Thursday, April 30, 2009

Family Bickerings

This week, we are looking at the Parents' Review article entitled, "Family Bickerings" written by Leader Scott.

I don't know about you, but I was amazed the relevance of this article, written over 100 years ago, to the modern family -- at least it was very relevant to our family!

Scott is clear that bickering in the family leads to lost love and loosening of the family bond. While the quarrels of young children often centre around possessions or rights, if allowed to continue, they will simply become more sophisticated in adulthood. The 'heart issues' behind the quarrels will not go away as a child grows simply because he has gained in years.

The author points to moral training as the key. A few parents seem to know this is the case, but most don't. (I certainly didn't really think there was a whole lot I could do about it.) Scott says that a child's character contains everything necessary for the development of a host of good qualities, but depending on the training, each quality can become a virtue or it's opposite -- a vice. For example, "generosity may become either a Christian liberality, or a selfish wastefulness." (This reminds me of a family joke we have that puts a sarcastic 'positive' spin on greed. "Well, B, you were certainly very generous -- to yourself.") We make virtues grow by teaching a child to love others and vices by indulging the love of self.

According to Scott, family bickerings are caused by: 1. selfishness and 2. harsh judgment of others. He confirms my own experience the punishment in useless in changing bickering to harmony. Basically, he says indicates that virtues will only come forth with inspiration -- never by force.

A few practical points I enjoyed from the article:

  • Keep your cool when children bicker. Avoiding your own anger, explain that the children's unhappy feelings are the natural result of being unkind to others.
  • Inspire children with stories of goodness, of love and self-denial.
  • A terrific parenting book I read said that, 'You get more of what you focus on'. In essence, this is what the author of this article is saying, too. He says that it is much better to tell a child that they love their sibling and should, therefore, share the snack with them than to say they are being greedy and should go away. I don't think we should ever point out negative qualities to our children, but inspiration is usually positive and the idea that we love someone is much more likely to inspire us to generosity than the idea that we are greedy. I often remind our that our children are friends and friends need to be good to each other. (Yes! A parenting star for me!)
  • Offer children opportunities to practice sacrifice (but don't force acceptance) for a sibling. He gives the example of offering a child the opportunity to give up her 'turn' to go for a drive with mom in order to make a younger sibling happy. We are warned that the child will very often say, 'No' and we can simply respond by pointing out the happiness he has missed in giving a gift to another.
  • Have a strict policy of not allowing children to criticize each other at all. Scott says that this will stop over half of all bickerings.
  • Inspire your family with scriptures. There are a number of excellent ones in the article. Memorizing as a family ensures everyone is on the same page. I am going to add these ones into our regular memory rotation.
I found the author's approach to this subject very refreshing. I think, particularly, one idea that inspired me was that I don't have to constantly 'get to the bottom' of a quarrel. I can remember talking with a friend about this saying, "I just don't have the parenting skills to figure these things out -- to perform an inquisition each time there is a fight!" My friend, whose children generally get along quite well (certainly largely due to their excellent parenting) replied that she often just speaks to both children generally about treating others with love and respect. She asks them to think about whether they would like to be treated the way they had treated the other sibling.

Using family bickering as an opportunity to inspire our children to banish selfishness and cultivate generosity and self-sacrifice seems like the best possible character training 'program' in existence. Real life situations that arise in safe, family relationships are the perfect context. Good thing we have so many opportunities for character development here!

What were your thought about the article? Did you find some inspiring ideas for your family?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Whew. That was interesting.

Late Sunday afternoon, I was finally prepping my kitchen for a desperately needed paint job. I really dislike doing home renovations, so for me to get over the hurdle and begin a job like this involves a lot of effort. While I was busy wiping down walls with TSP, my three-year-old came into the house howling saying she had been hurt. Apparently, my 10-year-old son tied our wagon onto his bike and was pulling her around 'slowly'. (10yods and I have different definitions of 'slow'.) The wheel on the wagon buckled under, the wagon tipped and my daughter was flung out (of the slow-moving wagon).

I didn't like the way she was screaming and grabbing her neck. I am a non-worrier almost to a fault. Taking after my own dear mom, our kids have to practically have a limb fall off before I will take anyone to the doctor. However, when my child is screaming and grabbing her neck with no apparent injury on the outside, my mommy-antennae go up. We quickly decided she needed to go to the hospital. For a moment, I considered the fact that it is unwise to move someone with a neck or back injury, but decided we should go by car. However, our oldest daughter spoke out what I had been thinking, saying we should call an ambulance. She was right and I made the call.

