Passionate Rewards

My youngest son, LMB, has a tendency to develop obsessions with some things. Lego Movie, Lego, Angry Birds, Hot Wheels, Star Wars, etc. Currently, his obsession is Pokemon Go. Every child finds something different that they become passionate about.

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LMB has been a late reader. He struggled hard to learn how to read and has finally succeeded, much to his delight — and mine! To encourage him to branch out and explore reading more, to discover the real world of books, I plan to use Pokemon Go to inspire and reward him. I found pictures of the various Pokemon characters, and printed and laminated them. For every small book he reads, or for every chapter in a chapter book, he will earn a Pokemon picture to post on a bulletin board. When he’s earned ten, he’ll be able to trade them in for a larger reward…we haven’t decided on what yet, but he’s bargaining for cash.

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While he’s excited about reading now, he’s still uncertain of his abilities, he’s still lacking in esteem in this area. He is excited about earning the Pokemon characters and the possibility of a greater reward as he collects them.

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When we can find the things our children are already interested in and utilize them to encourage them and excite them to pursue learning, we both gain an advantage! When he’s excited to learn, there is less of a battle to get his work done. When he has a reason beyond “because I told you to,” he’s more willing to cheerfully get it done.

I’m blessed with LMB, he truly enjoys learning, but even then he sometimes needs a little more incentive. I guess you could call this is our personal “Reading Plan.” It could be developed to be used with any area that a child needs encouragement in — Scripture memorization, math skills, spelling words, etc. Finding the “currency” in your child’s passion helps. Help them use that passion to collect larger rewards and see how they find their own incentives, their own passion for learning.

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Wanderlust and the Great Commission

 

Kids resting after hiking the Upper Javalina Trail, Marana, AZ

Have you and the family caught the travel bug? My wife and I love to travel, and our kids are happily infected as well. To date, we have visited 46 states, and more than a dozen countries. Our two children, ages eight and four, have been to more than two dozens states.  

Many parents argued that they would rather wait until their children much older before they travel, “because they won’t remember it anyway.” I disagree. That’s like saying “don’t cuddle or don’t spend time with your kids anyway because they won’t remember.” One of our favorite Friday evening activities is to watch slideshows of “old” pictures and videos. We are often surprised by the details that our kids remember from many of our trips. They will mention things we don’t even remember. If traveling is something you dislike or are not accustomed to, allow me make a case for it and shed some light on why wanderlust is essential to your family growth, to your children’s development, and to your spiritual growth.

As homeschoolers, you should already know that off-season traveling is one of the prime benefits of homeschooling. You can travel to places that are usually packed during school breaks and make the most out of it without long queue lines, and the fees are often cheaper when it is off season. There are lots of great deals online during off season — flight, car rental, hotel rooms, tourist attractions, museums, etc. In most places, car rental includes unlimited miles (read: leave your car at home).

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This year we had a blast at Six Flags and City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri; saw the amazing Niagara Falls; hiked to see the gorgeous cascading waterfalls of Glen Watkins,Max Ringling Museum New York; marveled at the eclectic art collection at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida; and then explored Arizona’s truly Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Utah’s fantastic Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. These places were beyond amazing! Words and pictures cannot explain the feelings when your mind is blown by the beauty of God’s creation, the scale of the Grand Canyon, the stunning sunset view from Bryce Canyon and Siesta Beach, and all the wild animals we encountered.

Budgeting with focus. Some people complained their budgets won’t allow for much traveling, but their closet is busting at the seam, they always shop for clothes every few weeks, either online, at Goodwill, or at the mall; eat out several times a week; have the newest gadgets, phone, games, new cars, or nice gently used cars with hefty payments; travel with kids’ sports teams frequently; or spend quite a bit on online gaming every month. The issue truly is not just budgeting, but focus or priority. 

Travel is important to us, so we focus on it and make plans far in advance to save up for trips. We make adjustments in other areas of life. While we have a 2013 Honda Odyssey to haul the family, I still drive my fully paid for, 190,000-mile, 38-mpg-average favorite car — my super-hot, four-door, 13-year-old, 2003 Toyota Echo…that we have had since we got married.

