Monday, 7 December 2015

Grace to Abide Has Moved!

After blogging here since 2010 I decided that it was about time that Grace to Abide got a new look. It also made sense to move across to a self-hosted website. So you can now find me at www.catherineshelton.net



I've moved all my old articles across, so please head over to the new site and check it out. If you haven't done so already, you might like to subscribe to Grace to Abide. All new subscribers get a free copy of my e-book "Cultivating Joyfulness: 12 Tips for the Busy, Weary Mother"!

Please note that my facebook, twitter and pinterest addresses have changed too.

See you over there!

Friday, 13 November 2015

5 Tips for a Stress-Free Run-Up to Christmas



During the eleven years that we lived in Russia we had to work hard to make Christmas special, since the 25th December was an ordinary working day. Yet in many ways it was very freeing to avoid all the materialistic hype and to be able to focus instead on developing our own meaningful, family traditions. Our first Christmas back in this country was a bit of a shock and ended up being rather stressful! Since then, we’ve been more intentional about what we say yes to, and how we celebrate as a family. Here are some things we’ve learnt:

1)      Set your priorities

Take some time to think what is most important to you at Christmas time. Is it being with wider family? Giving gifts to people in need? Serving your church or community? Offering hospitality? Choose one or two things. 

2)      Don’t be afraid to cut back

With your priorities in mind, think where you can cut back on extra, unnecessary tasks or obligations that just end up causing stress. Do you need to send out all those Christmas cards? Do you need to host that drinks party? Could you agree with your family to send fewer presents this year or do a ‘secret Santa’ instead?

3)      Plan ahead

Start making a plan now: when you need to start writing cards, who you’re buying presents for, when you’re going to fill your shoebox for Samaritan’s Purse, when you’re going to put up your decorations, what your menu plan is for Christmas Day itself…. If you get this all down in writing in good time then it’s much less likely to sneak up on you and cause you stress at the last minute. You can also see at a glance if you’ve just got too much going on and you need to say no to something.

4)      Focus on Jesus

Now that you’ve taken care of the usual Christmas obligations, take time to think about how you can focus on the real meaning of Christmas this year. Can you make the nativity scene the central Christmas decoration in your living room instead of the tree? Do you have an advent wreath and advent candles? Is there a special devotional you can follow throughout advent? Are there special crafts you can do with your kids* or books you can read?

5)      Enjoy

It’s such a shame that Jesus’s birthday celebrations end up causing us so much stress! Think how you can enjoy the season instead, for example by playing special Christmas music, lighting candles, using advent calendars to increase the anticipation, attending carol services. What is it about the Christmas season that you particularly love?

Wishing you all a peaceful, joyful, stress-free run up to Christmas!


*Recommended resource for families: truthinthetinsel.com

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Check Out My New Blog!


I hope you're all having a wonderful summer so far! I wanted to let you know why things have been a little quiet on Grace to Abide for a while. I've been busy starting up a new blog, and I'd love for you to go and check it out. It's called Living Green Faith and you can find it at www.livinggreenfaith.com.

It's a magazine-style blog with four main sections: 

1) Environment Care, where I discuss ideas on why we, as Christians, should be looking after the environment and how we might take small steps to do that.

2) Celebrating Creation, which is as it sounds: a chance to marvel at the wonders in our beautiful world, and an encouragement to take time out of our busy lives to appreciate them and find God's fingerprints in the natural world.

3) Mind, Body and Spirit, where I look at ideas on how to take care of ourselves, as a valuable part of God's creation, so that we can fully be the people that God has created us to be.

4) Food Matters, which is a place for recipes for healthy eating, ideas on how to make wise decisions when it comes to our meals, and discussions on how our eating habits can affect not just ourselves but our world around us.

When you subscribe to the blog you'll receive a free e-book, and you can also connect with Living Green Faith through facebook, twitter and pinterest.

I'm really excited about my new blog, but I'm not quite ready to let Grace to Abide go yet, so I plan to continue posting here from time to time too, particularly about issues to do with homeschooling.

Oh, and if you hurry over to Living Green Faith now, it's not too late to download my free printable bookmark, which will help you meditate through a book of the Bible during the month of August!

Hope to see you there!

Abide in Him!


Are you new to Grace to Abide? Keep updated with each new post via email, facebook or twitter.

