Beating Afternoon Boredom

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Who doesn't battle afternoon boredom?

Let's not take a show of hands. Rest assured, my hand would be raised. 

You know the story. Three o'clock. Children squabbling. A high schooler STILL needs help with Algebra. And dinner? It's frozen on the counter! 

Afternoons can be hard. Yet, after years of beating afternoon boredom, I know the efforts I made toward defeating "I'm bored" syndromes--in myself as well as my children--mattered. In fact, hobbies launched and rediscovered interests became catalysts for entrepreneurial pursuits, high school courses, and career choices.

Beating afternoon boredom is worth every ounce of time and energy we can muster. 

At a recent mom's event, a group of ladies gathered after to ask me how our family beats the afternoon wearies. 

Our strategies varied with life seasons. 

When we had two eager, active boys, we: 

  • spent many afternoons outside. 
  • visited local parks. 
  • had Popsicle and wading pool parties--adding measuring cups, a bucket, and garden hose to change things up--as long as the weather allowed.
  • ran around outside playing with squirt guns.
  • played in the lawn sprinkler. Notice the hose and water trend?
  • read a book together while sitting on a blanket outside or on the couch inside.
  • took an afternoon bath with bubbles and wrote with shaving cream on the walls (great for practicing letter formation).
  • took nature scavenger hunts. 
  • played hopscotch or jumped rope. 
  • created with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. 
  • painted the garage door with water and paint brushes. 
  • tossed bean bags. 
  • bought a basketball hoop and gathered children from the neighborhood to play. 
  • played wiffle ball in the dead end street.
  • created with watercolors.
  • encouraged outdoor adventures and independent studies. 
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When we had lots of littles with a few bigs who needed afternoon help, we:

  • sat on the floor in the hallway across from the bathroom so I could supervise littles in the tub while also helping an older sibling with math or editing papers.
  • spread a blanket under a shade tree for afternoon tutoring while the littles rode bikes around the driveway or played hide-n-seek. 
  • listened to audio books, our favorites being Jim Weiss recordings and Your Story Hour, again while mom worked with the bigs.
  • offered play dough, pattern blocks, old magazines to cut, or watercolor paints. 
  • enjoyed playing in the sandbox while mom and older siblings sat nearby and completed math or mom edited papers. 
  • used masking tape to create a "village roadway" on the carpet so littles could build houses and garages for their toy cars and play "village". 
  • made a masking tape hopscotch on the carpet for littles to be active when weather wouldn't permit us to be outside. 
  • asked bigs to go on a date and take learning to new surroundings. 
  • discussed the plot and characters of a current read while running errands or taking a sibling to practice. 
  • encouraged bigs to work on independent studies. 
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When we had a menagerie of ages, we: 

  • enjoyed front porch read-aloud time. 
  • created with Lite Brite.
  • went to visit great-grandma. 
  • sat together on the couch and read books of interest. Farm study was always a favorite. 
  • took a teen or young adult on a date to talk about things that mattered to them. 
  • used a coupon and bought five pounds of clay at a local craft store. 
  • spent time at a local park or community swimming pool. 
  • made brownies for the elderly neighbor and went to visit. 
  • built a fort outside. 
  • dug a hole in the backyard (not my favorite or my idea, but it was sibling generated and encouraged collaboration and working together). 
  • made impromptu afternoon library runs. 
  • created something yummy in the kitchen, often to "surprise" Dad when he returned from work. 
  • made cards for family member's birthdays.
  • enjoyed spin art. 
  • cared for our porch science projects
  • spent the afternoon creating with watercolor. 
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Go ahead! Beat the afternoon boredom. YOU can do it! It will be worth your time and effort. 

And, in the process, your children and young adults will learn valuable life skills: time management; collaboration; communication and conflict resolution; work ethic; teamwork; working independently; and caring about others ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 

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!

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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. Many of these experiences make great activities for elective credits. 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. 

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.

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!

 

 

 

Dear Mom Who Worshipped in the Lobby

Dear Mom Who Worshiped in the Lobby This Week,

After spending many Sundays worshipping in lobbies with littles, you would think I could have a better attitude.

Well, today I forgot my years of wisdom and experience--the very things I would have told my younger momself when she came face-to-face with this morning. 

It all started with an escaping toddler who walked over three worshipers in our pew to get to the aisle. She had an escape plan, determined. 

I wasn't in the mood.

