N is for Nutrition

When my son was turning one, we went to Iowa to visit my family. While staying at my sister’s house, my husband brought a Subway sandwich home for lunch one day. He removed some of the vegetables and placed them on the tray of the high chair which my son occupied. My sister walked by as our child’s chubby little hands reached out to enjoy his lunch, and in astonishment said, “I can’t believe how he just eats those vegetables!” Ah, but his nutritional education had begun nine months before, when he was only three months old! As I conducted a cooking demonstration at our church, he slept in his car seat that was placed on the floor beside me, hidden by the table. It was a surprise to the attendees when he suddenly awoke towards the end of the class and let everyone know it with a cry! He may have been the youngest one in the audience, and he may have slept through most of the presentation, but I think the principles of good eating had stuck!

In our home, we subscribe to a plant based diet and try to live healthfully. We believe that God has given us instructions for better living. The acronym NEWSTART sums these up in eight healthy laws of health. Let’s start today with the letter N, which stands for nutrition. As homeschoolers, we can take better charge of what our children eat, because we are with them most of the time. But even better than that, we can teach them the reasons for and benefits of our food choices and how they can pass this knowledge on.

Here are some ideas for incorporating good nutrition into your homeschooling days.

Of course, the obvious way is to feed our kids good food. Our days are busy, but taking a little time to plan and shop for healthy meals is well worth the effort. Attitudes, behavior, learning, physical health, and relationships with God will all improve. Including your children’s imput on the menu plans, letting them help with the grocery shopping, and having them assist with meal preparation are good ways to show them the importance of eating right. My son was only three or four when he asked me to stay in bed and proceeded to make pancake batter by himself, remembering the recipe by heart because we had made it so many times together. Now his favorite way to help in the kitchen is to mix up exotic sauces of his own creation to go with egg rolls, stir fries, etc.

Planting a garden and reaping the harvest makes trying new foods fun. If space isn’t available, some towns have community gardens where one can rent a plot and grow their own vegetables. Even shopping at a local farmer’s market makes produce more appealing. We used to walk to ours each Tuesday, and all the way home my little boy would eat ground cherries, popping them out of their papery skins. Shopping at neighborhood and ethnic markets is always intriguing. Bring something home you have never tried before!

I mentioned my son’s early involvement in my cooking class. Later on he would participate by demonstrating recipes of his own as part of his Pathfinder Cooking honor. This not only reinforced good nutrition, but gave him opportunity to spread the message and gave him good practice in public speaking and interacting with the audience. He would also hold bake sales at my classes. The classes were free for the participants, but he raked in more than $50 with his vegan goodies! His handmade sign with prices was not only a good lesson in writing and math, but a keepsake I cherish.

These days we are planning how to get to the next Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Those of you who are involved in Pathfinders know there are funds to be raised in order to attend this exciting event. We are thinking of selling homemade food as one of the ways to achieve our goal. My son is helping with ideas of what foods to include in our sales. He has also helped figure out how much our costs and profit margins will be so we will set our prices accordingly — good lesson not only in math, but again involving him in good nutrition, because of course we want to sell only the best food to people, thereby selling our health message along with it.

Measuring ingredients, figuring out serving sizes and costs: all wonderful math lessons. My son loves to check serving sizes on food packages to see how much he can have of a certain food to meet the requirement. It has become his personal joke when it’s something sweet, and he wants to make sure he gets to the serving size to obtain all the sweetness he can!

Letting your child leaf through your cookbooks, gazing at all the beautiful food pictures is a great way to whet his/her appetite for good food. Books or videos from the library explaining how food is grown or made are excellent resources. Field trips to food businesses are even better! Bakeries, grocery stores, farms, food processing plants, etc., usually offer tours. Even the tours that don’t necessarily apply to your lifestyle are informative and fun, a good learning experience. For us, these have included a dairy farm, a potato chip factory, and a candy factory. Apple picking in the fall is a great experience. Look around, and you might find a variety of food festivals. In our area we have an annual veg fest touting the vegetarian lifestyle. We have even attended a garlic festival with friends who live in a small town.

