Home and Family, Homeschooling

Just keep going!

It’s official.  Cold season is upon us.  One daughter’s family had just kicked their coughs and sniffles, and now at our house the 5 month-old has been coughing for a few days, and it is spreading to the other kids. We went into the doc to verify it wasn’t anything more concerning than a normal cold, and he told us not to worry….but to be aware that everyone seems to be catching it.  (Translation-if you’re lucky enough to still be healthy, don’t go anywhere, meet with anyone, or leave your house.  Goody.)  Time to make sure each family has what they need from the store, and revamp school plans (slightly).

The plan:

Mom has been up for a few nights with the baby who isn’t sleeping, but the other five children are awake at their normal time to begin the day.  Hmmmm. Time to simplify. What does school look like with one eye open in between yawns?  Group time will involve less reading aloud (Mom is getting a sore throat), but more art and hands-on activity.  Individual work will utilize more learning/tutoring DVDs and less individualized verbal instruction.  Snacks now include spiced cider (for everyone’s sore throats), less dairy, and more fruits/veggies.  Breaks may happen at unusual times; if the baby goes to sleep, so does Mom.  Naps are allowed for whomever needs one.  But the basics get covered.  Outside time is still fun.  And we press onward.

Even if things turn for the worst (flu, bronchitis, etc.), we can continue to do something.  Charts of who had which med when, graphs tracking hours of sleep or fluid intake, learning about the science of the human body and infection fighting, and history/science/art/Schoolhouse Rock videos are waiting in the wings.

Life is a school, and when life changes, we may need to adjust.  We keep going as best we can.  And we do it with a smile and as a family.  If our children can learn that, everything else may be simply icing on the cake!

Home and Family, Parenting

The importance of home

Spent another afternoon at a follow-up evaluation for one of the grandkids.  One comment made by the therapist continues to ring in my head.  “Often, I will recommend therapy here in clinic, but what really helps is making changes at home, and utilizing strategies there. It’s the little changes and strategies that make the difference.  You’re already doing those.  He doesn’t need therapy; you’ve got this.”

Yes.  The compliment was appreciated by my daughter and I.  But more importantly, it was yet another reminder that what happens in our homes outweighs so many other things.  Whatever challenges, frustrations, set-backs, and bad days come our way, home is the place to tackle them.  Our children need our input and our support more than all the therapy, specialists, and office visits in the world.  I understand that those things are needed, but they cannot take the place of a loving home, parents who take the time to arm themselves with tools for helping each child, and trusting the powers of heaven to help.  Special needs children are just that-special, and their needs can be met by us.  That’s why they were sent to our family.

Nothing will ever take the place of a loving home.  Ever.

Home and Family, Parenting

We still have hope…

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  John 14:27

We live in a world that is a mess!  Anyone who watches the evening news will agree.  Local, national, and world events can be shocking, disturbing…even disheartening.  What can we do?  We have these sweet, young, innocent souls in our homes who we want to teach to trust, hope, and move into the future with confidence.  Can we?  Can they?

The answer is a resounding YES!

Where I live (Utah), this Friday is a state holiday – Pioneer Day.  It commemorates the first pioneers coming into the Salt Lake Valley, and is quite the party in my neck-of-the-woods.  The Grand Marshall of the Days of ’47 Parade was interviewed about this event, and what he said has gotten me thinking.  Pres. Henry B. Eyring, 1st Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, remarked that he has spent even more time than he had in the past reading the stories of those who came west in preparation for his duties this weekend, and as a consequence of what he read, he will “try to be better.”  When asked how he stays positive in spite of the problems in the world today, he replied that God is aware of us.  He has gotten us through hard things in the past, and will continue to do so.

It made me smile. Pres. Eyring is right.

Regardless of what we hear on the news, man is not in charge.  (I realize that will come as a shock to some.) God is.  He will see that His purposes are carried out, and our safety lies is staying true to Him.  We can have peace in the midst of trouble, because peace isn’t something that we generate ourselves.  Peace comes from He who reigns.

Can we teach our children to trust?  Absolutely.  Can we move into the future with confidence?  Without a doubt. We simply need to follow Him, and teach our children where safety is to be found.  Let’s have a party!

Home and Family, Homeschooling, other, Parenting

Thoughts on teaching

Have you ever attended  a class or workshop which left you “flat” while all around you people raved about the teacher, and you wondered what you missed that they did not?  Maybe it isn’t what you missed.  Have  you ever taught information you were excited about, but didn’t feel the others caught your vision?

