March Parenting Weekends – Mom, Trust Me; I Can Do It

March Parenting WeekendsJoin us in sharing March Parenting Weekends! Come read, be encouraged, and share your thoughts relating to all things parent. Today’s topic: Mom, Trust Me; I Can Do It

I could just kick myself for allowing my children more responsibility then what they are ready for. I forget that there are certain skills they must learn before moving to bigger things.

I made the mistake of allowing my kids to have too many toys at once and way too much space to play in.

After five years of parenting I decided that I want my floor, couch, coffee table, kitchen and basement free from kid’s clutter.

I just had it on one tiresome day. And we all know what those days feel like, don’t we?

I had to make some changes.

No more kids allowed or toys in basement. I boxed up 80% of all their things and put it in storage.

My six year old and five year old beg me to let them play downstairs.   Angry eyes stare me down when I don’t let them.

I tell them that when they show me that they can pick up their toys in their room and put them where they belong, we will talk about having a play room in the basement.

My kids rooms are disasters, nothing is in its place, toys under bed, and clothes stuffed under dressers.

A matter of fact, my six year old son is mad at me, because I will not let him make a tent in our kitchen. He can make a tent in his room, but he has no place to set up chairs.

Continue to read at Community Moms.

Parenting can be a bit rough at times. With a little encouragement, we can all become better parents to the glory of God!

March Parenting Weekends – Honey, Can We Hire Someone To Pick Up After Our Kids?

March Parenting WeekendsJoin us in sharing March Parenting Weekends! Come read, be encouraged, and share your thoughts relating to all things parent. Today’s topic: Honey, Can We Hire Someone to Pick Up After Our Kids?

Sometimes I just want to give up and pay someone to follow my kids around all day and pick up their stuff. But I don’t, I want my kids to be responsible and do it themselves. It takes practice and self-realization to be responsible. It’s my job as a parent to guide my children through life showing them and providing them opportunities that will challenge them to make good choices and do great things.

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” – Winston Churchill   It’s in the everyday things we do that teach us who we are.   We learn what motivates us, what we are good at, what we need to work on, and what we inspire to change.

“Character provides the foundation of spiritual and moral strength that rule our decisions, commitments, and faithfulness.” Sally Clarkson from Own Your Life pg. 163

Justin, my six year old son doesn’t like chores but, he does it anyway because we don’t let him move on to what he wants to do until he does.  He will find the least resistant way to accomplish a task. He is too busy creating adventures in his head. Not a bad thing. Quit admirable to be an inventor with great imagination. The problem Justin runs into is that he never knows where anything is… 

Continue to read at Community Moms

Parenting can be a bit rough at times. With a little encouragement, we can all become better parents to the glory of God!

10 Great Resources for Budding Authors

“Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy – which many believe goes hand in hand with it – will be dead as well.”

- Margaret Atwood

10_Great_Resources_for_Budding_AuthorsAre some people born with a gift for words; able to take even the most mundane of tasks and re-form them into magical adventures? Perhaps some have a more innate ability to weave a tale, but there is still hope for the rest of us! With a few good resources, even the most inexperienced writer may soon become a budding author.

If you have children interested in becoming authors, or perhaps have children you would like to be enthusiastic about writing, here are a few resources your family might find helpful to the writing process. You’ll find a great mix of everything; websites, books, and more!

10 Great Resources for Budding Authors

1. Writing Your Way, Don Fry
2. What’s Your Story, Marion Dane Bauer
3. On Writing Well, William Zinsser
4. The Writer’s Way, Jack Ralins and Stephen Metzger
5. Dramatica Pro Application
6. One Year Adventure Novel
7. Young Writers Online
8. Eight Writing Contests for Kids
9. Cash Contests for Kids

Nab, bookmark, and peruse a few of the resources above and explore the art of writing. Stock up on paper, pencils, erasers, and/or a computer. Sit yourself down and have some fun. Writing doesn’t have to be hard; just take one word at a time!

