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Nina Radcliffe, Homeschool Mom of 12 and National Marketing Director for the Juice Plus Company

(This is the 2nd homeschool mom feature in a series #hsmomstories)

When did you begin homeschooling, and what are the age ranges of your children?

I started homeschooling in 1989 when our oldest was three years old and was eager to grab a pencil and paper! My husband and I decided we would homeschool after learning about it through our church. I have 12 natural children ranging in age from 13-33 years old, so we've been homeschooling now for 32 years!

What are some of the best benefits you've found from homeschooling?

The excitement I had about watching my children learn. Also I got to learn some of the basics I never learned in public school, like phonics.

We benefited from being a part of a christian homeschool group where I learned a lot about character traits. I'm very grateful I was able to develop that in my children with homeschooling

With a large family at home, I needed to challenge them to work and manage the home. I had the older ones teaching the younger ones, helping with cooking and chores, and I managed and mentored.

Looking back, what would you tell yourself when you first started homeschooling?

Your children will constantly challenge you - they'll want to rebel and be lazy. It's not going to be easy. Remember it's a calling and you need to stick by it and not be persuaded by their ideas to get them out of work. They'll complain about eating healthy or doing chores but stick with it. It's hard to establish family unity. I recommend re-visiting the whys with your children. Explain "this is why we do what we do" and share the benefits of homeschooling with them (like, this is why we can be on vacation now while others are in school). Show that homeschooling is really a good thing, and keep persevering. Know it's going to be hard. I'm kind of an optimist, and thought that because this is what my husband and I wanted, that it would come easily, but I really wasn't prepared for how difficult it was and at times feeling persecuted, being on my own with my children (my family wasn't against it, but I imagine some people's families don't support it - so stay focused and know God is with you and will give you all the grace you need).

How do you make time for self-care?

Honestly when my kids were younger, I didn't do this well. Back then it wasn't a thing as it is now. But the one thing I did do was on Sunday nights my husband watched the kids and I would have alone time. Sometimes I would sleep or take a bath or making babybooks.

When I got a sitter (which wasn't very often as we could't afford it) was when I really needed it.

I have always exercised either by walking through the neighborhood or going to the gym.

Now that I'm more aware of self-care I've taken more time for my mental, physical, and spiritual health. I recommend taking time for yourself once a day - whether it's getting up earlier to have alone time or teaching your children to not wake you up super early, teach them to respect your time. When they're taken care of, utilize that time for napping or rest. Quiet time in the mornings with Scripture and prayer are vital, even if it's short.

Do you homeschool through the summer or take off?

We take a month off which is just enough time to take a break and re-group, go on vacation, that kind of thing, without the kids getting into total chaos of doing nothing. I don't recommend taking off more than a month, as the kids get into lazy habits. They forget to do even the simplest of chores. I think every parent faces that problem where you just want to fill their summer with activities so they're not so lazy or whine-y. I'm ready for summer school!

How did you get started with your Juice Plus business, and how has it helped your family?

Having several children and finding ourselves in the doctor's office way too often just was not going to work for our future - it was expensive, when one kid got sick it got passed through the whole family, and we were sick way too often. For me, being pregnant and nursing year after year I found myself exhausted, in a brain fog and depressed. I felt completely zapped out of everything I needed to continue. So I cried out to God for help in prayer, and God showed me I had standards for myself and my performance that were way above His, and I was stressed out. Once I realized this, I confessed it and began to trust God more. Then I discovered the healing power of raw fruits and vegetables, and we completely changed our diet.

A friend told me about Juice Plus, but we were eating 80% raw every day, so I didn't see the need for buying a whole-food supplement. But I had a very difficult delivery with my 11th child, and I knew medicine wasn't going to heal me, so I tried Juice Plus. I was surprised that after taking it I experienced energy I had not seen in 20 years, my brain fog lifted, and I was more joyful and excited in my homeschooling! But, I felt guilty about the expense of taking it. I wanted it for all 14 of us, and so my friend said, "well, you can earn it!" and I was like, "what? but I have 12 kids, I don't have time for that." But she replied, "oh yes you do, because you've already done the work by recommending it to others. This is super simple - you don't need to hold inventory. All your customers need to do is order from your website and the company ships the product directly to them." I was so excited! And by the way, even though I was eating raw fruits and vegetables, I realized the reason Juice Plus worked for me was it was giving me the quality and variety of fruits and vegetables I wasn't getting. Juice Plus fruits and vegetables are vine-ripened, herbicide and pesticide free, and it's the perfect blend for our bodies to absorb the nutrients and create molecular energy. So, I started out being able to cover the cost of the product for my family, and then saw amazing results in my friends who started taking Juice Plus who were chronically ill, or had allergies or autism. I felt amazed and excited to be a part of a company that is helping people.

I was also excited about the financial benefits - we were able to say yes to things we previously had to say no to: music lessons, summer camps, classical school, and we were able to buy a larger (6 bedroom) home that could fit all of us! Then when I reached top level in the company, there was a tuition-reimbursement program for college. We never would have been able to contribute to our children's college education prior to this, but now we can! We never had any type of savings plan or retirement plan because we always needed the money to take care of the immediate needs of our family and bills. So now we're beginning to do that, and I'm excited I can travel to see my grandkids who don't live nearby. Juice Plus has been such a blessing in so many ways!

Do you have any homeschool traditions you can share?

I'm sad to say we didn't have anything super fun! But one thing we do is a one-week bootcamp a week or two before school starts. As I said earlier, the summer months brought on laziness and falling out of routine, so in bootcamp the kids would re-learn their basic tasks. I had charts with stars, and they'd get prizes for mastering a skill. Getting up on time, making their bed, changing the baby's diaper - anything they were capable of doing, they'd have the opportunity to earn a mastery skill star. The older ones had more to do. It proved to be very beneficial. They were excited and got used to a routine by the time school started.

What are two of your top homeschooling tips?

Homeschooling for me, was not about the academics. I do like to learn, but I'm not an academic. I like it for practical purposes but not for being acknowledged. So, I didn't teach that way. I taught what they needed to learn, but I spent a lot of time on character building and practical life skills they would need as an adult. For example, conflict resolution. How do you apologize, and how to make restitution.

I'm naturally an organized person, but I advise anyone that is not organized to get organized, otherwise the tyranny of the urgent can completely rule your life and you won't get the important things done. I like to think of it as a traffic light. A traffic light tells you when to go. Well, you can't be a traffic light to all your children. They can't be waiting around for instruction for everything. So I used a lot of charts and schedules to be my traffic light for me. So when they didn't know what to do, I'd say go look at the chart. When I saw someone goofing around, I'd say, "what are you supposed to be doing? Go look at the chart." Every week I'd have accountability meetings with the older ones where they'd show me their work, I'd grade it, and it was a great time for discipleship and one-on-one time to see how they're doing. Also meal planning and prep, have to be planned ahead.