The ambulance attendants were wonderful. Afterwards, my oldest daughter and I actually wondered if they send out specific people when they know there is a child hurt because they seemed to be so terrific with our little one.

While the attendants were checking her over, they became reassurred that there was no head or neck injury. However, as soon as they started to check her clavicle (collar bone), Steve and I both slapped our foreheads, "OH! Of course! The collarbone!" Our 5 year old daughter broke her collarbone when she was three and this daughter's behaviour was completely consistent with that injury.

We had a fun ride to the hospital in the ambulance. One attendant made our daughter a purple rooster by blowing up a glove and tying it off with medical tape. Upon arriving to the hospital, we were met by some lovely and reassuring nurses who were very sweet to our little injured girl. Shortly after, she saw the pediatrician who complimented her excellent verbal skills. "She is able to say just what is wrong, like an adult!" I think she is very articulate and speaks quite clearly, but I think what really makes a difference is that she is not shy. Any of our other children and the majority of three year olds will clam up when a stranger talks to them, particularly a male. However, our 3yo will just start chatting up a storm!

She was x-rayed and the break was confirmed. The doctor advised us that there was really no treatment necessary for a broken clavicle, but we could use a sling on her arm if that made her comfortable and give her pain meds. We were back home within 3 hours of her injury! (A medical miracle in itself.)

She had a pretty restful night, all things considered and required no pain medication after that first night. She is quite a little trooper, just going about her normal activities with her arm in a sling. She still has her hospital bracelet on. I'm not sure how I will get that off of her. I think she really likes it.

We'll see you tomorrow for a look at this week's Parents' Review article, "Family Bickerings".

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This week's Parents' Review article: Family Bickerings

In continuing our 'mommy brain sharpening', this week, we will be reading the article entitled, Family Bickerings by Leader Scott. I will post my thoughts on Thursday and I hope you will post yours, too.

A Proud Knitting Achievement

I started knitting almost exactly two years ago. As I have said before, I hate relaxing. I find it very un-relaxing. Now, that doesn't mean I don't like to sit down. I just hate sitting there doing nothing. I am even wound up enough that during the first 24 hours after having a baby when the midwives force me to stay in bed and rest, I am dying to get up and at least go downstairs where all the action is! Knitting allows relaxing, for me, to be relaxing because I am being creative and productive while I am doing it.

Two years ago, I decided to learn to knit specifically so I could knit socks. Handknit socks are beautiful, useful and very portable. My purse almost always contains a small work-in-progress bag housing a pair of socks I am working on so that I can whip them out anytime I have a few minutes to fill. It makes unexpected waiting around very pleasant.

When I first started to learn to knit socks, I knit 'plain vanilla' (meaning just stockinette -- or for non-knitters, that means just straight knitting around and around) socks which were jazzed up by the use of self-striping sock yarn. Self-striping yarn changes colour all by itself giving the impression that you have done a whole lot of fancy colourwork. It is terrific for anyone, but particularly for beginners. Two years ago, I tried to learn everything I could about knitting socks. I used to look longingly at other people's complicated projects, sighing as I realized they were so far beyond me that I would probably never knit like that and would always just knit plain vanilla self-striping socks. I can remember, specifically, looking at several people's Twisted Flower socks such as these or these (this one is the designer's blog). I knew I would never be able to make them.

Well, guess what?! A few days ago, I finished up my very own pair of Twisted Flower Socks! And, after two years of knitting, I can honestly say they were a breeze. I didn't feel stressed out or even overly challenged while knitting them. I feel as if I have truly arrived in the sock knitting world. If you are a new knitter, I want to offer you a huge round of encouragement. It doesn't take long before you will be knitting things you never dreamed you could knit.

My very own Twisted Flower Socks

(For those who are interested, I knit these on 2.5mm needles, magic-loop, two-at-a-time, using KnitPicks Risata in the Dusk colourway. I really love the feel of the Risata yarn, which is a cotton/wool/elastic/nylon blend. It is very cushy feeling and my socks fit perfectly.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Internet Addiction

Photo courtesy of ex_magician

I have been wanting to write a post on my own experiences with internet addiction, but I haven't been quite sure how to go about it. I am still not completely sure, but I am eager to write in the hopes that it might be helpful to another mom somewhere out there.

