National Day of Listening

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19.

Today, November 23, is the (unofficial) National Day of Listening in the United States of America. Today, I want to encourage everyone, no matter where you may live, to take part in this as well. Modern times have us so busy we often don’t take time out to just listen and to be actively involved in listening. What makes this so special for us homeschoolers, is this can really clue us in to our surrounding family and friends, and can be a great ice breaker and guide to interviews, including community outreach.

Questions you may want to ask yourself today:

  • What is “active listening”? Active listening is the involvement of both verbal and non-verbal listening skills. The listener will listen with all five senses. The key is that you are responding and paying attention to the speaker. Non-verbal responses can include smiling, eye-contact, posture, and nods of the head. Verbal responses can include remembering, questioning, reflection, clarification, and summarization.
  • Am I an active listener? If you do most or all of the above, you could consider yourself an active listener. Active listening promotes positive relationships with others, and helps you to feel better about yourself. Sympathy and empathy can be reflected in emotional times as well.
  • How can I become a more active listener? Listening doesn’t “just happen.” When you use your senses, you become involved and seek to understand what is being said. Some helpful tips: Don’t take sides (stay neutral), have patience, don’t jump in with questions or commentary every time there is a bit of silence. As a pastor once told me, “Be sure to hold the heart of the other while listening.” Also, be careful of too much eye-contact, as it can appear intimidating. You will also find that when you successfully listen, that you will naturally mirror the speaker’s emotions as well (excitement, sadness, etc). Also, be careful that you refrain from being distracted while listening, as it can appear that what the speaker is sharing with you is unimportant and not interesting.
  • What are the benefits of active listening in the homeschool environment? When active listening is used in the homeschool environment, it deepens the student/teacher (parent) relationship. When a student feels they are being really listened to, they will feel cared for and connected. The student will become emotionally connected to their environment, and have a deeper desire and motivation to learn. Active listening is a huge motivator. The skill will help the student gain self-understanding, improve relationships, feel understood, feel cared about, build trust, and overcome poor-listening habits. Poor listening habits interfere with learning and feedback. Active listening will promote learning and feedback, and may also improve study skills.

To help you be an effective listener, these tips can help:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Listen to words and feeling content.
  3. Be sincerely interested in the speaker.
  4. Restate what is said.
  5. Ask for clarification, when needed.
  6. Be aware of your own feelings and opinions.
  7. If you must state your views, don’t forget to “hold their heart” and use words carefully.
  8. Above all, don’t forget to ask God for guidance!

Active listening can be hard sometimes (it is a learning curve in my home), but with God, all things are possible. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me!

 

Sources:

https://www.thoughtco.com/active-listening-for-the-classroom-6385

https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html

 

Thanksgiving Reflection

What are you grateful for this year? What are you reflecting on as you quickly entertain your kids while you fret over a Thanksgiving meal? What, besides the endless list in your mind, are you working so hard for? For whom are you working so hard…to thank? That’s on my mind this morning. That’s what I’m trying to narrow down, because I have so much to be thankful for.

Last year we were so focused on bringing our second, H, into the world, that Thanksgiving was simply a hi-and-bye holiday. Reflection wasn’t even an option at the time of rushing through our days. But this year, it’s full of reflection, reflection of where we started as a family. The one person it circles back to is my husband. He’s the one I’m thankful for this year, or every year actually, and every day of the year, down to every second of the year. The Lord has blessed us — from the start of our dating days, to marriage, to knowing when the perfect time for us to start a family would be; from enduring miscarriages, to finally getting our Ollie, and repeating the events to get our H, to surprising us with our number three.

The journey has been amazing no matter the event. We sometimes overlook how things go, how long it takes, how difficult a path is, how frustrating, and mind-numbing the challenge can be. But, once we hit the end results, we don’t consider how we arrived at the end. I’ve spent so much time lately focused on “what’s next,” that I forget to look back sometimes and be grateful at how far we’ve come as a family. Until this week. I’ve happily set time aside each day to see our past journeys and see how grandly the Lord has blessed us through each and every one of these journeys, how simply you can see Him playing a part through all of it, how He’s used each and every one of our event as a way to strengthen us as partners, and how us becoming stronger set us up for being the parents we are today and the parents we always will aim to be.

And again, I reflect upon how amazingly lucky and blessed I am for my one and only husband. Without his support I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He’s made me stronger and wiser. Without him I’d never know the unconditional love and security I have in him when things get tough, or have the opportunity to relish my daily joys — from simple events to grand homeschooling home runs.

