Would You Rather Be a Mule?

“A mule is an animal with long, funny ears
He kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny and his brain is weak
He’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And, by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule”

- Swinging On a Star, by Frank Sinatra

MuleMost days, our kids do just fine with their learning. We eagerly race to the table and settle in for a few hours of focused lessons. I wish could say that everyday was like this. However, on occasion, my babies can be quite stubborn. What’s a parent to do?

On mornings when our children just won’t budge, dragging their feet to the table or perhaps making life miserable for themselves while trudging through their work, I have two options: I can get mad or I can figure out what is causing the trouble.

Not Enough Sleep – A frequent cause of stubbornness seems to stem from lack of sleep. They kids stayed up too late the night before and are, therefore, having a harder time focusing on today’s activities. The remedy: Give them a lighter load today, get them to bed on time, and then try again tomorrow. This usually does the trick!

They Have a Need – Rushing through their morning routine, especially when they sleep in later than they should, sometimes the kids choose to skip out on breakfast. (Um… sorry guys, you probably inherited this from me.) My kids are having a hard time because they have a physical need like food, a drink, or even exercise. The remedy: Figuring out what their body needs, giving it to them, and trying again!

They’re Irritated/Frustrated – Sometimes it takes just one thing to set our kids off. It could be harsh words spoken, a shirt that’s too itchy, or pencil being tapped on the table. The remedy: Identify the offending factor and remove it immediately.

They Need Help – Did the work I give them seem too much? Did they not truly understand it? Kids will often dig in their heels when they are really begging for help. The remedy: Sitting down with them and walking through their lessons. Ask them questions and help lead them to the answers.

They’re Intimidated - Similar to needing help, new lessons can often be intimidating. Instead of pushing forward with anticipation, our kids can drag their feet expecting to fail. The remedy: Encouragement. I need to help them see this is a challenge needing to be conquered, not the end of the world.

Too Much Work – I have grand visions for my children’s lessons. Once in a while, my visions are little too grand. My kids balk at the amount of work or time stretching out in front of them. It seems I have overwhelmed their minds and overburdened them. The remedy: Ease up! I need to restructure the lesson, reducing where I can.

Of course, there are times when my kids are just being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn; this is a character issue which needs to be worked out. However, with prayer and a quick evaluation of their needs, I can better help them move on from this obstacle.

Time to Chime In: I’m sure your children are never stubborn! (laughing) But, for the sake of argument, if they were to exhibit such a trait… what is your plan of attack?

The Boyfriend Sweater

Pump_Day_2Welcome to “Pump Day”; your weekly encouragement to remember that, once upon a time, before you were your kids’ mommy, you were your husband’s lady.

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As busy moms, I’m sure there are days we wish to simply remain in bed with our heads buried beneath the covers. Unfortunately, those days don’t happen that often. When I can’t remain burrowed beneath our comforter, the next best thing is my man’s sweater!

They’re comfy, cozy, and several sizes too big for me; my husband’s sweaters are the next best thing to walking around wrapped in a blanket. There’s nothing better for a drowsy fall day, when all I’m really wanting to do is nap. When I feel the need to be extra comfortable for the day, especially when just lounging around the house, you’ll often find me snagging one of my husband’s sweaters from the closet, claiming for the day.

One of the perks in wearing my husband’s sweaters is their scent. There’s something intoxicating about his smell. It’s clean soap, shaving cream, and Old Spice all rolled into one. (sigh) It’s lovely.

Me in Sweater

After a relaxing shower, I toss on a pair of skinny jeans and nab a comfortable blouse. I hunt through his half of the closet for a sweater and add a pretty necklace for fun. Then, I’m ready for the day. I’m incredibly comfortable yet I don’t feel frumpy. A truly easy outfit.

Recently, I’ve been hunting down new sweaters for my guy. Not only does he like them, but then I have more items to steal from. (wink) It works for both of us.

Time to Chime In: Ladies, do you ever find yourself stealing clothes from your husband’s half of the closet? Which items do you borrow most? For the dads in our midst… Does it bother you when we borrow?

As always… While fashion is fun, we should remember:
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – I Peter 3:3-4

The Nightmare Before…

Our kids usually sleep pretty well. However, on occasion, a few of our children have woken up in the middle of the night experiencing dark dreams which haunt them even when they’re awake. When the Boogie Man decides to drop in on our children, what’s a parent to do?

