Rule #7: Restore (or Rule #1, again)


We all need ample time to rest and to restore ourselves. As I write this, we are driving home from a trip to the mountains for a cousin’s wedding. We had a wonderful week with my brother and his family and my mother. We took notice of different activities that we did that were all restful, even if they were rather active.

We played board games and read stories together. We watched a few cartoons and read a few comic books. We cooked tasty treats and easy meals; we walked by the lake; we fished; we just sat on the porch and visited. We toasted marshmallows and smashed them with chocolate and graham crackers, and the boys had too much sugar. We tucked all the boys into their beds and sat around the fire pit with adult beverages or soda and told stories and laughed. We sang. We slept earlier than usual (though we rose with the sun every day.) We rented a pontoon and spent an afternoon on the lake. My mom enjoyed having all her chicks under the same roof, and we marveled at her joy knowing that we will understand it some day.

It was a brilliant week in which we soaked up each other and the beauty of the San Juan Range and the Vallecito Reservoir. We celebrated the wedding, and we celebrated each other. My brother and his family live in on the front range in Colorado, and we are in the green of northeastern Oklahoma, so we see each other every few months, but not as often as we’d like. It was wonderful.

Now, we are an hour from home, and my brother’s family has arrived at theirs. Tonight, we tidy up from the trip, and tomorrow we all return to our normal jobs (park ranger, art therapist, programmer, tutor/maybe-writer/mom, and volunteer/grandmother) and our kids return to their regular school routines. We’ll remember the fun we had, and we’ll loosely plan the next time we will meet. Another moment of respite will be required if we are all going to continue offering our best to our occupations and to each other.

This was a big (and rather tiring) rest. But we each build into our days the moments we need to not feel overwhelmed by the world.  I drink my coffee in quiet and read and write. My husband practices tae kwon do and puts his headphones in and pretends the rest of the world doesn’t exists while he writes and researches and programs. Our kids rest outside or in books or games. My brother hikes or fishes (often with his son in tow), and my sister-in-love runs or does yoga or creates.  My mom reads and creates. We all enjoy seeing new places, especially when we can do that together.

All rests, big and small, need to be measured and consistent if we are going to benefit from them. Sometimes rest is reduced to making good choices: good food, some exercise, some inspiring words read or heard, and a good night’s sleep. Other times, we take a chunk of time off and just do something out of the ordinary. We have to make sure we take time to rest if we are going to continue pouring ourselves out at the foot of the cross for other people. If we don’t take the time to soak in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, we will find ourselves empty and have nothing to give.


What is a Rule of Six? How did I find it?

Rule of six instagram
A Rule of Six isn’t fancy. It is just six words or ideas that you want to meet regularly. It isn’t intended to make you tired or to be a judgment on whether you had a good day or not. A Rule of Six is meant to bring rest – to allow you to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing because you know what the Main Things are for your family. You won’t be as tempted to go chasing after every new curricula that pops up after you know what works in your house, and what is important to your family.

I am not completely sure of the origins of the Rule of Six, but I first read about it in 2007. That was a crazy year around here.  You see, we have five sons. Our oldest son, Danny, died when he was five years old in 2005 due to a nasty genetic disorder. That left my husband and I and Micah, preschooler. And then we had babies in 2006, 2007 and 2009. So, in 2007, I was struggling to recover from my own grief, help my husband and Micah recover from theirs, home educate that now-kindergarten-aged boy, and care for our almost Irish twins (our double blessing boys, Josiah and Gideon, who arrived 14 months apart). I was exhausted. I went searching for ways to simplify, and I found the idea of the Rule of Six appealing, but I was too overwhelmed at that moment to really think it through.

I was reading Ann Voskamp’s A HolyExperience daily because I had found that counting blessings was the only way to crawl out of the grief hole into which I had (quite understandably) been sucked. I was intrigued when Ann posted a list of Seven Daily Rungs that her homeschool hung on. That was back before she was famous, but after she started keeping her One Thousand Gifts list. You’ll find that post here:

Then I found the idea again on Elizabeth Foss’s blog as I continued my search for holistic education ideas. She wrote about a Rule of Six in 2006 and 2007 and likely some other times also. These were simply six things that she was striving to give her children daily. Those posts are here: and here:  (If you haven’t read Elizabeth Foss’s book, Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home, please do. Especially if you are in the season of many small children, she has some practical advise and curricula ideas for the first eight school years, as well as ways to avoid burnout.)

Elizabeth Foss led me back to Melissa Wiley, here: Melissa Wiley had her own (different) six things that she plans for her family.

All three ladies had different rules of six, but they had the same purpose – to bring peace and efficiency to their home educating homes that allowed them both structure and freedom as they created family life and wrote books and blogs and articles while they were at it.

Much more recently (after multiple rounds of simplifying and making our homeschool look like I want it to), Sarah Mackenzie, who hosts the Read Aloud Revival Podcast over at and who also wrote the little guide Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace, did a Master’s Class to help her members sort out a way to decide what is the most important things for their own homes.  (If you join the Read Aloud Revival membership site, you can watch the recording of this class and several others)

After watching the catch-up video of the first in the two class series, I hurriedly scratched down six words that are things we have been trying for in our house. I finally grasped that I wasn’t supposed to take someone else’s idea of what would be good for this house of boys (now 8, 9, and 13) and their author-editor-publisher-parents. I needed to write what would work for us. And I needed to start with what is currently working and see where that leads. So, that is what I did.

I suggest you try it also. (I’ll explain more about why I chose the words I chose in the next few posts).