guessing that you’re like me and sometimes life feels like more than you can handle.

What if we were each willing to extend grace to one another based on the knowledge that we are all delayed in some way?

Working a puzzle at Christmas.
Working a puzzle at Christmas. p.s. I tried to crop it. Sorry.

There is something not quite right with each of us. We are each broken in some way that impedes our functioning. Some of us have to pretend that they are not damaged in order to move through the world, but that doesn’t change the reality. Some of us are too hurt to pretend but we think no one cares so we don’t say anything, we just keep on going.

I think my biggest takeaway from having Erik in my life is that because of knowing him, knowing his specialness, I am able to recognize the specialness in other people. Am I always gracious? No, I am not, not even with Erik. Especially not with Erik.

It’s a goal.

As a Chrsitian I believe that we each have unique, divine purpose. I wonder if Erik, and all the amazing special people like him, have the same purpose: to force us ‘average’ folk to recognize specialness, because once you learn to appreciate it it one person you start to see it everywhere. There’s no going back, no undoing it, once you  let go of the notion that some of us humans are whole.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. I want people like Erik to continue to have loads of grace and attention and gifts heaped on them. There is much life that they will miss out on. Their lives will never be truly free because they will always be dependent on someone else in one way or another. I think people like Erik should win the Brave Misfit award because they had no say in living life differently. It just happened to them.

I don’t want to minimize the significance of a life lived with a severe developmental disability, either. There are days that I cry while dreaming of Erik without injury, or what it would be like to grab a beer with my brother or for my kids to have an uncle who could take them to Kings Island just because he wanted to.

What I’m saying is that I think we’re all way more alike than we are different. That while the people labeled special have more apparent hindrances we are each hindered by something.

What I want, what I think would be a game-changer, is if we each woke up to the special brokenness in one another.

What would that look like? Would we be kinder, more generous?

I think so.

After I spend time with Erik and his exceptional friends I am filled with a lightness I cannot describe, a joy that I think comes from being seen in a special way. Erik’s friends are kind, and they make me feel exceptional when I’m with them. 

My favorite recent encounter was a few weeks ago when I stopped at Erik’s work, Full Circle Supports (if you need trophies, engraving, or screen printing in the Lexington, KY area look them up!).  One of the ladies working there came out as he was showing me around (again) and got really close to me.  She stopped herself at the last second from actually touching me.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I thought you were someone I knew.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” I told her, because it really didn’t bother me.

“You look like a lady from my church. A lady who gives me hugs every time she sees me,” the woman told me. Her glasses made her eyes look really big and  her grin was infectious.

“Well,” I said, “I like to give people hugs. Would you like me to hug you?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, and then we hugged. It was simple.

That’s something I love about Erik’s people. They can ask for what they need if we’ll just listen. More importantly, Erik and people like him, make me feel special because they see me and my brokenness and they meet me halfway with their brokenness and they ask for hugs or high fives or gift me with shy smiles. There’s no pomp and circumstance involved. None. It’s beautiful and easy.

Being special is the best.


I think we’re all special.


I think you’re special.

So let’s go out into the world as our limited, broken selves and extend grace to our fellow limited, broken humans.


Be brave, misfits, and be special.

Advice to New Homeschoolers…and Old


So, you’ve made the decision to homeschool this year.

Maybe you’ve only got a kindergartner, maybe you’ve decided to pull out your middle-school kid, maybe you decided at the end of the school year last year that you wanted to homeschool and now that THE TIME HAS COME you’re wondering if you lost your mind.

Take a deep breath, everything is going to be fine.

When I first started homeschooling 14 years ago (WHAT?!)  I was like a deer in headlights. I so badly didn’t want to mess things up, and I only knew one other person who was homeschooling. Here’s a few things I wish someone had told me.