Recently one of my kiddos has been experiencing some pretty bad dreams. On occasion, I’ve dreamt of being chased by maniacal clowns or some such nonsense. My daughter, on the other hand, dreams of people dying or her being left alone, unwanted.

While I’m sure there are various reasons people could give for why she has these dreams, my immediate concern is helping her move on from them and getting her back to sleep. Here are a few tips we’re using to give her a good night of rest:

Prayer – Instead of waiting for her to wake up with bad dreams, we’re being proactive and praying over her before she goes to bed. We pray the Lord would protect her from bad dreams and help her get a good night of rest. This definitely helps. So far, she hasn’t had another bad dream!

Comfort – When she was waking up with bad dreams, we would make sure to comfort her and let her know we’re here. Sometimes just a quick hug is all they need.

Take a Break – Occasionally distracting them from sleep itself is the trick. We encourage them to take a restroom break, have a quick drink, and perhaps have a snack. When their body’s needs are being met, they are more likely to sleep soundly.

Talk it Out – If they really have a hard time settling in for the night, we walk through their dreams and try to better understand what is causing the problem. We reason out the visions and show them the truth. Even if they can get back to sleep without talking, we usually try talking it out the next morning. Talking it out helps them push aside the previous night and move forward.

We all experience nightmares from time to time, but it hits harder when they attack our kids. Through prayer, comfort, and good parental involvement we can help our children move past these strange visions and enjoy a good night’s rest.

Time to Chime In: Have your children ever experienced nightmares? Share what helped them get through hard nights and finally get some good sleep.

Friendly Competition

My oldest daughter loves to write, it’s just a part of who she is. In light of this, we are constantly looking for competitions for her to participate in, hoping this will help expand her repertoire and develop her writing. This week, a writing competition came to us!

Philadelphia Homeschool was kind enough to send us a link to her newest writing phbwritinglogocompetition and we thought you might all like to join in the fun. You’ll find all the rules, regulations, and essay details over on her site. Make sure to take a look and join in the fun!

Philadelphia Homeschool Writing Competition

If you do decide to join in, let us know! We’d like to keep an eye out for your entry and read your incredible story. The more the merrier!

Time to Chime In: How often do your children participate in friendly competition?

In the Kitchen: Pumpkin Latte

In the KitchenWelcome to our kitchen. Here we’ll share our favorite recipes, lament over food failures, test out new gadgets, and discover tips to making kitchen life easier. Join us on this new adventure and share your life experience with the rest of us!

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Fellow mommy, don’t you think you deserve at least five minutes of relaxation and a hot cup of coffee? I do; you deserve it, you hard-working gal, you. If you’re looking to add a little spice to your morning routine, you’ve come to just the right spot! This week’s recipe… pumpkin lattes.

Every fall, I get a craving for all things pumpkin. I currently have a box of pumpkin donuts sitting in the kitchen calling my name. What could be better than a lovely cup of coffee to go with it? The best part of this recipe is that it includes actual pumpkin and not pumpkin spice, which is a personal preference.

Pumpkin Latte

2 tsp. canned pumpkin (either store-bought or homemade)
Coffee
Half n’ Half
Sweetener of Choice

Directions:
In a large mug, add two tbsp. of canned pumpkin and your hot coffee. Blend the pumpkin into the coffee, using a fork or small mixer, until smooth. Once the pumpkin has been incorporated, add your creamer and sweetener. Enjoy!

Coffee

It’s amazing how some of the sweetest things in life are simple. This recipe takes very little time to make and yet tastes wonderful. Unlike recipes which include only pumpkin spice, this latte has a full-bodied flavor and richness. Plus, you can make it in minutes!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I shall indulge in a cup myself. Along with that pumpkin donut, of course!

Time to Chime In: Do you have a favorite fall drink recipe? Share it with us!

Cindy Lou and Sammy Too Go To The Mall

“My name is Sammy and today my friend Cindy and I are going to the mall. I’m her guide dog and my job is very important. Cindy is legally blind and it’s my job to keep her safe…”

- Cindy Lou and  Sammy Too

Book-Review_logoMy kids are animal lovers. Often while we are out and about, we will see cute, furry friends and my children will want to shower them with affection. It’s taken a little time for them to realize some dogs have a job to do and we need to let them do it.

