Boys and Caregiving

Late summer, I was walking our dog, a Great Pyrenees, in the yard and looking for a missing toy in the grass. As we were walking a rabbit took off and my dog tried to as well, pulling me into a divot in the grass. The result was one of the worst ankle sprains of my life. I required assistance just to get back to the house. The males in my life sprang to action. My husband helped me get into the house. My oldest son helped me wrap my foot; finished cleaning the floor, an interrupted chore; and picked a flower for me. My youngest son stayed nearby offering comfort. I thought as I sat there, my ankle on fire with pain, as the only female in my house, if a female is required for caregiving to happen, I would be in trouble. I thought exploring the topic would be interesting.

When it comes to raising boys, there are few discussions about boys and the role of informal, unpaid caregiver. In popular culture when a father cares for his child without the mother present, some have called his care “babysitting.” There is a counter movement stating father’s when left alone to care for their children are parenting, not babysitting.

Both children and adults at some point in life require caregiving. Statistics show the economic value of unpaid caregivers in the billions of dollars. According to caregiver.org, out of the 43 percent of the population that provide care to a child or older adult, 14 percent are males.

In an article by the New York Times, the risk of divorce when women are diagnosed with a chronic or terminal medical condition is discussed. According to a study published in the journal Cancer, “female gender was found to be a strong predictor of partner abandonment in patients with serious medical illness.” Having a spouse for support when managing a serious medical diagnosisis an important part of improved mental health and physical health outcomes. The conclusion in the study from Cancer mentions this as well: When divorce or separation occurred, quality of care and quality of life (for women) were adversely affected.”

I believe valuing caregiving and care for the home are important to the health of my son’s future marriages. By investing in the training of my sons to run a household, care for children and adults, and complete house cleaning chores, my sons will be better prepared for marriage and parenthood.

A simple way to model these skills is to include children in daily work. In fact that’s what we do, we start with doing the work together. I’m not looking for the boys to pay attention to every detail I would, or in the way I would. I observe simply if the job is done, with increasing attention to detail as the child gets older. Yes, the boys fuss and argue, but often, with using some whimsy and playfulness, we are able to have fun together through the duration of the project. My 3-yearold has announced he hates laundry and loves to do dishes. My 6-yearold some days fights me, and other days initiates working on chores. In fact, setting the table is a specialty of his, with attention to detail and the comfort of the family.

The process of modeling these skills has provided opportunity for my husband and I to have discussions about who does chores around the house and when. This part of our lives continues to be a work in progress. Fortunately, how we handle these discussions can be helpful for our boys as well. Modeling how to have a conversation about chores, even using tools to help identify areas of improvement, can be helpful. In an article on the chore war, which includes a checklist to guide a conversation about chores, because couples who do the least arguing about housework are those who have talked about it and made choices together.”

I want my boys to be fully prepared to graduate into meaningful employment and relationships when they leave our home. I want my boys to realize the work in a home isn’t men’s work or women’s work; it’s the work that benefits everyone closest to them, benefits a wife, benefits their children, benefits their family.

“The work of making home happy does not rest upon the mother alone. Fathers have an important part to act. The husband is the house-band of the home treasures, binding by his strong, earnest, devoted affection the members of the household, mother and children, together in the strongest bonds of union,Adventist Home.

References:

https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-demographics

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/men-more-likely-to-leave-spouse-with-cancer/

Glantz, M. J., Chamberlain, M. C., Liu, Q., Hsieh, C.-C., Edwards, K. R., Van Horn, A. and Recht, L. (2009), Gender disparity in the rate of partner abandonment in patients with serious medical illness. Cancer, 115: 5237–5242. doi:10.1002/cncr.24577

https://psychcentral.com/lib/chore-war-household-tasks-and-the-two-paycheck-couple/

White, Ellen G. The adventist home counsels to Seventh-Day Adventist families as set forth in the writing of Ellen G. White. Southern Publ. Assn., 1980.

Life Skills — Health, Nutrition, First-Aid

Teaching life skills such as health, nutrition, and first-aid may seem unnecessary to some. In fact, many of us considered the mandatory health class in high school quite annoying. However, our family includes these and more in our homeschool lessons.

Actually, our children begin these life skills prior to most organized schooling. Many of you may also be teaching health and nutrition from an early age.

Life Skills to Toddlers

Very young children learn to eat foods that we provide. Serve chicken nuggets with fries, and they learn to enjoy these fast foods. However, if we provide an array of vegetables and fruit, prepared and served in a healthy combination, our children learn to enjoy these.

