One Benefit of Illness

My family has been going through some sicknesses lately. As my oldest son (six years old)  lay on the couch staring out the window because he was too sick to do schoolwork, I realized that he was still learning a lot. Because he was doing this for an extended period of time, he noticed a lot of things about nature that he wouldn’t have otherwise taken the time to notice and therefore learn. One of our bird feeders happens to hang outside of the window that my sick son was staring out of. He was excited to see so many birds that he doesn’t normally see because he just doesn’t spend the time observing. He starting recording details about their feather patterns and behavior in his nature journal.  

For science this year, we are using Apologia’s “Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the 5th Day” by Jeannie K Fulbright. It covers a lot about birds, so these moments that my son was observing the birds on the bird feeder, meshed so well with what we have been covering in science lately! How perfect is that?

While my oldest son was sick, he started writing in his journal (or dictating for me to write when he was really sick) several times a day! Previously he hadn’t been writing in it very often at all. He was also asking for me to bring him our bird field guide and encyclopedias so he could look things up that he wanted to know more about. Of course no one wants to be sick, or see their child sick, but I was glad that even in the midst of this yuck, there are still some positives. This was yet another reminder that even when I’m not doing school, my kids are still learning.

What have you noticed your kids learning when they are sick? 

Gift Stress

My husband and I sometimes struggle with giving gifts to our children or receiving gifts for our children from others. We are thankful for whatever our family receives and are truly appreciative of the sentiment behind the gifts given to us and our children. However, sometimes the gifts we receive bring with them issues.

One of the issues that sometimes arises with gifts of toys, is the educational value of them. We are okay with our children playing with toys just for fun, but we don’t want mindless entertainment toys that quickly lose their entertainment value to be the main focus of our children. We prefer toys that serve some form of educational or developmental value. We feel that quality is far superior to quantity in the area of toys.

The other main issue that arises with gifts of toys for us is quantity. The reasons are two-fold. First, there is the general issue of a large quantity of toys and the stress it places on the child. There are studies on this topic so I will summarize it to say children with fewer toys are often less stressed and happier (which also makes Mommy less stressed and happier).

The second part of this issue, is that we live in a small house with very limited storage space. I am constantly going through stuff in our house to try to make room for other stuff that I deem more important. When we receive more stuff, there is always the question of where to put it. Even if the stuff received is more exciting and fun toys, the question of where to put it still remains.

We’ve done a few things to help deal with these issues. We now limit the number of gifts we give to our children. We usually choose no more than three gifts per child. Sheer quantity helps with the issues of storage immensely. We are also mindful of the size of the gifts we choose. Some things are simply too big for our space and are therefore just not options.

We have also stopped giving mostly just fun entertainment toys to our children. We now give mostly stuff with a purpose. In addition to the old standby option of clothing, we have gotten a little more creative. This year one of our children is getting a new backpack because his old one is worn out. Our children love art projects so they have gotten things like glue and tape and even construction paper before. They love this! It’s also helps our financial budget. We like to give our children educational gifts as well, like science books about animals, manipulatives they can play with, a microscope to view things, or a globe to learn about the world. Sometimes we give these gifts to an individual child, but often the educational gifts we give jointly to all the children to share. Another type of gift that we have considered, but not yet given, are less tangible items like a zoo membership, tickets to a museum or sporting event, or a state park pass.

Not only have we made these personal changes in our gift giving to our children, but when grandma and grandpa inquire about gift ideas, we make sure to request these types of gifts as well.

One thing we have done to help with the quantity issue after Christmas, is the “In one, out one” rule. If you are not familiar with this one, it means that when you receive “one” gift “in”, you take “one” item “out” and get rid of it. I usually do this with my children a week or so after Christmas or their birthdays.

We also encourage our children to give of their own stuff to others throughout the year. This takes a bit of effort on my part to find areas for them to give their stuff that it will be appreciated, but it is worth it. In addition to minimizing the quantity of toys that creep into their space, it helps them learn to be givers. Which is a lifelong character quality I want to instill in my children.

Merry Christmas!


Taking a Break for School

I was out cleaning the yard recently with my two oldest sons when one of them discovered a GIANT green caterpillar. Since I love to turn everything into a learning experience, not only for them but also for myself, we set off to learn. First we captured the caterpillar. Then we finished cleaning the yard. It would have been fun to run and discover about the caterpillar right away, but I feel it’s important to teach character, such as focus and patience, in addition to academics. So we waited until after our chores were done before we got to discover about the caterpillar. All three of my sons (the youngest having just turned 2) ran to the encyclopedias and started looking, each under a different letter. B for butterfly. C for caterpillar. E for... well, not sure what that one was for, E Eating maybe? They also looked at an insect book we have. And I looked on the Internet for them.

We discovered that the GIANT green caterpillar was a polyphemus moth - one of the largest in North America, thus explaining why it was so ‘giant’. We learned what it eats or actually doesn’t once it becomes an adult moth. We discussed scientific classification since we had just learned about that the week before. We looked at lots of pictures of the moth, the favorite part of this process for my two-year-old. We learned how to care for it. And best of all, it spun a cocoon that night! What incredible timing! Now we get to learn more patience while we wait for it to hatch.

Some of the questions I like to ask myself with any learning experience are:

What can I learn from this?
Ex: What kind of moth.

What is special about this?
Ex: One of the largest moths in North America.

How can we learn more about God through this experience?
Ex: He created all living things. (Genesis 1)

How can I teach good character through this experience?
Ex: Finish chores before play.

Are there any life skills that can be taught through this?
Ex: Caring for another living thing.

Can I teach any life lessons from this?
Ex: We must care for the caterpillar or it will die.

What have we learned recently that we can tie into this?
Ex: Scientific classification.

I find the possibilities for teaching with any learning opportunity can be endless, and that I am most often limited by time and not opportunities.

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