“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.” – Jeremiah 30:2

🔔 Time to Chime In: Calling all authors!! Share your story with our homeschooling audience. What led you to becoming an author, what have you learned along the way; and what are you currently working on;

Doing the Write Thing

Doing_the_Write_ThingI can already hear it coming. First, it will start with a shocked expression taking over her face. This will be followed up by a glare; then a deep breath; and then she will proceed to talk me out of the assignment. If nothing else, talk me down.

My oldest daughter loves to write; really, she does! Furthermore, she’s good at it. She has a way with words; is able to paint a vivid picture using just a few short sentences and lots of heart. Give her free time to write and she’s a happy camper. Ask her to write a report and… well, just see the paragraph above.

While I would love to toss those pesky reports into the circulatory file (trash bin), she’s really at an age where it cannot be avoided. High school is looming on the horizon and reports seem to be the thing. Sure, I could let her off, but would that really benefit her? If she plans to continue her writing career, she might want to expand her horizons beyond story telling. If she plans to attend college (which she does), she needs to be able to write a research paper.

Whether or not our children plan to be writers or attend college – not all children do – teaching our children to write is an important life skill. Why, you ask? Aren’t we living in the age of technology where everyone and their grandmother owns a computer? Haven’t you ever heard of spell check?

While using our computers is most helpful (obviously I use one as a blogger) and spell check is nice, technology is not to be depended upon entirely. Spell check can only do so much, as can grammar check. At some point, our children need to learn the fine art of language. They need to learn how to construct a great sentence, put thoughts together to form paragraphs, and connect those paragraphs to form arguments.

Have a reluctant writer or are unsure of where to start in the writing process? Here are a few tips and hints to inspire your little author:

Start Small – Don’t start the writing process off with a five-page research paper. Well, unless you want to kill the love of writing altogether that is. Then, proceed. (laughing) Seriously though, start off with little assignments. Ask your student to construct just a few great sentences and build from there.

Keep it Simple – Once your student has the concept of great sentences down, consider having them write small papers. Teach them how to construct an opening statement, the body of their paper, and then a closing statement. It doesn’t need to be long, it just needs to have all the essential components and focus on one main point.

Shake Things Up – Don’t have your student write the same type of report each time; this can quickly become boring. What kind of reports might we look for?

  • Cause and Effect
  • Descriptive
  • Argumentative
  • Definition
  • Narrative
  • Critical
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Process

Topsy Turvy – Doesn’t that sound fun? If your child balks at the notion of writing a two page report or even a 1,000 word report, consider making it a challenge. Turn your child’s perspective around and have them look at the assignment from an entirely new angle. Inform you student they cannot use more than 1,000 words to make their point. One word over and they start losing points. It changes things, doesn’t it?

Make a Point – While all papers should have a main point, not all papers mean something to your student. However, they should! Pick the type of paper your child should write for this assignment, but let them choose the topic. They might want to argue for why Legos are better than MegaBlocks. They might wish to explain what Minecraft is. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the paper is, only that they learn to write well. As they mature, the topics will also and so will the assignments.

Join the Fun – One year, my daughter was having a particularly hard time gaining inspiration for a paper. To help her out, my husband and I joined the fun. Each of us turned in a paper on the same topic! It was fun and a great learning experience. We didn’t do this each time she had an assignment, but it helped.

For whatever reason, speech and writing seem to be the two least favorite assignments of most students. Perhaps, with a little effort and enthusiasm on our behalf, our children will learn to not only appreciate the art of writing, but enjoy it. Writing can be lots of fun!

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”  – Galatians 6:11

🔔Time to Chime In: Are you a writer? Share your tips with our homeschooling families on how to encourage a love of writing!

I’m Not Interested

I'm_Not_InterestedHe’s just sitting there. It’s not as if he doesn’t understand what is being taught, but his eyes are glazed over and there a slump to his seat. If he had a choice, he’d rather do almost anything else.