About three years ago, I started to become very concerned that I might be addicted to the internet. I was visiting a wonderful message board way, way too often. I would check in multiple times a day (and that is an understatement) and post frequently. I enjoyed the things I learned, but what I really loved was helping others. I was delighted to encourage a new mom or to be able to perk someone up when they were needing a 'friend'. I built a real community on the board I visited. The problem was that when I tried to read a book or make a meal or clean my home, I felt almost magnetically pulled back toward the computer. I couldn't seem to tear myself away. There were times I would log onto the message board and two hours would go by. After I logged off, I would actually have physical affects (panic-like symptoms) from being on the computer for so long. I prayed and prayed about whether or not I had a problem. Being fairly certain I did, I then prayed a lot about what to do. In the spring of 2007, God allowed our computer to crash so that we could no longer use the internet at home. We took our time having it fixed and I was gifted back a huge amount of time I had been missing from my life.

I suppose you could say that my addiction ended cold turkey.
I had been unsuccessful at setting limits for myself in the past, so this was truly a huge relief for me. During the period our internet was not functional, I had a lot of time to think about why I would have become addicted to a message board. I believe that, for me, it was a matter of my need for community. Knowing why it was happening was a big part of being able to get past my addiction.

The internet is often used for forming community with others. This could be good in some circumstances, but I think for many more people -- definitely for me -- it is harmful. Using the internet to meet my needs for community meant a number of things were happening.

First of all, it took up time that I would otherwise be spending elsewhere, in all likelihood on something more worthwhile. I found that my internet time was coming from keeping my home tidy, parenting my children, spending time with my husband and reading good books.

Second, when meeting my need for community on the internet, I found that I had less need (and time) to spend with my real-life friends. I have some fantastic real-life friends and I am very grateful that God led me to a place where I recognized what was going on before I seriously damaged my friendships.

Third, I believe my sense of reality was being skewed. This one is more difficult to explain. When a group of people participate in a message board/e-list on a particular topic, the group often does not mimic any group of people that could possibly exist in real-life. For example, let's say you participate on a message board for people who eat marshmallows for breakfast everyday. There could be 100 active participants on the list and tons of interesting off-shoot topics to read. If you spent enough time there it would start to feel a lot more 'normal' than it really is. Without anyone to say that eating marshmallows for breakfast was unhealthy or unwise, there are no checks and balances for the participants. Everyone there eats marshmallows for breakfast. It is very unlikely that your real-life friends would 'understand' your marshmallow philosophy (and your need to constantly shop on the community's Marshmallow For Sale or Trade board) so you would end up feeling less connected to your real-life friends and more connected to your internet 'friends'. I was just starting to feel this way when God graciously pulled the plug on my internet.

I am by nature an introvert. I am friendly and comfortable around people and love to spend time with friends. However, I am energized by quiet and solitude, whereas an extrovert is energized by being around lots of people. As much as I do enjoy being with people, I am a real homebody and often have to force myself out the door. It just feels like so much work to go out. As an introvert and a mom to many young children, it was extremely easy to meet my need to connect with others via the internet.

When I realized what was happening, I determined that I would avoid any kind of 'friendships' on the internet. I immediately stopped posting on the message board and decided I would no longer participate in any type of message board. Later on, I did find that I sometimes really needed some information or a question answered that was best done on a message board/e-list. Being broken of the constant habit of 'checking the computer', I can now use internet message boards on a minimal, non-relational level quite safely. However, I always keep my antenna way up for any signs that I might be getting too involved. I participate on a knitting board, but the second I find myself typing up posts encouraging someone in parenting, I feel a red flag go up and I stop typing and turn off the computer. There is no point offering parenting encouragement while allowing my own children to parent themselves.

Awhile ago, I came across a blog post entitled, "I was a better mother before the internet". It was very helpful in inspiring me to reach for something better than being a mom who spends hours and hours on the computer everyday 'learning' about parenting and homemaking. I love my family, as all of you do, and I want to do my best to fulfill the wonderful calling God has given me in caring for them. The article helped me to ask myself the question, "Is this particular use of the internet a help or a hindrance to my calling?" I find I can also be pulled away from my family if I start to invest too much time reading blogs. Obviously, I think blogs are terrific and I love to encourage others through my blog. At the same time, I think they can be a snare to us because they connect us to the writer in a way so that we feel as if the writer is our 'friend'. Too much of that and a mom can find herself hooked on the internet as I did two years ago.

