S8 E6 | Our Best Decisions and Our Worst Mistakes as Homeschoolers (Jeannie Fulbright & Shiela Catanzarite)
The homeschool journey is fraught with so many decisions each day, each week, and each year. Sometimes, you'll make great choices. Other times, you'll wish you had done things a bit better. In this episode, Jeannie and Shiela gather to share their foibles as homeschool moms, along with their finer moments. It is their hope that you'll be encouraged and uplifted and possibly rescued from making some of the same mistakes they did as homeschool moms.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
Shiela Catanzarite is an author, speaker, editor, and communication coach. She's a 20-year Charlotte Mason veteran homeschooler and has worked as Jeannie Fulbright’s editor and designer for 20 years helping develop Jeannie’s award-winning Apologia science curriculum and most recently her Charlotte Mason products published through Jeannie Fulbright Press. Shiela is the author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and is finishing up her second book in the series Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, to be released spring 2024.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, Shiela has been teaching language arts in some capacity for 40+ years. Her passion remains helping students understand the elements of language and how to use these elements artfully to communicate effectively. Shiela is currently a language communication coach, working one-on-one with students who have language learning and communication challenges. She also writes curriculum for her private middle and high school English language communication classes that focus on writing and speaking.
Both of Shiela's and her husband Bruce’s daughters attended private universities on scholarship and went on to pursue graduate studies in medicine and global business. She attributes their love for learning and academic achievement to homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methodology.
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, where we discuss Charlotte Mason's philosophy and how to implement her life-changing methodology in your homeschool. My hope is to come alongside you and mentor you as you seek to homeschool your children with excellence and joy using the Charlotte Mason model. I'm your host, Jeannie Fulbright, the author of the multi-award winning bestselling science series Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Botany, Zoology, Anatomy and Physiology and Chemistry and Physics, which all employ the Charlotte Mason methodology and have been helping families fall in love with science for over 20 years. I also created the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner and the Culture and Craft Enrichment Curriculum, which is coming out fall of 2023. These and many other Charlotte Mason products can be found on my website at JeannieFulbright.com, where if you sign up for my email list, you'll receive your Charlotte Mason daily and weekly checklist which will simplify your homeschool days. While there, check out my blog which covers almost every aspect of the Charlotte Mason method and philosophy.
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Jeannie Fulbright Hey, homeschoolers! We are back. Shiela and I are back together in the studio, and we have a really special episode planned for you. I would say it's going to be probably a pretty vulnerable episode because we are going to be sharing our best decisions, and our worst mistakes as homeschoolers. The things that when we both, obviously are done with our homeschool journey, and our children are grown and doing amazing things in life. And yet we look back and we weren't perfect. And so we want to share with you the things that were our mistakes and then also the things that we feel were instrumental and sort of the best decisions that we look back on and make. And hopefully this will resonate with you and help you in making more purposeful decisions as homeschoolers on your homeschool journey. And as Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. So, hey, Shiela, so glad you are back with me today.
Shiela Catanzarite Hey, Jeannie, I am looking forward to it. We have a lot to reflect on and it's fun that we have so many years together, and lots of content to share. So I hope it's a blessing to everyone who's listening.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes, absolutely. So we decided that because we'd like to end the podcast on a positive note, we're going to start by sharing, and we just decided we'd just three bad decisions, three things that we did not feel like we won, one, that we were not winning on these decisions. And then we'll share our three best choices or best decisions, things we did that we believed were really powerful. So I will begin. And I would say that one thing that I look back on and I'm not the type of person that sits around and regrets things deeply and struggles over them. But I do occasionally look back and I just, oh, I wish I had trusted my instincts more on choosing classes and activities. And I would say there were times when I did and I was very, very purposeful and prayerful, and I knew to say no or I knew to say yes. But a lot of times there were years when I felt like I was not trusting my instincts. I was not trusting in prayer, and I was not being purposeful in the outside activities and classes because I was so—I mean, you know, Shiela, how many opportunities we had. We homeschooled our children in an area that really in the early 2000s was probably the most populous homeschool community in the United States. And not only that, but we had so many opportunities and classes just for homeschoolers. And so we had a lot of things sort of pulling at us and our children were influenced, and I was influenced. I would say one of the problems that I faced a lot was peer pressure. And I felt pressured by other moms to sign my kids up for whatever they were signing their kids up for. And I didn't want to—there was all that FOMO. And when you're making decisions based on fear of missing out, that's not a prayerful decision. That's a fear-based decision. And a lot of times what that ends up doing is you end up making decisions that are not good for your family that are not good for your peace. And you find that your year, your homeschool year, becomes something that's under a lot of stress and pressure, and you find yourself rushing and always rushing and trying to get things done. And it's overwhelming and it's—there were many times when I signed up my kids for classes that became super overwhelming for them or for me, more work or more... I had to contribute or volunteer. I had to be involved. And essentially I would say it ended up making a harder homeschool year for me. I remember one year my daughter begged, and I think I've told this story before, but my daughter begged me. She was in fourth grade—going into fourth grade, and we always did this arts academy, which was one day a week. It was a commitment. Our whole family, all the children would go to this arts academy where they would do art projects, and it was all kind of based on a historical time period so they would learn some about the history, but then they would be doing plays and art projects and it was just like a really beautiful thing. But a lot of the moms wanted somebody else to teach their kids the academic class. And so they begged this academy to start having academic classes. And so my children, all their friends that they had been going to these art classes with every single week, they were all going to start going another day a week to do academic classes. And I was really not thinking this was going to be good for us because they were getting parent volunteers to teach. And these parents didn't have my same philosophy of education. They were worksheet-oriented parents and they were also lots of busy-work type of parents. And I remember my daughter begged to be in these classes, and actually I signed up one of my son's too, because he wanted to do some. It was actually he was in high school. So there were things like photography and stuff that he enjoyed. But the academic classes for the fourth graders were really overwhelming. They were too much work. It was not a peaceful, joyful academic experience. And so every morning when I would say, Okay, it's time for school. My fourth grader, at that time, she would begin to moan in pain. And I hate school. I don't want to do school. And I would just be questioning her, "what is it? What do you have to do? "I have all this work to do. All this work to do." And she did. And it was too much. And sometimes I would go through it and I was like, you don't need to do that. You don't need to do that. But of course, then she showed up in class "and my mom said, I didn't have to do it," but it just was not working. And we were miserable. She was miserable. She hated school, and she just had this really negative attitude. And I got kind of a little fed up with her attitude. I was miserable hearing how miserable she was. And it was—I should have, she was in fourth grade, I should have put my foot down and said, no, you're not going to do these academic classes. We're going to do homeschooling like we always do at home, and you're going to do your art classes there and you're going to do your gymnastics, and you're going to do the things that we have feel like God has led us to sign up for. I just want to also tell you—this is not the only time I did this. I did this with my boys signing up for some other classes when they were in high school, which I really regret because it was really not good for them. It had a very negative influence on them. Some of the people that they interacted with, they were in high school, and some of the people that they ended up interacting with were not people I wanted them interacting with. So, I just would say not trusting your instincts, not prayerfully making decisions about what God wants you to do for your family for outside your home, classes or things you join, just being super prayerful about it. So at the end of that year that my daughter with the one story where she just was so miserable, I just decided for fifth grade she was not going to do any school. We were just going to read books, we were going to cook, we were going to do gymnastics. We were going to—she cooked almost every meal that year. She learned to cook lots of elaborate dishes and food she did not do—I did not buy any curriculum for her for fifth grade. She just had, we called it a sabbatical. This is your sabbatical year. You need a break because she had begun to hate school. And when we make decisions that aren't God's best, things like a hate for learning—they lose that love for learning, are sometimes the natural repercussions of that. And so I had to give her a year of unschooling to de-school and cause her to want to learn again. And she actually became my most eager learner of all my children and just probably the most driven child I have. But it was because I had allowed her and I had allowed my friends and just people to pressure me into making a decision, signing my kids up for something that wasn't God's best. Wasn't God's best for them. And so I would say that was number one for me. And Shiela, why don't you share your number one worst decision that you made?
