A Positive Atmosphere: changing the mood of your home

changing the mood at home | a peaceful home | creating a positive atmosphere

Sometimes I can sense it before I even roll out of bed. The kids are awake & already screaming at each other, and I cringe in frustration. I can feel it—the very atmosphere of our home is chaos and anger and impatience. Before we’ve even started the day, we already need an attitude adjustment. And it’s going to be an uphill battle. How do I change the mood in my home? How do I combat all the negativity to create a positive atmosphere?

Creating a Positive Atmosphere

My Heart. Atmosphere, I’m learning, is not about the contrived elements of my home necessarily. It’s not necessarily how I decorate or how I clean. It’s not simply the kind of music I play in the background. All of those elements can help, for sure, but atmosphere begins with the ideas that rule my life and the affections that rule my heart.

When my children disturb my peace and upset my expectations for the day, my reactions reveal my heart. Are my affections set on things around me—my peace, my comfort, my pleasure, my agenda? Or are my affections set on something HIGHER? God is much more concerned with my character and heart than my lesson plans or intentions to have a quiet cup of coffee before tackling the day. If I want the atmosphere of my home to change, than I must allow God to change my heart and affections.

My Actions. As much as a positive atmosphere is determined by my heart and affections, the mood of my home is also affected by my character and my actions during the day. It’s the difference between “do what I say” and “do what I do”; between saying “be ye kind” when my children are in strife and actually being kind to them when they are in strife; between saying that my children are a blessing and actually having joy in their presence and acting like I believe that I am blessed by them. Do these ideas rule MY life and determine my actions?

Too many times I assume the atmosphere or mood of my home is someone else’s responsibility. I blame the kids or the mess or the space or the circumstances or a thousand other things. But it comes down to my heart and my actions. I can’t confuse aesthetics with atmosphere. I influence the atmosphere of my home, my homeschool, and my life with my heart and actions.

And in turn, that atmosphere educates my children. It’s the first element of discipleship; I’m not merely parenting my children or controlling their behavior, I’m discipling by creating an atmosphere that shapes and informs their beliefs, their affections, what they value in life. The ideas that rule my life will be the same ideas that shape theirs.

If I want a loving home, I must model steadfast love. If I want an atmosphere of joy and peace, than I must be joyful and peaceful. That doesn’t mean I have to be perfect. But it means I can’t expect those character traits to rule my home if they don’t rule my life. I can’t expect in others what I can’t live out myself. And I can’t live it out without Christ.

Practical Tips for Creating a Positive Atmosphere

  • Have a battle plan. I can’t let bad moods and negative attitudes catch me off guard. If I know ahead of time how I intend to handle “those” days, if I have a “bad day” protocol, it’s very literally half the battle.  An activity or game, a high-protein/high-fat snack, a family P.E. break, a worship-music dance party—I need to have something in mind to change the direction of our day to keep me from reacting. 
  • Make a playlist of music. I actually have a playlist entitled “Battle Songs.” Over the years, this playlist has helped me so much to battle fear and discouragement. These songs help me process my emotions and direct my attention to the One who is worth it all. Here’s my playlist:

Rise (Josh Garrels)

Even If (Kutless)

Sovereign Over Us (Aaron Keyes)

Praise You in this Storm (Casting Crowns)

10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman)

Your Great Name (Natalie Grant)

  • Create a battle station. Perhaps you’ve turned your closet into a “war room,” or maybe I stow an inspiring devotional in the bathroom; maybe you’ve turned your closet into a “war room.” Wherever it is, setting up a battle station (or escape room), a place to escape to for just a few minutes, can refocus my heart and mind when everything starts to get to me. And it gives me a chance to pray and formulate a battle plan.
  • Don’t rush in. I love the stories in the Bible where everyone expects Jesus to rush in and save the day or jump to their conclusion, and instead He takes his time. He draws in the sand or takes four days to arrive or stops in the middle of going to heal someone to ask who touched Him. I think it’s a good lesson for us. I often feel the urgency of rushing into a chaotic situation; I want to make it stop. And yet, sometimes I need to delay. I need to take my time to enter the situation and pray first. I need to settle my own heart before I attempt to correct theirs.

