Friday, June 29, 2012

Teaching Children to Love Reading - All Ages

One of the key ways to teach your children to love reading is to love reading yourself. Let your kids see you reading books in your spare time. Tell them enthusiastically about the latest thing you've read or learned. After you read to them, gush (honestly) about how much you love that book. 

Passion is contagious. Be passionate about reading. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Parenting is Not Your Highest Calling

(If you're confused by my post title, please read the full title of this book.)

This book was recommended to me by several adoptive parents. It isn't a book about adoption. It's a book about how to love. And it is fantastic! I am learning so much and the information in this book is so FREEING! It blows away all the parenting myths for which we all (yes, even Christians and sometimes especially Christians) fall.

Parenting isn't easy or instinctive. If you find it much more difficult than you imagined, that doesn't mean you're necessarily doing something wrong. Unconditional love doesn't come easy. In fact, love is arduous, messy, and requires more than you have to give.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What's Your Motive?

This last Valentine's Day presented a perfect opportunity for me to express my love for my family. With a glowing face, I set aside my deadlines and ran to the store to gather expensive ingredients. I donned an apron and worked for hours to create an elegant, memorable meal, complete with personalized valentines on each plate. Eagerly, I called everyone to dinner. As they shuffled to the table, the older boys looked at their valentines with embarrassment. Micah, five, didn't like his valentine and began to pout. After we praed, everyone attacked the food as if in a race. Duncan, surveying my emotional desert, raved about the homemade bread, the salad, the perfectly grilled steak. The boys dutifully mumbled thanks with full mouths, all eyes on the clock-- wrestling would soon start. There was no time for the heart-shaped chocolate cheesecake I had made for dessert. In a matter of minutes, everyone was gone-- to wrestling and youth group. I stood in the empty kitchen, on a floor littered with carrot peelings, smeared sauce, and radish greens, the counters stacked with dirty dishes, the sink buried under a mound of soiled pans. The leavings of my love feast mocked me. I felt cheated, even bitter. Why doesn't love return measure for measure? What was the point of this? And then I remembered--I wanted to express my love for my family. I smiled ruefully. That is just what I had done.
-quoted from "Parenting is Your Highest Calling" and 8 Other Myths by Leslie Leyland Fields

What's your motive for doing the loving things you do for your family or for others? So often I have heard "They didn't even say thank you! Well I won't be doing that for them again!!" Do we only show love so that we will get love (or thanks) in return? Is it enough just to have the satisfaction of being loving? That's how Christ loves us.
Without expectation.

Lord, teach me to love like you do. Teach me how to love selflessly.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Stick to Your Style

We homeschool moms struggle with the temptation to compare. We see other families who are involved in all sorts of enrichment classes and wonder if our kids should take more classes. We see other families whose kids have beautiful penmanship and we wonder why we can't get that one child to do more than chicken scratchings? We see other families who love love love their curriculum and we second-guess the curriculum we've chosen.
May I encourage you: don't do it!
Over half of the homeschool moms at our church use My Father's World curriculum. And ironically I have encouraged several moms who asked for curriculum advice to use My Father's World. I say "ironically" because we have never used that curriculum ourselves. I just know a lot about it and there are a lot of moms looking for just that type of curriculum.
So last year while trying to pick a new curriculum, I thought: You know what, I really should look more into My Father's World. So many of my friends love it, maybe I'm missing something.
But after looking it over thoroughly, I realized I wasn't missing anything at all. It is exactly as I thought it was and it isn't a good fit for our family. I LOVE everything about the Charlotte Mason style of home educating and only a Charlotte Mason styled curriculum is going to be a fit for us.
Whatever your chosen style, stick to it! Let your homeschooling style guide your decisions. If you love textbooks, don't look at unit studies. If you are a homebody, don't look into a lot of co-ops and classes. Don't feel guilty for being the homeschool mom that you are.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The More the Merrier

I've always believed that large families are not just a selfish pleasure but beneficial for the country, even the world - but, until now, I've been short of ammunition for arguing my case.
I'm grateful, therefore, to Sky News presenter Colin Brazier, who has spent the past five years assembling evidence that supports the idea that larger families are A Good Thing. "We are so often told about the disadvantages of large families that we have lost sight of the hidden advantages," he says.
His mission began one day at the start of the Iraq war when, while embedded with the United States army, he heard a radio report claiming that the cost of bringing up a child had risen to £180,000. 

