Homeschool Insights: No Frowns for Susan Brown

If you’re ever around Susan Brown, you simply can’t ignore her infectious smile and positive personality. As the mom in The 365 Family, Susan provides encouragement and an uplifting voice in the homeschool community through her family’s blog, podcast, and her popular book One Year of Thankful Thursdays.

After meeting Susan Brown at a homeschool convention earlier this year, we asked her to share her story and some of the great advice she’s learned along her journey of life and homeschooling.

1. What is the best part about homeschooling?
It is a beautiful, freeing thing to get to fully teach from "the Word" and not "the world's" perspective. We serve an unchanging God in a very radically changing world. God gives us our children as blessings and fully expects our focus to stay squarely on Him, no matter the call or current trend of the world.

Another one of my favorite parts of homeschooling is that you get to meet your kids where they are academically when it comes to their strengths and weaknesses. Is your child behind in math a couple of grades but has an amazing, genius memory for history and scripture or is a talented artist? Our children don’t need to be labeled as special ed and put back a couple of grades. No one is good at everything no matter how loud the world screams that. Homeschooling frees super-talented art kiddos to focus on art and grow dramatically in that area, while also finding a math curriculum that speaks to them right where they are in that area! It is a truly amazing thing to see children bloom right where they are planted and help them with their weaknesses without involving shame, labels, and public humiliation!

2. What is your best advice for fellow homeschoolers?
Any good advice obviously comes from our gracious Heavenly Father and His patient love for me. Anything good that comes from me is one thousand percent him!

BE FLUID! Since you can't shut down your life from 8-3 and won't need to take that long to school only your kids (and you aren't trying to clone public school at home), be fluid! This is so important that I can't stress it enough! Life will happen. Injuries, loss of job, death, financial problems that force major change. In all these things, there are beautiful lessons in patience, endurance, resiliency, and trust in the Lord to be learned and soaked up. You will have a strong parental desire to constantly keep up with what you have planned in your mind, but don’t miss your opportunities to decide and choose each day (and let's be honest...each moment) to be fluid and open to what God brings you in life as a teachable moment. It will save your sanity, and it also teaches your beautiful blessings how to be fluid in real life.

PRACTICE SMILING AND BE WILLING TO LAUGH. Homeschooling is supposed to be about the joy we get from doing school and life with our kids. While we’re with them, we should be modeling Christ-like responses (and don’t misunderstand me as I am definitely not the pinnacle of modeling Christ). To be Christ-like, we really need to smile and laugh more! Smiling is an outpouring of joy, which is a fruit of the Spirit! Proverbs 15:13a tells us, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face.” I want my children to be able to smile even when they know it wasn’t a great day. Smiling is an admittance that whether or not everything is ok today, we have a beautiful promise we can hold fast to, and one fine day, everything will be ok! Each time I “force” a smile, I notice it changes my mindset. Try it! Fair warning though, smiles truly are contagious!

3. How would your daughters describe you as a mom and a teacher?
Joy for and in the journey is what I hope they see, but the only way to accurately answer this is to ask them directly! So, here is what my daughters said:

As a Mom
“You’re funny, play with us, always encourage us, call us out when we are doing wrong, and apologize when you are wrong, You are a really great listener, and you always sacrifice your own needs or desires so we can try something new.”

Unfortunately, there’s also the other end of all my human faults they point out. They said that when I have been repeatedly ignored, I raise my voice. They also pointed out that I am an introvert, which is hard for them sometimes. I also get overwhelmed sometimes at seemingly the simplest of things.

As a Teacher
“You start off each school year so great, Mom! You have little goody bags and all our curriculum laid out and are ready to go with a schedule. Then a month or so in, it starts to fade and change, and we start to do more things outside the home. We don’t usually go the whole school year with all we started off doing, but we know we are always learning. You let us (and helped us) start our own business this year! You take us on lots of field trips and involve us in your life. When there are things you struggle to teach us, you always find us help.”

We have had to learn to homeschool with lots of changes. In their lives, we have moved 4 times, and in our married life, we moved 11 times by the time we hit 19 years. It always seems it’s in the fall right after school started too, so you can see their description being accurate from their point of view. We have homeschooled while caregiving for my completely paralyzed mom. In fact, they were both born as I was her full-time caregiver. That is when we started homeschooling. We would bring their little workbooks to my mom’s house, and they would enjoy doing them and running up to her and showing her what they had done. Then when we got home, we would do more stuff together, whether it was songs that went with what they were learning, helping me in the kitchen make dinner, or more workbooks. They also became mini caregivers to her. They were learning compassion and empathy, as well as how to treat everyone the same with great love. They may not know they were learning life skills that so many take for granted, but we knew it.

Remember dear beautiful soul, it is perfectly ok if your kids ask at the end of the day, “Did we do school?” Whether it was in books, online, or out in the world at the beach or a business or learning in the trenches about life, they are learning! This is the beauty and joy of homeschooling!

4. Why did you write One Year of Thankful Thursdays?
In truth, the book has probably been “being written” for the past 27 years or longer in my mind. This book was written out of a place of desperation for more than this world could offer. I had had enough of the world and its call to keep up, and I just wanted to fall at my Savior’s feet.

As my husband and I would drive around, I would say random things like, “Don’t you see how that electric pole or that sign or those stoplights or whatever points to God?” I would go on and on with longwinded explanations that truly felt as if I was rambling. He repeatedly encouraged me to write down my thoughts and said that I should put it in a book. I laughed and told him how sweet he was and that no one would read that, but he replied, “I don’t think you understand. I don’t see those things you are seeing, but when you start to talk about it and explain it, I do see it, and it’s like the world is opening and you need to share this with others.”

I began at first to share on our blog’s social media page week by week in a Thankful Thursday format. They became very well loved, and I received tons of private messages asking for more and thanking me for opening their eyes. Of course, I don’t do any eye opening. We all know who that power belongs to and it’s definitely not this fallible human! So, as readers started to request for me to put it in book format, I prayed about it. I asked God to open and shut doors of what He wanted, and He did. Hence, One Year Of Thankful Thursdays was born!

5. What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Our mission statement is 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Gratitude truly is the gateway to joy, and it changes everything! I want the reader to take away a new lens with which to see Him in all things because nothing is out of the realm of possibility for pointing to The One who made us to seek Him in every detail of life!

I hope they take away a new zest for life, excitement for all He has given us, and a heart full of joy to seek out the very next thing where He is revealing Himself and all His gracious love. I hope they find a soft place to land, permission to long for more than this world can offer, and rest in Him. Mostly, I want them to know that there is always something to be thankful for and there is hope for tomorrow.

As one Amazon review says, Susan Brown is a “multi-talented, awesome friend, mom, and teacher. She is resilient beyond description, sweet, beautiful, smart, and creative…and she is always pointing you higher, right to Jesus’ face.” You can follow
 The 365 Family on their website, where you can currently get a free, 5-day challenge to cultivate a heart of gratitude.