Don’t make the common mistake of saving up for one big trip a year or one big splurge. That would be akin to fasting on water for days or weeks, and then binging on a big expensive dinner in one sitting. This is not fun, likely to cause more stress afterward, leaving people to often say, “I always need a vacation after a vacation.” Right? Instead, take multiple small trips throughout the year. Visit nearby national parks or camp grounds, and camp out “roughing it” or stay at their lodge. Look up “Things to Do” on TripAdvisor.com, read reviews, find kid-friendly activities to do. 

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Have you ever thought much about the fact that you only get to “have” your kids for 18 years? It somewhat bothers me that I only will “have” my oldest child for 10 more years or so. Making memories is an important goal in our family, which is why we spend more on vacations and experiences than on tangible gifts. We let the grandparents spoil them on birthdays and holidays, to a certain extent. Anything else they want, they must earn from their commissions (we don’t call it allowance) for completing their chores and schoolwork. Harvard graduate psychologist Matthew Killingsworth published his findings in the journal Psychological Science — that spending money on experiences “provide[s] more enduring happiness,” and that waiting for an experience apparently elicits more happiness and excitement than waiting for a material good.

Buy experiences, not things. Soon after we got married, we immediately made plans on places we wanted to visit and things to do, etc. That was 12 years ago! The cool part of looking back over these written plans, is that we have accomplished many of the goals, and visited many of the places we wanted to go to, and that has made us feel very grateful to look back and count our blessings. Did we accomplish every single goal? Nope, only most of it. Does it mean we failed? Of course not.

It’s easy to make wishes: “Someday I’d like to visit the Grand Canyon, Alaska, Australia, and Bali Indonesia.” But remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Even if you have money and resources to go, if you don’t make plans for it, it will never happen. So first, write it down. We write down our top 25 destinations. Then we break it down based on priorities: “I definitely must visit these five first, before the rest.” Then we divide and conquer: write down the 25 destinations over a 10-year period, and then break it down further into spring trip, fall trip, or winter trip. The next step is to figure out the cost to do each of those trip, and then start saving. Once they are written down on a calendar (use Google calendar for the next 10 years) and cost is figured out, it’s easier to see how it will happen.

As the years become months, start doing more research into things to do in that area (TripAdvisor will help you there), and places to stay at (rental homes at homeaway.com, home exchanges like hsneighbor.com, RVs, hotels, or even old friends you know who live nearby). Map out your route, and even find out which month of the year is best to visit, considering the weather, off-season travel, local events, etc. This will build up excitement for the kids and the whole family. There is one catch. You cannot explore the world with a poverty mindset. You must think big. You and your spouse (or your whole family) must write down these lists with an abundance mindset. If your mind gets stuck on the “how will we be able to afford this” poverty consciousness mindset, stop it immediately, and say this out loud: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want, I shall lack nothing.”

Would you want your kids to whine daily and tell people that their parents are dirt poor, and never dream to achieve anything great when they grow up?  How do you think your heavenly Father feels when you daily focus on being poor and defeated? Your present state does not determine your future state. Your past does not determine your future. Ask the woman at the well. Ask the lepers. Ask Joseph. Ask Moses. Ask Nick Vujicic.

The world is our classroom. One way to NOT grow and accomplish big things is to stay small, stay within the comfort zone, and be safe. Toddlers, innately, choose to fall hundreds of times a day in order achieve the ability to walk on their feet and explore the new worlds around them. We were made to explore, to wander, to move. What would happen if a toddler is chained to the ground for a few years and not allowed to walk?

Sadly, today’s kids are “chained” to their school chairs for almost 50 hours a week, and then their parents “chain” them to electronics (TV, computers, phones, video games), ensuring a less-than-bright sedentary future with forward head posture, degenerative disc disease, obesity, diabetes, prescription drugs, back pain, and arthritis. As adults, many choose to stay within the comfort zone, choose to stop wandering, choose to stop exploring, choose to stop getting to know and hanging out with neighbors of different customs, cultures, or economic class. Many adults choose to live in a safe bubble of hanging out with the same people who look like them, speak like them, dress like them, have homes like theirs, have cars like theirs, eat like them, and believe the same things they do.

Is this wrong? No. Would Jesus do this? No. Would Jesus and his disciples stay in their hometown forever, chill with the same peeps forever, and stay comfortable forever?

