Be Careful With Your Stuff-Learning The Hard Way

It’s inevitable that children will break things. Our oldest son was quite careful with his stuff early on and didn’t break very many things. Usually when something of his did break, we would fix it for him. My wonderful husband is a great handy man and can fix almost anything. Then, along came our second son and suddenly lots of things started getting broken. Initially we would fix everything just like we had when we only had one child. We were obviously busier now that we had two children and since things were getting broken at a much more frequent rate, we started getting a pile of toys and things that were waiting to be fixed. For the most part, the children didn’t even seem to miss them. I am not a fan of having toys or work piled up waiting for me. It stresses me and I try to avoid it. So, I decided it was time for a change in our fix it plan.

We changed our fix-ability criteria from “Are we capable of fixing it and is it economical to fix it?” to now adding on “Is it also an absolute favorite toy of the child’s or is it something that we really want their younger sibling to have someday?” With our new fix-ability criteria, we started NOT fixing most of their toys and things. If the toy was unsafe or unusable, they had to throw it away. Otherwise, they could choose to use the item in it’s broken state.

As a result, their pile of toys started diminishing to a more manageable number with no effort on my part. My children seemed more satisfied with less than perfect things (which is something I feel is important for them to learn). I also noticed that the frequency of things getting broken, had decreased! They had learned how to be more careful with their stuff. We had taught them a very important lesson-that not everything can be fixed.

What ways have you used to teach your children to be careful with their stuff?

 

Make Your Own: Lacing Cards

I was straightening up my shelf today and found my preschool lacing cards behind some other stuff on the shelf. It got me to thinking about how I made them. I’m not the most craftsy person. Making my own lacing cards is about as craftsy as I get, so I thought I’d share how I did it, in case creating your own craft ideas is as hard for you as it is for me.

Homemade lacing cardsI simple used flat brown cardboard (non-corrugated stuff that I had around the house). I cut out the shapes that I wanted. The first time I did it, I kept it really simple and cut out a big rectangle and a cross. Then I used a paper hole-punch to punch holes, about every inch, around the edges of the cardboard shapes. I considered using yarn, with tape around the ends, for the laces. I decided to use spare shoe strings that I had around the house instead of the yarn, because I felt that the shoe strings would hold up better.

I made these about two years ago, and the shoestrings are still in great shape, but the cards are a bit bent up. I think it’s about time that I make some new ones. This time, I don’t have anymore of the nice brown cardboard around the house, so I plan to use cereal boxes to cut the cards out of instead. Since the cereal boxes have printing on one side, I plan to glue two boxes together (printed sides in) before I cut them into shapes. Then, to make them prettier, I plan to let my older boys decorate the cut out shapes. I think my younger children will love the cards that will be decorated by their big brothers and big brothers will love to decorate them for their younger siblings.

What are your favorite lacing card designs? Those of you that have made your own lacing cards before, how have you done it?

Brotherly Love or Brotherly War?

Boxing GlovesOne of the Bible verses my children know is Romans 12:10 “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (NKJV). The words “brotherly love” were nagging at me. I hadn’t been seeing much “brotherly love” in my oldest two boys lately. I was frustrated with their attitudes towards each other. They were fighting and competing with each other a lot. They were even rejoicing in each other’s sufferings. They would try to be first to finish chores in the morning so they could taunt the other one. I know that some of this is male competition, and I don’t mind some competition. It can encourage them to go faster or work harder, but this had gotten out of hand. It was causing fighting and problems. I felt like it was pulling my boys apart. It seemed more like “brotherly war” would have been a better description of their behavior.

Romans 12:10 kept playing in my head. I kept thinking that there was something wrong with my boys. They were not acting like they should. They are brothers, but their behavior was wrong! I want them to be drawn together as brothers. I want them to love each other like brothers and more than friends.

