So here's to my sweet friends who weren't able to join us for Wild + Free this year. As I am sure you know my recap of the conference is from the lens of my current season and I took notes based on what impacted my heart the most, but I hope this will be helpful and encouraging to you as well.
I am by nature a girl that loves routine and a rule follower who likes a clear plan. I knew from my early homeschool days that I am not naturally drawn towards planning our curriculum on my own and often times don't feel very wild + free. But within my heart, there has been a growing desire to change course. I look at our homeschool days and although they are good, they aren't flourishing and they don’t align with the ideals in my head. We are great at plowing through to get our work done, but have lost the childlike savoring and enjoyment of learning. I have slowly been making changes, but I feel so inspired after this conference to lean fully into a different way of schooling - one that aligns with the vision in my heart. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I will keep you posted as I travel this journey. After each conference I make little tweaks to our routine and move a little more towards living wild + free. I could write more about my journey, but that is not the purpose of this post so on to the conference recap. If you are interested in this journey I'm on, please email me or leave a comment on IG and let me know. I would love to answer any questions or chat about this further.
Sarah McKenzie opened Friday evening, and as always she was amazing. I appreciate her authenticity and as with all things Sarah, we were encouraged to read aloud. :) We have been reading aloud almost every night we are home for the past year. It has been fabulous and I love it, but after the conference I will be adding more reading into our morning. Right now I am doing that by allowing some deviation from our "plan" to read books that relate to our current activities and interests as well as being intentional with reading an extra 15min. or so. I am also going to be intentional about creating a more inviting environment while we read. Maybe that looks like cuddling on the couch, going outside, or at the table, but I will be increasing the time we spend reading. I want our reading in the morning to more closely resemble our reading at night with us all snuggled on the couch. I want it to feel less like school and more like a sweet time to connect and gather around with each other. Reading out loud is hands down one of my favorite things to do with my kids, so I love the encouragement to continue down that path!
Lynsey Kramer spoke on leading our kids down a path that teaches them to have grit. Grit being passion, courage, resolve, and strength of character. She was honest that grit does not come easily to her and I relate, but I wholeheartedly think it is a worthy endeavor to pursue. I am not quite sure how I am going to start adding grit into our lives, but I appreciate her encouragement in this and trust it will come around in time as we start shifting our routine. She also talked about focusing on the process/progress and not just performance. Such a great reminder to acknowledge our children's hard work and diligence, not just the end product.
Jodi Mockabee's message was perfect timing for my current season on this homeschool journey, so this will be the longest recap. :) The Lord laid the word Bold on her heart this year and as she processed what this meant she felt that boldness for her family is meant to cut out most activities and extra school work from their schedule, ultimately stripping down to the bare minimum. She painted a beautiful picture of how this has impacted their home. (You'll need to head over to wild + free and buy the audio for more details. :) ) During this year she began to fully embrace the idea that children are learning all the time and that we need to trust them for the right timing. This is such a shift in perspective for my task oriented, check-the-boxes personality, but it is the direction I know in my heart we should be going towards. She also talked about the increased impact of learning that takes place when we are studying/learning things we are interested in. We release more dopamine and our brains then store that info in an easier-to-access spot in our brain. That's why some of us feel like we remember nothing from school, yet we have no problem remembering things which we are passionate about. In my heart I have known this to be true and yet it is really hard for me to trust in that process. She talked about honoring our kids' readiness and when we do that, they honor our time. Again, letting go of control and expectations, tuning into the hearts of our children. A beautiful thing she does to implement this is she studies her children and keeps a journal with what they are learning, what they show interest in, what books they are reading, behavior, etc. Becoming a student of our own children. She also talked about how when you give your kids the freedom to learn at their own pace they become aware of their responsibility in learning.
Some tips to help encourage self-led learning include placing books and art supplies around the house. Not just pulling new books/supplies out of an Amazon box and showing them, but placing the items around the house so they can discover it. She talked about the importance of exposing them to the real world; mentors, internships, relationships, and serving. Something that was mentioned by Jodi and several others, was having morning time, usually lasting from 1.5-2hrs and then letting your kids play outside for hours. She observed that it took about a half an hour of being outside to get in their groove and start exploring and building. Before that 1/2 hr mark they didn't quite engage with the outside creatively. This is such a small and imperfect representation of Jodi's session, so I encourage you to buy the audio if this resonates with you.
Teri Woods painted a beautiful picture of laying a feast for our children of truth, beauty, and goodness; placing them in the midst of abundant food; training their affections and igniting a love and passion for truth and beauty. She also broke down their morning time which was very helpful and something I will keep in my back pocket as we aren't quite ready for Shakespeare. ;) Their morning routine includes, hymns, Bible memorization, Shakespeare, living science, arts and composer studies, as well as great history books. She emphasized breaking these all down into small chunks of time. In true Teri style she had us laughing and engaged the whole time, and I appreciate her lighthearted outlook. Another great tip from Teri was to keep a running list of things we want to introduce to our children: books, places, inventors, art, etc. That way we have a clear vision for the direction we want to head.