There are so many ways to incorporate good nutrition into homeschooling days. You will be giving your child a great start in life, plus handing him the tools to teach others the wonderful diet plan that God has provided for us. Nutrition, the N in NEWSTART: start with it today in your lesson plans!

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

We have all heard the saying, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” However, in this last couple of weeks, God has been bringing me into a new understanding of this saying. First of all, does this saying have a negative connotation or is this saying indeed implying a blessing? I am beginning to switch my paradigm from the first to the latter, and I’m so grateful God is still working on my heart and mind.

My kids (six and three) were playing in the living room while I was packing one morning last week. My son, being older, was not happy with the way his sister was playing and started to “recite” the Ten Commandments. Now to be completely honest with you, up to this point in our lives, I have had to struggle to spend time with the kids and speak of Christ in every situation. My husband has had to work long hours just to make ends meet, and I have often had to take on side work just to be able to feed everyone. My kids do not know the Ten Commandments, but we listen to them as often as I remember to play them. I couldn’t help but chuckle in this instance. I don’t remember what Elijah was unhappy about; however, I do remember him saying, “The commandments say, you shouldn’t lie, so you need to stop doing [whatever it was she was doing].

I had to laugh (to myself of course), because what she was doing had nothing to do with lying, but to him, he felt like saying that would pack more punch to solving her behavior than if he didn’t. (I saw the “I’m better than you” attitude of pride come out and that is a struggle for me, but at that moment, Christ came in and whispered in my ear. “You know ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’? Let me teach you about the Rod.”

“He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently,” Proverbs 13:24.

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him,” Proverbs 22:15.

“For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatsoever passes under the Rod, the tenth one shall be holy unto the Lord,” Leviticus 27:32.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” Psalm 23:4.

So we see the rod being both comfort and also correction. Can we correct and discipline our kids in a way that they will feel comforted and yet still change their ways?

I have to study it more; however, I want to pose to you this question and this challenge.

“This know also, that in the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient, to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more then lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, ed away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs was. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, affiliations, which came unto me at Antioch, at lconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things, which thou hast learned; and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works,” 2 Timothy 3.

May I make the suggestion that the Rod in scripture can be replaced with the Word of Scripture. When we see the areas in which our children are struggling with sin, and we teach them how to claim promises, stand on scripture, and memorize scriptures having to do with the specific area that they are struggling in, not only do we give them the tools for dealing with and overcoming sin, but we give them a foundation for what they believe in that can never be shaken.

My prayer in this next month is that Christ will give all of us the strength, time, and wisdom to discern the faults in our children, and that He will lead us to the verses that will allow our children to overcome.


Organizing Our Days: Beautiful Benefits of Scheduling

I shared last month my excitement to persevere as we broke the summer mold with our new schedule for the school year. My family was excited by this challenge as well, because, as I was planning and praying over our activity worksheets in preparation for the new schedule, I was sharing all the benefits we were going to reap from said schedule. Our schedule was to be our personal assistant and would give us a time for everything “under the sun” which God is requiring of us and we hope/want/need to accomplish. It was important for me to help them see the joys of scheduling, which enabled them to endure as we jumped into a new schedule with both feet!

We chose to mostly schedule in half-hour blocks, and I’m taking an approach to our days by dividing them up into three larger blocks of learning with breaks in between to be outdoors, to move our bodies after sitting, and to rest our bodies as well as our minds. I also chose the half-blocks because we have young children in our homeschool, and they benefited from a change in focus after 30 minutes. What fun and active days we are having! And, with our schedule posted for all to see, I don’t get lost but accomplish so much on a regular basis. That’s worth sharing about!

I want to preface with what a schedule is not! This helped me in my development of a balanced day. A schedule is not a burden or a taskmaster, but rather a schedule is a friend and our personal assistant. When you tie activities to specific times, you won’t waste precious time. This makes a schedule a recipe for your day, a recipe for success!

