How's your Energy Level Today?

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It’s been a weird week. After a busy school year, tutoring, teaching and creating a course for homeschool moms and launching it, everything seemed to end all at once. My boys finished finals at our local high school, my daughter finished her homeschool year, and all my tutoring students said goodbye until Fall. Exhaustion set in along with a strange feeling of wondering who I am and what I’m doing with my life. At first, the mean girl in my head began taunting me, “What are you going to do for work this summer? How are you going to make an income to support your family now? Why don’t you know who you are? Do you even belong here?” And on and on….

Does that ever happen to you? Do you hit weeks when your mood is a bit low, when you feel unmoored, frozen, or a bit lost? I knew that I had a decision to make and I’m old enough to know that my energy level and mood is often cyclical. As a woman whose hormonal cycle affected mood and energy all through the child-bearing years, I grew accustomed to paying attention and keeping records. In my 30’s I would write on the calendar ahead of time the likely emotions I might feel in a given week so I could prepare my mindset. One week would be confident/energized, another anxious/sensitive, one week read angry/ impatient and another joyful/relaxed. My mother had always advised, “Don’t think too hard when you’re tired or hormonal. it will pass.” In other words, don’t measure who you are by any one set of hard days.

So I knew, earlier this week, when I felt so blah that it was likely a cyclical thing. I needed to wait it out and trust that my current mood and productivity was not all of who I am or would be. We learn in our culture to measure our worth by our productivity and to hit summer with no income felt irresponsible and scary for this single mama. I had worked hard all year, but I hadn’t yet figured out what I was doing for the summer. I had pre-planned several ventures, but none had come together yet. On Monday morning I made a choice. Instead of beating myself up or trying to push myself into action with anxiety and criticism, I would give myself grace. I would trust that God knows me, my cycle, and my situation. I would wait - for my own body and mind to be ready for the next action and I would busy myself in that waiting with something else. That something else was housework - some much needed organization - which would serve us well in the future and lay a clean slate upon which to create new business ventures or go through needed transitions. I set to work cleaning out the papers and clutter that had accumulated in our home all year while I was working so hard on other projects. Was that income-producing activity? No. But I decided to…

1) Give myself grace in the low energy, trusting that a new cycle of energy would come.

2) Trust God to provide for our family - to bring the right focus, work, and ideas in His time.

There is no point arguing with your cycle, ladies! Kate Northrup, in her recent book, Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time Management for Busy Moms talks about productivity and women. We expect to be productive every day because popular ideas about accomplishment are based on male energy which runs in 24 hour cycles. Because of this, I expect myself to get my act together at some point EVERY DAY. But, guess what? Women cycle over 28 DAYS!!! Y’all, let’s just pause there - every TWENTY EIGHT DAYS!! This is why there are weeks when we are energetic and confident and others when we want to retreat from the world. We don’t do ourselves any good when we expect visible productivity every day. It’s more realistic to see that I can accomplish just as much if I understand and accept my real cycle of energy and mood. It’s like when you’re sick and you start to think you’ll never feel better again. You start to believe that it’s who you are but, when you give it a few days, you’re back to normal, right? And often, that book you read while laid up in bed gives you new ideas; the podcast you listened to while resting shifted your mindset on a topic because you slowed down long enough to really think.

I took Kate Northrup’s explanation and actually put the weeks on my calendar so I would know where I am energy-wise. She describes 4 different stages (the words in quotes are what I put on my calendar).

Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

1) Ovulation - peak energy, manifesting, magnetism I call this week “Show up and Shine”

2) Luteal Phase - wind down, slow down, finish, detail work - I call this week “Organize”

3) Menstrual - rest, hang out in the unknown, re-evaluate, pause - I call this week “Slow Down and Think”

4) Follicular - excitement, new ideas, inspiration, brainstorming - I call this week “Plan and start”

You can listen to an amazing interview about this HERE on James Wedmore’s Mind your Business podcast. You can read the details about each part of the cycle HERE on Kate’s blog.

So what if you gave yourself grace on the days that look and feel less productive, knowing that one week is not the measure of you? How would if feel to let the less impressive weeks serve their purpose too? Whatever you are working on this summer, try to fit the elements of that project or goal into your cycle so you can benefit from the riches of each phase. Most of all, give yourself grace. You are doing your best, mama! You are precious and gifted and you are just what your children need you to be.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pick up all the papers littered across my family room before my “Organize” week ends.