She’s staring me down; the frustration, irritation, and genuine lack of enthusiasm radiating from her rigid form. Sure, she could do it, but why? Why study hours of seemingly pointless details.

What’s wrong in both of the above situations? Neither child is interested and they are clearly making it known. It’s not that they don’t want to study anything, they just don’t want to study that. No matter how you try to twist the lesson to make it more appealing, this child doesn’t engage. What’s a mom to do?

(sigh) I wish I was the ultimate teacher; able to make all children not only learn anything taught, but also like what they are learning. Unfortunately, I, too, often have to find creative ways to encourage my children to learn. Oh, sure, there are some things they’d jump at the chance to do, but others take a lot more persuasion, and even that doesn’t always work.

So, here is the dilemma: When our children show no interest, none whatsoever, in a subject, do we force it upon them? If the thought of having to write research papers fills our children with dread, do we still make them do it? If algebra sickens them, do we push them through the equations anyway?

So much of life isn’t black-and-white. There aren’t easy responses to these questions; no pat answers. Each family must pray about the individual situation and ask the Lord to give them wisdom in how best to handle it. I would, however, like to share a few thoughts…

The Littles

For those with little kids balking at the notion of having to learn undesired subjects, perhaps it is our method of teaching which is hindering their desire to move forward. It might also be likely that we are introducing topics at too early an age. One further thought is that our children really don’t understand what they are going to learn. Sure, they hear the words – Language Arts – but they don’t correlate that with the telling of stories and crafting of words. Sometimes it takes a creative moment on the parent’s behalf to make the topic sound worthwhile.

The Middles

The workload is starting to increase and our children are beginning to take notice. They don’t like the idea of having to learn more subjects or take on more work; things they used to enjoy have now become a chore. Did we increase their load too soon or all at once? Perhaps we forgot to take the time to make the topic more interesting, assuming they were big enough now to simply tackle any project plopped in front of them. We mustn’t let our middle children get lost in the mix or forget to make learning fun.

The Big Guys

So you’ve got a high school student, huh? Subjects like algebra, biology, and composition are looming in front of their eyes, all with loads of work attached. The child insists they don’t want to take that chemistry class, failing to see the need for learning the periodic table of elements and such. Here is where things get tough. In their younger years you had plenty of time to ‘catch up’ on lost subjects you might’ve forgotten or skipped along the way; there were several years left in their educational pursuits. But, now? Now you’ve got only four short years to prep them for college and/or adult life. Do you force them to take all those college prep classes, no matter what they have to say to the contrary? Do you let them decide for themselves what they wish to study?
Again, each family needs to make these decisions for themselves and it’s not always an easy task. Through prayer, council, and wisdom we must decide for each child what is best. For some, they need the push to study topics not readily desired. Others would only be stressed and hate learning altogether if shoved.
I would still encourage us to find fun ways to make learning fun. However, at this stage, we also need to stretch our children. They ought to learn life isn’t always fun, easy, convenient, or made to order. Homeschooling offers us many options, and we are grateful for all of them, but we are attempting to raise responsible adults. And, not all responsibility is fun or wanted.

Do we force learning on our children? Oh, sometimes. We want to try new things with them, expand their horizons, and help them get a well-rounded education. We need to remember though to be careful in our desire to stretch our children. We want them to be challenged, we don’t want them to be broken.

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” – Proverbs 18:15

🔔Time to Chime In: Have you ever forced your child to learn a particular subject/topic and then later regretted it? Have you ever forced your child and later had them thank you for the opportunity? Share your story with us!


“iCivics is a non-profit organization dedicated to reinvigorating civic learning through interactive and engaging learning resources. Our educational resources empower teachers and prepare the next generation of students to become knowledgeable and engaged citizens.”


iCivicsThere’s been something going ’round. Have you noticed? And, no, it’s not the flu. No; it’s not the measles, either.

