Homeschooling and Mutant Orchids

Recently, my son was learning about how animals adapt and change based on their environment, and I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw how my small orchid has continued to put out roots despite my failure to figure out how to repot it into something bigger. And then I happened to see it in his science book–orchids can even grow on the sides of trees because they can take in water through the air. 

But that’s definitely not what I thought would happen as I took my pink blooms home from Walmart. Kind of like when I started homeschooling. A couple years earlier, I had ordered all the pieces to my carefully-researched curriculum and was preparing to thrive. The orchid didn’t have any mutant-looking roots. I watered it each week, even when the blossoms fell off, and I cut down the stems. 

Those first couple years, I did as much Kindergarten and first grade curriculum as I could with my son with my baby and toddler girls in tow. The girls soon grew into a toddler and preschooler who were not always happy with the amount of attention they got. They wanted it all. So we did as much life as we could all together, but whispers of “not good enough” kept washing over me, wave after wave, as things on the curriculum got skipped or didn’t go the way I had planned. The orchid was putting out roots that didn’t fit nicely in the pot. 

Then bouts of sickness came, some days and some months of not feeling well enough to incorporate any “fun” homeschool ideas the curriculum suggested. I barely got through the reading and math with my son, while also trying summon the brain power to put a grocery list together. And there was even a time when I needed help from sisters in our church to care for the kids in the afternoons so I could rest. 

The roots looked weird, and I wasn’t sure it was okay with God for my life to look so different from what I’d imagined. My husband and I questioned whether it was even a good idea to keep homeschooling. But I kept watering it, week by week with the incredible mercy, wisdom, and coaching from my friend Robin. She pointed me again and again to my need to keep depending on the Lord and encouraged me to write down our reasons for homeschooling. It helped, as I tried to keep discerning what to fit into my days with the kids. 

And the orchid kept sending out those crazy roots and eventually blooming again into way more flowers than I had walked away from the store with. But I still felt like what I was doing wasn’t quite what it was supposed to be because “what about all those other people who took orchids home? Surely they’re getting beautiful blooms without those unattractive roots splaying out the other side. The root of not getting to all they’d planned for. The root of not knowing exactly how to answer their children and make decisions in a timely, peaceful way. The root of not checking every subject-area box triumphantly at the end of the school day. 

The Lord in His kindness brought me two different books on homeschooling in the same month, and as I read (and listened on audio), these writer-moms put words to those whispers of “not good enough” and to the roots of comparison with others. They gave me a life-refreshing perspective of seeing homeschooling as a way to grow alongside my children. They encouraged me to write a “don’t do” list as I considered what the Lord has called me to for this season. They called me to really ask myself what would make me feel like I’ve done my job as a homeschool mom–if my children grow up to . . . 

As I wrote down what came to mind, I was surprised by how few of the roots in the pot (excellence in specific subject areas) made it on the list. These were roots that reached outside of standards and curriculum–like seeing my children grow up to:

  • Not just know the Bibe and about God, but love HIm and let Him be the Source from which everything in their lives flows. 
  • Treat each person they encounter with kindness and respect, be good listeners, ask good questions. 
  • Look to Jesus in their emotions and struggles, learning to accept the way they feel and go to His Word and godly mentors for truth and perspective.
  • Learn to work diligently in each role God has for them.
  • Be content with a quiet life, trusting God to lead them into what He has for them to put their hands to. 
  • Enjoy learning and exploring and trying things as a process, not an end result (success or failure). 
  • Figure things out for themselves as a process, not a success or failure.
  • Know how to prepare simple meals, shop for groceries, manage money, drive in the country or city.
  • Have a heart for overseas missions by praying, giving, encouraging missionaries, and learning a language.
  • Have a love for music, especially in worship through singing, playing an instrument, or participating in the congregation at church. 
  • Use their handwriting and written communication as a way to honor, respect, and help others.
  • Know how to do basic math and know basic math facts in order to solve real-life problems and make real-life calculations.
  • To see history as God’s story and look at historical events and current events from a biblical worldview.
  • To appreciate God’s handiwork and power and wisdom in all things related to science.

I saw that the roots were reaching for things much farther than checking boxes off a curriculum or seeing success through how one day or month or year went. They were reaching for the water in the air–the Living Water of the Good Shepherd, who guides orchids to adapt, making the roots grow how He wants. Orchids that would die without Him. 

