Reveling in the glory and beauty of everyday life... all the mess and chaos of raising five little girls!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Packsaddle Academy

Packsaddle Academy: The Basics
For several years, we affectionately called our little place of learning “Harmony Homeschool.” With a daughter in middle school, I thought we might need a more academic sounding moniker. Many years before we purchased our home in the mountains, it was owned by a couple who ran a Native American jewelry business out of their basement. They called this unique establishment “The Packsaddle Gallery,” and our south-facing exterior wall still bears the wooden letters announcing “PACKSADDLE.” We liked the title, and so we kept it. When local residents ask which house we live in, I can say, “The Packsaddle house,” and they know exactly which brown, otherwise nondescript structure I mean. Accordingly, the school we run in that same large basement is now Packsaddle Academy.

One thing I have learned about homeschooling is that every family operates differently. Every set of parents has their own educational philosophies, and their own ideas about how those philosophies translate to a daily routine, a curriculum set, and a vision. In our county, there are a few homeschoolers – perhaps 15 families or so.
But within those ranks are quite a variety of religious backgrounds, educational styles, and homeschool visions. We have secular parents who homeschool eclectically, charismatic unschoolers, traditional textbook schoolers, online public school families, several families who commute nearly two hours to be a part of Classical Conversations, and LDS families who homeschool using a wide variety of materials and ideas. And all that variety is great! It is fun. We share much in common simply by choosing to stay home and educate our children. There are struggles, challenges, and joys that are inherent in any homeschool environment. Those things bring us together, and, for a play time at the park, or a field trip, or a competitive track and field day, the differences matter very little.

That said, I do think it is helpful to define our homeschooling style and structure. Ideologically, I have far more in common with parents who send their children to classical Christian schools than I do with many of the homeschoolers in our area.  And if you are looking for ideas on how to creatively unschool your kiddos, you won’t find that here.

Reading books on education has become a hobby for me. I try to alternate a lighter “mom” book with a weightier theoretical one, and this summer, I dove into Doug Wilson’s “The Case for Classical Christian Education.” It was enjoyable, though the book is written for Christian school educators, and there is only one chapter specifically relating to homeschooling. I admit I read that one first. Dr. Wilson purports that homeschooling is a good option, but, essentially, should only be attempted if a classical Christian school is not available or attainable. I don’t know that I agree completely. I think homeschooling can be heart-choice, a God-led decision. But, it definitely made me stop and think about the places where I fall short as an untrained mama with multiple grades in one room (as opposed to a classically trained teacher in a small classroom of one grade level).  Then I had to ponder, what can I give my kiddos that they couldn’t get in a regular classroom?

My personal philosophy of education is Charlotte Mason flavored Classical. Is that a title? Probably not. But it is my aim, nonetheless. To combine the ideals of Classical Education: virtue, humility, and wisdom taught through the synthetic study of the seven liberal arts, with the gentleness of Charlotte Mason’s living books, narration, nature study, and habit formation.

Our homeschool days begin with what many Charlotte Mason mamas call “Morning Time.” We light a candle, brew a pot of tea, and gather at the table. We recite, read, draw, sing and pray. This an hour and a half of gently-administered truth, goodness, and beauty, and I love it.

Because I like to have a semblance of structure, and I like my girls to spend much time outdoors, we have a short recess after our morning liturgy. When they return (to the downstairs school room this time) we have 45 minutes of math. Hope, my kindergartner, does less. She has a frequently interrupted reading lesson while the others labor over their math problems.

After math is a triad of table work: Latin, spelling, and copywork or handwriting. We break for lunch, and then the older kids have “book basket” time while I settle little ones for rest. I will write a post on how we use book baskets on another day. J  At around 2:00, we finish with science and Language Arts.

I want our homeschool to be a bit of a dichotomy. I want to have gentle structure, joyful rigor, light-hearted diligence, and serious fun. I want to read delightful books, savor many cups of milky tea, and learn to do math with careful exactitude. 

I hope to write many blog posts about each of the elements that we include in our school days. It is messy, noisy, and sometimes fraught with conflict and emotion. Tea gets spilled, crayons get broken, math lessons are failed, and tears flow. But these are happy, rambunctious, miraculous days.