Was the Great Commission really meant for us to reach only those around us? On past trips our kids tried new kinds of foods everywhere they went, observed and even played with wild animals, saw amazing human-built and nature-built landmarks, met various kinds of people with various kinds of manners and customs. They learned to enjoy bikcactsweating and hiking at 100-degree-plus temperature when we were in Arizona, and they also learned not to bike or play tag among cacti. They learned by falling on their bottoms (because they didn’t listen to Daddy) that greenish slime on rocks on the streams are slippery. They cried as they laughed as their eyes, noses, and mouths secreted watery substances as they chose to try different kinds of spicy peppers wherever we went. We have seen our kids being a lot more open to people than most kids, flexible to different kinds of food, cultures, and environment. They have also learned a lot about patience when traveling, about preparation, about handling stress — all which have helped them to be independent, confident, mature, resourceful, and compassionate toward others.

At the end of the day, it is all about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). There are two important words I would like to point out there: “go” and “nations.” It doesn’t say to stay where you are. It does say to go, to move, to travel. Nations, in plural form, means we are to reach out to those outside of our tribe, culture, custom. When that happens, when all eyes and ears have heard of Him, then he’ll come to take us home. Not before that has happened. How should we shape our children? How should we encourage their development and spiritual growth and prepare them for the Great Commission? How can they be comfortable talking to, eating with, and playing with people who look, act, and speak totally different than they do?

Remember that Jesus traveled a lot during his short years on earth. By one account he walked approximately 21,000 or more miles, which is to say, he walked almost the distance around the world — 24,900 miles (the distance around the earth at the equator). A certain woman by the name of Ellen G. White, who wrote some of the bestselling and most translated Christian books in the world, lived and traveled to Maine, Oregon, Connecticut, Michigan, Ohio, California, Massachusetts, Texas, Minnesota, Maryland, Washington, Australia, England, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, and more, from 1827 to 1915.

What have these two figures accomplished? Were these two figures financially rich? How did they travel? What’s holding YOU back? What are your excuses? How has your spiritual health been this past year or two? Need some shaking?

BecakGo out there. Let the kids actually go feral without electronics for days or weeks, let them interact with strangers and learn their cultures, let them learn to wait patiently. Yes, there will probably be weeping and gnashing of teeth in the beginning, but they will thank you for it. Let them catch frogs, donate blood to hungry mosquitoes, learn about self-sufficiency, recite Psalm 8 and Psalm 91 nightly under the stars around the campfire. You’ll be amazed at how much these trips will benefit you and your family, and others you meet along the way.

Homeschooling doesn’t have to stay at home. Families who travel together, stay together. Share with me your experience when your family catch the wanderlust bug at loveyourlegwarmers@gmail.com.

Maranatha!
~Arthur

Easy Quiet Book for Little Ones

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If you’ve ever had a very active toddler like I do, I’m sure you’ve wondered many times what you can do to keep them busy. When my firstborn son was little, my mother lovingly sewed him a quiet book for church. It was beautiful and he loved it! Sadly I was not gifted with the sewing gene, and my mother has since passed on. So, I pondered as to how I could make something for our newest little girl! While I may not be able to sew well or at all, I can laminate like there is no tomorrow!!

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When my older children were younger, I made tons of laminated file folder games for them. There are so many free file folder games online that you can just print out and laminate! Did I mention I LOVE laminating!! So I thought, “Why not make a laminated quiet book!” How easy is that! I dug through my extensive collection of file folder games and also searched for new free ones online. Then I printed, laminated, and cut out the game pieces.

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Next was to find a three-ring binder that was just the right size. I went with a 1″ binder and made a pretty cover for it. Then I affixed magnets onto the laminated game boards, where the pieces would go, and slid them into sheet protectors. I did this so that she wouldn’t be tempted to pull the magnets off. I cut apart business card magnets for the game boards and the pieces. After that I separated out the game pieces into individual ziplock bags and stored them in a three-ring pencil case.

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I love the flexibility of this quiet book because I can make up multiple activities, store them in my file cabinet, and change them out. The possibilities are endless! You can make one that is spiritually centered for church, and one that is early learning based, or combine them together. My three-year-old loves hers. I have even thought about making some activities that are seasonally themed also!

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Below is the link to my Pinterest board with tons of free File Folder Game Printables!!

File Folder Games – Pinterest

The laminator I have used for years is the Duck Electric Laminator. I originally purchased it at Walmart for $25, but they no longer carry this brand. There are many that are comparable in price and quality though. I love my laminator, and it was one of my best homeschool purchases!

 

Raising Butterflies — Easy and Fun!

