Category Archives: Parenting

Observations about parenting infants through preschoolers

What God Can Do With Leftovers

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I saw a flood of recognition everywhere I went – the grocery store, social media, in restaurants packed with families, even at the soccer fields we were haunting the players gave their mothers roses at the end of the game in recognition of their status and sacrifice.

Moms matter.

Isn’t it funny, then, that Moms often feel invisible?

That Moms often feel inadequate?

My sister, who is very wise, once stopped me mid-pity party and said,

“You know, there is no ONE way to be a perfect mother. But there are THOUSANDS of ways to be a good mother.”

She is so right! Within our Pinterest world and desire to sanitize the mess of living, we forget that life, lived to its fullest, is often messy. It’s far from perfect, and that all of us wear multitudes of hats and are stretched in different directions every single day.

The mom of three that I sat next to during the soccer games this weekend? She works full time. She’s taking college classes to earn an accounting degree and just turned in her last final. And her kitchen sink sprang a leak that caused extensive damage so she’s had to do dishes in the bathroom sink for weeks while they make the repairs.

She feels guilty that she’s not giving her all to every area of her life. That the leftovers of time and energy are inadequate and she’s failing.

I don’t see that at all. I’m seeing that she’s supportive and showing resilience and dedication to following through on commitments she’s made.

If you consider that each responsibility she has is a main dish at a dinner table, I applaud that she has been able to do a lot of managing life and pulling it together with the leftovers from those dishes!

For those who are pursuing Christianity, we always talk about putting things in the proper order. Mary Kay Ash had a motto that it should always be “God, Family, Work,” in that order.

By capitalizing on that philosophy, Mary Kay was able to take the leftovers of women’s everyday lives and build a multi-million dollar company and pass out pink Cadillacs.

(I personally lived in a home during college that had pink bathroom counters so the Mary Kay products would match better. Dude – you know you have arrived when people make their bathroom countertop decisions based on how it will match your toiletry products.)

My point is that maybe moms should be a little kinder and gentler to themselves. Instead of pushing for perfection and being the super mom, let’s move toward being a mom who puts the priorities in order, then dedicates the leftover energy and enthusiasm to whatever God calls us to do for this season.

There are success stories everywhere that reveal what can be done with the leftover bits of time and energy that are dedicated to an ordained purpose.

A home education company built on mainly women who served with the bits of time and energy leftover from caring for their families has become the “Walmart of education.”

The book that was written in increments while caring for a newborn and managing grief.

The man who was crippled and chose to train his body by just consistently showing up one day after another.

The community garden that is grown by pulling weeds every day after work and ends up changing the landscape of an area.

Even when we can’t focus as thoroughly as the perfectionist in us would like, our leftovers are valuable and shouldn’t be discarded. First fruits belong to God. But so do second and third fruits. He’s creative and will enhance your efforts in a special way.

So do something with the leftovers – they can change the world if you let them!

What has been accomplished through the dedication of YOUR leftovers? Let us know in the comments!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

My Community is Closing – Now what?

Last week I heard of another community in our area closing.

With this particular community, the church is booting them from the building because renting space to a for-profit entity puts the church’s property tax exemption at risk in their county.

The whole adventure caused the Director to take a hard look at her own licensing agreement and she realized she was carrying complete liability as a sole proprietor for the community and, after prayer, she and her husband decided that the risk was too high for them to bear. No one else is willing to be the liable, sacrificial lamb for the community, and just like, a snap of the fingers, and a full community of folks is without a direction for the next year.

See, the tricky thing about relationships – many of us find our communities extremely valuable and just plain like them! Many are loyal to the leadership that exists and, after realizing that our financial involvement puts their family in a precarious position with liability… we just don’t want to wish that uncertainty upon the people we care about.

That’s a reason why relationships matter.

Some folks might think that the answer to a community closing is to just close up shop, run away to suck their thumb, and grieve for the good ‘ol days.

Hold that thought. There might be a better way…

Ya’ll, you realize that there are communities of homeschoolers meeting all over the country who don’t place an insane amount of liability on one individual?

Ya’ll realize that there are people who are able to locally govern themselves and have accountability, community, and academic rigor?

Friends! Groups of people meeting in community to educate together are not a proprietary issue!

If you’ve been in a community and love it, you don’t have to stop.

But it will take work. It will take thoughtfulness, and it will require your core group to jump through hoops.

