Make YOUR Own Math Books = Learning

Early last fall, my little learner decided she wanted to make her own books--math books! 

We had been selecting and reading math literature from the shelves or our home collection and borrowing others from the local library. Math was intriguing. Math was fun. 

Then she wanted to apply her creative bent to master concepts. 

Thankfully, we had blank books on hand. 

My little learner chose a book from our stash, one which would match the fall leaf table toppers I found while grocery shopping. 

Once the leaves were sorted, we made piles of ten. 

On a piece of paper, I wrote numerals 1-10 alongside corresponding number words. From the sample, my little learner copied the numerals and words, giving each number a page in her book. By the time she was done copying, she felt very confident in her counting and writing. She was very happy to see her book take form. 

"I'm writing a book!" 

The final step was to count out leaves to correspond with the numbers on each page. 

I encouraged my little learner to set her book--open like a fan--on the kitchen table so the glue could dry. This prevented pages from sticking together. 

In the end, my little learner had not only written her first math book--she was quite proud of her accomplishment--she had also learned to match number words with a set of objects and mastered one-to-one correspondence--all foundational math concepts.


Shopping for Christmas wrapping paper, I discovered stocking table toppers. I immediately thought of my eager book-making learner and added them to the conveyor in the check-out line. 

Arriving home I told her there was a surprise in the  bag for her. 

She was thrilled.

Once again she chose a blank book from the collection and started to work. 

Before long, she added another counting book to her collection. 

She was ready for addition--adding two small sets to make one big set. 

As the weather cooled, I found foam snowflakes online. I knew they could be the makings of her next book, Adding Snowflakes. I pulled one of our favorite reads, Snowflake Bentley, from our library shelf and we sat side-by-side on the couch, engaged in the unfolding plot. 

When we finished the book, she sorted the foam snowflakes by size, shape, and color--three attributes--another foundational math skill. This was a perfect start to making sets!

Once the snowflakes were sorted, I asked her to make sets of two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight. 

I explained the concept of addition--the combining of two sets to make a larger set and wrote some addition facts on the two-page spreads of her blank book. She read the number and glued the set required on each page. When gluing was complete, my little learner added the two sets and wrote the sum on the bottom right-hand corner of the two-page spread. 

Book complete--now three in total--my little learner had the makings of a math library!


The next concept, addition with three addends--three sets. 

With Valentine's just around the corner, I knew what we would do--add three sets of hearts. 

Again, she chose the blank book--red stripes this time--sorted hearts by size and color, counted sets, and started adding. For this book she wrote the equations vertically. I explained that equations could be written horizontally or vertically without changing the answer. She was intrigued by that concept. I wrote an equation both horizontally and vertically on a piece of paper and proved the concept by adding foam hearts. Indeed, the answer was the same.

In the end, she completed the book and added it to her collection! 

Perhaps we will tackle subtraction next season?

I love that we could work side-by-side on this project and that my little learner loved learning math. 

Time well spent. Indeed, intentional, real, and relational. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interests Fuel Life-Long Learning

Dogs.

It's everything dogs for our littlest learner. 

She's curious about what dogs eat (getting eye level--but not too close--to watch ours furry friend eat). She's curious about how why they pant, how they feel to touch. She wants to know everything about every dog she sees, large or small.

Sitting in the dentist office last week, waiting for big sister to finish her appointment, I found a treasure--an attention grabbing-just-what-we-needed-at-that-moment treasure. 

A book featuring photographs of dogs. 

I handed it to our youngest. I knew it would keep her attention. 

It was a "mom hung the moon" moment.

She looked at me. Her eyes seemed to say, "Thank you for caring about my interest!"

The excitement on her face. The eagerness in her learning. The pure joy!

As she paged through the book, I engaged with her about the pictures on each page. She'd look at me and smile. With every smile, I thought about two workshops I have been writing for an upcoming speaking engagement; one workshop for parents of elementary learners and one workshop for parents of middle schoolers.

Relationships and curiosity fuel learning.

Like adults, children need relationships. Couple that with natural curiosity--questioning anything and everything--and there is a recipe for building a love for life-long learning. 

How do we keep a person's natural curiosity aflame for life?

Ask questions. When the art of questioning is modeled, it is readily available for learning.

I am not natural questioner. I like to teach; to tell. As a consequence, the parenting years hit me hard. The more I told and commanded, the more frustrated my children became. And, I noticed they stopped asking questions and waited to be told to do things--waiting to do school work and chores until they were told. Stepping back from the situation (and asking for Mike's input) I realized my children had valuable ideas, valid questions. They needed a mom who listen and then ask questions; a who would practice the art of questioning. At that point, I decided to be intentional about asking more questions and encouraging my children to to the same. I asked questions like:

  • I wonder how that works?
  • I wonder why the hermit crab needed a new shell?
  • I wonder what will happen if we add more soap?

I had to work hard at replacing my teaching/telling bent (saving it for where that bent was really needed) with an intentionality to listen and engage my children in thoughtful questioning. Though it took a bit of time to turn the cart around, I began to hear my children returning to their natural bent of asking questions. Definitely worth my effort.

Find answers. With questioning comes the need to find answers.

If I was going to be intent on encouraging critical thinking skills and the art questioning, I would also have to purposeful in helping my children find answers. And, as the children grew we had to have conversations about where to find accurate information; to ponder whether an author had the knowledge and experience to speak to a topic. 

We began to build a home library of reference and resource materials--field guides, a Magiscope, a heavy-duty magnifying glass, kitchen scales, history books, classic literature. In some cases, we found apps to be the best resource, for example Sky View and Sky Map. We talked to our children about the importance of primary source documents and role played how to carry on conversations with people--should they want to ask questions of someone. In addition, as our children entered middle and high school, we discussed volunteering and job shadowing. These opportunities encouraged our young adults to answer their questions about career interests by talking to professionals in the field.

Be observant. Interests are not always obvious.

Some interests are obvious, like my daughter's curiosity with dogs. Others are a bit more hidden, sometimes even unknown to the beholder! To discover the interests of some of my children, I had to watch, listen, and be open to how they spent their time (versus controlling every minute of their day).  In my watching and listening, I began to ask myself questions. 

  • Was my child wanting to take things apart and put them back together?
  • Was a particular career intriguing to my child?
  • When we were at a church event or field trip who did my child gravitate toward certain people--children or adult?
  • What did my child do to fill extra time in the day?
  • Did my child have an ability to put together colors, lines and shapes or craft inspirational poetry?

My littlest learner is not yet old enough to verbalize her questions, yet her curiosity is evident in her facial expressions and gestures, through her hand clapping and dancing. Her reaction--her joy in learning--invites us to ask her questions, interact with her excitement, and fuel her curiosity by providing resources (like finding her dog books at the library). In doing so, her siblings, Mike and I are learning to help her dig deeper into her interest. As a result, our curiosity about how she learns is fostered. It is a cycle of interest-fueling learning. 

 

And it is a beautiful life-learning cycle. 

It's intentional, real, and relational. 

 

 

 

The Inauguration: Watching and Learning Together

I have been asked if our family will watch the inauguration.

Yes.

Wait! Before you decide to click off this post thinking I am about to get political, I encourage you to read on.

This post is about relationships.


My brother and I waited in anticipation as Grammy turned the knob on the television. One click, fuzzy white. Another click, more fuzz. One more click and there it was, the Inauguration. People lined streets, flags waving. Bands were playing. The date was January 20, 1973.

This was the day we waited for; the day we would spend at Grammy’s watching the inauguration of Richard Nixon.

We didn’t really understand the scope of the meaning behind an inauguration.

What we did know was we loved spending time with Grammy.

Leading up to the day, she talked about my Grandfather’s service in the military. We walked the memorial park near her house. She put a flag out on her porch. We could tell from our discussions and her actions that Inauguration day was important. Grammy made us curious. And, we loved our time with her.

As for any celebration, Grammy purchased snacks, snacks we could eat while watching the event. Having not seen an inauguration before, my brother and I had lots of questions. There was security in knowing Grammy would be seating next to us in the living room—knitting needles clicking away—eager to answer any questions. She was so patient.

It would be a day together, watching and learning.