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Butterflies — beautiful creatures dancing on the wind! Fragile yet strong, mind-boggling in the thought of the migratory paths of some varieties. What homeschooling parent hasn’t drooled just a bit over those raising butterfly kits — wanting their child to have that “hands-on” experience, yet cringing at the high price of the kits! Or, you decide to splurge and purchase a butterfly raising kit, and once it is all finished your children want to do it again, but your budget doesn’t allow. The good news is that raising butterflies, either from a purchased kit or without, is a fun and easy home school activity to do.

Our family has enjoyed both ways of raising butterflies, starting the first time with a purchased kit, but soon realizing our desire for raising exceeded our dollars available for purchasing kits. So, in this blog post I am going to concentrate on how you can raise butterflies without purchasing a kit — but please remember that the butterfly raising kits are available and can make an awesome birthday or Christmas present!

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The first thing you need to do is educate yourself on butterfly raising. The above book is one that our family has found useful. It talks a little bit about what type of containers to use, and even shows how you can make your own container.

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There are also books that have butterfly activities in them — sort of like a unit study. We have used the above book on Monarchs, but it does not talk about raising Monarchs; it’s more of activities about Monarchs.

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We have used this Stokes guide quite a bit. A butterfly guide will help you learn what types of butterflies live in your area. This is important to learn first, as it will then help you discover what type of butterflies you can expect to find, as well as learning what foods those types of butterfly caterpillars eat.

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This little pocket size guide is perfect to take with you and your children outside. Go to wherever there are flowers planted, whether it is your own yard or a park. Sit quietly for a while, and observe what butterflies come to visit the flowers. Take pictures of them, and use your identification guide to discover the type of butterfly that you saw.

Once you have learned who lives in your area, do a little research either, in your field guides or online, to learn what that variety of butterfly caterpillar eats. Scan the list you find, and look for plants that you could easily add to your yard. You have a two-fold goal: 1) attract the adult butterfly with the variety of flowers they like to feed on, and 2) have host plants available near by. Host plants are the types of plants that your butterfly variety lays their eggs on. For example, we learned that Swallowtail butterflies are common in our area. We can attract the adult Swallowtails easily to our yard by planting flowers such as zinnias, cone flowers, etc. But, if we want to be able to raise Swallowtail caterpillars, we also need to plant something such as parsley or rue — two varieties of host plants that the Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on. Obviously, you want to make sure to not spray your host plants with any type of poison, or it could kill any caterpillars that have hatched out on that plant. Make your little garden corner attractive to butterflies. Think of it as a bed and breakfast for butterflies! Give them food, shelter, and host plants, and they will come!

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Once you have your flowers and host plants planted, start watching for butterflies around that area. You do not need a large garden to do this; a couple of potted plants will work nicely. Keep in mind, though, that the larger area of color with your nectar producing flowers, the easier the butterflies flying past will be able to see the banquet you have prepared for them! Examine your host plants frequently. Make sure you are familiar with what the different stages of the caterpillars you are looking for look like! In the above picture, this is a Swallowtail caterpillar that is almost ready to go into its chrysalis. It looks very different at this stage than it did when it was tiny. When you find caterpillars, carefully collect them and place them into your raising container. Remember to not touch the caterpillar itself, but rather gently break off the part of the plant it is eating on and place it in your container. Once you have a visitor, keeping its container clean daily is important. We simply line the bottom of the container with a piece of paper towel, and change it out daily for a clean one. It is also important to provide fresh food for your caterpillar daily. Have enough of your host plant growing in your yard that you can break off a few fresh pieces each morning to bring in to it. No need to provide water — it will gather all the water it needs from eating the fresh host plant leaves.

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Depending upon the variety of caterpillar, it will spend a couple of weeks munching and eating. At this point it will enter its chrysalis, and will no longer need to be fed. You will need some sticks inside its container for it to climb up on and hang from. Since you never really know when a caterpillar will be ready to change to its next stage, I keep sticks in my containers at all times. Even with this, they will sometimes still attach themselves to the sides or ceiling of your container and ignore your fine sticks. If this happens, do not worry about it. Just leave it alone and do not disturb it. Make sure the containers you are keeping your caterpillars in are large enough that when they hatch they will have enough room to stretch out their wings fully. If they are in a too-small container, it will damage their wings permanently.

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When your butterflies have hatched out, it is time to release them back into your garden. Gently carry your raising container outside. You can see in this photo one of our containers — a plastic terrarium that was inexpensively purchased at Walmart. It is hard to see from the angle of the photo, but this container is actually quite deep.