I am praying today for everyone reading my blog. I really care about you and your families and I hope that if you are reading today my blog will be one that will be a help to you in your calling as a wife and mom. If it is a hindrance, I pray that you will be wise, turn off your computer and go and hug your sweet babies. :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Parents as Inspirers

We are keeping our Mommy Brains sharp by reading along some of the articles in the archives of The Parents Review. This week's article is entitled, "Parents as Inspirers" by Charlotte Mason.

Charlotte Mason compares a child's destiny to virgin soil -- nothing has been sown in it. I like this idea because that soil has a capacity to grow beautiful, abundant fruit, to bear a thorny bush or, worst of all, to bear nothing. She points out that the first sowing is done either by the parents or by someone the parents choose.

Charlotte tells us that parents are to sow the mind's proper food - ideas - and, in fact, this is our only educational instrument. What does this mean, that ideas are the only educational tool we really have at our disposal? It means that a child will retain nothing his person does not have need of. The only things a person will truly retain and use are those things - good or bad - that have affected him in some meaningful way. And, really the only things that can do that are ideas.

She points out that if it were any other way, if children were empty containers to be filled with information, putting them into an educational system and depositing the same information for everyone, then everyone would end up being exactly the same. Rest assured, she reminds us, that there is no danger of this because God has taken care to craft each person with a unique personality that He will ensure is preserved to be used for his purposes.

I love the idea she sets forth that parents are 'inspirers' as opposed to 'modellers'. While Charlotte speaks seriously of the intense responsibility this entails, I actually find it very freeing. A 'model' is something that is directly copied. It must be perfect since the 'copies' can be nothing more than the original. Any defects will be reproduced exactly, as will the positive features of the model. It will be exactly the same. An 'inspirer', however, is entirely different. Just like a stunning landscape may inspire a weaver to make a beautiful cloth of many shades of green or a painter to create a lovely piece of watercolour impression, a child living alongside his parents will be inspired by their character, their behaviour and their hearts to become the artwork God has created him to be. A child is never to be a direct reproduction his of parents, simply copying modelled behaviour. (Thank goodness!) A parent inspires one child in one way and another in a different way, despite the fact that the parent is the same person.

Charlotte reminds us that "To excite this appetency towards something -- towards things lovely, honest, and of good report, is the earliest and most important ministry of the educator." This reminds me of when our first son was about 5. We used to drink soy milk at that time and were out somewhere where my son was offered a glass of milk. He brought it to me, very displeased saying he couldn't drink it because it tasted awful. I tried it and it was perfectly fine. The problem was that after he was weaned from mommy's milk, the milk he knew tasted completely different than that which he was given in this place. Charlotte says that many times our children do not and, in fact, may never think specifically of the ideas we inspire in them, but "all his life long they excite that 'vague appetency towards something' out of which most of his actions spring." Our children will face all kinds of things in the world. What we are trying to do in our homes, is make sure their palettes have developped a taste for goodness so that when they encounter something wrong in the world, it will be uncomfortable to them even if they can't always identify exactly why.

We cannot set about to complete a simple course of study and teach these things one by one. Rather, a child is inspired by his parents, and I would add of course many others in his life, as he lives alongside them, watching their interactions with others, reading books presented to him, having conversations. This is why God tells parents, "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Dueteronomy 6:6-7) We learn about things as we live, when we are ready to learn them.

The fact that, as parents, we have faults -- serious ones -- that we are sinners is not the point. No matter what we do, our children will also be sinners with faults. What I find so exciting is that, as inspirers, I need not be perfect. I need only to rest in my Heavenly Father's calling to be a humble servant. This is his desire for my children and the greatest thing I can inspire in them.

I'd love to hear your comments, whether or not you read the article.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Apologies for those looking to sharpen their Mommy Brains

Something came up today and I wasn't able to put together a post about our current article. I expect to have this together for you tomorrow. I hope you will join me.

Also, I have prepared a post on Internet Addiction that will be added to my blog on Saturday. I hope it will be helpful to someone.

Lots of Love to you and your families,

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sharpening up the Mommy Brain

You high school and in college I was very articulate. I could use all kinds of adjectives, adverbs and beautiful phrases. I never forgot a noun and I certainly got the names of all my friends and siblings straight.