My words for this year are: look back, trust and lead. The anxiety and struggle has been real these past few years. But as I look back, I can see that God was faithful to help, love, and bring me through every time. And as I look ahead to days and years that are unknown, I want to trust that He will keep leading me, never give up on me, and offer the grace and forgiveness He bought with His blood, so that I can experience life that is truly life forever with Him. 

But until that forever comes, my orchid will look exactly the way He intended all along. 

Homeschool Bravely by Jamie Erickson

The Four Hour School Day by Durenda Wilson

Bible Resources for Busy Moms

Between caring for and schooling my children, planning for our days together, caring for my home, and participating in church fellowship, there isn’t much time left to choose what I want to read and listen to. Here are resources and devotionals over the past 8 years of motherhood that have been especially encouraging to me. I hope they are to you as well as you fulfill God’s call for your life.

Bible:

David Suchet Audio Bible

David Suchet has recorded the entire Bible in his rich voice, and it is all available in playlists on YouTube. For example, just search “David Suchet Ecclesiastes” and you’ll find the playlist you’re looking for. This has been an excellent resource as I do my stretches in the morning and has been helpful to re-listen to books of the Bible multiple times in a row to get a better understanding of the themes and principles.

The Bible Project videos

Their goal: To help people experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.

I can’t recommend these short videos enough. There are videos giving the historical background, themes, and outline of each book of the Bible along with illustrations, and also videos about themes throughout Scripture. Just watch one. You’ll be hooked.

Devotionals and Prayer Guides:

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp

“Forget “behavior modification” or feel-good aphorisms. Tripp knows that what we really need is an encounter with the living God. Then we’ll be prepared to trust in God’s goodness, rely on his grace, and live for his glory each and every day.”

This has been another way to celebrate God in my thoughts as I start the day.

The Valley of Vision–free

This is a collection of puritan prayers and devotions. Don’t let the cover turn you off. It is filled with scripturally and theologically rich prayers to worship and enjoy God. It’s often been a great starting place to help me worship God and then talk to Him about what’s on my mind and heart. 

“This book has been prepared not to ‘supply’ prayers but to prompt and encourage the Christian as he treads the path on which others have gone before.”

You can read the prayers for free here, but I’m grateful for my hardcopy to highlight and meditate on. 

Every Moment Holy

“EVERY MOMENT HOLY is a book of liturgies for the ordinary events of daily life–liturgies such as “A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends” or “A Liturgy for Laundering” or “A Liturgy for the First Hearthfire of the Season.” These are ways of reminding us that our lives are shot through with sacred purpose even when, especially when, we are too busy or too caught up in our busyness to notice.”

This is such a beautiful guide for learning how to see every part of our lives as a way to meet the Lord. (And McKelvey’s words are so well-chosen and biblical.)

Audio Resources:

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

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“Why is God love? Because God is a Trinity.
Why can we be saved? Because God is a Trinity.
How are we able to live the Christian life? Through the Trinity.
In this lively book, we find an introduction to Christianity and the Christian life that is from start to finish rooted in our triune God―Father, Son and Spirit. Not only do we understand the person and work of Christ through the Trinity, but also prayer, the church and every aspect of our faith.”

Just imagine if we could begin each day (or wake up each night) remembering and delighting in our loving Father, salvation-giving Jesus, and empowering Spirit?

If you don’t have time to read the book, check out these audio talks and short videos related to the same topic.

Audio Resources by Michael Reeves about Delighting in the Trinity

Short Videos by Michael Reeves about Delighting in the Trinity

A powerful sermon by Michael Reeves on the resurrection of Christ

Women’s Conference Audio talks:

I’ve especially appreciated listening to these sessions and breakout sessions as it’s been harder for me to get away for an actual women’s conference.

The Women of Hope Conference is one I’ve been appreciating, coming right out of a church in Maryland.

The Gospel Coalition

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This network of churches “encourages and educates believers advocating gospel-centered principles and practices that glorify the Savior and do good to those for whom he shed his life’s blood.”

I have been especially blessed listening to the audio sermons and workshops from the women’s conferences they organize each year.

Videos:

He Is (Names of God)

This 10 minute video brought tears to my eyes as the names of God through the entire Bible are proclaimed.

Full of Eyes (youtube channel)

These are Written

Everlasting Arms

True Food

Chris Powers’ hope is to “fill this channel with videos that exalt Jesus Christ as the Joy, King, and Savior of the world. He is the One in whom we see and know God, and so I want all eyes fixed on Him. I’d love it if the Lord would use these videos to point you to Christ, and to empower you to point others to Him as well.”

