431 | Habits for a Sacred Home (Jessica Smartt with Jennifer Pepito)

431 | Habits for a Sacred Home (Jessica Smartt with Jennifer Pepito)

Show Notes:

In this episode Jessica sits down with the very wise Jennifer Pepito to chat about her new book, Habits for a Sacred Home: 9 Practices from History to Anchor and Restore Modern Families (Helping Moms Experience Peace & Return to Simple Daily Rhythms from Historic Christians like St. Benedict).

About Jennifer

Jenifer Pepito is the host of Restoration Home podcast, author of Mothering by the Book, and founder of The Peaceful Press. Jennifer is on a mission to help moms overcome fear and live with wonder and purpose. Her homeschool curriculum empowers this mission through heroic stories, heartwarming poetry, and engaging life skill development. Her resources create joyful memories among families, which lead to deeper connections and lasting relationships. She has made guest appearances on popular podcasts such as 1000 Hours Outside, At Home with Sally, and Read Aloud Revival. Jennifer lives in the mountains with her beloved family, where she enjoys reading aloud, working in her garden, and watching the sunset.

About Jessica

Jessica is a wife, homeschool mom of three, author, and blogger. She lives in sunny North Carolina on a big family farm with chickens, goats, cousins, and lots of mud.


Habits for a Sacred Home by Jennifer Pepito


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Show Transcript:

Jessica Smartt Hey, everybody! Welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jessica Smartt and I'm one of the many hosts here on the podcast. I'm also the author of Memory Making Mom and Let Them Be Kids, and the creator and founder of Homeschool Bootcamp. Each week we bring in encouraging conversation from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. While the title is Homeschool Solutions, of course, we don't pretend to have the answer to every question. It's our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ, that you'll seek his counsel as you train your kids in the way they should go.

Jessica Smartt Here's a riddle for you parents: Homeschoolers love them. Enemies of freedom hate them. What are they? They're the Tuttle Twins books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins helps you teach your kids about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the golden rule, and more. Get a discounted set of books with free workshops today at TuttleTwins.com/homeschool. That's TuttleTwins.com/homeschool. And now on to today's show.

Jessica Smartt Hi everybody. I would like to welcome you to today's episode of The Homeschool Solutions Podcast, and I am so thrilled to have with me today, Jennifer Pepito. We are going to get to her amazing new book in a second, but I just want to drop you a reminder that it's summer. It's officially summer, and if you're looking for something super fun to do with your kids, I have a ton of instructions on how to run a challenge with your family on books — a reading challenge. We did it in the 50 book format, but you could certainly shorten it for the summer. And I have tons of ideas, tons of lists, and just kind of like how we did it. It was probably one of the most impactful things that I did with my son. So you can find all that information on my website: SmartterEachDay.com/freebie, so check that out. Now on to today's episode. As I said, I have Jennifer Pepito with me. I have known Jennifer for quite a few years and just watched her, been inspired by her online, and I had the privilege of previewing her upcoming book, Habits for a Sacred Home. It was a tremendous gift to me, and I will get to that in a second. But Jennifer, I would just like to welcome you to the show, and thanks for being here.

Jennifer Pepito Hey Jessica, I'm so excited to get to be here with you today and to reconnect. It's been a couple of years since we've talked, so this is really a fun opportunity to connect again.

Jessica Smartt Yes, absolutely. So tell us, for my listeners who maybe are not familiar with you, give us like a 30 second little blurb about who you are.