Read why that math doesn't compute here: The Bigger the Family, the Better

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Email Has Been Hacked

If you get any emails from me (or anyone else) without a subject line, delete them.

My apologies.

Readers in the House

A few years ago I heard Carole Joy Seid, a popular homeschool speaker, encourage us eager moms not to teach a child to read until their 7 years old. At the time, I was still in the throes of teaching two of my big kids to read and I loved that advice! I determined then and there that I would not be over-eager to teach my twins to read. I would wait!
And wait I did.
A couple of months before Daniel and Lydia turned 7, I was offered a three month free trial of Reading Eggs. I set it up for Lydia and thought: I'll just have her play these games every day and she can get a head start. A couple of months later, she had learned how to sound out words and had learned a lot of sight words. She was reading! What we love about Reading Eggs is that it ISN'T BORING! It changes up every day and is never the same. Thus, it holds their attention. I can't tell you what a difference this makes!

We jumped right into our beloved Pathway Readers and she took off reading. I was on cloud nine!!
Can I just tell you what a thrill it is to have a child read easily after working your tail off to teach 4 children who struggle to read? I had started reading lessons to soon with all four of my big kids and paid the price.
You may not believe me as I certainly didn't once upon a time, but reading, like potty-training, is developmental. If a child isn't ready, they're not ready. You lose nothing by waiting. And you may just lose your mind by not waiting.

Trust me. I know.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Family Game Night

We never make plans for Saturday night. Since we want to make sure all the kids get showered and everything is ready to go for Sunday morning, we pretty much always keep it low key on Saturday nights. Our favorite night to socialize is Friday nights since we can stay up later, so we tend to hang out with friends on those nights.
I had been wanting to play games as a family more consistently when it hit me like a ton of bricks: we've already got a spot on the calendar for it! (Do you have "Where was my head?" moments as often as I do?)
So about a month ago we instituted Family Game Night on Saturdays. We've played PIG, Go Fish, and Snorta so far. It's been very fun and a family memory that we all look forward to and it can also be a lesson in patience for Kyle and me when all the kids are having so much fun that they keep forgetting whose turn it is. ;)  (Yes, Mom and Dad this is payback for all the times growing up when it was my turn to play and I was in la-la land.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Believe it or not, I've never bathed any of my babies in the kitchen sink. I just haven't. 

But Julia developed a major fear of the bathtub some time around the time she started sitting up, despite the fact that she always bathed while sitting in a sister's lap

So I thought I'd try something different before Judah repeated history. (Which is not to say that his personality is anything like hers. He's laid-back and she, well, she wasn't.)
He had so much fun playing and splashing and letting me make mohawks in his wet hair.

A mere 5 minutes after this beautiful smile, my boy was fast asleep on my chest.

I'm in love,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Judah Update: 6 Months

Tomorrow, Judah will be 6 months old. I can't believe it! 

Recently, Judah changed his schedule and is now nursing every 4 hours, which means he only nurses 4 times a day! As a result, I've started giving him solids sooner than I'd planned, but it's fun and he seems to love it. He has just started sitting up and we all think he's a genius. He is also trying to pop out his third tooth.

I determined not to grieve when his newborn days ended and I didn't, I'm proud to say. Perhaps because he has been a big baby from the beginning! He is WAY ahead of the Clark growth pattern my girls all followed. It's been really fun experiencing the difference between boys and girls. My boy fancies himself in love with me and I am over the moon about it! Who wouldn't be flattered to have such a looker in love with them?

I mean, really.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Broken Bones & Broken Relationships

I've heard that broken bones heal stronger than they were prior to the injury. I haven't confirmed this as medically true, but I believe the same is true for broken relationships. 

When I apologize to my children, it causes them to trust me more.
When I let my children know that my attitude with the cashier at the store was wrong, it causes them to respect me more.
When I ask my husband's forgiveness in front of my children, it causes them to love me more

Humility draws others closer to us. Pride and unwillingness to ask forgiveness pushes people away.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Girls Only

When the girls asked if we could do a Girls' Night Out, I jumped right on that and sent Kyle and the boys packing. They (along with Julia) went to the lake house to spend the night, while I had alone time with my big girls. Within minutes of kissing Kyle goodbye, we headed out the door to IHOP for dinner.

We took turns asking each other a question to get to know each other better. Elena asked everyone what their favorite restaurant was. Lydia asked everyone what their favorite candy is. It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot in the process.