These are beautifully illustrated animations that have helped me to remember my lostness without Christ, and many aspects of the gospel. 

Elementary age resources

Here are a few resources geared toward children ages 5-12. Some we have enjoyed as a family already, and others I look forward to using even more as the kids get older. These might be some great Christmas gift ideas for the young ones in your life. Or you could forward this list to their parents and let them choose. (hint hint 🙂 )

NIRV Bible

“The bestselling NIrV Study Bible for Kids starts early readers ages 6 to 10 on the rewarding path of reading and studying God’s Word. This Bible uses the complete text of the New International Reader’s Version® (NIrV) which is written at a third-grade reading level and is perfect for those learning to read. With colorful artwork, easy-to-read Bible text, and fun features, kids will engage with the Bible in a way that makes it stick.”

I love this version! It’s helped me stay focused as I read in mom-fog sometimes, and is great to share stories straight from Scripture with my kids.

New City Catechism

“The New City Catechism is a modern-day resource aimed at helping children and adults alike learn the core doctrines of the Christian faith via 52 questions and answers.”

There is a print version of the questions available on their website, and also a free app with the questions and answers and even a few songs that go along with the questions. Each answer also has a shortened version highlighted for young children to memorize. Reading through it with my 4 year old has sparked some interesting conversations as we’ve tried to memorize it together.

 Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

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“101 simple-yet- profound thoughts on faith. Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing shares profound spiritual truths from the Bible told in a conversational tone—drawing insights from creation, history, science, the writings of great thinkers and preachers and writers, and more—to turn the reader’s eyes toward the God who loves them with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden

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“The Bible is full of exciting stories that fill children with awe and wonder. But kids need to know how all those classic stories connect to Scripture’s overarching message about God’s glorious plan to redeem his rebellious people.

In The Biggest Story, Kevin DeYoung—a best-selling author and father of six—leads kids and parents alike on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ’s death on the cross to the new heaven and new earth.” Ages 5-8 (read to me) Ages 8-11 (read to myself)

The Gospel Story Bible

“Can a Bedtime Story Actually Change Your Life? It is easy to forget Jesus in the midst of frantic schedules, family squabbles, and conflicting priorities. But the truth is that he is the hero of every story, including these ordinary ones. This is why Marty Machowski puts God’s plan of salvation in Christ on continuous display in The Gospel Story Bible.  (And includes child-friendly questions for discussion.) “Ideal as a storybook for your preschooler, a devotional for your grade school student, a refresher for the adult believer, or an introduction for the new one, The Gospel Story Bible is also a companion to Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God.” 

The Ology

“Many parents struggle to teach their children systematic theology, or even lead family devotions. The Ology will help you do both. Marty has made another significant contribution to biblically faithful, gospel-centered, creatively designed, accessible materials that help parents raise their kids not merely to know about God, but to have a relationship with him through Jesus Christ.”
Bob Kauflin, Director of Sovereign Grace Music

“Few tasks are of greater importance than the discipling of children. Christian parents and Sunday school teachers, committed to biblical fidelity, cannot neglect the tremendous task of teaching children the great truths of Scripture. Marty Machowski’s The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New is a wonderful new book that will equip parents for the task of discipleship and also help children immerse themselves in the Christian worldview.”
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Prayercast (free)

Not sure how to pray for the needs of the world? This is an incredible resource of 4-5 minute videos (from hundreds of places around the world), leading you in how to pray for them.

Spotify Playlists

Christ-centered worship

More Christ-centered worship

Hymns

For teaching kids Scripture and theology

Scripture Lullabies

Fear Not: A Playlist by Scripture Lullabies

And if you’re not done scrolling, you can check out my full resource page here.

Preschool and Kindergarten Resources

I wanted to send along some of our favorite books and music that I enjoyed with my son in his preschool years and now am enjoying with my daughters. If you don’t have a preschooler, maybe you know someone who would be blessed if you sent an Amazon package their way. . .

Jesus Storybook Bible (Ages 4 and up)

22 Christ-Centered Resources for Life and Family

Who is the true knight in shining armor in the stories in the Bible? Jesus!

Subtitled, “Every Story Whispers His Name,” the Bible stories show Jesus at the center of God’s redemption story and their story, too.

Plus, the pictures are beautiful, and there is even a Sunday School curriculum available.

