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New Education? Is there yet another form of cramming useless information into student’s heads? No.

This is simply new to me. My old education was to study for tests, learn to spell the words, walk in a line, and get the grade — all of which are good things. But they aren’t great things. And I want greatness for myself, for my children, for my community.

I’m not bashing schools here, but once a family has seen the power of good homeschooling, public or even private schools can’t compete. But therein lies the challenge: implementing a homeschooling plan to have that sustaining power for excellence.

It’s up to me to find that power, to meet that challenge, and then to instill a desire in my children to join me on this journey of self-education.

That is the new education: Self-Education.

I’m certain that when a person reads that term — Self-Education — a variety of definitions surface. For me and mine, it means reading as much as possible. It means associating with people who are doing the same (not easy to find, by the way). Self-Education means having clear goals of where I want to go and then making a map backward to where I am. My task at that point is simple — follow the map.

I don’t remember where I read it, but someone who has already reached the heights of Self-Education asked several poignant questions:

When did your formal education stop?

Was it at your high school graduation? College Graduation?

Do you continue to study your career, your hobby, people skills?

Or did you stop learning when you completed your formal education?

I was a embarrassed. While I was a Language Arts teacher for four short years, I had pretty much stopped learning. I read the books my students read, prepared lesson plans, and made it to the end of each school day. I didn’t do much of anything to enhance my own education. I read all about what to expect when I was expecting, but to be honest, I looked at the pictures and read a few paragraphs each week. I never read a book on parenting when my daughters were little. When I started writing, I did just that…just started writing. It wasn’t until I hit a wall with my story (which was a ridiculous story!) that I finally admitted that I didn’t know everything and turned to the experts.

As we launched our homeschooling adventure, I read the books my children read. I didn’t do any in-depth research on curriculum because I had already taught school, had two degrees in education, and experience. With that mindset, we began homeschooling and my self-education truly began.

I realized how little I knew and how much I had learned that wasn’t true in a homeschooling environment (i.e. classroom management is a semester-long class to help teachers deal with transitions, discipline, and herding children through the school and throughout the day without losing anyone).

What I slowly realized was that, as a homeschooling parent, I needed lesson plans that included what was for lunch and dinner. The first vocabulary and spelling lists I made for my new readers were grocery lists. We sorted laundry by color. Then we counted how many items of clothing would fit in the wash machine. That’s math, right? We read books all the time. I lost my voice so often in those first years of homeschooling from all the reading aloud!

My old education didn’t prepare me for adulthood. There was a point in my early thirties when I realized that most of my big days (graduation, births of children, great accomplishments) were likely behind me. There was nothing to strive for, no brass ring in my grasp. I was on a merry-go-round and I wanted off.

Seeking wisdom, I turned to books. Novels. Through the stories, I enjoyed the vicarious quest and felt a little fulfillment, but that invigorating thrill of adventure ended at the last page. I knew I needed something more. My husband and I made five- and ten-year goals and started working toward them. Twelve years later, we have accomplished everything on those lists. It was time for something new.

My answer: Self-Education. I would study. I would read difficult books. I would apply the principles of valid self-help books (I hate that term, but by using it, you know what I mean) and see if I could mentor my children through high school.

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The kid’s bookshelf. They have read far more than I have.

Before starting, I knew that I would need some kind of a report card or score board to track my progress, to keep me accountable, to start to recognize a pattern in my reading. I didn’t do anything fancy. Just bought a new journal to write a response to everything I read. Each month, I make a list of 4-5 books that I plan on reading. Usually, I will include a book about education, a people-skills book, a book about writing, a book that has been recommended to me by a friend, and a novel. I save the novel for last. If I don’t read the first four books before the end of the month, I don’t allow myself to read the novel. If, by the end of the month I’ve read all the books, I give myself the freedom to read another novel.

I’ve been actively working through this self-education project for over a year – June 1st 2015 was my first anniversary. I am a better wife (The Five Love Languages) and a better parent (Personality Plus). World history is connecting the dots in my head as to where our country was and where it seems to be heading (1776, The Constitution of the United States, The Federalist Papers, the writings of Ben Franklin and Mark Twain). I’m a better friend, daughter, and sister because I’m learning about people and how to more effectively communicate. I learned the most in that area from the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book I think is poorly named. I avoided reading it for years because I don’t want to win friends, I want to be a good friend. I don’t want to influence people, I hope to inspire them. So, if you, like me, judged that book based on the title, don’t. It should really be titled: How to be a Friend and a Champion for Others.

My mentors in this project have encouraged me beautifully, telling me that they see huge improvements in a variety of areas. But I haven’t been told that by people who I knew before I started. I’m not seeking approval, but finding joy in the fact that any truly remarkable changes that I can make in and for myself all have to start within. Eventually, when I’ve done the work consistently and over time, the results will start to be obvious.

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When I first started thinking about homeschooling my oldest daughter, she was four, the middle child was two, and my youngest was not quite one. My days were filled with three little girls dressed in pink fluff, dancing to music, messing up my clean floors, and taking naps all over the place when they reached the end of their energy. We entertained the idea of homeschooling not because the school district we live in was struggling, but because I really love being a stay-at-home mom and I wasn’t ready to send my daughter to full-day kindergarten.

