What Worked (and Didn’t) for me in 2015

What Worked (and what didn't) in 2015 // jessconnell.com

WHAT WORKED IN 2015:

  1. WE ADJUSTED TO BEING A FAMILY OF *NINE*— Yes, this year, we had our 7th baby, sweet Luke Ebenezer. I successfully fought off postpartum stress, and worked to be OK with the extra weight that (for me) comes with successful breastfeeding. (He’s 10 months old now– what happened??!) It’s not a cakewalk to have 7 children, but it’s a super fun season in our family’s life. We are so thankful for each person God has put in our family.
  2. IMG_5121PERSONAL BIBLE STUDY— I’ve been disciplined in this area for many months now, and it’s been fruitful and encouraging. The BEST thing I’m doing right now is simply copying Scripture, word for word, and letting it slowly wash over me– heart and soul. I’m currently in John chapter 7. Slowing down has forced me to notice so many details that I’ve glossed over when reading through at a quick pace. Like John 6:66… WHOA… what a warning for us who call ourselves His disciples!
  3. CAMPING– Definitely wasn’t sure how this one was going to go. But, going camping for the first time this August turned out not to be so bad. In fact, in many ways, I ended up enjoying it.
  4. GARDENING– Probably the most successful things in our garden this year were (1) the butternut squash. A friend gave us 3 young starter plants, and I read that it’s a good idea to plant them in a place where you can put a hard surface (2×4, or ceramic tile) underneath each squash so that they don’t sit down in the mucky grass… Instead, I decided to try them out in a small bed near our driveway. The cement gave a firm, non-wet place for the squash to grow, and the plants thrived. We ended up with probably 30-40 huge butternut squash over the season. I used them to make baby food, and saved the seeds to try to grow some starters next year. And (2) the dahlias– I got them in a bag at Costco, and they flourished for months. For that one $15 bag, I probably made 40-60 flower arrangements, PLUS they bloomed outside our windows. Totally worth it. (Bonus? Here in WA, they’ll probably come back year after year. I love this place. It’s like Narnia– stick stuff in the earth and it GROWS.)
  5. IMG_3458DECLUTTERING MY CLOTHES– For the most part, this is the place where KonMari’s method helped most. I still am working my way through other parts of the house, but it’s been complicated with so many other people in the house with me. My clothes, however, have been streamlined. This year, I got rid of a lot of my off sizes, the accessories I like but never wear, and a lot of the wardrobe excess I don’t need.
  6. DELIGHT-DRIVEN, TOGETHER-STYLE HOMESCHOOLING– This year, I made the deliberate choice to go back to a form of homeschooling that I’d done when my oldest two were younger. We’ve returned to lots of read-alouds, all but abandoned our workbooks, and are moving forward together, chronologically, through history. I like this so so so so so so so so so so much better. Though it took a good few days to plan it out, and though I once again had to adjust (my throat and my schedule) to reading aloud so much more, this fall semester has been wildly successful– we’ve worked our way through the early church era, middle ages, missionary biographies, a custom-designed Bible curriculum, some new-to-us classics, and have enjoyed so very many fruitful discussions. I’m discipling my kids in a purposeful way, and that feels good. Though we had a few years where we used workbooks, I never felt that it held a candle to the reading-aloud-together approach, but until I pieced together this year’s curriculum I couldn’t figure out how to make read-alouds work with a wide range of ages. Workbooks and a do-x-number-of-pages mindset helped us muddle through a stressful couple of years, but I’m really thankful to have devoted the mental energy and daily discipline to return to a form of homeschooling that is much more in line with the way I want for our children to learn and engage with the world. They love it, and I DO TOO.
  7. TRANSITIONING TO HAVING OLDER CHILDREN, TOO– It is tough, after many cloistered years with littles, to branch out and help the older kids to flourish, while still mostly staying home so little ones can get naps and have good sleep schedules. But I think we’re doing it– we’re deliberately looking ahead and carefully choosing a few places to invest. This year we’ve added in violin for our daughter, and debate for our oldest son. We’re getting there.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK IN 2015:

  1. UNLIMITED USE OF THE SMARTPHONE/DEVICES— One of the things I have reined in this year is my previously-unlimited device usage. In this home, we’ve definitely reached a tipping point and are past what I feel comfortable with, so we’ve pulled back device usage and I’m being more purposeful about how and when I use my phone. I’ve deleted a lot of apps, used “Way of Life” app to hold me accountable about how I’m using devices, written out some “Resolveds,” and am on guard about limitless device usage.
  2. NANOWRIMO— 2012 & 2013 were my NANOWRIMO years (I successfully completed both years), but so far I haven’t made it happen here in Washington. Since being here, life just gets busier toward the holidays, and I haven’t made NaNo happen… I have a plan for that (January, I’m looking at YOU), but it did not happen in 2015.
  3. PUBLISHING… well… ANYTHING– I had plans for releasing my novel about Zilpah, and plans for writing some small booklets about mothering. I accidentally deleted some files this summer (eeeeeek yes I did; it was awful and I haven’t had the heart, or the time, to reconfigure the booklets on mothering that I had in process). But mostly just wasn’t as disciplined as I thought I could be. There’s all this desire to get some things published, but then when it’s time to get it done, I don’t know if it’s fear, or distractedness, or the busyness of life taking over… I ultimately DO trust God’s sovereignty… but I’d like to get more done in this area in 2016. And, yes, I have 7 children, so of course, I really am busy. I get that. But sometimes, when your little ones still nap, and you purpose to be at home rather than running all over tarnation, you have more discretionary time than other people might think is possible. And in that case, when you end the year not having published anything more than when you started, it can feel a bit like a letdown.
  4. BLOGGING– Well, in some ways it did work. I’ve written more articles this year than ever before, but in many ways, I’m disappointed with the way this year has gone. I’m currently contemplating book and podcast opportunities, and considering “what else?” Have ideas or feedback for me? Send em my way.


WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHAT WORKED (and didn’t) FOR YOU IN 2015?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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6 Responses

  1. Kondwani Kondwani says:

    You seem to have chosen the right priorities – I agree with you about literature-based versus worksheet/ workbook curricula (although we have not used the latter, we have not liked the look of them, although there are some day to day aspects which might be easier). Read alouds, especially inspirational historical novels and biographies (‘living books’) are beyond compare, but are time-consuming. I think you are FAR better (and you know this!) to focus on discipling your family in this way, than to publish more.

    Regarding the blog – maybe slow down a little? When you go up to three posts a week, I miss things! (For me, and for some of my friends I know, there tends to be an evening a week of inspirational blog-reading, and when you go so fast, we can’t keep up!)

  2. Liz says:

    Hi Jess

    This is the first time I have commented but I have read your blog for 6 years now and I wanted to thank you so much for the encouragement you have been to me (Young homeschooling mum of 4, age 0 to nine, from England). I cannot thank you enough for all the wisdom and encouragement I have gained from your blog. I love love loved your recent blog post about “the real Jess Connell”. Thank you for your honesty!!

    I was wondering how you manage to fit all the reading into your day with everything else that must be done in the day. I am going for the delight driven together style homeschooling this year after adding baby number 4, and wondered what that looks like for you. Do you squeeze it all into the morning while everyone is gathered or spread it out throughout the day?

    Thanks again Jess. I am so thankful I stumbled upon your blog 6 years ago. Praying for you and your family!

  3. Brandy says:

    I would love to know what you have learned about making read alouds work for a variety of ages. I am working on this too with my 6 (ages 13-1 with another baby on the way) and it is always a work in progress. You could always post your booklist and tips as a post. I love gleaning school tips from other moms. Thanks!
    ~Brandy

  4. Helen says:

    Dear Jess,

    I have been following you off and on for several years, starting with your old blog.

    I am a homeschooling Mum of 3 (ages 1-9) living in Europe and using Sonlight.

    I am not sure why you feel your blog hasn’t worked well in 2015, but I just wanted to let you know I enjoy it very much!

    I appreciate your wisdom and experience as a mother who is a bit further along the journey than I am. I also appreciate your courage in talking openly about intimacy in marriage.

    Be encouraged and keep up the good work!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Thank you for that encouragement!

      I think I’m probably overly-dreamy about the possibilities of publication and such (I started out 2015 with dreams of publishing 3-4 books– 1-2 non-fiction, and a couple novels/novellas), and probably was overly-pessimistic about the outcome while writing this. I appreciate the reminder that it is accomplishing exactly what it should do, and to be content with what God is using it to do. Thanks for continuing to come along the journey with me. :)

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