This has been really bothering me lately. I’ve been praying and trying to find ways to foster that “brotherly love” instead of “brotherly war”. I tried making them do chores together. It usually didn’t work very well. My six-year-old would usually whine and complain the whole time and get frustrated because my four-year-old was whining and complaining so much that he wasn’t even doing the chore. If they finished with out my intervention, my six-year-old would usually have ended up doing 99% of the work.

two boys on a rocking horseSo last week, I tried something new, I told them they had to work together to fold the basket of laundry I had just dumped on the bed. And then told them, “Oh yeah, and if I catch either of you not working together, such as not participating in the folding or whining about how the other one isn’t participating, then the boy not working together is going to finish the whole chore by himself.” I then told them that supper was in 30 minutes and that they were not allowed to come out until the laundry was folded and put away. I closed the door and walked away.

They folded the laundry TOGETHER in record time and seemed to actually enjoy each other’s company while doing it. Just in case this was a fluke, I have since repeated the same process a few times. So far, it seems to be working. My four-year-old, of course, had to test if I meant it once, and refused to actually fold a load of laundry. Since my six-year-old was fully participating in the chore without whining, I released him and left my four-year-old to finish the load by himself. The chore was done, there was less whining, and neither of the boys were fighting with each other. This made for a happier and less stressed home. I think I’m going to repeat this process with other chores as well.

How do you foster “brotherly love” in your children?

 

Why do homeschoolers wear jean jumpers?

 

I am a homeschooler, but I don’t wear jean jumpers. They just aren’t my style. I am aware that many homeschoolers do wear jean jumpers and to be honest, I’m really not sure why. I’m feeling in a light mood today (hence the reason I am pondering such a subject), so I decided to come up with some reasons (some serious, some not so much) why so many homeschoolers do wear jean jumpers. I can’t explain why my mind dwells on some things, it just does.

  1. Modesty - Many homeschoolers are strong in their faith in God. I believe this is one of the biggest reasons parents choose to homeschool. Because of our strong faith in God, we desire to follow his laws. The bible tells women in 1 Timothy 2:9 to dress modestly. Some denominations feel that a woman should wear skirts to be modest. Jean jumpers meet this qualification. After all, options for long skirts are very limited in the stores.
  2. Out of date on fashion style - Jean jumpers were in style once, and maybe the person wearing the jean-jumper just doesn’t know that the style has changed. They could be too busy with more important things (seriously what isn’t more important than fashion?) or simply not involved in the fashion world for any number of reasons to know current styles. I have to admit style is not a strong point of mine. For all I know, maybe jean jumpers are back in style.
  3. Don’t Care - Maybe they have reached the point in their lives that they just don’t care what other people think about them. And for whatever reason they really like jean jumpers. I must admit caring what God thinks about us and not what others think about us is a good quality.
  4. Finances - Maybe they can’t afford to buy anything new (even at a garage sale) and a jean-jumper happens to be the nicest thing they own. Since denim is more durable than other fabrics, it’s logical that it would outlast all other clothing items. It may be the most economical choice.
  5. Labeling - Maybe they want to be labeled as a homeschooler. I guess it’s kinda like wearing a sign that says “Hey I homeschool”. If you saw someone wearing a jean-jumper, what would you think?

Anyway, my point of writing this articles is for some slight humor. I’m not trying to offend anyone for their style of dress. If you are someone who regularly wears jean-jumpers, please leave a comment to let me know what motivates you in your choice of style. Being serious for a moment, I’d honestly like to know some of your reasons.

 

Create Your Own Kindergarten Curriculum

When my oldest son was four, he was quite bored with the preschool workbooks we were doing, so I decided it was time to start kindergarten work. I decided to design my own curriculum with the help of the book “Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School” by Rebecca Rupp to help me know a common scope and sequence for kindergarten. The only thing I purchased was a pack of kindergarten lined paper (the type with the red line on the top, blue line on the bottom, and dotted line in the middle). I called my curriculum “Letter a Week”. Here’s how I did it.

Reading

Monday of every week, I read to my son the corresponding letter book in the “Sound box books” series by Jane Belk Moncure (I don’t own these, I borrowed them from the library). This was a great introduction to the letter sound. We also read throughout the week, books on a minimum of two other topics (usually involving an animal and a sport because these were of interest to my son) for the corresponding letter of the week, such as apples, archery, alligators, and army for “A” week. We often read multiple books on each topic. As he progressed in his phonics skills, I started introducing simple phonics books such as “The Bob Books” series by Bobby Lynn Maslen and “Easy Words to Read” series by Phil Roxbee.