Tomorrow at the Bastian home, we will watch the Inauguration day events. Not because we agree with everything that has been said or everything that has happened. But because we are an American family who is grateful for our nation and the process by which we elect leaders. Tomorrow, we will be watching and learning together.

There will be questions; likely lots of questions since we have littles who have never witnessed an Inauguration. I will know some answers, others we will have to research together. We will learn tidbits of trivia, nuggets of history, and have discussions. Some of the children and young adults will likely share thoughts, ideas they are processing. 

And, we will have snacks.

It will be a day of learning together, watching and listening.

Helpful resources and places to find answers

 

 

 

When Living Books Become Tickets to Travel

It was a stress-filled day. Guests coming; comments becoming sarcastic. 

I knew a few quiet, intentional minutes would be a great reset--a reset and a relationship builder. 

And, we could go to LONDON! The text and illustrations of A Walk In London by Salvatore Rubbino would take us there.

I asked a learner to go to the library bucket and find the London book. Once retrieved we sat on the living room floor, backs positioned against the couch. I read the title and author from the cover and opened the book. The illustrations immediately caught the attention of my ten-year-old. Her excitement was quickly caught by my five year old. I began to read and we were immediately transported to the streets of London, each page highlighting a landmark or introducing a bit of history. We talked about words we didn't know; ah-ha'ed over new facts.

For twenty minutes we listened and learned together--learners from five to thirteen. 

When I closed the book, stress had been replaced with calm and we had enjoyed our minutes together.

This book was our ticket to visit a country, but it was also an opportunity to reset attitudes and deepen our relationships.

For the past 27 years, books--fiction and non-fiction--have provided us with tickets to travel. Some of our favorites include

  • What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World, Maya Ajmera
  • Counting Chickens, Polly Alakija
  • Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under, Marianne Berkes
  • Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Winds Blow, Marianne Berkes
  • The Five Chinese Brothers, Claire Huchet Bishop 
  • The Littlest Matryoshka, Corinne Demas Bliss 
  • The Three Snow Bears, Jan Brett
  • Italy ABCs: A Book about the People and Places of Italy, Sharon Katz Cooper
  • The Story of Ping, Marjorie Flack
  • Germany ABCs: A Book about the People and Places of Germany, Sarah Heiman
  • Kenya ABCs: A Book about the People and Places of Kenya, Sarah Heiman
  • Paddle to the Sea, Holling C. Holling
  • If You Lived Here: Houses of the World, Giles Laroche 
  • The Boy Who Held Back the Sea, Thomas Locker 
  • The Story of the Statue of Liberty, Betsy Maestro
  • The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History, John S. Major
  • Bread, Bread, Bread, Ann Morris
  • Houses and Homes, Ann Morris
  • A is for Africa, Ifeoma Onyefulu
  • How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, Marjorie Priceman
  • Marguerite Makes a Book, Bruce Robertson 
  • This is Venice, Miroslav Sasek
  • D is for Down Under: An Australia Alphabet, Devin Scillian
  • C is for China, Sungwan So
  • The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto, Natalie Standiford
  • Round is a Tortilla, Roseanne Thong
  • E is for Eiffel Tower, Helen L. Wilbur

Chapter Books for Older, Independent Readers or Family Read-Aloud

  • The Family Under the Bridge, Natalie Savage Carlson
  • The Wheel on the School, Meindert DeJong
  • Hans Brinkner, or The Silver Skates, Mary Mapes Dodge
  • A Cricket in Times Square, George Selden

If you enjoyed A Walk in London, check out A Walk in Paris and A Walk in New York also written by Salvatore Rubbino. 

Books can also bring comfort in difficult times. If your family is walking through a challenging season, snuggling up together to read might be one way to invite calm to the moments of your day. Check out this post, Light-Hearted Reads for Difficult Moments

Most Popular Posts of 2016

2016 is marked as significant.

Why? Because every moment of our days mattered--the triumphs and the trials. We lived and learned together being intentional about using what was real and relational--from cradle to shingle--toddler to adult. Thank you for walking that journey alongside us! We are grateful for you, our readers! 

As a recap of our year together, I compiled our top 15 posts of 2016. ENJOY! 

 

The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by Real-Life for High School Credit: Care and Concerns for the Elderly.


Preschooling, Naturally

Preschool is foundational for life and learning. In fact, it is during the preschool years that little learners master foundational skills which serve as a base for later learning. More importantly, attitudes and temperaments toward learning are set during the preschool and early elementary years.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by "Let Me Do It!" Helping Little Learners Become Independent


5 Comments I Don't Regret

Words are remembered, taken with us through our days. This is true for us and it is true for our children and young adults.

If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy Legacy: Learning Alongside


The Possibilities of Elective Credits - Part II

When I wrote the first edition (who remembers that first spiral-bound resource?) Celebrate High School I included a sample list of potential course titles--both core and elective. When I published my extensive revision in 2015, I expanded my list based on our experience and the experience of those with whom we work.

If the information in this post was helpful, you might want to continue on and read Part III.


32 Ways to Learn from Real and Relational 

Some of my children love making lapbooks, others prefer unit studies. Still others learn best when we incorporate field trips into our days. And, our middle and high school young adults? They have learned at co-ops, through online courses, and with personal independent study. 

If you are being intentional about keeping learning real and relational, you might also be encouraged by the practical life lessons (and history!) in this post-- Living History: 30 Questions that Bring History to Life


8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Rainy days are natural wonders which intrique little learners. If rain is falling at your house and you are waiting for a safe pause in weather, try this indoor art activity--Torn Paper Rainbows


Grades...In High School

"How do I give grades in high school?"

If designing a transcript is your next step, this post may be helpful--Transcript Matters


Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

If you have middle school learners and are wondering how you can help them manage time, organize belongings, and pursue interests, this post--Magnificent, Make-A-Difference Middle School--might be helpful. 


Preschooling, Intentionally

Learning is the natural outcome of everyday living, especially for little learners. With a few intentional questions here and a purposeful explanation there, preschoolers can learn naturally from walking alongside older siblings and significant adults. Through everyday experiences, preschoolers gain a jump start to mastering foundational cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual life skills.  By the time the young learner blows out six candles on the birthday cake, significant progress toward mastery of foundational skills has likely been made.

If you are seeking ways to help your little learners do what they can, 3 Things They Can DO on Their Own, might be helpful. 


Living Books and Independent Studies

An interest evolved into an independent study, a year-long learning adventure. 

Science--especially animal science--is particularly interesting to little learners. If you have little learners with a zest for all things living, check out the book list in Vintage Science Readers for the WIN! 


Nature Adventures Made EASY- A Glimpse into Part of Our Day

Ten minutes later, peering out the bedroom window to check on the adventure, my heart smiled--three little learners discovering, wondering together. Co-laboring in learning. 

Looking for a way to learn math outdoors, in nature, where children crave? Check out Math Adventures!


Using Living Books in High School for Credit

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests and the future plans of the young adult.

Interested in earning credit for writing college essays? This post--High School Made Simple: College Essays for Credit--might offer some insight. 


SIMPLE Prepositions for Little Learners

Keeping early learning active and fun!

Picture books can encourage learning. Read Aloud to Foster Counting Skills lists some of our favorite math picture books. 


Intentional Cursive Handwriting

Oh yes, there is good reason to teach cursive, teaching correct strokes and rotations. Proper letter formation does make composition easier. However, once initial instruction is complete and letters are formed properly, practice begins. Practice.

Interested in hands-on, real-life, spelling activities? This post--What About Spelling?--has lots of practical ideas. 


Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

A trip to the electronics store. I was hoping to go alone. You know, time to enjoy quiet; time to think without questions. After all, it is ONLY the electronics store. 

If this post made you curious about interest-based learning, The Benefits of Interests: Motivating Learners, may answer a few more questions. 

Want to know more about how your days can be intentional, real, and relational? Click below to sign up for the Celebrate Simple Newsletter. 

Our FAVORITE Farm Picture Books

This year marks more than 30 years of working with little learners; 27 of those years watching our little learners grow and learn daily in our home (yes, we still have some little learners!). 

I watch the wonder in their eyes and listen to the curiosity in their questions.

Along the way, I've come to understand that young children have innate interests--many of them! One of those interests is animals; all animals, big and small. Couple a young child's natural curiosities with inviting picture books and non-fiction reads and you have the makings of a learning frenzy!


