We Teach Life, Not Just School

I am a big proponent of using life to teach academic skills. It takes some creativity sometimes to incorporate school into our lives, and our lives into school time, but it’s possible and hugely beneficial! So many times we hear from our children (and have said it ourselves) that they do not understand how what they are learning will apply to them in the real world, how it will benefit them in their adult life. Let’s show them… Make it real for them!

I believe in allowing our children to explore their passions, to explore their interests, to try and fail, but to get up and try again. These are essential life skills. We should teach our children how to make wise decisions, to know when to persevere and when to move on to something new, to honour their commitments, and to be responsible for their choices. I believe these things are just as, if not more than, important as book learning.

Sometimes this means we do weird things. We make strange mistakes, we fill the calendar, we step out of our comfort zones.

Our school board is hosting a science fair in March. TLC decided last year that he wanted a snake; actually, he’d wanted a snake for years, but last year he convinced his father to allow a snake to live at his house (our lease forbids it from living here). Waffles, as the snake is called, has been a fabulous experience for TLC. He’s had to learn how to care for it, feed it, clean its habitat, and buy food. This has increased his sense of responsibility and money management. It’s also been a source of science projects. He had to research how to care for a snake before he was allowed to get one. He had to save up the money for it and buy it himself. He has to buy the food for it and know what to feed it. Waffles will be his exhibit and project for the upcoming science fair, and one of the rewards for doing it will be that Waffles can come live at our house the week before the fair.

He gets a reward because the science fair is far out of his comfort zone. That’s okay, because one of the responsibilities of parenting and teaching our children is to push them out of their comfort zones. It’s hard for TLC to be outside of his comfort zone, and one of the signs of his maturity is that he is starting to recognize where the comfort zone boundary lies. Now he will learn that he can safely, successfully, and enjoyably step past that boundary. In order to achieve his goals and dreams, he’s going to need to be past those boundaries. It will not benefit him if I allow him to hide, to remain in the box. None of his dreams are in a box; he has huge dreams! He’s never lived his life in a box, and I refuse to allow him to build one around himself now.

Let’s teach our children — not only to read, write and do arithmetic, but to step outside the box, to explore past their comfort zones, and to persevere when things are hard in order to achieve their goals!!

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

Outdoor Activities You Can Fall For

My boys are outdoor country boys through-and-through! They wake up and beg to go outside before breakfast is warm and table is set. We coax them into waiting until their bellies are full (and mom and dad are dressed), and in the summer we have to debate about the usefulness of clothes on a young boy as well. When fall swings around, there is no damper on the boys’ excitement for the outdoors, but we do have to change the experience slightly.

Less Sun, Still Fun?

The sunny, warm summers meant the boys could run free morning, noon, and night. They’d come in the house with crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, roly-polies, caterpillars, lady bugs, frogs, lizards, and handfuls of other cringe-worthy organisms. They knew just where to look to find the best critters.

When fall comes around the leaves die, the tiny bugs and reptiles seem to hide, the wind is cold, and the boys grow…bored. Where we used to coax them into staying inside during the hottest parts of the day, now we have to convince them there is something worth finding outside after the first run of the morning. We don’t get much snow in even the deepest months of winter, but in October? Nothing but gusty, brown cold. Mom and Dad have to put on their thinking caps when the seasons change.

Routine, Routine, Routine

The R-word is one I hate, and I’m not fond of that word either. The only thing routine about our family is the places we go through the week at the same time every week: church, taekwando, Celebrate Recovery, my mom’s, repeat. During the winter, if we don’t slip outdoor play into our daily routine, it just won’t happen.

This year I’ll be talking a lot about practical life schooling, which is my focus in my homeschooling with my boys. They’re using an online curriculum for their main academics, which means Mom’s role is practical life application. Part of the challenge will be to include outdoor activities during cold months!

Practical Outdoor Play Made Easy 

First, make sure you know what your kid likes to do outside, how they like to learn, and how they burn their tiny-human energy. If it’s looking for critters (spatial, logical), then maybe they’d also like to look for other forms of wildlife — or proof of wildlife (nests, scratches, tracks, droppings). If your kid likes to dig in the dirt (kinesthetic), maybe he or she would also like to stack firewood, rake leaves — and jump into them — and paint a fence.