Students are beginning to openly complain about the education they received while in school; wishing they had been taught practical things like paying their bills and how to vote, as opposed to the Pythagorean Theory which it seems they have no use for.

Whether their teachers failed to instill this wisdom or the students failed to pay attention (which is just as likely), there is a growing need. Our students desire to not only learn facts, but be able to identify why these facts are important AND be able to incorporate them into their everyday lives. What good is teaching history, if our children fail to see the importance of the events? Is memorizing geometric shapes of benefit if our children cannot grasp the practical use of this knowledge?

One area most children fail to get a thorough education in is civics. Do our kids know what good citizenship is? Do we?! Are our children parroting the things we teach, as if a mantra, or do they actually understand the content of what is being spoken? Do they understand how to make wise life choices, know the original intent of the law, and vote according to objective moral imperatives (and not what tickles their fancy)?


A few months ago, a fellow homeschool mom pointed us towards iCivics and suggested we give it a try. I admit, I was a little skeptical at first. A website which can teach civics, but make it fun? I am happy to say I was blown away. In the first week my kids’ knowledge grew by leaps and bounds. They not only enjoyed the application, but were actively pursuing play time.

Here are just a few things we’ve covered so far and the list is growing:

  • We Learned What Civics Is
  • We Learned Debate
  • We Learned How to Keep a Budget
  • We Learned Terminology & Vocabulary
  • We Learned How to Run a Law Firm
  • We Learned How a Court Room Works
  • We Learned the Constitution
  • We Learned the Differences Between Being a Democrat and a Republican
  • We Learned Which States Lean Toward Each Political Party
  • We Learned Government Branches
  • We Learned How to Hold A Political Office
  • We Learned What it Takes to Keep a County Running
  • We Learned How to Run for President and What it Takes to Be President
  • We Learned the Media is a Pain in the Neck

I could hear the grumbling of little people as they sat staring at their computer screens. “Really; jeez, people!” Curious, and wanting to make sure this wasn’t a character issue, I walked over to discover what was going on. It seemed one of my daughters was running for President and the media was having a field day over her platform. (laughing) Quickly, my daughters grew to dislike the media. It has taught them to be more careful in how statements are worded however, and to thicken their skin.

Seriously though, iCivics is an incredible program. Founded and led by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, this resource is amazing. I am so glad my friend steered us in this direction. Not only are my kiddos increasing in wisdom, they are having fun while doing it.

If you haven’t already signed up for a free login, head over there today and check it out for yourself. You won’t regret it!

“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed” – Titus 3:1

🔔Time to Chime In: Challenge your children by asking them why they believe what they believe; then, make them defend it. Do you think your kids are up for it? Are mine? (Guess I’d better go make sure!)

May I Introduce to You…

May I IntroduceDoes art flow through the veins or is it something acquired through study and exposure? Perhaps it is born in each of us, only outgrown or taught out by a world consumed with being ‘productive’. I wonder if we aren’t all artistic on some level, hidden beneath mounds of responsibility.

Whether we have instilled it or God has developed it, our children long to be creative. My babies love to paint, draw, animate, film, photograph, and craft. They look for ways to utilize their imaginations.

Like most artists, they not only wish to be expressive, but desire an opportunity to share it with those they love. A place to post their creative endeavors, sharing their thoughts on various mediums, what they learned during the processes, and hearing feedback from those with greater experience.

To this end… may I introduce to you ‘The Grau Kids Studio‘! A fun, colorful, creative space designed by my husband just for this purpose. Here our kids are free to post their latest and greatest projects, allowing family and friends from all over the world to see what GrauKids_Faviconthey’ve been up to.

Only up for a week now, this has been an excellent learning experience for our kids. Besides the benefits of posting current projects, the process of setting up an account and formatting a blog has, in-and-of itself, been a great learning tool.

Their projects may never see the inside of a museum (although, who knows…), but here they are displayed for them to look back on. Memories written in print, captured images of creativity, encouragement for those looking to test the boundaries of their imagination, and inspiration for further learning.