I am sure you have watched your children--or those you work with--choose books off a shelf. First one, then another.


Reflecting on my years of watching children gather farm books--a combination of treasures they've found in the local library and our home collection--here are the books chosen most often. 

Fiction

  • Big Red Hen, Keith Baker
  • The Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown
  • Rooster's Off to See the World, Eric Carle
  • The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle
  • The Very Busy Spider, Eric Carle
  • Growing Vegetable Soup, Lois Ehlert
  • Market Day: A Story Told with Folk Art, Lois Ehlert
  • The Little Red Hen, Paul Galdone
  • Barn Dance, Pat Hutchins
  • The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss
  • Barn Dance, Bill Martin, Jr.
  • The Turnip, Pierr Morgan
  • The Little Red Hen, Jerry Pinkney
  • Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens
  • The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza, Philemon Sturges
  • Winter on the Farm (Little House Picture Book), Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Non-Fiction

  • Milk: From Cow to Carton, Aliki
  • From Grass to Milk, Stacy Taus-Bolstad  
  • Food from Farms, Nancy Dickman
  • Jobs on a Farm, Nancy Dickman
  • Cows: Watch Them Grow, Lauren Diemer
  • Chickens Aren't the Only Ones, Ruth Keller
  • Chicks and Chickens, Gail Gibbons
  • Farming, Gail Gibbons
  • From Seed to Plant, Gail Gibbons
  • Horses, Gail Gibbons
  • Milk Makers, Gail Gibbons
  • Pigs, Gail Gibbons
  • Chickens, Julie Lungren
  • From Kernel to Corn, Robin Nelson
  • One Bean, Anne Rockwell
  • Chicken, David M. Schwartz
  • Plant Stems and Roots, David M. Schwartz
  • Where Do Chicks Come From?, Amy E. Sklansky

Do you have multiple children at multiple ages, preschool through elementary? We do, too!

One of our favorite family read-aloud treasures is the timeless classic Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Pop some popcorn or serve some hot chocolate and enjoy listening together as Mom or Dad reads. 

Reading aloud is intentional, real, and relational. It matters!

FREE Winter Resource

math snow.jpg

Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Snowflakes is available for download  in Free Resources


The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Tis'  the season for future thinking and college applications.

This season can also be a season of disappointment and frustration.

Seeing Facebook posts of acceptance letters and appointments, I can’t help but think of the high school young adults pondering a future which doesn’t include dorm room decorating and walk-on athletics. These young adults--though they may have worked very hard--may feel unsuccessful, even second-class due to the individuality of their next steps toward the future. Hence this season—a season most people associate with celebrations—can be time of awkwardness and discouragement.

But it doesn't have to be!

possibilities.jpg

When we open our eyes and hearts to other possibilities--alternative, but no less significantly successful high school journeys and culminating celebrations--young adults have innumerable opportunities which may be better suited to their strengths and giftings.

Acceptance letters are not the sole means of successful transition to a young adult's future. 

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

The Scholar. Scholars are not just learners; they are specialists--continually seeking to dig deeper in a specific area of interest. There is an aptitude for learning and time is made for accelerated or advanced degrees. In addition to researching and fulfilling the college entrance requirements for the young adult's top university choices, honors courses, dual enrollment, CLEP/DANTE/AP testing, and discussions or networking with professionals in the field of interests may also be helpful. 

The Entrepreneur. Ideas. Strategy. Product analysis. These young adults grew up dreaming of starting a business and in fact may have started one or several during the middle or high school years. Young entrepreneurs may benefit from connecting with successful entrepreneurs as well as with other entrepreneurial-minded peers. In addition, these young adults may spend time at the library or online reading current issues of business magazines-- Inc., Entrepreneur, or Fast Company--or reading small business blogs. Consider looking for local opportunities where the entrepreneur might be able to attend small business seminars or entrepreneurial events.  Job shadowing a business owner or two might be another consideration as well as offering time in the day for the young adult to research successful business practices, managerial/leadership qualities, and marketing or growth strategies. Some high school learners find having a mentor helpful. Having had two entrepreneurial/business-minded young adults, these were helpful resources for our learners. Entrepreneurs may or may not decide to pursue post-secondary education. 

The Athlete. Most little leaguers dream of the big leagues--the pinnacle of achievement for athletes. In fact, we've known athletes who played through elementary and travel sports to high school athletics hoping to fulfill this dream. Some athletes indeed did move on to more competitive collegiate play. Others decided to hang up the cleats after their senior year. For young adults who desire to pursue sports after high school graduation, special attention to the new NCAA requirements is a must. Though an athlete may choose a college outside the NCAA, staying up-to-date is wise. Plans change, sometimes last minute and eligibility is dependent on completion of specific courses. Having had three athletes, we never wanted to short change a student-athlete. In fact, all three took different paths; none ended up playing collegiate sports.  In addition to action on the field, we have known learners who read autobiogrpaphies and biographies of athletes they admire for high school credit. Possibilities include A Life Well-Played (Arnold Palmer), Through My Eyes (Tim Tebow), Out of the Blue (Orel Hershiser). One of our athletes enjoyed Between the Lines: Nine Principles to Live By and The Mental Game of Baseball.

The Creative. Creatives see the world differently--in words, colors, graphics, texture, line, or shapes. These young adults think outside the box and craft from incredible minds. Hence, their paths through high school might include preparing a portfolio, building a client list, visiting studios and exhibitions, experimenting with media, shooting thirds for a photographer, writing copy for publication, working at a hobby shop, creating art for a gallery, volunteering time to create graphics for church media or publication, or selling stock photography. All of these experiences may become part of their high school course work, and the contacts them make along the journey may provide avenues for employment after graduation. The Creative may decide to attend an art or music school, open a studio, spend time with a master artisan, or start a business. Post-secondary educational experience may or may not be part of the Creative's future. 

The Apprentice. Apprenticeships offer hands-on, experiential options to young adults who need to learn from masters or professionals in a field of interest. Though apprenticeships are not as popular as they were years ago, apprenticeships offer on-the-job training--and often some classroom instruction--for young adults interested in highly skilled work in healthcare professions, engineering, manufacturing, culinary arts, telecommunications, trades (welding, electrical, carpentry, plumbing), and service careers. The apprentice may train under a skilled craftsman, trained healthcare worker, or licensed professional to learn essential skills important to a particular job. Time devoted to apprenticing can vary to up to four years. Some apprenticeships may require certain math and science high school course work or required scores on HSPE (High School Proficiency Exams). 

The Intern. Internships are an excellent means by which young adults can investigate career fields of interest and learn new skills. Internships can be formal or informal, part-time or full time, paid or unpaid, but are generally offered by an employer or institution for a specific amount of time. Most are considered entry level. Although university internships were traditionally offered to undergrad or grad students, there are colleges who open internships to high school students. Research the availability at local universities, as this is a growing trend. For a hands-on, experiential learner, an internship might be an excellent next step. If interning seems like a good fit for your young adult, consider the points made in this US News and World Report article

There is great possibility several paths and means will overlap. For example, the Creative may also be the Intern, learning alongside or assisting a concert musician, graphic artist, or professional photographer. And, the Intern may also be the Scholar, gaining cutting-edge skill in a science or engineering field. 

Remember, these are not the only possibilities for today's young adults. Just as all young adults are unique, so will be their high school paths and future plans. Not every high schooler will follow the same learning route, nor will they have the same next right steps. With a changing economy, growing knowledge base, and evolving ability for satellite employment, there are ever-growing career opportunities. 

I wonder what those will be for our young adults?  

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

When Holidays Bring Sensory Challenges and Worries

Cinnamon scents. Bustling shoppers. Joyous music. Holiday visitors. Schedule changes. Lights blinking.

Holidays can be a sensory, anxiety-ridden nightmare for some children. 

The holidays can be frustrating for children sensitive to sensory stimulation or anxious thoughts. Add holiday spontaneity and change of routine to the mix and there's a potential recipe for outbursts, breakdowns, and tantrums, making for a less than pleasurable holiday season.

Fortunately, there are practical helps parents can use to lessen the stress of a season.