Shiela Catanzarite Well, this one goes along with what you were just sharing, Jeannie, and I allow myself to be influenced with fear of missing out and just fear in general. And we ended up buying way too much curriculum early on. This was a problem that I had, and there's so much beautiful curriculum out there. But I found myself just spur of the moment hearing someone else describe, "Oh, we loved this writing curriculum. And so we're using this. Oh, we're using that, too." And I'm thinking to myself, Well, maybe we need to be using that. And I would buy it. Or somebody—and it was that there were a lot of activities that we did that were really fun. But when it came to the curriculum, I think that's when I really saw the most fear, especially in the early years before we started doing Charlotte Mason homeschooling, before I really understood no booking and shorter lessons and all that. We did every geography, we did the songs, we did the English structured workbooks, we did the maps, we did the history timelines. All wonderful things to do in and of themselves. They were all wonderful. But our girls were young, and I feel like when they were little, I was kind of in this fear-based. We've got to get everything in. I can't have any gaps. I can't list anything. We have to do everything. And so I would hear other people talk about what they were doing, and we would add it in. And then I would go to this homeschool group and hear them talk about what they were doing, and we would add that in. And I feel like we started doing school at home when they were younger. When they were in kindergarten. We did a lot of outdoors and a lot of, you know, we did Five In a Row, so we did a lot of living books and hands-on. But it was when you got into that early elementary that the standards then come about and people are worried. Are they going to be reading at this level? Are they going to be learning their grammar? And I feel like I kind of got pulled into that mindset of I have to make sure that every year they have at least the grade; the grade standards for that year. And so I started buying a lot of workbooks. And we have so many. I had so many workbooks, especially related to language arts. We had everything. We had a spelling, and we had a handwriting, and we had a reading, and we had a grammar, and we had a little fabulous vocabulary every day. It was like ten books. And we started, and it wasn't long before I realized my vision is not for my young daughter to be sitting at the table doing workbooks all day long. It was impossible, just with the language arts. It was impossible to even get it all in. It would have taken all day. And so, but again, I had this fear that, oh, no, what if I mess up? I was a new homeschool mom. I'm responsible for my children's education. They have to be learning this. They have to be learning the second grade this and third grade this. And then, and Jeannie, you're the person who influenced me with Charlotte Mason because we were coming to your daughter's camps young and just realizing that education is not repeating the school standards that someone in the government decided our children needed to learn. It's not a conveyor belt. Everyone gets on and goes on the same track and learns the same thing at the same time. And I begin to really understand that it's okay to let go. That's the beauty of homeschooling. I don't have to fit in any specific curriculum at any grade. My daughters can learn at the pace that God has designed them to learn. And so as I begin to let go of that standard and the standards, we're creating fear. But when I release myself from the standards, I was released from the fear of missing out and the fear of not doing enough. Am I doing enough? It feels like I should be doing more. I remember thinking that. Once I was released from that and really embraced Charlotte Mason's concept of just the child creatively expressing their ideas in different ways through the subjects and through the topics. Then I began to realize I don't have to continue buying all this curriculum, and I could get in touch with really what God to put in my heart for my children and make decisions for materials and curriculum based on what God had shown me rather than based upon some government official who doesn't know my children decided this—what they need to be learning at this age. And it's hard, you know, in those early years. But…
Jeannie Fulbright Trusting that this is—what I love is that you and I, we trusted, we trust in the Charlotte Mason model. We gave ourselves to that. And then we see the fruits of that right now with our grown children. But back then we had to trust, well, we really had to trust God. Because it felt—we could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in these peaceful homeschooling choices. And I just realized, if ever I felt like I was—if I ever questioned, and whenever I need to be questioned and gave me the questions, Am I doing enough? I always tell them, You're probably doing too much, Truly. And it's not supposed to feel like school, and it's not supposed to feel pressured. It's not supposed to feel stressful. And trying to complete everything shouldn't be a struggle. It shouldn't be a difficult, it shouldn't be difficult. It should really be spirit-led. And I know that you're on the right track when you have peaceful, just spirit-led days. So, yeah, I would agree. I would agree. And you know, one thing when you mentioned that always just hearing about what everybody's doing in their curriculum, I always ask people, how long when they tell you, "Oh, we're doing this Latin and we're loving it, and my children so happy." We're just like, oh, and everybody's learning so much or whatever it is. I always ask them, "Are you in the honeymoon period of your curriculum?" Because there is a honeymoon period for every curriculum. But you know the curriculum is the right one when even when real life happens and you're not excited about starting school every morning, you're still able to do it, and it's still peaceful, and it's still something that you can complete without stress and anxiety. So...
Shiela Catanzarite Yes, Yes. And, you know, one of the things that it feels safe to have all the workbooks and to have like this is the second grade and we're in second grade. If that feels safe. But why does it feel safe? It feels safe because that's the way the system has decided.
Jeannie Fulbright We were indoctrinated. Right. And we are indoctrination.
Shiela Catanzarite It's true. And so we want to be safe in the system. But education is not a system. Education is a lifestyle. And we're educating people. And so I think trading feeling safe for living, you know, just living, living life. And so there was just a lot more I can say on that. But that was early on that was my mistake. So I want to encourage everyone; let go, let go of that I have to do this at this age. I have to go and get every single book and make sure I'm covering everything every day. It's impossible to do that. And relax and let God reveal to you each one of your children where they're at that stage in their life and what materials and curriculum you need to help them grow and develop that year. But it's great that other people are doing that. But we can't make decisions based upon what other people have determined is right for their children. We really have to stay focused on what God has shown us. But it's hard because there's so much amazing curriculum out there and you know, you don't have to do it all every year. You can say, that seems really fun. We'll do that in three years.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, you have that.
Shiela Catanzarite This is a long game. This is a long game running.
Jeannie Fulbright It's not a race.
Shiela Catanzarite Right. Right.