After breakfast for dinner, I ordered Blueberry Cheese Blintzes for us to share for dessert. They all said it was the best dessert they'd ever eaten in their lives! Wow, that compliment made my night. I have explained to the girls, when they ask why I don't always swim when we go to a pool: It doesn't make sense to you now, but one day you'll understand that just watching your kids have fun IS a whole lot of fun.      

When we got back home, we snuggled on the couch together and watched Fiddler on the Roof, one of their favorite movies.

The next morning, after a big breakfast, we planned to go to an indoor pool but found out it was only open in the afternoon. I was really bummed! We went to a nearby splash area instead and they were done after about 20 minutes because of the wind.

After the splash park, we stopped at McDonald's and got free smoothies (did you get that coupon?) and then headed out again for some thrift store shopping. That always puts me in a good mood and it did again. :)

Right next door to the thrift store is a Dollar Tree. What luck! We stopped in and all got our favorite candy to snack on while we finished Fiddler on the Roof. 

Overall, it was a fantastic time being with my girls. I loved every minute of it. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Baby Fat

When Julia was a baby, I'd change her clothes and when she just had a diaper on I'd yell "Naked baby!!" and everyone would come running to see and squish her baby fat.
I don't do that all the time now. More often I just keep Judah's rolls for my own selfish enjoyment. He's huge and I love it. (All of my baby girls were 1 year old before they hit 20 lbs. Judah is over 18 lbs at 5 months.)
He has just recently discovered his feet and hands and Kyle and I get a real kick out of it. He'll be smiling at us and then suddenly notice this hand at the end of arm and will stop what he's doing and just stare at all that it can do. It's pretty hilarious but I guess you have to be there.

If you can get your hands on a fat baby today, grab him and bury your face in his soft belly. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Supervision is Necessary

I have a picture similar to this of all of my daughters (including Maya), but this one happened when I was out of the house, so my conscience is clear. {heehee} Kyle was so proud of himself that he thought to take pictures before cleaning Julia up.
We're still struggling through how to school with a 2 year-old around. Trying out School Schedule #4 today, which is focused more on keeping Julia occupied and less on how efficient we can be. You know, when I tell people this is my hardest school year yet, no one seems surprised. "Well you are schooling 6 kids!" Oh yea, there's that. But I'm not schooling 6 different grades and that does help.
Maya and Isaac are on the same level, Elena and Chloe are on the same level, and Daniel and Lydia are on the same level.
I remember being at a homeschooling seminar a couple years ago and a hot topic was what to do with the youngest. How do you keep your 3 or 4 year-old occupied when they want to join in on school too. I remember not being able to relate at all. I had two 3 year-olds and then two 4 year-olds. They kept each other occupied and so weren't at all interested in joining school.
Now the tables have turned and I get it. I'd love to school during Julia's naptime if I weren't so worn out by then. ;)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why We Don't Do Sports

We get quite a bit of pressure to put Isaac in sports. Isaac has natural talent. He's strong, he runs fast, and he's competitive. I wouldn't mind the comments so much if they were only made to Kyle and me, but frequently these persuasive comments are made in front of Isaac, and some even use Isaac to communicate their desires. (This is a low blow regardless of who the kid is or what the topic is fyi.)
Recently I talked to Isaac about this issue. I asked him how he felt about the comments and what he thought about sports. Then I explained to him that there may come a day when we will put him in sports, but that several things have to work out in order for that to happen. And frankly we haven't found anything that fits the bill:

1. The coach has to have the right attitude. Too many sports coaches think winning is the only goal and will belittle any kid who makes a mistake or has an off day. We don't want this for our son. We want him to be encouraged to do well, not insulted into working harder to please.
2. The parents have to have the right attitude. Ditto the above. If the parents idolize sports, it will affect their speech and actions. We've all seen this. Crazy sports dad screaming at the referee because something was unfair. What are you teaching your child to value, crazy sports dad?
3. The timing has to be right. Too many sports demand too much time. Two practices and one game per week, for example, eats too much into our family time. If practices and games mean we don't have time for family worship together, then it is an idol, not a hobby.

For now, Isaac and Daniel both attend homeschool P.E. It's an hour and a half, once a week, very close to home, all of which I love. They play a variety of sports each week with kids they know and enjoy, all of which they love. It's a good fit for us right now.