Anticipate. Children can quickly become overwhelmed by the sights, smells, sounds, textures and emotions of holiday festivities. In addition, anxious feelings--the unknown why, how, what, who, and when--may add additional concerns. Pondering the possibilities for your family's holiday activities and schedule may be extremely helpful in preventing holiday meltdowns. Are there events, activities, or food items which could easily be eliminated to make the season less stressful? Could limiting or staggering activities and visits with known triggers be advantageous? Three common elements to anticipate: 

  • Interpersonal interactions. Holiday visiting can be stressful. Some children worry about talking to guests. Others are concerned they won't know the guests and therefore feel uncomfortable. Knowing your child's unique thinking pattern, anticipating his or her concerns, and helping to process feelings associated with those apprehensions are beneficial in beating holiday anxieties. One way to coach a child through interpersonal fears is to prepare ahead of time. Talk about who will or won't be at an event. Processing thoughts and feelings often helps to reduce anxiousness and over time offers children life skills to work toward self-regulation. I know parents who chose to host a holiday party in the child's home where the safety and familiarity of home helps lessen anxiety. Being in the home, the child has the ability retreat to a quiet place for a short time, if needed. This is a great option for some families. Demanding interpersonal communication is generally not the best solution and could actually bring on guilt. Many children who struggle with anxious thoughts are able to conceptualize the cause and effect of not communicating. In fact, they often understand that not talking to or acknowledging a person could have relational consequences. As a result, they may feel guilty about their inability to communicate. And, what about those unexpected visitors? When an unexpected visitor comes to the home, a child who is anxious around people but feels safe knowing the parent will respond if needed, will eventually be able to work through the uncomfortable feelings. As the child experiences his or her ability to regulate his or her anxiety, confidence and resilience grows. In turn, the child becomes better able to regulate through--even predict--anxious times. 
  • Sensory input. The holidays are packed with sensory experiences--sound, texture, smell, taste, and emotions. Knowing which sensory triggers may upset a child can be helpful when planning and scheduling. For example, three hours of light sighting may be too much, while driving by a few houses to and from normal errands might be more enjoyable. 
  • Food sensitivities. Holidays include yummy foods. Monitoring sugar, food dyes, and caffeine--which become stimulants in some children--may  be helpful. In children with heightened sensitives and anxiety, these items can be doubly troublesome. Talking with your children about how these things make them feel--shaky, jittery, nervous, heart-racing--they may be more likely to understand how to make better food choices. Again, this is another step in providing empowerment to children who tend toward anxious thoughts and actions. Pondering daily triggers offers insight to potential holiday obstacles. If your gluten-sensitive child is invited to a Christmas party, consider sending an alternative treat option. If your family has been invited to Grandma's house and you know there will be a vast selection of soda pop, consider bringing a beverage your child enjoys to add to the collection. We have also used these occasions to help our children process options prior to arriving. These conversations include talking about how to choose wisely, offering insight to how a particular food has caused a trigger reaction in the past, and brainstorming solutions to how to react graciously should certain foods be served. 

Prepare. Preparation is powerful. Talking with children ahead of time--in the car on the way to an event or offering time for children to share concerns the night before a big day--can help ward off anxiety and and stress. Knowing the schedule of events--for some children--can ward off anxiety. However, if your child can only comprehend small chunks, preparation may be your constant companion. Talking through upcoming events--or events which have passed--models for a child how he or she can begin to learn to self-prepare. With preparation, outbursts from over stimulation may be avoided. 

Observe. When the parent intentionally observes behavior and considers how that behavior may be related to particular situations, the parent is able to help a child not only process and work through the situation but also help the child recognize personal triggers. Knowing the triggers, the parent can further help a child work with those triggers to lower anxious thoughts. 

Limit. Let's face it, all of us--children and adults--have a tipping point, a point when holiday festivities become stressful. Consider the challenges your child faces on a daily basis. Perhaps there is a heightened awareness to smell or lighting. Maybe there is a sensitivity to food dyes or even anxious feelings around strangers. Use those daily challenges as a guide for what might have to be limited during the holiday season and plan accordingly. 

Model (self-regulation, self-control). My children--all of them--have benefited from my purposeful external processing. In other words, when I find myself in a situation which requires self-regulation or control, I process my thinking. For example, if we are visiting another family's home for a holiday dessert, while on the car ride to the home, I might say, "When I arrive at Mrs. Smith's home, I know she will have many yummy desserts to choose from. I will be tempted to sample everything. Instead, I am going to choose the two desserts I would most enjoy. And, I must also remember that nuts give me headaches. So, I probably will not choose anything with nuts, even if it is my favorite." This type of processing allows children opportunities to "hear" how other people process through decisions but also how people regulate or control their choices.

Sleep. It is easy to overload the holidays, staying up late to make the most of the hours in our days. In addition, with the excitement, children--like adults--are often fearful they will miss something should they fall asleep. The results are wide-eyed children awake long after the regular bed time. Being overtired can heighten sensitivities. When looking over the holiday schedule, consider how many late nights your family will be able to handle. Remember, children are not the only ones who will benefit by making sure sleep is a priority. 

We will not be able to ward off every potential challenge for our children. However, creating an environment--even during the holiday season--where children feel safe and listened to will help them overcome low to moderate levels of sensory stimulation or anxiety. When in fact, reality brings an unexpected--or even an anticipated--stressful situation, helping children process through the challenge will allow them to learn how to self-regulate. This learning is not only a welcomed treat during the holiday season, but also a life gift. 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Fun for FREE Plus Extras!

We all need mid-year boosts--teachers, parents, and learners! 

Celebrate Simple is all about encouraging and equipping parents and families; adding spring in your winter steps! 

We have created several winter-themed, inter-related learning resources for your family--all ages preschool to adult. The contents of each resource is related but nothing is duplicated. 

Our first FREE winter resource is FREE to subscribers! If you are a current subscriber, you will receive this resource in the next newsletter. If you haven't yet subscribed, please do! We would love for you to have this handy, practical winter-themed unit. The contents are related to all of our NEW winter items listed below. The content of Simple Winter Family Fun includes

  • conversation starters for family members of all ages,
  • winter-themed book lists for preschool through high school, 
  • practical ideas for family team building,
  • learning activities for Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (different from those included in Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Snowflakes),
  • a four-year plan worksheet for families walking the home education high school journey, 
  • winter-related spelling words with fun spelling practice ideas, and
  • math practice for patterning, counting by fives, and solving word problems.

Our second FREE winter resource can be found in our FREE RESOURCES tab. Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Snowflakes is a shorter math study similar to Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Parks and Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Nature. Click on FREE RESOURCES to download your copy!

Our third winter resource is intended to extend the learning in the above units.  The snowflake blank book and foam snowflakes are available in the store. The self-adhesive snowflakes can be use for sorting, counting, adding, and multiplication. When littles are finished sorting and counting, the snowflakes can be used to make a counting or addition book.

Finally, we are offering a winter special which includes all of the above resources AND a Magiscope! This sturdy, metal microscope has been a favorite in our home for twenty-two years and comes with a lifetime warranty! Our scope was a Christmas gift to our oldest son from his gandparents! 

Whether your winter will be spent outdoors making snow forts or indoors wishing it would snow, refresh the mid-year, winter blahs with some fun new ideas and resources. We would love for your family relationships to grow and for this to be your best winter EVER!

Remember, every moment matters when using what is intentional, real, and relational! 

Snowflake Bentley, Magiscopes, and More!

The wonders of winter all wrapped up snug in this Winter Special!

Winter Special!
179.00 185.00

Winter Special includes one Magiscope (specimens not included), one copy of Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, a blank book and foam snowflake shapes, and a digital copy of Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Snowflakes. 

Quantity:
Add To Cart

The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part III

How are elective credits documented?

The answer to this question depends on your state's home education law as well as what college or university choices find their way on your learner's "top ten" list. Your family's record keeping methods will also factor into answering this question. This was definitely the case for our family.

For our family, if a learner has a distinctive interest or an extraordinary gifting--something they naturally spend a good amount of time researching and learning (for us 75 hours for a half credit and 120+ hours for a full credit)--we count if for credit. I personally do not label or flag courses as core or elective on our transcripts (I do however flag dual enrollment, CLEP, or courses taken at other accredited entities). Too many colleges access transcripts differently to flag core and elective courses. What one considers a core course, an academic elective, or an elective another will classify differently. 