So the questions you really need to ask yourself:

  • Is this what God is calling me to do?
  • Do I do hard things?
  • Does my life have the margin to move from consumer in this area to provider?
  • Who’s willing to journey with me?

(Realize, your previous Director(s) might be very quiet about the whole topic for awhile and they likely won’t take a leadership role. That’s because they are under a non-compete clause of their previous licensing agreement and even though those have been proven to be pretty much unenforceable in court, chances are good they’re trying to “do the right thing” by their previous position. That’s a reason you like them. Keep them informed of your activities.)

“For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves…”

Dorothy Sayers, “Lost Tools of Learning” (1947)

The lovely thing about the classical model that many folks in communities have been experiencing, and that the natural tendencies of home educators is to look beyond what is easily provided for them, is that no topic is unapproachable to you! You have all the skills needed to approach this lack of community problem, tackle it methodically, and find success!

Here are a few options to get you started in the right direction:

Lost Tools of Learning. Dorothy Sayers’ lecture on the Lost Tools of Learning is fabulous. Many people have heard of it but fewer have actually read it. Stop. Take a moment and read it. You won’t be sorry.

Homeschool CPA. Carol Topp has created a website, books, and workshops that are invaluable to a group wanting to figure out how to create a legally compliant organization that doesn’t place any member in a precarious position. She is available for consultations as well. I bought my first book from her three years ago and now I have three of them as well as a workshop… her blog posts over the years have helped me realize items where I can adjust and lead well.

Jamie Buckland – Classical Program Consultant. Jamie Buckland has opened her services to the public since the beginning of this year and what she has to offer is valuable and helpful for those trying to find their own way to a homeschool community. She offers workshops, consultations, and her desire is to help folks cut through the chase and focus on the main priorities of your home education endeavor.

Do any of you have other resources you would add to this list? Please leave it in the comments!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

You know what we did for most of the day yesterday? We made a fence.

We need to make our fence in order to give our livestock more room to roam. The current enclosure is getting a little tight and they need space in order to thrive.

But we want to keep the animals safe, and also keep them from getting into things they shouldn’t get in to.

Because we’ve thought about the consequences of no fencing and we see it leading to destruction.

I was thinking about the need for boundaries in our lives this morning and looked up where the phrase, “Good fences make good neighbors” originated. Turns out it is mentioned in a Robert Frost poem called Mending Wall (but it certainly existed prior to him writing it down).

I read Mending Wall and have been pondering the various applications to my thoughts:

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence…”

I found out yesterday that another CC community in my area is closing. That makes six confirmed closures so far this spring. There is no official response from team leadership except that it “looks to be a pruning year” – even my own community members who have reached out to the team lead and asked for direction about what the next step in the plan looks like are getting no response.

The wall of communication is high and nothing is crossing. “Before I build a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence…”

“He likes the thought of it so well he says it again, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.'”

Yesterday I saw a comment on Facebook that illustrated the freedom of stepping out of leadership in a corporate structure that had caused stress in her marriage as her attention was divided between the good of the organization and the good of her home.

There was a string of replies to that statement of people who have allowed their love of an organization to overtake their ability to love lavishly on their family. It sneaks up on you… this desire to serve and succeed and then suddenly you realize you aren’t loving lavishly on the ones who are closest to you.

The wall of protection around a family against the time commitments that creep in should be high. “Good fences make good neighbors.”

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, and spills the upper boulders in the sun; and makes gaps even two can pass abreast… The gaps, I mean, no one has seen them made or heard them made, but at spring mending-time we find them there.”

While I was working yesterday, putting slats in the chain link fencing, I had time to think. Think about what I will do differently because it’s “spring mending-time” in our life.

Because good fences make good neighbors and boundaries are healthy and good. There’s joy in knowing what belongs to you and what belongs to someone else.

Because I’m identifying what needs to be OUT and what needs to be IN. And those values are being defined by my own family, rather than someone else’s perspective and values.

Because I care about our family and am weary of the nonsense that results from people not telling the whole story truthfully. I don’t need to live a life of weariness and concern about what fresh, hellish surprise awaits me next due to someone else’s decisions.

I’m thinking about the folks who have stepped into leadership to serve others as best as they can and lost their identity in the process. I am analyzing how to lead better, how to lead with integrity, so that I can support myself and others in the quest to keep in their rightful places.

I realize this is a disjointed post today and I apologize for the lack of continuity. I find that I have all of these thoughts about walls and boundaries and they’re swirling around with my emotions that come when I think of these communities of people who are hurting because their reason d’etre for community has shifted, because they feel like the wind has been knocked out of them.