Cindy Lou and Sammy Too Go To The Mall is a charming story written by Cheryl McNeil Fisher to help young children understand that some dogs have a very important job to do. Sammy, an adorable golden retriever helps children better understand what his job is and how we are to act when he is nearby.

This story is lovingly told, filled with gentle advice on how to act around and towards guide dogs. For those unfamiliar with guide dogs, this will open the mind to the importance these dogs have in the lives of those visually impaired.

CherylFIsherPressRelease

Cindy Lou and Sammy Too Go to the Mall: The Adventure of a Guide Dog Team is a wonderful special education tool for teachers and students, enjoyable for children of all ages to read and to learn about the blind community and courageous guide dogs. Above all else, this delightfully illustrated tale is a story about loyalty and friendship. As readers see the world through Sammy’s eyes, they can feel the devotion and love he has for his owner. Educational and heartwarming in equal measure, Cindy and Sammy are certainly a winning team.

This story is a very easy read, one even young children can work through quickly. The kids and I enjoyed reading this story very much and learned several new facts about these special animals.

We highly recommend this story as an addition to your library. You will enjoy getting to know Sammy and hearing his tale. These dogs are truly remarkable!

Run With It

Little Lady RunningMy kiddos dislike sitting still for great lengths of time. While I’d love to let them run around like monkeys all day, our routine does require a little bit of sit down learning. In order to keep a fine balance and make sure their patience isn’t being over taxed, mommy has learned to run with it… literally.

When our son was very little, he started an unusual routine. He would eat breakfast, get dressed, and then start pacing the house. Before we knew it, he was running from one end of the living room to the other and back again. When I would ask what he was doing, he would just say he was playing. I talked to my husband about this, a little concerned about our son’s actions. My man calmly explained that the little guy just had too much energy coursing through his system and needed more exercise.

Our son is a little older now and this principle still holds true. Every morning he feels the need to go running. We’ve decided to just make this a part of our day!

Each morning, we start our studies with Bible time and prayer. After this initial lesson, our kids are asked to run. They are to do a certain amount of running, no walking allowed, to help the blood start pumping to their brains and make sitting down easier. Usually this works for little guy and he can focus on his lessons. If not, he promptly tells me that he wants to run a little longer and we let him.

He is really great at expressing this need to us. In between subjects, should he feel the need, he will excuse himself and do a little more running. Occasionally he will let me know he is stopping to do “PE”. (laughing) He will do push ups, sit-ups, pop-ups, and more! Once he feels better, he will calmly return to the table and resume his studies.

While some might see this as a disturbance in our routine and a distraction to our other children, we’ve all learned this is what works best for him. As our son grows older, he will learn to make adjustments that better fit his growing routine and adult lifestyle. For now, we are helping him better understand his body’s needs and enjoying the fun of watching him run.

Time to Chime In: Do you take breaks in your learning day to get out the wiggles?

Razor Sharp

Pump_Day_2Welcome to “Pump Day”; your weekly encouragement to remember that, once upon a time, before you were your kids’ mommy, you were your husband’s lady.

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“Shaving cream; be nice and clean. Shave everyday and you’ll always look clean…”

Benny Bell

There’s nothing like taking a hot shower to start the day off right; is there, homeschool mom? Before the hustle and bustle begins, standing under a warm stream of water just sets the mood for the day. Even better, is when I have a few extra moments to shave. I emerge from my room clean and feeling like a million bucks.

For years, I was buying over-the-counter razors. You know the kind that come in plastic packages and have triple and quadruple blades? While they might give you a clean, safe shave they are quite expensive. We continued buying these for years until one day my husband had enough.

While shopping at a local mall, we happened upon “The Art of Shaving“; a clever little store which sells straight and safety razors that look like something out of an old Sears & Roebuck catalog. While we didn’t buy anything in store, this prompted my man to start an internet search for a shaving kit of his own. As always, the man found just what he wanted.

Why bring up my husband’s shaving kit? Well, after months of watching my man use his awesome little razor, I wanted one myself! Why spend all that extra dough on plastic razors when I could be using an incredibly cool looking safety razor which costs only a couple of cents per blade? My husband being the awesome guy he is, promptly went online and found one for me!