Stop in sometime. Enter our chaos and sit at our cluttered table. Drink a cup of tea with me and talk education. I would love it. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A New Beginning

A few moments ago, I blew out the fir scented candle on my mantle, but the calming fragrance remains. The dishwasher hums in the kitchen, and the library books have been stacked in their giant gray basket beside the hearth. Outside snow twirls gently to the ground, then melts as it reaches the lingering warmth of September clinging to dirt, gravel, and brittle autumn grass.  All is quiet in my little home; children sleep and the world outside is dark. And me? I breathe in that fir-laced air and listen for a moment to the quiet.  And I want to write.

For months, I have only written in my prayer journal, a pink moleskin notebook that is tattered and scribbled on (credit goes to my busy two-year-old). Actually, it has been years. Two years since I published a book, and two years since I blogged, or wrote an article of any kind. I don’t begrudge those years. The baby season is so fleeting, and writing would have come at a cost. Honestly, in the joyful busyness of these last two years, those journaled prayers were the most important thing I could have written. They still are. Those daily, scribbled pleas for grace and wisdom form the bedrock of my home-life with my daughters and husband.  They are vital to my relationship with God and to my day-in and day-out existence as a mama trying to be faithful to the tasks set before me.

But, the yearning to write is there. In the midst of the daily frazzle, I catch myself forming words and articles in my head. Thoughts about homeschooling, homemaking, parenting, and walking with God shuffle themselves into sentences and paragraphs that flit through my oft-addled brain – and never get written down.

I don’t know what the Lord has for me in terms of a “side gig” in writing. Perhaps nothing other than the opportunity to take the desire He has instilled in my heart and offer it up to Him in some simple form. But I hope that He will also take those words and encourage others with them.

I have often wished for a mentor. Someone to grab me by the hand and guide me through the tough stuff of motherhood. Someone to shine a light on my sin and tell me when I am doing things wrong. Someone to teach me how to pray, how to study God’s word, and how to pass TRUTH on to my kids. God hasn’t fulfilled that wish in the way I would have expected, but I count several brave and beautiful writers among my mentor-teachers.

I am not so young anymore in the world of moms. My 37th birthday is on Friday and my oldest daughter is nearing 12. While I still have so much to learn from those ahead of me in the journey (Help! Teenagers!), I also want to reach down and offer a hand up to younger mamas. Maybe, by God’s grace, some of what I have learned over the years can bless a struggling newbie.

So. I want to write. I hope to sometimes offer practical tips and tidbits in the realms of schooling, homemaking, and grace-based parenting.  I want to share about the things that work well for our family, as well as the many failures of this sinful and sort of unskilled mama. I want to encourage with tales from the trenches, and offer advice (though I hesitate to use that word) about managing a busy home with grace. I fail, friends. The management and the grace both fall with resounding crashes at times. But the prayer I pray each day is the God would grant me wisdom to order my days in a fashion that pleases Him, and grace to receive from His hands every opportunity, interruption, and struggle that presents itself. 

As a means of introduction, two years ago I birthed my 5th little girl, and that was the last time I really wrote. Now, that sweet bundle in my arms has grown into a precocious, verbal, fearless and darling little munchkin.  During those two years, our family moved an hour north of the neighborhood where we had been living for eight years. We bought a small home near the border of a national park, an old modular house in need of some TLC.  We live adjacent to a dude ranch, and nearly an hour from the town where my husband works, we grocery shop, and we attend church. We are now three hours from the nearest Target, a situation that I kind of find pride in. J Our little berg, more of a sprawling community of ranches and park homes than an actual town, boasts a K-5 elementary school with less than twenty students. We have mountain views, no yard, and frequently see grizzly bears on our drives to town.  We take tentative nature hikes with bear spray strapped to my baby carrier, and we shop for 500$ worth of groceries at a time. It is a blissful, beautiful, and quiet life.

When we moved, we chose to pull our kids out of the private school they had been attending, and return to homeschooling. The little community school is lovely, and we enjoy visiting them for lunches and recess on occasion. But, we have not felt at peace about sending our girls to public school. We want to nurture our little saplings in the greenhouse of our home, instilling in them the principles, beliefs, and character that are so important to us. We want to help them grow strong.