May the Lord bless all our children’s endeavors and continue to guide them in His ways. May He cultivate their imaginations and remind them of the importance of grasping moments of creativity even when surrounded by a world of responsibility.

“And he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze,” – Exodus 35:31-32

🔔Time to Chime In: A moment of truth… setting aside time to craft has never been easy for me. Do you make a point of exploring art with your kids? What is your favorite medium to work with?

Do I Need a Lesson Plan?

There it was, sitting in my shopping bag. A gift from the educational store where I had justDo_I_Need_A_Lesson_Plan purchased a myriad of homeschool supplies for the coming year. It was basic, nicely offered, but, frankly, confusing. As a homeschool parent, did I need a lesson plan?

For whatever reason, I had never thought to purchase or use a lesson plan. If I had to give an explanation for this, I would be hard pressed to provide a suitable answer. I’d just never given it that much thought.

I suppose it always made sense to simply follow the books I bought. Our books came (and still come) with the pages already mapped out; each page marked with a lesson number. We did one lesson per day, with a total of a hundred seventy lessons during the year. Considering our books were cleverly labeled, why did I need a lesson plan?

It wasn’t until we started using unit studies to cover history and science, that I finally began mapping out our lessons. It made sense to schedule out how long we were to be spending in each unit and which activities were to be covered within each. I was visually able to see the expanse of our year, planning more thoroughly. While I wasn’t planning out every aspect of our day, writing down each child’s lesson assignments, I learned the value of organizing certain portions of our routines.

Did I finally dig out the planner the helpful educational store had offered me? Um… yeah, no. Honestly, I had completely forgotten about it. Plus, I found doing things on my computer more suited to my needs.

Does everyone need a lesson plan? I would never argue a particular curriculum or plan works for everyone. I will say having a general plan for your day and an overall plan for your year is not only beneficial, but wise. When we have direction, we are less likely to stress over subjects possibly forgotten or enough time in our year to cover everything desired.

Whether we choose to use a pre-printed planner from a store or use a computer based application to do our organizing, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to systematize life. Make up your own routine and put your plan into action.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3

🔔Time to Chime In: Did you use a lesson planner? How much of your day and/or week do you put down in print? Share with us your method of organizing life and help new homeschooling families learn the art of planning!

5 Ways to Avoid Mid-Year Burnout

5 Ways to Avoid Mid-Year BurnOutWhether it be the lack of sun due to cloudy skies, the snow-covered world begging us to hibernate, or rainy weather forbidding us to explore outside, the fact is mid-year for most homeschooling families is hard. If we aren’t careful, our excitement for learning can quickly turn into mid-year burnout.

The year is half over, the review portion of our materials has long passed and we are now into the nitty-gritty of our lessons; the harder sections which stretch our kids minds and add those wrinkles to the brain. Add to this the cooler weather, practically forcing us indoors, and you soon have the makings of an unhappy family.

What’s a mom to do? How do we turn our routine around so mom doesn’t go crazy and the kids don’t start climbing the walls? Over the years, we’ve learned a couple of changes in our routine help us avoid mid-year burnout and help us finish strong:

Get Fresh Air – Even if you’re just going for a brisk walk or stepping onto your front porch, take a moment to enjoy some fresh air. Being indoors constantly can leave you feeling claustrophobic and tired. Our bodies need sunshine and clean air in order to function well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt the soul to enjoy God’s creation.

Change Your Routine – Tired of doing the same ol’ thing? Try changing it up! Switch your routine of subjects around. Change which days you do your chores. Find some creative way to mix things up, without making your life madness. Just a little altering might help you view life al title differently.

Exercise – You’ve been inside too much, possibly sitting down a bulk of the day. Consider getting a little exercise and stretching out those muscles. Running, jogging, and hiking are all great ways to get some exercise. If you can’t get outdoors, consider aerobic routines which the kids could do with you.