Writing

Every week, I made three handwriting worksheets for my son. I tried both printing them from the computer and making them by hand with kindergarten lined paper and a highlighter. I preferred making them by hand. Each worksheet contained practice for my son’s name (this progressed from just his first name initially to his full name after a few weeks), the lowercase letter of the week (a few to trace and a few to write on his own), the capital letter of the week (again a few to trace and a few to write on his own), either a few simple words that started with the letter of the week or a sight word or review (depending on which day of the week it was), the number of the week (which eventually progressed into writing things like his phone number and address).

Math

I read the corresponding number book of the week in the “My Numbers Books” series by Jane Belk Moncure (also called “My First Steps to Math” series). This was a great way to solidify the concept of each individual number. Of course we did lots of practical application practice as well, like “How many socks are in the laundry basket today?” or “Lets see how high we can count while we wait in the line at the grocery store.” Eventually this progressed into a math concepts such as time, addition, or counting by 2s.

Science

We also related anatomy to our weekly letter. I taught my son every body part I could think of that started with that week’s corresponding letter. For “A” week, I taught him: arm, arm pit, arch (of his foot), abdomen, Adam’s apple, and ankle. Obviously some weeks I just couldn’t come up with anything. I also had a list of science concepts such as the Five Senses, and How a Plant Grows, that I wanted my son to learn throughout the year. I tried to match these up to the letter or in some case, like the Five Senses, to the number of the week. They didn’t all match up perfectly, so I just fit different concepts in on different weeks where I didn’t have a match.

Religion

We also read about a person or more from the Bible that corresponded to the letter of the week. Some weeks like “J” week there were lots of people like Jesus, and John, and Jesse, and so on, other weeks like “F” week, there really weren’t many. I used a good Bible concordance on these weeks.

Multi-sensory learning

My children love pancakes and I make them every week, so each week I made the corresponding letter shaped pancakes and often with a corresponding fruit such as apple “A” shaped pancakes for “A” week. This became their favorite part of the week! I also tried to incorporate into each week an activity or field trip such as making apple pie during “A” week or playing baseball during “B” week. Some weeks we included things like a genre of music that started with the letter of the week, such as Jazz during “J” week. Of course most children love art, so I included weekly art projects (I got ideas from books at the library). Most of these did not line up with the letter of the week, but not everything had to. Each week when we went to the grocery store for our regular grocery trip, I would point out foods that begin with the corresponding letter of the week, such as bananas, beets, and Brussels sprouts for “B” week. I would make sure to have some of these foods on the meal plan during that week. It was an easy way for us to have more variety in our diets and for the kids to get excited about trying new foods. We also did ethnic nights about once a month that corresponded with the letter of the week to teach about other cultures. My favorite was “J” week when we did Japanese night. Our whole family sat at a low table (kids table) on cushions in the living room and I prepared some Japanese cuisine complete with tea and chopsticks. My kids still talk about that night years later.

I repeated this curriculum with my second son when he was three, but did it with less intensity and used it as a preschool curriculum. With my oldest son, I taught the letters out-of-order so they would correspond to holidays or themes I wanted like “T” week during Thanksgiving and “L” week when the leaves were falling and we could do leaf projects. With my second son, I did the letters in order, because it took less planning, though sometimes it was less fun. Both ways worked great and they both learned all their letters and sounds with ease. I had a lot of fun with the curriculum and can’t wait till my younger children are old enough to do it again with them.

Is It Break Time Yet?

I have days when things just aren’t going well. We all do-it’s a part of life. Sometimes I have a sick kid that needs extra attention, or sometimes a special event that requires time to get ready for, or sometimes I’m just plain stressed out and exhausted from life. Those are the days I give myself permission to take a day off. In fact, I even plan at the beginning of my school year, for some of these days. I try to schedule our work to be done a few weeks before I absolutely want it done in the spring. That way I have more wiggle room and can take a few days off when I want to without having to stress about it.