Sometimes presenters teach others they way they would want things presented; when we are the presenter, we need to be aware of others’ learning styles or the end result can be that people who learn the way we learn tell us what a wonderful job we have done, and yet others can be left largely uninspired.  If you regularly teach groups of people, whether children or adults, it can make such a difference to keep in mind the different ways folks learn.  In order to engage those around you, use varied methods of presentation so that everyone has a chance to catch at least something.

  • Chalkboards/whiteboards are great IF you are a visual learner, but not so great for kinesthetic folks UNLESS you allow them to write on the board. They can scribe for you, or write answers to questions you’ve asked.
  • Try adding music, pictures, maps, and interactive activities to whatever you are teaching.  It is an invitation to others to join in the fun.
  • Invite a guest speaker to help.
  • Spend time writing well-thought-out questions.  Give them something about which to think, and give them time to quietly write before they need to answer.  There is nothing wrong with a little quiet before you get a response!
  • One of my favorite ways to involve those who seem bored or tuned out is to bring flannel board story figures and script, and have them retell the story you’re discussing.
  • Make a meal, or learn to say basic sentences in the language of the country you are studying for geography.
  • Draw outside pictures on the sidewalk that apply to what you did during the class.
  • Pass out paper and other supplies, and ask them to draw or paint illustrations for your newly-finished chapter or even reference book.  What did they learn?  (You can do this with adults; watch ’em cringe.)
  • Write a review or an advertisement for the class.
  • Create new words based on the information given, and put together a class dictionary.  Let them know ahead of time that this will be happening, so that they can be looking for ideas!
  • Break class members into pairs or small groups and allow some discussion.
  • Go on field trips, or bring relevant visuals and hands-on activities to the class.
  • Create a game to reinforce the principles or information taught.

Giving up some of the control in a classroom setting can be frightening.  I get that.  You start class with a plan.  You have material you want to cover.  But if the point of teaching is not simply the dissemination of information, but the learning of it, you MUST involve those around you.  It makes all the difference in the world.

And it’s more fun!

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Change is a good thing!

One of the challenges of living as a homeschooling family is the reality that you spend LARGE quantities of time together.  While that is a tremendous blessing, it can also be hard.  And same-y.  Daily anything can become a drag.  This summer as you spend time together, and during your planning for the coming academic year, insert some change.  (If you have children that depend on a routine, plan ahead, and let them know what is coming!)

  • Take a few days and reverse your meals.  Have dinner for breakfast, and vice versa, or eat outside.
  • Plan your meals using different themes.  Try all finger foods for a day.  Or add a previously untried fruit/vegetable at each meal. Don’t turn on your stove for 24 hours, but still eat at home.
  • Introduce a different culture’s cuisine every few days, and learn to make food from another part of the world, or explore the same basic food from different countries.  Some foods appear in most places, just in a different form.  Sandwiches become quesadillas, bao, etc.  Looks for examples of soups, one-dish meals, salads, pies (sweet and savory), or desserts.  YUM!
  • If you generally spend Friday running errands, pick a different day of the week, or check out a few less-familiar stores.  You never know what you might be missing!
  • If you live in a “touristy” area, become a tourist for a day and explore all those places people come from all over the country to visit.
  • Spend time at a different local swimming pool, library, or park.
  • If you can have access to them, teach your children to use a typewriter, or carbon paper, or use a slate and chalk for a day rather than paper and pencil.
  • Have a game day as a family.  No academics.  Minimal chores.  Easy meals.  Play games together-board games, card games, go outdoors and learn hopscotch and jacks and kick-the-can.  Laugh together.

As we open up the world to our children, we encourage them to think a little differently.  Flexibility is a requirement in today’s craziness!  Take some time as a family, and develop some together!

Home and Family, Parenting

Mom is ALWAYS paramount! (rant warning!)

A wise and godly man I revere, Ezra Taft Benson, once counseled mothers, “Be at the crossroads… take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going—when they leave and return from school, when they leave and return from dates, when they bring friends home. Be there at the crossroads whether your children are six or sixteen. In Proverbs we read, “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”   This quote has been on my mind due to a number of frustrating conversations and events in the past few weeks.  It seems we’ve stopped caring about certain family basics in the name of “me time” and “fulfillment” in our society! What has happened to ensuring the care of our minor children?  All of them.  They are minors until they turn 18!  So many moms who seem able to understand that 5 or 6 year-olds need time, attention, and encouragement from mom somehow struggle with the idea that as they grow all those things need to continue!  The attention and encouragement you give a 15 year-old is different than that you give a smaller child, but they need them none-the-less!  And if you are never home, it isn’t going to happen!  It doesn’t really matter if you’re gone due to a blossoming career, or community service, or retail therapy.  If you’re not there, you’re not there.  (I realize some moms need to work to put food on the table.  That decision is between you and He whose children these are.  I’m talking about two-incomes for sake of the “fun stuff.”)