Every day I’m grateful for my husband; every day I pray to God to bless him and our home. Every day I thank God for him, because without the husband, our home would be quite bare, our boys wouldn’t have a wonderful role model, and without his hard work we definitely wouldn’t be homeschooling. Being able to homeschool because of the hubby’s hard work is what stands out the most these days. Yes, it’d be nice at times to drop H off at a daycare, send Ollie off on a school bus, and get all my errands, chores, and cooking done before they are due back, but those “yearnings” only last for a split second…and then they’re gone because I see the wheels turning in Ollie’s mind connecting the dots, I see H discovering something new and looking at me with excitement. I treasure these moments because I know they’ll be gone soon.

Then, the hubby comes home, and before launching into his day and after giving kisses and hugs all around, he turns to me and asks how my day was. Did the boys and I have a good day? How is H doing, anything new? How am I feeling? Am I overwhelmed? Where can he help? What can he do around the home to help to make my burdens easier? The list goes on and on, and he never complains when I add to his work hours when he comes home. He just keeps going, even when he’s exhausted and the boys hang on him like little monkeys. He never complains as he puts both boys to sleep, knowing soon he’ll be adding a third to the bedtime routine. He never complains when I toss in the towel after a hard day and simply don’t want to lift a finger. He jumps in and takes over, and I’m beyond relieved to have such a helpful partner.

I never take for granted my other half, and I thank him almost daily for his help and support, just as often as he thanks me. Be grateful for your supporters of homeschooling. Homeschooling isn’t an easy avenue. Every day is met with challenges, new or old, but it’s also met with amazing results, knowing our kids are in the best possible situation. From having a gifted child to one who’s struggling in school, we all have our reasons for this journey and we all know it’s the right path for our kids — not the easiest at times, but the right one. I know not everyone may see your choice as the “right one,” but thank the Lord for the ones who support your journey, who cheer you on; thank the Lord, and thank them also. We always need the cheers, comforts, and understanding; otherwise, we probably would toss the idea of homeschooling aside and give up on the path. I sure wouldn’t be on this path without my husband’s support and encouragement. We need the support from each other, from friends and loved ones. But, most importantly, we need it from God Himself. Without feeling God in my heart when we homeschool, I wouldn’t be so certain that is the right path for us. But, I see Him and feel Him in everything we do, and now He plays a hand in us being able to do it.

Reflect on your time homeschooling, reflect on your journey, be thankful for how far you’ve come, don’t think of how far you still need to go, just think of where you are today and bask in it. Victories and failures have taught not only you and your kids so much, but they’ve helped you bond and become closer as a family. Thank your spouse, your best friend, your parents, whomever it is in your life that knows you’re doing an amazing job. Be thankful for them and their support.

Be also thankful for you, yourself! You are doing amazing things, you are working harder then anyone sees, you are doing something to better the lives of your children. You’re giving them a life, childhood, and education all in one swing, and you’re doing a fantastic job at it! Reflect on your journeys. You’ll certainly see your blessings.

Seven Ways to Count Our Blessings

Thanksgiving!

It’s just six days away, for those of us in the United States!

I decided to share seven fun ways to record blessings, that we’ve enjoyed over the years. You can do many of these activities at any time of the year, but, like making applesauce seems to go hand-in-hand with autumn, so do many of these ideas.

For those readers elsewhere, you can participate too, because this is really a year-round attitude — this giving of thanks!

If we count today, we could use one of these suggestions per day for a Countdown to Thanksgiving, to help us gear up for the big day! Even as I say this, though, I realize that practically, these ideas are more pick and choose, to be done as a habit instead of trying to cram all of them into a busy week. If you want to try them all, go for it, but if you even find one idea that works for you, then that is what is going to matter the most in your family!

Idea One: The Blessings Tree

The first and favorite way for us to cultivate a grateful attitude is our Blessings Tree. Below is a sample, because, in our packing for a move, I can’t seem to find a copy of ones we have made.

The idea is very simple, as simple as you’d like it to be. I usually use a huge sheet of paper taped to the wall, or a poster board if I want it smaller. I draw a brown tree trunk — I like it REALLY BIG, because we want lots of blessings to hang on it!

I then make lots of leaves out of colorful construction paper. In years past, I’ve mostly done the simple oval-shaped leaves, or sometimes maple or oak leaves, but those get tedious to cut out. Oval really works just fine! Last year we did something similar for Sabbath School and I ran out of leaves. I found a great solution at the Dollar Tree. They sell bags of pretend leaves made of cloth for $1/100. They are shaded and some are even glittery — no work for you, Mom!

Every night, or morning, or whatever you decide, everyone in the family gets to pick a leaf or two and say what they are thankful for. We put answered prayers, kind things people have done for us, and just all kinds of random things that we think of. This is a wonderful way to bring the family together and change the attitude of the home! And, it’s so fun to see those leaves add up. Don’t you think Jesus and and angels are happy to see us count our blessings in this way?