1. Advice is just opinion…

There is so much out there on the internet, in the library, and among friends on the subject of homeschooling.  Don’t even get me started on what family can have to say on the subject. 😀

Really, though, it’s important to remember that no matter where you’re getting advice, from the beautifully bound book that cost a lot of money to the woman you run into at the library, it is simply someone else’s opinion on the matter of homeschooling. You’ve already got your own opinion on the issue or you wouldn’t be homeschooling.

Advice is not the gospel – you can take or leave it, and if you leave it you can always come back to it.

I’ve said it before and I’m certain to say it again: every homeschool is unique. What works for one may not work for another and that’s okay.

2. Your homeschool won’t look like the picture in your head..

I had Little House on the Prairie as the picture in my head, the t.v. series not the books. I imagined my students (a.k.a. my children) sitting at their individual desks just learning their little hearts out.

It didn’t look like that. I think they only kept snacks and toys in the desks that I scoured the city for.

Turns out, my kids liked to sit with me on the couch while I read aloud. They liked working puzzles and playing games at the kitchen table. They loved being able to explore in the back yard, going to the library, and visiting with friends at the playground.

Staying home, sitting at a desk, and being quiet; turns out those are NOT ways my kids (or any kid) learns.

So, take that picture in your head and tear it up. Have a white canvas,  or better yet a dry erase board,  in your imagination because there will be a lot of changes made in the course of your homeschool year. Or in the course of your homeschool day.

It’s just not going to look the way you thought it would. Also, this might be a good time to memorize Proverbs 16:9 if this is making you breathe funny.

3. Focus on what you get done in a day, not what you don’t…

Confession: I think I may have been more excited about getting a teacher’s planner than I was about starting to homeschool. I filled that sucker up, man! I spent a lot of time planning out kindergarten and preschool with colors for each child. I would admire all the stuff that we were going to get done in a week and then be utterly defeated when only half the list was accomplished. Suddenly my planner didn’t look like awesomeness but more like a mean lady wagging her finger at me saying, “You’ll miss recess for this!” in a mean lady voice.


A number of years ago my friend, Karen, shared with me her secret. She had a notebook for each of her children where she wrote their weekly assignments down. The kids chose when to get their work done, it just had to be done by Monday of the following week. Simple. So I said goodbye to expensive planners and hello to $1 notebooks.

Sometimes, though, even that is too hard for me. During moving transitions or times of sickness, or just utter overwhelmingness, sometimes things slip. It happens. Homeschoolers don’t have substitute teachers. Life continues on.

Recently,  I read somewhere on the great Interwebs that you could just write down what you get done in day, that way you can feel good about what you’ve accomplished. I use a hodgepodge of curriculum, including  Tapestry of Grace, and all of it has it planned out, so I just log our work, or the kids log their work, and it’s no big deal. I find that writing down what we’ve gotten done helps me see that we’re not ‘behind’.

In homeschool, there’s no such thing as behind.

Write that down on 15 sticky notes and put them all over the house. Write it on your hand, or your forehead. Write it on the kids bathroom mirror. I’m serious. It’s that important. 

4. Plan on learning more than ever…

No one ever need worry that they aren’t capable of teaching their own child. No matter what your education level, income, or residence everyone is suited to educate their offspring. Thanks to the public library, internet, and homeschooling communities no subject is off limits to the homeschooler.

By far, my favorite aspect of home education is the joy of learning right alongside my kids.

We *typically have history/literature discussions every week, and there have been times that I realized my kids were staring at me as though I were a hydra because I was having an  ‘Aha!’ moment out loud. It is so stinking exciting to share a light bulb moment with your kids. I think it’s also important for them to see that you don’t have to learn EVERYTHING before you graduate high school. So have those aha moments in big and bad ways!


There’s a ton more I could add to my list but I think these four are the essentials.

Homeschooling is an awesome opportunity to develop a unique family culture. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously.

It’s only school.



Be brave, misfits! Go learn some stuff!




I am passionate about education, especially home education. If you’re just starting out and you have questions, please feel free to ask me.  Or if you’ve been at it for a while and need refreshing reach out here…people will pitch in.


Skipping a Year

I hate to whine, but I had the worst birthday ever last year. I’m not even kidding. It was the worst.