Get your copy of my new ebook, "Cultivating Joyfulness: 12 Tips for the Busy, Weary Mother"!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Homeschooling in the UK - 4



We’re nearing the end of a school year – just 5 weeks to go! As I look back over our first year of homeschooling in the UK I can’t help thinking how it has impacted me, as the home educator, both positively and negatively.





Blessing: Learning Alongside My Children


One of the biggest blessings of being a homeschool mum is the chance to be able to learn alongside my children. Soon I’ll be asking the kids to reflect upon the things we’ve learnt and to tell me their favourite books and subjects, and I’m going to have a long list of my own too! I’ve found studying the various history books really enlightening, especially since I don’t remember covering any of this myself when I was at school. Learning about some of the key characters in church history has also been really inspiring. Something we’ve all really enjoyed this year has been the Apologia Astronomy course. It’s been fascinating to learn all about the planets and about how amazing our own Earth is in comparison. When Hubbie asks the kids at dinnertime what they’ve been learning about that day I find myself just as eager to share the interesting facts and findings. I’ve also really enjoyed the chance to read some classic literature that I otherwise wouldn’t have, such as Swallows and Amazons and the Children of the New Forest.




Challenge: Putting My Own Interests on Hold



Sometimes when I’m out and about with the kids on a nature walk I see other mothers walking along with just one baby in a pushchair, chatting to other mothers, or enjoying a natter in a cafĂ©, and I wonder how my life might have been different if I’d had all 3 kids at school and had just been left with baby Joy (now aged 14 months). I think of all the extra time I would have had to be able to run errands, go shopping, or join in various groups and classes. Perhaps I would also have had more time to work on my writing or develop other hobbies and skills. Perhaps I would have been able to do a few hours a week of some ministry or charity work. If I’m still homeschooling by the time Joy reaches school age then no doubt my 'what if' thoughts will turn to jobs and second incomes. There’s no doubt that being a home educator involves some sacrifice compared to mothers with children in mainstream education. It could be another 17 years before I finally get some substantial ‘me-time’!




As I reflect upon those two sides of the homeschooling life, I realise that I value homeschooling my kids too much to give it up just so that I could have extra time to myself. The benefits, in my mind, far outweigh the disadvantages. I realise that I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I’m able to choose; where we’re able (with some sacrifices) to live on one income, and I know that for others that’s not even a possibility. I also realise that, although I would love to spend more time developing my writing or perhaps investigating other ministry opportunities, I feel that homeschooling is where God wants me to direct most of my talents and energies at this present time and I don’t feel ‘called’ in a different direction. I will always need to evaluate what is ‘best for the kids’, but at the moment homeschooling is ‘best for me’.

Do you have any thoughts on how homeschooling has impacted you, the educator? Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.


Abide in Him!





If you've enjoyed this post, check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 as well!

Are you new to Grace to Abide? Keep updated with each new post via email, facebook or twitter.

Friday, 29 May 2015

For All The Busy, Weary Mothers Out There!

The summer is looming (for those of us in the northern hemisphere!) The temperatures are warming up, jeans are being replaced with shorts, and we're beginning to count down the weeks left of school.

How are you feeling? How has this last year been for you? If you're anything like me you're feeling fairly exhausted. There have been lots of good things happen in the last school year, but you're tired and weary. You've lost a bit of your sparkle, and you'd love to get it back.


Well, I have something to help! I've just published my first e-book. It's called "Cultivating Joyfulness: 12 Tips for the Busy, Weary Mother". It was inspired by a collection of blog posts I wrote a while back here on Grace to Abide, and since they consistently numbered among my most popular posts I decided to put them all together, expand on them a bit, and make them available in book form.

The price? A bargain at just £1.99!

It's available for Kindle on Amazon, but also in PDF format.

For UK readers, you can buy it on amazon.co.uk on the link below:

Kindle UK version

For US and other readers you can get it on amazon.com through this link:

Kindle US version

Or if you'd prefer the PDF format:

Buy the PDF version here

I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful. 

Abide in Him!


Are you new to Grace to Abide? Keep updated with each new post via email, facebook or twitter.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Homeschooling in the UK - 3

We've been enjoying some amazingly warm weather here in the UK recently, and being homeschoolers we've been doing lots of nature walks and reading books in the garden. It's wonderful to have the freedom to do that, which is a point that I'll make in a future post. Today, however, I'd like to talk about extra curricular activities.