However, when Steve and I gave birth to our firstborn, I realized that at the tender age of 21, my brain seemed to be rapidly going downhill. What was wrong with me? Could it be the onset of early dementia? How come I seemed to be so suddenly...well...dull? Interestingly, scientists now agree that this is not a mom's imagination. Termed momnesia by one researcher, it appears stress, sleep deprivation and hormones are at the root of our declining mental agility.

You know what else I think is to blame? I think it also has to do with the particular kind of brain exercise a mom is often lacking. Before having children, I had more flexible time with far fewer interruptions. I would read lengthy and challenging works much more often. Nowdays, I am much more likely to skim through a parenting blog or a magazine article. These can be valuable, but are not sustaining for the brain by themselves. Often this type of reading contains mostly information whereas Charlotte Mason said that a brain's proper food is ideas.

Recently, a friend recommended a particular article from the archives of the Parents' Review at AmblesideOnline. I printed it off to read and found it quite challenging. The article, written over 100 years ago, was full of literary language that I don't read very often these days. On one hand, I felt inspired by the article and refreshed to be exercising my brain in a way I hadn't done in awhile. On the other hand, I found myself getting antsy and longing to put the article down and read a 'snippet' of something easy.

I did, however, persevere and was very pleased that I had worked to excavate some wonderful ideas I could digest over the next several days.

Beginning this week, I am hoping you will join me in a weekly 'Read-Along' of some of the articles from The Parents' Review. I will post a link to an article each Monday and will share my thoughts about the article each Thursday. I would love to have several of you share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section of the post on Thursdays. Sound good?

This week, we will read, "Parents as Inspirers" written by Charlotte Mason. If you would like to participate, I suggest printing the article and reading through with a pencil in hand to underline those things that stand out as you read. Check in on Thursday to read my thoughts on the article and to share your own. See you then -- I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Making the Homeschool Conference Work for You

This is fresh in my mind since I recently attended our local conference. I love the grassroots feel of hundreds of homeschoolers coming together to be encouraged and empowered. Now that I've been attending for about 10 years, I love it for different reasons. I need less of the 'how-to' type of information sessions and more of the inspiring sessions. I also love the opportunity to peruse the vendor tables, though these days I usually know exactly what I am looking for.

Because this my one 'professional development' day of the year, I like to make the most of it. I have developed some tips which I find helpful so that I end my day feeling as if it was a successful endeavor.

  1. Dress in layers. I find that the temperature of the different areas in the building can vary widely. Occasionally, it has been warm enough outside that a friend and I will eat our lunch out of doors (and need our sweaters/coats). At the same time, I always find that - particularly by afternoon - the session rooms can be stifling, so I want just a t-shirt. Dressing in layers leaves my options open. Also, be sure to wear very comfortable shoes. There is nothing worse than your feet aching just when you are starting to close in on that perfect math program. I also suggest bringing a water bottle to avoid dehydration-type headaches.
  2. Prepare ahead. Doing your homework ahead of time can make your time more efficient. I like to do two things. First of all, I like to make a spreadsheet listing all the resources I would like to purchase at the conference. I look at a couple of different catalogues and online sources to get an idea of prices. I don't necessarily have to get the cheapest price, but I do like to be in the ballpark. I check to see if the item is widely available used and list an approximate price for that, too. Often 50% off bins at the conference will contain resources that end up being cheaper than the same item used purchased online (with shipping charges). The second thing I do is go through the syllabus, reading the descriptions of the sessions and circling those ones I am interested in attending.
  3. Be baby-free, if possible. I would be the last one to suggest ditching your 6 week old to attend a homeschool conference. However, if you have an older baby who still needs to be with you, I highly recommend hiring a young homeschooled teen to play with your baby at the conference while you are in the sessions. Several of my friends did this and it worked very well. Most babies over the age of about 2-3 months will not sit happily all day, peacefully sleeping while you listen to speakers. I think this is a really important day for homeschooling moms and if it is possible to meet baby's needs at the same time as your own, that's perfect.
  4. Take in at least one 'inspiring' session (versus informational). Usually there is someone speaking at the conference who is well-known for leaving audience members feeling renewed and supported in their calling. I highly recommend choosing one of these types of sessions during the course of your day. The sessions that give information about specific subject areas are also very important and not to be missed, but be sure to leave the conference both equipped and energized.
  5. Consider skipping a session to shop and talk to vendors. Because I am an experienced homeschooling mom, I generally know what I am looking for and just go and get it. This year, however, I was looking for something less specific for my oldest daughter and took some time to talk to a vendor in lieu of attending one of the sessions. She was a wealth of information and very helpful, directing me to consider items I would never have found or looked at on my own. When sessions are in progress, vendors tend to be much less busy and can offer you excellent personal help.
  6. If you are a speaker, plan to miss the session following the one you are hosting. You will probably have lots of people wanting to speak to you and ask questions and you likely will not be able to get a good seat or will be late for the next session anyway. If there is a session you are dying to attend, I suggest having a friend (or talk to the speaker ahead of time to do this for you) save you a seat near the door so you can slip in late without interrupting.