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Here is a second type of container that we also use. It is a net and has a spring going around the sides. When we are not using it, it folds completely flat. We purchased this from the Insect Lore company.

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With the large spring-type of containers, the butterflies often need help finding their way out of the container. You can gently place your finger in front of them and see if they will climb up on it. If they do, you can give them a ride out of the container. Never force the butterfly onto your finger, and never touch their wings — no matter how gentle you try to be, you will end up damaging their fragile bodies.

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Once you have a butterfly taking a ride on your finger, place him or her next to a flower and wait just a bit. They will happily step off of your finger and onto the flower.

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If your butterfly has just recently hatched out, they will stay on the flower for a while, sunning their wings and getting ready to fly. This gives you a great opportunity to get close up pictures that normally you would not be able to get!

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I hope you have enjoyed learning more about God’s beautiful butterflies! The fall time is a great time to begin researching and planning out your spring planting list — and don’t forget to plant something for the butterflies!

 

Homeschooling the Gifted/Talented Child, Pt. 1: The Other Special Needs Child

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Over the past few years, I have written extensively about how to homeschool “children with challenges” for this blog. When people hear that phrase or “special needs child,” they are thinking of a child who has learning challenges. In the past I only lightly touched the topic of homeschooling a child on the other end of the spectrum. This year one of the topics I will be addressing is how to meet the needs of the child who is gifted/talented (G/T).

Why listen to me about this topic? I grew up at the end of a magical time in the public schools. I attended schools that utilized ability grouping. I know these are talked down about these days, but in my time they were wonderful. Children were allowed to be with other children who had like educational abilities. No child had to sit and be bored while fellow classmates who needed more time to complete their work continued working. Those who needed extra attention and time had it — without being made to feel they were stupid or unusual, because the whole class went at the slower pace.

By the time I hit junior high, honor classes were introduced. We were placed in classes where the requirements were harder. I thrived in such an environment. The classes tended to have the same group of kids, so you were able to develop deeper friendships with kids who did not think you were odd. You were not made fun of if you dug in a little deeper on a special topic. High school found me continuing on the honor classes track.

Fast forward a few years to when I found myself with a child who was learning faster than I could keep up. In the early ’80s, there was very little support. There was certainly no internet to look up ideas. If you spoke with other moms, you were looked upon as if you were bragging. I found a few odd books at the library. When my daughter hit 4th grade, I found myself talking to teachers who only wanted her to sit with her head on the desk when she was finished with her work. She went from attending G/T classes once a week and being allowed to do special projects…to no support or extra help. Within six weeks I was desperate. A friend suggested I homeschool. That begun my journey of more than 20 years.

Many times, G/T kids are expected to “just deal with it” if they finish work early. They are not considered to be special needs children. Their creative thinking and out-of-the-box solutions are often suppressed and criticized. Their tendency to jump from one topic to another will get them punished or disciplined. Some G/T kids are very social and love to talk. Since they finish their work early, they simply do not understand why they can’t visit with their schoolmates in their extra time. This doesn’t work very well in the current school system.

In order to save their “special children,” thousands of parents are now opting to homeschool their G/T child. Today’s gifted child will often have additional challenges that make homeschooling a better option. These children are usually called “twice-exceptional (2e).” These are the ones that might be a bit hyper. They may be very sensitive to stimulation of sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch. They might be the picky eaters because they can only tolerate certain textures in their food. They may be on the autistic spectrum. They may have a different learning style from our left-brain school system. These 2e children learn fast, but they often have other challenges that make simply teaching them in the public school system a disaster.

By bringing them home, the parent can create a wholesome learning environment where the child can learn in their special learning style. They can avoid the extra stimulation of other kids, sounds, lights, etc., that may set off melt-downs because the child simply does not understand how to handle the overload on their brains. Homeschooling allows the child to explore topics of interest to a deeper level. G/T kids will often start their own businesses while still working on high school. They also tend to be active in volunteer work in the community as they learn to take an active part in our society.

Homeschooling G/T kids can be a challenge, but also a joy as you observe them learning without all the restrictions of public schools. Those who are 2e end up thriving, because they are not hampered by labels and professionals who tell them what they cannot do. Over the coming months, I will be sharing many ideas on how to help your G/T child become the person God intended them to be.