Jeannie Fulbright Exactly. Yes. So I think that's just really important for parents too. It's like taking a deep breath and saying, "okay, I need to hear from the Lord about this and not fear." And so this is kind of related to my next mistake that I made. And I felt like I did course correct on this. Not too late in the journey, but sometimes I would fall back off the wagon. And that is really fear-based decision making. And I would make decisions and maybe overcommit to our schedule or over—doing things where I was making decisions not based on the still small voice of God. And I read something the other day, and I'm going to read it, which to me just resonated with what was going on in my life. The enemy—so the difference between fear—the opposite of fear is faith. And so when we make decisions in faith, we make decisions with being led by God and being the stillness of the Lord, the still small voice of the Lord. But when we're making decisions based on fear, we're following the enemy. And so in—and I read this, it said, "Satan's voice rushes." And so if you feel like you're being rushed into making a decision, sometimes that's the enemy. The enemy is always pushing, pushing, pushing, making us—we're scared to make the wrong decision. We're afraid we're going to fail our children. All of that fear is confusing and discouraging and causes us to worry and despair and to become—when we become fearful, we become anxious. And when we become anxious, we become angry, and we become frustrated with our children. And we can—and I would say that when I was operating under a spirit of fear, that those days were the days when I would yell at my children and be mad at them and be frustrated with them and be—and then constantly, constantly lecturing and upset, and feeling unhappy. It's just—it was an attitude. It was a really, really negative attitude that I allowed myself to operate under. And that is not the spirit of peace. Because God's voice, God's voice does not condemn us. God's voice is still. And He leads us, and He restores us. He enlightens us. He inspires us. He encourages us, and His voice brings comfort. And even when we need to change directions, we don't feel condemned. We feel convicted in a positive way. We feel uplifted and calm and, oh yes, in a calm way we need to change directions, and I've not been doing this correctly. But 's not that condemning like, "You are failing, you are doing things wrong." And I just would say that was an area in my life that I had to truly get free from is that spirit of fear and operating under fear. And every decision was really because the enemy was pushing me to make these decisions because I was so fearful about my children's future, and I didn't trust God. I didn't trust God with my children's lives. I was putting all my trust in me and myself and my ability to educate and shape and create men and women of God who had noI believe they shouldn't have any faults, which is ridiculous. I left my home with many faults and still have faults. And God is—we're all a work in progress. And I think I had to release this lie that I had to have these perfect children that behaved perfectly all the time, or I was a failure. And so I would say that would be one of my worst mistakes is operating under a spirit of fear, which caused me anger, frustration, to yell at my children, to cause my house to be a place of strife and a lacking in peace until I realized that I was listening to the voice of fear and not listening to that voice of faith, believing that God has my children in hand. He has a purpose and plan for them. He will fulfill His purposes for my children, not me. My job is just to cooperate with God and to trust Him and allow Him to lead us and guide us. And yeah, will make mistakes, but He will always get us back course corrected. And just trusting that God had a plan for my children and He loved, loves them far more than I could ever even begin to love them. And when you realize how deeply your God loves your children and loves you, then you can rest. You can be at peace. You can be, you can have sort of almost like a carefree laugh. I love the Proverbs 31 woman, and she laughs at the days to come. How do you laugh at the days to come? You have to trust that they're in God's hands. And I would say until I was able to release that fear and believe and trust that God's going to take care of all of this, He's got it on his hands. That was a huge revelation. And I was, and I, and I regret the years that I did walk under that spirit of fear. And I have to also say that if—a lot of times friends can, who have fear, who operating under fear, can also try to get you in their fears with them. And so a lot of times when I was getting free from the spirit of fear and trusting God, I had to be careful of the voices of my friends that I was listening to who were, "Oh, but we have to do this and you have to do this, and your child's not going to be prepared for life and they're not going..." And you just have to say, "No, that's not true. I'm not going to listen to that." You have to be careful—the voices of the people in your life who are operating under fear when you've gotten free from fear. It was a constant struggle to stay free from fear, for me. And if you can stay free from fear, then you can release an atmosphere of peace in your home and a positive upward forward movement in your children's education in the natural light, life-giving, living education that we can provide for them.
Shiela Catanzarite Jeanie, that's so good. And that, I think that that's for our whole life, isn't it? We have adult children and we're so proud of them, but we want God's best for them, and we want to continue to believe God's best and pray for God's best. And I think in every area of life, just God speaks so much about not being afraid. It's a central theme in Scripture, and fear just prevents us from walking into the joy of all that God has. And just being released from that fear is what really will enable us to have a joyful home atmosphere and a very life-giving home school experience for our children. And in the end, that is what they will remember. I always say that nobody's going to remember the worksheet, nobody's going to remember the math problems. They're going to remember what home was like. What was home like, and what was homeschool like? So I just want to encourage everyone. But fear will definitely cause you to clamp down and create these long days, just trying to make sure that you're doing the thing that everybody's doing, and we…
Jeannie Fulbright Checking the boxes.
Shiela Catanzarite Yeah, and we want to be released from that. So. Well, I have another thing that I wish we would have done, and I've thought about this recently because I'm using Charlotte Mason's methodology with the high schoolers, who I teach. I teach private English language communication classes to middle and high schoolers. They're in public school and they come to me after school, and I use Charlotte Mason methodologies with them. It's really fun. I write my own classes, but I've started commonplacing with them this year. It's something I've wanted to do for a couple of years, and they are obsessed and enthralled. And I started commonplacing, and bought these really beautiful leather books and these pens and stickers. And as I started working with them, I went back and found my daughter's commonplace books that we did in elementary. And I noticed they were not, it was—I bought a big book with a lot of pages, and it was not full. And I thought to myself, at what point did we stop commonplacing? At what point did we stop notebooks? At what point did we stop read aloud? And I thought, okay, this is one of my big mistakes. We had such an incredible elementary, middle school experience with all of our Charlotte Mason, everything Charlotte Mason that we love. But when the girls got to high school, they attended some co-ops to be able to get some of the upper-level A.P. courses—and godly, wonderful teachers that they had. But I feel like I at that point let go of all of our Charlotte Mason educational methodologies that we love, and I regret. That's when I saw that commonplace book, I thought, what would it have meant had the girls continue to commonplace all the way through high school? What would they—what sayings would they have collected that would have impacted their lives? What poems might have they written in their commonplace? What mentors might they have had that they recorded wise thoughts that they said, and it was interesting because my younger daughter, she's 24 now, but she always loved Psalm 23. She loved some 23. That was her favorite. Every time, "What's your favorite?" Psalm 23. She's always said that even now. And when I was looking at the commonplace books, the very first thing that she put in her commonplace book was Psalm 23. She wrote it beautifully, and she illustrated it. And I thought, wow, the beauty of just transcribing a meaningful passage like that creatively with color and illustrating it. All of our Charlotte Mason methodology of the notebooking and the copy work and the visual narrations; that stayed with her. And I looked at the page, and I thought that was the first thing we did, and that is still her favorite passage and the impact of that. And I just wish we would have continued doing that. I wish we would have continued notebooking. We have so many notebooks. I just, they're just precious. I love looking back. And Jeanie, when we did your science, when we did it early on, it was before you had created the notebooks. It was before we did the Zoology one is literally in a black plastic binder, and we did the activities and put them in page protectors. And that was their notebook. And I still have it. I have all their notebooks and I want to encourage all the moms listening and dads, your children's writing is invaluable. When your child writes something, there will never be another human being in all of time who will ever put words together in that way, and put it down on paper. I tell my students that all the time. What you just wrote was so important. It was so special because not another human being will ever put words together in such a unique and powerful way as you just did. You want to preserve your children's writing. I wish I had more notebooks as they got older. As they got older to think that what they could have written about in their notebooks at that age would—I wish I had that, and I didn't have that. So, that was a big mistake that I did not continue that, and I did not continue the copy work of the beautiful passages. It's so important they learn writing through copywork. Copywork sometimes we think it's just for elementary handwriting. It's really not. Copywork teaches writing skills.
Jeannie Fulbright And character.
Shiela Catanzarite Yes, will absorb. If you choose carefully what they're copying, they'll absorb that. Our girls missed that. I kind of handed it off, the education off, to some really trusted professors who I felt so blessed that the girls had. But I did let go of what we loved most about homeschooling: all of our Charlotte Mason methodology, the read-alouds. Oh, we had such incredible read-aloud time. We still remember Red Sales to Capri, it was a Sunlight book, and we have been planning this trip to Italy. We were supposed to go after the summer after COVID, and we didn't go. But ever since we read that book and they were in elementary, we're like, "We are going to the Blue Grotto, We going to get on the boat, and we're going to go down there." Because that book made such an impact on the whole family. And we're still going to do it, next spring we're going. We've been waiting to be able to tour, so everyone's able to travel. But that vision to travel and see that together as a family is a direct result of the read-aloud time as a family. We gathered together. We had a vision of something we were excited about. We did do a few. I think we did Knowing God and maybe a few Christian books classics when they were in upper middle school. But when they got to high school, we did not continue our family read-alouds. I really, really wish we had. I just really miss that we didn't do that. So that's one of my big, big mistakes is not continuing. So even if your students are out in classes in high school and you found wonderful co-ops for them, make sure that you continue the notebooking, the commonplace seeing, the read-alouds, even the narration. Those are the years when they can express the most beautiful, mature thoughts that they're capable of before they leave your home. And you don't want to miss that. So, I made that mistake, and I hope that you all who are listening don't make the same mistake I did.
Jeannie Fulbright I think it's very common, even for Charlotte Mason homeschoolers to start going more mainstream in high school because, again, a lot of it is fear-based. And we're worried that the transcript isn't going to be the transcript that the college wants. But I have to say, you know, all my children's transcripts look completely different. But they were all good transcripts. They were all accepted by the colleges. So it's just, you know, some of my kids wanted to be more mainstream, like my youngest daughter, like, you know, she wanted like your girls to do a lot of AP classes and want to have this huge, big, fat transcript that looked very mainstream. That was her choice. And she wanted to do that, and she did it on her own. But it did—she didn't get the read-alouds that the younger, that the older, her older siblings got through high school because she had all this work that she put upon herself to do. And I do see that that is, you know, I think it was a lot of pressure. She had a lot of pressure to perform that she put on herself and just that I think we have to make sure that we are keeping just that precious, peaceful, purposeful living lifestyle even through high school because.
Shiela Catanzarite Yes.
Jeannie Fulbright We are still shaping men and women of character, and God has a plan and purpose for their lives. And we need to trust that and not fall into that, just that mainstream way of educating children through high school because that's all we know, and that's all we believe is the right way to educate. We can still get our children into amazing universities, and they will have successful college careers without having to have done it exactly like the mainstream methodologies of high school that people use in education. And everybody getting that same standardized education, all those same classes. So, yeah, I can see how that—I think in some ways everybody is influenced in that way in high school.
Shiela Catanzarite Definitely.
Jeannie Fulbright So. Okay. So I will talk the last, I would say the mistake I made, and it wasn't fatal. It wasn't a fatal mistake, but it definitely, I think was handicapped my kids a little bit, and that was that I did not establish everyday habits and rituals of neatness and order. We were really a little more chaotic than your average family. I have ADD, two of my kids have ADD. We did not, I mean, we did clean, but I did not have my children making their beds every day. I did not have routines of rituals that kept the house more neat and orderly. We didn't put our books away after we read them. We left things every—our house was, I remember a friend of mine came over to my house one time pretty early on, and she was like a she looked around, and she said, "You know, every time I come over to your house, I just feel so much better about myself." I'm so glad that I could help you feel better about yourself by the chaos that you just walked into. But that was really—I wish I, don't think I even knew how, really, to be habitual in ritual and rituals of cleaning and ordering neatness and being a neat, orderly family. But I do know that all of my children struggled their freshman year of college to be clean. They had their freshman dorms were disasters, and they had to teach themselves to be neat and orderly. And they did. They eventually did. But it took all of college for them to learn how to. I just didn't make them do a lot of orderly clean. They never made their beds. They didn't have to clean the toilets. I had a housekeeper. I was blessed in that way and I was willing to make the sacrifice, whatever it was. I had a housekeeper coming to clean, the kitchen, the bathrooms every week. But that was in some ways a real handicap for my kids. And also, I felt bad about that. It just kind of feel a little guilty about that. But so, how would I have established a routine? Probably would have put it on the—they had a list of everything they needed to accomplish like every subject they needed to study every day. And maybe I would have had the neatness make your bed on that list. I just felt like I wanted them to focus on learning and not really realizing that things like making your bed and cleaning up and being neat and orderly really are part of your character. And so, and I would say I didn't have great training in that myself and was not habitual with that myself. And I'm even today still learning how to be habitual with things like that. So I would say that was, that was one of my mistakes as a homeschool mom.
Shiela Catanzarite Okay, well, I made that one too, but I have another one. I didn't have four children. I didn't have two boys. But we had lots of stuff. Lots of stuff going in different directions.
Jeannie Fulbright You had very energetic girls.
