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?


Math Manipulatives and Games

Say the word “math” to many homeschooling mothers and they will begin to envision text books, worksheets, and test forms.  I had a great visit from a dear friend today that reminded me how much more is needed in order to give your children a solid foundation in mathematics.  It begins when they are very small, and continues into adulthood.  Numbers, calendars, telling time (analog and digital), economics, and so many other things fall under the mathematics umbrella!  Here some non-textbook ideas of ways to teach these things to your family.  (Many of these are things you can involve Dad in making.)

Early math

Supplies needed: (watch young children with small objects)

  • 3×5 cards
  • dominoes
  • paper and card stock
  • felt
  • beads/wire or buttons/string
  • dice
  • clothespins

Games to make:

  • Create sets of cards with numerals (1-10, 1-20) on half of the cards, dots or pictures on the other half.  Match the sets. Use in a game of concentration.
  • Count beads or buttons.  Match by color, create patterns, and use for beginning math equations.
  • Lay out numeral cards and add beads or buttons to total the number on the card, or clip clothespins on each card. (Watch young children with clothespins;  they can pinch.)
  • Match up dominoes as you count the dots.
  • Create number cards to 100.  Lay them out in order, make piles of odd and even cards, or use them to practice skip counting.
  • Create a number line and use for math practice (what is 5 more than…?, what is 2 less than….?)
  • Use felt or card stock to create multiple sets of fraction strips or circles. Label them with the correct fraction (1/3, 1/4, 1/8, 1/12, etc.).  Use them to complete a whole, or to match, i.e. 1/2=2/4, etc.
  • Create your own dot-to-dot pictures. (Or have your child create them.)  Fill them in.
  • Create cards for the basic orders of operation . (+, -, etc.) Use with numeral cards to create equations.  How many combinations are possible for any given sum or difference?  Product or quotient?
  • Use dice and the number line to prove basic mathematical equations. (Add or subtract the dots on the dice and move a bead or button up/down the number line to show the sum/difference.)

Time, money, measurement

supplies needed:

  • coins and dollar bills
  • ads
  • paper plate
  • construction paper
  • brass fasteners
  • 3×5 cards


  • Allow your children to use actual coins.  Learn the value of each.  Practice making change and finding possible combinations for different totals.
  • Set up a store and practice selling, purchasing, making change, etc.
  • Take your children shopping with you.  Have them help you compare prices, look at unit pricing, etc.
  • Make an analog clock from a paper plate, construction paper, and a brass fastener.  Learn to use it!
  • Make matching card sets- analog face on one card, digital display on the other.
  • Use a calendar.  It will teach days of the week and months of the year.  Find holidays, special family events, etc.  Try creating a calendar together.
  • Learn how fahrenheit and celsuis relate.
  • Use common objects to begin measurement practice.  How many legos long is ……?  or how many popsicle sticks?
  • Create a balance scale by suspending paper cups from a clothes hanger.  use small objects as units of measurement i.e. legos, paper clips, barrettes, etc.
  • Buy a measuring tape and practice measuring objects around your home.  Estimate measurements, then check your guesses.
  • Graph your room on graph paper.  Plan a flower or vegetable garden on graph paper.  Now try to make the real area look like the plan.  What worked well?  What is harder until you see it in 3-D?  Try figuring out how many shingles you will need to re-roof your house, or how many tiles it would take to create a new kitchen back-splash.
  • Learn the volume amounts for various items, i.e. gallons, quarts, pints, tablespoons, teaspoons, etc.
  • Cook.  Cut a recipe in half.  Double it.  Cook some more.
  • Follow the stock market with imaginary funds.
  • Learn to keep a checkbook.

Don’t forget that logic and spatial thinking are part of math.  Classifications, patterns, diagramming, graphing, tangrams, pentominoes, geoboards, models, and soma cubes are all great tools for hands-on learners.

We use math everyday.  It is everywhere we look.  Though I am not a great mathematician, I do recognize the need to have a firm footing in the basics!

Happy calculating!






Home and Family, Homeschooling

Teaching teens

I wrote this piece a few years ago for a group presentation.  My teens are now adults, and I enjoy them more than ever.  Hope you enjoy the read!

