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A Late Night Run to the Coffee Shop

31 Jan

We just completed the last week of our 21 day habit forming project: keeping  bedrooms clean and neat.  It was fun to watch the kids work together to gain points.  I thought it might turn in to more of a competition, but instead the children ended up helping each other out.  Yay!

The bait on the end of the hook was a trip to Starbucks with Dad and Mom.

As the final week went on, three of the kids had an even amount of points, but my littlest princess was lagging behind a bit.

    “Hmmm… maybe I should mess their areas up a bit! ” she schemed.

Fortunately, her siblings had a more gracious approach and encouraged her to find some extra areas in the house to straighten, in hopes of gaining a few more points.

I love the fact that they all wanted to go together!

So… last night at 8:00 we all left the house to have a late night run to the coffee shop and had hot chocolates for everyone!

A special thank you to Uncle Mark and Aunt Merry for the Starbucks gift cards!

Will the rooms be forever clean now???

I think not, but no doubt, we have raised the standard for what is acceptable.

the good, the bad, and the ugly

11 Jan

The target area I chose for my positive “molding experiment“, was the children’s bedrooms.  Yesterday I told you we had instant success, and that is true, but you would think I was crazy if you actually walked into their rooms.  The bedrooms were ten times worse than before we started!!!  I tried not to laugh as I looked for something to complement them on. They were so excited!

I had given them each 5 focus points on their chart.   So, each evening they have the potential of filling all 5 squares.  The challenge is for 21 days, but to keep them motivated, I broke it up into 7 day sections.  Whoever has the most points after the first 7 days gets to make a dessert of their choice.

1. Beds

2. Clothes

3. Toys

4. Closets

5. Bathrooms

I assumed they would try to conquer all 5 areas right away to receive 5 points.  Instead, they simply made their bed look great! Then… started emptying closets.  Today the little girls were so excited to show me their clean closet.  Beautiful! They had done a super job, but boy oh boy, the floor was a disaster! The boy’s room was very similar; they also were digging deeply. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give them a point for a job half done.  I made sure to notice the nicely made beds and let them know I was confident they would achieve a full closet point tomorrow after they put away all the things they pulled out of the closet! In a house with a bundle of kiddos, a bit of competition also comes into play.  Their enthusiasm is contagious and is motivating me as well!

Hats off to all of you that have picked up the challenge!

all those little things… making a big difference

26 Aug

Waking early this morning, as I stepped out of our bedroom, I noticed we had failed to close the front door before we had gone to bed.  The view through the screen was breath taking… it was the “breaking of the dawn” – beautiful!

Today, what’s left of it, is Friday.  The end of our first week of school.  I don’t know if I have ever had the first week go so well.

At times I wonder: Why do I choose to get up early? Does the exercise routine really make a difference? Am I being transformed by reading God’s Word and seeking the Lord? Am I making more work than is necessary by serving a good solid breakfast early in the morning so we can all eat together?

As I considered the last few days, I knew the answer to my questions.  So many details all came together.  From menu planning,  the kid’s morning chores, to the children’s  self discipline  learned through the early years  – all played an important role in helping the days to run smoothly. It was worth the laborious process to develop these systems and habits.

Soaking in the fresh morning air, I was thankful for the week and thankful that all of those little things we have worked toward over the years have added up to so much!

Managing Toddlers while Schooling

16 Aug

I think one of the biggest challenges of  teaching at home is trying to keep the younger siblings occupied long enough to be able to focus on the older students.

Even families whose children go to school must deal with the same issues, as they try to help their young students with homework in the evening.

Over time, out of necessity, we found several ways to make this process much easier.

Children, of all ages, love routine.  As I planned my school schedule of topics to cover, I also mapped out my little ones’ morning.  If they still took two  naps a day, that gave me two natural blocks of available time.  But once that season passed, I found the toddlers loved to be in the mix of things. Sometimes they would be included in class, other times were set aside for their own quiet play.

For instance:

9:00 – 9:30:  Bible Class with family  (Give the little one crayons and paper. It is a good time for them to learn to sit still and be quiet –  for 30 minutes, on your lap if needed.  If you have practiced Blanket Time, this is an easy transition.)

9:30 – 10:00:  Toddlers Play Time (I kept several bins of toys tucked away so I could pull out a different one each day. The child should not be allowed to leave the designated area.  If the next older sibling is available, it is a great time for them to be given a “babysitting job.” It is a good way for the older to learn to serve. ) *btw, don’t let them leave the area without picking up their things.  It is a habit worth developing!

10:00 -10:30: A half hour educational movie. (I liked to look for something that might help them learn their letters or numbers. Remember to keep the volume low so as not to distract the students.)

10:30 – 11:00: By now the little ones are ready for some action and attention.  It is important to remember to give them your focus as well or they will demand it in unacceptable ways.  Take time to go outside, go for a walk, roll down some hills, PLAY!

12:00  Lunch (Sit down together. Give the kids a chance to talk about what they have been learning.)

1:oo  QUIET TIME!  If you have been following Not Without Aim at all, you know I love quiet time.  It doesn’t matter what age, little ones should nap, readers should be reading, if reading hasn’t been mastered yet- picture books are available, and if anyone happens to fall asleep napping (that would be me), all the better!

1:30 Back to class – quickly before the babies awake!

3:00 Time to be done!  Free! Go outside, play, explore, create…

Taking a little time to plan ahead goes a long way in keeping a step ahead of the crew.