Photo Credit: sameold2010 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: sameold2010 via Compfight cc

My birthday was on a Friday in October. I still get excited about birthdays that fall on a Friday. On Wednesday I wasn’t feeling well and by Thursday I had a pretty good fever. Friday morning I woke up knowing that I had the flu thanks to full on body aches, chills, cough, and intestinal issues. I took it like a champ, though.

Well, not really. Lee came in to wish me well and I just croaked, “Save yourself. Get out of here.” and he scampered away to work. When the kids came in I told them, “It’s not my birthday. I will not accept it. I get a do over next week when I’m better.”

There was much weeping and gnashing of the teeth and watching back to back episodes of 30 Rock while I tried not to pee my pants when I coughed (unsuccessful). I never got my do over because my flu friend stuck around for 2 weeks then invited his friend bronchitis over. Bronchitis was boring so I got a UTI just for fun. The doctor I went to for the UTI said he’d never heard someone describe the pain similar to  ‘peeing out a razor blade’. I told him he’d obviously never had a patient with a UTI.

Anyway, all this to say my birthday came and went, we got through winter and our immune systems recovered. Around six weeks ago I realized something, something huge! I’d been telling everyone I was 43 but I’m actually only 42!!!

I guess my time in my sick bed made me feel like Wesley, from The Princess Bride, when he had years sucked away from his life. Except I felt like I had a year added to it.

Seriously, though, can you believe I’m only 42????

I feel like I’ve gained a year. I feel so young and energetic.

Unfortunately at this age you don’t get a lot of opportunities to tell people how old you are. If I’m hanging out with Liam and his friends and they’re exchanging ages I like to throw in a, “Well, I’m 42.”  The kids look me over in a disapproving way and move on with their  command-establishing-by-age. Most of them can’t even remember what month they’re born in , and if they do happen to know that they don’t really know the order of the months, so then the hierarchy of power becomes based on height.

At my age no one wants to be in charge at the playground. No one. 

I cannot believe that I thought I was 43 for so long this year. My kids don’t care, my husband is just irritated that he’s still four years old than me, and my parents don’t keep track of my age much these days.  Now that my birthday is just three months away I’m thinking maybe I’ll be 43 for two years in a row. Except, I do like how 44 sounds with its nice alliteration and all.

Oh, gosh. It’s a dilemma. I think it’ll be a game time decision.

In the end, I’m still 40-something and I still need bifocals and my kids still think I’m really old.

But today I’m only 42, and I feel really young.

Looking back…looking forward

Now that I have graduated one homeschooled kid and successfully gotten her to college, I feel like I can breathe a little easier. Suddenly all the things I worried about are diminished and all the ‘mistakes’ I thought I made look like they were meant to happen.


Thanks to the awesome Izzie Montgomery for Kiley's senior photos.
Thanks to the awesome Izzie Montgomery for Kiley’s senior photos.


The last few weeks have given me some time to look back on Kiley’s homeschooling and reflect on what went well, what didn’t go well, and where I’d like to go with the remaining three.

Here’s what I think worked:

Allowing her passions to lead the way.

Kiley has always been a creative thinker, enjoying hours of pretend play and art work. She’s always enjoyed music and reading.  I picked up on the fact that if Kiley was passionate about something she would absorb the information better.

I know, duh.

Still, that’s not how we’re taught, and that’s not how I thought. I believed that if the manual had instructions it was because the instructions must be followed, always. It took some serious trials and more than a few errors before I realized I could do things my own way, or better yet, that my kid could do things her own way

When Kiley was ten or so she fell in love with YouTube. We bought her a camera and she had her own channel. She taught herself to film, edit, and add music to her videos. Kiley taught herself how to do stop motion film. She learned more about computers than I was able to teach her, and now she’s heading off to college to study film. So all that ‘wasting time’ was actually her honing in on her passion.

Kiley has taught herself to sew, Laurel taught herself ukulele, and Spencer became a gardener because they each found joy in learning those things, not because I thought it would be a good idea.