As a learner is actively involved in the the learning process, I keep a bullet point list of the concepts learned or experiences completed on a digital document. From that bullet list, I can write an accurate title and course description should we need it for university admission or scholarship applications. Once the course is complete, I add the title, grades, and credit to the transcript--a one-page snapshot of the young adults academic record.

Elective courses often set one young adult learner apart from another, especially if potential applicants have similar, cookie-cutter type elective credits. 

What strengths, interests, or giftings do your learners have which might equate to credit. Some of the courses our learners have completed include Care and Concerns of the Elderly; Drafting and Drawing; Competitive Gaming; Business and Entrepreneurial Principles; Introduction to Early Childhood Education; Nutrition and Health for Disease Prevention; and Interpersonal Relationships. These off-the-beaten-path have proven to give our now adult children life skills they may not have received otherwise. 


Life skills + high school electives = WIN! for preparation beyond the turning of the tassel


 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part II

In Part 1, I offered helpful tips about finding and recording elective credits. 

Perhaps that post prompted another question,

"What are some common titles for elective credit in high school?"

Before considering titling, one must understand the difference between core and elective courses. In addition, understand that these are terms used in the educational world. As home educators, it has helpful for us to understand "education-eze" as well as what is and isn't required by our state statutes. It has been equally helpful to know that colleges use "education-eze". Though some colleges and universities are hiring home education admission personnel, some admission advisers at other institutions are not always versed in the statute requirements.

Common terminology includes:

Core courses are courses which must be taken or are required for graduation. Typically, core courses are English, math, social science, and natural sciences. In addition, some schools will require additional credit--in addition to the core content areas--to be taken in world languages, the arts, computer science, and physical education. 

Electives are courses students chose to take. Electives allow a learner to customize his or her education, to build on a strength or interest, or to investigate content not yet studied in other courses. It is the elective courses which often strengthen the high school transcript and round out the student while also telling employers and admissions about the interests and strengths of the learners.

Some educational entities use the term academic electives for admissions. An academic elective is a core course taken above and beyond the required academic courses in that discipline. For example, if a leaner completes the three math courses required for graduation (or admission) in the mathematics core academic area--let's say Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II--but decides to take another academic math course from the core choices--Trigonometry--the fourth course could be considered an academic elective, if the educational venue recognizes academic electives. 

When I wrote the first edition (who remembers that first spiral-bound resource?) Celebrate High School I included a sample list of potential course titles--both core and elective. When I published my extensive revision in 2015, I expanded my list based on our experience and the experience of those with whom we work. For this post, I am pulling potential elective course titles from that 2015 revised list. I am NOT including courses most often considered core academics--for example, Calculus or British Literature--though those core courses could be used as electives--and often are by home educating families. 

English electives (when not considered part of the core content English I, English II, English III, and English IV)

  • Shakespearean Theater
  • Greco-Roman Theater
  • Short Stories
  • Poetry (perhaps of a specific historical era)
  • Writing for Print and Publication
  • Creative Writing
  • Yearbook
  • Digital Publishing
  • Ancient Languages
  • Biblical Studies: Old Testament
  • Biblical Studies: New Testament

Communication electives

  • Speech (this course is often considered a core course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Competitive Speech
  • Impromptu Speech
  • Expository Speech
  • Policy Debate
  • Lincoln Douglas Debate
  • Media Productions

Mathematics electives

  • Personal Finance (this course is often considered a required course for some schools but an elective for others)

Social science electives

  • Comparative Government
  • Introduction to Law
  • Mock Trial
  • Constitutional Law
  • Independent Study: Foreign Policy
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Psychology (this course is often considered a core course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Family and Consumer Science 
  • Contemporary World Issues
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • Independent Study: The Korean War
  • Medieval History
  • Introduction to Social Work
  • Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • World Religions
  • Theology
  • Church History
  • Internship: Youth Ministry

Science electives

  • Environmental Science
  • Animal and Agricultural Sciences
  • Introduction to Agriscience
  • Equine Science
  • Equine Medicine
  • Introduction to Veterinary Science
  • Introduction to Forestry
  • Botany
  • Astronomy
  • Introduction Aerospace Science
  • Forensics
  • Introduction to Health Sciences

Performing/Fine Arts electives

  • Introduction to Drama
  • Musical Theater
  • Art History (perhaps add a historical era)
  • Art Appreciation
  • Choreography
  • Dance Technique (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Competitive Dance
  • Introduction to Ball Room Dance
  • Stagecraft
  • Set Design
  • Theater Production
  • Two-Dimensional Art
  • Three-Dimensional Art
  • Sculpture
  • Ceramics
  • Drawing and Painting
  • Cartooning and Caricature
  • Printmaking
  • Pottery
  • Creative Photography
  • Digital Photography
  • Band
  • Orchestra
  • Symphonic Band
  •  Wind Ensemble
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Keyboard
  • Piano
  • Music Theory (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Music History (perhaps add a historical era)
  • Music Appreciation

Physical education electives

  • Personal Fitness (this course is often considered a required course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Nutrition and Wellness
  • Physical Education  (this course is often considered a required course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Aerobics (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Volleyball
  • Competitive Swimming
  • Water Polo
  • Lifesaving
  • Advanced Lifesaving
  • Team Sports
  • Recreational Sports
  • Beginning Weights (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Weight Training (often accompanies sports training) 
  • Sports Psychology
  • Introduction to Sports Medicine
  • Sports Rehabilitation

Business education electives

  • Accounting
  • Marketing 
  • Advertising and Sales
  • Principles of Entrepreneurship
  • Banking and Finance
  • Business Principles
  • Foundational Principles of Small Business
  • Business Technology

Computer science electives

  • Computer Fundamentals
  • Programming (consecutive courses: Programming I, Programming II)
  • Introduction to Computer Systems
  • Computer Construction and Repair
  • Keyboarding
  • Word Processing
  • Graphic Design
  • Digital Design
  • Web Design
  • Digital Arts
  • Computer Gaming 

Home economics electives

  • Fashion Design
  • Textiles and Fabrics
  • Clothing Construction and Textiles
  • Machine Sewing
  • Quilting and Applique
  • Interior Design
  • Introduction to Early Childhood Education
  • Nutrition
  • Principles in Food Preparation
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Pastry
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Desserts
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Main Courses
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Appetizers
  • Introduction to Culinary Arts
  • Introduction to Pastry
  • Cake Decorating
  • Home and Automotive Repair
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Emergency Preparedness

Vocational trade electives

  • Cosmetology
  • Cabinet Making
  • Carpentry
  • Trim and Finish Carpentry
  • Masonry
  • Landscaping
  • Horticulture
  • Floral Design
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Building Design and Architecture
  • Drafting
  • Technical Drawing
  • Plumbing
  • Welding
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Diesel Mechanics
  • Small Engine Repair
  • Electronics and Circuitry 

When our young adults are reading, working on research, studying content, or participating in an experiential opportunity, I search for potential titles in the course codes for our state. If I can't find a title or course content in that resource which is close to what our learners are studying, I search for high school courses (or in some cases college courses) from across the nation. Those resources usually allow me to find a title--or at least give me a springboard--which accurately describes the content being learned. 


 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part I

What about elective credits?

Mike and I field this question often. 

The short response?  

There are endless possibilities to potential elective credits. 

If your high school student is enrolled in a public or private school, be sure to check the school's offerings. Choices vary for each school. 

If you are home educating the high school journey, know your state statute and graduation requirements as well as how they apply to home educated students. Find out if your state allows parents the freedom and responsibility to create core or elective courses. This is important because some states require home educated students to take only courses offered in the state. Other states give parents the ability to oversee the child's education, hence the creation and oversight of classes, should the family choose that path. Your state statute requirements will provide what is required of the parent and of your student as well and therefore shed light upon the possibilities available to the family.

For those who are home educating and have the ability to choose elective credits, consider:

The life-goals (if known) of your learner. For some high schoolers, they will have a clear understanding and direction for what they will pursue after high school graduation. Others young adults are still discovering their interests and therefore, their life goals. The good news is there is no right time for a learner to decide next steps after graduation.

If there isn't a clear path, prepare for the broadest possibilities.  Be careful not to short change the young adult. 

For those learners who do have an inkling of what they want to do, move in that direction while keeping a broad perspective. Be ready for change.

