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.

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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!

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.

 

Homeschooling

Games keep learning fun!

Every now and then in your homeschool you will have one of “those” days.  Everyone is edgy, or nothing seems to be going right, or there is stress elsewhere in the family and it is affecting everyone.  Every now and then it can be helpful to keep the books and programmed curriculum on the shelf, and take a day to play.  Don’t think I am necessarily advocating a day off academics completely (although that can have a place too).  I am talking about having a day to remind everyone-including Mom- how much we love being together as a family, and why we chose to homeschool in the first place.  One of the highest goals in our home was to love learning, and have joy in our time together.  That is not possible if we are so busy being “school-marms” that we forget that we are teaching our children whether or not we are “teaching” them.  It is so important that we show them how to have fun as well as how to work!

Here are some of our favorite games for various academic subjects.

Language Arts:

Scrabble by Milton Bradley

UpWords by Milton Bradley

Scribbage

Password by Milton Bradley

Whiz Kids by Discovery Toys

ABSeas by Discovery Toys

Brainy Daze by The Learning Cottage

Mathematics:

Equate

puzzles- both tabletop jigsaw and 3D

Social Studies:

Five-State Rummy by School Zone Publishing Corp.

USA Bingo by Trend Enterprises

Science:

Dem Bones by The Learning Cottage

Go to the park, have a picnic, and draw.  (Okay.  Not really a game, but a great way to decompress!)

History:

Made for Trade by Astroplay

Risk by Hasbro Games

Constitution IQ by National Center for Constitutional Studies

Blokus by Educational Insights

Labrynth by Ravensburger

Labyrinth by Ravensburger

Q-Bitz by MindWare

Chess

Checkers

Just about anything from ThinkFun

Just for fun:

Apples to Apples or Apples to Apples, Jr.  by Out of the Box

Blink by Out of the Box

Twister by Hasbro

Leverage by Milton Bradley

What is your favorite way to let your hair down as a family?

Cooking, Parenting

Cooking with children

Food is a huge part of family life for us.  Really huge.  All of us have so many memories attached to meals, or specific foods. It started as I was growing up and would come home to warm cookies and milk after school, or cocoa and toast at the end of a long week.  Often my mom would make something yummy so that I would stay and talk.  It took me a long time to realize that was why she cooked so much, but I admit I have adopted that same strategy.  I would often bake bread and serve it with apple butter as my boys came home with their buddies.  It made for a kitchen full of happy, chatty young men.  Great fun!

One of the smartest things my husband and I did as we were raising our family was to assign each person a night when they were in charge of dinner starting when they were 7 or 8 years old.  This included both meal planning and food preparation.   A parent would cook with them as they were learning, and by the time they were 10 or so, they could take over an entire cooked-from-scratch meal.  That ability freed me up to fold the mountain of laundry on the couch, plan for the coming day, or just sit and read.  When they left for college, they took their own basic kitchen equipment and cook books with them and they actually knew how to use them!

Cooking with children does require a modicum of common sense and a bit of patience.  Don’t start them off with sharp knives or frying oil, rather let them help plan the menu, wash vegetables and fruits, stir batters, and measure ingredients.  Learning to use a timer or a rubber spatula, buttering bread with softened butter, and licking the beaters can be done by a young child.  As their small muscle control develops, teach them the basics of correct knife skills using sharp knives and lots of ADULT SUPERVISION. They can also learn to read a recipe, knead dough, use a rolling pin and stand mixer, and control heat on the stove as they are ready.  The payoff?  Having four teenagers capable of cooking one night a week!

Here are some of our favorite ideas for simple meals to start:

Grilled cheese and vegetable strips (using a choice of breads/cheeses)

Spaghetti with salad and bread (homemade sauce)

Mac-n-cheese, spam, and applesauce

Tuna noodle casserole with peas and corn

Tacos

Chili

Beef roast with carrots and potatoes

Homemade soups/rolls

Stew and biscuits/cornbread

Each of my children now cook for their own households.  My still single university student cooks for his roommates, and has even cooked for a few dates!  Some enjoy cooking more than others, but they all are competent and can provide a healthy, well-rounded meal for themselves and others.

And when they come home for Sunday dinners and holidays, you’ll find us in the kitchen surrounded by pots, pans, cutting boards, and delicious food!

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Those aren’t interruptions; they’re my children.

March is turning into an interesting month.  There have been lots of reminders about what truly matters, and what is secondary.  One of our daughters car needed repairs and she moved, one has had sick children, one son is courting, and we have been trying to get some re-organization done around our house.  Oh, and it was our anniversary get-away weekend.

As my husband and I took time to commemorate our 29 years together and to create some order at home, we were also trying to help with car repairs, unpacking, grandchildren, parental advice, and keeping the rest of life up-and-running.  Needless to say, not everything we had planned got done!  (We did have a lovely weekend with some time to ourselves, though.)

All of this has taken me back to the years of raising my children.  So many things I would have liked to have completed just never quite got done.  Other things just took a lot longer than they would have if I had not had to stop to help those in my family.  That’s okay.  The family is not the interruption.  The rest of life is.  My focus, energy, and affection needs to be given most fully at home; then I can look outward.  Frustration because they need my help is futile and completely off the mark!  Community responsibilities, church assignments and callings, a spotless house, creating perfect meals, and other good (but secondary) desires are best accomplished when things at home are squared away!  Staying home with a sick child may not be as fun as decorating a room, or shopping with friends, but it is the most vital thing.  And, really, doesn’t your greatest joy come from moments spent with family?

So what has that looked like over the years?  Meals eaten together, working in the garden as a family, taking time to help them tie that shoe- again, help with music practice.  In our home school, there was a stop sign on the front door during academic hours to remind us and the rest of the world that what we were doing was a top priority.  It also manifested itself in library trips, days at the zoo, attendance at recitals, and reading just one more chapter…

Our children are in our homes for such a short time.  We need to cherish that time, and make the most of the chance to love and nurture those sweet little ones!  As they grow, the chance to do all those other things will be there (if those other things are worth doing).  As a wife and a mother, I do best when I remember that my family is a gift from God, and as I give my best self to them, the Lord will help me take care of anything else that truly matters.