Jennifer PepitoYeah. So I'm the mom of seven children, and I've been married to my husband, Scott, for 34 years, and I love homeschooling. And I've created homeschool resources from 26 years of delight-filled education, The Peaceful Press. But I have a couple books. My first one, Mothering by the Book, came out just over a year ago, and that was about my journey through overcoming fear, especially in regards to reading out loud to my children and learning from literary heroines. And my newest book, Habits for a Sacred Home, is coming out in May, and that's all about practices from history that can anchor and restore modern families.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, the book was a tremendous blessing to me. I would just... Spoiler alert, go buy it, everybody. Highly recommend. And yeah, if you're listening to this, the book is out. We will link it in the show notes, so definitely go pick it up. This is kind of an interesting, I don't know, I thought it was ironic — I travel out to California with my son for this crazy life that we live, in this food allergy desensitization treatment, and so I travel from North Carolina, where we are, to Southern California, four times a year. And I actually was traveling out there... I always love to bring a book. So when yours arrived, I managed to keep saving it for the plane because, as you know, that's a very long ride. And I just thought that was kind of cool, as you guys are based out in California, I sort of felt like it was a little bit making it more real for me, but, it's such a unique twist on a book. I would love for you to just kind of tell us how you got this idea to write, because both the form, well... The topic, I guess is a little bit more common, but the way that you did it, I thought was real innovative. So tell us how you got this idea.

Jennifer Pepito Oh, yeah. I had been really concerned because California changed a lot in the last few years, and I know that California is not reflective of the rest of the country or even the rest of the world, but I saw these really intense changes, like, you know, during Covid, they would rope off playgrounds and close down public beaches. And then there were all of these riots, and then they changed the law so that people could steal up to like $900 worth of stuff without getting penalized. And so then the Walmart, even in my really small town of 6000 people, started locking up even toothpaste and razors. So all of these really rapid societal changes were happening, and obviously, you hear lots of things happening in the public schools and in the government sector and things that just feel very dramatic. And, you know, even environmentally. For those who are paying attention to that, there's all these like, you know, strange things happening or intense things happening in the world, and perhaps we just have more news than we ever have had before. But I don't think I'm alone in feeling like the world is a little bit extra intense and extra chaotic. And as I was kind of watching this, I read a few different books about how the monastic movement had also been sort of instrumental in saving civilization during the Dark Ages. How the world was chaotic and it was the barbarian hordes and tearing down Rome and all this crazy stuff in the world, and yet the monks were sitting there in the monasteries, brewing their beer, baking bread, keeping a garden, and I thought, oh my gosh, this is like us mothers. This is what we are doing in our homes. We are, you know, teaching our children and reading the classics and reading the Bible out loud and growing a garden and learning how to can food or, you know, just doing these like kind of basic old fashioned skills that people have been doing for thousands of years and even basic old fashioned family values. And so I think that as I sort of reflected on that, I thought, doing these simple things, we may be saving the world. We don't know what the future holds, and I know eschatology can dictate a lot of what you think the future holds, but it is contributing to the saving of Western civilization, the saving of important institutions, like family. And so I just wanted to write a book sort of highlighting how impactful what we're doing is. And I used examples from some of the heroes of the faith that I didn't want us to forget about — people like Edith Schaeffer, Elizabeth Elliott, Sabina Wurmbrand — really brave women who went through their own hard and crazy times in culture and still made a huge impact for the Lord and for their families.

Jessica Smartt I have so many questions, so many different directions to go. I do just want to affirm, but I think you're exactly right. You probably experienced it more strongly being in California, but I think so many of us are feeling that, like, what the heck? Life feels just very crazy and out of control. And I appreciated you being honest about your fears, and I tend to be a fearful kind of person. It made me feel a lot less alone because I look up to you. I think you're kind of a couple steps down the road, so to feel like, oh, someone who is like this amazing mom feels these things too. That was really affirming. So I guess maybe this is a little bit of a hard question, but I told you I was going to maybe spring you some on, and you seem so brilliant that I think I can do it. So you talk about the monastery, and my mind is just really stewing on this concept: as far as Christians, to what extent we are involved in the world and to what extent we retreat from the world. And as moms, I feel like there's a lot of tension in Christian circles. And I don't remember if you mentioned, and maybe you can give us a preview, but you have grown kids and so you have watched this process happen. And I'm super curious what a mom who has grown kids would say to someone who's in the thick of it in terms of, do we give our kids a little bit more of culture so that they're not completely blindsided? Do we create this little haven of beauty and goodness and truth until the very last minute, and then just kind of hope... Like, I know that's the biggest question ever, but since you are talking about the monks, to what extent does that analogy break down for us or does it not? Does that make sense?

