Category Archives: Children

Scripture Memorization Made Easy

For years I’ve been memorizing Bible verses. My parents set goals for us and worked with us to memorize. My grandparents offered incentives for Scripture memorization. My uncle offered a camping trip to us if we memorized Psalm 22. And then there was Awana. And being the highly competitive individual that I am, I worked hard to achieve and memorize more scripture verses (sections in Awana speak) than anyone else… particularly more than my rival, Donovan Grey!

Fast forward a few years and I want to get my kids memorizing. I try incentives, goals and Awana. Trouble is, all of that takes a lot of effort. I have to come up with ways to help the kids memorize. Techniques to incentivize them. Rewards that don’t cost a fortune, and appeal to a wide variety of ages. Then I have to record the scripture passage for the non-readers, or read it regularly, or print it up and post it around the house, etc. All of this takes time and is easily derailed by the common disruptions of life in a big family.

And every time I got derailed, I felt guilty… like I was failing to do my part to train up my children in the way that they should go.

I kept searching for an answer to these problems.

A family in our homeschool group began to host a “hymn sing” in their home once a month. Our kids were keen to attend. We shared a meal and sang together. They loved meeting up with all their friends. It was a fun together time. A part of the evening was scripture recitation by any individual or family who cared to participate. We did a few times, but it was hard to get everyone reciting together, hard to get everyone to memorize an entire passage… and let’s face it, the ones for whom it was most difficult were Don and me.

We needed a better way. I kept searching. And God used my mom and dad to direct me to a solution. As my dad’s disease (Multiple System Atrophy – MSA) progressed, he was unable to turn the pages of his Bible. He began using a Bible app on his phone to read to him. The app they used and loved is YouVersion. I checked it out and downloaded it.

We began listening at breakfast. I selected a passage and we listened through the passage once per day. Within a few weeks, even the youngest children were quoting portions of our selected passage. Within a month or so, all have memorized it perfectly. Since they were listening to the same words all together read by the same voice, with the same inflections every time, they all learned the same phrasing and had the same timing. This made for great ability to recite together.

This has been an answer to prayer and has enabled us to more effectively hide God’s word in our hearts.

So far, we have memorized Psalms 1, 19, 22, and 23, and I Corinthians 13. James 1 is in progress.

I trust that God’s word will not return void, but will accomplish that which he pleases, and will prosper in the thing whereto he sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

Have you ever tried this or any similar method to memorize Scripture as a family? What has (or hasn’t) worked for you?

May God richly bless you and your family as you hide His word in your hearts!

 

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Sing to your kids: Only A Boy Named David

I have a mental playlist of Sunday school songs that I’ve been singing to my kids for years. Once I start singing, I go through the whole list. If I miss one, the kids are sure to let me know.

Many years ago, my parents hosted and led a Good News Club (Child Evangelism Fellowship) in their home. Some of these songs are from that. Other songs were from Sunday School. Each one is a treasured memory that I have wanted to pass along to my kids.

I will feature one song per week, as time permits. I’ll post the lyrics and music if I can find it online, or perhaps a YouTube video. Be warned: Some of the videos are dorky, or of poor quality. I briefly considered making our own videos, but to do it legally (honoring copyrights) would be cost-prohibitive and/or would take an inordinate amount of time. Some songs have a couple different versions/wordings. I will share the version I remember from my childhood.

I hope that this will encourage other moms sing to their kids. Sing even if you don’t think you have a nice voice. Sing! Your kids will still enjoy it. My singing is just so-so, but my kids like it. In fact, once I start singing, it’s hard to stop. They constantly beg for “just one more”. You don’t have to sing these particular songs — just sing!

I write this with the desire to spark the memories of others, or to give options to someone who may be new to the idea.

Many of these songs have hand motions or some sort of action that accompany them. I think that is part of what makes them so delightful to young kids.

What can be gained by singing these and other songs to your kids? They learn stories from Bible. They are taught about God and his dealings with man. They are given encouragement for the Christian journey. Words set to music are easy to remember. Things learned by heart as a child seem to stick. Even though I learned these songs all before the age of 8 or 9 years old, for the most part, I can still sing them with no words or prompting.

I was going to go all OCD and give you my list in alphabetical order, but I’ve decided to be random instead. Eventually I’ll publish an index post with with titles listed alphabetically, so that anyone interested can readily find the song they want.

Today’s song is: Only A Boy Named David
by Arthur Smith Arnott
© 1931 Salvationist Publishing & Supplies Ltd. (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

Only a boy named David,
Only a little sling,
Only a boy named David,
But he could pray and sing.

Only a boy named David
Only a rippling brook,
Only a boy named David,
And five little stones he took.

And one little stone went into the sling
and the sling went round and round
And one little stone went into the sling
and the sling went round and round.
And round and round and round and round
and round and round and round.
And one little stone went up in the air
and the giant came tumbling down.

(Mom has to mime falling to the ground!)

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Give grace

Note: This is a long post. Rather than trying to break it into two parts, I’m going to trust that my readers have above-average attention spans. Please be sure to read the whole post before commenting. Thank you.

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:1-4)

Occasionally I hear or read something that gets under my skin. This happened recently, when a sister in Christ made a broad statement condemning and mocking an entire group of people (a group I happen to belong to) who have made a certain choice related to raising children.

All I could think was — HOW DARE YOU?!

That brought to mind a flood of other “How dare you’s” I’ve felt over the years.

I’m going to let them out now. Brace yourself.

How dare you mock me for my parenting choices that I make to the best of my abilities before GOD?

How dare you judge me when I say my kids have food allergies and can’t eat something?

How dare you (especially you with no children, ONE child, or just a few children) judge me for the way I run my super sized family?

How DARE you judge me for choosing to not vaccinate my kids, when you have NO idea what thought and reasoning went into that decision?

How dare you act like your choice for your family is the ONLY right choice on an issue that is NOT clearly delineated in scripture?

How DARE you criticize me for my choice to give birth at home because you choose to give birth in a hospital/birth center?

How dare you presume to be able to evaluate my personal medical issues?

How dare you assert that we have enough kids (or too many)?

These are not moral decisions. There is LIBERTY to choose. These are decisions of conscience.

There’s a lot more to many of these choices than meets the eye.

What you do NOT know are how many hours I’ve spent researching the risks and benefits, the pros and cons, of my decision to only selectively vaccinate my kids. The hours poring over the data from the CDC. The data, the details, adverse reactions from vaccines, what subset of people experience reactions, the disease rates of various infectious diseases. Whether those who got the disease were vaccinated fully, partially or not at all. The locations of outbreaks, the graphs that detail when the disease prevalence began to drop and how the drop coincided (or didn’t) with the introduction of the vaccine. I’ve discussed the vaccine issue with my kids’ pediatrician. What makes you think you know better than me and my kids’ doctor?

What you do NOT know are how many hours I’ve spent researching, and in prayer, over the decision on where to birth. And who to hire as an attendant, or whether I should have an attendant at all.

What you do NOT know, and cannot appreciate, is the faith journey that I have walked as I have lived out my choices. The research that went into the decision. The enormous personal and familial benefits of our choices.

What you do NOT know are how many hours I spent wiping bloody diarrhea off of the scorched/burned bum of a tiny baby who was allergic to more things than we could determine.

What you do NOT know are how many hours I spent holding that baby, who writhed in pain every minute of the day.

What you do NOT know are how many hours I did NOT sleep that entire first year of my baby’s life as he screamed and writhed.

What you do NOT know is that I had to figure out what was in the food I bought because no adequate labeling laws were in effect. Yep, back when you had to call every company in creation to ask whether the “modified food starch” contained wheat; because it might. And at least half the time, the person you talked to either didn’t know, or refused to tell you.

What you do NOT know is that I had to go to a mono diet of only rice until — amazingly — my baby’s symptoms disappeared, and he slept. A blessed, restful sleep with NO writhing. For the first time in his life he slept.

What you do NOT know is that I added in one food at a time every three days until I was eating enough variety to constitute a sustainable diet. It was “three steps forward, two back” for a while until I (YES, I, with no medical advice or help, because they had given up on helping us) figured out what he was allergic to.

What you do NOT know is how much time and effort it took to figure all this out.

What you cannot possibly know is that if I ingested even the tiniest bit of one of his allergens, we were back to square one with his symptoms, and the screaming and lack of sleep resumed.

What you do NOT know is the lack of help available from doctors. No testing is foolproof. Once the process of eliminating all “serious” medical conditions from the possible list is done, the work of deduction falls to the parents.

What you do NOT know are the many invasive tests that were performed on my tiny newborn to rule out a long list of horrible possibilities.

What you do NOT know is the fear I felt, as I went through this process with a tiny helpless newborn.

What you do NOT know is the difficulty of having your newborn hospitalized while trying to care for eight other children at home.

What you do NOT know is the frustration of trying hypoallergenic formulas and even “elemental” formulas on your child, only to have him react to them with screaming, bloody diarrhea, writhing in pain.

What you cannot possibly comprehend, is how it tears a mother apart, to watch her child suffer so. I have experienced this. Food allergies/intolerance are VERY real.

Why are you judging someone who says they can’t eat something? Why do you presume to think they are making it up? What sane person would WANT to restrict their diet for no reason whatsoever? There might be a few people mixed-up enough to do so. Do you REALLY think it is a good idea to lump everyone who has dietary restrictions into the category of dubious sanity? Are you kidding me?

I have never asked anyone to make special accommodations for us. A few brave, kind souls have asked and offered to make accommodations. I might inquire about food at a party or whatever, but solely for the purpose of providing for our family’s food needs.

More times than I can count, though, I’ve overheard the comments on the fact that I or my child is eating something different. The speculation that it is not necessary. The accusations of extreme behavior.

WHY DOES IT MATTER SO MUCH TO YOU??? Just let us eat in peace for goodness’ sake. We don’t want to look any more freakish than we have to in order to keep ourselves healthy.

I find it interesting that, while there has often been speculation (I’ve heard it with my own ears) about the necessity of the diet I and/or my children have had to be on, no one has ever offered to come over to tend the wakeful screaming child when he could not sleep from the pain. No one ever cared enough to help wipe the bloody diarrhea off of his butt as he screamed in pain.

I was once a haughty, proud, judgmental mother. Because I believed breastfeeding was best, I (silently) judged every mother who bottle-fed.

Then God allowed me to have a sick baby. One born with congenital heart disease. who had difficulty gaining weight. One who had to have supplements. Now I was one of those mothers who had a bottle in their child’s mouth. And I understood. There could be a perfectly good explanation for choosing the “inferior” way to feed a baby.

Bottle-feeding is not the enemy. It’s just another way to feed a baby. Not my preference, but a valuable alternative. I was humbled. And ashamed of my prideful, horrible, rude attitude. I had now walked a road that gave me empathy and understanding for others’ choices.

Years ago, when I was a mom of one, I was privately (secretly) critical of a friend who confided in me the struggles she was having with her infant son. He was allergic to so many things, and she had to dramatically restrict her diet as she breastfed him. She could only eat chicken and carrots.

Absurd, I thought. How could he possibly react through her milk. Silly. She must be imagining things. It was years later that God allowed me to experience firsthand how very REAL this situation is. I walked a new road that gave me empathy.

There are a million more issues where judgment is passed, and one mom is critical of another. Here are a few of the things I’ve been criticized for:

The behavior of my autistic child. Admittedly horrible at times. But NOT the result of poor parenting or lack of discipline, and NOT because my child is a brat.

The fact that we chose to get a diagnosis and “label” our kid. Labels can be helpful in understanding. They do not have to define. I’m confident we made the right choice.

Baby wearing. I LOVE to carry my babies. Why do you have a problem with that? I don’t care if you opt to carry around a car seat or push a stroller. That felt more awkward to me. What is your problem with that????

Behavior of boys. Boys are rambunctious. Boys are NOT girls. I’ve been criticized for letting my boys be boys. Especially by “girl moms”. Get over it. There is a time and place for boys to learn to sit still. My little ones are learning. I work with them. They get practice every Sunday during church. But boys are made to move. I let them move whenever I feel it is appropriate.

Size of our family. I cannot tell the number of people who have tried to make this their personal business. IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS!!! I do not ask you for support. I do not ask the government for support. It’s our decision to have the number of kids we have. You have NO right to meddle. Think just for once about what I am contributing: TAXPAYERS! How else will your social security benefits ever be paid?

What activities we have chosen (or not chosen) to be involved in. I’ve gotten “It’s only one night a week” from other parents. Really??? And what about all the other kids who also want their night? Do you suppose we might place a priority on being home together as a family more than fifteen minutes a week?

 

Much of the time, these judgmental comments are not spoken directly to my face. But I do hear them, and sometimes I read them on Facebook. I don’t think the speaker/writer is aware that I can hear/see. If they were aware, I don’t think they would deliberately speak their sly mocking, judgment, and presumption.

But I wish they would.

If you have a question about a choice someone has made or feel they are making an error in judgment, WHY are you talking to a third person about it? GO TO THE PERSON YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT! I don’t mind honest discussion/debate. I don’t mind if someone comes to a different conclusion than I have, or makes a different choice about what is best for their family.

We are all individuals. It’s normal and natural to make different choices. So, if you don’t like the way I am doing something, GIVE GRACE and respect my RIGHT to choose as I see fit. Don’t assume I’m somehow less informed or educated because my choices are different.

Keep your mouth shut and pray for me. OR initiate a respectful convo with me.

Ask questions. Seek understanding. You might learn something. You might even (scary thought) change your mind about something.

OR you might get ME to change my mind as we discuss an issue. Above all, seek understanding. We are all in this super-HARD job of life together.

Although I have walked a lot of roads, I’ve not likely walked your particular road. It’s easy to judge what I do not know, see, experience, taste, touch. Easy, and WRONG. What I have learned is to say (to myself mostly). “I do not understand this situation. I do not have experience with this situation, I will reserve judgment and give the benefit of the doubt. I have not walked THIS road.” GIVE GRACE PEOPLE. it’s NOT THAT HARD!!!!

 

One eats meat, the other not,

To his own master he stands or falls….

Give grace.

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Haircuts and the passage of time

Noah's first haircut, June 2007

Almost since the beginning, I’ve given all the haircuts in the family. No, I’m not a trained hair stylist — I started out of necessity. Occasionally, I have an “off” day and the results are less than stellar. But for the most part, I do an OK job. No one runs away crying at the horrible hair of my kids or husband.

While this started out as a cost saving measure, it has transitioned into something so much more.

A baby in our family usually gets his first haircut by age two. For girls, I do little more than trim the ends to even them up. Boys take a bit more work. That first haircut is an exercise in patience — both for me and the child. I need help from my husband to hold their head while I’m making cuts, because they cannot understand the notion of sitting still for five seconds. It’s always bittersweet to see those baby locks fall away. I pick up a clipping to save. To remember the sweet curls,Noah's first haircut, June 2007 the baby-fine softness of their hair. Then there is that moment when they look in the mirror after the haircut and stare with no recognition of who they are. 🙂

As the babies turn into toddlers, they do much better at sitting. Some get frightened at the noise the clipper makes. All are curious. The hair changes. Gradually. A bit darker maybe, fuller, less fine.

Grade school kids just want the haircuts done, often opting to have it all buzzed off. I notice when they haven’t been doing an adequate job of washing their hair, and I instruct them. We have one-on-one time to chat about how they are doing, or other things that might be important to them at the time. Now the hair is full and strong, and they have settled into their own hair color. The hair changes. Almost imperceptibly. Growing thicker, coarser.

During the teen years, the hair changes dramatically. Hair that once was straight now is curly. Coarse hair turns fine. Limp, fine hair now has a ton of body. It’s interesting, what hormones do to hair. Yep, those bodies are changing. Hair is greasier. Again I give reminders about personal hygiene as we have our haircut chats. They also have more of an opinion on how they want their hair to look. Style. I try to accommodate, but I have no training. I learned on the job and my methods are primitive, to say the least. Sometimes mom doesn’t cut it (haha, pun not intended, I saw it after I wrote the sentence) anymore, and they seek out someone more experienced and professional to do the job. I’m fine with this. Less work for me. Right? But there is a twinge of sadness, as I see them begin the separation process toward independence. And I miss the chats we used to have as I cut. While I recognize this as normal, healthy and good, there is a part of me that longs for them to stay little and cuddlable.

As adults, sometimes a mom haircut is preferred because they recognize the cost savings to them. Their hair is mature now, as they are. Settled into their true color and style. Just as they are. We again chat. Sometimes this is the only alone time we have in a week or more. I no longer need to remind them of personal hygiene. They get it now.

As I cut hair year after year, every six weeks or so, I watch time pass by. I reflect on the changes that I have seen represented in the fallen hair on my bathroom floor.

And I’ve seen the process continue into adulthood as I’ve cut Don’s hair. When I first started, he was younger than our oldest child is now. He had very thick, slightly wavy, coarse hair. It took a LOT of pruning to make it lay nicely. Over the years I’ve notice a bit less in the dust pan at sweep-up time. I’ve noticed a little gray, a bit of receding at the temples. A little more gray. Finer hair again. Time goes on. I am hit with the realization that we are getting older. How did this happen? Weren’t we just married a couple of years ago? I don’t feel any different.

I remember all the hair on the floor. I remember the changes. The changes represented there encompass several lifetimes.

What changes will the future hold? Eventually all the kids will grow up and leave. No more haircuts, no more chats. But, Lord willing, Don and I will grow old together. I won’t necessarily feel it, but I’ll see it in the hair on the bathroom floor.


Hair clippings on floor

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Welcome to Urgent Care — Oh, you again?

Back to zeroEvery family has accidents and injuries. Big families tend to have greater numbers of accidents, due to the simple and obvious fact that they have a greater number of people. Our family is no exception.

But sometimes the number of urgent care visits becomes ridiculous. When I’ve made more than one trip per day, or gone twice in one week for the same kid, something needs to be done.

This past year we had a particularly rough season. There was a large gash on the head that required about ten stitches, a broken ankle, and several smaller things that I’ve apparently blocked from my memory. Seems that every time the kids went out to play, someone was getting hurt.

This had to stop!

Often, the accidents resulted from carelessness or just plain stupidity. We lectured, pleaded, instructed, made rules, enforced rules, yelled, prayed, etc. The kids just would not use reasonable caution, or learn to effectively calculate risk.*

Somehow, out of my frustration, I came up with an idea.

I’m not even sure how the idea came to be. Don thinks he mentioned something in passing about OSHA standards. I can’t remember. All I know is that one day, after yet another injury, I looked at a small chalkboard in my kitchen and decided.

I grabbed my chalk and wrote a big 0 (ZERO), and labeled the board “Accident Free Days”.

For weeks, it seems, we were stuck in the single digits, frequently returning to zero. It was discouraging.

But about 6-8 weeks in, something changed. The kids did NOT want to go back to zero, so they started being more careful — willingly. We moved into double digits.

When we hit 30 days, we decided it was time for a celebration. A whole month accident free! Amazing. We went to In-N-Out Burger to celebrate.

As with any method that we employ to train or teach our children, there is always a period of refinement as we discover unintended consequences. First, we had to define “accident”, because we have some future lawyers in the family who sometimes didn’t want to admit we needed to go back to zero days…. We came to define accident as any incident that requires medical attention significantly above the Band-Aid level, or that is likely to leave a mark or bruise lasting more than a few days. If they cry and carry on, it is clearly more serious, and requires us to go back to zero.

Soon, we discovered an unintended consequence, which turned out to be a huge blessing.

A seemingly unrelated problem was driving us crazy: certain of our children, drama queens that they are, would overly exaggerate the (minor) injuries they received, in a ploy for extra sympathy, or perhaps in an attempt to get a sibling in trouble. When this particular child (OK, I admit it’s one child in particular) learned that this would take us back to zero, we had almost no more complaining and carrying on. There was the self-interest in keeping the whole family on track, and also the peer pressure of knowing that if you are the one to deliberately take the family back to zero, you might feel some heat from irritated siblings.

This brings me to the next adjustment we had to make: How to handle the one child (developmentally delayed) who got ANGRY at the child who was injured, or even if he THOUGHT a sibling was injured. He so did not want to go to zero that he created a huge problem.

We decided this: If a child gets injured, everyone needs to respond to the hurting child with love and care, and make sure his needs are taken care of. IF one does NOT respond properly, they miss out on the next “reward” time that comes, regardless of whether we go back to zero or not.

It’s a little unconventional, but it’s working for us. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box for creative solutions to the problems you face as a family. No matter what the size.

As of today, we’re at 119 accident-free days. 🙂


*Just to be clear: We don’t want our children to be paralyzed by fear, and afraid to take risks — very few worthwhile activities are completely risk-free. We want them to learn to make wise decisions based on a careful evaluation of the risks and benefits associated with the choices they are considering.

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Hands-full Homeschooling (2014 Edition)

School

Our homeschooling journey has always been hard, and full of obstacles. I don’t think there has been a year yet that hasn’t been interrupted by a major life event. The morning sickness of early pregnancy, the birth of a new baby, many toddlers and preschoolers needing my attention, health challenges and more.

Last year, it was Stephen’s in-home ABA therapy. Three or four days per week, we had therapists in our home, requiring at least my partial attention. And often my full attention. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like a failure in the education department, but this past year that changed. Not only did I feel as though we had failed to achieve our goals, I also felt as though we had lost our joy. The joy of learning.

The kids were not enjoying their lessons. I was not enjoying teaching, I was not enjoying being the taskmaster, trying to keep them on track, checking off the boxes that proved they were learning something. But it was my job. So I kept going, hating every moment of it.

We finished the school year at the end of May. Not all the planned coursework was completed, but I declared that we were done. (A teacher’s prerogative, right? After all, I NEVER remember completing a textbook when I was a kid in school.) After a few weeks where I deliberately did not think about school related things AT ALL, I began the dreaded task of pondering and planning for the upcoming school year. And I started praying.

The thought of a repeat of last year was repulsive to me. I did not think I could cope. I once again considered other educational options. Private school was immediately ruled out due to the cost. Public and charter schools have their own sets of logistical issues that made me conclude they are still a less-than-great choice for our family.

So, I’m back to square one. Homeschooling and hating it. I needed something new. Different from what I have done before. Something that works with our limitations, not against them. I continued praying for answers.

I stumbled on a book called Ignite the Fire written by a fellow mom of many (http://www.ignitethefire.com). It’s inexpensive, and it looked promising, so I bought it. I read. I looked at the “other people who purchased this also bought” section on Amazon.com. I noticed a book called Teaching From Rest. It had a lot of great reviews. I went to the author’s website to read a bit more, and learned of a giveaway (on another blog) for the book I was considering, along with some companion audio files.

I decided to wait on purchasing the book, and instead entered the drawing. I prayed that if this was something that would be beneficial, God would direct me through the outcome. Three days later I learned I had won! I read some more. And I began to sense God directing me. Answering my desperate prayer for wisdom and guidance.

About two weeks later, through a series of seemingly random circumstances, I was put in touch with another mom who teaches her kids through a method she calls “delight-directed learning”. She offered to send me her notes for classes she has taught on the Delight-Directed method of learning, and articles she has written. I gratefully accepted, and continued reading. (She gave me permission to share her materials with others — just ask, and I will email them to you.)

I felt that all of these things would not likely come together by coincidence — that it was God’s way of directing my steps.

Don and I had been talking off and on about plans for the coming school year. I had all these random thoughts and ideas for change, but I lacked a concrete plan. I was starting to feel the pressure, with the start of school just a few weeks away. Every thing we considered seemed to have some major drawback. After almost 20 years of homeschooling, I know my own and my children’s weaknesses, strengths, shortcomings and passions pretty well. I wanted to work with the strengths and passions while safeguarding against our shortcomings. Most of all, I wanted to rekindle a LOVE for learning. A JOY in learning. DELIGHT in learning. We continued to pray together for wisdom and direction.

Gradually a plan began to form. For the first time in years, I’m actually excited about starting school. I think we will have fun. It won’t be total drudgery. Last week, when we presented the new plan to the kids, they were excited too!

What is the plan, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you, and then ask for your help.

After our desire to teach our children to love Jesus, and to build godly character in their lives, one of our highest priorities is to teach our kids how to teach themselves. How to figure out how they best learn. How to WANT to learn. How to search out and find information that they need and how to think logically and form conclusions based on what they learn. With this in mind we have developed a sort of checklist/guideline that our kids will use this year.

Every week or two they will choose an area to study. Some examples of areas they might choose:

  • historical figure (biography/autobiography)
  • war
  • period of history
  • invention
  • animal
  • fish
  • bird
  • reptile
  • plant
  • mineral
  • anything in our physical world
  • an item (tractor, book, food, tool)
  • a process (canning, printing, crochet, embalming, sharing one’s faith, flying a plane)

Sometimes the student will select their own subject, and sometimes we will select, or will allow them to select within a predetermined category.

  • Read books pertaining to subject (from our own bookshelves, search library catalog online and request book, or find a Kindle book)
  • Read Wikipedia article (if applicable); follow relevant links
  • Select 5-20 vocabulary words (depending on grade level and subject matter)
  • Define the words
  • Spell the words
  • Plan and do a project (build something, investigate something, take something apart, bake or cook something, create something).
  • Watch video or listen to audio (Amazon Prime video, YouTube)
  • Blog about what they’ve learned.

Incorporate as many of the following subjects as they can:

  • Language Arts
  • History/Geography
  • Math
  • Science
  • Foreign Language
  • Art
  • Music

We bought tablet computers for each kid. We have set up a semi-public blog on our family’s website. Each kid will be able to share their learning in their own section of the blog. Using speech to text, this should be doable (not too tedious and time-consuming) even for the younger ones.

We will invite friends and family to comment/critique blog posts. Correcting spelling, grammar, factual errors, etc.

Once a month we will host a giveaway drawing for those who comment with helpful feedback. “Helpful” is kind of vague, but we’re looking for something deeper than “Nice post.” Ask a question about something that wasn’t entirely clear, or point out something that you think they should have included. Gently correct grammatical and spelling errors, or suggest better wording. If you learned something, say so! Get the idea?

Our kids are welcomed and encouraged to post constructive comments on siblings’ work, which will make them also eligible for a prize.

By making this semi-public we hope to motivate them to see the point of good writing and research. We hope that they will enjoy the interaction with family and friends. We hope that by allowing them to study things that are interesting to them and guiding them through the process that their interests will broaden.

We hope that by inviting others to help critique, it will help them to not just brush it off (“mom is ALWAYS after me about something”), and will also help them to learn to take criticism. Learning to discern whether the criticism is legitimate, and to accept — and be changed by — the criticism that is valid.

So, if you are interested in following along with our kids’ blogs as they learn this year, and if you would be willing to provide feedback to them, please either comment on this post or send me email privately and I’ll get you the info you need. We would be SO grateful for the help.

Coming up soon for one kid is a science experiment to observe the difference between the bacterial growth rate of raw milk left at room temperature, vs. milk that is refrigerated.

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Best. Dad. Ever.

Best. Dad. Ever.It’s interesting to me, the comments people make. It’s curious what sparks conversation. For Father’s Day this year, I gave my husband a T-shirt that says “Best. Dad. Ever.” It was a fun, inexpensive gift intended to make him smile. It worked. (I also bought one for my dad, and we all got a good laugh at the silliness of them BOTH being the best dad.)

Sometime during the following week, Don and I were out running errands together. Costco. Trader Joe’s, Home Depot. Don was wearing his new shirt. He got comments in each store. Sometimes more than one person commented. But it was the interaction in Home Depot that was most interesting to me.

We were in the checkout lane. The employee read Don’s shirt aloud: “Best. Dad. Ever.” Then he paused and said “That’s cuz I’m not a dad yet. I’m going to be the best dad ever. I’m going to give my kids candy every day. Ice cream every day. I’ll take them to the movies once a week. To Disneyland. Anything they want”.

I could not help myself.

I responded: “Then you will NOT be the best dad ever,” and I explained:

Because, while it seems like a nice idea to give kids everything they want, it isn’t. Kids often want things that aren’t good for them, and often don’t want the things that are. Candy all the time??? Really??? How is that doing the best for the kid? Allowing their nutrition to suffer and their teeth to rot? Indulging a child’s every whim produces an ungrateful and unhappy child. In order to thrive, children need boundaries. And the “Best Dad” knows when to say no. He knows when to withhold. He knows when to give. When he does give, he gives good gifts. Things that benefit, without negative consequences.

And so it is with God. He only gives good gifts (James 1:17). Sometimes they may feel crummy. But that’s only because we can’t see the total picture (Romans 8:28). Just like a small child cannot comprehend that eating only ice cream will leave him deprived nutritionally, and will actually harm him in the long run. And this is where faith begins. Faith in an omnipotent, omniscient God who loves me so much that he sent his only son to die on a cross, taking on himself the punishment for my sins. Who could love me more? How can I not trust him?

In the same way, a child must trust his father. He may not understand the “why” of some decisions until grown, if then. A father has a responsibility to be circumspect in raising children. There is no room for selfishness. The “Best Dad” wants what is best for his child and is willing to sacrifice his own personal interests, time, money and ambitions to achieve that.

I’m thankful that Don IS willing to sacrificially love his kids. To give them truly good gifts. To make the hard decisions to withhold when it is appropriate. This does make him, and other dads like him, the BEST. DAD. EVER.

Because they are following the example of the original Father. The one who never makes mistakes. The one who loves unconditionally, no matter the expense, even to death.

 

P.S.: The young man asked how many children we had. We told him eleven. After the initial shocked look, he seemed to really listen to and consider what I had to say. I hope so. For his sake and the sake of his future children.

Indulged becomes entitled
-vs-
Nurtured becomes grateful

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Giving gifts that last a lifetime

For a long time, I bought into the concept of acquiring, upgrading and maintaining things/possessions for my family. House, car, furnishings, books (my one weakness), toys, clothes, stuff, stuff, stuff. After all, these things are real. Tangible. They last. Unlike activities and experiences which are fleeting and then forgotten. Or are they?

I’m coming to a different perspective. Stuff requires work. It soon owns us. It (mostly) does not give us joy and fulfillment. It’s just stuff. Experiences are where it’s at. This is challenging for me.

A few days ago, I took James and Noah to Six Flags Magic Mountain. We had participated in their Read to Succeed program (details at end of post) so our cost for the trip was only time and gas to get there. This is my kind of deal. I love frugal, inexpensive, thrifty, cheap and FREE. We had a fun day experiencing the various attractions. During a slow moment, when we were having a snack, the boys noticed a sign for a carnival type attraction. A hit the button with a large hammer, try to ring the bell type attraction. A $5 per play attraction!

FIVE DOLLARS!!! That, to me, is crazy. I know, it’s an amusement park. I should expect such ridiculous prices, but I just can’t get over it. But I saw that, since this was in a kiddie section of the park, the sign said every play was guaranteed a prize. The display of prizes was there. Stuffed animals, capes, etc. Nothing worth $5, believe me.

I was just about to say, “Let’s move on,” when a strange thought entered my head. While the capes other prizes were certainly not worth $5, the EXPERIENCE for my boys of ringing the bell and scoring a cape, would very well be worth $5. Well worth it. I opened my wallet and handed each boy 5 bucks.

They took the money and excitedly ran over to take their turn ringing the bell. They each scored a batman cape. The capes are nothing significant. I’ve made them much nicer capes myself in the past, but they will never forget this experience. This is the kind of thing kids remember and tell their own kids about.

I know.

When I was a small child, my dad worked in a grocery store. One day I accompanied him to the store where he worked. I don’t know the reason he had to stop by, but he wasn’t working. Outside the store there was a small merry-go-round ride. The kind you feed a quarter and it runs for 3 minutes. My dad stopped for the 3 minutes. He splurged the quarter. He let me ride. I was over the moon with happiness. And I have never forgotten it. Most toys I had as a kid are long gone, but that 25 cents was well spent on a pleasant memory for me.

I’m learning. I’m slowly learning to alter my sense of value to include the intangible aspects. Those of joy, excitement, pleasure, gratitude and other human emotions that are the stuff of memories. Memories last. They bring comfort and joy LONG after any money has been spent to obtain them.

The Read to Succeed program is open to teachers for their students, and home school parents for their kids:

Register at the Read to Succeed website.

Keep a log of books/hours your students read.

When they have read 6 or more hours, enter the hours read under each student’s name in the student section.

The deadline for updating your students’ records is usually in March.

Tickets are mailed a month or two later, and are good for about 10 weeks in the summer months.

Home school parents get a FREE ticket along with the students.

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The importance of teaching children to work

I believe in teaching my kids to work, and to do things for themselves. Each has daily jobs they are responsible for, and they have developed many amazing skills. I also believe strongly in helping them learn to serve others.

Abby, bottle-feeding a baby goat

Abby, bottle-feeding a baby goat

This began out of necessity, and probably was influenced by my own childhood experiences with work. I had five children before the oldest was six years old. Life was busy. I got the basics done: food, dishes, laundry. I seldom had time or energy left to do things like washing windows or sweeping floors.

Enter the idea of allowing my oldest to “help” me. No, she did not do an expert job of sweeping at age five. But she was willing; and with a few pointers, she did the job at least halfway … which, by my reckoning, was better than not at all. The thing is, she loved it! She thrived on helping mommy. She began to learn to work with joy. And her skills improved. I have tried to start my children working when they are still toddlers. Nothing major, just “let’s clean up the toys,” and then make it fun.

By age 2 or 3, they can help me stuff the washer with dirty laundry or switch the freshly washed clothes to the dryer. They pull the wheeled hampers to the laundry room. This is fun for them.

Yes, it is a bit more effort for me initially, but fast forward a few years and I’ll tell you what they are capable of:

All kids are responsible for making their own bed, maintaining basic hygiene, keeping their drawers neat, putting dirty laundry in a hamper, and a few other basic tasks.

Stephen, age 4, daily gathers the dirty laundry and brings it to the laundry room for sorting. He helps with switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer. He helps put away his own clothes in his drawers. He helps fold wash cloths and dish towels. Takes his dishes to the sink after meals. Cleans up toys he has taken out. I do have to remind him to do most of these things. But he is learning.

Landen, age 4-going-on-5, daily empties all the wastebaskets from around the house into the main trashcan in the kitchen. He helps put away his own clothes in his drawers. He helps fold wash cloths and dish towels. Takes his dishes to the sink after meals. Cleans up toys he has taken out. He also needs reminding to do most of these things. But he is learning.

Noah, age 8, vacuums the main living areas and a bedroom (on a rotation) every day. He is responsible for folding and putting away all his own laundry. He folds smaller towels, napkins, wash clothes. He collects eggs and does other small jobs involving the animals. He sweeps the floors and even washes them on occasion. He is usually a willing helper.

James, age 11, is responsible for washing the milking related dishes and tools twice daily after the goats are milked. He unloads the dishwasher in the morning and loads it back up with dirty dishes after breakfast. He is responsible for folding and putting away all his own laundry plus the folding and putting away of underwear and socks for everyone in the family. He is the second-call substitute milker when Isaac is not available. He cheerfully volunteers for “new and novel” jobs, but is less than enthusiastic about his regularly assigned tasks. But we are working together on the character quality of diligence and the integrity of hard work when it goes unnoticed and unappreciated. This is life.