Thanks for sticking with me today and I’ll do my best to be more coherent and have a point in future posts.

Until then, my thought is to Mind the gaps, friends. It’s spring time. Look for the gaps and repair your fences.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

The Fuzzy Future Is Gaining Clarity

The best questions are not limited by what can be done; they ask what ought to be done.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been trying to figure out what our homeschool will look like this next year. I have discovered a lot of beauty in the Claritas Publishing Memory Work Guide so that’s the direction we will go with our 7, 9, and 11 year olds. The main reasons why?

  • There’s familiarity in the way it’s laid out,
  • I love the way they present the Latin strand,
  • There are songs for each piece of memory work,
  • The addition of hymns to the curriculum add for a more robust connection to church history and theology,
  • I already own all of the Story of the World cycles, so I’m excited to see a four year cycle that will allow me to more easily dovetail those to resources.

There was a temptation to keep doing what we’ve been doing, especially since the CC Foundations Guide has no restrictions on doing the Foundations program at home on your own. However, I think for us it is wise to have as much of a clear break between what was and what will be as possible – and after having gone through the major overhaul of songs and such this past year I know our kids are resilient and can adapt to the new curriculum well.

You might laugh at me over this, but the Claritas Publishing Fundamental Grammar Guide ended up attracting me because their font is friendly and it feels like it will be easier to “get into” than what we have been using. (I continue to shake my head that I, as someone who has a degree in Journalism from a University that does Journalism really well… is still buffaloed by English grammar! Just proof that education doesn’t really stop at the end of formal classes!)

I was tempted to go with the Language Lessons series from Well Trained Mind because we’ve used that before and liked it, but I’m thinking it’s wise to stick with the Fundamental Grammar Guide because it will have crossovers with the Memory Work Guide being from the same publisher.

Our kids have been doing three different math programs, all online: Math Seeds, Teaching Textbooks, CTC Math. This is working for them, so we will continue those programs until or unless it becomes evident we need to shift.

Our outside activities will continue to fill in the blanks: we have 4H which, through active projects or inspiration for those projects, covers sewing, animal husbandry, robotics, gardening, public speaking, and fiber arts.

We will be exploring the chemistry and dynamics of cooking this summer (and through regular practice – the kids each make at least two meals a week for the family) through the book, How to Cook Without a Book which we plan to do with friends.

Our religious study continues to be the responsibility of us as parents, and church attendance is a reinforcement to what we do at home.

So with the younger ones, I feel fairly confident we aren’t going to suddenly crash and burn next year in a flaming network of pyrotechnics. I also believe (and am backed up with scientific studies) that you kind of can’t screw up the younger years of education. Obviously, there are a LOT of things you can do to make things better and easier, but you can’t straight up ruin a kid’s love of acquiring information during the grammar years because it’s embedded in their DNA.

However, our 13 year old is giving me grief. She has been so well prepared for the Challenge program and this past year in Challenge A worked so well for her, that I’m seriously struggling over how to move forward confidently in her education. I believe that the stakes get higher and higher for her as she grow older.

I also believe now that she’s in her dialectic stage of development, she’s a partner in this endeavor, so we need to consider things that she can engage in and enjoy.

I’ve been reading Norms & Nobility. Admittedly, I started in chapter 9 A Curriculum Proposal (What Might Have Been) because I really just wanted to know the answer! I was looking for the easy way out and it didn’t work out so well.

In chapter 10, Hicks hit me over the head with this quote: “The best questions, it seems to me, are those least prejudiced by the availability of pat answers, as well as those originating not only in practice, but in imaginative theory. In other words, the best questions are not limited by what can be done; they ask what ought to be done, knowing that the former question – although scientifically correct – can only make a poor education worse by narrowing the range of inquiry and by limiting the possibilities for improvement.”

Consider yourself eye-rolled, Hicks-meister, for adeptly nipping my desire for easy and quick answers in the bud.

So… what would we do with an education, with the valuable handful of days we have left while she’s in our home and unable to drive away… what could we do if we had big dreams?

Hicks gives me these clues:

“Cardinal Newman’s (1969) description of liberal education remains, to this day, unimpeachable: that which teaches the student “to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle the skein of though, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant. It prepares him to fill any post with credit, and to master any subject with facility.”

(Sophistical means “clever and plausible, but unsound and tending to mislead.” I had to look that one up.)

It needs to be something that develops an appreciation of Truth.