Jennifer Pepito Oh, it totally makes sense. And I ask myself that all the time because my youngest is 15 now. And so as much as I could for as long as I could, I have protected my children because it's like we can be Christian families and in our homes, reading the Bible, praying, avoiding, you know, gross media, and yet it's all sliding right into our homes, on our kid's iPhones or in their, you know, in their media choices, with their friends. And so for sure, as long as I could, I protected my kids from that. Now, as they're growing into the teen years, I say things like, "Hey, try to be listening to an equal amount of worship music or classical music as you listen to secular music", "Hey, I'm going to check your Spotify and see what the ratio of music is." Like, I still, even in the teen years, have as much of a say as I can while not completely cutting them off from all culture. And it's a really hard one, Jessica, because I feel like on the one hand, you know, a lot of music is just an expression of humanity, it's an expression of poetry. It's not all bad and going to send our kids straight to hell. But then there's also this sort of slippery slope where you see so many Christians over the years get so worldly, like you can't even hardly tell us apart. There was a meme, I think maybe even Elon Musk posted it and it was about the Democrat Party, how it used to be like somebody was standing, you know, in the center position or even maybe far left, but the movement has changed so much that somebody who used to be far left is now like centrist. You know what I'm saying? It's the same thing with Christians, that a Christian of yesterday is now some absolute anomaly. And Christians now, like, I have a friend who lives in a homeschool community in a conservative state, and she says a lot of the older kids are already having sex with their girlfriends and boyfriends. It's like there's not a big difference, unfortunately, in Christian kids compared to worldly kids. And I think that it is partly because of all the media just sliding on into our homes, and so the values are being maybe diluted or changed, and there's only so much we can do, but we might as well do something, like we might as well try. And so, you know, for me, as my kids have grown, for sure, I do my best to have standards, to explain my standards, to be willing to have an open mind to listen to what they have to say or, you know, listen to their music or talk to them about who they're listening to. So I think that we do have to continue to try to have standards. And yes, it's muddy and it's messy and it's hard to figure out exactly where to hold the line, but I think we have to keep trying.

Jessica Smartt Well, I just love that. I really appreciate that word and your tone is both encouraging and a little bit challenging, and I love that about your book. That is exactly what I try to attain to in my writing, that you're like, "Hey, you're doing a great job, but here's a reminder that you need." And I just feel like, I don't know, tell me if this is accurate: a couple of months ago, I'm in a Facebook group that I really just respect a lot of the women in there. My oldest is almost 15, and I feel like I'm hearing this push in Christian circles of like, we have to let him experience this stuff and you have to let him, you know, hear this or whatever, because if you don't, it's going to be like a slap... As soon as they get into the world... And so I asked these women, who are a lot of them in your stage of life, or, you know... wiser than I am. I said, "What did the "exposing" in your household look like? And do you wish you had done more of it or less of it?" And the answer, really, most of the women were like, "I wish I would have done less of it." And I don't know how you would answer that question or if that's even like somewhere that you want to go, but I just appreciate the encouragement to continue keeping that haven for our kids in this world, because I think there's just a lot of pressure to not right now.