Ultimately, God is the source of all those things I long for in my home—love, joy, peace, stability. I can’t find those things in an atmosphere, but I can bring love and joy and peace to the atmosphere of my home if they are the fruit of my life as I’m abiding in Christ. 

Homeschool Theme Days: St. Patrick’s Day


St. Patrick's Day ideas and activities | homeschool theme days | homeschool learning fun

I’m only slightly Irish, but I do love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. I think it’s the food. I love me some corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. And my kids love any excuse for a party, which is why I’m embracing some homeschool theme days to create some fun learning memories and create an inspiring learning environment. Need some ideas to add a little gold and rainbows to your homeschool routine?

Homeschool Theme Days:

St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

Idea #1: Read together. St. Patrick’s Day provides some great reading opportunities: read about Ireland, leprechaun legends, or about St. Patrick himself. 

Should I Switch Curriculum Mid-Year (or just make adjustments)?

There’s nothing more exciting than pulling that new curriculum out of the box, and there’s nothing more frustrating than feeling stuck with a curriculum that’s not working half way through the year. We’ve had our share of mid-year crisis situations, false starts and failures, switching up curriculums and styles and routines. It’s not easy to start over; it feels like admitting defeat, like you failed at something. It’s not easy to quit on a curriculum while we are teaching our kids to persevere. But we have to separate the feelings from the reality. You have not failed; your curriculum is failing you. So how do you know when to stick it out and when to start over with something new? Should you switch curriculum mid-year?

switch curriculum mid-year | making adjustments | homeschool curriculum | homeschool planning

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. For more info, please see my full disclosure.)

Deciding to Switch Curriculum Mid-Year

There is no perfect curriculum, but there are curriculum choices that just need a little adjustment. Ask yourself and your child if there is anything about the curriculum that you like. If there is something about the curriculum that you like, if you find yourself saying, “if only this one thing were different,” than you might be better off tweaking your curriculum and making a few adjustments, at least till the end of the year.

But if your curriculum has you both dreading school or dreading a particular subject, if there is very little or nothing at all that you enjoy, by all means switch curriculum mid-year. Neither of you will gain anything by trudging through. 

*Doesn’t my child need to learn do things he doesn’t like to do?* There is no doubt that teaching our children to work through hard situations is an important life skill, but I don’t think that learning has to be the platform for this lesson, particularly with young children. I have plenty of opportunities to teach this lesson with room-cleaning, dishes, and other chores. If I’m noticing that this is a character issue and not a curriculum issue, than yes, I deal with it differently; switching curriculum will not cure my child’s heart problem.

Deciding What Curriculum to Use Now

Next, take a good look at what you don’t like about your current curriculum. Does it take too long? Is the teacher material too complicated or too open-ended? Does it have too many online elements or not enough? Does it have too much review and not enough variety? Does it move too quickly through the material or not quickly enough? If you can identify more specifically what you did and didn’t like, choosing a successful new curriculum will be easier. In some rare situations, I have loved the curriculum but my child has not. Working through these first two questions is key so that I can find something that works for both of us, something that keeps the elements I love and adds the elements my child needs.

Where to Find Curriculum Mid-Year

When I’m checking out my options, one of my favorite places to start is Cathy Duffy reviews. Once I have a few items that I think will work, then I head to google for reviews on that particular curriculum, or I check Amazon or CBD.com for previews of the curriculum. Youtube is also a great place to search for reviews of particular curriculum items.

Once I’ve got an idea of what I want, I check for used items first. This time of year, check used curriculum groups on Facebook and ebay; many people who are in the same situation you are in, or are already looking ahead to next year, will be selling items at greatly reduced prices.  Try selling your current curriculum, as well. Re-coup some of your costs and invest that in a curriculum that works for you.