Benefits of Scheduling:

  • Children have purpose throughout their days, which means less time for finding themselves in trouble (doing what they aren’t supposed to be doing) or bickering.
  • A schedule that the family learns and carries out regularly covers for us when Mom is sick or away for the day. The children learn how to carry out the day, and thus don’t always rely on Mom alone to be told what to do.
  • This brings me to the aspect of a schedule being a stress relief to Mom. How many times when you’ve functioned on routine or rhythm in your days have you had little ones asking, “What are we doing next?” “Mama can I play now?” or “What are we doing now?” When we keep a mental flow to our day, our mind is always working to assess what needs to be done now or next and what is most important. The schedule lays it out for you so you can point the children there and encourage them to persevere until their scheduled “free” time. Soon they stop asking because they already know! I tell you, this was my biggest relief in scheduling.
  • Lastly, I want to share that a schedule helps us accomplish our priorities. When we have a schedule, we have prayed over and allotted time for the things God is asking of us. We can say no with confidence to those things that come up that we feel we might need to squeeze in but don’t know where. I have allotted time in my day as well to do things I’ve always wanted to do, like sew! We are doing sewing one to two days a week this school year, because we hoped to last year but never were able to accomplish that priority. A schedule gives us the allotment of time to accomplish our priorities, because we give time to each task and thus don’t waste time we can be using for these exact priorities.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I love verses 9-11: “What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Remember God’s burden is the one that we want, not our own. And, the Bible has something awesome to say about His burden, which is “light.” It says in the above verses that God has made this requirement beautiful! A schedule for your family that you allow God to design will bring your family many benefits!

What do you experience as a benefit for scheduling in your homeschool?

Pray for beauty in our home schools this year as we schedule our lives after God’s plan!



Life Skills: Home Management, Part 1

Home management

As homeschoolers, we often concentrate on ensuring our children learn academic skills. However, learning life skills might prove just as valuable, perhaps even more.

One of the first life skills we expose our children to revolves around the home and car. Even before learning to walk securely, children enjoy helping with laundry, sorting pots and pans, and other seated jobs. Beginning early instills good work skills and enables “learn by doing” to become ingrained.

Knowledge and useful skills for all

We teach our sons and daughters basic life skills, including home management. While some might never manage the home, leaving that to a spouse, we feel it’s essential that they know how to do so, should they ever need to. So, boys help with laundry and house cleaning, and girls learn basic household repair.

Where do we begin?

As mentioned, toddlers might already begin helping with laundry. Folding washcloths, sorting laundry into piles, and helping put it away, they learn to pitch in and help Mom.

As they grow, they naturally progress into sorting laundry before it’s washed and folding all types. Young school age children are usually capable of loading the washer and moving to the dryer or helping hang clothes on a line. By the time our children are teens, they are already managing their own laundry, from hamper to putting away.

Not only does this help lighten mom’s laundry chores, more importantly, it teaches children to manage their own clothing. When they need to wash their own clothing, they learn to appreciate the need to care for it properly. And, they learn to keep clothing better maintained.

Meals and groceries

I’m always amazed when an adult cannot cook a basic meal. I grew up helping Mom in the kitchen, just as she did with her mom. Unfortunately, it’s not as common as we might think.

Our children, like so many homeschoolers, grew up helping in the kitchen. Toddlers stir batters, oil pans, and fetch the measuring cups. Before the age of 10, they create basic foods on their own, and young teens prepare entire meals. It’s a learning process and one that doesn’t happen overnight, but encouraging them from an early age allows them to build the skills they will need throughout life.

We are building memories!

A side benefit not to be overlooked is the great joy we receive and memories that are built when we cook together. Daily meal preparation time becomes daily family enjoyment, too.

Entertaining together

Additionally, preparing larger meals for family get-togethers and holidays builds more memories and offers opportunities for practicing skills we don’t use every day. Some of my favorite memories revolve around all of us together in the kitchen, preparing for a holiday feast. It might just be my favorite part of any holiday!