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That’s it. Plain and simple, we homeschool because I was selfish. I didn’t (and still don’t) want someone else to have the privilege of enjoying educating my children. (Note: this does not mean that I look down on parents who utilize the public or private school systems! I know that every parent does what is best for their family.)

Our first year of homeschooling was a trial run. I used desks at first because that’s what I knew from my career as a school teacher. I slowly realized that learning at home rarely happens at a desk. Real education — the character development, faith formation, and samplings of all that is truly important — happened in giant piles of children on my lap as I read stories, as I read from recipes and followed directions (or not), and as I kept my cool (or not) in stressful moments that are natural when your children are with you ALL DAY. My children have seen my best days and my worst days. I’ve seen theirs. And there is still much love between us.

But we have a new challenge. He is adorable and energetic and infatuated with all things tractor and truck related. He’s the only boy and the youngest by seven years.

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He doesn’t have to share my lap with any other siblings. I have to purposefully set aside time for him. It’s too easy for me to be swept up in the busy-ness of having three high school and junior high students. The clutter of a preschooler, the hands-on learning that I know he’ll need in kindergarten have been put away for years. As I’m unpacking them, I’m realizing that he learns very differently from my daughters. I’m in for the challenge of a lifetime!

For the past few months, I’ve felt pulled in two different directions: Studying Homer with the girls vs. teaching the boy how to read; moving the girls to advanced music classes vs. taking away wooden spoons from my son who drummed on the wooden furniture; trying to further my own education with classical literature and leadership development books vs. reading about giving pigs pancakes and Green Eggs and Ham.

It’s time to re-think my homeschooling.

Not that I’m going to give it up or send him to school. This is my chance to learn more about him, to discover new things about me. I wouldn’t let that opportunity pass me by for anything! (I’m going to repeat that again and again to myself on difficult days!)

Here’s my plan to bridge the gap between my children’s academic levels:

First, feel assured in the fact that I haven’t neglected my children’s education. Going back to my mission statement for homeschooling, I know that ‘education’ is pretty low on the list. The order of importance looks like this: faith formation, character development, family (household and farm chores, annual traditions and practicing effective communication), learning to love reading, music, and then the more formal aspect of education.

Second, I need to be more prepared to help my son learn according to his strengths. He’s all boy – meaning that he’s busy, loves all things with wheels and motors, enjoys cuddles, and thinks more clearly when he’s making noise. As such, I will need to teach him while he moves. Small motor skills are a little lacking and he isn’t reading yet, but the interest is there. My job is to not destroy that interest.

Several years ago I went to a seminar given by Andrew Pudua of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. He listed the different ways boys and girls learn and suggested that schools with gender separate classrooms were showing amazing academic results. At the time, my son was only an infant, but as he nears kindergarten, I am beginning to experience those differences. I still have a bit of learning to do on the subject, but here’s my plan so far. I will post updates and changes to the plan as I learn 🙂

Things he can do while I’m working with the girls:

Sensory Bins

We are putting together more sensory bins which are available for him to purposefully play with during the times I’m working with older children.

Rice, beans, tiny toys. Cheapest and most popular toys ever!

rice, beans, tiny toys. Cheapest and most popular toys ever!

Rice and beans

Shaving cream on a tray

Pattern Blocks

Salt tray and Letters

Threading beads on yarn – randomly first to master the small motor skills, then adding patterns to follow

Play-dough – Making it together and working on small motor skills. I love this the best. It’s time in the kitchen, working on a recipe together, seeing the ingredients that are mixed together to make something new. Then, we practice those small motor skills that are so often late in developing in boys, and make shapes and letters and action figures.

We also have tried all the easy recipes on Pinterest for different types of texture dough. Our favorite is mixing equal parts of shaving cream and corn starch. It’s slick and easy to clean up. I would recommend buying a non-scented shaving cream if possible. Our house smelled like a cologne store for hours.

Legos – That’s right. Legos. Who doesn’t want to play with them? Great for small motor development, creative 3-D building and can be used to make mazes (with a marble), to sort colors and sizes, and will eventually be used to teach fractions.

 

Things he can do with one of the girls while the other two are working:

Cutting and Pasting

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The girls help the boy with a craft each day. We each take a turn prepping and helping him follow the directions. This has turned out better than I expected. His fine motor skills are improving, he is sitting (or sometimes standing at the table) for longer periods of time as his attention is stretching longer. The girls are also finding opportunities to practice patience. It’s a win-win!

Obstacle course:

For the active days, I set up our rebounder and put tape on the floor to create an obstacle course. He builds it with me and then runs, jumps and rolls all over the place. This doesn’t create a very quiet atmosphere for us, but these are his favorite days!

We’ve also made the masking tape obstacle courses in the shape of his name. He drives his smaller tractors all over it as we work at the table on Bible readings, Science or Writing. I don’t know why I was surprised, but after he played with that tape for a day, he no longer wrote the letters of his name backwards.

Things we can do just because:

Park Trips

When the girls were younger, we spent one summer exploring our state’s playgrounds and state parks. Each week we packed a picnic lunch, traveled to a different park and explored. If there was a geo-cache nearby, we did that. We took pictures (what child doesn’t love to take pictures?) and rated the playground on a scale of 1 – 10 based on the quality of the playground, the proximity and cleanliness of the bathrooms, and the dirt. Remember, I have girls. If a playground was too dirty, it didn’t score well. They preferred woodchips, shredded rubber, and pea stones.

