Wild + Free Homeschool Conference

“All good things are wild and free.”

Henry David Thoreau


The first thought that came to my mind upon arriving at the Wild + Free Homeschool Conference in Virginia Beach hosted at the beautiful Founder's Inn was:

This ain't your mama's homeschool conference.

And I should know, because I went with my mama to quite a few of them growing up. Let me tell you, this conference had some hip mamas. No jean skirts were in sight for as far as the eye could see!

In some ways, the conference was a bit strange as far as homeschooling conferences go. It was billed as a homeschooling conference, but not all the women who attended or spoke homeschooled their kids--some had their children attending public or private schools. The speakers and audience were made up of a mix of Christians, hippie mamas, environmentalists, bloggers, and women who not only homeschool but are also writers, photographers, and run their own creative businesses. I loved the eclectic mix! But there one thing we all had in common: intentional motherhood.

I don't talk much about homeschooling in this space but allow me to do so for a moment. I homeschool because I love it. As a homeschooled student I found this educational style very valuable, especially when I entered college and the work force. I realize it is not for everyone and have no wish to proselytize but allow me to gush for a moment: I love love love homeschooling! I love the planning, the teaching, the lifestyle, the everyday learning. I don't do it because of my faith. I don't do it out of fear of the public school system. I do it because I love it and as a student it allowed me to excel and I hope it will do the same for my kids.

Now, back to the conference. Friday evening was kicked off with the music of The Last Bison, which I really enjoyed. They reminded me of Nickel Creek. Kinda folk rock, so check them out if you like that kind of thing.


Naomi Gal gave a stirring testimony about battling depression and hopelessness, her main point being that joy gives strength. She discussed joy stealers, like failure, comparison, jealousy, and perfectionism, which are struggles that often haunt women.

Saturday morning, after an amazing breakfast (the food was good--I mean good, people!) Kelsey Koslowski spoke on "Saving Sisterhood" with the main point that comparison is a poison to community. Then Kirsten Rickert, an artist, writer, and environmentalist, spoke next. I appreciated her life story and talking to her later in the day with a small group of other ladies about her homeschooling methods. Check out her blog. Her photography and posts are beautiful.

Bethany Douglass of Cloistered Away spoke about intention. One of my favorite take-aways from her talk was "Don't be motivated by what you don't want your kids to be. Turn it into a positive of what you do want your kids to be."

Next, Tiffany Gray of The Gray Gang hit it out of the park. I scribbled two pages of notes from her talk because it was just so stinkin' great. Granted, she was talking about something that is something of a hobby horse of mine: margin. Several years ago Josh and I read the book, Margin, which along with the Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talkinginfluenced some major shifts in our lives. Tiffany used the book Margin as the basis of her message on motherhood margin. She defined margin as "the space between ourself and our limits." She discussed the need for margin in our lives as mothers so that we can be emotionally available to our children.


Two breakout sessions came next. I wanted to attend them both, but went with Stephanie Beaty's The Well Balanced Mama talk. Ironically, I realized I already knew who she was, but by the name Lifeographer. As someone in the photography world I new of her photography work as well as her writing over at The Creative Mama. Stephanie's talk was fabulous and centered on the fact that "balance is infeasible, but peace is achievable."

That afternoon there was substantial free time before a lovely evening dinner party in the garden. Once again there was delicious food, conversation, wine, and laughter. We got to meet and talk with Terri Woods, who was the final speaker the following morning. It was a delight to pick her brain, as she has 16 years of homeschooling experience. Her talk centered more specifically on homeschooling than the pervious speakers and she shared some of her "homeschooling tenants" for a lifestyle of learning.


Overall, the weekend was a delight. A road trip with good friends, great food I didn't have to cook, encouraging speakers, and meeting new and inspiring women. Granted, I didn't get much sleep, but that's okay. :)

One of the lovely ladies I met during free time was Melissa Lyon West. Her contribution to the swag bag was this lovely hand-lettered print. If you're interested in purchasing one for yourself, you can do so here.

I think it's message is a great way to remember my time at the Wild + Free conference.


Devotions for Home or On the Go


It’s that time of year: school has started, fall sports are in full swing, and after-school activities fill the calendar. With such a flurry of activity, family devotions can easily fall by the wayside. Or perhaps family devotions has been something you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t known how to implement.

For the Family has already given us practical encouragement on how to start family devotions. But sometimes, we as parents need some practical resources that allow the redemptive story of the Bible to capture the hearts of our children. And some of these tools can even be enjoyed on the go in the midst of a busy school-time schedule.

To keep reading, click on over to For the Family . . . 

Ten Books that Changed Me

My friend Krista tagged me on Facebook to list ten books that have stayed with me or changed me in some way. Ironically, before this whole Facebook fad started, I'd been working on a blog post on this very topic. For like a year! Being tagged made me finally get it together to finish this list. Take a look and please share in the comments: What book has stuck with you over time? I'd love to know so I can get some new titles for inspiring and thought-provoking reads! merechristianity

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

This book had me really thinking through Christianity. It also made me realize that Christianity can be rationally defended and one doesn't even need the Bible to do so. That a thinking person can have faith, yet not base their belief on Christianity on faith alone, but rational thought. Although it contains dated illustrations at some points, it's a classic for any person thinking through religion and the reality of Christ.