Jennifer Pepito Yeah, for sure. I think it's a lot easier for morals to slide than to keep them on, what I would say is, a Christian path. And, you know, in the book, I really encourage families, whatever you do, do it out of love. Like I'm not afraid of God judging me. I know that I am saved by the gospel, I know that it's the blood of Jesus that does the effectual work, but still, I love him and I don't want to dishonor him, and I don't want to not be able to hear from him. And my philosophy is that so much of rebellion comes when children are embittered. And so I feel like the most important thing you can do in your family is make sure you have good attachments. Like I talk a lot in Mothering by the Book about my own inner healing journey, because I feel like my children would not listen to me at all. And, you know, some that maybe have struggled a little bit more in their transition into adulthood, it would be more related to a disconnection, a disconnection that happened because maybe I was too busy or because of even sometimes birth order or circumstances with other kids. And so then there was a little bit of letting go too soon just because there was lack of time on my part, and I think that is a bigger contributor to children making bad choices because I think that our children want to do what's right and they want to know God and love him. And so as much as we can model that for them, give them an exposure to the delight that's found in his presence, the more we are safeguarding them against sort of sliding into moral decay. But on the other hand, ultimately, God is the potter, and that is the other message in the book. Is it doesn't matter, you know, if your whole family is in chaos. Like I have a friend and every, you know, bad moral decision almost has been made by some of her children, and yet she's still faithfully doing these steps herself. And I believe that God will bring that around. Even in either Schaeffer's life, who I feature in the book, one of her sons left the faith, wrote mean books about his parents, like mocked his parents in his books. And yet at the end of his life and I include part of this, or at the end of her life, at the end of Schaffer's life, he wrote a tribute to her and said, you know, "Your example won me over, I believe." And so I feel like that's the worst thing we can do as moms is see our own children's, perhaps moral poor decisions, and then change our theology to accommodate their mistakes.

Jessica Smartt That's so good. I love that so much. I did a deep dive on Schaeffer. What's his first name?

Jennifer Pepito Francis. Yeah, Francis is the dad, Frankie is the son.

Jessica Smartt Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because yeah, it's a troubling story. You're like, she was the best. But I actually was not aware of the interview you quoted, so I actually went and looked it up after you shared that. So that is just such a cool story, I love that.

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Jessica Smartt One thing that I was really inspired by, that I feel like you did something maybe different that I don't hear a lot, we hear the push of like, be hospitable, but I feel like I love that you inserted a little bit of a word of caution in terms of... Like, I have some friends who model hospitality way better than I ever do, but sometimes I get the impression that they aren't completely sure where their kids are in the house. And I really appreciated that you vulnerably shared your concerns with yes, we want to have an open door, but sometimes that's going to wear on the family and I don't want to put words in your mouth. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? Because I feel like that was a take that we don't hear a lot.

Jennifer Pepito Yeah. I think it's really important. You know, I love the movement towards more play and more exploration for children and more opportunities to take risks. But I was molested as a six year old wandering around alone on my family farm. You know, somewhere that I should have been safe. And I've heard of several stories of, you know, younger cousins getting molested by older cousins or, you know, this kind of thing where children playing long periods of time, unsupervised, end up being sexually abused. And so that's probably my biggest caution in that is that our kids are in a vulnerable space and especially if they don't feel super attached to you or if you haven't been really clear about what could happen, I think that you are leaving them a little bit at risk if there's just so many hours of unsupervised play without you checking in. Like when we would have family gatherings, Bible studies, I'd make sure that bedroom doors stayed open, I'd get a look at my kids every hour or so just to make sure. They are my treasures and in my own life, there's been a lot of trauma that I've had to deal with. And I think anybody who's been sexually abused as a child can attest to this, that there's a lot of trauma that you have to deal with and God can redeem it, but I think as parents, we do have to keep an eye on our kids. And that's probably my biggest caution is just, you know, what's happening? And I love... Adam Young has a podcast. He talks a lot about attachment. He says that, "Trauma really sets in when you don't process in the moment with your children." And so I think that's the other thing, like, we were we were at a family camp and my son got bullied, and right away, as soon as we heard about it, you know, we weren't there to stop it, unfortunately, but as soon as we heard about it, we empathized with him, we heard him out, we didn't just brush it off, and I think that is where often the real trauma sets in is when parents respond poorly, you know? And I just listen to a podcast with Melissa Urban, the founder of Whole30, and she said that she was sexually abused as a teenager, but what was the second trauma was that her parents sort of brushed it off. They didn't really listen to her or address it or take any action. So I think it's really important that we're keeping an eye on our kids, and then if something does happen, that we listen to them, that we believe them, that we take steps to protect them.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. Just the general emphasis on being attentive to your kids. I really liked how you shared... You're a busy woman. You've gotten a lot done. And I was just very overwhelmed with all that you've gotten done in your life and, you know, with your home and all that, but I appreciated that you shared during the busy seasons, you were honest to share how that may have affected your relationships and also how it affected the rhythms in the home. And that just was a really gracious thing to admit, I think, because that is a message that younger moms need to hear the cautionary tale of. I don't remember what chapter that was under, but do you want to talk about that a little bit briefly?