Now if you are reading this and really want a day off, but feel you can’t because you haven’t planned for it. Don’t worry! You can still take a day off. In situations like this, I try to stay rational and ask myself “What’s the worst that can happen?” My children may have to do an extra page in their workbook tomorrow. They may have to do some schoolwork on Saturday. We may have to work an extra day later in the spring than we planned. I might save their extra schoolwork for a rainy day in the summer.  I might just skip a page in their schoolbook (I know, if I do this, I start to panic temporarily that my child might spend the rest of his life not know the sound of the letter “h” or something equally important. I come back to reality quite quickly and realize how erroneous this thought really is.). My point is that it’s great to plan for days off so I don’t stress when I need one, but even if I don’t plan for it, it’s still okay to take an occasional day off.

Now I do have one caution to keep in mind. I need to make sure that when I take my occasional days off, they are “occasional” days off. I don’t want to get into the habit of taking too many days off and find myself stressed out because I still haven’t finished this year’s schoolwork and it’s the middle of August. If I do find myself taking a lot of days off, I consider changing something in my life. Maybe I need to take a break of one or more subjects, or lighten up my schedule, or sometimes it’s as simple as have devotions be the first thing in our day to set us on the right path in the morning.

If I find myself in a season of life where I am struggling a lot, yet can’t change anything like after the birth of a baby or a long illness, I tell myself that it’s okay to do light schoolwork for even a whole year (though I’ve never had to). I focus on reading, writing and math during these times. I do the rest when I am up to it (which usually comes quicker than I expect). My children are still learning during these times just not the way I planned.

My favorite verse at these times is Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (NIV) I hope my struggles can encourage you in your times of struggle as well.

Does being a “stay-at-home mom” mean that I have to stay at home?

In addition to being a homeschool mom, I am a stay-at-home mom and I love it. I feel very blessed that my husband and I have agreed to sacrifice so that I can stay at home and raise our children. 

Life gets busy sometimes and it’s easy for me to get so busy that some weeks I find myself going somewhere every day and not actually staying at home even though I’m a stay-at-home mom. Of course it’s okay to go places and do things. I like going and doing.  Many of the things I go and do are necessary like grocery shopping, or doctor appointments. Other times it’s educational, volunteering, or just plain fun. It’s all good stuff. 

However, when I do all these wonderful things outside of my home, it’s just that, outside of my home. It doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to stay at home and be a wife,mother and teacher which, after God, are my next priorities. The more I am away from home, the more I get stressed since obviously things like the laundry and the kids’ schoolwork aren’t getting done to my usual standard. The more I get stressed and crabby, the harder it is to be a good Christian, wife, and mother.

It is tough for me to balance how much to go and how much to stay. Lately I have been challenged to evaluate my goals/priorities as a Christian, wife, and mother and to really think about how much I want to stay at home as a stay-at-home mom and then try to find ways to meet those goals. Sometimes I have to just say “no” or “not now”. 

I have to remind myself often that “self” comes last. I struggle when I hear the common phrase “You have to take care of yourself first, so you can be a better wife/mother/(fill in the blank)”. This logic sounds appealing to me because it offers me an excuse to be selfish. Things like eating three meals a day, sleeping eight hours a night, and getting a shower qualify for taking care of myself. Going out for a day of shopping with my friends doesn’t usually qualify as taking care of myself. It qualifies for having fun for myself which usually falls into the selfish category. God tells us to be servants to others, to think of them first, not to be selfish and think of ourselves first. If God, husband, and children are cared for first, then I think it’s okay sometimes to do something for myself. It’s important that I get my priorities straight.

I know that the more I stay at home, the more my children’s quality of education improves, the less stressed I am, and the happier my husband, children, and I am. I think it’s worth the trade off of a little more fun outside the home now and than. 

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!