Planning and shopping

While our children learn basic cooking skills, they also participate in grocery shopping and meal planning. From the time they are toddlers, we make our list together and head off to the grocery store. Shopping with children might slow the trip a bit, but they are learning critical skills. Price comparison shopping will help them throughout life, as will reading labels and discerning ingredients. Knowing when a fruit is ripe and how to shop in the bulk area might seem trivial, but indeed, attaining competency in food choices, preparation, and cooking will help greatly in their adult life.

Food budgets

We stress food budgeting during the teen years, but the education behind it begins in early childhood as we shop. We price compare and look for sales with our children assisting. This naturally leads to budgeting for our shopping trips and expenses.

Healthy eating, too!

Nutrition finds its way into many areas of our life skills training. It’s a natural fit when planning meals and we expand upon it as we teach health aspects. Sometimes it results from a topic that springs forth either in the news or from a relative or friend’s need. We feel it’s essential and needs to be built upon wherever it appears.

Building life skills day by day

From birth, children learn. Encouraging them to participate in each activity and chore instills skills useful throughout their life.

While, initially, chores take longer with little children assisting, we reap the rewards as they learn and become more helpful. In addition, we assist them in preparing for eventual adulthood.

We teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, for sure. However, we teach life skills that reach far beyond the school years, too.

Train UP a Child… Part 2

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6 KJV.

Last month we looked at this text, and discovered that, rather than trying to create the “perfect” child by being “perfect” parents, and thus ensuring their salvation, we are to focus on dedicating, understanding, training, and preparing our children for the responsibilities and skills required in adulthood. What a blessing!

Today I want to concentrate on one word of that excellent commission: “up.”

I recently took a lengthy trip with my son. We ran into all kinds of problems concerning our transportation — rental car place was out despite our reservation, no cars available until midnight, first Uber “taxi” canceled on us, second Uber was a terrifying driver, etc. — and in the midst of all this, I realized that my son was being an incredibly non-complaining, patient blessing to me. And, I told him so.

How often do we compliment our children on character traits, especially when they may be doing something we just take for granted? Probably not enough. I read that text again, and suddenly “Train UP…” takes on added meaning. We are not just training our children. We are training up our children.

How can we do this? For one thing, we can lift a child up at every appropriate opportunity. I’m not talking about overdoing praise and thus devaluing it, but about recognizing those things that our child does well or has shown growth in, particularly character traits. Take a look at the fruits listed in Galatians 5:22-23 KJV again: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. You know how much we can doubt ourselves as homeschooling parents. Well, our kids can doubt themselves too. Assuring them both that we see signs of the Spirit working in their lives, and that we also appreciate their personal efforts to grow in character, will strengthen them.

Another way to lift them up is to look for improvements in areas of their schooling. I’ve discovered that if my son thinks he’s “bad” at something, inevitably he seems to be. The opposite is also true. For years he struggled with math (or maybe I just struggled with finding the right program). Finally we found one where he seemed to grasp it more quickly and move ahead. He was overcoming a lot of “bad” programming, though, and was two years behind. One day after he’d finished a lesson quickly, I told him I thought he had a flair for math. “Really? You think I have a flair for MATH?!?” he said. I explained that I’d seen rapid improvement once we found a program that explained math in a way he could understand, and that he hardly asked me any confused questions anymore. Well, guess who is now powering through two math lessons a day, much more confident now that he has “a flair for math”!

A third way to lift up our children is to lift them up to God — not just in our private prayer life, but also in their presence. Probably most of us have had the experience of a child who has had a scary dream or a bad day, and we pray to God with them to help ease them to peace and sleep. This is also an affirming way to handle school and life, both the problems and the achievements. Ask God, with your child, to help him or her work on sharing or self-control, and also to help you to model it as He would want; this makes it a team effort, too, and so lifts up rather than puts down your child.

I think the next time my son pulls out his math lesson, I’m going to go to him and thank God right then and there for helping us find the right math program, and for helping him to discover his “flair.”

Children will very often rise to our expectations. How can you train up your child today?

“Train UP a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6 KJV.