Something that involves the ability to create and recognize logical thinking and arguments.

It needs to be something that practices sorting and clarifying tricky situations or history.

Something that allows her to practice passing a judgement on things that are irrelevant while always treating the human being as relevant.

This is going to require some more thought.

I think we’ll stick with Lost Tools of Writing. I hate it as a writing program, but I love it as a critical thinking program.

We’ll stick with Latin (although we might go away from Henle – I really like friendlier fonts….) and Logic (she loved the Fallacy Detective. I don’t know whether to move from that to formal logic or not. (There are at least two more books I want to explore because they interest me: The Amazing Dr. Ransom’s Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies: A field guide for clear thinkers by Douglas Wilson & ND Wilson, and An Illustrated book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi. It’s possible that those can be things we work through as a family instead of her coursework.)

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten so far.

I’d love to hear feedback from you all about what you have seen and enjoyed, what worked or didn’t work! Do you have any suggestions?!

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

“Can I Still Be In Leadership?”

Updated 5/13/19: I’ve been doing a lot of research and am on a major learning curve about how business practices have been conducted within this organization. Situations have been brought to light that are not regional and cross the board into the various roles that place a significant amount of liability on individuals who, in general, I do not believe are prepared to accept that risk. Everyone should do their own research but I can no longer support with my original assessment that it depends on the area and individual situation. I cannot recommend stepping into leadership or staying in leadership unless there is a MAJOR overhaul of the current setup.

UPDATED 5/7/19: I was contacted by someone who read this post and was shocked that I would write anyone could still lead within the organization. “I’m not trying to argue,” she wrote, “I’m genuinely baffled by the whole situation. I don’t see any way for someone to direct, at least at a F/E community, in a way that is compliant with CC without violating some code somewhere… and SRs and ARs are given the task of recruiting those directors…” As we teased through her concerns it became clear that she, in a different area of the country, has experienced expectations and mandates that were different from my area. In her case, her assessment is spot on. So, as you read this, realize that what I assessed as “sketchy but doable” in my area is not possible to do with compliance to federal laws in a different geographical area with different leadership expectations.

I was contacted by someone this morning who is aware of our, ahem, recent homeschooling change of direction, and she asked a really simple question:

“Based on what you know, can I still be in leadership? Can anyone?”

My answer, unequivocally? YES. NO

You see, I categorize things into sin issues and preference issues. I can see preference issues all over the place but I don’t have to act on them. But if something turns into a sin issue, I believe that according to James 4:17, you simply cannot sit by and do or say nothing.

What has moved me from just fading away into silence has been that I see sin issues – but I also am realistic and rational enough to see that these sin issues might not affect everyone in the organization!

Can you still serve in leadership? Absolutely. Should you still serve in leadership? Only you can decide based on your personal situation. Only if you have thoroughly vetted the contract and feel comfortable with the enormous amount of liability you sign up for with the contracts.

I have a sort of pro/con list that I wrote out of points of contention I have identified. There are 13 items on that list that are active, current issues that have crossed the line into sin (in my assessment) because of unlawfulness in their enactment or abusiveness from a relational perspective.

Of those, six of them are items that land on the sin of abuse of power in my state that might not be transferable to other states or leadership structures.

Then, the corporate body has their fingers in 11 of the items (yes, there is some overlap) from a corporate philosophy, lack of transparency regarding liability, or lack of communication standpoint.

So, yes, I believe there are significant items. I believe there are things that need to be addressed by both every leader through self-scrutiny and by the organizational structure through change of policy.

The issues that drew the line in the sand for our family are transferable to other areas but not blanket for other locations. I do believe they could be resolved with integrity a major overhaul of the existing structure.

These are things that can be managed by someone who is willing to do the extra legwork and take on the mantle that their involvement is with a business, not a ministry! (Yes, ministry is often a byproduct, but that’s not the main goal.)

(But, let’s just take a moment to point out that a Matthew 18 conflict resolution philosophy and PERPL only work if people are willing to talk to you. I’ve only had success reaching out to two of the five people who were in my team line… over the course of 10 months.)

But see, friends, after going through all of this and the sorting through sin versus preference, following through with Matthew 18 conversations that don’t actually resolve the issues… I am weary. I don’t want to be the clingy girlfriend in a relationship that will never work out. I don’t want to be the dog that goes back to its own vomit.

The sin issues make me furious. The multitude of preference issues make me weary. In my weariness, I now trust that God has moved our family away from anything involving corporate oversight in our homeschool. Our goal initially in participating in this organization was for it to make it easier to home school – that’s not what it looked like for us at the end.