Take a Moment For Yourself – Let’s face it, when the family is forced to stay indoors all day, the kids tend to want more attention. They’ve played with all their toys, watched all their movies, read all their books, and are, frankly, just as stir crazy as you are right now. Consider trading play days with friends, giving each other an afternoon ‘off’ to just relax and enjoy peace and quiet. Ask Dad to watch the kids for the night and go enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend. Have Grandma watch the kids and you both go enjoy a movie! No matter how you manage it, take a moment or two for yourself; breathe and refresh your soul in order to finish your year well.

Spend Some Time With Friends or Fellow Homeschoolers – It helps to commiserate fellowship with other homeschooling parents who completely understand what you are going through. Set up a play date, park day, baking day, any day, just to visit with friends. Spend the day encouraging one another and exploring ways to break the lethargy which seems to be taking hold.

The year is more than half over. (At least for those following a traditional learning routine.) Don’t allow a short season of restlessness to overshadow the amazing year you’ve been having so far. Take charge of life and get out of the winter rut.

Find what works for you, make it happen, and finish your year strong. Enjoy the adventure!

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

🔔Time to Chime In: As a mom, one of the hardest (and silliest) things I used to let bug me was allowing my kids to play in the rain. I was always taught this could make kids sick and, frankly, what was I going to do with all those wet clothes? To my kids’ delight, we got over this and have awesome pictures to show for it. What was one of the hardest (and silliest) things that used to bother you about rainy/snowy days?

Searching for What Works

Searching For What WorksI confess, I bought a book (a set of books, really) and they just aren’t working for us. I’ve tried to renegotiate and finagle; I’ve tried to beef them up with additional materials. But, the sad, sad fact is they just aren’t what my kids need. It seems I am back to searching for what works.

You’d think after over ten years of homeschooling this mama would finally have it down, wouldn’t you? After all, once you find a good curriculum it ought to work for the remainder of their schooling experience. However, once you’ve done this a while you realize something. Kids change! (laughing) What works one year, doesn’t work another. What worked for one child, didn’t work for another.

It can be a continual search for the materials which best fit our kids needs (and our household budget). How do we determine which curriculum works best? When do we make that investment and when do we walk away? While we seem to go through the process each year, weighing each child’s needs, there are a few constants our family stands by:

Christian Materials (or at least not anti-Semitic/Christian) - As Christians, we try to ensure our children’s learning is centered on Christ. When at all possible, we purchase materials based on our worldview.

Budget - Is this something I can do myself, find somewhere else for less expensive, or get at a discount? If not…

Longevity - Will this last for only a month or so? Can I make this stretch for more than one child? Some materials are worth the high price, even for only one child; others could be set aside for something better.

Preparation – Will this help my child be ready for whatever future the Lord has prepared for them? One child may need challenge in a particular area, whereas another needs something completely different. I want to ensure each child has what they need to fulfill their calling.

Time Consuming – I don’t mean for my kids, I mean for me! Is this curriculum going to take up mounds of my time in the planning, prepping, and teaching? If so, I might wish to regroup.

Challenging – This is for my kids! I want them to be stretched and challenged. (Notice I said challenged and not overwhelmed!) I want our kids to be pushed to achieve more, continuing to find their own limits.

Enjoyment Level - Lastly, while I understand some subjects, especially during high school, might be forcefully endured, I like to make as much of their learning as I can, fun. Will my kids enjoy this particular curriculum or is there something which might excite them to learn more?

While there is no ‘perfect’ method for choosing which curriculum works best for our kids, the checklist above helps guide us in narrowing down our choices. Each curriculum we’ve used, no matter how long we’ve used it, has always taught us something valuable. Even if it’s just to appreciate the beauty of something else… anything else! (laughing)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

🔔Time to Chime In: What are your criteria for picking new curriculum? Share your list with us and help other homeschooling families in their journey to finding new learning materials!