Abigail, age 12 (soon to be 13), makes breakfast for herself and her siblings every day. She, along with Naomi, makes lunch and helps make dinner most days. She folds and puts away her own laundry. She is also responsible for washing the eggs that Noah collects from our chickens daily, and for feeding our baby goats their bottles. She helps watch her younger brother and nephew. Sometimes she gives them their baths. She takes a turn making our family’s bread approximately every 10-14 days. Abby is wonderfully capable.

Naomi, age 14, is responsible for keeping our 3 bathrooms clean. She folds and puts away her own laundry. She, along with Abby, makes lunch and dinner most days. She feeds the baby goats and is the stand-in for milking the goats when Isaac, the regular milker, is not available. She helps watch her younger brother and nephew. Sometimes she gives them their baths. She takes a turn making our family’s bread approximately every 10-14 days. Naomi is able to able to manage the house reasonably well in my absence.

Isaac, age 16, milks the goats twice a day. He cares for all the animals morning and night. (That’s a big job, with 30-odd chickens, baby chicks, 7 goats, a half dozen cats, several kittens, a dog, a turtle and sometimes a pig and/or turkey) He folds and puts away his own laundry. He helps with “fix it” and maintenance jobs around the house and property. He wipes the kitchen table after meals. He takes a turn making our family’s bread approximately every 10-14 days. He helps watch his younger brother and nephew, giving baths if needed.

Daniel, age 21, works outside the home on a regular basis, so he no longer has regular chores. Instead, he does projects, such as “build a play kitchen for the little kids,” “build an enclosure for the buck,” “install this new light fixture”, “paint the house.” Pretty much any job I throw at him, he can do it.

Robert, age 22, is developmentally disabled, and will live with us indefinitely. He is responsible for washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen after lunch and dinner. This means he is responsible for washing dishes, loading the dishwasher, wiping the table, sweeping the floor, cleaning the microwave and stove counters, and drying and putting away dishes. He empties the kitchen trash and recycle bin when needed. He takes the trash to the street each week for pickup. He is responsible for folding and putting away his own laundry. He also does all the outside watering of garden, trees and landscaping.

Each of the older kids babysits as needed. Each one is capable of filling in for another sibling if they are sick or for some other reason unable to do their jobs.

Why work? We are designed to work. The sense of accomplishment is healthy. Rather than having a sense of entitlement, I want my kids to be willing and able to work hard to reach their goals. They have a much greater appreciation for things that they must work for. “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.” (Prov. 13:11)

A few things about how to teach a child to work: First of all, work with them when they are young. As they get older, teach with this pattern:

  • I do, you watch
  • I do, you help
  • You do, I help
  • You do, I watch

Spend as long as necessary on each step. You may have to go back to a previous step if things aren’t going well. But once they get it, you can be confident that the job will get done properly. But remember: you can’t expect what you won’t inspect. Frequent checkups are really important, at least until you’re sure that the child won’t try to skip out on jobs. (And every child tries it! and some kids never stop trying!!!)

My husband says be sure to mention the balance between work and play. It may seem as though all we do is work, as you consider the many jobs that my kids do. Play is important too. I think that our society places a higher priority on play for kids, so it is not something that I feel needs a lot of explaining or focus. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Use timers. Hurry to beat the timer, and then set the timer for play as well.
  • Find ways to make the work fun. Almost anything can be turned into a game, with a little creativity.

All this work helps to develop the ability to serve others. This has been a goal of mine for many years. There is always someone who needs a helping hand. What better way could there be to share the love of Christ, than to serve? Since I’m confident that my older kids know how to work, I feel secure in sending them to help those in our church and community who have needs. It is an absolute JOY for me to hear back how blessed others are by the work that my kids do. This has had the unexpected benefit of leading to paying work for my all my teenage and young adult kids. Their initiative and hard work are noticed and valued by others. Time will tell, but I expect that this will carry over into their adult lives.

If you are interested in encouraging your kids to serve, let me give you a few ideas of how our kids get involved helping others.

James helps hand out bulletins at church.

He helps our elderly friend “Ms. Pat” get her special chair set up before the church service, and fixes her coffee for her.

Abby babysits during a midweek Bible study so a busy mom can actually participate.

Naomi sings on the worship team at church.

Robert, Isaac, Daniel (and some of my adult children who no longer live at home) volunteer whenever someone needs help moving.

We try to always attend work days at church.

We put the word out that we are willing to be available when an elderly person needs something heavy moved, or to reach something that is high (even changing a light bulb).

We try to listen when we hear people talking about things that are broken that need fixing or things they have not been able to find the time to do or are unable to do for some reason.

I try to always bring a meal to a family going through a tough situation, or after a baby is born.

Daniel (and some of the others in past years) volunteers to help with Awana at a local church.

The older kids help with VBS.

Daniel and Isaac volunteer at Camp Julian Oaks (a camp for kids in the foster care system).

Most of these things are minor. They don’t take much effort or even tremendous skill — just TIME — and, usually, just a little bit of time.

What are some ways in which you have been blessed by others? Have friends or strangers ever served you in a time of need?

What are ways in which you or your family have been able to serve others in your church or community?

Please share your experiences and ideas. It will help our family to improve.

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