That doesn’t mean that leaving is the right decision for everybody.

One person who is precious to me is in the process of pursing a Director role in another state right now. I’m excited for her! She’s looking into this because of being introduced to it by my family and I wish her well!

But I told her that she cannot skip the step of talking to her accountant and seeing an attorney to be certain that her family is protected in a worst case scenario. (Bring the contract!)

(The corporate organization has been recommending this forever! It’s just that the team support has not pushed it, not emphasized how important it is in far too many cases. Community members largely have no idea how much liability is taken on by the Directors.)

My recommendation is that anyone look carefully at the legal aspects of what they have signed and the liability that comes with that signature. (In retrospect I would never, ever sign anything as a sole proprietor again, the risk to my family of the what if is far too great.)

If you’re in middle management, carefully tread the line of what expectations you can have of your folks that are actually permissible by law versus what is expected by the organization as “best practice” and clearly articulate those things to those you oversee. Be really cautious using the word “required” in almost every circumstance.

Contact the officials of your area to explore the tax implications of for-profit classified businesses being hosted by non-profit entities. There may be NO ISSUE in your area because this is decided locally, but you won’t know unless you ask.

And finally, but really primarily and throughout every single bit of this, pray, pray, pray. There is sometimes a large gap between what you could do and what you should do. Only God through the discernment provided by the Holy Spirit will be able to guide into what’s right and accurate for your family.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Homeschool Idol

I have the smartest friends ever, ya’ll.

Last night I had a friend over for dinner. She and I have been in the thick of it together with everything – we have a photo of our babies together on a blanket before they could walk, and a photo of our babies together on the first day of Challenge A. I mean, we have been through all of it together, including the decision to leave CC.

You know, it’s actually all her fault that we’ve left.

(Not really, I’m just saying that because I like to be sassy. It’s actually the fault of poor team leadership, an expectation of blind loyalty and illogical decisions in the face of complete over reach of roles… to name a few things. But she was the one who realized before me that I could no longer choose the good of protecting and maintaining our community over the liability risk to my family.)

At that time I was wallowing back and forth in indecision she looked at me and said, “Could you lead an Information Meeting right now?”

Her question… it broke my heart, because the IM is the thing I have loved doing sooo very much over the years. Yet I realized that now, having actually read my contract and seeing the way things are playing out in our state and across the country, I couldn’t in good conscience recruit anyone else to travel on this vehicle through the homeschooling journey. So the decision was made. Road Closed, Detour Ahead.

Well, last night she did it again.

Right in the middle of chowing down a piece of pizza and the chaos of children swirling around, our husbands watching a video clip of Derek Zoolander’s School for Kids Who Don’t Read Good (and who wanna learn to do other stuff good too)(and they think that’s a prime name for our homeschool, by the way), she dropped a truth bomb:

“All this time I’ve been saying I couldn’t homeschool without CC. What I should have been saying is I couldn’t homeschool without GOD.”

She stuck her fingers right into the middle of why this has been a gut-wrenching decision. We’ve been putting an organization in the center of what should be a holy endeavor.

We know better.

It’s not like I haven’t already heard this “making CC an idol” idea:

  • Brandy from Half a Hundred Acre Wood identified it when she came out that their family was stepping away from Classical Conversations.  She writes, “[CC] had become an idol in our lives… we had poured so much of ourselves into the program that it was drawing us away from each other and away from God… we kept blindly following a system instead of listening to God’s leading…”
  • I’ve spoken to leaders and told them, “You should never sacrifice your family on the altar of CC.”
  • I’ve literally told parents at practicums, “CC is not a church, it’s not a religion, just a tool to help us frame our home education journey.”

And then, God forgive me, I’ve behaved differently in my own home. I’ve been an idol worshipper.

Thank goodness we have time for a course correction! Let’s make it count!

Recently another of my friends told me that this departure from CC has made her question everything she thought she knew about homeschooling. (They jumped into CC from the very beginning of their home education journey.)

“I met you at the Info Meeting and I fell in love with Classical Conversations. We committed that this is what we’d do through high school and didn’t have any doubts,” she said. “But now, I’m realizing that it’s like I moved to a new town named Homeschool and never got to know any of my neighbors. I need to know my neighbors to know what to do next.”

If you’re wanting to get to know your “neighbors,” the blog post is very detailed regarding the seven popular types of educational models: Homeschooling: Which Model Is Right For You?