The one mothering skill I cannot teach you

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As you may know, I’ve been hosting a live class the past two weeks called, 3 Secrets to Creating Order in your Home while Homeschooling. It’s an hour long class where I share my heartfelt advice about how to get your kids to be a part of managing your home, how to incorporate rich actives into your days that will build relationships and memories and how to parent well in the process. That class followed a short Facebook live in which I discussed the 3 Myths that might be keeping you from Enjoying Homeschooling. And both free classes introduced my new course, Love your Homeschool, Simple Strategies for Quieting the Chaos so you can Enjoy Learning with your Children.

So, obviously, I have a fair amount of advice and encouragement to give, based on my 21 years of mothering and 15+ years of homeschooling. I LOVE to inspire and equip moms so they can feel confident in their role of home-maker and teacher. I want them to find JOY in the imperfect and enjoy the journey.

But I will be honest with you, I am completely unable to help with ONE CRUCIAL element of parenting young children. I failed abysmally at it with 4 kids and pretty much gave up with #5.

You might wonder, What is it? And how can I consider trusting a homeschooling mentor if they have such a horrible track record?? How was she allowed to continue homeschooling? Shouldn’t the authorities have come to the door and told her that her kids were truant? Should HSLDA have even let her join?? All are valid questions.

Okay, here it is… I can’t give you any help with… POTTY TRAINING.

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I had 5 chances to figure it out and I never did. Family songs and sayings were even written during the dark years of this potty chaos. I cannot account for why I failed. We read all the cute storybooks about going on the potty. We sat on the potty and read stories, we watched tv siting on the plastic potty. We tried the naked thing where you stay home for a week with no diapers on in hopes that the child won’t like peeing on himself. We even went to a hypnotist one time and came home with a cassette tape with calmly spoken imagery like, “Close the gates.” We did the “Dry Days” chart on the fridge, marking off good days until they had 10 in a row and had earned a special toy they had wanted for awhile. I set boundaries like, “If you choose to poop in your undies when you are perfectly capable of going on the potty at 4 years old, YOU will have to wash those undies out yourself..” And every. one. of. my. kids. calmly washed the poop out of their undies and still didn’t use the potty. Every once in a while, a chuck of dried poop would fall out of someone’s undies. One day when my boys were playing in the hall, one of them stepped in poop and it smeared all over the bottom of his bare foot. You would think that kind of grossness would create change. But no.

I used to say that my house was the only one where you might accidentally step in poop INSIDE!

I’d like to say that I never lost my temper over this disgusting situation, but I did give a few furious cold showers to kids who were old enough to take care of business but chose to make messes anyway. Needless to say, by the time my youngest was at potty training age, I had given up. I decided she would eventually figure it out, that my kids must be genetically predisposed to soil their pants until kindergarten and that I was never going to find success. So my youngest wore pull ups until she was 5. And, since she was clearly old enough to take them on and off herself, we would find wet pull-ups under beds, behind the couch, in the car…. It wasn’t a much better deal than the potty training thing.

My kids were never mean to one another, but they did have a lot of laughs making up nicknames like “Smudge McDougal” and songs about our ongoing dilemma,

“Nasty Little Baby, what we gonna do with you. Every time you pee or poo you make me come and change you. Nasty little baby, what we gonna do with you?”

There were more hilarious verses, but I’ll spare you. The truth is, that nasty baby was so loved, the musicians named their band, Babies in the Sink, after her.

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So not everything in our home was pretty schoolrooms, art projects, cozy reading time, and nature outings. My house was not clean all the time either. So, if you follow me, listen to my free classes or even join my new course, I will have LOTS of good advice for you, lots of empathy for how difficult the job of teaching and parenting is, but there will definitely not be a lesson about “How to successfully potty train your children in 5 easy steps.” Sorry to let you down.

My kids are 13-21 now. All of them use the potty. And if we step in poop in our house now, it’s because I’ve allowed a bunny to live in our laundry room.

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If you’d still like to learn a few things from this imperfect mama, you can find RESOURCES HERE and sign up for my new course, Love your Homeschool, HERE. The founding membership is open until June 11th.

3 Myths about Homeschooling that Might be Keeping You from Enjoying it (or Deciding to Start)

 
Photo by  Senjuti Kundu  on  Unsplash

There are several ideas that tend to create concern around the idea of homeschooling. These myths can keep those of us who have been homeschooling from fully enjoying it and they often keep those who are considering the lifestyle from even beginning. If we can reframe these issues and shift the way we are thinking, I believe we can really savor our days home educating.

Myth #1: Homeschooling means giving up on having an orderly home.