Jennifer Pepito Yeah. You know, I talked about... I might have been talking about simplicity, but just that, you know, there are so many things that we can choose to do, but that we kind of keep our priorities in order. And I just interviewed Tish Oxenreider for my Restoration Home podcast, talking about prioritizing our lives, and she said, "You know, being a wife and a mom is something that only I can do, and so I had to learn to put that first." And I was even thinking about it because, you know, some of the people listening probably have like a social media account and they're maybe even growing that social media account. And I thought there's a lot of time that was lost in my life just thinking about a shot instead of just really being present. And I think it's a tricky one because like for you and I, we're really encouraging families through our online presence, and yet if encouraging families means that our own family is discouraged, it's not worth it because we are the only ones who can be a great mom to our kids, and we are the only ones who can really love our husbands. So just keeping your priorities in line is so important and kind of weighing out like, do I need to paint my living room right now or would I be better off focusing on teaching my children how to read, you know? Do I really need to stage the shot right now or would I be better off reading the Bible out loud to my kids? Like some of these things can only be done by you, and they can only be done in a certain time period, too. My youngest now is 15. I really have so little time left to connect with him, to guide him, to train him. I got to make the most of that.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, I love that. I don't know if you've read Eve in Exile. Have you read that, Bekah Merkel?

Jennifer Pepito No, but I'll put it on my list right now.

Jessica Smartt Oh, you need to read it. So I actually did a podcast a couple podcasts to go here on The Homeschool Solutions Show about how that book impacted me. And it was just like a monologue because I don't really even know her, I couldn't get connected with her, but one point she makes... I guess I've always felt a little bit of struggle being a creative woman. I mean, here I am like, I run an Instagram page. I mean, it's pretty, you know, sporadic, but I'm writing a book and all this stuff. And so I think there's always been a little bit of dissonance, but she articulated so well, I think what you're alluding to, which is that the extra stuff we do is an overflow of what we're doing in our family, and that we do the good work and if there's extra of things we want to share and things we're learning, then that is the extra work. Like it's not... just like you said, priorities. So I don't know, something about it just helped me have a little bit more wisdom in this area. But anyway, okay. So like you said, the book, which is just so wonderful, goes through different habits, and each habit kind of focuses on a woman. Which story maybe made the most impact on you, like, in your actual life? That might be a hard question.

Jennifer Pepito No, it's a great question. I mean, I think they all made a huge impact on me at different times. You know, Amy Carmichael is one of the women that I feature in the book regarding the habit of prayer. And her devotional book, Edges of His Ways, has spoken to me for years. Like her writing is just so full of love for Jesus and you know, it's interesting because sometimes we think of people like her as being so far out of reach that it's hard to even relate, but she was mothering a houseful. She was using Charlotte Mason principles in her home for girls. And Susan Schaeffer Macaulay actually mentions her in her book For the Family's Sake. So I think that her model of just pressing in so deeply to Jesus... And she talks about how, you know, the fight we've been called to is not an easy fight, and she's talking to the women who are ministering with her in her work, but I think that that goes for homeschool moms, too, or for any mom. She says, "The fight to which we've been called to is not an easy fight. We are touching the very center of the devil's power and kingdom, and he hates us intensely and fights hard against us," which I think every family, this is true, because families are such a foundation of the church. And she says, "We have no chance of winning unless we are disciplined soldiers, utterly out and out, uncompromising, and men and women of prayer." And I just love her emphasis on, you know, pressing in because we're going to make mistakes. As a mother, I've been all over the pendulum, you know, just swinging back and forth and trying to become a sturdy, stable mother, but honestly, making a lot of mistakes in the process. And the only thing, the anchor for my hope, is Jesus. That is what helps me to get my equilibrium, to make corrections when I need to, even to say I'm sorry when that's appropriate.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, that was a really impactful chapter. I also really liked, and I don't know how you say her name, Mary, in the stewardship... Is it Bethune?