Remember – you can choose something besides classical and the homeschooling police won’t come after you.

The last thing I want to say today is something I’ve forgotten in my time supporting and pursuing CC: God doesn’t actually tell us whether to homeschool or not, or what educational model to use… He tells us to teach our kids to:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.

Don’t let anything get in the way of the priority of God in your life. And if you have… make it right as quickly as you can.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

The Chore Philosophy

I am a sucker for the internet chore charts. For years I have collected them, saved them, and admired them from afar. Now, the actual implementation of a chore chart has been pretty much non-existent. The result has been a house that does not bring yours truly peace or joy. In fact, it tends to make me frazzled and grumpy.

 

Earlier in December Lizard and I took a car trip alone and had a chance to talk about our goals for the year. We have been horribly lacking in goal setting for quite some time! My goal this year is cleanliness. I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed and unloved when I don’t see other people helping keep our house up or when there’s a huge pile of laundry on our sofa. And honestly, I am not physically capable of even attempting to try to do it all myself anymore. There is unnecessary discord in our house over this topic, especially now that our kids have all gotten old enough to be part of the solution instead of the problem.

 

I’m not sure exactly how I missed the boat on creating an “all hands on deck” work ethic in our home prior to this but I suspect a LOT of it had to do with me having a… ahem… very particular way I believe things should be done.

 

 

I have also struggled because I didn’t know if we should tie the chores in to an allowance system. For the time being we’ve laid that monkey to rest. I saw this meme on facebook and it settled my mind:

 

 

The internet is a magical place.

 

So, as a method of survival and turning over a new leaf (one where I’m not quite so much of a control and emphasize done over perfect), this afternoon I introduced the new chore chart. Along one side of the chart I have every day of the month. On the top I placed the chores that will be done on a daily basis: dishes, laundry, front bathroom, back bathroom, feeding & watering, sweeping, breakfast, lunch, set table. On the grid in between we have the names of the four kids in rotation.

 

To be honest, I look at this grid and can only see a multiplication table and my 7th grade math teacher who wore copious amount of blue eye shadow. It doesn’t fill me with joy. However, the implementation of this system might very well have a significant impact on my mental health.

 

It turns out people have actually studied the impact of chores for kids. “Research from a well-known 75-year Harvard study examined the childhood psychosocial variables and biological processes that predicted health and well-being later in life. Researchers concluded that kids who had chores fared better later in life. Chores were the best predictor of which kids were more likely to become happy, healthy, independent adults.”

 

I’m sold on the benefits of doing chores and ready to implement this in our house. I also really like to have kitchy little phrases for getting things done. Here are some we’ve already used and others that will start making the rounds in our home:

 

Benefit / Phrase

Buy in that personal actions have impact / “When everybody helps, everybody wins.”

I am convinced that when the kids start having to do their own laundry they will become more choosy about how they take care of their clothing. There are few things more infuriating than seeing clean, freshly folded clothing in a heap on the bedroom floor. I may or may not have blown my top over that one a time or two.

 

Developing responsibility and sense of accomplishment. /”Many hands make light work.”

When I don’t let my kids help around the house I am implicitly communicating a lack of trust in their abilities. This is absolutely counter to what I want to intentionally develop in them. Managing my control issues will have a direct impact on developing future, capable leaders.

 

Teaching life skills /  “A stitch in time saves nine.”

For example, by having the kids cook meals and clean up after themselves they will start seeing the way you can save time and effort later. They will get practical experience for working smarter, not harder.

 

Developing teamwork / “See the Need, Take the Lead.”

One of our parenting goals is to develop an awareness in our children of the world around them. We want to be a family who looks around for opportunities to serve others. This is important in our home as well as our community. And if we don’t actively train our eyes to see we will end up being cluelessly selfish.

 

Build a Strong Work Ethic / “Half Done is Not Done At All.”

As I’ve been typing this post a child who shall remain nameless has been working on the back bathroom. They did clean the countertop and scrub the toilet… but they neglected to clean up the dirty clothes on the bathroom floor by putting them in the hamper. Nope. Not gonna fly. A job only partially completed is still not done. Our hope is that by instilling a desire and satisfaction in completion, we will see more jobs finished and have fewer struggles with lack of follow through.

 

I’d love to hear from you – do you implement chores in your house? What system do you use? What tasks? Do you have any catchy phrases for us to add to our repertoire?!