Myth #2: Choosing the right curriculum is everything.

Myth #3: Only the children’s personal growth and education matter.

Let’s talk about that first one, Myth #1, Homeschooling means giving up on having an orderly home. Here’s what you might be thinking: It will always be messy. There will no time to clean or do the laundry or cook dinner except in complete chaos and we will just have to endure that chaos until our kids are grown. If we like a neat house and peaceful days, we will just have to grin and bear it. When we can no longer tolerate the chaos, we might have to send everyone to school.

Truth: You can make home management a beautiful part of what you are teaching your kids in your homeschool. Housework does not need to get in the way of the lessons and activities you want to experience with your kids. Homeschooling is as much teaching our kids how to live life as it is how to do math or observe nature. Charlotte Mason said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.” Teaching kids how to create a home is important too!

And then there’s the curriculum dilemma, Myth #2, Choosing the right curriculum is everything. YES, it does matter that the Math curriculum works for your child and choosing the right History books can make studying it more enjoyable for your family. However, learning together at home is not just about replicating traditional school. Adding in what I call “the true, the good, and the beautiful” will end up having a greater impact on how much you enjoy homeschooling than simply checking the boxes of traditional subjects. So what do I consider “the true, the good, and the beautiful” and why do they matter more? These are the activities that can be experienced as a family. They are the ones that children of many different ages and personalities can enjoy together and respond to in their own ways at their own developmental levels. I’m talking about reading literature and poems together, listening to music, doing art, getting out in nature, and creating traditions. You will remember these shared experiences most because they strengthen relationships, awaken the imagination and build camaraderie. They bring the element of JOY to your homeschool and that will carry you through when you grow weary.

Myth #3, Only the children’s personal growth and education matter, is one we tend to automatically believe when there is no time for ourselves as moms. Our days are filled with driving, scheduling, and supporting the endeavors of our children and there is little time to even consider what we would like to do or learn. But our own personal growth is tremendously important because our kids are going to do what we do in the end. Our ability to parent effectively and coach our children to have healthy mindsets depends upon our own emotional health. We are not just teaching our children how to be good at academics or their chosen extracurricular activities. We are showing them how to live life well. This is good news - not just another to-do for us. It means that our own self-care is actually necessary. Our own curiosity and interests are important. If we want our children to become lifelong learners, making time to pursue our interests is an example we want to set. You are more than just a supporter, you are a unique and creative person, mama!

I’ve been creating a new course for homeschool moms and I’ll be offering part of it as a FREE CLASS starting next week. The FREE CLASS is called 3 Secrets to Creating Order in your Home while Homeschooling: How to get the Housework Done and Meet Each Person’s Needs without Missing All the Beautiful Experiences You Want Your Children to have in Your Homeschool.

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I’d LOVE for you to join me!!! Just go to jillpulver.com/freeclass or CLICK HERE to register and choose the best time for YOU!

As always, I’m cheering you on, mama!


May Day

May 1 is this Wednesday and it always creeps up on me so I wanted to share, a few days ahead of time, a fun project we did when my kids were younger. You might want to gather supplies and set aside time to do this in the next few days.

When my kids were little, I was always looking for traditions we could create - fun ways we could celebrate the everyday and enjoy the rhythms of the year together. One of our favorites was May Day. We didn’t ever figure out how to set up a May pole and dance around it, but we did make bouquets of flowers for our neighbors to welcome springtime and let them know we loved them. I’ll show you how we did it.

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We started with patterned paper from a craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. it’s prettiest when the paper has designs on both sides, so look for a pad of paper like this. It can be useful for many other crafts and school projects.

1) Form the paper into a cone and staple in place.

2) Staple a long ribbon to the inside of the paper cone to serve as a handle.

3) Put a grocery store produce bag in the bottom with wet paper towels in the bottom to keep the flowers somewhat watered.

4) I usually purchased a few bunches of flowers at the grocery store to anchor the bouquets.

5) Have kids select flowers and greenery from the yard to complete the bouquets. Show them how to arrange them, but let them be the floral designers.

6) Deliver them to neighbors, friends, family, etc. by hanging on their front door early in the morning on May 1.

Enjoy this fun springtime craft, nature study and neighborly act with your children!

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For more Springtime inspiration, grab my Spring Picture book List - I’ve gathered all our perennial favorite read-a-louds for you to enjoy with your children. You can take this list on your next library trip, to the bookstore or choose one next time you have a gift to give. Enjoy!!!

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Bouquets ready to be delivered.

Bouquets ready to be delivered.