Sometimes, finances make switching curriculum mid-year nearly impossible, even if you can sell your original curriculum. Don’t forget to search the internet for free or nearly free activities or resources. Pinterest, TeachersPayTeachers, and CurrClick (affiliate link) are a few of my favorite places to look for supplements or inexpensive solutions to get us through the year.

If you are still not sure that switching curriculum mid-year is the best option for you, check out TableLifeBlog’s article: “10 Things To Do When Your Curriculum Isn’t Working.”

Not sure if you are ready to switch curriculum mid-year?

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Homeschooling a Child with ADHD (and everything that comes with it)

homeschooling ADHD | parenting ADHD

Parenting a child with ADHD is challenging on so many levels, and honestly the hyperactivity and distraction is a walk in the park compared to the rest of the package. ADHD rarely comes alone; it’s accompanied by depression, anxiety, rage, sensory processing issues, auditory processing issues, and a slew of other “disorders” and “syndromes.” And as if our kids weren’t challenging enough, there are the additional challenges of battling our own insecurities and mommy guilt, as well as battling what other people are saying and what we think they are saying.

So homeschooling a child with ADHD is, as you might assume, rather chaotic. It doesn’t look anything like I had imagined. And though we are in a much better place today then we were a couple of years ago, I remember the days when I doubted that I could do this. There were days when I felt like I did more counseling than actual homeschooling. There were days when one child would fly into a biting, scratching, head-banging rage, another child would be screaming inconsolably, and my toddler would be smearing poo all over the house. And I wasn’t sure I’d survive the day. But you know what? My kids learned, even when I didn’t think it was possible.

We learned in short spurts (10 to 15 minutes per subject).

We learned creatively and actively.

We learned when we had a chance, in the good moments.

And because of the environment of having that one-on-one attention and plenty of time to burn that excess energy, my kids have done well academically. Our ADHD kids are smart.

And while medication was not the long term answer for our kids, I’m thankful for the gift ADHD meds gave to my family during that time. It helped me to see who my children really were in the midst of that overwhelming fog. It gave me the chance to get my head above water and rethink our lifestyle and habits and routines. It wasn’t perfect: some days the meds worked, some days they seemed to be too much, other days they weren’t nearly enough. But the meds worked enough to help clear the haze and allow me to see that there could be some dietary links.

About a year and half ago, we began an elimination diet and I journaled religiously—everything we ate and every behavior. After awhile, some patterns emerged. It took several months of watching those patterns and eliminating different foods. But eventually, both my older kids went off meds and my youngest (never on meds) also had dramatic improvements in his temperament and sensory issues. My daughter’s journey took a little longer and involved a few more supplements, but eventually she was able to reach a healthy baseline. Are they cured? No, the dopamine and seratonin issues show up in the DNA; it will always be there. But we are able to manage their challenges best right now with diet and supplements.

My kids are still a very active, loud, dramatic, funny, personality-plus crew of hooligans. They still have BIG EMOTIONS that we have to work through. But in spite of all of the challenges, we’ve had the chance to see the treasure, too. You see, ADHD rarely comes alone; it comes with creativity, innovation, humor, imagination, and a wild sense of adventure. We are never short of laughs and unbelievable antics. My life is full and rich (and loud) and never dull, not for a split-second.

homeschooling active learners | ADHD | parenting ADHD

Is homeschooling the right option for your ADHD child? Only you know that. But I definitely don’t regret having homeschooled ours and the opportunities they’ve had to excel in learning in spite of their challenges, to love learning because we can keep it short and active and customized, to have meaningful friendships that allow them to be loud and quirky and every bit who they are. Can you homeschool a child with these obstacles? Sure you can. Just like you can wake up each day and parent. There are good days and bad days in homeschooling, just like there are good days and bad days in parenting. There are days when it is the most amazing experience ever, and there are days when I wonder what on earth I’m thinking. But there’s not a single day when I wouldn’t do absolutely all I could for my kid.