Many times parents have commented to me that they wished their children would eat vegetables like mine do. I explain that they will eat them, once they learn to enjoy them. Sugary foods laden with processed ingredients will tempt those who are accustomed to their tastes. Likewise, people will learn to love broccoli and brussel sprouts if that is what they are accustomed to.

As children grow we encourage their nutrition knowledge. Talk about the foods they are eating. Explain why you avoid certain foods. Discuss food fads.

Tie Into Health

Discussing food usually leads to discussing health. Explain how eating nutritious foods and avoiding “junk” food allows the body to grow and function properly. For young children, the conversation remains basic. However, over time, find ways to educate your children on health and nutrition beyond the basics.

Sometimes a website or book may be useful. Our family likes drfuhrman.com andrmcdougall.com. Both of these sites are family friendly and explain plant-based eating and the correlation with health. Old nutrition textbooks contain some useful information, too, but may have misinformation, especially with regard to meat, eggs, and dairy.

By the time your children are teens, they should have a solid understanding of nutrition and its relationship to health. As you prepare meals together, discuss the various foods and how they benefit health and growth. We also discuss foods that are not beneficial, to give a balanced approach to the subject.

First-aid and Emergencies

Most children will experience bumps and bruises as they grow. Often parents treat and bandage, then send the child off to play again.

However, even young children can learn basic first-aid as they go through these life experiences. Explain what type of wound it is, why you treat it as you do, and how to manage the care. Involve your child in his or her own treatment. And, if a sibling is injured, let everyone take part in that learning experience, too. We also discuss how to avoid problems.

But of course, first-aid goes well beyond the need for cleaning a wound and applying a bandage. Even young children can learn basic CPR, wound management, and other first-aid measures. Reading and understanding helps, but active learning with living examples will result in long-term knowledge.

Several organizations, including the Red Cross, offer first-aid training for teens. Some churches do, too. This encourages teens to learn beyond their basics.

All first-aid training, at home or in a class, will help prepare your children for life’s emergencies. It also provides a better understanding of overall health issues.

Focus: Health, Nutrition, First-Aid Life Skills

Taking care of our bodies as the temple of God begins before birth and continues throughout our lives. Teaching our children these skills enables them to begin a healthy start early in life. A healthy lifestyle that begins early will serve them well.

”Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body,” I Corinthians 6:19, 20.

Organizing Our Days — Worth Their Weight in Gold

Today I am going to share what we do for our chore cards! It’s been a process we’ve been developing with our children over the last year, but my husband made this comment the other day, when I referred one of our children to their chore cards and he bounded off to do so: “Those things have been worth their weight in gold around here lately.” I was so tickled that he noticed, and it encouraged me to share! I thought if my husband’s observant eye saw a positive difference in our home, it was worth sharing with others. If you’re looking to make chores a valuable part of your child’s schooling, as well as mostly enjoyable and more efficient, I hope this post aids you in such a quest!

Tackling chores as a homeschooling family with young children can be challenging. Like, what should I assign them? How often? Do I need to supervise? How do I teach them, and when their chore skills are waning, how do I reinforce their best efforts again? How do I keep them on task?! I will not attempt to solve all these challenges of doing chores at home with children, but I will share what’s been a positive experience as we’ve worked through these challenges in real time.

It’s been several years since we tossed the chore chart in our home and I have never regretted it! It did not work for us even after moving the chart from the children’s bedrooms to the main living and back again. We didn’t put all the magnets up for each chore ’til that night some days, and often pieces went missing. It was too much of a chore keeping track of 90 pieces…

So, we simplified. We started by assigning one chore per child for the entire school year, plus their personal belongings and hygiene. This was revolutionary! Now as my children have gotten older, we’ve added to that, but I focused on teaching them to do one thing and to do it well. At first it was easy to keep track because they were each responsible for their own things and one other chore. If they wanted to keep their toys, they needed to put them away and take care of them. Chore assignments went as follows:

  • JR (age 6) DISHES: This chore required my oldest to set and clear the table, and help put away clean dishes out of the dishwasher, as well as collect dirty cups from around the house.
  • P (age 4) ENTRIES: This chore entailed keeping the boot trays and shoe cubbies organized and picked up, and delivering items to the appropriate rooms that often collected in the front and back doorway. We have a low rack for children’s coats. Hanging coats on the low rack was great fine motor for my 4-year-old at the time!
  • J (age 2) TOWELS: My littlest sat with me while I folded laundry daily, and I handed all towels to her to fold as well as put away in a bottom drawer in either the kitchen for kitchen towels or the bathroom for bathroom towels, and she usually identified correctly where each towel was to be used.