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Kindness Elves for Christmas (and two other family traditions)

It’s that time of the year when we start thinking of traditions for the holidays. Our family celebrates Christmas, and we do our best to minimize the “ME, ME, ME” aspect of Christmas that can be so prevalent with children. Here are a few ways we’ve tried to simplify Christmas, make December manageable, and create a special Christmas Legacy with our children during this time of the year.

This post will contain Amazon affiliate links. This means if you purchase any of these recommendations f Amazon by linking through this blog post, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for your support!

 

Jesse Tree. Several years ago a childhood friend sent me a box of Christmas tree ornaments and a book. She told me this was the Jesse Tree, a special celebration of Christmas her family enjoyed. In a nutshell, the Christian redemption story is told in 24 segments beginning December 1 with the Genesis story of creation, and ending with the birth of Jesus Christ. Each event is represented by an ornament and every day you read the corresponding text from the Bible and hang the ornament on the Jesse tree. It’s a really sweet tradition that puts the Christ in Christmas!

Since that time we have changed a little bit about how we celebrate. We purchased a spiral candle that we light as we read each day of the story, and use the felt ornaments pictured to go along with Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, A Family Celebration of Christmas. We just purchased this book, which includes ornaments and a 3D tree, to use this year – I’m really excited to use it!

 

The Christmas Express. Some of my favorite holiday memories as a child included viewing Christmas lights! Twinkle lights make everything seem so magical! A few years ago I ran across the idea of a Minivan Express on the blog Confessions of a Homeschooler. We edited the idea a little (we don’t drive a minivan!) and have thoroughly enjoyed this tradition!

One evening in December, without any warning at at, we send our kids to get ready for bed. When they arrive there they find a new pair of pajamas and a golden ticket for the Christmas Express. We gather in the kitchen, take a photo with our tickets for posterity, hand out a travel mug of hot chocolate and popcorn with M&M’s, and tour the town looking at Christmas Light displays while listening to Pentatonix or Straight No Chaser holiday albums. It’s amazing. They love the surprise of it all, and we love the opportunity to do something that’s practically free and fun for all involved.

 

Kindness Elves. This will be a new tradition for our family this year. I’ve never really gotten on board with the Elf on the Shelf idea for a few reasons: I’m not that creative, I don’t see why I want an imaginary elf making mischief I don’t want my kids to emulate, and there are too many ideas on Pinterest which scares me a lot! Ha!

However, this year I’ve stumbled across a wonderful idea from The Imagination Tree that sounds pretty phenomenal. It’s a Kindness Elf – where the elf still can be hidden but suggests practical ways to be kind to one another during this season that can often feel full of hectic selfishness. I love it! We purchased these Elf ornaments, inspired by traditional Swedish Tomte Santas, and I will be using these Kindness Elf Idea Cards to make our December more “others”-focussed. I can’t wait!

 

These are a few of the things that we do in December to set it apart as special. We’d love to hear more about your traditions!

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Top 10 Games for Family Nights

The best free dinner game ever! http://beautyandbedlam.com/conversation-starter-questions/

This morning I’ve already been exploring blogs on how people quit television time cold turkey. We tend to watch Netflixs or Amazon on a daily basis around here. Granted, the shows are typically educational but even so I am fully aware of the research being done that shows the negative impact of tv time. In fact, we’ve started telling the kids that the tv is making their brains rot and when they ask for more, we sniff their ears and holler, “Ewww! Stinky rotting brain!” just to make an impression.

 

One of the most consistent recommendations I’m seeing from folks that have quit tv is to replace it with something else, like Board Game Night or Family Walk or Bowling Night, etc. I’m trying to practically fit these ideas into our life.

 

We do have games to play and we enjoy them. But they aren’t all easy to do with the span of ages we have in our home – almost-5, 7, 9, 11 and eh-hem 40×2. Here are some favorites that are working for us right now… but do you have any recommendations? (All of these links are affiliate links, which means if you purchase them from this blog post, you’ll be supporting me with a fraction of the purchase price – at no cost to you! Thank you!)

1. Tenzi. Oh man, this is a winning game for us! We’ve been able to play it for the last year, so we can vouch it’s pretty good for ages 4 and up.

2. Monopoly. The tried and true classic – still a winner around here. The girls have been playing it for about two years, which means it’s good for probably ages 5 and up. Bubby is still bored out of his skull and not at all interested in playing.


3. Suspend. This game is fun for all of the kids, and it has the bonus benefit of being able to be used as a review game for Classical Conversations (just assign the colored tips a subject and then when they roll it, ask a review question they have to get right before they place the piece.)