Summer Reading Program:

As always, I have a goal for the summer for all my children. We usually make these goals together, but my son seems to balk at the idea of planning something out. They only thing he plans on doing everyday is riding the lawn mower with me. The rainy days are almost unbearable for us all!

The girls will make a list of books to read:

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They are too old to participate in the libraries summer reading program, so we make up our own.

To motivate my son to participate in the Summer Reading Program with us, I’ll make a chart of books to read with different siblings and my husband and I.

The teeter-totter of homeschooling such vast ages doesn’t have to be a wrist-breaking, butt-dropping experience. There are rules for playing nicely on the teeter-totter just like there are rules to follow to meet the goals of a successful year of homeschooling.

In all of this, there is also time for me to read and write. That’s really the beauty of it – mom is happy, too!

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Quite often in my readings I find quotes used to punch a point home. But sometimes, if I just look at the quote in terms of my own situation, it raises more questions than answers. But, I suppose that is the point, right? That if I just take the quote at face value, I’m missing the deeper potential.

Here are three quotes I found in the book, Ladder: Climbing Out of a Slump, published by Obstacles Press

“When you come to the edge of all that you know,

you must believe one of who things:

either there will be ground to stand on,

or you will be given wings to fly.”

-O.R. Melling, The Summer King

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What do I know?

What is the edge of my knowledge?

Is the obstacle to more knowledge a small creek blocking my way, or do I need to build a bridge to reach the other side?

What kinds of knowledge keeps my feet on the ground? How can I grow the wings to fly?

”It possesses possibilities–both towards danger and success.”

-Winston Churchill

 stop and ask for directions

What possesses possibilities? Ideas? Actions? Lack of one or the other? Or both?

Is danger different from success, or is it just that a danger needs to be overcome in order to reach success?

Can danger and success co-exist or should they be mutually exclusive?

“Wash on Monday,

Iron on Tuesday,

Mend on Wednesday,

Churn on Thursday.

Clean on Friday,

Bake on Saturday,

Rest on Sunday.”

-Laura Ingalls Wilder,

Little House in the Big Woods

 

What happened to this simplicity? Was it radio, T.V. or public schooling that took this away?

When was the last time I mended my clothing?

Churning? I know she’s churning milk into butter on Thursdays. When I read churning, I feel the churning of nerves, expectations, and hopes in my stomach. It’s not always pleasant.

Rest on Sunday? Yes, please.

How different would the world be if we all rested, truly rested on Sunday? No restaurants, no shopping, no going into work. Instead, if we gathered with friends and family to share our skills and talents, to prepare a meal together, and talk, laugh and cry together. Yeah. What would that world look like?

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There are more questions than answers in the world. All I need to remember is to ask the right questions.

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The winter doldrums usually never visit the Schaub household. With four children participating in homeschooling events and a house lined with books, there is rarely a dull moment. But, alas! The doldrums came knocking this year. It wasn’t during the winter, but the early Spring just as Mother Nature teased me with two days of warmth and sun which she nestled into the bosom of a month of cold and rainy days.

In those two days, I gardened until I had to chip the dirt from under my fingernails. My arms were slightly red, my eyes were dry from the intensity of the sun, and my back ached from tilling the soil. Overall, I felt alive.

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When Michigan’s April spring temperatures returned, the weather forced me back inside. The tasks that a mother needs to attend to cluttered my day; meal planning, actually making those planned meals, laundry, homeschooling and the endless list of trivial to-do’s.

As that to-do list grew longer every day, I noticed that my drive to cross things off that list was waning. I had entered a slump. A swampy-low dump. Not a happy place to be.

“When you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.

Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

-Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I needed a little inspiration, a bucket of motivation, and a reward at the end.

My inspiration? To model the behaviors of dedication to my children. To inspire others to read more, learn more, to find positive associations that will build their lives toward love of God.

My Motivation?

Wait…how is that different from inspiration?

Inspiration is the fuel that drives me.

Motivation is the destination to which I’m driving.

I needed to remember that my motivation is to live a life steeped in the riches of God’s love and passion. My husband and I are the two major players and driving forces in our family. While we aren’t perfect and our children certainly know that, we are expected to live well, learn as we go, and do our best to not repeat mistakes. If we can work our way toward establishing an ever-developing strength in our marriage, that will carry over to our children and their perception of live, love and faith.

My reward?

Before I can select a reward, I need to measure the rate of my success. Yes, I’m a Type A, Dominant Personality, a Choleric-Melancholy, for those of you familiar with personality types. My children tease me about the amount of notes, charts, and the depth of detail I go into in our family life, lesson planning, writing (plot organization) and budgeting. But, heck! It works 🙂

What is success for me? Well, I have a goal for this year that will lead me to my 5- and 10-year goals. To reach that annual goal, I have an ongoing list of books to read and write, articles to explore for this blog, people to learn from (including my children). There are places to visit, experiences to have, and communities to participate in.

With my 10- and 5-year goals charted, I wrote down what I could do this year to make that possible. Every month I revise my “This Year” list to bring me closer to my 2020 goals. I also reserve the right to change those goals for 2020 and 2025, but only in an upward direction. If I find that I’ve underestimated how many books I can sell each month, I will raise that goal, but I will not lower it.