Safety Razors

To be honest, it did take me a few tries to get used to the feel of a safety razor. Unlike those plastic deals, a safety razor only has one incredibly sharp blade. It takes a few tries to get used to holding the razor and angling it correctly to get a good shave. However, I quickly got the hang of it. While the idea of using a safety razor might scare some, they really are very easy to manipulate and can’t do any real damage. So far, I’ve only nicked myself once or twice and both times were due to my own carelessness.

Using my seriously cool razor is just another fun way to start the day off right. I feel clean and refreshed; plus, I know I’m saving my family money. What could be better?

Time to Chime In: Shaving cream or soap; which do you prefer?

As always… While fashion is fun, we should remember:

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – I Peter 3:3-4

What IS Un-Schooling?

Animal Habitats

Homeschooling comes in a variety of forms. None is as undefined as un-schooling. What does un-schooling mean and how does it differ from what the rest of us are working on?

After doing a brief search using the term ‘un-schooling’ you will quickly come across a wide spectrum of uses for this word. Some understand un-schooling to mean they simply don’t use textbooks, but there is a goal in mind for each day. Others find that un-schooling has no defined goal at all; the children are left to discover freely on their own, led only by their own desires and delights. Then, there is a world of variations between the two.

Un-schooling itself fascinates me. What were the deciding factors for families who chose this method? How do they organize their learning or do they? Do they never use workbooks or only occasionally? While I have had the pleasure of reading several blogs on WordPress who share their un-schooling world with the rest of us, I would really enjoying spending an afternoon talking with some of them to better understand this aspect of learning.

Honestly, I find the term un-schooling very confusing. Being the over-organized oddball that I am, I want everything to have a label which can easily be understood; to my way of thinking, it helps people better communicate an idea without needing a large paragraph to explain what, exactly, it means. I wonder if we need to create new terms for various methods of un-schooling? I know several parents who call it ‘delight-directed learning’. Interesting! To many, I wonder if the term ‘un-schooling’ gives the impression that no learning is done. While I am sure this is generally not true, I can see where they might get confused. Again, the term is a little vague.

As an eclectic homeschooler, we use a little bit of everything. From textbooks to hands-on to delight-directed studies, we use everything and anything to help our children better understand what they are learning and enjoy it fully. I imagine un-schoolers function in a similar fashion. I love how homeschooling doesn’t have to fit into a box. Each family is free to choose which methods work best for their children and move forward at their own pace.

Time to Chime In: Un-schoolers, we’d love to hear from you! Share with us why you chose this particular method of learning and how you organize your year. Do you think another term would better define your family’s learning style?

Stop, Look, Listen

Sand Box TimePerhaps I’m the only one, but, when I’m talking to someone, I like to make eye contact. Whenever possible, I like to look them in the face and would like to see them do the same. As a parent, I am trying to train this into our children. I want them to learn how to stop, look, and listen.

Often, when people are having a conversation, we are not really paying attention. We are hearing their words and mentally attempting to form a response which we plan to vocalize the minute the other person stops speaking. We are so anxious to participate in the conversation we aren’t paying attention to the other person at all. Do they really want a response? Is one even warranted?

One area which I definitely want to work on with my kids is open acknowledgement of other people. Sometimes our children speak to another person, but do so with their back turned or respond to an adult’s request without actually making eye contact. This bothers me. When someone is speaking to them, I want them to stop what they are doing (if this is possible) and truly look at that person. I want them to listen intently and then form a response, if one is warranted. When someone offers them something, I want them to respond with a “No, thank you.” or a “Yes, please.” while looking at the person!

How often have we spoken to someone who is staring off into the horizon? While it’s true they might be listening, it can also be frustrating. Are they really paying attention and being respectful? Especially when a response is required, looking at someone while listening and speaking is a polite gesture. Does this mean the person looking is always paying attention? (sigh) Unfortunately not; but it’s a first step.

It’s true; this isn’t a moral issue. One might even debate this is completely subjective and they would probably be right. It is a preference. However, it is my preference and therefore this is how I choose to train my kiddos.

Time to Chime In: How important is eye contact to you?