For example, perhaps your learner aspires to be a veterinarian. One or our learners thought this career path might be a possibility. Our next right step was to consider talking with professionals in the field and then preparing for a job shadowing experience or volunteer opportunity. We considered several venues: a vet's office, a local clinic, and the animal shelter. The process involved conversations about what questions might be helpful should an opportunity come available to talk with a veterinarian. Helpful questions included:

  • What universities are considered optimal for this profession?
  • What are the potential degree and career paths for this profession?
  • What classes or experiences were most helpful in the education process? 
  • What are the specialty ares of this field of study?
  • What would you, as a professional, recommend for a young adult pursuing this career?

While on-site, we encourage our learners to find ways to bring value to the host. This might include offering to fold clean towels. It might include offering to empty trash cans. We also encourage our young adults to observe office practices. Along these lines, we suggest visiting several offices, and include specialty areas. In the case of veterinary medicine, specialties may include veterinary oncology or ophthalmology. Visiting specialty offices allows the learner to compare and contrast care and office practices. These experiences may allow the learner to narrow his or her field of study while earning high school electives--in this case Introduction to Veterinarian Medicine. 

Experiential learning in high school is as valuable as in the elementary and middle school years. 

The admission requirements of the learner's top choice universities. This consideration is--from our experience--extremely important and often overlooked due to the belief that the cost of the education is beyond the reach of the family or the location is too far from home. Mike and I encourage parents and young adults to put EVERY potential school on the list of consideration, even if attendance seems out of reach for some reason. We know learners who desired to attend private, out-of-state schools who eventually were awarded full, four-year tuition, either by merit or in one situation, a drawing at a college fair! 

The interests of your learner. I find it ironic that we (as a community of parents) encourage young children and elementary age learners to explore their interests, yet as the middle and high school years loom on the horizon, the tune often changes. When it does, students, parents, and educators tend to concentrate on core courses (with good reason) while pushing strengths and giftings to the side. Yet, often those strengths and giftings are the very elements which learners need to be successful adults--not to mention reduce the stress of some tougher core courses. Wouldn't it be wonderful if--during the middle and high school years--students, parents, and teachers could find ways for learners to complete required courses while also engaging in and exploring interests and strengths? 

As home education evaluators and consultants, Mike and I have seen AMAZING outcomes for young adults who have had opportunities to complete required core courses (and therefore be eligible for college admission at schools of their choice) while also delving into areas of interest. 

Our third high schooler continued to build the business she started in middle school. In doing so, she was able to complete core courses while also learning important small business skills: crafting inventory, budgeting and filing taxes, investigating advertising, setting up a website, and showcasing inventory at craft shows and expos. In addition, she was able to purchase her own clothing, save money, and tithe to church. 

The current life season of your family. When my grandmother was terminally ill, we spent four months visiting and researching facilities--navigating pros and cons of each--as Gram's needs changed. In addition, we visited Grammy three times a week, caring for her and connecting with her "friends" in each facility. We talked with care workers about what they did and how they obtained their education and professional licensing. As evaluation time rolled around, I couldn't even begin to remember all we did. But, my high schooler did! In fact, she asked whether all she had taken part in and learned could be used for credit. GREAT question! And after discussing all she learned and researching high school and college course equivalent to what she completed, I titled the course Cares and Concerns of the Elderly. Definitely an eye-catcher on her transcript. You can read more about how this course came about in this blog post. 

What situations are upon your family? How can those normal, every day (or every ten years) opportunities become credit? For example, if you're painting your house, your learners are learning how to calculate the amount of paint needed, research paint types, buy good tools (good quality tools make the job go well), use and care for tools properly, run a pressure washer, trim paint small areas, roll on paint, clean rollers and brushes, and store tools so they can be in good condition for the next project. The list is endless. As we tackle painting the outside of our home this week, I stepped up our ladder thinking, this is real-life home economics (though in the past I titled the course home maintenance and repair). If you need to tackle a home project and don't know where to begin, model for your children how to find an expert in the field (read more about this here) or search for an online tutorial. These are important research skills your learners will need in life. 

What are the elective possibilities for your young adult? Begin looking at what the learner is already doing. Consider their interests and strength. In addition, look at your family's life season and circumstances as well as the admission requirements of the young adult's top college choices. These areas will shed light on the vast possibilities for high school electives. 

A last note for consideration...

What about excessive credits? 

As Mike and I have worked with families over the past twenty-three years, there have been a few cases in which a student has earned excessive credits--more than 35 credits! In other words, the reader of the transcript would wonder if the learner ever slept. However, this has been only a few scenarios. In those situations, parents were able to include content from one course into another already existing course without the accusatory credit inflation. 

In mentioning excessive credits, it has been typical for homeschooled students to earn more credits than the average student. This is acceptable if indeed the credit is not inflated. 

 

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

Legacy: Learning Alongside

It's that time again. Time to paint the exterior of our house.

Who is the first person I consult, to find out what needs to happen first, then second, and so on?

My Dad is a carpenter genius.

He can fix anything! 

I remember when I came to this conclusion.

I was an elementary girl, a constant companion alongside my Dad in his wood shop. In that shop, he created from wood, sometimes the wood from trees near our home. He made dining room chairs, grandfather clocks, hutches, and my toy box!  


Our kitchen--the one in which I prepare meals for my family--was crafted in his mind and made with his hands. 


He is my Dad, but he is also a mentor. He is a mentor for me and for my children. We learn from his genius. 

He has helped us with many home projects--roofing, kitchen and bathroom demo and design, home add-ons.

But this time was different.

I am beginning to realize my time, our time with my Dad--the time from which I can soak in all he has to share--might be limited.

I want to soak in all the wisdom I can, and I want my children to have the same opportunity. 

So, last week began our house painting project. It was a PROJECT!


Simple paint and brushes, but a TON of work and perseverance. 


Pressure washing to finish, prep to fill cracks, trim work to be painted, shutters to be covered, and brushes to clean. But we did it as a family--grandpa, parents, and children! Together.

Each person quickly found they were better at one job than another. And, for some there were skills to learn. Some learned to trim paint, others practiced rolling. Some found joy cleaning brushes--I mean, playing in water!  I realized my children were learning alongside my Dad--a legacy--much like when I learned by his side in the wood shop, alongside him when we added-on to our house. I want my children to learn all they can from him. 

Indeed, every child--toddler to adult--learned something this week. Some heard and then imitated my Dad's positive attitude. Others learned how to hang a roller on the side of a paint can. Another observed how Pop angled the brush to paint the mortar joints. 


It was a PROJECT with lots of real learning, from a man who is leaving a legacy. 


As I painted, I wondered. 

What legacy I will leave with my children.

Will it be the books we read together? Will it be the cheesecakes we baked together? Will it be my positive comments and words of encouragement or the "be a blessing" I spoke as they left the house? Will it be something I couldn't have fathomed, something which has yet to take place? 

I don't know what legacy I will leave with my children. But I do know one thing. The time, effort, sacrifice--the intentionality of my days--will matter. I know so. I learned that from my Dad (and my mom, to be honest)! 

Parents, we will leave a legacy.

What will that legacy be? 

Likely, it will be something you and I did intentionally, with items which are real and personal, with moments which are relational in nature.  

Our moments matter, every one of them.

Preschooling, Naturally

Preschool is foundational for life and learning. In fact, it is during the preschool years that little learners master foundational skills which serve as a base for later learning. More importantly, attitudes and temperaments toward learning are set during the preschool and early elementary years. If learning is rushed--pushed--it becomes burdensome, hard, uninteresting, and often irrelevant. When learning flows naturally from that which is real and relational--interesting and personal--there is joy and wonder which leads to unending curiosity.

A love of learning is nurtured and begins with the items and people little learners love most.

How is a love of learning fostered, nurtured, and cultivated?

Read aloud. Reading aloud has been one of the most rewarding activities we've done in our 27 years of teaching and parenting littles. There are so many benefits to reading aloud: setting a template for the English language, building vocabulary, bolstering listening skills, understanding parts of a story, retelling events, the list goes on. Interestingly, there have been times when our little learners are seemingly off in their own world--playing, stacking blocks, coloring. However, when we talk about the stories hours later, they remember EVERY word. So, as you embark on the read aloud journey, read even when you think your learners are not engaged. Your reading matters! They are listening. 