Getting back to the reward…each month I set down a list of to-do items. The typical list includes:

  • listening to 2-3 inspirational and informational audio recordings each day, which can accomplish as I drive my children to their activities, while I cook, fold laundry, or walk.
  • Reading 3 books on personal development (see my current reading list here) and 1-2 novels in the genre I write.
  • Write a blog post each week
  • Make an actual dinner (pre-planned, prepared and enjoyed) at least 3 times a week. That might sound like a low goal. I do have four children who do eat dinner seven times a week. They also eat breakfast, lunch, and two snacks a day–all at home. Three of them are old enough to prepare meals on their own, so I have them do that. You can call it Home Economics. I call it ‘time to write’.
  • And because I need to stay healthy, I set an exercise goal for each month. In warmer months, I’ll set a walking/jogging mileage goal. In the winter, I set out a stack of 4-5 exercise DVDs on Sunday night and do them all by Saturday morning.

If I can put a check mark next to each of these goals, then I know I have earned my reward. Sometimes it’s a Saturday morning specialty coffee from an upscale coffee shop. Sometimes I will take an entire day or, if possible, an overnight mini-vacation to a local retreat center and just relax, read and write. This month, the reward is a trip to Barnes and Noble where I will spend all the gift cards I received for Christmas.

A friend of mine laughed when I told her what my reward was for this month. “You already have the gift cards, just go and spend them!”

But I didn’t earn those cards. If I gain something, I want it to be because I’ve done the work and have earned it. It means more.

I encourage you to do the same. My mentor inspired me to try this reward system, using the idea of delaying gratification from the simple, easy-to-buy things until I had completed the work toward a dream. By adding this reward process to my life, my dreams of becoming a writer, author, and public speaker aren’t just pie-in-the-sky wishes, but realities. If there was ever anything you want, make a plan and implement it. At all costs, make it happen. There will be hard work and set-backs, but there will be no regrets. If you work long enough and hard enough, every dream can be reached.

This post was inspired by the book: Ladder, Climbing out of a Slump published by Obstacles Press.

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One of the highlights of homeschooling are the discussions I have with my children in the mornings. Our mornings are not a rush and flurry of breakfast, dressing and scrambling out the door. (note: I’m not saying that every family does that…just that ours would!) Instead, we have breakfast, clean-up and get to the dining room table by 8:30 every morning to do table time–our term for what happens at the table during that time. I know. I’m impressing you with our skill in naming events and habits.

It was at table time this week that a question came up in our faith studies that lead to an interesting discussion about plans for life, goals on how to achieve them and what’s needed to make it all come together.

Despite all my teaching (more thoughts on the ineffectiveness of teaching coming soon) and previous discussions about the importance of having one’s priorities in line, my children didn’t have it figured out yet. When I asked them what was the most important thing in life, they said, “God!” Score one for them.

Next question: If all your goals and dreams, your life’s accomplishments and relationships were to look like a pyramid, where would God be?

Their answer: At the top!

Wrong.

They argued for a moment, but watched as I drew this:

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Question: What’s the problem with putting God at the top? If you put Him there, there is nothing to hold Him up. That’s not to suggest that God needs us to hold him up, but if we are placing Him first, how does He stay up there while we are building our pyramid?

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Instead, make God and your faith formation the foundation. Build that foundation large and thick and sturdy. Prepare that foundation for earthquakes, hail storms, torrential rains and tornados. Keep the seams of the bricks strong with mortar. Check those seams often for leaks and patch them quickly. Inspect that foundation often for cracked bricks and holes that let in the elements.

Working up from that foundation, we can seek and find a thousand different answers as to what should be second, third, and fourth on the levels. My mentors, the people I trust most have encouraged me to focus on the following: First: God. Second: my personal education toward a greater understanding of my purpose. Third: my vocation (Marriage or Holy Orders). Fourth: my family. Fifth: myself (the quiet time to read and write I crave).

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I’m sure there is something in this list you will disagree with. I certainly did when I first heard this and my children were not sure about it either. But when asked to place their priorities on a pyramid with the foundation being the most important, it’s interesting to note that every person has taken TIME to think about it.

That’s the key. Take the time to think about your priorities. Write them down. Then follow them!

My husband and I used this as the foundation for our family meeting last night. It was a powerful conversation that will ultimately direct the family’s activities over the next few months and was formulated on the idea of the pyramid. If, as a family, we are not working toward the same goal, then we are pulling apart at the seams. This doesn’t mean that we must all have the same interests or must all do the same things, but everything we do individually must work for the Schaub Mob (our nickname).

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We, as a family, have a need to work together on a common goal. Using the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, the word “Compassion” came up several times. We decided that as a family, we need to practice showing compassion to each other, participating in activities that promote compassion, and carefully considering which activities will help us respond with passion.

Going back to the pyramid again, we are each building our own structure, but have agreed to strive to set the capstone of ‘compassion’ on the top. We discussed how this looks in daily living and with friends and other family members – striving to be leaders who have a plan of where they are going and how to get there. Compassion as the mission for our family will also guide our decisions in which and how many extracurricular activities we do. We don’t have it all figured out yet, but our goal is clear.

I share this with you because it has become an American tradition to go through life without a goal, without a plan and with no mission. As a result, our society has become complacent, lifeless and even in some circumstances, backwards. This is the first generation in which the children are less education than their parents (resource). If you think that you or your family falls into this category, join us in digging our way out of that. Start by laying a strong foundation on faith in God. Look to your family to help you build the next few levels. Choose a mission, a goal for yourself and your family. Build something great together.

