Sunday 2 April 2023

Joyful Home

Yesterday marked two years exactly since we moved from a tiny two bed semi in a large housing estate just outside Reading to a 4 bed house in a little village in the Forest of Dean. It's been an incredible journey full of surprises, not least finding out I was pregnant two weeks after moving! 

We had great plans for our new home when we moved in, and perhaps we might have done them if we hadn't had to deal with pregnancy and a new-born, plus two bouts of covid, one of which nearly finished my husband off. We have, for some reason, suffered a lot of health issues since we moved including being diagnosed as asthmatic and my husband suffering from long covid, which have also impeded our progress on transforming our new house into our forever home. 

I am incredibly thankful that we have this beautiful space to live in with plenty of rooms and a big garden, and although we haven't achieved as much as we thought we would have in two years, we have had some successes including painting five of the rooms, getting new double glazing fitted, removing our old fire place and hearth and getting a log burner fitted, fitting a shelving unit in the dining room and lifting the patio and laying it to lawn. But perhaps more important than all those we have found a wonderful community here in the forest, of neighbours, home educators and Christians who have really helped us to feel at home here even if our house isn't quite feeling as settled as we'd like.

However, I am now feeling like the time is right to really knuckle down to improving our house, because, although I am proud of our accomplishments we have definitely slowed our progress in recent months (winter has an tendency to do that to you).  But now spring is here, albeit a rather wet one and I am ready to tackle some new challenges.  Spring time brings renewal and for me, a desire to have a good spring clean, freshen things up and get a few more jobs ticked off our to-do list. For these reasons I felt that April would be a good month to start creating a joyful home.

You may remember that my word of the year this year is "Joyful". I spent January thinking, praying and reading to help me work out what having a joyful year meant to me.  February was focused on "Joyful Parenting" and March's focus was "Joyful Home school". Before I get down to the details of crafting a joyful home, I was to spend a bit of time on last month's "Joyful Home school" focus.

At the start of March I talked to you about how our home school was feeling very disheartening and I was feeling very discouraged.  This month I tried a few new things but  I must admit, a month doesn't feel like a very long time to make big changes in your life, and I'll be honest with you, I am still struggling to make our home school feel enjoyable.  But I know this is just a small part of a large picture, that each new day is a fresh start and that my goals don't end just because the month has, I can keep on working on crafting a joyful home school for years and years to come. 

One things that I did to try to make things more joyful was to say "yes" to more spontaneous and fun things. One of the days the boys had asked to go for a play in a particular playground, I agreed even though no formal work had been done that day.  When we were in the playground my eldest saw a man with a pack of fish and chips and asked if we could go and get some.  My initial response was to say no and come up with a list of excuses for why we couldn't get chips; too expensive, not just before lunch, we don't have time.  But I decided to say yes.  We drove to the chip shop then back to the playground and ate the chips on paper with little forks and sachets of ketchup in the car because it had started to rain.  Something so simple but the boys loved it and it turned an ordinary day into a memorable day.

Another day, after of what seemed like weeks of rain we were invited to a beautiful nature spot in the forest to hang out for a morning.  My initial though was that we couldn't, we had work to do and I didn't want to make a packed lunch.  But I decided to say yes and we ended up having a lovely time on one of the only sunny days that week. 

Maths and English hasn't felt like such a chore this month either for some reason, the boys have been much more willing to sit down and get it done.  I wonder if this might be because I have worked with them individually rather than trying to do it altogether at the table and I have let my eldest do his work up in his room. 

Our topic of Australia has also felt good.  We were getting a big bogged down with the history so I decided to switch things up (inspired by some things I had seen on Pinterest (if your ever struggling for ideas to spice up your home school Pinterest is a really great place to go for ideas.)) and create a sort of 3D relief model of the topography of the Island, it was fun once we got started and the outcome ended up looking amazing and the boys were really proud.  I need to remember that I can be flexible in our approach to a topic and that it doesn't need to be studied in a strict, orderly way, it's ok to jump around from idea to idea to build up a picture of the place. 

I read a little book called "Joyful home school" (it was certainly appropriately titled) which gave me a few ideas about how changing my own mindset might make our home school life more joyful.  Gratitude, positive thinking and descriptive praise were all key features, things I already know really but need reminding of.  I have often had rather sceptical, negative thoughts about the power of positive visualisation and thinking, and gratitude, not without good reason but because it does not always align with the teachings of Christianity, and it can become an idol whereby we rely on our own ability to think positively, visualise positively and verbalise our gratitude to make good things happen and stop relying on God.  However the Bible does also affirm that thinking good thoughts, and gratitude can help you have positive outcomes: 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Those verses from Philippians have been such an encouragement to me this year and as I said at the start of this year, they remind me that the important thing to remember about joyfulness is that it is a choice and that it comes from Christ Jesus. Any positivity or gratitude, although it might make things feel better are ultimately meaningless unless I rely on the Lord for my strength and place all my desires in his hands. I have to remind myself time and again that it is ultimately God's will that I should be seeking.  

And so as I begin a new focus for the month of April, the most important thing is to remember that all my hopes and prayers must be asked in Jesus name and for it to be God's will. 

So, all that being said.  I now look to a month of April and how I will create a "Joyful Home". At the moment our home does not feel very joyful.  Mainly because it is a big mess but also because of the unfinished look of the place and the fact we are missing some items that would help it be less messy for example shelves where there are none, toilet roll holders and towel rings, and hooks.  I never realised how much I use and enjoy hooks until I had none! We also need to add some finishing touches that would help our home feel more homely like pictures and art to put on the wall and boxes that remain sadly unpacked. 

Those are the physical aspects that would help our home feel more joyful but there are other areas that need work too.  Our daily, weekly and monthly rhythms  for example, making set times for doing certain things that bring joy and togetherness.  A lot of my good ideas, habits and intentions have either remained just that or have fallen by the wayside because they felt too much like hard work compared to just letting the boys watch TV. This obviously needs to change.  I need to pull my finger out and start being more intentional with my routines and rituals, to take the harder but ultimately more rewarding choices. 

I am thankful that this month includes the Easter holidays because that means I can crack on with house jobs and feel less guilty about having a break from formal lessons. The boys can play and I can work on crafting a beautiful and creative home for my family.


I will be revisiting Sally Clarkson's book Lifegiving home to remind me of what is important and that it's not about spending a lot of money, but creating a loving and nurturing atmosphere that makes a joyful home and I will be taking with me the words of advice from "Joyful Homeschool" about positive thinking, gratitude and the other excellent points made which remind me that joy is not just about what we do but a mindset.  I will inevitably buy another book or two to help me on this journey and I will show you the results next month.  Hopefully I'll not only have visual changes to share with your but also atmospheric changes which reflect an injection of joyfulness into our home.