 

Teaching Math Through Laundry

When my oldest son was one year old, he would follow me around the house as I did laundry and other chores. He would “help” me with the laundry. First he helped me collect the laundry. Then, he helped me sort the laundry. I did two simple piles-whites and colors. At first, he obviously needed help and he didn’t do it perfectly. Quite often my husband’s tan socks among other things were in our load of whites. I choose to temporarily tolerate this, because I wanted to encourage my son’s willingness to help and not focus on his failures. I decided that a helpful son was more important to me than perfect laundry. As he got older however, I did occasionally teach him such things as a particular shirt was tan instead of white and that I wanted it sorted in with the colors pile. This worked well, and by the time he was two, he was gathering and sorting the laundry, pretty well, all by himself.

Color identification and sorting are basic math skills. I think by simply helping me sort laundry, it set my son up for easy success in those areas of math. However, those were not the only things I have taught my children through laundry. In addition to the obvious life skill of knowing how to do laundry, I’ve also used laundry to aid in teaching my children the following math skills:

Counting-As we sorted laundry together sometimes we would count how many items we put into the basket.

More than/Less than-After we counted the clothes that we had sorted into each basket, I would ask my son which basket had more pieces of clothes (or articles of clothing) and which had less.

Paring/Matching-Obviously my children learned pairing and matching when I had them match up and fold the pairs of socks.

Shapes-I’ve pointed out the difference between a square and a rectangle using a washcloth and a hand towel. One day while my second son was folding towels, he excitedly pointed out that if you turn a square washcloth 45°, it becomes a diamond! He was happy to fold the diamonds that day (a task he usually complains about)!

Directions-I would give verbal instructions on how to fold a particular item such as “fold the shirt in half by placing your left hand in the middle of the shirt while you use your right hand to lift the right sleeve over to the left sleeve.”

Fractions-I’ve told my children to fold the washcloths in quarters and the hand towels in eighths. Then I’ve shown them how to count the layers after the items are folded to make sure they have folded them according to the correct fraction.

Skip counting-My oldest son really struggled with skip counting by twos, until I had him pair up our socks and lay the pairs all in a row on the floor. Then I had him count the socks. We did this a few times, and then he started getting how to count by twos.

Addition-I have had my oldest son fold our clothes and put them in separate piles for each family member. Then I had him count how many articles of clothing were on each pile and tell me the total number of articles of clothing (I did this with a small load the first time).

Multiplication-I’ve had my son lay out and count the pairs of socks in a load and then tell me how many socks total. This is a very basic intro to multiplication by 2’s.

As my children get older, I’m sure I’ll come up with even more ways of teaching them math while we do laundry together. When we are working on something new in math, I don’t usually bother to get out a special manipulative, I often just use what’s closest to hand at the time. With six people in our home, laundry is usually near by. My children seem to enjoy it when I teach them math through laundry.

What other ways have you used common household chores to teach your children math?

Sock it too ‘em

My family and I went on a road trip to Wisconsin last month. My youngest children usually sit in the middle row of our van, and my older children usually sit in the back row. I like to pass back snacks and toys without having to stop. I can either throw the item back to them-it often gets dropped, or I can have my 2 year old in middle row try to pass it back to the children in the rear row-this often doesn’t go well either.

This trip I was pondering this process before we left and I came up with a “sock delivery system”. I used an old (clean) sock, a long piece of yarn (about 8 feet), and large empty Easter eggs (1 for each child).

I tied one end of the yarn to the cuff of the sock and tied the other end of the yarn to the arm rest of my seat in the van (so it wouldn’t get lost). Then, when I had a snack to pass back to the children, I placed it in the Easter eggs, put the eggs into the sock and tossed the sock, with the yarn attached to it, into the back row of the van. If they missed, I pulled the sock back by the yarn and tried again. When they caught it, they each took an egg out and each got their own snack. When they were done with their snacks, they put the empty eggs back into the sock, and I pulled the sock back to me, so it was ready to go for the next item I wanted to pass back. If I was passing a toy back, I would just put it in the sock and skip the Easter egg.

For the snacks, I also had an extra egg to hand to my son in the middle row so he wouldn’t feel left out of the fun.

This system worked great and my children loved it!

What are some of your secrets for traveling with children?

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