 

4. Timeline. OK, OK, the kids are kind of stinky at this game. But they’re not bad thanks to the history component of their schoolwork. The parents, though, we LOVE this game!

 

5. Kerplunk. Bubby (the 4 year old) loves this game. So much so that he steals the marbles and hides them in his pockets and then I find them in the washing machine later and shake my hands in the air.

6. Apples to Apples Big Picture. This game has brought us many evenings of laughter! The photos are so funny and the kids are expanding their vocabulary as they go.

 

7. Battleship. Tried and true. Really only our older girls are liking it, and I kind of groan when it comes out because all of those pegs never seem to make it bad in their entirety to the box. But it’s fun enough.

 

8. Uno Attack. Regular Uno is fun, but Uno Explode adds an element of surprise to the adventure that can’t be replicated. We’ve ended up taking all of our Uno cards from various games and putting them in the Attack.

9. Telestrations. This one is really for grown ups and works best in a group. We did it at a homeschooling retreat where no one knew each other exceedingly well and it was hilariously fun.

10. Story Cubes. These suckers stay in my purse for when we go to restaurants. It’s really fun – the kids usually only roll three die at a time when we are at restaurants, then make up their stories from there. (Just one set is what I carry in my purse, but this link shows you all six sets available in a bundle… and mixing and matching is allowed!)

Bonus: Probably our favorite pastime during dinner is the Jar of Questions. We received this as a Christmas gift from a good friend three years ago and still love it to bits now. You can make your own easily – and here is the blog with links to the questions and template so you can print it for yourself for free: Family Conversation Starters. Really… this one is amazing!

 

What are the games you play in your family? Have you successfully quit television? How did you do it? I’d love your advice and feedback!

 

** Just as an update, believe it or not, that soccer team I wrote about last time that had never even won a game… won the entire tournament yesterday! Unbelievable and super exciting for them! I think it will be really interesting to see how their “I’m just not competitive” attitude withstands the experience of actually winning and coming in on top? I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

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Providence vs. Coincidence

Coincidence Fate ConversationProvidence vs. Coincidence: To recognize that our circumstances do not exist by chance but instead by intention for our good. (Ephesians 2:10)

The word Providence has not been a regular part of my vocabulary. Last year when we listened to an audiobook about the Pilgrims I realized that the Pilgrims attributed everything to Providence and I thought that was proof that they had an almost mystical perception of God’s activity in their lives but I didn’t see how that applied to me.

Up until now I have absolutely preferred the word “Coincidence.” Inexplicable things happen as a coincidence all the time and if you use the word coincidence you have very little chance of offending someone of a different belief structure. Coincidence is a safer word that (I have believed) still covering the sentiment put forth by that old-fashioned and dreary word, Providence.

These word choices came back to me this morning as I came across the idea of Providence again in my quiet time. I did a google search for word definitions and the first thing search result  for Coincidence was the dictionary definition: “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection. from the Latin coincidere, which means to coincide or agree.”

In contrast, I had to scroll WAY down the page past blurbs about Providence, RI before I found the definition for Providence: “divine guidance or care, God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny. From the Latin providentia, which means to provide or care for.”

While both Coincidence and Providence offer a glimmer of the mysterious and inexplicable, after looking at these two definitions, I realized there is no way I should be supplanting Providence with Coincidence in my daily word choices. They mean totally different things! Additionally, if I apply the differences in the definitions to my every day, my perspective shifts.

For example, if it was simply a coincidental meeting of egg and sperm that just happened to develop into my daughter, then I can consider her personality, growth patterns, and being a chance of nature – she just happened to be the luck of the draw that encounter and I get to deal with the results.

However, if I consider that that fertilization was PROVIDENCE it means that my daughter is not in any way chance, that her personality, growth patters, etc., are all designed specifically for my life, my family, and our stewardship of the child/parent relationship. She is specifically fitted for our circumstances and blessing right this moment. (Reminds me of C.S. Lewis writing these are not “mere humans” we work with in our schooling!)

Removing “coincidence” and replacing it with “providence” changes everything about the heart of how I parent.

Further, if I stop believing that things are happening in my life by coincidence and chance, but instead embrace everything I face as providence – whether it’s a challenge or a victory – then I begin to see that what I do right this minute has significance and purpose. My family, my profession, my community – they are all in my life by providential design. How cool is that to consider when I’m loading the dishes or folding the 20th load of laundry this week during our laundry marathon?!

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