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I delight in my teenagers.  You can too. They become the most tremendous adults.  Teach them and then trust them (in that order).  Having great teenagers doesn’t just happen.  They don’t fall from the sky that way.  This is WORK.  It takes time, patience, laughter, growth, and faith.  I can’t think of anything I would rather do than watch them become who they were meant to be!


Pros to teaching them at home:

  • can be less time consuming than giving the school permission to plan their life, more time=more options, i.e. dual enrollment, tutors, jobs, volunteer work, etc.
  • curriculum more challenging and interesting
  • long talks about real subjects=real conversations
  • fascinating to watch specializations and opinions develop
  • closer ties to family of all ages
  • can be more flexible with curriculum if your teens are disciplined enough to set goals and then accomplish them
  • often easier to include Dad in their lives
  • they can help put together their curriculum to meet their personal educational goals
  • allows time to teach more than just academics (life skills, values, decision-making)

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Cons to teaching them at home:

  • exhausting
  • often need to outsource some things
  • curriculum more challenging
  • discipline more difficult if good habits are not firmly in place
  • your time is required to assist in building a social network
  • can be difficult to keep them home long enough to complete schoolwork if they have jobs, friends, and other interests
  • curriculum can be intimidating
  • long talks about everything-schoolwork, life, dating, work, family, religion and belief, you name it.  This will take time- lots of it!
  • not everyone else is doing it


Here are some things I learned about parenting and teaching teenagers:

Discipline is required- for both you and them.  Chores must be done.  Academics are more difficult but must be completed and then mom needs to take a look and check over their work.

You need to have a clear curriculum plan and goals which must be both focused and flexible.  They need to have the opportunity to dig into subjects by which they are fascinated!

Allow them to dabble.  And to be them. Delight in their quirks and goofiness (take lots of pictures!).  They are not miniature adults.  They don’t need to excel at everything, and not every project begun needs to be finished and submitted for inspection.  Life does not work that way, and we are preparing them for life.

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Teach them life skills along with their academics.  My children left home with the ability to do their own laundry, balance a checkbook, speak with others, and cook a meal.

You are not to be their best friend right now.  They need clear boundaries, guidance, and to know that someone else is there to help when they get in over their head because they will.  They need a parent.  I would rather have them make mistakes and learn to fix them in my home than send them out into the world expecting things to always go smoothly!

Encourage and facilitate good friendships.  We have hosted dance dinners, parties, cookie-baking adventures, conversation areas, meals, and transportation among other things.  I know my children’s friends.  They know me.  It is a great moment when their friends ask to come over “just to hang out and talk” and then spend some of that time with me in the kitchen.  Love it!


Learn to under-react.  They will do brainless things. Take a deep breath.  Take five minutes to remember what you did as a teen.  Now go talk with them.  If they can trust you to be “adult” about things, they can learn how to do that themselves.

Be at the cross-roads of their lives.  Send them off to their activities in person, and then be there when they get home- whether from classes or social gatherings.  (This is not possible 100% of the time, but shoot for at least 80%.)  Give them your time and they may just share a precious piece of themselves with you.


Find a phone buddy who also loves your children.  Share the joys, and talk through the frustrations with them.  Another voice may help you retain a clearer perspective when it gets rough, and it gives you a chance to brag a bit.

Expect great things and stupid mistakes.  You won’t be disappointed.

Share memories about when you were a teenager.  Be honest. You did brainless things.  Knowing you recovered from your mistakes can help them trust both you and them.  Help them see that everyone has fears, doubts, and silly moments.  This is NOT meant to be a lecture!  It is time to laugh, cry, share, and cherish each other.

Find tutors to assist in the academic areas where you feel weak.  No one is expected to specialize in everything.  There are often great teachers at the local high school and good courses on-line. There may be a teen or adult in your area who can help.  Ask around.


“I don’t know” is an acceptable answer; it is not a place to stop.  Learn together.

Do not raise your teens in a vacuum.  Different is okay.  Isolated is not!!  Help them learn about various learning styles and personality types.  Celebrate differences.

Teach them the art of argument.  Teach tools to allow for self-expression in positive, acceptable ways.  We need to raise leaders, not lemmings.

Time is short.  Don’t waste time on things of little value.

Hopefully, self-discipline, good habits, character education, and academic basics have been covered in earlier years.  If not, get to work on it.  (You will need to keep a closer eye on schoolwork and goals.)

Laugh a lot.  Enjoy the ride.