Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace


It is an interesting phenomenon: the internet is dominated by people under 40. For readers of every age, this means that the web is fast-paced and fresh-faced. It’s hip, idealistic, and full of energy. For people like me, well on the other side of 40, it is a source of inspiration and imagination. It is also sorely lacking in wisdom and perspective. So, I’m a bit of a hard sell, particularly when it comes to parenting and education resources. Been there, read that, wrote the revised version from my personal experience.


So, it is with cheerful optimism that I come to you this morning to share Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching from Rest. Sarah is an in-real-life friend, the kind that has sat on my couch and talked to my kids and confided her heart on my phone throughout the years. There was nothing new for me in this book—I read Sarah’s blog regularly and I’ve had these conversations with her. But it sure is nice to see it all laid out so beautifully and to have a go-to place where I can fill my tank and remember what is truth.

I think my favorite passage was the one where Sarah talked about Peter, venturing out onto the water at Jesus’ beckoning. It was only when he took his eyes off the Master and started looking back towards the boat that Peter began to sink. Sarah reminds her readers not to take their eyes off the Master. And the whole passage reminded me of a conversation I’d had with Sarah. Sometimes, it’s very helpful to see our own advice in print because, sometimes, we need to read the memo.


I don’t think I’d ever have the courage to write a “how-to” book. I write in the “this is what I did/thought/tried and this is how it worked/failed/was revised” genre.  Everything is a trial, a big idea, a tentative step out onto the water. At this stage in my life, with three children "graduates” of our home education experiment and six more still in it, I read homeschooling books rarely, but when I do, I read through the prism of testing whether the advice holds true, whether it is sound over the long haul.

Sarah’s clear, optimistic advice is excellent. She’s right and a mother who adapts Sarah’s philosophy to her own family culture will most likely have a recipe for success in both her educational and relational endeavors. Truth is truth and what is true for someone in her early thirties, still in the baby-bearing and curriculum choosing state of life can be true in one’s late forties when the babies are grandchildren only on a visit and the curriculum is pulled from bursting bookshelves groaning under years of hopeful purchases.

I did hit one bump along the way in my reading, one place where I stopped nodding and had to think long and hard about whether her words held true for me. She writes,

Much of our anxiety in homeschooling could be side-stepped by simply acknowledging who we are trying to please. It sounds too simplistic, I know. But consider that your day- what you prioritize, what you don't- will likely look different depending on whether you are doing it all for His pleasure, or doing it all (or only some of it) to please Grandma, the neighbor, or anyone else.

and later

Whether or not you finish your curriculum, get through all the lessons in the book, or do as much as you set out to do doesn't really matter. Pacing doesn't matter. Change the way you assess your success. The quality of the encounter is what matters.

And then this

Furthermore, there is no reason why the 6th grade math book must be mastered between September and May during your child's 12th year of life. Some bureaucrat somewhere made that up. You don't work for the bureaucrat. You work for God. Funny thing about Him- He doesn't operate on the school district's schedule.

That’s not quite the way I see it these days.

Here’s the thing: we are not accountable to our neighbors or to Grandma or even to the bloggers whom we read for inspiration. That is most definitely true. And at the bottom bottom, we are accountable only to God. However, two realities to consider make this a little more complicated than it might appear at first. It does sort of matter when you get through the sixth grade math book, because after the sixth grade math book there is the seventh grade math book and after that there is algebra and geometry and the SAT. And though Sarah makes it very clear that  no one is called by God to ace the SAT, there is someone who is likely to hold the homeschooling mom accountable. That someone is her child, now grown to a young adult.

He needs to take that test in order to go to college and if he wants to go to college with his peers, we need to be certain that he’s in a position to confidently approach the test knowing that he’s been held to a certain discipline throughout the years which has brought him to mastery of the topics. So, yes, there is a finite place where it matters what has been completed and the best way to get to that place without making oneself crazy is to be faithful towards working diligently throughout the school years.

The second reality is that when we endeavor to educate a child at home, the buck stops with us. And when that child is grown, he is going to look back at his schooling and hold us accountable for its success or failure. Is that right or just? Perhaps not. It is true that only God can hold us accountable. But in the day-to-day living out of relationships within a family, the idea that our children now grown will want to evaluate their unconventional upbringing is one for which home-educating parents should be prepared. The delicate dance of relationship about which Sarah writes so eloquently and to which she gives such priority will bring every mother and child to a moment of reckoning when he looks at the gift of his education and to the choices his parents made on his behalf and he weighs it and measures it.