Jennifer Pepito I think Mary McLeod Bethune, yeah.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, I had not heard of her, but I found that one really inspiring, just in how much she was able to do with her life. And it was humbling.

Jennifer Pepito Oh, absolutely. Especially because she just had nothing. So for any of us making excuses like, oh, we don't have enough money. Oh, I have to work. Oh, we don't have this, we don't have that. She had nothing and yet she made this huge impact. And I think the common thread with all of these women is that they didn't set out to be heroes, they just did what was in front of them to do. And I think that is, you know, what I would really love for moms to take away from this book is just be faithful. Don't worry about what's happening or how you're failing or how it's not working out. Like I think sometimes we look at the seeds we've planted and we get so discouraged we think, oh, it's not working. Like, I'm trying so hard to be a good mom and nobody's responding. But I think we just have to keep being faithful and trust in the Lord. He's the Lord of the harvest, trust him to do the good work, but just keep being faithful. Don't give up.

Jessica Smartt I love that so much. So tell us where can everybody pick up this book? And I also want you to mention the little study guide because I really love that, it's very rich. You include a lot of stuff at the end of the chapters, like the extras. So tell us about the extras and then remind us what it's called and where they can pick it up.

Jennifer Pepito Yeah. So you can go to HabitsForASacredHome.com, and if you put your order number in on that page, I'll actually send you a poetry pack and access to a workshop that can kind of help you define your family rule of life, because that's the objective of the book, is that you sort of define your own family values. And in the study guide, kind of at the end of each chapter, we review sort of the value or the habit that was presented and give you some starting points so that you could build almost like a rule of life that's customized to your family, and that's also included in that preorder page. So if you go to HabitsForASacredHome.com, you can get order links, all those freebies and some more information about the study guide where there's recipes and suggested... Like there's extra books to read so you can make an Amazon list that's a mile long and love learning about these heroes of the faith.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, I liked the recipes. That was such a fun touch.

Jennifer Pepito Yeah, they're all from The Peaceful Press. Like, I've been creating homeschool curriculum that's tied to literature for years now, and so it was really fun to pair some of these recipes, like as we studied world missionaries or different cultures, I tied some of those recipes in with the heroines we were reading about.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, so clever. Well, Jennifer, thank you for your work for moms. Just thank you for what you're doing and for being honest and encouraging. As I said, I devoured this book. It will be one I reread and go back to for different things. I definitely recommend it, so go check it out. And Jennifer, how can they find you?

Jennifer Pepito Yeah, I'm on Instagram at Jennifer Pepito or The Peaceful Press, and my homeschool curriculum is available at ThePeacefulPress.Shop.

Jessica Smartt Okay, awesome. Well, thank you all. Thanks for joining us. Don't forget, as summer is rolling around, that you should pick up a copy of Let Them Be Kids, if you haven't, it's a great summer read. I hope that you and your family are doing well. Thanks for joining Jennifer and I today.

Jessica Smartt Guys, thanks so much for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve healthcare you can trust. To learn more about Medicare and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. That's GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review, and that'll help other homeschooling parents find our community. And finally, don't forget to tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom. That's @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode.

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