While the Pharaohs built their pyramids out of pride, ours are built in order to create a legacy of faith-filled learners, self-educators and leaders. Who knows, your legacy might be a structure that lasts thousands of years and guides stray wanderers over miles of barren desert.

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The sequel to Gateways is finally here! To celebrate this release, I’m answering some of the more common questions readers ask.

front cover Elder's Circle

What is your book about?

Picking up right where Gateways, Book I of The Elemental Chronicles left off, Victoria believes that she’ll be home tomorrow. After all, she defeated Ona, the mage who killed her father, and essentially saved the world. Or did she? Ona may be gone, but her followers are not. While they try to track her down, trouble brews in the Sphinx City where Elder Parnassus has been stripped of his elder-ship and the political atmosphere is tense, made worse by rivers turning to blood, fly infestations, and a plague of frogs that defile the city. Parnassus knows that the Mage Societies most valued possession – Faith – is at risk. But without Victoria to help, his hands…um, paws are tied.

Who would enjoy this book?

I wrote this for young adults, but students from sixth grade and up will enjoy it. It’s a fantasy, so obviously if you prefer a realistic story, this might be a stretch. The Elder’s Circle continues the adventure that Victoria Nike has found herself in–this episode takes her to other terraces and introduces more of the backstory that was hinted at in Gateways.

“The Chronicles inhabit a very rich and detailed universe filled with beautiful and poetic writing. With echoes of The Hunger Games and more fairytale-like stories such as The Magic Brush, the books weave Christian fiction ideals with adventure and magic for young adults.”  – Cate Baum, Self-Publishing Review

From where did the idea of this story come?

I always appreciate this question. It tells me that people are aware that the stories are not only crafted, but searched for, found, given inspiration, then fine-tuned. I especially appreciate it when students ask this question. I can always identify the budding writers in the group based on this question.

In answer, the idea for the first book in The Elemental Chronicles, Gateways, came to me when I was nine.  I had a dream that I found a secret city hidden between the walls of our house. It was such a detailed dream that it consumed my thoughts for weeks. That led to my fascination with miniatures–little doll houses, tiny reading nooks, even miniature books. The idea that there could be a different reality hidden in plain sight stayed with me. Gateways Mockup

Fast forward a good many years…I read Philip Pulman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials. I was appalled to discover that he wrote those books with the express purpose of turning today’s youth away from God. As an acclaimed Atheist, he saw it as his duty to pull as many teens as possible away from the goodness of God, the teachings of faith and morality, and leave them with the idea that God is dead and we must become our own gods. That seems to be a growing belief in our society, but it leads to the total destruction of our world. That’s a strong opinion, I know. But I firmly believe that there is a right and a wrong and I go to my faith when I question a choice or need to make a decision.

I was shocked to learn that someone would want to turn people away from Truth, that I decided to do the same…if Pulman’s books were designed to draw young minds away from God, then my writing would bring them back. Without preaching, but with the promise of God and His eternal plan for our happiness, I am writing The Elemental Chronicles. The Elder’s Circle is the second installment in that series. A third book is coming.

You haven’t written on this blog much lately. What’s up with that?

You noticed that, huh? Much has happened in the last seven months. My husband and I have moved our four children from the city to the country. Until our house is built, we are living in a tiny house, made more tiny by the fact that we down-sized quite a bit to make this move possible and we still are homeschooling – our dining room table is in the family room. We do like to sit together when we eat, so the table needs to be constantly cleared off. More often than not, we simply stack our school books on the floor or on the center of the table during meals.

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To add to the challenges of being a writer who is supposed to work at marketing her own work, we don’t have internet. That’s how out-in-the-country we are! I’m sitting at the local library right now, my new favorite place. I come here once a week to use their internet access and try to catch up with the world.

A surprising benefit to not having internet at home is how much more I can accomplish in writing, reading and homeschooling without the ease of distraction. Unplugging from the World Wide Web was probably one of the best things I’ve done since cancelling cable T.V. six years ago.

What’s next?

Outside of working on book III for The Elemental Chronicles, I’m polishing two other manuscripts for submission to publishers, waiting for my house to be built, and preparing for several speaking engagements I have this winter.

I pray that what’s next for you is a trip through a painting with Victoria!

God Bless!

Jessica

 

 

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There was a day in my past when I truly believed that I needed to know how to do everything. And then I became a mom. I realized I knew nothing.

Nadda.

No thing.

I wish I had read Deliver Me: Confessions of Motherhood, a compilation of essays edited by Laura Diamond. Mothers are a species unto their own. Stories of labor and delivery are bonds of friendships – those personal battlefields of brining forth life when we struggle against the pain to receive the joy of motherhood. And the pain doesn’t stop there… as I’m typing this, there is a four-year-old loudly singing as he rifles through the box of Legos for just the right piece. In the background, my three daughters are all practicing their instruments. And now the dog is barking. As much as I would like to run screaming from the house, I also know that these days are short and precious. There will be a day when my house is too quiet and I will crave this chaos. I wish I could bottle up this noise so I can savor it on a day when I would truly appreciate it.