In planning for this school year, I wrote a simple elevator pitch to answer the question of why I homeschool. I wrote, “We homeschool because we want out kids’ minds and hearts to be nurtured in our home, from a Christian perspective, and with the Classical tenets of truth, goodness, and beauty at the forefront. We homeschool for the joy of learning alongside them, and with the hope of helping them become women who please the Lord.”

Managing our homeschool and tending to the multitudinous tasks of home life (you know – the heaps of laundry, the crusted dishes piled up in the sink, the muddy boot prints tracked all over the carpet, the repetitive motions of meal prep) is a pretty full time job. But in the completion of those jobs, my desire is to love and disciple my children whole-heartedly. And the heart-work of parenting is harder and more demanding than all those nicely checked off tasks.

I hope that I speak to both sides of that mothering coin as I write: the practical nitty-gritty and the more ephemeral, wispy emotional and spiritual nurture.
Stay tuned, friends. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

One Handed Happiness

I so cherish the newborn phase.  My sweet daughter turned two months old today, and I find myself wishing she was still brand new so I could relive each tender moment of new baby precious-ness.  I love pressing her soft cheeks against mine and breathing in that baby-soft scent, feeling her chest rise and fall gently as I hold her close... these moments of new life are irreplaceable. And they are painfully fleeting.

But, sometimes, they are hard.  Though I wish I could just spend the day snuggling my baby - there are tasks to be done, laundry to wash and fold, bathrooms to disinfect, meals to prepare, and four other munchkins to love and cherish and train. There are petty squabbles to break up, and homework to wrestle through, and owies to bandage.  

I do so many things one-handed, it is sort of comical. My husband laughed at me the other day when I served him a ham and cheese sandwich with the cheese sliced in a ridiculously thick wedge - 'cause I had a sleeping infant in my arms when I cut it. I vacuum one-handed, and teach school one-handed, and scrub dishes one-handed.  This stage is wonder-filled, delightful, and deeply treasured.  It is also busy. And since I am an incurable perfectionist, I struggle with wanting to do everything well. I want to spend hours gazing into Malia's eyes and making silly faces to watch her smile. I want to have meaningful one-on-one time with all the older kids. I want to serve, love, and share intimacy with my wonderful husband.  I want to manage our home perfectly so that every meal is well-balanced and every room is spotless.  

But, I can't do all those things simultaneously.  So, as I muddle through and strive for joy and laughter in the midst of often chaotic household, I have to sing a mantra over my feeble efforts. "Your grace is enough!" has become my daily refrain. God's grace will cover the missed opportunities, the mistakes, the lack of sleep (although my sweet girl is sleeping six hour stretches, so I am feeling rested and grateful!), the haphazard housecleaning, and the sometimes non-nutritive meals. When I am stretched a bit too thin and I can't meet everyone's needs all the time, and when the floor is gritty with grains of wheat farina cereal, and the countertops are caked with toothpaste, and the laundry is still waiting in the dryer at the end of the day... His grace is enough.  

I am not perfect, and when the Holy Spirit convicts me of real sin, I need to respond with humble repentance. But I am learning there is a difference between conviction and self-condemnation where I berate myself for being unable to "do it all."  I can't do it all, and if I am going to dance gracefully and with deep joy through this beautifully busy season, I have to stop grasping for perfection and accept His grace. I have to let go a bit - breathe, and enjoy each lively moment. Even if things are messy and noisy and my arm feels like it is going to fall off because I have been a one-handed mama for so many hours.:)

Truly, these days are a blessing. Malia is a chubby, happy, amazing baby. I love her smiles, her coos, and her irresistible softness.  Raina is thriving in kindergarten at home, and Hope is full of three year old fun.  Sadie is loving being a second grader and she is starting basketball this week. Elisa is currently missing school to be in hunting camp with her dad, grandpa, grandma, great-uncle, and second cousin.  She actually shot her first grouse on Labor Day, and enjoyed learning how to prepare the breasts for tasty "wild nuggets." The three oldest ran a 5K last weekend. 