At the time, these three areas covered most of our daily chores, and the children helped me with other things as they needed to be addressed. As their skills progressed, they each moved on to greater responsibilities, and we spent time learning new chores in the summer as we transitioned to each new “school year.”

I’m all about streamlining the tasks I have to do day-in and day-out at home. The positive reinforcement we’ve experienced through developing this consistent habit of familiar chores has convinced me to continue attacking chores in this way!

Today my children are 4, 6, and 8, so their abilities have increased significantly over the past years. I wanted a system to remind them of their chores, but to also keep things simple and in line with my chart tossing commitment. I scoured Pinterest and YouTube and came to an idea similar to Chore Cards, established by the Maxwell family. I wanted to further simplify their chore system, so I stuck with my previous joy of one new chore per school year and made permanent chore cards for morning with evening reminders on the reverse.

These chore cards my oldest helped me laminate, and they hang on a lanyard either around their neck or on the door knob to their bedroom. They initially wear them around their necks while carrying out their chores in the morning so they can refer to them if need be. A month or so into the school year, they hang on their doorknobs full time because they’ve memorized their new responsibilities, but I can always refer them back to them if they seem to be steering off course during our morning chore time.

I tell you so far it has been the solution to efficiency in this area of our schooling. My children love the emoji stickers on my iPad, as they often get to text Daddy when he’s away on long shifts, so I used the emojis to add pictures to the chores for my non-readers. Plus, pictures just make to-do lists more fun!

The refining process for gold requires high heat. Training our children to execute the daily responsibilities in their little lives will cause heat and friction at times, but the process will be worth it if you keep the goal in mind. Raising up children who radiate the character of responsible, reliable, and helpful youth will be worth all the hours of patient dedication on your part. Blessings to you as you continue in training your children in the school of daily life!

❤️Allison

Mundane Days of Faithfulness

The winter months — with recovery from the holidays, colder temperatures, and the end of the school year seeming so far off — are often when students appear to struggle. For parents the colder, shorter days can be seen as days to get through in order to get to the days which are warmer and longer. In the winter months in the midwest, it’s a time of rest for the land and the plants; even cows and chickens take a break from producing milk and eggs. The winter is a sustained period of time where not much appears to be happening, but it’s a crucial time in the farming process. Just as the farmer has a time without the appearance of success, so too, families can have a season where not much appears to be happening. There are ways, though, to make the mundane days, meaningful.

During this time focus could be changed to demonstrating how to work at something for a little bit, and be satisfied with incompletion. The process is the important part.

When I think of an example of appreciating repetitive and mundane experience, and focusing on the process vs. the outcome, each time I come back to chores. When I look at chores in a way that I will only be satisfied when every dish is clean and put away, all the clothes laundered and put away, and the house straightened and looking company ready, then I am setting myself up for frustration and an irritable mood. I am also modeling the idea that satisfactory work only occurs when the desired outcome is met.

I’ve worked, prayed, and continue to practice accepting time spent on a project as good enough. Beyond accepting “good enough,” the repetitive nature of most tasks lends itself well to engaging in mindfulness activities which soothe the mind, body, and spirit.

The easy task of matching socks and prayer go well together. Singing and worship in the middle of dishes increases energy, both physical and spiritual. Vacuuming and mopping the floor works well with taking deep breaths and adding a blessing or a mantra to focus the mind. My favorite deep breathing activity is also a prayer. When I breathe in, I pray, “Whatever You give me, I accept.” When I breathe out, I pray, “Whatever You take from me, I let go.” I have found increased connection with God, and flexibility in following God’s plan for me by incorporating this deep breathing prayer with my chores.

In Deuteronomy 11:19 we are to “Teach them (the Word of God) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” While it may feel awkward at first, modeling and demonstrating mindful connection to God throughout the day are powerful tools of faith to impart to your children. You may wonder, then, how does this apply to school work?

My husband, a concert level musician, taught me that in order to learn how to do a skill quickly and accurately, I first needed to learn to do the task slowly and methodically. Whether taking my licensing exam or folding laundry, in order to improve my skill, I need to take action slowly; and, once learned and done accurately, I can increase the speed of completion. School work is about acquiring new skills, in-depth study, and communicating the knowledge acquired. The process is similar to what I described with chores. Frequently, there isn’t a satisfactory end. Reading, writing, and math all require practice, a lot of practice, with frequent mistakes and trying again. If the focus of learning is on a satisfactory outcome, we can set up our relationship with our children to be one of frustration and irritability. I present for your consideration: What if the process of learning chores and prayerful mindfulness will ease any learning frustrations, because knowledge of the process of learning will already have been experienced by your child(ren) through learning the process of chores?