I learned if it’s important to them it needs to be important to me, too.

Letting her decide when she would work.

This one was hard for this first born mama. I like to be in charge, and when we started school I had certain ideas of what I thought education would look like. My strong-willed first born was much the same, so her kindergarten year sometimes looked more like a round of Family Feud gone wrong.  One day I got the bright idea to ask her what she would like to do first and was shocked that she had an opinion. She was never a morning person, ever. She’s always done her best work after being allowed to create and play and roam around outside. Kiley wanted to play first and work later. So we tried that and it worked. Getting out her creative energy gave her the room she needed to do seat work later in the day.

As Kiley got older I was able to turn more and more over to her. She learned to schedule herself and work on what she wanted to when she wanted to. Some years we had a homeschool schedule, but by the time she was in 6th grade it was up to her how and when she got her weekly work done. There were bumps in the road (like the time I discovered she had been watching Stargate Atlantis rather than doing her online math work), but we both learned what the other needed.

Allowing her to move on when something wasn’t working.

That’s not the same as failing. It’s knowing your strengths and weaknesses and deciding not to waste time with something that’s just filler. If it’s not something she’s going to use for the work God intends her to do it’s probably not a skill she’ll need to master.

That’s not to say if your kid doesn’t like doing basic math, grammar, or reading that you should just give up. Basics are important, but I do think that a lot of time can be wasted in an attempt to get kids to master every subject.  I feel like the word average has obtained a wrongful bad rap. What is wrong with average? You can’t be awesome at everything, but you can be really, really good at some things. Why do we want kids to learn so much before age 18, seriously? Unless they want to know everything, then it’s fine.

It will come when it comes, even if they’re 42 when they decide biology isn’t horrible.



There’s only a few things I would change if I could turn back time…

Quality over quantity…

I wish that I had understood earlier that what they learn is way more important than the amount of time that they spend learning.  I was educated in public school so I had this idea that ‘school’ had to happen between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., a notion that has been VERY hard for me to walk away from. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty that my kids played outside so much during their elementary years and only a couple of hours doing seat work. Looking back I don’t regret that at all!

What I do regret is that I felt like something  was wrong with my children playing outside for hours, exploring nature, figuring each other out, and making outhouses.

Yes, they made outhouses.

They also learned about nouns and verbs, but I think the outhouse was more practical. 😉

Comparing our home educating journey to…anything else.

There is no comparing public school and home school. They are two completely different beasts. Things could have been easier in my earlier years if I had recognized that there is no comparing two homeschools, either. Just like each person is uniquely made, each family is unique. What works for us may not work for someone else.

We did a certain math program for two years (two very long years) even though it did not work for us. I  thought that I had to because it was the best. It said so in the reviews, my friends loved it. Never mind that there was three pages of reading before the 100 math problems and after the timed math facts review, and that the pages were soaked with their tears 5 minutes in to the eight hour lesson. It was the best, darn it, so it must work.

It took my brother, Erik, cleaning my homeschool room, leading to us losing our math books for months, for me to realize that homeschooling without tears was possible. We got rid of that math and did other things and guess what? We were fine. Better than fine, in fact.

Our best homeschool years happened when I asked the kids what they wanted to learn about and combined that with what I thought was important for them to know.

Not making my mental health a priority.

Homeschooling is hard, there’s no way around it. It’s never ending, there are no days off, and you will be giving a lot of yourself. You’ll be student and teacher all at once, you still have to be a partner to your spouse, keep up with family relationships, friendships, make sure you’re growing spiritually, feed the dog, take the kids to the doctor, and don’t forget the dental checkups, and cooking balanced meals, and…

You see how important mental health is?

Seriously, though, I wish I had checked in with a counselor sooner. You can always find free  Christian counseling or one that uses a sliding scale for fees. At the very least check out some self-helps books, take quiet time every day to meditate and pray, and talk to Jesus frequently, and by frequently I mean constantly.