However, I followed my daugher because honestly, she had already disturbed three people and I didn't want to disrupt worship for anyone else. We scurried to the back sanctuary door as fast as her little feet could carry her. We eventually made it to the lobby.

I should clarify. 

I know where the nursery is located. 

However, for reasons which would make another blog post, toddler number eight spends Sunday morning with me. 

When we arrived in the lobby my daughter made a direct path to the checker game on the coffee table. At first she and I sorted checkers--light and dark colors. She smiled as she sorted and then placed each checker, one-by-one, in the provided draw string bag. I interacted with her while keeping an ear tuned to the worship audio feed. 

Ten minutes into our worship experience, my daughter calmly sorting, dumping, and stacking, I decided to step over to the coffee kiosk just arms length away. I selected a cup and filled it, leaving a half-inch for cream. All of a sudden, while moving my cup closer to the cream carton, I saw checkers flying through the air! Everywhere. In my haste to see where the checkers where landing, I tipped my cup and coffee flooded the coffee station. AND, at that very moment, with checkers still landing, my daughter decided to follow (read, run!) a small friend who had captured her attention. 

I retrieved my daughter and cleaned up the coffee. Together, she and I played checker hide-and-seek, looking in the nooks and crannys near the coffee table. As we searched, I counted checkers thinking surely I would have to make a quick trip to the local Target to buy another checkers set for the church. 

That's when my attitude slipped. 


"Why did I even come to church? I could've stayed home and cleaned my house!"


When calm returned to the situation, I thought about my mom friends--YOU--who spend Sunday mornings in church lobbies. If you are like me, you don't particularly like worshipping apart from your husband and family, yet for reasons likely unknown to others and unique to your family, you worship in the lobby.

Reflecting on my past experiences with lobby sitting and countless conversations with moms I've met while worshiping in the lobby, I pondered what I would tell my younger momself had I had an opportunity. I would tell Cheryl:

YOU are doing a great work. Mothering matters, but it may also be hard, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. You will turn bright shades of red when checkers fly and coffee spills. However, the time you spend mothering--every moment--will be worth the effort. Cheryl, your mothering matters not only today for your children but it also makes deposits for your future grandchildren. None of your mothering moments will be wasted, not even worshiping moments in church lobbies. 

The season is short. Cheryl, though life seems to stand still when your are in the middle of trial--when seams in socks cause tempers to flare and all the sippy cups are hiding somewhere in your house--you will someday be on the other side. Your children will be adults and you will have a different perspective. In fact Cheryl, that biter you are nurturing in the lobby today--the one you can't even fathom putting in the nursery--will indeed grow into an amazing, caring young adult who will love people well. Caring for people will be that adult child's life work! Someday you will reminisce on your seasons of lobby worship and realize those were special times, times which really did pass by quickly. 

Enjoy the one-on-one time. Cheryl, your toddlers will only climb in your lap for so long. Embrace the moments. Snuggle while listening to the sermon or read a board book. Those face-to-face moments--those heart moments--are precious. Don't wish them away!

Be prepared. Preparation will save your sanity. I know there will be mornings which will not go as planned. However, be intentional about preparing for times--including Sunday worship--when you may have to entertain a little unexpectedly. Consider filling the diaper bag the night before. Cheryl, some of the things I found helpful when I sat in the lobby were small snacks (quiet snacks, not crumbly), board books, a coloring book and crayons, and an educational card game. One of my children's favorites was Busy Bee, an old card game my grandmother gave us. 

Encourage another person. Cheryl, you are not alone! In fact, there might even be moms in the lobby with you. When there are, respect the moms who don't want to engage in conversation--they may be listening to the sermon--but also be open to engage and connect. There may be a mom sitting next to you sporting a coffee stained shirt and whose toddler has just tossed checkers around the lobby. That mom might need an encouraging smile, a warm hug, or a comforting complement. Camaraderie is important. 


Dear mom who worshipped in the lobby this week, YOU are not alone and your mothering moments matter. I was right there with you, yes in a different church, but I experienced the same thoughts and feelings.

One day you will be able to worship again with your family. In fact, someday when the young adult years are upon you, you may look down the pew filled with the friends your once-little-lobby-worshiper has invited to church.Three weeks ago, I had that experience.

My lobby moments mattered. YOURS will, too!

 

 

 

Light-Hearted Reads for Difficult Moments

Sometimes the only thing I know to do is pull them close and read aloud. 

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Difficult days. Napless afternoons. A sick grandma. Health issues. Flooded laundry room. Itchy mosquito bites. 

It had been a long day. We had accomplished math and worked on our family project for Christmas around the world night. Yet, I was determined. There was much to be done before our December baby was to due to be born.  On little sleep, I ventured out with four children to help them get their Christmas shopping done early. Honestly, my intentions were good.

Though the early afternoon was quite productive, mid-afternoon arrived with traffic jams, hungry tummies, and tears. I was overcooked and dinner hadn't even been started. 

I knew if I didn't hand out a few crackers for snack and gather the emotions, the night would continue to be difficult. 

I grabbed a sleeve of cheddar rounds from the pantry, asked the oldest to select two books from the book basket, and pulled teary-eyed littles to my lap (what was left of it). Two pages into the first book, emotions settled and crumbs accumulated on the couch cushions. 


Stories have power; power to calm attitudes, power to turn tears into smiles, power to smooth rough evenings. Stories pull people close and offer diversion.

Stories also bring understanding; understanding of emotions, understanding as to how to be a part of solutions, understanding of people, places and events. Stories bring perspective. 

Stories can lighten heaviness. At times, stories offer a metaphorical hand to hold through difficult seasons. For our family, a humorous light-hearted read invited us to chuckle through paragraphs when our days were heavy and sad in Grandma's last weeks.  In those times, stories helped lighten our heaviness, soothing hearts, souls, and minds. 

Stories help answer questions and bring clarity. We all have questions, children and adults.  In fact, a whole family may be trying to make sense of confusing, hurtful, or uncomfortable circumstances. In those times, stories can offer opportunities to see situations more clearly or from a different perspective. 

Stories help us know we are not alone. I remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows, written by Wilson Rawls, as a middle schooler after having a pet die. Knowing other children had been through and understood the loss of a pet, I no longer felt alone in my sadness. 

Have you had a difficult afternoon? Maybe a string of doctor visits have left your family exhausted, in need of fun and light-hearted humor.  Consider one of the fun reads below. One of these titles might just be an invitation to some down time, time away from stressful moments.

Picture Books

  • Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey
  • The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
  • Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney
  • Caps for Sale, Esphyr Slobodkina 
  • No Roses for Harry, Gene Zion
  • The Napping House, Audrey Wood

Chapter Books

  • Mr. Popper's Penguins, Richard and Florence Atwater
  • The Borrowers, Mary Norton
  • Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
  • The Cricket in Times Square, George Selden
  • The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson
  • Henry Huggins, Beverly Cleary
  • Homer Price, Robert McCloskey

Sometimes pulling the family close to enjoy a good story is needed in order to carry hearts, minds, and souls away from present difficulties. 

Every. Moment. Matters.

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A Story, A Masterpiece

Caught between the unfolding events, we wonder what will happen next?

What will the next paragraph reveal?

What light does this paragraph cast on the next chapter?

Our lives are eloquently-written classics, penned by the Author. We sit on the edge of today's paragraph waiting to see how today's actions will unfold and impact the rest of our story. It is a masterpiece!

I don't know about you, but I constantly remind myself not to be eager and read ahead--like I longed to do when reading my favorite chapter book as a child--but to enjoy today's chapter; the sights, the sounds, to take them in and relish them.

As I focus on today's rising action, I might find myself frustrated, discouraged, wanting to put down the story and read no longer. Or, I might find myself seeking, praying, content, and full of gratitude. I believe this is how the Author intended me to read this masterpiece, this classic. I remind myself not skip ahead, impatiently reading what might spoil today's joy.

And then there are tomorrows. Oh, what about those tomorrows?

Tomorrow will reveal new events, new characters, new lessons in due time when the sun rises and mercies are new. Will we be content to enjoy today's amazing paragraph and not read ahead? 

I pray I will. How about you?

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.

Words are gifts.

Looking back over twenty-seven years of parenting eight children--toddler to adult--there are words I don't regret. Words spoken aptly. Words purposeful to the moment. Words to build up. Words carried through the day...and years. 

I don't regret

"Let's go to the park!" Let me out of here!  This was a common thought in my years with many littles. With a handful of bouncy children, I needed a break. Though I thought this many times a day, I don't regret staying the course and holding my tongue. In fact, replacing "let me out of here" with "let's go to the park" kept difficult moments positive with words that brought life. I don't regret, "Let's go to the park."

"Let's  _____ together!" Fill in the blank. Let's bake together. Let's do a puzzle together. Let's build Legos. Yes, there was flour in the grout. Yes, we were eventually missing pieces (they likely got swept up with the flour and ball field clay).  And, for those wondering, I didn't particularly like Legos. However, as our adult children have spread wings and flown from our home and as my elementary learners seem to grow by the minute, I don't regret accepting their invitation (or extending offers to them) to do our days together. Oh yes, I was tired--still am. But I couldn't have reaped the relationships I have with my children (including my adult children) without sowing "let's ____together" with wild abandon, even when soil was rocky or weeds popped out of no where--meaning I was tempted to give up and quit!

As children have become adults they continue to invite me into their lives: to shop (I am not a shopper but eagerly accept) or to coffee (I didn't enjoy coffee, but now have a coffee rewards card). There are many aspects of family life which could've contributed to our relationship--and likely did--however, I suspect the relationship began to soar with the open invitation to do life together.

Who doesn't appreciate an invitation? 

"Let's take a break." Littles only sit for so long. And, if I am honest, I can only sit for so long. Yesterday, in fact, I spent several hours at the kitchen table rotating learners with questions and explanations. To stay in the game, I had to take short breaks: freshen a glass of water, stretch my legs, step outside to get the mail.

Taking breaks develops work ethic. There's a body clock in all of us, the one that signals we are about to slide off track. I'm not suggesting children take a break every time they don't like something or begin to feel uncomfortable. Just the opposite. We've all had to work through those tendencies. But if we are honest, there is a point when we become unproductive and need a mind change, if only for a moment. Helping children not only understand what their personal time frame is and then helping them lengthen it (hear attention span-that's another post) is a valuable life skill.

In addition, helping children build a repertoire of positive, productive ways to take breaks is invaluable. 

I will never regret the short breaks we took: walking around the block, skipping to the neighbor's house and back, counting to 20 when frustrated, or standing up to stretch. As our children grew, breaks offered opportunities for intentionality, conversation, and life essentials.

"Your brothers and sisters will be your best friends." Fighting and bickering can get the best of a parent; it's had me often. In fact, hearing myself speak the words "your brothers and sisters will be your best friend" reminded me that my efforts could some day reap rewards. And, they did! I don't regret speaking these words. 

Today, our adult children are intentional about coming to visit younger siblings to play games or bake cookies; to pull littles close, smile into their eyes, to get on their level. These are moments a parent treasures, moments I once dreamed would happen. And they did!

"Let's read a book." Beginning in the young years, I purposed to make books an acceptable, inviting option. With fond memories of personal picture book favorites and daddy's calming read-aloud tone, I wanted to offer the gift of story to my children. Reading several books a day (not always in one sitting) laid a foundation of enjoyment, invitation, wonder. 

I've discovered another gift of story.

When tension rises or bodies grow weary, books offer a restful oasis.

As children matured and moved passed picture books, my comment became "let's read the next chapter". 

I have a multitude of opportunities--daily--to speak words aptly, to bring life. I am sure you do as well. Will you purpose with me to choose those words today? 

For, what we sow today we will reap tomorrow. 

Want to hear more? Cheryl and Mike have added the content of this blog to a NEW workshop for 2017. 

 

Ironing Out First Day Wrinkles

Wow! 

I didn't anticipate today!

How about you?

As I sit down to post the happenings of our day, one of our first days since Mike headed back to the classroom to start the 2016-2017 school year, the toddler needs me, our adult children were coming over to spend time (in just under an hour), and dishes still need attention. 

There is no time to update you on our day, which was full, very full.

And really, the reason why I wanted to add a blog post today was to tell you...I thought about YOU in the quiet moments of my day.

YOU! 

I thought about many of you today, knowing you were likely experiencing some of the same challenges I faced, indeed, the challenges of teachers (public, private and homeschool) all over the country. 

First day--first week--wrinkles are a part of these first days. We all need time to adjust to the new, the new routine, the new year, the new subjects, the new stages in life! 

As I thought of you, I wondered if you felt a sense of community, a sense of knowing you are not alone. Because, you're not.

We are all in this together. 

So, because time is short and family is my priority tonight, I give you last year's first day post in an effort to encourage YOU!

What you did today, mattered. 

 

2015.

We read year round; even practice a few math problems throughout the summer. So, when today was a little wrinkled, well let's just say I ironed faster to work on the creases.

Dad headed back to school this week and we pressed forward, beginning where we left off at the end of May.

Today was hard. I moved from learner to learner feeling like I my body needed roller skates and my mind was a million places at the same time!

First there was math lesson #1. The learner didn't remember the solution process of multiplying two 2-digit numbers. Review! In ten minutes, she was on her way. On to math lesson #2, dividing a decimal by a decimal. Ten more minutes of review and assigning ten problems. She was on her way. Little learner needed a snack.

Learners #3 and #4, high schoolers, needed assistance editing Spanish essays. Only ten sentences, but IN SPANISH! An hour later, though it felt like all afternoon, they were ready to move onto the concussion video (honestly it's called a course!) mandatory for their participation on the district high school sports team. I must admit, I was wondering how many students actually watch this "video".  My athletes wondered the same thing. We watched. Why? Because we have to sign a form saying we complied. A life lesson of integrity.

While editing Spanish essays there was another request for a snack, another question about a math problem, a "How do you spell?" request, the dryer buzzed, the baby needed a diaper change, dinner needed to be started. Should've used the Crockpot, but it's our anniversary and I wanted to do something special. Phone chimes. Two text messages regarding the wedding our family will celebrate in a few short months. Oh, and the question about grad school (we have a learner filing application), and two high school transcripts to update for above mentioned athletes!

Those are just glimpses into a few hours of the day. There were several more with similar wrinkles.

How was your day?

Many of us have days like this.

To make it through the day, for it to be as successful as it could be, I had to keep perspective. I reminded myself to be intentional, moment by moment.

I had to work with the day instead of against it, even when there were more wrinkles than anticipated.

I was tempted to quit, to defer to the easier choice, but I knew the days ahead would be more difficult. Pay now or pay later. I pressed on.

The beginning of the year is like this (well, even days mid-year are like this sometimes) for home educators and for classroom educators. When I was a classroom teacher I remember wise words from a veteran teacher, "Hang in there and hang tough! If you give up early, ease up, the rest of the year will be even harder."

Yes, we read through the summer; even practiced a few math problems. But today was still a bit wrinkled.

It's okay. I am not alone. You are not alone.

Many teachers, whether in the home or in the classroom are ironing out first week wrinkles, too!

Hang in there!

What you are doing matters...a whole lot!

Life Lessons in the Laundry Room

The laundry room. Daily laundry loads.

Life reflections, unexpected.

That box. That one (yes, that assumes there are others) box in the laundry room, way up high atop the file cabinet (yes we still own one).

Last night I began the PROCESS of dejunking the laundry room, under the influence of my very organizational-minded daughter.

It started with that box.

I began digging, wrestling through papers and pictures. Tossed a few in the trash. Read entries from my college journal, the one I kept while dating Mike. Shared some of my thoughts with our children and then made a "keep" pile. I pulled out a binder of notes scrawled on napkins, scraps, and bulletins; a book someday. I added the binder to the "keep" pile. Another binder. This one dated in the 1990s full of notes from an encouragement column I wrote as a homeschool support group leader. I read over the columns, smiling at the names, remembering the faces and field trip moments. People I knew and walked the homeschooling journey with, twenty years ago.

Ah, my early years of home education with our oldest children five, seven, maybe ten years old. I purposed an environment of love, grace, enrichment; a place where intellect could be challenged and a love to learn modeled. I wanted learning to be digging deeper, studying the fascinating, fostering curiosity, but also master math facts and memorize the periodic table. I planned my days with the "goal" or "what I thought they would need" when they walked over our threshold.

I loved those days. Blossoming with potential, fresh with anticipation, hope and aspiration. I loved being a mom, being with my children, watching every light bulb light, pondering how their early passions—strategy, the outdoors, people, analytics — might be used in their future.

Forward to today.

The oldest are now adults, one graduated from college, earning an MBA, working full time and acting as CFO for a non-profit. The other, married, pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy. Each unique.

But here is the interesting part...at least to me, the lesson I reflect on.

The lesson which will impact the education of the ones still at home.

Though I envisioned young men walking across my threshold, educated a certain way, prepared for certain things, I would have never dreamed my young strategist would to teach business skills to people in Haiti. Had I known that, I would have prepared him a different way!

But wait! Prepared him a different way? He WAS prepared.

That is the lesson I learned.

Though we had our vision set on something totally different, God used our faithful prayers and provided EVERY opportunity my son needed today. His learning at home PREPARED him for where he is today. And, I am glad I really didn't know exactly what he would need, as my heroic attempts to PREPARE him would have pigeon-holed him, given him too narrow a perspective, limited to what I thought "he needed".

There is no way I would have ever fathomed him teaching business skills to business owners in Haiti.

And even if I did, how would I have taught those skills?

I look over my thoughts in those notebooks. All I thought I had to do. All I thought I knew, but really didn't understand. All the books I thought we had to read. All I purposed. All great things.

Now, I see differently.

What did he learn from his days in our home.

  • The ability to communicate with others and work with individuals very different than himself.
  • The ability to take risks, to visit places that might not be safe, for the sake of something bigger than he can understand.
  • The ability to solve a problem, a problem he didn't even know he would have.
  • The ability to pour his heart into something, not give up, and walk faithfully when the future is unknown.

That box.  The one stored in the deep, dark corners of a closet or the one atop tall piles in the laundry room. That box of lessons. 

I'm glad my daughter encouraged me to purge and organize.

In the process I was able to reflect on our years and look to the future, with new anticipation.

What opportunities will our children have ten years from now? I don't really know, and I am glad. That reflection causes me to use what we have and know today, to the best of our ability, with what is provided, and allow God to plant our feet to destination I cannot possibly know or understand.

Simple Words of Comfort

Tough times. We all have them, even our children. 

Hard things happen.

"I am in this with you."

Sitting at the learning table, a little struggles to read. 

Simple words offer comfort.

"I am in this with you."

Processing a relational hurt, a young adult lowers eyes, saddened. 

Simple words bring comfort.

"I am in this with you."

Writing spelling words that seem impossible to get right, a learner cries in frustration. 

Simple words give comfort.

"I am in this with you."

Motherhood brings long days and review lessons, unknown math facts and misread vocabulary. When those times come--and they will--both parent and child need reassuring words. Words of assurance, words of comfort. 

"I am in this with you."

Because you are and it makes all the difference. 

Who needs those words today? 

Delighted to Be a Speaker at FPEA 2016

I am thrilled to be back at FPEA again this year. New workshops. New insight. New stories and practical helps to equip and encourage at every stage of the home education journey, preschool through high school.

Come see me at my workshops! I'm walking the journey with YOU!

Friday 10:30am

7. Celebrate Simple! Intentional Home Education

The simple teaches the profound. Cheryl shares stories and offers insight from her 21 years of homeschooling eight children — the everyday teachable moments, the simple yet ingenious ideas, the interest-driven learning — the things her graduated and grown young adults say mattered most. Learning together, building family relationships, is priceless. It's simple and worthy of celebration!

Friday 3:55pm

68. Happy (High School Paper) Trails to You!

High school is not a one-size-fits-all experience. It is a time to refine the skills needed to polish a student's God-given gifts and talents. But what does that look like on paper? How do you tailor courses which will prepare your child for what God has planned for their future? Cheryl walks parents through answers to these questions.

Saturday 1:45pm

129. Celebrate Middle School: Fostering Ingenuity

Middle schoolers will surprise you! When they do, be ready to foster ingenuity, seize opportunities and think outside the box. The middle school years, ripe with potential to impact entrepreneurial ventures, employment or college/career paths, can also be conflicting for parents and children. In this workshop, Cheryl offers practical tips from experiences as a homeschool mom and a wife of a 27-year middle school educator.

Saturday 3:55pm

153. Teaching Precious Preschoolers and Little Learners

Young children have an insatiable curiosity to learn and a natural desire to work alongside people they love most. How do we utilize these innate qualities to maximize their learning potential at home? Drawing from 28 years of experience of teaching early learners, Cheryl challenges attendees to look beyond societal and educational pressures to the emotional and developmental needs of young children. 

A New Year to Create, Cultivate and Celebrate

How will you be intentional to create, cultivate and celebrate in your home?

Perhaps...

  • Organize an art corner where ingenious minds can create.
  • Refresh art supplies. Introduce a new medium.
  • Bind last year's art masterpieces creating a portfolio to celebrate progress and change. 
  • Offer new tools to cultivate life learning --protractors, microscopes, compasses, templates, 3-hole punches, staplers, balance scales
  • Use New Year savings offered by digital scrapbook companies to create a family memory book where accomplishments and memorable favorites can be celebrated...TOGETHER!
  • Provide blank books to budding authors and illustrators. Cultivate the need to create! 
  • Say "yes" to requests for household trinkets and treasures. They may just be the next patent in the making. 
  • Purchase a personal bookcase to fit bedside the contagious reader. 
  • Read to the emergent reader eager to build fluency. Celebrate the sentence read and the chapter completed!
  • Post a black-out list where newly mastered multiplication facts can be crossed off.
  • Champion ideas and celebrate milestones. 
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