Monday, April 13, 2009

On My Needles

I've been doing a fair bit of gift knitting lately for people who I think might read my blog, so I haven't posted my projects. :) I do have two pairs of socks on the go right now that I will share with you. They are for my favourite person to knit for -- ME! Why do I like knitting for myself? Well, I am always grateful. I always appreciate the amount of work that has gone into the making of the item. I can always take my measurements to give the best possible chance that the item will fit. And -- I usually like the colours I choose!

What's on my needles at this time?

First of all, I am knitting Cookie A's Twisted Flower socks. I remember when I started knitting almost two years ago, these socks looked hopelessly complicated. I looked at them and thought, "Wow. I will never be at the stage where I could make socks like that." I was sure I would always knit plain or almost plain socks with self-striping yarn to make things interesting. However, I can honestly say that these socks are a breeze now. I am knitting them two at a time on magic loop. They are part of a knit along on a Ravelry group called, Makin' Cookies. The yarn is Knit Picks, Risata, which is a wool/cotton/nylon/elastic blend.

Next, I am knitting some socks called Brainless. They are created toe-up, my preferred method, and I am working them two at a time. Don't be fooled by the name or by the simple appearance. I actually find the pattern a bit more challenging than the name suggests. It isn't that they are difficult to knit, but rather just that at times interpreting the pattern can involve some mental work.

These socks are part of another knit along, one of the April selections for the Thrifty Knitters Sock Club on Ravelry. (I think these Ravelry links will only work for those of you who are Ravelry members.) I am using some lovely hand-dyed yarn gifted to me in a swap a couple of months ago.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend! Steve is still off work today, so we are enjoying a relaxing family day today.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Incorporating Read-Alouds When it Seems Almost Impossible

Photo courtesy of Neal the Ranger

It was back in October of this year when I finally admitted to myself that read-alouds just weren't going to happen very much in our home. It was very difficult to accept this truth because so much of our homeschool is built around reading great books. Several of our children are competent, skilled and independent readers, but I longed to return to the days when we could just snuggle on the couch under a big quilt and live a wonderful story together. I used to love reading chapter after chapter, even spending an entire afternoon in front of the fireplace hearing the adventures of Bilbo Baggins or devouring an inspiring missionary biography.

I re-scheduled and re-scheduled, but nothing I could come up with could put the needs of my babies and toddlers (and sometimes preschoolers) on hold so we could accomplish this worthy pursuit. Our little people needed me and didn't want to be pushed aside so we could spend hours on something that did nothing to draw them into our family circle. It was then that I came to the realization our leisurely read-aloud days weren't over forever, but were going to be on a loooooong vacation.

At a homeschool conference a few years ago, I attended a session presented by Bev Rempel, an expert in writing instruction and a former homeschooling mom. She said that it was very important for children to hear language being used, in the form of literature read aloud, in order to be competent writers in the future. These days, I need to be creative to make sure our children are being read to.