Here is my list for this October/November:

  1. Yard Work: Clearing trash, brush, weeds, leaves away so that next year our yard can flourish (and we can enjoy the snow more thoroughly this winter).
  2. Nature Hikes: To find nuts, nests, bones, turtle shells, etc., that point to life in the woods. Also bird-watching is fun this time of year because some leave, and others arrive.
  3. Building and Maintaining a Bird Feeder: Build a bird house or feeder for those winter birds that stick around. Let the kids photograph the birds and make a book that they can add to as seasons change.
  4. Stacking Firewood: Mainly because the kids unstacked our firewood this summer, playing, they can stack it this fall. Discuss fire, responsibility, safety, and gain a little exercise.
  5. Fun Play Ideas: Dodgeball, catch, freeze tag, Olympic competitions, leaf/finger painting, and an internet’s worth of other outdoor activities to choose from.
  6. Star Gazing: I don’t know one kid that doesn’t like a bonfire on a fall night. This is a great time to star gaze with your students. If you have a telescope of your own: BONUS. If you don’t, your local library may have some to check out.
  7. Local Nature Excursions: Our regional Nature Center has fantastic programs, and many specific to homeschoolers. They also have backpacks full of themes activities for two-week check-out. If you live near to a nature center, conservation area, or zoo, there are many similar programs for homeschoolers. Also, many regions have fairs, fall festivals, and orchards with regular programing.
  8. Camping: My family loves to camp, and unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity this summer. So we’re planning one fall campout before the weather turns too cold for our littles. If you are a camping family, plan ahead, and choose a camping area that has some educational programming during you stay.
  9. Have Fun: Your outdoor play may not be part of your specific schooling, but it is part of staying healthy! Set an example by spending time outdoors, and do something you love to do outdoors. Your enthusiasm will show.
  10. Include Others: Activities can be more fun when you include people you enjoy to hang out with. Spend time outside, then come in for some hot cocoa and popcorn by the fire.

Time Management — When Emergencies Arise

Time flies! Another year has drawn to a close and we are now in 2017. In another few months, some of us will be finishing our school year.

How many of you remember making New Year resolutions at the beginning of the year and resolving to keep them? Well, we may sigh or groan looking back at it — or maybe smiles of victory?

New Year resolutions are good in the sense that they help us in setting our goals about what we’re doing in our lives, our plans, our awareness of where we are going, and what we are intending to do about all of it. All of these require time, a good management of time. I don’t profess to know much, but I will share with you my own experiences.

The year 2016 has been a challenging year for me. I thank God that no matter what happened, I felt the presence of God and I was able to find time to spend with Him each day. During the beginning of the year and before the start of the school year, I prayed to God to help me to plan wisely. As my daughter moved to the next grade, there were more things to do, and besides music lessons she also joined the swim team and started taking Spanish class once a week.

As I was working on my plan and setting priorities, I was reminded in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cared for you.” Some of us have many responsibilities, or children in different grades, or kids who require special attention. Before we know it, the day has come to an end and there are still lots of things to accomplish. We are tired out and stressed. We wish there were more hours in a day. In Psalm 55:22 it says, “Cast all your burdens on the Lord, and He will sustain you, he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” And, in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Clinging onto God’s promises, I try to take each day at a time.

Working on a plan is not easy. There is a lot to think about, and other tasks to tackle besides teaching and cooking. When working on my plan for last year, I reminded myself that I had to prepare for some adjustments or emergencies. Everything was working well and going pretty smoothly. Just as we started the new school year in September, I found myself in a situation where I had to reschedule my plan. One of the family members had to undergo major surgery. This meant that I would need extra time driving back and forth to the hospital. We were thankful that we were able to stay in the hospital room, so I had my daughter bring her homework there. Some things had to be delayed until a later time. It did work out, though.

For almost a whole month, I was not able to follow the plan that I originally had, but we made sure those things that needed to be completed in time were  accomplished. Each night before I went to bed, I planned out my schedule for the next day. During that time I had to take each day at a time. At times, I had to call up a friend to help me out with driving my daughter. Sometimes in situations like this, we may have to accept help from friends, like meals, babysitting, or driving our kids to classes.