So if I could have a moment with myself of two or three years ago, if I could tell you what I’ve learned over the last few years, I’d say it’s okay to feel inadequate and helpless and imperfect. It’s okay to not know the solutions right now. It’s okay that you aren’t the “fun mom” or the “creative mom” or even the “patient mom.” You are still the perfect mom for this job, because God chose you for this child. And He doesn’t make mistakes. ADHD doesn’t come alone; and you are a key component in the journey.

If you are new to this journey and need a friend, I would love to hear from you. I also highly recommend the book Superparenting for ADD.

Want to follow more of our journey?

Learning History Through Art: braving clay & other art adventures

learning history through art | bas relief | ancient history art | Tapestry of Grace | ARTistic Pursuits

I remember in the past making a lot of excuses when it came to big art projects in our Tapestry of Grace curriculum. But on an impulse this year, I bought some air-dry clay. Maybe it was the creative rush of a brand new Hobby Lobby just opening in our area, maybe I was feeling excessively optimistic about our year—whatever the mind-set, I ended up with a big box of clay and no excuses. So I’m trying something new this year and braving the clay as we learn our history through art of different cultures.

First up on our tour, has been bas-relief. It seemed simple enough, as we read the instructions and looked at examples in our ARTistic Pursuits book. Carve out an image, smoosh the clay away from what you carved, add details, paint.

And honestly, it was that simple. All the kids enjoyed it. And I do love it when all my kids get to learn something together, from preschool to fifth grade. We learned Assyrian and Babylonian history through art and clay. We’ve been reading about the Assyrians bas-relief battle campaigns and, of course, the famous Ishtar gate of Babylon. Even my preschooler knows where the Ishtar Gate is on his talking globe. The boys chose to carve a dragon and a minion, while my daughter was inspired by the idea of Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens.

ancien history | bas relief | history through art

ancien history | bas relief | history through art | preschool

This was a two week project, and part of my campaign to overhaul Mondays. If you follow my weekly updates via my email list, you know the struggle we’ve had with Mondays and my attempts to salvage something from these days. We do only math on Mondays, meet together about the upcoming assignments for the week, and do read-alouds and projects for the rest of the day. For this project, they shaped the clay one Monday and painted it the next.

ancien history | bas relief | history through art

None of the many fiascos I envisioned actually occurred, and I’m thinking I may even be brave enough to tackle Greek clay vases in another week or two. Homeschooling stretches us, doesn’t it? But I’m (usually) always glad I’ve taken the risk and been brave enough to try something new. Learning history through art and hands-on activities and fun read-alouds is exactly why I homeschool, at least one of my million or so reasons.

Homeschool Theme Days: Celebrating Dr. Seuss

homeschool theme days | celebrating Dr. Seuss | Dr Seuss' Birthday

My kids love a party, and it doesn’t take much to qualify as a party. Wacky Hair Day, Mismatched Socks Day—just add “Day” to the end of anything and it’s a self-made party. I’m not always in the mood to plan a party, but I know this can be a huge mood-changer for our homeschool. And I keep telling myself, it really doesn’t take much to get them excited. I still hear about our Dr. Seuss Celebration I threw together five years ago (the morning of, no prep, and super pregnant). I haven’t celebrated Dr. Seuss since, but I’m thinking it’s time to revisit some of these fun memory-makers. So as part of my planning, I’ll be blogging periodically about some Homeschool Theme Day ideas that I’m collecting on Pinterest.

Homeschool Theme Days:

Celebrating Dr. Seuss’s Birthday (March 2)

Idea #1: Read together! There are so many fun Dr. Seuss titles. Pick your favorites, and let them pick their favorites. If you have older kids, have them pick a story to read to a younger sibling or complete a fun Dr. Seuss reading challenge with your assigned reading for the day.