A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament by Michael Card

I have a whole post on this book. Read it and you'll know why it helped change me from a stoic to someone who wasn't afraid of lament.


Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L'Engle

What is the relationship between art and faith? Is there such a thing as "Christian" art? I've read this book again and again and find L'Engle's thoughtful essays on this topic so helpful and provoking. A must-read for anyone interested in the arts who is also a Christian.


The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller

I highlighted this book to death. Read my full review here.


Terrify No More by Gary A. Haugen

I didn't know that modern slavery existed until I read this book back in 2006. Boy, were my eyes opened. Terrify No More follows two stories of slavery and International Justice Mission's efforts to eradicate slavery through the local laws of whatever land their humanitarian work happens to be in. You can read my full review here.


Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."  With these words begins the chilling tale that made a modern gothic classic. I've read the novel numerous times and it never ceases to disappoint. From the foreboding that building like thickening mist, to the fact the main character is nameless, to the fabulous way du Maurier so memorably opens and closes her book in a way that the beginning only makes sense after you've read the end, Rebecca will haunt you after the last pages are closed.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" is the famous line that begins Tolstoy's epic. It took me a long time to invest in reading Anna Karenina. Why did I want to read about a woman who has an affair and then kills herself?! Sounded like a downer to me. When I expressed this sentamint to the friends who recommended the book, they said, "No, that's not what it's really about at all!"

Now I get it. Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina as a response and challenge to the radical intelligentsia of his day who were attacking the idea of family in favor of sexual freedom and communal living. The couples in the novel all can be viewed as critiques of culture, and Tolstoy makes some very pointed ones that are still relevant today. But besides the cultural critique, the novel's other main theme deals with the existence of God and the fear of death. The two main characters, Anna and Levin, both fear death intensely and come to opposite conclusions on how to deal with this fear in the end. One of my favorite and most thought-provoking novels of all time.


Middlemarch by George Eliot

Dorothea Brooke Casaubon and Dr. Lydgate are both idealists looking to live out their idealism in their own unique ways. When the dreams of idealism are swept away, mainly due to poor marriage choices on both their parts, how will both these characters cope? A Victorian classic for a reason, Eliot's portrait of a provincial town and its characters shows such depth of insight.

The Maytrees

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard

I can't say this is my favorite novel, but the writing was stunning. I opened up a whole new way to think about writing to me. It took me a while to get into the swing of Dillard's style. That she tells stories through metaphors more than narrative. But it was exquisite, more like a poem than prose. The story too, was an unconventional love story that centers on forgiveness and the complexity of one couple's marriage. My review of the book can be found here.


The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I went back and forth as to whether include this series, but the truth is, few books written in recent years have sparked so much thought on my part. I originally wrote about the series here. There was so much I loved about these books such as the influence of the ancient myth Theseus and the Minotaur being the original inspiration for the games. The critique of our modern reality TV culture. How the "good guys" rebelling against a dystopian government aren't really good either. How she destroys the glamorization of what we've come to expect from a hero or heroine and instead of triumph gives us the reality of war on the human body and mind: a heroine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

What book or books have your read that has changed you? 

Image Credit for all images: Amazon.com

From Striving to Abiding

strivingabiding I like to make lists.

I like grocery lists, reading lists, to-do lists, and Christmas lists. I like to make lists of goals for the New Year. I like to accomplish things and cross them off my list with the thick and final swoosh of an ink pen.

Yes, I am first born in my family’s sibling line-up, how did you guess? And yes, I do have a Type-A personality. But such an approach does not bode well for my spiritual life.

For many years I made the same types of lists for my spiritual growth: read the Bible in a year, memorize a certain amount of scripture, read Mere Christianity, pray more.

And every year, I generally failed. Well, I did read the Bible in a year once. But typically I’d start out praying consistently for a week before forgetting. I’d memorize scripture for about a month before losing momentum.

Nothing is wrong with these types of goals in and of themselves. Actually, they can be conduits of knowing God better, but not always and not necessarily. Sometimes it depends on why I’m doing them. Am I reading the Bible to know God more, or to just fly through four chapters a day to check it off my list with a flourish?

It’s taken a while for me to realize sometimes I need to stop striving and start abiding.

To keep reading continue to Ungrind . . . 

Drum Circle

2014-09-01_001 Back in June we went to Avon, NC to celebrate my best friend's wedding. It was a beautiful beach wedding that was special in so many ways. Besides the highlight of being part of this intimate celebration, two favorite memories were visiting the Hatteras Lighthouse and being part of a drum circle. The Cape Hatteras Light Station is the tallest light station in the United States, so of course we had to climb it and take pictures from the top! Most interesting, however, was learning about the incredible move of the lighthouse due to shore erosion. Amazingly, they moved the entire structure without taking much of it apart! 2014-09-01_002 The second cool experience was being part of a drum circle. After the rehearsal dinner, we went out onto the beach for a bonfire and some drumming. There also was a fire dancer who danced with "fire fingers" and "fire fans." Not being much of a drummer, I mostly sat back, watched and took pictures. Although I did try my hand drumming once. The following are some of the images I captured of our rhythmic evening. 2014-09-01_0032014-09-01_0042014-09-01_005 2014-09-01_007 2014-09-01_006