Play pretend. Preschoolers learn by imagining and doing, by role playing and creating dialogue in relaxed and uninterrupted environments. Pretend play utilizes the senses and engages the mind, building language and thinking skills. Even as young as eighteen months old, little learners can be found feeding baby dolls, talking on pretend telephones, and mixing marvelous meals in a play kitchen. What's needed? Props! Some of our favorite pretend play items have been:

  • measuring cups and spoons
  • calculators, adding machines, and toy cash registers
  • dress up clothes and hats, backpacks and purses
  • fabric pieces or old costumes
  • magnifying glasses and binoculars
  • rulers, tape measures, protractors, and shape stencils
  • aprons,chef hats, pretend food, and dishes
  • stuffed animals and dolls
  • receipt books, stickers, and play money
  • old telephones, computer keyboards, and monitors
  • puppets and make-shift card table theaters 

Enjoy games. Playing games allows children to learn important life skills, naturally, in a relaxed (assuming there is not an over competitive) environment. While playing, littles learn turn taking, deferment to another person, waiting for others to make decisions or complete a turn, as well as a multitude of cognitive skills. Our favorite preschool learning games include:

  • BINGO (number recognition 1-75)
  • Matching cards (similarities and differences)
  • Dominoes (matching similarities, quantity recognition 1-6, counting 1-6)
  • Scrabble Junior (letter recognition, introductory phonics, initial consonant sounds)
  • Uncle Wiggly (number recognition 1-100, counting)
  • Guess Who?
  • Hi-Ho Cherry-O (early counting, addition and subtraction concepts)
  • Barrel of Monkeys (GREAT for motor skills!)
  • Busy Bee (an oldie but goodie introduced to us by great-grandma)
  • Rivers, Roads, and Rails (another oldie by goodie)
  • Hopscotch (great for motor skills)
  • Simon Says (listening and following directions)
  • Checkers (thinking skills)

Do life together. One of the things I love about parenting preschoolers is watching their faces light up, indoors and outdoors, around the home and away from home. Every moment is a marvel, especially when preschoolers are engaged in doing life with those they love. Getting the mail might lead to a conversation about stamps, addresses, states, or modes of transportation. Setting the table teaches one-to-one correspondence. Folding laundry offers opportunities to make fractional parts by folding in half and in half again. Matching shoes and sorting toys provides real-life situations for identifying similarities and differences. And, there are those kitchen experiences, some of our favorites: measuring, comparing, weighing (math skills) as well as muscle skills, scrubbing potatoes, stirring, and kneading together. Doing life together allows preschoolers to learn alongside

Talk and listen. Preschoolers are relational. They want to engage in face-to-face conversation and hand-in-hand exploration. When we talk to our children, listen to their questions, concerns, and ideas, we model interpersonal skills and they learn how to process information, feelings, and emotions.These skills are some of the most valuable nuggets our little learners will internalize in their early years. 

Ask questions. It is no secret that little learners are natural questioners. They wonder what will happen next, how things happen, and when things will happen. It is in this inquisitiveness that they learn how life and people work, interact, and interrelate. Questioning is one of the most important life skills parents can foster and nurture. Mike and I foster inquisitiveness with commentaries and questions which invite our children to do the same. 

  • I wonder how the (insert animal) stays warm.
  • What comes next in the sequence?  
  • I wonder if (insert item) will work better with this or that.
  • Do you think will happen next?
  • I wonder where that trail leads.
  • Let's watch the (insert animal). I wonder what it will do next. 
  • How long do you think it will take to ...?

Looking for a guide, a resource to encourage you through the preschooling years? One of my favorite resources for understanding the needs of little learners was Home Grown Kids by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Once our children entered first grade The Three R's by Ruth Beechick became a go-to resource. 

The preschool years are the wonder years, full of life and discovery, ripe with curiosity.

When learning flows naturally from that which is real and relational--interesting and personal--retention follows closely behind. 

 

 

 

4 Ways to Keep Holidays Simple

Holidays are fast approaching. I can feel them coming at us full speed. In fact, parades, recitals, concerts, plays, cookie exchanges, and mom's night out are already on the calendar. Children are begging to start holiday baking and decorating. EEK! 

Perhaps you feel like I do as the holidays approach. 

How can the focus of the holidays remain in focus, not crowded by commercialism and comparison? How can days be simplified so relationships are strengthened, not strained? What if really boils down to for our family is,

How can be keep the holidays intentional, real, and relational? 

First. Discuss Priorities. Mike and I set time aside to talk about what the current year's priorities will be. The early years of our marriage found us considering how we would incorporate traditions from both sides of the family. The more recent years have been refreshing as we included children and young adults into the conversation. Their insights and what they felt was important or what they wanted to experience was often different than what Mike and I were considering. In the many seasons of our marriage and family life, the priorities changed slightly, often dependent on whether we welcomed a new baby (we had two December babies), tried to keep active toddlers out of the Christmas cookie dough and decorations, or whether family would travel into town. 

Second. Set Realistic Expectations on the Priorities. Our family has enjoyed making gifts and goodies to give to others. We have also enjoyed serving. However, we have had to consider the ages and stages of our children. If our goal was to bake cookies for the neighbors, I had to decide if I would rather them be a part of the baking--realizing there may be a flour blizzard--or if it might be better to bake while they took a nap. Years when we went to look at Christmas lights with toddlers who didn't particularly like the car, we chose displays closer to home.

Third. Don't Overload the Schedule. WOW! I learned this one the hard way! I am an extrovert who loves people and adventure. I had our family coming and going 24/7. Toddlers missed naps. Children bounced from too much hot chocolate and cookies. Over the years I learned it is better for us to do fewer things well and make great memories than filling every day and night with parties, musical events, and crafts. Children can't enjoy or remember the holidays if they are a whir and blur of hustle and bustle. And, children with tendencies toward sensory or anxiety challenges may crumble before their parents very eyes. It just isn't worth the chaos and stress of overloading the calendar. Lord willing, there will be more years to come.

Fourth. No Guilt Downsizing. There are definitely times in our twenty-seven years of parenting where we had to downsize the holiday and I constantly reminded myself it was okay. There was not harm done if we had to set up a table top tree instead of the eight foot monster. The table top tree kept the toddler out of the tree and I kept my sanity! Mike and I had to decide what was important for our family in any given year and then stand confident to ward off guilt.

It is important to remember, one mom's simple is not another mom's simple. And, simple may look different in different mothering seasons. Define priorities, set realistic goals and expectations, and don't overload the schedule. Do the holidays at your pace, considering life's circumstances and the needs around you. Read a few extra books. Look your children in the eyes, enjoy a conversation, and pull them close for a hug. 

Holidays, like every day, can be intentional, real, and relational. Those are the holidays my children remember, and I am pretty sure yours will, too!

 

Preschooling, Intentionally

Life is learning. Learning and life go hand-in-hand, everyday!

Learning is the natural outcome of everyday living, especially for little learners. With a few intentional questions here and a purposeful explanation there, preschoolers can learn naturally from walking alongside older siblings and significant adults. Through everyday experiences, preschoolers gain a jump start to mastering foundational cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual life skills.  By the time the young learner blows out six candles on the birthday cake, significant progress toward mastery of foundational skills has likely been made.

Math

  • Identify colors
  • Understand and demonstrate one-to-one correspondence
  • Make sets of 1 to 5 objects
  • Identify sets of 1 to 5 objects
  • Associate a number with a set of objects
  • Recognize numerals 1 to 10
  • Recognize and draw simple shapes--circle, square, rectangle, and triangle
  • Count to 20 orally
  • Recognize similarities and differences in objects (Comparison is a foundational pre-number skill.)
  • Recognize and identify coins (This is an easy one. I haven't met a little learner who isn't interested in how much money is in his or her piggy bank. Capitalize on this interest by sorting, counting, and identifying.)
  • Identify tools of measure (Tools of measure include thermometers, speedometers, scales, Knowing the purpose of each is important to later math skills.)