Egermeier’s Bible Story Book (age 4 and up)

“Stories from the Old and New Testaments are told in chronological order, helping readers journey through a complete narrative of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Egermeier’s® Bible Story Book includes: 312 biblically accurate stories from the Old and New Testaments written in an engaging, easy-to-understand style with 122 vibrant, full-color illustrations.”

This is a great transition between using Bible storybooks geared towards preschool children and reading the stories straight from Scripture. 

Spotify Playlists

For teaching kids Scripture and theology

Scripture Lullabies

Fear Not: A Playlist by Scripture Lullabies

Lullabies Without Words

Instrumental Peace

Individual albums

22 Christ-Centered Resources for Life and Family

Rain For Roots

So many Bible story songs focus on the “heroes” of the Bible. These upbeat, folksy cds focus on God as the true Hero.

When Isaiah was a newborn, I found myself listening to these even when he was asleep.

The first cd uses the words to the Baby’s Hug-a-Bible as the lyrics.

Sovereign Grace Kids

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Christopher and I used these gospel-centered songs with our Sunday School kids.

Some of the songs have kids’ voices, and they are fun listening and easy singing.

Hidden In My Heart Scripture Lullabies 

22 Christ-Centered Resources for Life and Family

Using Scripture as the lyrics, these lullaby cds have brought such calmness to my soul in times of stress.

I listened to them quite a bit in the last 2 weeks before Isaiah was born.

There are also some gorgeous instrumental songs mixed in.

Be Held: Lullabies For the Beloved

Beautiful arrangements, and there is also an instrumental version of this CD.

Sing: Creation Songs

I love all of Ellie Holcomb’s albums, but this one geared towards kids has been greatly enjoyed by all of us.

Songs for Saplings (Free)

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“Our mission is to equip the Church worldwide with rich, Biblical music to help children learn their faith through song.” I can’t get these little songs out of my head, and am so excited for my children to grow up hearing (and memorizing) these Bible verses set to music. She also has a series of albums teaching the Catechism for Young People through song. 

Good-bye For Now

Thank you so much to those of you who prayed for me to recover from Covid back in April. Though the brain fog and fatigue hung on for months, the Lord has graciously restored my health. 

I’ve enjoyed doing this podcast so much the past 3 years, working with my son Isaiah (Finn) and getting to study and meditate on these stories from the Bible. 

As I look to the future, God has shown me that I need to focus my time on homeschooling two of my children this year and continue to be involved as a family at church, so I’ve had to make some difficult and painful decisions. 

For now, you won’t see new podcast episodes, but you will see activity on my website aliciayoder.com. I will plan to keep my recommended resource page updated, with suggestions for children, parents, and materials for discipleship and spiritual growth. You will also see certain podcast episodes or series highlighted, especially around holidays. So if you’re only subscribed to the podcast, be sure you subscribe to my site here: aliciayoder.com. 

There will still be some costs to host my website and to host the audio for past episodes so that they can be accessed through Spotify and iTunes, so if you’d like to support this work for a couple dollars a month, you can do so at https://www.patreon.com/aliciayoder

Lastly, thank you so much for being a parent or someone involved in working with children. It can feel exhausting, thankless, and discouraging when we aren’t able to see much fruit, but God sees and gives us grace in our efforts. We have so much hope because of Christ, who took the punishment for all our sins, credited us with His righteousness, and leads us moment by moment to God’s throne of grace and mercy. We are loving who Jesus loves as we compassionately and humbly train our children. So let’s keep going in Christ’s strength as we come to Him in each desperate need! 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Hoping for Restoration

Dear precious readers and listeners,

After coming down with Covid a few weeks ago, the Lord has chosen not to restore my strength and health yet. It has made me sad to take a break from writing and recording the podcasts, but I am hopeful He will allow me to continue when I am restored. His grace sustains and His purposes are good.

Episode 122: Jonah Flees from God

In this episode, we see how gracious, loving, tender, and kind God is toward those who repent and that we need God’s help to have that attitude toward others.

With your kids: Talk about what you could say to encourage your brother or sister this week when they choose what’s right.  

God’s Big Story Series

This is a series I put together a couple years ago, so I wanted to share it again in case you missed it.

We zoom through the Bible, paying attention to God’s plan of redemption, and all the times He keeps pursuing the people He created. (Plus, there are some cool drawings for your kids to check out!)

You can check out the series on Spotify, iTunes, or Google podcasts or listen here: