Take time to celebrate this weekend!

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Well, it’s here.  Tomorrow is Independence Day.  The 4th of July.  America’s Birthday.  Time to go camping or hiking, eat something tasty and indulgent, watch a fireworks display, or simply enjoy time together as a family.  While all of these things are worthwhile, please take a few minutes and focus on why we commemorate the 4th of July.  Ensure your children hear the story of our Great Nation.  Remind yourself what blessings we have simply because we live here.  Make this weekend a little more special.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Sing patriotic songs together.
  • Read about the founding of our nation.  Books such as The Fourth of July Story, by Alice Dalgliesh, The Children’s Story, by James Clavell, or a biography of a Founding Father are wonderful ways to remember afresh the blessed past we have, and to recommit to maintaining our freedoms.
  • Watch a patriotic movie as a family.  Talk about the blessings and responsibilities we have as citizens of the United States of America.  One of our family favorites is the BYU production, A More Perfect Union.  Fabulous!
  • Attend a parade.
  • Take a few minutes and visit a veteran’s hospital to say, “thank you for your service” or do something thoughtful for a service member in your community.  Teach your children about the sacrifices made by those who are in the armed forces.
  • Send a few letters or packages to the troops serving overseas.
  • Talk as a family about things you can do to get involved, and help ensure the continuation of our freedoms for the next generation.
  • Post the Stars and Stripes at your home, and teach each member of the family proper care of our flag.
  • Find a game on the Constitution,  American geography, etc. to play as a family.  Pinterest, second-hand stores, or book stores are good places to look.
  • Pray for our people and government.  Petition the Lord for His grace and guidance as we move into the future.

The land in which we live is a gift.  Let’s focus on the gift as well as the fun of this weekend.  Have a truly blessed 4th!

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Let’s DO school!

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It’s that time again.  Homeschool conventions, curriculum fairs, and planning.  Lots of planning.  I remember worrying as a young homeschool mom that I wasn’t doing the right thing, or enough (or too much?), or that I didn’t have everything I needed in order to truly teach my children the things that would best serve them for their future.  Now I watch as my daughters and friends do the same thing.  When I began our homeschooling journey in 1991, there were few resources available.  Scraping curriculum together took time and hunting.  Fast forward 24 years. There are so many options available now, it is enough to make your head spin!  Two thoughts I have had in the last few weeks as I watch this dance happening around me:

First-There is no such thing as a perfect curriculum.  Often we think we have failed, when the failure is in the book…or box…or file.  There are very few prepackaged kits that I would regard as safe bets for just about anyone, and often those will still need tweaking a bit depending on the child.  Stop looking for perfection; consistency is what can make the difference!

As plans are made for the upcoming year, take time to DO things.  Math often makes more sense with manipulative use.  Grammar seems plainer with diagramming if you have a visual learner.  Science is more easily remembered, and more enjoyable, if you get out there and experience it rather than expecting facts to be absorbed by simply reading a book. Go to the zoo.  Dig for rocks.  Lie on the ground and observe the night sky.  Experiment in the kitchen.  Go on field trips to make your studies come alive.  Take regular breaks and get the whole gang moving.  Run up and down the stairs as you drill math facts.  Take a walk and practice observational skills.  OUr children need to learn to cook and do laundry as well as diving into academic studies. Jump on a mini-tramp between subjects for a quick brain break. Role-play or act out history lessons. Duck walk as you review spelling lists or phonics rules.    Doing wakes up the brain, increases retention, and the ensuing giggles aren’t bad either.

As you spend time exploring the world and all its wonders, remember to keep active verbs in the mix.  Do. Try. Experiment. Observe. Move. Fail. Laugh. Create things: messes, meals, and memories for a lifetime.  And cut yourself some slack.  It’s not up to you to find the perfect books, or be the perfect parent, or have the perfect family.  The only perfection we will ever attain will not come from us.  It comes from He who wants us to succeed.  Lean on Him, and go DO something!

Mom is ALWAYS paramount! (rant warning!)

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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?

It’s summertime!

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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!

Help them see what is right!

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When was the last time you marveled at the antics of a nine-month old?  Or laughed at the silliness of a three-year old?  Or cheered on the nine-year old at sports, or scouts, or piano?  Children come to us ready to explore, learn, and utilize every ounce of enthusiasm they possess in everything they do.  They are joyful, or distraught, or anxious, but whatever they are, they are that thing ALL THE WAY!  They learn and grow and lose some of that….and that’s sad.

When was the last time you lost your patience at a small child for being a small child?  Why do we expect them to be big when they’re little?  And why, in heaven’s name, do we teach them to look for what they did wrong, rather than what they did right?  If they are struggling with learning to tie their shoes, do we remember how freeing it was when they could finally dress themselves?  If they got 90% correct on a spelling test, that means they got 9 out of 10 correct!  When they want to shoot baskets rather than practice piano, do we encourage their love of sports and praise them for not being couch potatoes?  Perhaps they can shoot baskets and THEN practice. If they love spending time with people, and struggle with studying in a quiet room, okay.  Put them in the middle of the action and see if it improves their spirits and scholarship.  Finger-spell their spelling lists.  Create games to help them review.  Run laps while you drill “boring facts.”  Match their studies to the way they learn best.

So the next time your child shows you a nearly-perfect paper, hug them.  Smile.  Throw a “nearly-perfect” party!  Let’s celebrate what they do well, and spend less time worrying about the rest.  Give them the gift of being “enough.”  That is all we can be, after all.

 

What legacy will you leave?

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I have a shelf (or two) filled with books dealing with finances, thrift, homemaking, and such.  One book was recently added by financial guru, Jean Chatzky, “Money Rules.”  The book lists 95 very basic rules for dealing with money throughout the seasons of life.  I was reading, smiling, and just basically thumbing through the book…then I read rule number 88.  Spend more time building a legacy than an inheritance.  What’s more valuable: leaving $20,000 to your kids, or instilling in them a work ethic that lets them earn an extra $20,000 a year?

I have come back to that page a number of times, and spent even more time rolling the thought around in my mind.  Are we leaving inheritances or legacies?  Or more specifically, am I leaving inheritances or legacies?  What would I gift to my descendants if I could wave a magic wand? A few things.

Hopefully, they have all  developed a solid work ethic in temporal things.  Have they developed the same work ethic in mental, emotional, and spiritual things?  God is real, miracles do happen, and prayer has real power, but work is required.   Relationships add richness and joy to our lives, but require commitment and effort.  Education is the gateway to growth and success, yet it cannot be acquired half-heartedly, or through force-feeding.  Self discipline and consistency must be applied.

Will I be successful at leaving a legacy of service, duty, enduring well?  Or will they simply remember isolated conversations about the importance of those things?

Will home be a place of inherited “stuff” or will it be filled with love, peace, and acceptance that they can claim as their own, and carry with them where ever life takes them?

And, most important in my eyes, will they have received a legacy of faith in God, belief in His scriptures, and a desire to be with our family and Him forever?

What legacy are you hoping to leave to those you love?

 

 

 

Back in the saddle again

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When I looked up the origin of the idiom “back in the saddle again” I found it came from exactly where I thought it did, and so it is the perfect title for this blog because I’m BACK!  It was originally applied to cowboys and jockeys who were returning to work, riding on their horses again, after taking a break or recovering from an injury.  (http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2010/06/back-in-saddle-again-autry-whitley.html)

While not a cowboy, I am returning to work(ing on my blog) after an extended hiatus due to illness, three family households relocating in two weeks’ time, surgery for my sweetie, a new grandson (read-bed rest pregnancy for my daughter), a child’s heart surgery, the holidays, and life generally exploding… and while my desk chair is more comfortable than sitting atop a horse, it could be considered my saddle.

The good news is that the surgeries went well.  The moves are done, and everyone is close to settled and fully unpacked.  (The new housing situations are much better, and so worth the nightmare of the last five months!)  Mom and baby are doing well, and he’s an absolute joy! The illness still comes and goes, but if that is the worst thing happening….I’m in great shape!

What have I learned?

  • I am not, have never been, nor will I ever be “supermom”…and that’s okay.
  • Homemade bread is best…for my budget and my health.
  • I am surrounded by people who are willing to help at the drop at a hat.
  • Who you choose as a realtor makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE!
  • My homeschool mom friends are wonderful sanity-savers.
  • Teaching children to work at a young age can translate into walls getting painted, boxes getting packed and carried, and order being re-established more quickly.  My grandchildren ROCK!
  • My grandchildren can handle just about anything when the adults in their lives are happy, and they can find their favorite toys/games.
  • We live in an amazing day and age when medical challenges that would have been devastating fifty years ago can be addressed, repaired, and life can resume.
  • A written list of priorities can keep your ship from sinking.
  • A sense of humor is an absolute must to survive the ups and downs of life!
  • Prayer is very real power, and miracles happen everyday!

And so I’m back.  With a head full of thoughts, ideas, and new connections made in the last number of months.  I hope this finds you and yours blessed, happy, and growing each day!

 

 

Sometimes school doesn’t look like school…

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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.

 

Babies are a joy!

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A new little sweetheart entered my life this last weekend.  Her dark hair, dark eyes, and sweet spirit reminded me why I have chosen to make motherhood and home the center of my life.  She was born in the wee hours Saturday, and watching my youngest son support his wife (who was a champ!) during labor, and then hold his daughter for the first time was one of the most moving experiences of my life.  His parents will be amazing; they are committed to doing all they can to care for, teach, protect, and encourage this new life.  It is never easy, but they’ll do just fine.

Nothing compares with the joy to be found in home and family.  I love being a grandma!

Are you a people person? Or not so much?

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As I have been preparing for a workshop I am giving on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, I am also running across the terms “introvert” and “extrovert.”  They aren’t new lables; most people have at least heard them, or even used them to describe themselves or someone else.  I have.  But I have been so thoroughly intrigued, I have veered my study off-course slightly to investigate.  Fascinating.  The more I learn, the more I realize we need to stop trying to “fix” people to fit them into our comfort zones.  We need to embrace each others’ hard-wiring and move forward together.

My husband and our oldest daughter are extroverts.  Big time.  They can become buddies with folks they met an hour ago.  Come-over-for-dinner buddies. They say hello to every new neighbor as they move in.  They are comfortable welcoming each new face in our church congregation.  They can strike up a conversation with the other person in the same line at the grocery store (especially if that other person is another extrovert).  And they smile for all the world to see.  They are able to seem interested in everyone, and love to spend time with others…working, playing, just visiting, whatever.  I watch them and marvel at their ease.  Parties, meetings, and get-togethers are so invigorating for them.  True story: the vast majority of the decorations for my daughter’s wedding reception, which were lovely and more than we could have put together for her, were loaned to us by a sweet woman who shopped at the store where my daughter worked.  They had struck up numerous conversations, and found commonalities.  When Elly announced her engagement and they got talking about wedding plans, this woman volunteered the decorations (which were in just the right colors).  Then, as we stood in line at her reception, I noticed a familiar face come in the door which I was having a hard time placing.  Who was it?  Turns out Elly had given an invite to the teller at our local credit union.  Of course she did.  Really?  I was flabbergasted! And even more shocked that this gal came.  She greeted us as I would expect an old friend to do, and I realized that this is what she and Elly were.  Two extroverts who saw each other on a regular basis, in other words, friends.

I am an introvert.  While I can enjoy the companionship of others, I recharge most easily by spending time with me.  Alone.  Filling my bucket can involve reading, watching a documentary, listening to music, cooking, or quietly filing papers in the office.  It just needs to be just me.  By choice, I have few close friends (but I know I can depend on them when the chips are down!), a number of people with whom I am friendly, and lots of acquaintances.  I’m not looking to greatly expand my circle; I like it this way.  Needing to make small talk with someone I have never met before is my idea of purgatory.  While I love teaching and presenting ideas and skills I have learned with others, I find that too much time surrounded by others makes me tired.  Edgy, even.  And if I want to send myself into a full-blown fibromyalgia flare, all I need to do is say, “yes” to every request made by every person with whom I rub elbows.  This not is not only hard physically, it wipes out any energy reserves I may have managed to save up.  Our younger daughter is much like me.  She has a few close friends, and a love of quiet, books, and time to think.  We can sit and share opinions, thoughts, memories, and quiet for hours.  Or take a nap.  We’re good at naps.  She and her husband may end up in a cabin in the woods raising cows, pigs, and produce and they’ll be happy as can be.  They’re both introverts.

Extroverts are enlivened by people.  They often find joy in the energy of a crowded room, or the opportunity to welcome a newcomer.  They work well in groups, can be easily distracted and spontaneous, and tend to be easy-going and fun to be around.  New experiences and opportunities are stimulating, exciting even.  Extrovert children need people, group activities, stories about people and adventure, time to ask questions and discuss what they’re learning, and breaks from the norm.

Introverts need solitude to recharge.  People drain them, and while they can be great listeners, they aren’t comfortable listening or sharing of themselves all the time.  While they have been accused of being self-absorbed, they simply want time to think about what they have learned…about others, about themselves, about life.  Joy comes from understanding and exploring the world inside, then they can move outwards.  Introvert children enjoy a distraction-free school experience.  Routine, minimal unplanned adventures, and time to think about what they are learning.

I must admit, I am duly impressed by the extroverts in my life.  (There are quite a few of them.)  They help me want to look up and see what lies over the horizon.  My fellow introverts help keep me centered, and content with where I am now.  We all need a bit of both around us.  I guess that’s why the Lord gave us each other.