Language

  • Recite the alphabet (Why not sing the alphabet song while jumping up and down.)
  • Recognize letters
  • Recognize similarities and difference in letter formation
  • Recognize similarities and differences in sounds
  • Speak in complex sentences
  • Hold a book and track from left to right (One of the best natural ways to learn this skill is by modeling others, doing as they do. As you read aloud, trace a finger under the words, working from left to right, top to bottom.) 
  • Retell a story (This is a foundational skill for reading comprehension and vital for auditory processing.)
  • Follow a two-step direction
  • Hold a pencil with correct grip
  • Write lower and upper case letters (There are so many ways to learn letter formation. Some of our favorites are writing in shaving cream on a bathroom wall while taking a bath, finger painting on easel paper, forming letters in a salt tray, and writing with a stick in the mud. 
  • Spell first name
  • Recognize cause and effect (Offering explanations if every day cause and effect will help your little learner do the same. If we leave the door open, kitty will run out. If we put all the cold groceries together they will help each other stay cold until we get home.)

Science

  • Recite phone number and address (This is a safety life skill. While learning this information we explain to our children why they may need it: emergency, calling 911.)
  • Name basic colors
  • Identify living and non-living
  • Identify parts of a plant: roots, stem, leaf, flower, pedal
  • Make simple predictions
  • Develop observation skills
  • Form questions and find solutions

Social Sciences

  • Order daily activities
  • Locate home state on a United States map
  • State the significance of and the similarities and differences between people who work in the community: police, firefighters, librarians, grocers, etc.
  • Learn left, right, straight, and diagonal (When entering your neighborhood, speak the directions as you drive. For example, we turn right at the stop sign. We will turn left at the corner, and so on. Once you have repeated these directions several times going in and out of the community, ask your child to tell you how to get home using left and right.)
  • Identify basic geographical formations: river, mountain, cliff, ocean, and continent

Physical

  • Draw a person with a recognizable body
  • Use utensils properly
  • Catch a ball
  • Kick a ball
  • Run
  • Gallop
  • Skip
  • Use a scissors (Providing a cutting box, old magazines, or newspaper ads for cutting along lines and curves.)
  • Identify body parts. (Play Simon Says. Simon says touch your nose. Simon says touch your elbow.)
  • Walk a balance beam (Okay, so most of us don't have balance beams in our homes. However, there are curbs and lines to walk. See a line, seize the moment and walk, carefully as a tight rope walker does.)
  • Dress and undress
  • Personal responsibility (Taking care of oneself and the areas in which he or she works and plays. Tidy up the toy room. Use a tooth brushing chart to encourage consistent care.)

In the early years, our homes provide a place--a haven--where our children can gain a foundation for future cognitive, physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual health.

 

Preschooling- Relationally

People were made for relationship. Each of us, no matter the age, has the basic need for relationship--for other people who will care, listen, walk alongside. 

Children are no different.

Relationships are essential to a young child's development and academic success. 

The family provides the venue for this vitally important relational element to life and learning.

Learning together. Children learn best when learning alongside people who care greatest for them. Learning together might include reading a book snuggled on the couch or retelling a story and talking about the character's choices. Learning together can be writing letter or sending an email thank you to a family member or friend. Learning may also be writing numbers in fresh mud after a rain shower, marveling at minnows as they swim around a pond's edge, or listening to baby robins chirp for mama bird. Skills learned together are remembered. 

Work together. Children want to be a contributing part of a community. For small children, this begins in the family, working together to accomplish a task--perhaps emptying a dishwasher or making cookies for a sick friend. Working together sends the message, "We can do this together!" When working together in a family unit children come to understand that members--gifted differently--can contribute to a greater cause. In the family unit, children can be invited to join in, to solve problems together, and help a unified cause. Working together might mean raking leaves, pulling weeds, painting a fence, or planting a garden. Often working together also offers opportunity to build life skills and develop muscle strength. For example, wringing out sponges while washing the car not only results in a sparkly clean car, but builds muscle and motor skills. Children feel empowerment when they can contribute. The family is a perfect environment for contribution. 

Play together. Playing together offers natural opportunities to share, to defer to another person, to take turns. Playing with another person, especially one who can model sharing, turn-taking, and deference, invites children to move toward associative and cooperative play. For example, building play dough sculptures together allows for discussion and collaboration--co-laboring to create something new. Bouncing a ball back and forth develops motor skills but also provides opportunity to take turns and share. Some of our favorite play together times include swinging while singing a fun song, working puzzles, and playing board games. 

Eat together. Meal time is gathering time, time to talk about the events of the day, to verbalize the goodness in the moments of the day, together. What were the favorite moments? Which moments were the least favorite? Eating together not only provides for face-to-face conversation but also provides real situations for practicing table manners and deference toward other people.

Worship together. Worshiping together grows spiritual bonds. Singing together also allows children to experiment with their voices--highs, lows, louds and softs--or follow a tune and experiment with musical instruments--real or homemade (nothing like pots and pans). 


As I reflect on the the early years of our now adult children, I smile. Those days we spent reading aloud, observing the life cycles of butterflies, emptying the dishwasher, building block towers, preparing fraction sandwiches, and serving at church....MATTERED! Those moments of intentional interaction while living and learning together built--block by block--the foundation for the relationship my adult children and I enjoy today.  

A strong relational foundation prepares a child for life.

Three Ways to Gather Up Courage

Courage. 

That is what it takes for moms to make it through the day--for me to make it through the day!

As I am working with one learner--working through six long division problems to cement the steps--I am also caring for another little who had a tooth extracted earlier in the morning. There are dishes in the sink (just a few but they are weighing on me), laundry in the washer and laundry waiting to be folded. Oh, and a toddler needs lunch and dinner is shouting to be started.

In the midst of all this, I receive a text from a dear friend.

"How is your courage today?" 

At that moment--the moment when hurting gums, forgotten math steps, lingering dishes, and piles of laundry were closing in on me (at least it felt that way)--I needed that text. My courage was fading. I know I'm not the only mom whose courage fades now and then. For some of us, courage fades several times a day depending on our circumstances.

Do you know what was so special to me about that text I received?

The text from my sweet friend reminded me I had courage within me.

Courage is within me. My friend knew it. That is why she asked how my courage was; not if I had courage today.  Her question reminded me I had courage. I just had to gather it and persevere through the day. 

Dear mom with many facets to your day, how is your courage today?

Seriously, I know you have courage. It is there--just like mine, even if we don't feel it at the moment.

So, how do we proceed? 

How do we gather up our courage to persevere through the day?

Know. You are in good company. That's right! Every mom struggles with courage at some point--if not daily--in their motherhood journey. We soothe sick children, battle laundry wars, and fight mind games with dinner preparation. You, mom, are not alone in your frustrations or your discouragement. How could you connect with friends--maybe an impromptu visit to the playground or walk around the block-- who could remind you that you are not alone?

Admit. Yep! Admit fear. Admit discouragement. This morning when I woke, I acknowledged my fears for the day: how my daughter would react to the anesthesia, how I would orchestrate the day amid her recovery needs. Having acknowledged my fears and concerns, I was better prepared for what might come. Hence, as I was driving to the dentist with my daughter, I was able to listen to her nervous chatter and endless questions. Later, when she needed pain meds and soft foods amid math, diaper changes, and dryer buzzing, I was prepared mentally. I admitted my fears and later my discouragements and was better able to deal with the details of my day. 

Know. Know the why. As moms, why do we do what we do? For me, when I know the why behind anything I do--cleaning, cooking, running errands, reading aloud to children, offering kind words to Mike--I'm motivated to complete the task at hand, even when I know it will be hard. Knowing my why makes a difference. For example, I took my daughter to the dentist today (and reviewed math over and over with another) because I care deeply about their physical and academic well-being. That care for their well-being allowed me to sit on the dentist chair and hold my daughter's hand (our dentist is awesome) and it allowed me to sit and redo math problems even when other things clamored for my attention.


As moms, we all face challenge, difficulty, and pain. Many of us have also faced danger.  


Knowing I am in the amazing company of other moms who experience the same things I do, admitting my fears, concerns, and discouragements, and knowing the why behind what I was doing was essential to staying afloat. 

Did my courage begin to fade today?

Yes. Yes, and I did get discouraged mid-stream when my daughter needed care, laundry was shouting at me, math needed re-doing, and dinner wasn't more than a thought. However, my friend's text message was the reminder that I indeed had the courage in me, I just needed to gather it up. 

How is your courage today? 

I KNOW you have it in YOU!