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Reality in our home, and most -I would think, is that some days it feels like discipline issues consume a lot of our time and energy.  Don’t be discouraged. This training is just as important as the academics! Without the painful process of learning self- discipline, the academics are useless!

a win, win, win situation

11 Jul

Listening from the kitchen, I could hear the conversations taking place in the next room among the children. The older team was sending their younger brothers and sisters out to do some collecting.  They had gathered together discussing the differences between sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks.  After a few instructions, the hunt began.

This summer, my 8th and 9th grade  daughter and son have the responsibility of teaching a science course to their younger siblings.  The curriculum is called Considering God’s Creation.  Filled with creative projects and coloring pages, the children have fun learning about the universe, earth, plants, animals, and so on.

Not only does this help take pressure off me, but it also enhances the course experience for the children.  One of the best ways to nail down understanding of a subject is to teach it.  As the younger children are learning, the older two are getting an excellent review in preparation for their more difficult courses in the fall.

Although  this method does not come without obstacles, the intrinsic growth by interaction,  family relationship, and practicing communication skills far out weigh the object lesson. First of all, the younger siblings don’t naturally want to give the young and inexperienced “sister and brother teachers” their attention- but what a better way to learn!  By staying close, yet out of sight, I am able to help monitor and listen for behavioral issues that need tending, stepping in, only if needed.  In addition, the “teachers” have a great opportunity to work on developing their own skills (building character all the while).  It takes work and practice to be able to hold the young students attention and present information in such a way that they understand and retain.

With enthusiasm, the kids came running back with their chosen rocks and sorted them into various piles.  They examined each one, and I could hear the ” oohs” and “aahs” from their supportive siblings as they took note of the unique characteristics of the rocks they had compiled together.

You don’t have to wait until your kids are older to try this.   Nurture the ability to learn from each other!    Every age thrives on having responsibilities and being a much needed part of the team.

work together and play together

17 Jun

When summer time comes, I am just as ready to be outside as the kids are.  I want to garden, go for walks, read a book, maybe play a little tennis or go for a swim.  If I’m not deliberate, I will let all of the work of being a wife and mom (which I love) crowd out the play.

Throughout the morning, the kids and I accomplish much. We clean bathrooms, water gardens, bake bread, move laundry, – this week we cleaned the basement… There is never, ever a lack of work to be done! Sometimes we move in teams and other times individually, but we all work.

Why do I make the kids work?  (I say make, because it is something they have to learn, it is not their natural tendency.)

1. They don’t get bored.

2. They learn how to do sooo…  many skills.

3. They learn to set a goal and accomplish it.

4. They sleep better at night.

5. They learn to work together and make it fun.

6. They build strong healthy muscles.

7. They learn to serve others.

8. They become less self focused.

9. They have a greater appreciation of their free time.

10. Many hands make light work!

Even if there isn’t anything I need done, I will look for something for them to put their hands to and conquer.

At lunch time, it all comes to an end and we take some time to shift gears. After a quiet time of reading, resting,or looking at books, it is time to play.  This is the time when the kids ask me if they can do something… or if I will do it with them…  I make a point to say, “Yes!”  “Yes, I will go swimming with you! Yes, we can go for a hike.”  I want to have fun with my kids!

Why do I make myself play?  (I say make, because it is no longer my natural tendency to take time to play.)

1. I don’t get bored.

2. I learn new skills.

3. I sleep better at night.

4. I serve my kids.

5. I learn to play together with them.

6. I become less task focused.

7. I have a better appreciation of what they like to do.

8. I want the kids to know I love to be with them.

9. I am interested in what they’re interested in.

10. I will gain strong healthy muscles.

The summer flies by quickly.  Take time to be deliberate.  Work together. Play together.

Full of Anticipation!

21 Apr

This week we have begun the official Bi-Annual Sort Through All of the Clothes Process.  It isn’t one that I especially look forward to, although it is much easier now than when all of our children where young. This year, I only have four wardrobes to go through, other than my own.  The main motivation for conquering it now, was to be prepared with outfits for Easter.

When I was little, I remember my mom making a point to have us wear something extra special. Often she would surprise me with a new dress or pair of gloves and a fun hat. We are not purchasing new outfits for all of our dear children, but I do want them to look nice and fresh.

Easter is a wonderful celebration! It is well worth taking the extra effort to build anticipation and even some expectation for the special day.

Here are a few things I am working on to help the day go smoothly:

-Prepare each person’s clothes ahead of time.  Be sure they are washed and pressed. Check if they need tights or socks. Usually by Sunday morning at least one shoe has mysteriously disappeared! Try to find them both ahead of time. (My youngest already found her tights and was using them for “dress ups.” I may just put a padlock on each outfit!) lol

-Explain the sequence of events with the children so they know what to expect.

-Don’t forget to practice, practice, practice…     For instance:

-How should the children sit in church? We used to line up all of the dining room chairs and practice with the stuffed animals.  The children had fun being the pastor, the usher the  passing the offering plate, or the musician leading  singing.

-Practice the table manners ahead of time.  Simple phrases like,  “May I please have some…”, Thank you for dinner!”, and “May I please be excused?”

-Last of all, remember the post, “Embarrassing for Everyone“? By now, hopefully all of our children will remember not to complain about the pickled beets that their Aunt Ethel made- but rather, find something to compliment the chef on!

Yesterday we conquered the little girls clothes. Today we are on to the boys.
 

May your days be filled with a growing sense of anticipation and expectation!