So... tell me... how do you balance the desire to live fully in each miraculous moment with the necessity of chores, responsibilities, and tasks? What are your secrets for walking by faith and resting in God's grace as you try to "do it all" without stressing over having it all done?  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Study Guide

If you are reading Unburdened and would enjoy having a study guide to go along with each chapter, you are in luck!  Here is a PDF download for you to use alongside the book. I hope it is a blessing to you! The Study Guide.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Birth of a Book

About eighteen months ago, the Lord stirred my heart to WRITE. I have always been a writer, a wordsmith, a story-girl. But my four girls kept me busy, and writing time slipped easily into the joyful demands of managing my home and family.  But, God nudged to pick up a pen and paper. He convicted my heart that the gift of writing was from Him, to be used for His glory. So, I asked Him for a topic. Within an hour, I had a rough book outline penciled on a sheet of torn notebook paper. I began to carve out time (usually early in the morning or during afternoon naps) to research and study. I etched out a first chapter, and the words just kept flowing.  I finished Unburdened in September of 2014 – on my 34th birthday, actually.

Then came the months of editing, waiting, exploring publishing options, praying, and seeking the wisdom and expertise of others.  And, now, the day is almost here! On August 20, my book will be officially released on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other online stores. 

I am so excited to share it with you!  Here is the back cover description of Unburdened.

How Heavy is Your Backpack?

As followers of Christ, we all want to live out our faith in a way that is genuine, Christ-honoring, and gospel-centered.   But, often, our faith journeys become encumbered by a fear of man. We want to be known, to be noticed, and to be thought well of. Our focuses turn inward, and we are crippled in our efforts to live God-glorifying lives.

Colleen Wachob admits that she has trudged through life with a heavy backpack of man-fearing.   It’s a knapsack of hindrances she longs to drop along the trail, and she invites you to join her.  In Unburdened, you will learn how to:

·         Biblically define and identify patterns of man-fearing

·         See and savor the majesty of your King

·         Embrace your identity as a redeemed child of God

·         Shed the weight of man-fearing and walk the unique path God has designed for your life

Through personal stories and Biblical teaching, Colleen will journey with you to find new freedom and joy in your Christian walk. 

Do you ever struggle with fearing man? With people pleasing? Boy – this has been a constant battle for me. I forget to dwell in the identity I have been bestowed in Christ, and I make a mess by seeking the approval of others.  I am so thankful the Lord led me to write on this topic. His grace became so dear to me in the journey of wading through my own muddled motives and broken priorities.  I hope that you will pick up a copy of the book and that it will spur you on to untangle your own heart and learn to live for the glory and fame of God alone.

The writing part was easy – but I have to be honest… the promotion and marketing part is really hard.  I would love your help! If you have an interest in helping me to promote the book (book reviews on social media, hosting a book club or study on Unburdened, sharing with your church group), please let me know! I would love to give you a free PDF file of the book if you want to help me with promoting it!

And now – here is the link to pre-order my book at Amazon. If you live here in Jackson, I have some advance paperback copies available for purchase. The book will also be available in e-format after the release date.

Oh, I feel like I have birthed two babies this summer.  This is so exciting to me – and I hope you will enjoy it, be blessed by it, be changed through it, and then share it! :) 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Meaning of a Name

Most of you know that name meanings matter to our family. We have always chosen our kiddos' names with great care - and we have been asked many times, "Where did Malia come from?"

Well...  it's not because we're copying President Obama. In fact, we didn't know he had a daughter named Malia until Erik's brother informed us the other day. :)

When we went into labor, we had a fairly long list of names, still. We narrowed them down to two while I was still in early labor and could think straight. :)  We loved the way Malia sounded - and we knew we wanted to use Gabrielle (which means 'devoted to God'). But I struggled with using Malia because the technical meaning is "bitter." It is the Hawaiian variation of Mary. As we talked - about twelve hours after her delivery when she was still nameless, we decided that the meaning of Mary has been overcome by the personhood of the biblical Mary.  Mary was the Lord's handmaiden. She declared, "Let it be to me as you have said," and she proclaimed the Lord's greatness in song as He filled her womb with His essence.  She sang, "My soul magnifies the Lord."

So, just in case you were wondering, our little Malia carries, not the burden of bitterness, but the song of glory.  Her name, to us, means, "My soul magnifies the Lord."

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Malia Gabrielle

Our newest addition arrived Monday evening. Introducing Malia Gabrielle Wachob, 8 lb, 3 oz, and absolutely amazing. We are treasuring our first moments with this precious pumpkin.