Shiela Catanzarite And I had lots of the grandmother; grandmother was so generous and gracious, and she just bought them lots of things that we always were trying to manage. But I would say one of my big mistakes and again this is going into the high school years. Once the girls were older, high school, we went through a job loss, and we've been through several job losses, and it lasted for almost two years, and it was in the end of high school. And so there was—we were distracted with that. I feel like my husband and I were distracted. He was laid off with a bunch of people at his work. Just one day. No, no warning. Just bring your stuff in. And we were devastated. We'd never gone through anything like that. I know it's a common experience, but that was in their last years. Our older daughter was getting ready to go to college and our youngest daughter had another year. And I think what my mistake was not continuing during that time, even though we were struggling, not continuing to keep our fun family things going. So we would always do family fun night. We had game night every Friday night. And my husband and I still do family fun night. We continued that when the girls were up. We watch a movie and have popcorn, but we had a lot of fun things that we did together as a family and, you know, game night, and movie night. And I feel like during that time, had we kept some of those fun family activities going that were life-giving and joyful, it would have made those last years that they were with us easier for them. And I really believe that we were very open with our daughters and the things that we struggled with as a family. We never tried to hide anything. Our girls knew we were imperfect. They knew we were people with needs. We apologized a lot asking for forgiveness all the time because your children do realize that you are imperfect, and that you are a person. We were very open. We kind of had that parenting style. We had very open conversations. And our daughters have even said, "I just cannot believe how people don't open up. Our families never communicated." We were very open. It was loud at times. It wasn't always pretty, but we were definitely open. And I wish that I would have maybe managed my own struggle with that trial better and protected our family from my fear and anxiety over the financial loss and kept and balanced it out by keeping some of those fun family activities going. Like going to the pumpkin farm, and going to the apple orchard, and all the things that we did when they were younger. Looking back now, I think had really prioritized the things in high school that made our lives so fun and so life-giving, had I done that during that difficult season, I feel like it would have been more enjoyable for everyone. And so thinking back now, and just to encourage, you know, everybody that our children, we are homeschooling in real life. Yeah. The trials and the testings are going to keep rolling as we're homeschooling, but we have to maintain all of the fun, joyful, life-giving activities and times as a family. We can't allow the difficult times to overwhelm us and overwhelm our family. And so again, just had I been intentional about what were the fun things that we loved, what were the fun things that we can keep doing rather than just every day being reminded of how hard it was and what a struggle it was. That would have made a huge difference. It would have made a huge difference for me, but I think that it would have made a bigger difference for our family and for our daughters. So, again, you get to high school in there and outside classes and activities and everyone's a bit scattered. It's not the same as when we're all home. But preserve as much as you can. Don't let go of those nature walks, or going to the museums together, or whatever it is that you do, that your family has fun together. The times when you laugh together, whether that's a read-aloud or whether that's going hiking, or whatever it is. They don't outgrow that. Our children don't outgrow that, and we don't outgrow that. And life is going to get hard, and then they're going to be gone from your family. So make sure those last two years are just as life-giving and fun as those first years when it's like, "Oh, it's elementary school and we don't have to do ... we can just be outside all day." So preserve that because it will, you know, and in the stressful times, just remember, okay, what are the things that make us laugh? What are the things that everyone loves? Let's keep making sure that we're scheduling those things so that we have some reasons to laugh during the trials as they come. Looking back, I think had I done that, I know it would have made a big difference for our family. So that was, that was a mistake that I hope someone else will remember. If you're going through that or when you do go through that, there's so many other things that God gives to keep things bright and fun when we're in a trial.
Jeannie Fulbright Mhm. Yes. I can totally see how there were times when we went through trials and, and I would sort of you know, let that affect my, just the atmosphere of the home. And I do think it's so, it's so important to remember too. And I you know, I think Julie Ross has said this a lot of times it's just like schedule the fun schedule Sunday's schedule fun times. And I love that she says that because it is it's like you need to put fun on the calendar. You just need to make sure that you're doing it and it is happening. And those are some great memories that you're creating. And they're just—they sustain our children in life. I mean, I feel like my daughter, who is she's a software engineer in Dallas, and she's created this whole life for herself. And she's just —and I know part of her ability to just find a new church and find a group of friends and find, and just be really involved in her new church and having making friends and all of this is because she has this really strong foundation from her childhood of this family that is that just gives it gives her a solid foundation to move forward in life and try new things and be confident to pursue her life with joy and peace and trust in God. And I would say that now that we're kind of moving into the next part of this podcast, which is the best decisions that we make, I would say that a lot of the best decisions that I made are what made—are what sustain my children today. And the number one thing that I did, inadvertently at first but then it was—I realized that it was the Charlotte Mason model and it was the best thing for my children, is I taught them very early on to be extremely independent with their education. I just saw so much that children in schools were being spoon-fed their education. The teacher was teaching them what they needed to memorize for the test. They were regurgitating it on the test and then they weren't remembering or caring about it. It wasn't their education, it was somebody else's education created that they had to memorize. Information they had to memorize. And so I really early on, as soon as my kids were able to be independent, they were independent. They a lot of times I had them help me decide what they were going to be learning or what materials they wanted to use for the different subjects. But they were in charge of it. I put my children in charge of their education. And that independence actually was so instrumental in helping them navigate their adult life, their young adult life. And I learned early on how important independence was when one of my mentors as a homeschool writer and author and speaker was J. While, who owned Apologia, he told me an incredible story. And he said one of the reasons that he got involved in the homeschool movement is because he realized homeschooling was superior to every other form of education because children were independent. He learned that because they were independent learners. And the way he discovered this is that he was a college professor at either I think it was Indiana University. He was head of his department, and I believe he was teaching chemistry. And he found that every single semester his very top students had been homeschooled. And he was so confused, and he thought, "What is this homeschooling thing? Why are these kids so much brighter? They must have a better curriculum. They must be really getting better materials in the homeschool movement." This was back in the nineties. And so he got in touch with the homeschool leadership, and they were so excited to hear that homeschoolers were doing so well in college. And so they invited him to their homeschool conference, and he wanted to look at the materials they were using and he was looking at the science books they were using, and they were so far out of date that the information in them was inaccurate. He couldn't understand how these kids could go into college and do so well in college when they had such poorly written materials. And so then he just wanted to actually understand. He needed to understand what was going on here. And then he found out what was going on, that these kids had learned to learn for themselves. The parents would buy the textbook. Back then, there were only a few companies that were willing to sell to homeschoolers, and the textbooks were very far out of date, very behind. And the parents, which is basically by the textbook, buy the teacher's manual, and they say, "Okay, here's your science. This is your science for the year. And they didn't hover over the kids. They didn't make sure they were getting everything. They just said, "here's your science. Go do science, have fun, have a great year doing science." And these kids would do science on their own, independently. And so my goal for Mike, when he told me that when my children were very young, I had just written the first book, the Astronomy Book for Biology, and he shared that knowledge with me, and I thought, oh, this is great, really, because I was—my children were very independent. I needed them to be independent learners because as I mentioned I'm ADD. I can't be in charge of every single thing they're doing. I need them to know what to do, and I need them to be able to do it. And so that's what I had trained my children to do. And then seeing that that was actually the best way to educate a child, then it became a goal of mine that I would choose curriculum that did not require me. That did not require me to hover over and help them if they couldn't read, if the instructions weren't simple enough for them to read and understand and move forward with with the subject, then it was too hard. It was going to it was too teacher-dependent. And so I chose curricula that was not teacher dependent. Mostly we just read a lot of books and did a lot of notebooking. But it was honestly, it was the most important thing that I did, is taught my children to get knowledge for themselves. And that's something sure that makes them really believe there is no self-education, there is no education except for self-education, getting knowledge for themselves. And so, I would say that's the number one best thing that I did. And I did it as soon as my children were able to be independent with their learning. I created atmosphere. And, I had one child who had a lot of learning challenges. Very—not only did he have ADHD, but he had some auditory processing, and dyslexia, and dysgraphia, and brilliant, brilliant kid, but just had to... It was longer time for him to be independent than it was for the other children in the family. So every child, it's going to be different when they are able to take their education in their own hands and run with it. But once he was able to do that, he just, I mean, he's still incredible today, all the things that he's doing and developing and creating and he just created an app using A.I. technology. He's just a brilliant kid, loves learning. But it took him a little longer to be independent. But all of my children very early on were they had their schedule, and they were in charge of it. I did not check their work. They checked their own work. It's it was their education. I empowered them with the ownership of their education. And actually, my next podcast that I'm going to do independently, I'm going to discuss the steps for getting your children from teacher-dependance to independence and the benefits of that. So that would be my number one on the best decisions I made.