If he is limited in what he wants to do on the brink of young adulthood by the decisions made prior to that time, the greatest challenge of all will be to persuade the child that there is a bigger picture than moment in which he finds himself and there are still greater lessons to learn. It will be a time where both parties—mother  and child—take an adult inventory and both see where they have fallen short. When the moment comes--and it will come--you might not have peace right away. You might have to struggle and wrestle and repent and forgive. 

There is no question: there will be gaps and failures and inconsistencies and wide learning curves. This is the place where the time put into relationship is a worthwhile investment. It’s always startling for a grown child to recognize that parents are human and they make mistakes and they stumble and sometimes even fall. It’s incredibly humbling for a parent to survey the hard work and well-intentioned path of an entire childhood and to see that she could have (should have?) done some things differently. When two people who have lived in such close community and learned so much together over such a long time reach that moment, they will both need to rest in the knowledge that God’s got this or else their universe might just explode.

And that's why the message in this book is so important.

If we are resting in God, all will work together for the good. The whole of this book speaks to the greatest good. The advice is sound—from curriculum choices to scheduling decisions. It will all work for the good even if he didn’t finish his math book in the sixth grade. (But it might not be quite as simple and peaceful and idealistic as Sarah suggests.)


I think this book is an invaluable resource—to moms just starting out and to moms who need refreshment along the journey. It is well worth the very affordable price to invest in the whole bundle and spend some time this summer truly refreshing and re-evaluating and learning how to lean into God. The gift of the book is that it begs a mother to let Jesus fill all the spaces in her heart and her mind so that He spills out into the ordinary moments and fills the ordinary days and ultimately creates an extraordinary childhood.


I have a copy of Sarah’s book to give away and with it, also the very useful companion journal and four invaluable podcasts with four excellent mentors. Just leave me a comment below and you’re entered to win! Winner announced here next Friday.

The Work at Home


As she bent to examine my child, the health professional, making small talk, asked what I do.

“I’m a wife and the mother of nine children.”

“She blogs,” piped the child helpfully.

“You blog?” inquired the examiner. “What do you blog about?”

“Catholic family life — mothering, cooking, cleaning, spirituality …” I faded, weakly watching the expression on her face.

“People read that stuff? There’s an actual audience for that? Really? Who has time for that stuff?”

Please read the rest here.

Gathering My Thoughts












I find myself:

::noticing God's glory

There are lots of bunnies in my backyard. They're living in the trees by the playhouse. Not at all shy, they often treat us to scampering antics as they run and play with one another. I'm very afraid for my garden. Researching fencing this week....

::listening to 

Karoline slurping tea. My hour for awakening keeps creeping earlier as I try to squeeze in alone time before the children join me. I need this chunk of time every morning to set my head on straight.Today, I rolled out of bed at 4:45. She was up at 4:50. Need a new plan.

::clothing myself in 

new shoes. I bought a new pair of Jambu shoes for this summer. I wore last year's pair every day from April until Ocotober and they made my feet so happy. It was definitely time for a new pair. Love them!

::talking with my children about these books

Civil war books this summer, as we visit battlefields in Virginia and Pennsylvania. We've added a few new ones to the old Serendipity list. The children all like these Interactive History volumes:

The Civil War

 The Battle Of Bull Run














::thinking and thinking

about morning time with the Bible and how it anchors my day. 


"The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in and out of the wind."

C.S. Lewis

::carefully cultivating rhythm

Summer begins for real this week. We've discussed the summer schedule. "School" year 'round will have to happen here. As I gridded in all the comings and goings, I recognized that we won't have a single week where someone isn't away for something. I'm introducing my children to the concept of "Make Up Work." We do lots of things all together and I can't suspend them all this summer, so certain people will have to catch up on what they missed when they return.

::creating by hand

I'm making a pretty gift to tuck into my carry on bag this week. I'm flying to Colorado to visit with Sally Clarkson! I have a little somehting for her. I'll show you next week. 

::learning lessons in

blog hosts, podcasting, website transfers. We're trying to move this blog to Squarespace. This blog is old--over 8 years old--and the code is tangled mess. So, the move isn't happening very smoothly at all. Technical learning curves have been frustrating me for some time now. I can see what I want and I know that the technology exists to create it, but I don't have the technical know-how. When I try to learn to learn something new (as I have with podcasting) the rest of my domestic world falls down around me. I blog in the margins. Learning new technical things creeps way into the main column of my life.  And then, there is the inevitable stress that comes with the overlap. 