Greta Eskridge talked about true learning being unforgettable and made up of the things that we want to learn about. She also talked about how much learning takes place through play. There was such a solid theme of children learning through play, having morning time, harnessing what our kids love, and teaching them based on their passions. I love Greta's perspective and since she was homeschooled herself, it adds such a unique dynamic.
I needed to hear Jen Pepito's message. She talked about how her training was different with her older kids than it was with her younger kids. She gave her younger two too much freedom and was starting to see the repercussions of their lack of training and self-control. This was a motivating wake up call for me as I find myself in a similar situation with my younger two. Her tips to get refocused and weed out distractions were right on. One example she mentioned is that they have their morning time and then when her kids move on to independent work she hopped on IG or checked email. This distracted her from self-control and training issues that need to be dealt with. Oh how I could relate, I do the same thing!! She painted a beautiful picture of setting aside time each day to be completely present with your child and removing distractions from our lives. How often we go about our homeschooling days, never fully gazing into our sweet littles one's eyes, never really being present when they are sharing about their creations or things from their heart. As we all know the time is passing quickly and the reminder to be fully present and cherish this season was refreshing.
We love Beautiful Feet Books, so it was a pleasure to hear Rea Berg speak. It was great to be reminded of the power and impact that story and great books can have on our lives as well as our children's. She gave several examples from books of great heroes whom have had an impact on our society and world. This is what we want to be feeding our children, great books that build heroes and encourage virtue and creativity. So lovely.
I gleaned so many wonderful things from the conference. We have already implemented a more structured environment when it comes to behavior, to encourage self-control and minimize distractions. At the same time, I am paring down our activities and schooling and will be changing our schedule quite a bit starting in Jan. That is our next step. I think it is vital to paint the bigger picture of what you want your life to look like, or in this case our learning, but to then look to see what the next step is and just take one step at a time trusting the process. In my heart/gut it feels right to spend this year and maybe next, training my kids toward self-control, having plenty of snuggle time, slowing down, having more play, letting go of so many great things to make space, and letting learning happen more organically. Since I tend to be task driven and like a clear plan to follow, this has been a journey and will continue to be something that I journey towards. This isn't natural per se, but it is the desire of my heart so I am so excited to see how it unfolds. This journey started last year at my first Wild + Free conference in Virginia and it is fun to see the changes since then even though they have seemed achingly slow and not very impactful at the time.
I think our first several years of using a boxed, albeit living books curriculum was essential for me during that season, so I don't regret that decision. But, I am now ready to spread my wings and fly towards something new.
Thanks to all of the amazing people who make this conference such a joy to attend. You inspire me to love my kids well, to embrace this season with grace and beauty and to pursue the longing in my heart! Until next year.
I am currently working on my coaching handbook for my coaching clients and the first section is on creativity. Creativity has so much to offer our life, but I think we have made our definition of creativity too narrow.
What comes to mind when I say creativity?
Someone who is an artist or a musician?
Maybe an architect or designer?
What if I told you, you are creative!
What if I told you that creativity is a core part of who you are!
In TN right now, the Fall leaves have been absolutely amazing. Being in nature is a beautiful link to creativity. A time to just sit, take it in, and enjoy. We were created with beauty and creativity all around us. We were created with creativity within us. But as with who we are, our creativity will be just as unique as we are unique. We can't look to others' creativity as a benchmark for our own. We can, however, look to others as we try on different types of creativity, and as we discover the different creativity practices that are most life giving to us, that align the best with our uniqueness. But we will eventually need to chart our own course, to fail, and to keep pursuing. Because, yes, you are wildly unique. And wildly creative! (even if you can't see it yet, it is in there. Just keep pressing in and getting curious.) That is one of my favorite parts of life, the trying on, getting curious, pursuing, enjoying. Little by little, moment by moment.
A great way to tune into your creativity is to bring an awareness to the little things you do every day that are creative. Have you created a beautiful home? Are you creative with your hair and makeup? Are you creative when you teach your kids? Are you creative in the kitchen when you make dinner? Are you creative when you manage your schedule?
Once you see the ways you are already creating, what is it about that particular area that you enjoy creating? I love creating a lovely home because a peaceful/minimal home environment brings peace to my soul and I love my space to be beautiful, light, and represent me.
I am starting to be more creative with my makeup and clothes (something I haven't done since I was a teen). This has been so much fun and has allowed me to get in touch with a side of me that has been dormant. One of my core values is adventure, so changing things up, trying new creative outlets, is key for me to feel fulfilled. In small ways my home, clothes, and home-school day all allow me a way to express this. Do you create to bring beauty? To add adventure? To bring peace? These are all expressions of our heart.
I love brain storming lists, so now would be a great time to make a list of everything and anything that comes to mind when I say you + creativity. Don't hold back anything. I was intrigued to find out when I made my list that being in a garage band made the list. Not sure if that will happen, but my next step was to get back in piano lessons. So yes, nothing is too crazy, or too off the beaten path to make it on your list. ;)
This blog was born out of a desire to create. To work towards something. Something that pulls me out of my comfort zone and causes me to work my creative muscles.
It doesn't always feel creative. Sometimes it just feels like work. But this is how it is with all things, whether the blog, cooking, or having fun with my clothes. But the process moves me closer to where I want to be with creativity, closer to the life that is in my heart to live.
So today, even though I don't feel any creative juices flowing through me, I am going to lean in and get curious.
How do you add creativity to your life? I'd love to keep the conversation going. Feel free to leave a comment or let me know what resonated with you most on Instagram.
We recently celebrated our 15 year anniversary!! Woohoo! I have learned so much about myself, relationships, and marriage during that time. The other side of my story involves growing up in a broken home and entering marriage not trusting men in general. I lived my early years of marriage with a fear of being abandoned; me not being good enough or having a husband that just couldn't hack it any more. I viewed life from a lens that said I can't be my authentic self - with all of my strengths and flaws, but that I always had to showcase my strengths. I always needed a gold star. Ok, I still like my gold stars of affirmation, but that's a story for another post. The pain was real and I felt hopelessly flawed, but what I have learned is that we are all hopelessly flawed and that is part of the beautiful bond of marriage. No matter how you look at it… Marriage is beautiful and it is hard.
Marriage requires work, commitment, and grace.
Reminiscing over our last 15years brought me to the simple things we did that I feel had the most beneficial impact on our marriage.
Communication - we have all heard the importance of communication, but unless this was modeled for you there can be quite a learning curve when learning to communicate effectively and with love. Early in our marriage I was not a great communicator, I struggled to express what I was feeling effectively and this often led to hurtful words and hurt feelings. But over time, I have learned how to express what I am feeling in a non-accusatory way. Brene Brown describes this process beautifully in Rising Strong when she talks about how to frame a conversation, especially the hard ones, by saying" the story I am telling myself is…" This has been such a valuable tool. Try it. The story I am telling myself is…
Along with communication we are often told that there are some things we should keep to ourselves, or some things we should only tell our girls friends, but my husband is the one I share nearly everything with. My struggles, hopes, dreams, fears, and celebrations. I have found that having this deep level of communication and conversation has strengthened our marriage so much. This is where I have learned that although advice from others is great, you still have to figure out what works for your marriage!
My husband was raised to fight to the end, and we both valued the instruction from the Bible to not let the sun go down on your anger. But, we learned early on that this does not work so well for me. Sometimes, really most of the time, I just need to go to bed and get some sleep. That is usually enough for me to be able to think clearly and oftentimes just laugh and move on in the morning. I find myself asking the next morning, why was it such a big deal anyway? I think this verse is applied in our marriage by not holding grudges or glossing over things, but always being willing to dig deep. And of course, always after a good night's sleep. :)
You are each beautifully designed, with different lenses through which you view life and respond to life. Each of your personalities, upbringings, strengths and weaknesses play a significant part in your marriage. So decide what those non-negotiables in your marriage are and then get curious about how you each respond and operate. You have a lifetime to learn about each other. :)
Date night/date weekends are so important. We are slightly crazy about our date nights. They happen weekly, almost without fail. My hubs actually was the one to push for this when the kids were little. I hated setting up babysitters (yay for texting) and when we had nursing babies, they came with us. I find that date night is not only a way for us to connect as a couple but it also reminds me of who I am as a woman. Date nights also give me the mental space to process more clearly. If things aren't running smoothly in our homeschool/day routine, date nights usually brings the clarity and space I need to receive answers. So often just stepping out of the home and sharing with my hubs brings the solution on its own. Date weekends are even better. Truly a time to refresh our marriage as well as my soul. When our kids were little we were usually only gone for one night and as they got older we are gradually able to be gone for a longer period of time. (I say, were able to be gone, that is referring to my mommy anxiety and the level of my comfort with different amounts of time.) Even if it is just a day trip, date weekends/days are a beautiful and meaningful way to connect with your spouse.
Every couple has a hot spot, sex, money, in-laws, etc.. At different seasons there may be more than one or it may change. Knowing what your trigger points are in relation to the issue that you struggle with most is very helpful. Expressing these trigger points with your spouse in a non-confrontational way is vital to a healthy relationship. We all have junk, it's how we hold onto it and how we allow it to enter into our relationships that can make or break any relationship.
Always be willing to grow, to change. Have fun together. Explore. Adventure together. Anything worthwhile is worth fighting for and investing a significant amount of time and energy into.
Hey, I'm Julie. I love books, coffee shops, traveling, and exploring. Homeschooling Mama to 4, wife of 15 years. Enjoying the journey and learning to add a bit more of summer into my everyday life.