Shiela Catanzarite I remember your big whiteboard with all the different things that they would have to mark off, and that's going to be an amazing podcast. That's going to be amazing. So you did do that very well. I would say one of my top things was beginning with the end in mind. I just, I'm a visionary person. I really like looking at the five-year, the ten-year, you know, what's going to be happening down the road. And I was just this morning looking at one of my old notebooks that I had where I would write down. So at the beginning of the summer before the homeschool year started, every year, I would think, okay, what is the end? What do I want to see in my daughters? What is the growth that I want to see? And I would divide the areas up into like the academic. What is the end academically? What do we want to see? What do we want to see socially, spiritually, emotionally, in their extracurricular? So I would look at each, I would take each daughter, and I would really pray about it and think about what is it that God wants to do in their lives this year? And I would write it out. And I had like a vision for both of the girls. And we did a lot of our homeschooling together, which I highly recommend. And so a lot of it was together. Our girls are 19 months apart, and we did our science together, and we did our history together, and eventually we did our literature studies together. And so everything that we did. So it was easy for me because a lot of it we did do together. But the girls' personalities were so opposite. And so I feel like I was always like, "Lord, what are you wanting to do in their life this year?" And I would take half day along with the Lord, and I would really pray through it and write it out. And then I would have scripture verses, and I always had, and I have journals of verses that I pray for the girls each year. And usually the verses were different because one was struggling with this or one needed to go in this year. And I would have specific verses that I would pray over them every day. And I still we still pray there their word of the year, the verse. But, so beginning with the end in mind, and I read early on a book called The Organized Home Scholar, I don't know if it's still out there. I love it because I love staying, you know, having things in order and The Organized Homeschooler. And that really helped. If you're a person who really thrives on organization and feels like you're more you want to know before you start to have a vision of what might happen, I do recommend that book. I don't know if it's still out there, but it really helped me. So that's something I did well. It kept us going in a certain direction, and I felt the being intentional about that gave me confidence that I was okay, if I feel like I've heard from the Lord, and I've written down, I'm going to stay faithful. It gave me a path to stay on. It kept me from, you know, veering off and going here or there. And once I got free from having to follow the standard of the government schools, then I was able to really think, "Okay, Lord, what do you have for my daughters this year"? That was a huge thing just for me as a mom. And it, I can look back at those journals and know this is what we did and this is how they grew. And we just kept going. And I did that, you know, all the way through. And so anyway, I feel that that was something we did really well that gave me the confidence I was giving them the very best that I could. And that what God wanted for them.
Jeannie Fulbright love that. That is awesome.
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Jeannie Fulbright Well, I would agree that you—I remember you being very organized, and I was always a little intimidated by that. But I'm so glad that you are because you helped me so much with the development of my science books and my notebook and journals. And your organization was a huge blessing in my life. So, but I was, I definitely would say that's not my strength. So the second thing. Number two of the best decisions that I made is I really respected that my children had a purpose in life, and that God had plans and purposes for them, and that they would begin to show signs of the direction that God wanted them to go in through their interests, through their passions, through their curiosities, through the things that they were skilled at, and that it was really just my responsibility, my, just an honor that God had given me to help nurture and hone their, the things they desired to do so that they could do them well. And I would invest time. I would invest money sometimes in allowing them to develop themselves into the people they wished to be and to be the best that they could be. They could possibly be in each area. And if they weren't willing to give their all or give their best to something, then I didn't believe that it really was probably a divine curiosity, a divinely led passion or interest. But I would give them an opportunity to... I always gave them opportunities to develop their skills and their interest in their passions. And I would say that's one of the best things I did. Some of their passions and interests resulted in things they're still doing today. Sometimes it just developed the confidence they needed to believe in themselves, to believe in their ability to accomplish great things. And they would leave that interest behind or that, as you know, my daughter was a ballerina and, you know, had actually before she graduated from high school was offered a job to be a professional ballerina, a paid professional ballerina. And she chose, she actually chose to go to college instead. But she invested all those years in ballet. It shaped her into the person that the discipline, the wise, the just really wise person that she is today. And I think that's just an important thing that we want to do is just recognize that each of our children is different, and they have divinely led curiosities, interests, and passions. And God, as Charlotte Mason said, "The divine curiosity, which should have been an equipment for life, rarely survives early school days." But the reason she says it should have been an equipment for life is because God is leading our children through their interests, even at a young age. And so,. Yes, I would say that would be the number two best thing that I did as a homeschool mom.
Shiela Catanzarite Yeah, Jeanie, I saw that you really nurtured your older daughter's entrepreneurial spirit, which was so important. You did this with your children. You did this so well, but it took a lot of sacrifice on your part to help Heather do her little her musical theater camp that our girls did. What was it called?
Jeannie Fulbright She wrote a play and then she had all the girls, your daughters, and my little girls were in the play. I think it was my dreams or history. And they were about Mary Tudor.
Shiela Catanzarite They wrote it and they have worship music. The girls had costumes. We had a presentation. But that and then her ballet magazine and her American Girl camps. You did an amazing job recognizing that entrepreneurial spirit. And now she has her own business.
Jeannie Fulbright You know, she is an entrepreneur.
Shiela Catanzarite But you saw that and you gave opportunity and you sacrificed as a mom to help her fulfill that. We were blessed by that. So that was really fun. I would say one of the things that I, that Charlotte Mason told me to do that I did, was this idea of let the mother go out to play and give your children the brightest and freshest of yourself. And I really, I believe so much in that. Trying to take care of myself. I worked really hard to take care of myself while I was homeschooling. I really resisted the urge to just, "I'm a mom now. I'm going to let go of every other part of who God made me to be." And I really wanted the girls to see an example of a woman who continued to care for herself, who kept growing, who kept pursuing the things God had for her even while we homeschooled. And that was really important to me. So I think just maintaining the fitness and the health. I have had to maintain a very strict diet because of health issues that I had in the past. But that idea that I'm not going to let myself go, I'm going to continue to be the best I can be in every area of my life. I think that modeled for our daughters, and they definitely have taken that value with them, just really caring for themselves. Our younger daughter is getting ready to run her first marathon. We ran a lot as a family. We did a lot of races together, but she's going to run her first marathon. And that, I think, is just a result of watching us run and trying to keep up with the running and, you know, just having a broken foot. When I have a broken foot and going up and down the street on the crutches and saying, "You know, I'm still going to exercise, I'm not going to give in, I'm not going to give in to the broken foot." Just things like that, where I think Charlotte Mason knew that our children, if we’re going to home educate them, we need to be the freshest of the brightest and the freshest hours, I think that's what she says. And I took that seriously to think my daughters deserve the best of who I am. And if I'm not investing in myself, if I'm not growing, if I don't have life-giving things that are helping me become better, then I can't show up with more to offer them the next day. And I feel that way as well with my students that I teach that if I don't get better after I teach this lesson, then when I show up next week, I have nothing more to offer them. I don't have anything left. And so with the girls, I kind of felt the same way that if I'm not growing, then there's nothing more to give. We can only give what God is pouring into us. And so this idea of going out to play, whatever that looks like for you. I was, I remember we did a retreat together at Cheyney. We planned a retreat for our big moment for the week. So things like that. Leadership opportunities. I remember I led a homeschool group, a little women's Bible study. I did the worship kids ministry with our daughters at one of the churches. Just things like that, where I continue to be involved, grow as a woman, develop into the person who God had called me to be. The girls saw me working part-time for Jeannie, learning in design. You know, we didn't know. Just...
