Cooking, Home and Family, Homemaking, Parenting

Life lessons while canning

We have finished bottling peaches for the year, and one lesson learned was such a fabulous observation, I am still smiling (and thinking).  As we taught my two oldest grandsons to peel the ripe peaches and put them in the jars, the nine-year-old remarked, “It goes more quickly if I go slowly….”.  He was referring to the reality that peach skin will rip (rather than peel) more easily if you pull quickly, or are in a hurry.  He’s right….and not just about peaches.

For him, it held lessons about slowing down in order to complete his math more precisely, or learning to take care with his penmanship so that it only takes one effort to be done. I’m sure we’ll be referring back to it for other lessons as well.

For the adults, it is continuing to teach us to remember to take time to slow down.  Children learn more quickly when we are patient.  Jobs get done more satisfactorily when we slow down and think things through.

And for Grandma.  Slow down.  Accept what you’re given with grace and gratitude.  Stop waiting for what may never be.  The Lord’s timing is perfect.

Be still, and know that I am God.  Psalms 46:10

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Homeschooling, Organization

My love/hate relationship

Okay.  I admit it.  There are things that leave me so conflicted, I can’t seem to decide how I truly feel.  My latest hair-pulling is found when I am at my copier.  I LOVE the ease of copying when the masters are spiral-bound rather than the typical glued binding, but then I often forget which reproducibles I have when they are bound that way and miss opportunities to use things that could add just the right thing to our studies.  OR I don’t spiral-bind my books, and copies come out lop-sided, messy, or missing a few letters on one margin or the other.

I think I may have to go to using three-ring notebooks and page protectors, but that gets pricey.  And I will need more shelf space….

What drives you crazy?

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!

Homemaking, Homeschooling

Sometimes school doesn’t look like school…

I had a discussion with a young homeschooling mom this week about curriculum planning and development.  After exploring her daughter’s interests, strengths, struggles, and individual quirks, it became apparent that traditional seat work was not the best method for her.  She is active, personable, bright, obsessed with animals and art, and generally delightful!  Spelling, language, and science worksheets are of no interest to her, and cause the family school time to be uninspiring and, ultimately, discouraging.  She needs art, geography that is associated with the natural world, spelling that involves her whole body, and tons of experiential learning.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when Mom looked at me, and expressed that what she was looking for (without realizing it) was permission to allow her daughter to be herself, and throw away the mold!

While I am NOT a fan of allowing children to lead out in their education, nor do I advocate beginning the school year without a plan, I do wonder how much more we would all learn if we accepted who we (and our children) are, how we learn, and focused on our strengths rather than the areas which need work.  Math, science, language arts, geography, manners, etc. need to be taught, and even the least favorite subjects are required, but if we spent a bit more time looking around for methods that effectively teach, reinforce, and encourage our children, their love for learning would increase, and they would retain more!

Here are just a few ideas to keep it fun!

  • Allow them to make lists, diagrams, or charts rather than writing a paper with complete paragraphs if they are inclined to do so.
  • Use role play, games, and field trips more often, in order to make connections that might otherwise be missed.
  • Use music or art media to express and explore what you are learning.  Memorize or write a song, or create a logo which applies to the unit you just finished.  Construct a game or map.  If they can recreate it, they have learned it.
  • Use more manipulatives, and oral answers for math time-especially for the young ones.
  • Allow more movement.  Finger-spell.  Run laps while you drill. Get out the Legos or crayons for quiet activity while someone else reads aloud.  Our magnificent bodies were created to MOVE.  Don’t just read or write about things…DO them.
  • Collections are wonderful.  Learn to classify, organize, label, display, and enjoy things.
  • Find things to write that matter.  Family newsletters, journals, research papers,  interviews with those who have experience in what you are studying, etc.
  • Volunteer.  Get involved.  Make a difference.  Connect with those around you.

Remember, we don’t generally live in “model homes” or have a “model schoolroom.”  That’s okay.  Fill your homes with other models…love, activity and exploration, creative expression, lively discussion, and laughter.  Focus on the gifts your children have and are.  They will surprise you with what they can become.

 

Home and Family, Organization

Getting the job done

When our children were young, chores were a part of each day.  For me and for them.  While I knew that it was important they learn to work, my husband and I struggled with what to expect.  As time passed, we realized that we would need some way of stating and reminding them what the expectations were for each assigned task.  One tool we used was our “This room is clean when…” lists posted in a frame in each room.  As long as the child was able to read, the need to nag was greatly minimized.  If the child wasn’t reading yet, pictures helped.   The lists looked something like this:

FRONT ROOM

  • Straighten pillows and afghan(s) on couch and chairs
  • Clean up floor clutter and trash
  • Tidy surfaces
  • Check under furniture for stray items
  • Dust
  • Empty trash
  • Run sweeper over carpet daily/ vacuum on Saturday