You know what that does? It breeds envy. I find myself looking around and seeing all the cool things other people pull off--e-books and digital magazines and social media blitzes and blogs in brand new spaces and beautiful digital art--and I am envious. How do they do that and still be a wife and mom and run a household and remember to make sure that everyone has clean socks?(And cream for the coffee--there's vanilla ice cream; that will work today, no?) How do they do that with a house full of kids? Do their kids not need to eat three times a day? Do they not need someone to hold their hands through every single problem on every single page of the math book? Do they not get sick? Is it only me who finds the day-to-day responsibilities to be more than enough to fill the waking hours, even when one arises at 5 AM?  How in the world can all these people learn all these new things? Yeah, I have no idea. 

But here's the thing: For some reason, it's really hard for me to do the technical things that take other people much less time. I don't know why, though it has been suggested that it's my aging brain. As I endeavor to stumble along and I learn just a fraction of what I really want to learn, I have a new appreciation for the kids in my life who struggle academically. They know what they want--their hopes and dreams stretch out in front of them. They think big thoughts and they have great ideas. But they get bogged down in the challenge of the learning curve. It's hard to learn something new while the world barrels ahead at full speed. Sometimes, it's really, really hard.

So, here I am full circle. When we decide to educate at home, we ride that learning curve with them. And sometimes, that means we put aside our own learning, because yes, actually, they do need someone to sit with them for every single math problem. Those math problems stand between them and their futures. 

And what of my techie aspirations? I don't know. Maybe this is not the time for that. The thing about vocation is we never have to question priorities. I stood before God and everybody and pledged my whole life to a man and to the children that we would welcome. I promised to give it my all. I promised surrender. While I am tempted to think it's about my life, it's not, really. It's about God and it's about living a seamless testimony of obedience to His holy will.

So, I have to trust that He, knowing how earnestly I intend to keep my promise, will grant me the grace to stand at my kitchen sink or sit in front of an algebra book or pull clothes from the dryer and know that this is the moment and the place in which I am to glorify Him. If it is His will, all the rest will happen in His time.

::encouraging learning in

My teenagers and I are going to begin this course this summer. It's the Summer Reading List, if you will. We've already read some of them and a couple we may skip. It's going to take more than the summer, probably, but we will make a dent in this list.

Great American Bestsellers:

The Bay Psalm Book

Common Sense

The Last of the Mohicans

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Ragged Dick

Little Women

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Virginian

The House of Mirth

The Jungle

Main Street

The Maltese Falcon

The Good Earth

Gone with the Wind

How to Win Friends and Influence People

The Grapes of Wrath

Native Son

The Catcher in the Rye

To Kill a Mockingbird


The Woman Warrior

John Adams

::begging prayers

Please pray for Elizabeth DeHority who begins a a new chemo regime today, even though she's been given almost no hope of it making any difference at all.

And pray for people struggling with doubt and faith and fear and hopelessness.

::keeping house

We had a baptism party here last weekend, so some deep down cleaning happened last week. It's nice to move about in a place of order. I could get used to this. But I better not, because--ahem--I'm leaving them for three days and I know what can happen to order and cleanliness in three hours if my back is turned. Three days? Le sigh. 

::crafting in the kitchen 

The unusually late winter and cool spring have meant that there is nothing but strawberries at my Farmer's Market. I'm so eager for tomatoes and okra and fresh garlic. They were actually selling hothouse tomatoes at the Farmer's Market last weekend. Seems like it shouldn't be allowed. We have perfected the fish taco, however, as we wait for market meals. Our Friday summer dinners are crisp and fresh -- but those tacos would benefit from vine ripe tomatoes, too. 

::giving thanks 

for our sweet beautiful Lucy Shawn, who received the Holy Spirit on the Solemnity of Pentecost. She is pure joy!

::loving the moments

when the boy nearly grown texts me to tell me that one day he will marry a girl just like his mom.I have no idea if that will really happen, but it's nice to think that he thinks it's a good idea. 

living the liturgy

It's always a little sad when the Easter season ends. But it's as if God knew we'd have to be weaned from the season of celebration gently, so there are three Sunday feasts in a row: the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. That's pretty exciting for Ordinary Time. 

::planning for the week ahead

I leave early Thursday to go to Colorado Springs, so I'm scrambling these couple days to leave things here in good shape during my absence. I'm really looking forward to spending a couple days with Sally. I intend to soak up wisdom and lean into her mentoring--I'm very grateful for wise women who understand mothering teenagers and young adults and can help me to be an intentional, wholehearted mother for a lifetime.

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

round button chicken



This sweet baby is just so pretty. iPhone shots don’t do her justice. This weekend, she’ll be baptized. Camera is on charge already!