Jeannie Fulbright We learned all that together.
Shiela Catanzarite Yeah. And just, but then saw Mom. Mom is growing. Mom's learning this computer program. And then when Caroline was still in the home where the girls were at home, and I had to be able to pay for all of their activities. And I went and worked part-time after school, and our younger daughter went with me when she was in middle school, and we worked at the little tutoring center. And just to then to see that mom is still using her gifts, Mom's using her degree, Mom is still out with people. I think it just built a sense that even though she's my mom and she's sacrificing for me, she's still investing and sacrificing in herself. And I'm really thankful that I did that because there's a lot of things we can teach our children, but what we model for them and the way we live and who we become, that speaks more than anything. And I think Charlotte Mason, I think that's what she was referring to. Let the mother go outside. Invest in whatever you need to to give your children the freshest and the brightest of who you are. You don't get a do-over. You don't get a do-over. And it's hard. And there were many days I was just stressed out. Like I said, when I was going, we were going through this job loss. I could have done a much better job, not, you know, carrying the burden. But, I did my best, and I think I did as best that I know that as intentional as I could about maintaining who I was and growing and trying to be the best for the girls and still trying to be that not perfectly, of course, but intentionally doing that. So I would encourage all the moms. I was at a convention this summer. A couple of moms mentioned that. "No one ever talks at these conventions. I've never heard a talk on how do you take care of yourself and not let yourself go when you're homeschooling? How do you prioritize yourself?" I had two moms after my talk to say, "Who's going to? Who's going to address that?" It does need to be addressed because just because you are a mom and a homeschooling mom, you don't start being the woman God made you to be. He has a plan for your life, and that's life that was going to talk about that. That's my third thing that I feel like I did was able to do well. But take that time to have fun. Be a fun person. Be an interesting person for your children. Be a person who's growing, be a person that they can admire and look up to the way you live your life.
Jeannie Fulbright Develop your own interests for sure. Always. And that's part of self-care, is nurturing your—you have divine curiosity as well.
Shiela Catanzarite Yes.
Jeannie Fulbright You have interests that and it kind of it goes fast. I know it's hard to believe. And it just did feel like some days and some years last like ten years. But it really does go fast. And then you have skills and things that you have been doing that you can continue to do. And it's not as devastating when the last child leaves the house because you have developed yourself as a person throughout that time. I so agree with that. And I love that. I think that's such a great and important things for moms to hear is find some stuff, find a hobby, find something that fulfills you, or start a Bible study or whatever it is you you want to do, develop yourself. Don't neglect your spiritual life, your intellectual life, and take care of yourself. I would agree with that. That's a great one. Okay. So my final number three, that I really prayed about this and talked to my daughter for a long time about some of the best things. And this, I would say, was just a natural outpouring of my faith. But I believe and you talked about modeling for your children. I believe that one thing I did really well and I see the effects of it now in my own my adult children is I modeled prayer. I've modeled a very, very active prayer life. We prayed about everything, anything that was a problem. We just okay, well, let's pray. And we would see God answer those prayers. Whether it was I don't understand Algebra to I don't know how to spell, to we're about to run out of gas. Everything, we just—we took to the Lord in prayer. I had prayer partners that I prayed with regularly on the phone. I had prayer groups that would come over and the children would all play while the moms prayed. We were I was a praying person. And if somebody ever said, "Yeah, I mean, I just, I really need prayer. And they would mention it whether we were in the grocery store, at a homeschool group, or at the park day, or a field trip. If somebody said, I need a prayer, I stopped whatever I was doing and said, "Let's pray right now." I'm not going to pray for you later. And so my children saw me modeling prayer. And I see this is so much a part of their lives. They believe in prayer. They call me. They want me to pray. They want me to pray for this job interview. And then they'll call me 10 minutes before the job interview. Let's pray again. Let's pray. Cause they're—my oldest daughter—I had a prayer partner that I started praying with her on the phone every week. We both had daughters the same age in Dallas. We lived in Dallas. And we prayed on the phone every Monday, and we would just email each other our prayer requests because if we talked about it, we would never get to prayer. We wouldn't have time to actually pray. So we were very purposeful. And I have her list of things to pray for her. She has my list and we just got on the phone and prayed, and we just continued to do that every single... And we saw miracle—I mean, God just, it was incredible! It was I always thought prayer is the most powerful tool and weapon we have. And we don't we don't we don't utilize it nearly enough. And God wants us to. He wants us to constantly be in prayer. But it was so funny because the other day I was talking to my daughter and she's like, "Oh yeah, no, I can't." I was asking her about something, I was going to come over. And she's like, "Oh no, that's the day I pray with Kathryn on the phone." And I said, "You pray with Kathryn on the phone." She's like, "Yeah, we pray every week." This is the same little girl that her mom and I prayed every week. We don't pray every week anymore. We send each other requests. But it's so cute to see that she's developed this relationship with this girl. We haven't lived in the same town with these people since they were like three years old. And yet they developed, they have this relationship where they're praying every week. And I love to see that my children know the power of prayer. They watched miracles as just little miracles and sometimes big miracles. And they know prayer works, and they know it's powerful. And they, in the end, in their adult lives, they believe that prayer is what is important. So I would say that was one thing that I feel I did well as I modeled and modeled a very active prayer life and a lot of faith in prayer as a means to accomplishing anything. So and so that would be my last, I would say best thing I did.
Shiela Catanzarite And I remember you would take the Christmas cards.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes.
Shiela Catanzarite And would put them in a basket in you, and your children during your devotions would pray for all the families who sent those Christmas cards.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes. If you sent us a family Christmas card with a picture, you got prayed for. [01:14:06][3.8]
Shiela Catanzarite That's such a creative way to do that. But what a legacy. Our prayers are eternal. God continues answering them all throughout our children's lives. What an investment that's just so powerful. What an investment. You are always an example to me.
Jeannie Fulbright Thank you.