These shorter, colder, perhaps even mundane days allow activity in a household to slow down; the focus of learning can be on the basics. Through repetition and mindfulness, a child can grow physically, developmentally, and spiritually during a time when you are unlikely to see any “academic fruit.” These days are important, if we can model the skills we want our children to integrate, and allow children freedom from constantly striving for the moment of success.

“What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?” ~Martin Luther

Teaching the Preschooler…Informally

With the push for earlier and earlier academics, sometimes parents feel their child may fall behind if they do not get started, even at such ages as 2 or 3 years old. Yet, as Adventists we are counseled not to start formal academics until the ages of 8-10 years old, depending on the child.

Does this mean we simply allow the child to exist and not take advantage of these early years when the brain is growing so quickly? No, it simply means we use informal methods of teaching. The child who learns to love learning will benefit their entire lives. In this article, I will be giving some examples of how a parent can still “teach,” but do so in a manner that will help their child rather than hinder him.

When considering early education (and even later education in my opinion), think of Deuteronomy 6:7, which talks about teaching our children as we go about our day. The idea is that we are to make learning a natural process. As we cook our meals, we can show how to cook. We can discuss about creating healthy menus. We can talk about why we eat a certain way, and even why we may prepare foods in certain ways. At the store we can teach price comparison and how to choose the best produce. **This is an example of how natural learning can be used for older children.

So applying this natural learning for the preschooler, here is a running list of some ideas:

  • Read, read, read: While reading, point out pictures, discuss colors, shapes, etc. Ask what is happening from the picture. Ask what they think will happen next. There is an endless variety of topics that can be easily learned about while reading.
  • Art: Be willing to allow your child to experiment and get messy. Again, there are art books out there of the masters. Reading about them and then trying to duplicate their art is a great art lesson, all natural. There are so many arts/craft books that one library cannot hold them all. There are limitless choices online. Pinterest has many choices. Colors can be learned, and different mediums such as water color, crayons, markers, plaster of paris, glue/paper, etc.
  • Science: This can be walking outside and learning the plants, learning how to plant seeds and take care of them till harvest. For older children, this can lead to learning how to preserve that food. (Oops, this is supposed to be focused on preschoolers.) Compare sizes of seeds, putting them in order by size, color, type of food/flower. Science can also be learned in the kitchen by cooking — measuring, comparing ingredients, and even tasting. Help them make charts with all this information. Help them make estimates of what will happen if you water one plant more than another. What if you water one seed more than it should be watered? What happens?
  • Math: There are series in the library that teach basic math skills. Again, cooking is a great way to teach math. Science can be easily combined with math with many activities. Math can even be used in art in studying proportions of various art displays. Just practicing counting while singing songs can be fun and educational.
  • History: This can be learned by studying the Bible, having worship. It can be learned by reading real life books on various historical figures. Creating a timeline together can be art and history while being fun. There are some wonderful missionary books on the early church pioneers.
  • Writing: With writing, I would keep things very informal since it is largely a physical development issue. If they want to “write,” then give them a large pencil or fat crayon with some blank paper. If they begin to ask how to draw or write a letter, then show them, but not until they ask. These preschool years really need to be child-led in learning. This way the parent knows they are ready developmentally and not being pushed. There are many inexpensive books out there that teach writing, beginning with drawing a line. Again, let the child begin by asking. You will see them begin drawing certain shapes and lines naturally. They will start trying to imitate your writing. So, of course, I’m going to suggest that you show writing by writing in front of your child. As you write, you can simply say out loud what you are writing about, if appropriate. When you make your grocery list, name out loud what you are putting on the list. You can even spell the words out loud. This makes learning all natural and fun. Plus, they see the practical application of the skill.
  • Play in the water.
  • Run and chase each other.
  • Take your child with you as you run your errands. Talk to them and explain. Today, I was taking my granddaughter somewhere. I missed my turn so ended up driving through this neighborhood with very large, expensive homes. She started asking questions. I ended up discussing values and how our values help us choose what we spend our money on. It was all natural and very important lesson for this little girl. She made a statement at the end that she was glad that Mommy and Daddy decided to spend their money on the family rather than a fancy house.
  • Sing, jump around.
  • Play child-led activities.
  • Do housework together.
  • Lay on the ground and look at the clouds. You can find shapes and discuss how clouds are made.

I could go on to list dozens of more activities. I hope these will give you some ideas to get started. The articles I shared in my last post gave some ideas that will also jumpstart your own thinking. The main idea is to live life with your child. Don’t park them in front of an electronic device. Instead, BE with them. Live with them. Interact with them. By doing these things, you can set a foundation for life-long learning and a brain filled with amazing abilities to learn and create.