Thankful Tree Clipart #1

Idea Two: Blessings on a Roll

That’s not on a roll of toilet paper! You can get little rolls of printer paper for not much, and following the same idea as above, you can have each family write something each day that they are thankful for. The lady who shared this idea with me has four kids. She had each family member write in their own handwriting each day, so over the years, she had a nice memory of how they grew up in penmanship and in spiritual experience. You can hang the roll somewhere, and when it gets too long, wrap the loose end up around a stick and roll it up like a scroll. Unlike the Blessings Tree, which most likely will get removed come December, this project spans the seasons and doesn’t take up much room.

Idea Three: ABC Prayer Time in the Family Circle

This is the idea we are currently working on in our family. It is probably the simplest, because the only tools and supplies needed are your brain and your family members. When you have your family circle for prayer, you go A..B..C… and so on, every day/night, and say what you’re thankful for. For instance, the first night, everyone says something he/she is thankful (in his prayer) for that begins with A: Apples, Aviaries, Aardvarks, Anne, whatever. Next night, you advance a letter. This really helps us in our family to think, and many times one or more of us gets stumped over the letter for that night. So far, we are to S. We had a hard time with Q, but even some ordinary letters that you would think would be easy create a brain block when it comes to your turn to share. Nevertheless, we are all enjoying this exercise in naming more blessings than we normally think of while praying.

Variations on this are saying a fruit, vegetable, animal, person, missionary, relative, flower, or whatever topic you choose — and everyone must think of one thing in that category to thank God for. In our family, and probably in yours, we easily get into a rut with our prayers, and sometimes the same people mumble the same prayer night after night. This just helps to wake up our brains!

Idea Four: Laminated Blessings Placemats

Okay — all kids like to weave. This is a simple one for all ages, and I’d say especially for the littles, with some help. You can make these in a morning. All you need is two or more colors of construction paper. Cut the one color in strips about an inch wide. You can actually have as many colored strips as you’d like. Two to three would be the max I’d recommend, but I know children love to get creative! The other color will be the solid “background.” You take this paper and fold it in half, either way. Then cut strips with it still folded up to one inch of the edge, all the way down. When done cutting, you should have an unfolded piece of construction paper that has cut lines, so that the strips you cut from other colored paper can be woven between. This sounds more complicated than it is.

Have the children weave in and out their strips, then arrange the edges so everything’s even. You can tape or glue the edged down, but we just laminate them, so I don’t bother.

We did this one year at Thanksgiving. Our children made a place mat for each guest, then before eating, we wrote things we were thankful for on the place mats, then laminated them for future years. It’s fun to look back and see what we wrote!

I am having difficulty getting my photos to cooperate, so here is a link that someone else made, showing the same thing. Only, we added things we were thankful for on the squares.

Idea Five: Bible Promises

This idea I am still working on. My plan is to have times (Sabbath afternoon would be good, or during Bible time) when we take a Bible promise book or a concordance and find specific promises that have meaning for our own children’s needs. I don’t plan to make this a “Thus saith Mom,” but verses that my boys need that they find. Faith verses will be green, verses about God’s love for me with be red, etc. We can all sit down for 20-30 minutes with our pens and Bible promise books, and find meaningful verses that will help us when we are thoughtfully flipping through the pages of our Bibles. The verses we have marked will pop out and bless us, so this is an ongoing blessing idea.

Idea Six: Prayer Wheel

This is a simple device, where you write down people or topics to pray for on each day. As you spin your wheel every day, a new person appears in the sliced out section, and you pray specifically for that person. We can include a prayer of thanks for each person! All you need is two index cards, cut into circles. Divide the circle into how ever many wedges you need for the number of people you will be praying for. Cut out a wedge for a window, and laminate if you want. Fasten with a brad fastener. Spin every day.

Idea Seven: Songs of Thanks

There are plenty of songs I can think of that mention being thankful or blessings. The one most obvious is Count Your Blessings. You can hear it and get a nice flip book here with the printed song at My Bible First.

Other songs about blessings:

  • We Gather Together
  • Come, Ye Thankful People
  • This is My Father’s World

Many Scripture songs are about thankful themes such as God’s goodness, and you can think up your own tunes if your verse doesn’t have a song already!

Idea Eight: The Blessing Jar

You got a bonus! I was just going to list seven ideas, then remembered this one. This idea can be done yearly, like Blessings of 2017, or just for a season, or for a whole lifetime! Just get a mason jar, or find a cute jam jar, and add a nice label and ribbon. Record daily or weekly blessings, answers to prayers, and things that have made you smile. Use little slips of paper. You could use a different color for each family member, or all the same. We’ve used old business cards that no longer serve. The key is to periodically take the cards out and read them together, to see how many rainbows have appeared in your life. If you Google Blessing Jar or Memory Jar/Thankful Jar, you will find a plethora of ideas to glean from. Here’s just one example. These make nice gifts that anyone can make and use. No big expense, and no calories! This is not my original idea, I have only used someone else’s idea. You can go as artsy and coordinated or as simple as you have time for. That’s what I like about this project.