Laura Diamond understands this. Deliver Me is just the beginning. This girl is going places! Watch for her name. This might be the first time you hear of her, but it certainly won’t be the last!

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  1. Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood is one of those books that make the reader laugh and cry. What was the inspiration behind the project?

 

The inspirations for this project were my two little boys, and the talented writers of the L.A. Poets & Writers Collective.

As a stay-home mom with two little boys, I yearned for a creative outlet. I wanted to make something, other than sandwiches. I was lucky to be in a writing class with members of the L.A. Poets & Writers Collective, taught by the poet Jack Grapes. Every week in class, students read from our most recent work. And every week I was blown away by what I heard. Some writers, like me, wrote about parenthood. I thought, why not put some of these together to capture many voices on the same life-changing experience of parenthood. I put out a call for submissions, and the stories started coming in. I chose two of my own pieces, and selected work from nineteen other women to create this anthology.

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  1. I noticed on your blog that you list (and presumably support) several non-profit organizations that help women and the disadvantaged – One Billion Rising, Kiva.org, and A Window Between Worlds – to name just the first three listed. How are you involved with these organizations? What is it that drew you to include them on your blog? What is the ‘Call to Action’ you hope for from your blog readers?

Growing up, social action was part of our family’s life and values. My parents were always involved in politics, and that naturally became part of my world view. In Judaism, “Tikkun Olam,” or healing the world, is central.

I thought that a blog about motherhood should highlight organizations that help women and girls. I chose organizations that I have personally donated to because of their mission and their effectiveness. One Billion Rising, for example, is a multinational movement started by the playwright Eve Ensler, focused on ending violence against women worldwide. A Window Between Worlds, brings art therapy to women and families in Los Angeles who have suffered domestic violence. Kiva.org makes microloans to women in developing countries, so that they can start small businesses. Evidence shows that when women thrive, their families and villages benefit.

The organization I am most committed to is PATH Beyond Shelter, which is dedicated to helping homeless families get back into permanent housing, find employment, and rebuild their lives. Every mother should have a place to tuck in her children at night, no exceptions. I joined their Board when my younger son was one year old, after I had met a homeless woman with a child his age. Over $2,000 in proceeds from sales of Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood has been donated to Beyond Shelter. Also, my forthcoming novel, Shelter Us, touches on the plight of homeless families.

 

  1. As the editor of a book dedicated to mothers, would you share one of your favorite stories from your own experience as a mother? (happy, sad, touching… you choose 😉

 

My mother-in-law says, Men tell war stories; women tell birth stories. Here’s one more.

Contrary to public perception, just because you’re nine months pregnant doesn’t mean you know the first thing about giving birth. Thank goodness the baby knows what to do. You just have to stay out of the way.

Still, when I was nine months pregnant with my second child, you might think I’d be well versed in the experience. Not so. Even though I had given birth once, I had no idea what it felt like to go into labor. I had been induced the first time. So it was with some bewilderment that I said to my husband one Sunday morning, the day before my due date, “I feel…funny.”

“Are you in labor?”

“How should I know?”

So we went on with our day, taking our 3 ½ -year-old son to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, with its ponies and live music and, of course, farmers. An hour later, I felt “funny” every twenty minutes.

“I think we should go home,” I said.

“Can I have ice cream?” our son said.

“Sure,” my husband said, prompted by guilt over bringing a new baby into our family, as well as by a hankering for Phish Food.

They sat in Ben & Jerry’s enjoying their cones. I paced outside. I felt like an octopus was inside me, pressing on all my parts and levers, seeing how things worked. I had to keep moving to stay a step ahead of it.

When we got home, I called my parents who lived nearby to let them know it was time for them to come over. They came, as did my sister and nieces. They were all there to care for and play with our little boy so we could scoot out to the hospital to give him a brother.

As we said our excited good-byes, my little boy had these parting words: “Mommy, play with me.” He sat on the hardwood floor surrounded by wooden Thomas-style trains, with dozens of track pieces spilled around him. That wood floor had never looked so hard and unwelcoming. “Play with me?” he asked again. How could I say no to this child who I loved more than anything in the world, who would soon be second fiddle to a needy newborn?

My husband stood at the door holding my bag. My parents, concerned for their own baby, said, “Go on, we got this covered.” I looked from them to him. The sweet green eyes, the crown of brown ringlets – how to resist? I wobbled over, sat down on the unforgiving floor, and played trains until the next contraction lifted me off my feet and out the door.

 

  1. What kinds of marketing techniques have you implemented? What has worked…what hasn’t?

 

Book readings! These are the most fun, and when you have 20 authors in one book, each has a long list of friends to invite to different venues. It’s important to only go places where you know you have enough friends or family to show up. I approached independent bookstores in cities where I have lots of family and friends, and they were all welcoming. I used direct e-mail to get people to come, as well as some giveaways.

 

  1. Your bio on your blog mentions that you didn’t enter the world of adulthood seeking a career as a writer, but have always kept a journal. I have two questions: First, what drew you to keep a journal? Second, what led you to writing? (was it a hobby or did you start writing with a mission in mind?)

 

My first journal was a Hello Kitty diary, in which I wrote about the daily travails of a fourth grader. I still have it. I was pretty funny. The next journal I had was a gift to me when I was 13, from one of my mom’s oldest friends. That marked the beginning of my adolescent journal-keeping, a practice that kept me sane and centered through high school and college. Writing in my journal was a way to sort out the tangled emotions of adolescence. To figure out who I was and what I wanted.