 I couldn't decide where to put this--happy or real. This combination monster virus thing is for real. It’s been ten weeks or more since the saga began. And still, at least one visit to the doctor for someone every week. This week, we had two. Nicholas went to see a cornea specialist yesterday. He has about 24 scars across his eyes. Not much we can do but wait. Karoline went today. Nicholas’ treatment has been tapered way back and she doesn’t need to see him for a couple months to evaluate. So, his weekly Mommy Dates are coming to an end. Karoline was similarly released; she'll return next month. As happy as I am to be finished with the additional appointments, I'm going to miss the Mommy Dates. Maybe I will take one child at a time to the store with me henceforth. Karoline in the grocery store is quite the happy adventure. This child cannot sit still. So she dances her way through the store, frequently forgetting where she is. She is just so over-the-top happy! Usually, people smile and and sometimes, they even applaud. Please don't tell me her behavior is inappropriate. She's the eighth child; I'm old. She gets away with way more...;-).




It’s hilarious to watch this household change its orbit every time Lucy walks through the door. (Actually, Lucy doesn't walk through the door, does she? Every time Lucy is carried through the door...)There’s a compelling force that pulls every one of them into her presence. They argue and jostle to be the one to hold her. They compete with one another over who has a better “baby touch.” Paddy frequently cries, “No fair!” because he’s not home as much as the others. It’s a grand baby contest—Foss style. The other day, she came to visit because word on the street was she’d learned to smile since we’d since her 48 hours previous.  They all gathered ‘round and made ridiculous faces and more ridiculous noises. I suppose I should have gotten baby smiles with my big camera. Instead, I got them—adoring her!




When you work in sports--whether on television or in print--people always talk about how "cool" your job is and how "fun" it would be. It is cool. It is fun. There are lots of super cool and fun opportunities. However, the reality is that it's not all fun and games when one is a sports journalist. This Facebook post literally made me cry. I know how much he admires his dad and I know how much he wants to be home more than his dad was. And. I know how hard it is make it all happen the way we want, while building a career and providing for one's family. Super hard. There's a learning curve and a sacrifice for the dads. And there's a learning curve and a sacrifice for the moms. Really, this post is a reminder that the kids learn and sacrifice, too. Michael is going to Brazil to cover the World Cup. People, that particular sporting event begins June 12 and ends July 13. He gets to come home sooner if the US loses. It's kind of strange to hope the coach is right on this one. But I do. 


Summer Resolutions

Summer salad

Did you hear? June is the new January.

I can see the promise as I flip the calendar page just a month ahead — white space. There will still be activity; there is no offseason for this rowdy crew of kids. What will happen, though, is that all the activity will not be concentrated into those precious hours after school and before bedtime. The days, no doubt, will be busy, but the evening hours will hold fewer obligations outside our home. This summer, that means the table is going to be set for dinner every night, unless we happen to plan a picnic and take it on the road.

Dinner happens here every night of the year. When the children were smaller and I had more control (any control) over the schedule, dinner was always a sit-down all-together affair at 6:00 p.m. Over the past few years, as they have grown, it’s rare for us all to be home at the dinner hour. To that obstacle there is added the obstacle that came with Dad’s taking a job in the city. His commute and the timing of his workday puts dinner for him around bedtime for everyone else. So, dinner still happens. I plan it, shop for it, cook it, and it is eaten in shifts — little clusters of two or three people at a time, most often at the counter before or between leaving home to go somewhere else.

And I hate it.

Usually, on Sundays, we manage to all sit together. Often my son, his wife and their baby join us. No, that’s not exactly true. Even on Sundays, it’s not all of us, because youth group is on Sundays at dinner time, and that has two teens away from the table and at church. I’ve never quite understood that — the church is competing with the family for Sunday dinner. I am, however, grateful for youth group, so I’ve got my sight set on conquering other evenings for the cause of togetherness.

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Leila Lawler, co-author of the new book, The Little Oratory. Among other things, I asked her how to protect the spirit of prayer from the tyranny of workday busy-ness. One of the first suggestions she made was to guard family dinnertime. She insisted it was imperative that families all sit down together. But what about soccer practice, I protested in my mind. What about dance? What about that play rehearsal? How to overcome the reality of the long commute from the city?

I didn’t voice a single objection. Instead, I just listened. And I knew that she was right. Eating together as a family is vital to the life of that family. Indeed, Leila said, “Dinner together is the natural sacrament of the family.” The natural sacrament. The lifeblood. The vehicle for grace. We can’t miss this moment of opportunity.

So, it’s time for a summer resolution. We will have dinner as a family more often than not. It will be the default mode. It might be later than in years past; we have to give Dad time to get home. But it will happen. I’m not going to look ahead to the fall, when all the evening white space gets filled with scribbles of several different colors. I’m just going to take the gift of summer space for what it is. And I’m going to fill it with one thing: real meals around the table all together. The natural sacrament of the family.