Whew, that was way longer than I meant for it to be. Thanks for sticking it out to the end.

One of my favorite things to do is to do look back at the work the kids have done over the years, especially on days when I feel like I haven’t accomplished my goals. It makes me feel proud of the past and invigorated for the future.  Is it the same for you, too?

Happy Thursday, Misfits. Hope it’s been a good one.

Just Keep Paddling


Life is very full right now. Sometimes it’s awesome, and sometimes it feels like I’m being forced to ride a roller coaster over and over again. I’m laughing and crying at the same time. 

I think some of it is having four kids, some of it is being 40-something, and some of it is that so many of us are all in one house together. Life is definitely more adventurous the more people you have under one roof.

I feel as though the days just roll along, and if I’m not careful to count them I’m not sure where I’m at in the week, or month, or year.

I don’t like to have a plan but it seems as though it’s essential to having a happy family.

Also, without a plan I’m prone to watching back to back episodes of Tiny House on HGTV.

So last weekend planned the heck out of our July 4th weekend. A cook out on Friday night started off with more excitement than I like when my parent’s dog picked up a bee in her mouth. Twenty minutes later Mom and Dad had to rush her to the vet to step the anaphylactic reaction she was having. All is well now, but I have to say watching their little dog suffer renewed my sympathy for people who have severe allergies.

Saturday we went kayaking with friends. This was a first for me because my kids knew more about what was going on than I did. I had to take directions from them, and I can tell you there were more than a few frustrated words exchanged.

I think that there were close to 100 of us at the put in (that’s kayak lingo for the place they dump you with you canoe or kayak or whatever vehicle you’re using), each wearing a red or blue PFD (that’s personal flotation device for you novices). The creek was pretty low so there was a lot of dragging going on. We weren’t given instructions on how to paddle. This may seem like an intuitive process but let me assure you, it’s not. Especially when there are two people paddling one kayak or canoe.

Let me just say the newbies were separated out quite quickly. We were the ones immediately stranded in the reeds or sitting on rocks trying to propel ourselves forward by rocking our bottoms back and forth. We were the ones yelling at, or being yelled at by, our paddling partner. At one point I looked over at an Indian couple, the husband at the front of the canoe, and noticed he is furiously directing her. My eyes met his wife’s and she raised her hands to say “I have no idea what he wants” and we both died laughing.

At that point I decided to give into the not knowing and just have fun.

Except when I didn’t know how to steer the canoe.

Anyway, in between dragging the canoe where we needed it and arguing with my children and husband, floating down the creek was so…relaxing.

The entire time we were out I was wonderstruck.

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There’s just something about being out like that, even when you’re having to work hard, that is amazing. Being in nature reminds me that I am part of nature, part of creation, that I am just as alive as my surroundings.

It got me thinking about all the time we spend indoors anymore. I love the comfort of my home, I love electricity and running water, and I love my computer. None of that is a replacement for nature, though. None of that is as life giving as sitting in a patch of grass, putting your back against the trunk of tree that can see far more than you are able, or dipping your toes in free flowing water. 

For me, when I look at a painting or a sculpture, or any work of art, I can’t help but consider the creator. I think about what that person must be like, the thoughts or feelings they had when they made their work of art. I am the same way when I survey creation. I can’t help but think of my Maker when I gaze at his masterpiece, about why certain plants and animals are the way that they are. It doesn’t take long for my thoughts to trickle to me and the fact that I am part of all of that and my soul sighs in relief.

Being in nature is so good for me, for us, on so many levels. There’s a lot of research going on right now backing this up. There’s a lot in the bible, too.

I’m guessing that I know, and you do, too, without needing research that being outside is good.

We were invited to a friend’s house Sunday for a cookout and my boys played in a creek til they were too hungry not to. Monday we had my brother Erik and his housemates over. We rolled into this week with both of my parents having cataract surgery and kids working and going to Scout meetings and the pool and the park.

I’ve found myself looking at the calendar more than a handful of times to remind me what day it is.