I loved the way I felt when I wrote, the way it awakened my senses and powers of observation, both to the outside world and my inner self. I kept writing a journal through law school and while practicing law, but never thought of it as something more than a hobby.

When my first son was 2 ½ years old, I decided to pause my law career. I realized with excitement that maybe that would also give me more time to write. I wrote whatever was on my mind – which was a lot mom-stuff and kid-stuff and nap-stuff. Frankly, I was disappointed in myself. I thought I should be writing about something more substantial, more worldly. That is, until another writer, who was not a parent, told me that my writing brought them into a world totally unlike their own life. So I said, to heck with it, I’m a woman with two little kids, and this is what’s on my mind. I write what I write. And the rest of the book unfolded.

My muses came in human form, my two boys. Before they were born, I was a lawyer who had always liked writing. After they were born, I became a writer. I recently returned to practicing law, but I’ve kept writing. Now I do all the things I love: lawyer, writer, mother.

 

  1. What writing resources do you find valuable? (conferences, books, magazines, blogs?)

One of my current favorite websites/blogs is Writer Unboxed. Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird is a favorite, as are Carolyn See’s The Literary Life, Stephen King’s On Writing. One of my favorite writing resources is to read great writers.

 

  1. What snippet of wisdom – a quote or a saying your parents spoke frequently – would you like to share to inspire?

 

My parents didn’t speak aphorisms, unless you count “What am I, chopped liver?”

My Dad did often say to me and my sister when we were bickering about something silly, “Remember, girls, you are the only sister each of you will ever have. You will be sisters for the rest of your life.” He meant, you are family, you must value and support each other. She is one of my biggest supporters, and Writers need as much moral support as we can get. I now tell my own children, “Remember boys, you have one brother for the rest of your life,” to remind them to stick together and support each other.

My parents always made sure I knew that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. That didn’t mean it would be easy. But believing in yourself is necessary to stick with a project until you achieve it.

 

Upcoming Events:

My debut novel, Shelter Us, will be published in June 2015 by She Writes Press. I look forward to sharing more events then!

 

Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and select Indie stores.

www.ConfessionsofMotherhood.com

Twitter @LauraDiamond1

 

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When I first started the Pay-It-Forward Author Interview Series, I knew I would meet all types of writers from all over the country and the world. I’ve been amazed by the stories they write, their candid honesty about the writing process, and their willingness to share secrets of their craft with others. How often in other businesses do you find people in the same business so willing to help one another? The ‘secret sauce’ and the ‘family recipe’ are well guarded to keep that something special an exclusive right.

Not so with stories.

I am amazed by the writers who have come to share their work – and now I am humbled by Nikki Rosen, author of In the Eye of Deception: A True Story, Dancing Softly, Twisted Innocence, and No Hope? Know Hope: A Healing Journey.

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Nikki has won awards for her writing, and rightly so. Her story captivated me, and it will do the same for you.

Nikki, thank you for writing! Your story, In the Eye of Deception, was a heart-wrenching and beautiful roller coaster. With a website titled Write 2 Empower  you clearly have a message and a mission. Would you share with us the birth of your writing and what you are accomplishing with your work?

I never met to write and publish a book. Something happened that threw me back into the memories. I wrote to get the images out of my head. Strangely, I connected with an award winning author who believed in my writing and in my story. She wanted me to publish but I didn’t want to at the time. Her and I went back and forth for six months before I decided if I were to write my story, it has to be something that would give hope to others who are where I was, living in the darkness, with no hope of anything ever changing for the good. I found that writing gave me my voice, a way to ‘speak’ what I hadn’t been able to say.

 

Not only am I amazed by your story, but your writing style is obviously an incredible gift. What kinds of resources or training did you have in preparation (or to improve) for writing?

I had no training to write. I just wrote my heart. I wrote what I couldn’t speak. Now however, I discovered how much I love writing and have taken a few online courses and also a few locally. I also try to read everything I can on the craft. Especially from writers I adore like Anne Lamott, Maya Angelou, Eli Wiesel.

 

In the Eye of Deception won the The Word Guild Award and received an Honourable Mention of The Grace Irwin Award. First of all, congratulations! What was the process to submit to these awards and how has this boosted your writing and your platform?

Thanks Jessica. A friend nagged and pushed me to submit the book for an award. I struggled with that b/c I didn’t think what I wrote was any good. I actually submitted it the night before the contest closed. The process involved submitting the full manuscript (2 or 3 copies) and paying something like $40.

It boosted it in that many members of The Word Guild, immediately bought the book and although the book had already been selling well, I think it gave credence to my writing.

It didn’t change my platform as I already had established one and knew who the book was aimed at – women who had a history of abuse, or/and trauma and needed hope.

 

What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? 

Writing process – I usually like to write early in the morning when the house is quiet. But the place that pumps me the most and inspires me to write is when I’m in the woods. It’s there my heart speaks the loudest. I need emotions to write and images. And when I’m out in nature, I’m not afraid. I feel alive and free. After I listen and hear, I run home and type it all up. Then I agonize over edits. I’m also part of a writing group now. We’ve been meeting for three years once a month. I value their input on my work.