Here are a few ideas, if you struggle like I do with this:
  1. Little Ones' Sleeping Time: Either during a nap or after they have gone to bed, make it a priority to drop everything and grab a book. This is your big chance, so don't mess it up by checking your e-mail or a message board first. If the kids are doing other school, they can set it aside. When my baby guy falls asleep for his daytime nap, that is our signal for Bible time. He has been an erratic sleeper, so we do Bible immediately. Because there are still other littles around, we don't abolish all interruptions, but they are drastically cut down.
  2. Dad Reading Aloud at Bedtime: My husband has just finished reading Alice in Wonderland to our 3, 5 and 7 year old daughters. A lot of families find that having Dad read to a group of fairly sleepy (therefore mellow) children works well.
  3. A Special Book with Grandma/Grandpa: If your children's grandparents live nearby and you see them frequently (once a week or more), you might ask if one of them would be willing to have a special book from which they will read a chapter at each visit. If you and the grandparent have a similar philosophy on what constitutes good literature, it is particularly meaningful to have the grandparent choose the book.
  4. Books on CD: Digital read-aloud versions are available for many classics on Librivox. They are free and can be easily burned onto CDs for your child to listen to independently, at bedtime or during car trips. Younger children may enjoy the wonderful stories from Story Nory.
  5. Getting Help from Your Older Children: If you have an older child, you can consider asking them to watch a baby/toddler while you read to the other children. Alternatively, you can watch the baby/toddler while the older child reads aloud. A key to success here is to have the reading done in a different room than the entertaining of the little ones. Some moms find that children are more attentive if they get to pile onto Mom and Dad's bed for a read-aloud, even in the middle of the day.
  6. Contain Little Ones: As long as it hasn't been overused, older babies/younger toddlers are often content to sit in their high chairs munching on a snack. Preferably, this will be something that will take them awhile to eat and that they enjoy. I don't know why some babies who are normally very active are content to sit in a high chair, but I do find this sometimes works for short periods of reading aloud.
  7. Hire a Mother's Helper: Several homeschooling families I know without older children have hired a 10-12 year old homeschooled young lady to come over once or twice a week and play with her children while she remains in the home, safely close by. This frees her up to have much needed time to herself, work on projects, have a nap aloud to children who are old enough to listen!
Please recognize that as great as any ideas or plans might sound, life with very young children is filled with interruptions. No matter what you do at this stage, it is unlikely to yield hours of read-aloud time. Young children's needs are often immediate and their immaturity means they need lots of shepherding.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Motivation for Christian Mamas

I just finished reading an excellent post by a new visitor to my blog. I could summarize it here, but I would love it if you would head over to her blog and read her urgent words yourselves. If you are a Christian mama, I highly recommend Passionate Housewife's wonderful post:

Against the Norm

I am working on a post on creative ways to incorporate reading-aloud into homes like mine where it is extremely difficult. Look for that post tomorrow.

Monday, April 6, 2009

"What are you doing for...?"

What a wonderful and very busy weekend I had! I just love going to my local homeschool conference. When I get to present a session, it is even better. :) The initial feedback I received was the moms left feeling inspired. I am very grateful to God that He made this happen.

Here is a quote from my prayer journal on March26/09:
I pray for my talk next weekend. I wish so much I was better prepared. Please help me pull things together this weekend. I pray it will really minister to the moms and dads in attendance. Let them feel your love and grace and freedom through my words. You are so great and so very gentle and so very good.
I never did pray that anyone would learn anything from my session. I do hope people had some good take-away, practical ideas, but my heart really just longs for homeschooling moms to feel the freedom that the Lord wants them to have when he calls them to homeschool.

One lovely mama at my session asked if I could post a copy of the overhead I showed that was a chart of the 'schoolwork' three of our children are currently doing. A copy of that particular overhead is below. When a child finishes a particular book or resource, we just replace it with a new one. I generally select the kids' books from the year on AmblesideOnline that corresponds to their grade number (though Ambleside years are not the same as grade levels in school). Our oldest daughter, who is in her grade 9 year is working mostly independently on Level 100 of the Sonlight Curriculum.

I hope this chart will inspire you when you see that we aren't doing a huge amount of 'schoolwork', but are getting wonderful results. I didn't indicate how often children are reading from particular books, as this varies according to age. We homeschool Monday to Thursday and generally get most of our work done by lunchtime. We usually do Nature and Art in the afternoons.

Click on the above image to enlarge in a new screen.

I'm happy to answer any other questions you have in the comments section of this post.
If you are visiting my blog for the first time -- Welcome! It is great to have you here. :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

The big draw!

Thanks to everyone who participated in my very first give-away! I hope I can knit some more goodies in the future for you.

My 10 year old son did the honours.

And the one with the toasty toes will be......

Congratulations, Maria!

Your socks will be on their way very soon. If you leave me a comment on this post with your e-mail address, I won't publish it, but I can get in contact with you.

I just loved reading everyone's wonderful comments about their husbands and families. I am certainly blessed to have such a generous and loving blogging community. :)

I'm off to a homeschool conference this weekend, at which I will be speaking on "Charlotte Mason Style Education - Guilt Free!!". I know it will be a joy to attend and to encourage other homeschooling moms and dads. I would love it if you would pray for me, if you think of it.

Have a wonderful weekend!