Shiela Catanzarite The last thing I want to share is very similar to what I talked about the last time in caring for myself. But I want you to know that God has a plan for your life post-homeschool mom. This is so important. And one of the things I did that I'm so thankful I did, and I encourage a lot of moms to do it is to start preparing for the empty nest before the babies have flown. Before the fledglings have gone because this was really important. I had seen homeschool moms who had poured themselves out. And then when the children left, they were just devastated. They didn't know who they were, what they wanted. They'd lost themselves. They hadn't maybe pursued a passion or thought about who they were. And, you know, we just have to remember that even before we were married and started having our children, we were women of God. We were uniquely called by God for special things. And we are still those women. And God has a call on our lives. And I know for me, raising my daughters, that was the greatest thing that I've ever done in my life. I, it is the joy of my life. My daughters' still they're the joy of my life. And homeschooling them and raising them was my greatest joy. But once my role, you know, once they weren't in the home anymore, and I'm not, wasn't parenting them and homeschooling them up close, I had so much time. You have so much time. You're just you're giving all of this energy, and intentionality, and direction to your children to homeschool. And we should, we should be pouring everything out. But once they're on their own in God's hands, God still has an incredible plan for our lives. And if you're still homeschooling, God has an incredible plan for you as a woman. And you want to be intentional about really praying through that and thinking about that. Because by the time your children you've raised homeschool, you were an expert in so many things. You have developed so many character qualities in your own life. You've developed habits along with your children. You've developed insight, insight from raising these children and so many different qualities that God has developed in you as a mom that you're probably not even aware of that other women need. So much of who you become through the homeschool journey—people need that person, and God wants to use you. God wants to put you out into the world with people who need to be encouraged by Him, who need to know about Him. And so as far as preparing for the empty nest and what that look like for me, you know, we ran together as a family, but my husband, when the girls were in high school, started running these trails, trail running, and he started trail racing. And he would always like, "You want to go run the race with me or go trail running." I'm like, Naa, I'll stay on the road. You know, I've always been a runner. But when my daughter, our younger daughter was a junior, I remember thinking, okay, my husband's really passionate about trail running, and I am going to become interested in what he's interested in because he spends so much time running that when the girls are gone, if he's running, I'm not going to have anyone to be with. And so I'm going to join him and be interested in what he's interested. So I started trail running and I started doing that before our youngest daughter left for college, so that when she left, we had already established something together that we could really enjoy doing. And we started running together and it was so amazing how it was during the unemployment time that we ran those trails. We ran so many trails. My daughter's senior year, just praying our hearts out, worshiping, putting on music, singing, stopping, praying—and the trail running was something that was his passion. But in an effort to really establish something that we could enjoy together as empty nesters, I started the running. God had so much more in plan for that. And we still run almost every weekend we run trails together. But I would say that primary relationship was something I really thought, how would I invest in that? How am I going to really invest in my relationship with my husband? And also just looking at, what are my gifts? How can God use me? I went back and looked at my education, my education degrees that I had. Who could I teach? How could I steward who God had made me to be? What experience have I gained through homeschooling and just saying, God, here I am, here I am. What can I do? How can you use me in other people's lives? And I started teaching other people's children. So God is—I'm still teaching other people's children, still using Charlotte Mason, but really thinking a lot about who do I want to become? Who's the woman God is called me to be? Knowing as well that my daughters would be looking to see, well, what is mom going to do in her fifties and heading towards 60, and is she going to stop living? Is she going to keep growing? I just wanted to set an example for my daughters that as long as we're on earth God has good plans for us to walk in. And we can be surrendered, and we can give our heart and soul to our children, but I wanted them to see that we don't stop living. We don't stop serving God. We don't stop pouring our lives out and sacrificing just because we're done homeschooling, and we keep growing. And so I'm so thankful that I thought that through and was intentional before they left to prepare for that. Because it was a very, very easy transition for me and going in using my gifts, and starting to do a little bit of part time work. And then eventually when they were both in college, really working more full time, but again, just going back to the idea that homeschooling is a blessing and a joy, but it's a season that is going to end. And it's going to end, and you want to give yourself fully to it and to your children. But when it ends, your call in your life is not ended. God has so much more. And so I encourage you to begin praying about it. What has got built in me through the homeschool years? What has God developed in me that I can give, and offer to other moms? To other women? Is God calling me to start a business in some way? To volunteer? To work? Whatever it is, begin praying about that because you've developed so much wisdom and maturity through homeschooling that could be such a blessing to other people. Maybe it's ministering to other homeschool moms, but if you began praying about it and thinking about it and just asking God, I'm just surrender to what you have for me post homeschooling. I want to be used by you, God. I want my life to bless so many people and I'm just surrendered and open to what that looks like. And for me it looked very different than what I had imagined, but a lot of people are retiring and Jeannie and I are just getting going.
Jeannie Fulbright We're writing more curricula, creating the stuff we wish we would have had.
Shiela Catanzarite Right, Right.
Jeannie Fulbright All of your experience with language, with education, with special education, everything that you've done and now, who knew the Lord would have you been writing language arts—Charlotte Mason's language arts curriculum? I love seeing how God's plans and purposes are just—that He pulls all the different things together that we've experienced, that we've been through, that we've learned. And homeschooling is so incredible because we are learning. We are learning so much. We are becoming experts in a lot of areas of education and there's a lot of things that we can do with that, that we can be used by God to bless His people and change the world. And I love that, you are so right. And I do see a lot of the people that I homeschooled with, and there are a lot of them that do feel a little lost, they're not sure what to do with their lives now. They haven't developed. They never thought about what it was going to be like when their kids had their own lives because they are going to have their lives, as they should. And so, yeah, that is a very, very wise thing to begin to really think about, to pray about, to ask the Lord to show you and guide you as you complete the high school years. [01:23:16][90.1]
Shiela Catanzarite Yes. And I will just say, our children are precious and wonderful. But you, Mom, are precious. You are uniquely created by God. And I know that it's a season of pouring yourself out, but you matter so much to the Lord. You matter so much to people as an individual. And God has an incredible plan for your life when you're gone through the season of pouring your life out for your children, you matter so much to him and he wants to bless you, and he wants to use you. And the best is still ahead for you. And I just want to encourage you to anticipate that and be very—be waiting for God to reveal to you what that is. And be open to what that might look like. But you matter very much during this time. So take care of yourself and be the best you can be for your children and for your family, but for yourself and for the Lord as well. [01:24:21][64.0]
Jeannie Fulbright Yes. Well, with that, I think we have concluded our best decisions and worst mistakes. As homeschool Mom s's podcast and I really had a lot of fun talking to you, Shiela, and I really hope that those of you who are out there listening that this was a big blessing for you, and we look forward to connecting with you. And please feel free to reach out to us through all of our networks. And we're open to having conversations with you and encouraging you personally as well as through this podcast. Thanks so much for listening.
Shiela Catanzarite Bye.
Jeannie Fulbright Bye.
Jeannie Fulbright Hey, a couple more things. Do you wish you had a Charlotte Mason mentor, someone to keep you focused on the things, things that matter, the Lord and his word, and prayer and habit training and living books, nature study, and of course, the most neglected thing of all self-care? Well, I have the perfect mentor for you, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner. It is much more than a planner. It's a guide and a mentor, and a place to chronicle your treasured moments and memories, all the things you want to remember and keep sacred and special from this homeschool journey. Check it out on my website at jeanniefulbright.com and learn about that. And so many of the other Charlotte Mason curriculum and tools that I've created to make your homeschool journey the richest and most fulfilling experience of your life. Thanks again for listening to the Charlotte Mason Show.
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Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? I would love for you to come. On my website, I have a special coupon code that you can use when you register. The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year with amazing speakers, hundreds of workshops to help you homeschool well, and the largest curriculum exhibit halls in the United States. People travel from all over the United States to Missouri, South Carolina, Ohio, California, and Texas to find encouragement, friendship, and curriculum. Be sure to go to my website, jeanniefulbright.com for your coupon code. And when you're at the convention, please come by my booth and say hello, because I love meeting homeschoolers in real life. It's always fun to have new homeschool friends. So thank you so much for listening, and I do hope to see you at the convention. Have a blessed rest of the week.