 

Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

When I started writing, I had no method. All I wanted was to get the memories out of my head. Writing became a way for me to have my voice. I wrote all day, late into the nights. I sometimes forgot to feed the kids. I felt compelled. Looking back now, it was very cathartic. And very healing. What shocked me in the beginning was people, women and men, young, middle-aged and older identified with my story. They told me my book came to them as a message of hope and that if I could overcome, they could too. I loved that.

I self-published my book through my university. Once I got it in my head I wanted to use what I lived to give others hope, I wanted it out as quickly as I could get it out. There was a lot of negative talk about self-publishing but the book has done incredibly well. It’s sold throughout Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, Hawaii and India.

 

What has been your greatest moment in your writing career? To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment?

Winning the award was a definite wow for me. But I also won a couple of short story contests and have been published in a number of anthologies (5).

Another couple of highlights – December 2013, someone donated $5000 to put my book into a small pocket sized edition and distribute it free to women in prison or living on the streets. 5000 copies were printed and have been shipped across the country and overseas.

A few months ago someone approached me to have it translated into Russian for the women there. That’s happening now with the goal of getting it to the Ukraine by Christmas.

The most difficult moment was when I was at a writing conference and a well known editor who didn’t even know my story, told me memoirs don’t sell and my book will never sell. I wanted to go home and give up. My friend was there at the conference and she wouldn’t let me. I’m very grateful to her for that. One person’s opinion is just that – one person’s opinion. A great learning looking back.

 

Do you attend writing conferences? If so, which ones do you recommend? What internet or book resources can you recommend?

I’ve only attended one writing conference – The Word Guild 2009 – in Guelph, Ontario Canada. I’d love to attend more but it’s been hard to get away as I still have kids at home and my kids are my priority.

My absolute favorite writing book is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Love her style of writing and love what she says.

I used to read through Rachelle Garner’s page a lot. http://www.rachellegardner.com. There’s a ton of other sites but can’t think of them right now.

 

Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two 🙂 We can all use more inspiration!

Okay…..here’s a couple of favorites.

 

  1. “Every little thing wants to be loved.” Sue Monk Kidd.
  2. “Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.” Eli Wiesel
  3. “I spent five years suffering from writer’s block. Then it came to me…just write a book I’d love to read. Not “like” to read. But love. Not for my mother, my acquaintances, critics, even readers. Just for myself. I needn’t worry what anyone else thought. I needn’t even worry if it was published. All it needed to be was written.” Louise Penny

 

Looking for more from Nikki? Check out her other books:

my books1

 

Connect with Nikki:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GentleRecovery

http://write2empower.webs.com

https://www.facebook.com/Write2Empower

http://write2empower.wix.com/write2empower

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3311275.Nikki_Rosen

http://www.amazon.com/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/in-the-eye-of-deception/9990006606270-item.html

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How did last week’s exercise feel? Are your creative muscles sore? Shouldn’t be too bad, you watched a movie! 🙂

This week’s exercise might feel a little, well, it will remind you of the good ol’ days of high school English. What? Those weren’t riveting classes where you devoured the book that was assigned to you? Yeah, me neither.

Exercise 1:

Of all the books you had to read in high school, what was your favorite? No favorite? Well, you’re older now. Go pick the first book you remember being assigned to read and re-read it. (Or read it for the first time.)

For me, the first book I read in high school was A Separate Piece by John Knowles. I enjoyed it… a little. I think I read the entire book, but that was…let’s just say it was a few years ago. I have the book on hold at the library. Apparently, people are still reading it. I’m on a list and should have it sometime in April.

Now, the book that really turned me on to reading was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. A great part of falling in love with this book had to do with the excellent teacher I had in high school. The other part was obviously Dumas’ superior story-telling.

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Exercise 2:

Make a brainstorming graphic organizer (think bubbles, boxes, and lines) for your current story, or a story you are thinking about. Reflect on how this exercise did or did not (because, let’s be honest, it might not work for everyone)  help you think about deeper layers for the story.

This is how I start every story – with a gigantic sheet of paper on the dining room table, a stack of colorful pens, and an idea. In the center, I’ll start with whatever idea I have. It could a simple scene, an over-arching theme, or an idea for a setting. As I brainstorm, I write everything down, connect ideas with common color-lines, and just have fun with it. In the background I play fairly loud music…that part is optional.

This is a great way to set the story ideas down on paper without fussing for sentence structure or feeling the need to organize things too quickly. Let the ideas fall where they will. Once it’s on paper, you can’t lose it.

Exercise 3:

Write a one-page synopsis for your story. Don’t hide the ending. Tell all in a short and interesting way.

Why do this? Many publishers and agents will ask for a synopsis and they are darn tough to write. As much effort as you put into writing your story, almost as much will go into hacking your story into a one-page synopsis. Hint: Don’t look at this as hacking. Make the one page synopsis fun to read. If you can’t shine up your writing to keep a potential agent or publisher interested through one page, they likely won’t ask for an entire manuscript.

Starting next week, I will be interviewing authors who are self-published or published by smaller houses. It’s been fun to read their work as I prepare questions for each of them. There are still a few spots left, so if you are published and are looking for a fresh and fun way to market your work as well as the books of other authors, check out Pay-It-Forward for details.

Did you miss the other writing exercises?

Writing Exercises Vol. 1

Writing Exercises Vol. 2

Writing Exercises Vol. 3

Writing Exercises Vol. 4

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