God is good. We were thankful when our routine was back to normal. I was able to go according to my plans again. I no longer had to rush for time. But then — it was cut short. I received a call, and I had to leave the country for a family emergency. I had less than 12 hours before I was heading out to the airport. I quickly sat down and planned my new schedule for the week I would be away in Asia. Things would have to change, as part of the time my daughter would be staying with a friend. I prayed for God’s guidance as I planned.

The journey would be long, and it was a last-minute flight. I calculated a total of 42 hours for my flight and transit. With a 16-hour time difference, I would surely have jetlag going and coming back. So, while waiting to board, I started to figure out the timing. I tried my best to start adjusting myself to the time in Malaysia, where I would be the next couple of days. I knew that when I came back home after a week, I might not have time to overcome jetlag. So, while trying to stay awake on the flight, I took out my notebook and started planning the things I needed to do in Malaysia. With the limited time I would be there, I had to work out a schedule for each task. I prayed to God to guide me, and continued to cling to His promises.

Before I knew it, it was time to head back home to California. I was glad that I was able to accomplished most of the things I need to do. Once home, I reshuffled my schedule back to what I had planned at the start of the year. I was thankful that I had prepared myself to be ready should emergency arises.

It can easier said than done. One may have everything planned out nicely, and then the next moment, everything just doesn’t work out. Don’t get discouraged. We all make mistakes or are subject to circumstances, but remember that God will never leave us nor forsake us.

When planning, it is good to be prepared. Time schedules may change for some days or emergencies may arise. It is always good to plan your time in such a way that if you need to make any changes, you can without getting frustrated or stressed out. Once you have it planned out, you will have sort of a basic guideline. You may not follow it 100 percent, but at least you have something to guide you.

Don’t get stressed out if your master plans do not work out. Ask God for guidance. Set some time each day for rest and quiet time with God…then go through your plan for the next day before you head to bed.

More Hours in My Day

“If only I have an extra one or two hours a day, I can get more things done.” Does this sound familiar? Homeschooling is a big challenge, but yet rewarding. As parents we juggled between school work, housework, cooking, and field trips, and chauffer our children to music, sports, or other activities. By the end of the day, we are drained out. The Bible reminds us in Matthew 11:18,            “Come unto me all who are heavy laden…” We are busy seven days a week, and so constantly on the go that sometimes we forget to spend some time with our Heavenly Father. We need to make proper use of our time to the best ability (Ephesians 5:16). Over the years of homeschooling my daughter, I have learned many things, some through failures, and some from friends’ advice. Here are few things I’d like to share that have worked for us.

Set Goals

  1. Plan out what you want to achieve or complete for the school year. For example, if your child is pre-teen, you may want to start teaching him/her some basic cooking or sewing (home economics), or if your child is in high school and you want him/her to learn driving, you will have to set extra time for driving school.
  2. Is there a project you want to accomplish, more time with your love ones, strengthening your faith, or pursuing your education or financial planning?
  3. Does your child have something that he/she would like to accomplish this year — music, Pathfinders, Master Guide, swim team, etc.?

Getting Yourself Organized

  1. Before the school year starts, or during holidays, set aside time to organize the books/bookshelves, pantry, or school room.
  2. Getting rid of clutter sometimes helps. If your child/children are old enough, they can help with some chores.
  3. Prepare tomorrow’s to-do list the night before, like schoolwork to do, clothes to wear, dishes to cook, or things to bring for the field trip. Some things can be prepared over the weekend.
  4. If you are having a play date the next day, have the place ready.
  5. Check to see when doctor/dentist appointments are scheduled, or the time of classes to attend.
  6. Try to set a routine — first thing in the morning a quiet time with God, family devotions/worship, etc.

Prioritize

  1. Focus on what is important. If the schoolwork needs to be complete, get it done first.
  2. Shopping: Sometimes you may have to skip the shopping that morning and go later in the day, or pick it up on the way home from classes/activities.
  3. Extra-curricular activities: Do you sign up your children for various activities? You have to make sure that it is balanced so that neither the children nor yourself are overwhelmed.
  4. There’s a times you have to learn to say “no.” Even if you love to help, there may be times when you have to leave some responsibilities to others. We are reminded in Ecc 3:1, “To everything there is a season…” We need time for some relaxation so we are not stressed out.

We can easily get ourselves occupied with many things without realizing it. Therefore, it is important that we plan our schedules well, and that we do not lose sight of God.