I am not advocating helicopter parenting.  Children need to experience life, try things, fail sometimes, learn from it, and keep going.  I’m talking about being there when help is needed. You simply can’t schedule those times when they will need you to be there for them!  The frustrations of a 7 year-old need to be addressed; that reality doesn’t change when they are 17.  In some ways, it only becomes more vital that we be there!  (The challenges a 17 year-old faces can be much more life-altering than those of a younger child!)

Think of your family as a ripple in a pond.  The ripple may be small when your children are young, but it needs to grow as they do.  As their circle of friends and number of activities increases, so should the circle we embrace.  Having your teen’s friends in your home for game nights, or attending their games or concerts used to be the norm.  Why did that change?  Teen’s are NOT mini-adults!  They have questions, and quandaries, and knowing that their mom (and dad) will be there to listen, advise if necessary, and cheer is soooo important.  No job, club, activity, or personal pursuit is worth more than the bonds that can be established when you spend time with your teens as you drive car-pool, make dinner together, help with schoolwork, or talk after a night out with friends. Include those who are important to them in your life. One of the most cherished memories I have of raising my teenagers is the day a friend of one of our boys showed up unannounced and asked to hang out.  Home was a bit of a battleground at the moment, and our home was a trusted refuge.  We had a wonderful day filled with good food, work, talking, a video, and time to just be still.

If you chose be a parent, be there.  Help Your children AND your teens see how important they are.  Encourage them in all they do.  Laugh with them.  Cry together when needed.  Set them free when they have been taught, fed, nurtured, and given all they need to be successful as adults.  Isn’t that the way you want them to parent your future grandchildren?

Cooking, Finances, Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling, Organization

It’s summertime!

Okay.  I admit it.  Summer is NOT my favorite season of the year.  Heat is not my friend.  Pulling weeds is exhausting.  I’m not a huge fan of bugs.  Yet there is one thing that I do love about summer; it gives me a chance to regroup before the return of cold weather, canning season, and the next school year.  What do I do each summer that makes me smile?  It’s time to start making lists, so I grab a notebook and pencil, and inventory my life.

Closets get a good once-ever.  Out with the stained, ripped, ill-fitting, and simply-not-worn items (other than gardening clothes.  They don’t have to look impressive…or even respectable.  As long as they are modest, I’m good.).  I can fill in the gaps I create for minimal cost as I thrift.

Food storage is checked and straightened.  What do I have that needs to be used, or tossed? Which foods need restocking through canning, drying, sales, etc.?  Have our eating habits changed?  How does that affect what I should be storing?  I love seeing neatly faced shelves, and the knowledge that I can cook whatever strikes my fancy without an emergency shopping trip!

This is a great time to tidy, sort, and overhaul the school stuff.  Which items need to go to someone else?  What is so loved (translation: worn-out) I really ought to find an additional or replacement?  What have I not used because I forgot about it?  I also take time to move the contents of my games/learning activities shelves around.  It gives my grandchildren and others who visit a chance to rediscover old, forgotten favorites, and try new things.

I check the linen closet.  It contains not only my towels, wash clothes, and such, it is where I store the OTC meds, extra supplements, first aid and personal care products.  What needs to go on the case lot shopping list?  Having this closet stocked and things in an easy to find place before cold and flu season hits gives me great peace of mind!

As I sort, I am making mental and written lists of needs to look for as I shop, or items to add to the budget to minimize surprises later.

While this list seems overwhelming, remember it is best to eat an elephant one bite at a time!  Pick one shelf, one closet, one drawer, one category and sort that, then in a day or two, work on another one.  In a week or two, you can look back and surprise yourself with how much got done!  And don’t forget to involve the children!  They can empty shelves, take things to the trash, assist with decisions (depending on their age), and if they helped create the mess, they get to help sort it and put it away properly!  Work with one or two kids at a time, or dive in with everyone and when you’ve finished, go do something fun or eat something yummy to congratulate yourselves on a job well done!

By the time autumn rolls around, and I am ready to hunker down for the coming cold weather, the house is ready.

Happy sorting!