I hope that these ideas will spark some interest in you in this week leading up to Thanksgiving, and beyond! Such simple ideas are really the glue that helps to hold our families together, and provide much happiness as we look back on the ways that God has blessed us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Practical Lessons: Working With Tiny Hands

Usually when the homeschool co-op semester begins, I choose classes that the kids will enjoy, classes that I’m too broke or bored to teach. Lego Art, Messy Munchkin Crafts, Edible Science, and Cupcake Decorating are some of my boys’ favorites. Since I’m trying to monopolize our school time this year, I am opting for more practical co-op classes this semester, classes that I can’t teach and that might help the kids after this year and beyond. These type of classes can be taught with YouTube videos and a few supplies as well.

American Sign Language (ASL)

I cannot teach my kids sign language because I don’t know any language besides English. I jumped at the opportunity to put my first grader in an ASL class, because it is practical, affords the opportunity to interact with other kids, and can lead to career choices later in life. When a hearing child knows sign language, they can be an unexpected blessing to others, so this is a great opportunity.

Hand Sewing

I don’t sew. My husband learned to sew in the Army, so he does all of our family sewing repairs. It’s an incredibly positive influence on my boys. Since Daddy can sew, my eight-year-old was more than happy to take on a sewing class (with a needle and everything). At an age where they cannot do a whole lot to help, how wonderful will it be for him to contribute by sewing on buttons, hemming his pants, and making minor repairs? He’s already excited that his first project is nearly finished and, after missing two weeks of class, he can move onto the next one to catch up with his classmates!

Idle Hands

What are your homeschool kids doing with their hands? As parents and homeschoolers, we so often depend on art to keep our kids’ hands busy. Scissors, penmanship, crayons, paintbrushes — these are all a necessary means to help children develop. As they grow, there are other practical tasks they can do with their hands, skills they can learn.

  • Make crafts to sell for a “book fund” or “field trip.”
  • Build bird houses, towers, or feeders to help the environment.
  • Dust the furniture to help Mom and Dad.
  • Wash dishes (correctly) to help Mom and Dad.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Plant an herb garden to contribute to the pantry.
  • Take up an instrument.
  • Learn to type (stories, letters, news, etc.).

I believe there is a reason that God opened the Bible by proclaiming Himself as Creator. As God, there are many ways He could have described Himself. Jesus Christ worked with His hands as a carpenter, creating. God the Father created the heavens and earth from nothing. We’re created in their image, and I’ve found that no matter what learning type, personality type, or age humans are, they still create. Starting this semester, the Ashworths are going to work with our hands. Starting with sign language and hand-sewing, the sky will be the limit.

 

E is for Exercise

Continuing with the NEWSTART acronym, we run along to the letter E which stands for exercise. My family is on vacation right now, a wonderful relaxing trip to the beaches of Florida. Even though we didn’t bring any school books along, homeschooling is life, so it continues. Discussions, historical sights, science lessons in nature, and definitely PE! Our favorite beach to go to is in New Smyrna because it has an outdoor racquetball court that we always take advantage of before diving in the ocean. Of course, there’s ball playing and boogie boarding and walks along the beach — all great exercise and loads of fresh air.

Having an active only child has ensured that I get my exercise. I have been his playmate all his life. Never one to excel in sports, anything having to do with a ball suddenly became my new life. Countless hours at the baseball field, hockey in the driveway, football at the park, and various games in the yard keep me in shape. In fact, as he gets older and plays more with his friends, my body shows it. Luckily for me, when he doesn’t invite me to the game of kickball, his friends do! Obviously, I have never had any trouble fulfilling the PE requirement for him for homeschooling!

How do you incorporate exercise into your homeschooling day? Towns often offer sports programs that homeschoolers can join. But, if your child isn’t as sports minded as mine, there are plenty of other options. Nature or neighborhood walks and bike rides would be at the top of the list. Many homeschoolers get together for park days or even hiking clubs. Audubon or local parks often offer programs that will get your child moving and experiencing nature at the same time. Fun activities like sledding, skating, or skiing are great in the winter. Have your child join you in exercising along with a video, and then join him in scootering around the block. The possibilities are endless for exercise!

My favorite part of the homeschooling journey is that we are traveling it together as a family. Enjoying exercise together is not only fun but good for every BODY! So, let’s get moving!