Pro: The Freedom to Choose From a Large Number of Extra Activities


When we lived in Russia there wasn't an awful lot for the kids to do, really. They enjoyed local art and dance lessons, but those had to be twice weekly. You see, when you committed to doing something, the ethos was that it was 'all or nothing'. Music lessons, for instance, were a five-day-a-week commitment at the special music school. Even swimming lessons were three times a week, with floats tied around the child with rope and an instructor with a stick (no parents allowed near the pool). We decided against the swimming!

Back here in England a whole host of possible activities opened up: Brownies, street dance, trampolining, choir... There was less pressure, but they were more expensive, and the kids were tired after their day at the local school.

Now that we're part of the homeschooling community even more possibilities have opened up. There seems to be something you could do in a homeschool group pretty much every day of the week. So far we've done a fantastic weekly art class, archery, meet-ups in local parks and a series of 'forest school' afternoons, where the kids learnt to whittle wood and toast marshmallows over a fire. Being homeschoolers we can also get a cheap rate at the local swimming pool during school hours, which we take advantage of regularly, and our local tennis courts have very few people around then either. In addition the kids have kept up their other 'after-school' activities: Brownies, Guides, Boys Brigade, football and gymnastics.

Homeschooling has allowed us freedom to chose from more activities, often at cheaper rates, at times that suit us best as a family, and the children are generally less tired and able to enjoy them more.



Con: Learning When to Say No and Stay At Home Instead


I suppose this isn't really a 'con', but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing! When we first got back into homeschooling I felt like I ought to be going to lots of homeschooling activities simply to meet people and for the kids to make friends. I used to check the facebook pages all the time to find out which events were on, who was organising a 'meet up', what new activities were being offered, and to be honest it was making me a bit anxious. It's never good to compare yourself too much to other homeschoolers -we're all different! Eventually I realised that our homeschool ran better, and I was much happier, if we didn't try to do too much. The kids still seem quite happy with their other, non-homeschooling friends, and we're not blowing our budget. I'm also learning to spend less time on facebook and more time just enjoying being at home with my children!

Do you have any thoughts on getting the right balance with extra curricular activities? Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.


Abide in Him!


Are you new to Grace to Abide? Keep updated with each new post via email, facebook or twitter.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Homeschooling in the UK - 2

I'm continuing with my 10 part series on the pros and cons, as I've experienced them so far, of homeschooling here in the UK. As I said before in part 1, these observations are in no particular order. Here's number 2:



Pro: Avoiding Negative Socialisation


We've all heard the scare stories, and perhaps some of our children have been unfortunate enough to experience it. The peer pressure, the bullying, the teasing... I think it's important for my children to be 'in the world' and not completely sheltered from it, but on the other hand I want to give them the gift of childhood and innocence as long as I can. Since coming back from Russia our children have suddenly been under much more pressure to have the 'latest gadget'. "Why can't we have an iPad? Eloise has an iPad!", "When can I get a phone, Mummy?" We know of children at school being bullied because they don't have a smart phone, which is terribly sad. There are also other things they pick up in the playground - bad language, unpleasant jokes, and perhaps even exposure to explicit ideas or images that they're not yet ready to handle. The more scare stories I hear from my friends who have children in mainstream school, the more thankful I am that I get to protect my children from that for just a few more years.


Con: Needing to Work Harder at Creating Positive Socialisation


The reverse of this, of course, is the need to create opportunities for positive socialisation. Since they don't get to make friends naturally in a school setting, I have to work harder to engineer their social lives for them. For us that has meant making an effort to keep up with the close friends they made at school last year, and making sure that each child is enrolled in one or two extra-curricular clubs, like Guides, Gymnastics or Saturday Football. So far this seems to be working well, but we have yet to make any close homeschool friends. It's been hard to find that perfect homeschool family - one that has children of similar ages and genders, that lives reasonably nearby, and where both the kids get on with the kids and I 'click' with the mother. I think that our background of living in Russia makes us a little weird and different as a family, even within the homeschool network here where we live, lovely though many of them seem to be!

Do you have any thoughts on the whole idea of negative and positive socialisation? Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.


Abide in Him!


Are you new to Grace to Abide? Keep updated with each new post via email, facebook or twitter.

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