KITCHEN

  • Empty dishwasher (dish drainer when we didn’t have a dishwasher)
  • Clear table
  • Place dirty dishes in dishwasher (or stack neatly for hand washing)
  • Complete hand wash
  • Tidy and wipe down counters and appliances
  • Sweep floor
  • Empty trash
  • Wipe up any sticky/dirty spots on cabinet fronts and walls

BATHROOM

  • Clear surfaces
  • Tub toys put away in net bag
  • Wipe down fixtures-inside and outside
  • Empty trash
  • Clean mirrors
  • Check linens; put out fresh if needed
  • All clothes go IN the hamper, not around, on top, or close to
  • Scrub all fixtures and surfaces on Saturday

BEDROOM

  • Make bed
  • Tidy floor/ toys put away
  • Place dirty clothes in the clothes hamper
  • Fold and place clean clothes in dresser (DO NOT put dirty clothes in drawers)
  • Tidy surfaces and closet floor
  • Check under furniture for stray items
  • Empty trash
  • Run sweeper over carpet daily/ vacuum on Saturday
  • Dust on Saturday

Twice a year, I would go through their room and straighten every drawer, closet, shelf, etc.  If they worked with me without whining, they had some say in what stayed and what left.  If not, I purged on my own.  This clear-out generally happened once at the beginning of the summer, and once before Christmas.  I also went through our school supplies, kitchen cabinets, and all closets (linen, coat, etc.)  Not always our favorite thing, but we all enjoyed the clearer spaces.  Some years I would save the excess for a yard sale; most of the time, it went to the local charity shop.

One of the greatest advantages to these lists is that the standard was set.  My mood, their whims, or a tight schedule didn’t affect the expectations.  They were clear, posted, and easy to follow.  When the children were first learning the procedures for each room, Mom or Dad would work with them.  As they got older, they could take care of each room on their own. As adults, they can clean, sort, clear, and organize their own living spaces.  That is a great pay-off!

Finances, Homeschooling

The wonders of a homeschool convention

June is the month when our state convention and vendor fair is held.  Each year as I teach, I am impressed by the number of new homeschoolers (affectionately referred to as newbies) in attendance.  The homeschooling movement is growing so quickly; it is such a joy to watch!  Moms learn so much as they attend the different classes, and fires are kindled (or re-kindled) over the course of the day(s).  Getting ideas from others who have taught their children successfully can remove the feeling that you must be somehow trying to “re-invent the wheel” in your homeschool.

I also grin as I watch parents make connections with others who live in their area, and expand their networks.  Having a support system is a massive help when you are working to teach your children and stay sane at the same time!  You can gather names, email addresses, and collect information about groups in your state while you are there.  What a great bonus!

Each year my daughters and I look forward to the vendor fair, and each year we find something we didn’t know existed (and now can’t do without it).  Lessons in that arena include- there is always something new around the corner that you can use to fill a gap, and there are so many things you could your spend money on, be careful.  You can overspend easily!  Even though I am a bit of a homeschool junkie, even I have experienced buyers remorse.  Not all curriculum, supplies, and games are created equal.  Saying “no” can be as wise as saying “yes!”

Take time to check out the convention in your area.  Hidden gems are waiting for you.

 

Home and Family, Homemaking

Stay home

Sometimes you hear that stay-at-home mothers are lacking in ambition.  *exasperated sigh*  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have not been able to stay home for a while.  What did I learn (or learn again) about staying home?  Here is a smattering:

  • Sleeping in your own bed is a blessing I take for granted WAY too often!
  • I can cook meals that feed our bodies and souls with real ingredients…and love.  That is hard to do without a kitchen! Eating out or just grabbing a quick bite is hard on our health, budget, and nerves.
  • Spending time with family is best done daily.  Too many special trips, extra goodies, or just being out of touch is tough on husbands, kids, grandparents, and everyone else.  Nothing beats routine, regular time together.  Touch base with those you love only on the days you brush your teeth.
  • Slow and steady really does win the race!  I can’t cram all the prep, planning, cleaning, and teaching into a few hours per week.  My home is cleaner, my body is more responsive, and my heart is more peaceful when I focus on hearth, home, and the things the Lord put me here to do.
  • It is cheaper to be home and doing than to be out and about..in just about everyone way!
  • I am a better wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, and friend when I stop being “busy” and I give attention to the things that matter most.
  • My mind is sharper when I take time for me.  Prayer, scripture study, time to meditate, and exercise are essential for mental clarity.  Those are most easily done at home.
  • When I can’t stay home, I need to use that opportunity to reflect on the blessings that are so often overlooked, and give thanks for all that is mine when I can.

I realize not everyone has the ability to be home, and that I and my daughters are blessed to have husbands and family that support and encourage the moms to be with their children, but how easy it can be to get distracted and trade the things of greatest worth for a mess of pottage!

Today I choose to stay home.