How about you? Do you find your days slipping by quickly? How do you reconnect with who you are, and who made you?


Be brave, misfits, and don’t forget to paddle.

Just keep paddling.

Finding Our Sabbath

When we knew Lee was leaving the ministry “we will find a church!” was our battle cry.

We unloaded the U-Haul, with the help of three paid college guys, on a Saturday. We had all boxes properly dispersed between home and storage unit, beds were put together and dinner eaten. My parents looked shell shocked, my brother looked ecstatic, and the kids were just done. Right after we swallowed our ibuprofen Lee and I looked at one another and said in unison, “We will find a church!” and promptly passed out.

Bright and early the next morning we were at church.

It was the right one, I just knew it.

Until we knew it wasn’t.

The next one was the same.

There was more of the same for many months. We liked the preaching every where we went. We loved the people. But we found ourselves in our old pattern of doing and serving and going and dragging the kids along with us. The exact pattern that had been part of  the reason we felt a need to change things.

We had gotten stuck in the ‘have to’ and ‘should’ trap without even realizing it.

As soon as we walk in the door to any church we spot places we could serve, begin looking for places we might fit.

I realized too late that we have begun to see church as a machine, a man made apparatus into which you must fit and find your place. 

It’s not the church’s fault we feel this way. The people in the church aren’t necessarily the problem. Conversations with other families who have left ministry clue me in to the fact that this is not a Shepherd family phenomenon. This is what happens when you give too much of yourself without filling back up.

This is also what happens when the church is unable to help when you are empty.

I think that because our family always looked okay, as in, we were professional at looking okay, no one realized the depth of our suffering. When we finally asked for help it was too late. The relationship was too broken to go back to it.


Honestly, I don’t even know what church is anymore. What is the function of the church? For us it became all about doing – there were a lot of shoulds and have-to’s attached to everything involving the church, and we were doing that to our kids. Those are things I’m avoiding in my life now. So we are re-learning church.

No more shoulds or have-to’s.

I think I was afraid of what would happen to our faith, to my faith, when my husband wasn’t a pastor anymore. So much of my theology was formed in church. I found a relationship with Jesus in church. I fell in love with hymns at church.

I worried about what exactly I would be leaving behind when we took a break from church.

The depth of my relief when we didn’t go to church that first Sunday shocked me.I wasn’t expecting to feel unburdened.  I was not surprised at how sad I was. It was like not going gave me permission to really feel how let down I felt, how overlooked and left behind we all felt. We were each able to share our feelings because we weren’t putting on a brave face anymore.

I took the kids and dogs on a long walk at a nearby park. I read aloud a psalm, we prayed, and I even went homeschool on them and made them sing a hymn with me. Lee was at work so that was weird, but otherwise it just felt good and right. I felt the weight of those shoulds and have-to’s rolling off of my shoulders. I felt delight in watching my kids play and laugh and thought, “This is what God feels when He watches us worship.” and then I thought, “THIS is worship.”

I did not expect to find our Sabbath when we took a break from church, but we did.

We’ve had house church with a couple of other families and that has been another step in our healing. It’s interesting learning to trust and navigate relationships without the have-to’s chasing us there.  We are still tentative about reaching out, still nervous about rejection, but we have hope, and that’s something I haven’t been able to say for a long time. 

I’m not saying we’ll not be returning to church.

But this time, instead of forcing it, we’ll wait until it’s not a have-to or should.

I have to say that writing this feels risky. I’m revealing a wound that has not been healed and that makes me and mine vulnerable. Then I remember that we’re all broken, no matter what it looks like from the outside. I’m just putting a name to some of my brokenness. I want to always remember that people are important, and not for volunteer opportunities and bake sales. I also want to remember  that people need people even if it doesn’t appear that way.

Relationship with each other is vital to relationship with Christ.

Even if it’s messy.

Invite each other into the untidiness of your life, brave misfits.

Don’t wait for the other to go first.

Be messy, be real, and Jesus is sure to do the rest.