Friday, January 30, 2009

Parking Lots and Parables…

OK, I live between Seminary Parking Lots.

Across the street are Seminary Parking Lots. To the right of my house is a seminary parking lot. To the left of our house we have one house with fantastic neighbors, and next to them seminary parking lots. It used to be a neighborhood, but not anymore. But, that is a topic for another day.

We had a big ice storm a couple of days ago. Lots of trees and limbs down, many people without power and phone and so forth.

At any rate, some seminary students parked in the lot across the street today. Now these parking lots are really no more than fields with the big stuff removed [including all the flowering trees—again a topic for another day] and some gravel scattered about. The gravel is mostly gone now, sunk into the Kentucky mud

Kentucky mud is mostly clay and is very sticky and when some gets on your shoe you are afraid you stepped in a dog pile. So, at any rate, Kentucky mud sucked most of the gravel under the parking lots. Today, as every day, no one scrapes or plows or takes care of the lots. The brave [or not too swift] parked there today. Did I mention that they are not flat and that to get out of the parking lot across the street you have to come up an incline-and remember no gravel, just slippery Kentucky mud with ice and snow over it.

I noticed a man in a PT Cruiser trying to get out, but he couldn’t. I was home alone, so I went to see if I could help. He was getting more and more stuck because he was spinning his tires on the mud/snow/ice mix and had zero traction. I went back in the house to get some kitty litter to put under his tires and was hoping for someone to come along who could help push just a bit. With another person to push, we could have given him that little extra UMPH he needed to get his front tires on the blacktop street. Since his car had front wheel drive, once his front tire grabbed the street, he would be fine.
So, I tossed down some litter, so he could back up and get another run at it, when two tall, young seminary students came out to the parking lot. They were both about 6 ft tall and no older than 30. Perfect! They looked our way, watched for a minute, got in their car and tried getting out a different way. They got out, rolled down their window and said, “You might want to try over here.” And they took off!

OK, I might not be a Samaritan, and the guy in the car [who by the way was probably at least my age, if not older—probably closer to 60] wasn’t beaten and left for dead, but the similarity was striking. Here were two young strong seminary students—going into ministry—who could not take a couple of minutes to give the guy’s car a quick shove into the street!!! Who could not be bothered! My mouth dropped open as my hand held the 20# bucket of kitty litter.

I did help get the guy’s car out. As he was leaving, he rolled down his window and said, “If I am around in better weather, I owe you a pizza!”

I couldn’t help thinking what these guys are studying in seminary?? Obviously not what Paul told us, “Be ambassadors for Christ, as if Christ is entreating through you.” Ministry is here, it is now. It is your husband, your kids, your neighbor, the guy stuck in the snow…it is like breathing in and out. It is not something in the future that you can study for [obviously] --it is living and breathing and helping day in day out.

Take care,

Preschool, continued...

Sorry for the delay in finishing what I started earlier in the week. We had a BIG ice storm this week and it kind of took precedence.

Does your child need preschool?

Yesterday I talked about Play is Work, and I truly believe that is all a preschooler needs, play. Many will want more-they will want to sound out words and write their name and count money; and they should. But, for preschoolers the timing of these things should be child led.

This is not just my opinion. I saw this article in the paper last year that said, “A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says free and unstructured play is healthy and –in fact—essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.”

I also believe very strongly in reading to young children every day. There have been an incredible amount of studies saying that the single most important thing you can do to help your youngster is to read to them. Children love to be read to. They love to cuddle and snuggle while being read to and/or they love to play while you read to them. And kids learn so much from this experience.

Not only do they learn to appreciate well written words and ideas, they learn the importance of reading. Also, when we discuss what we read with our children it gives us an opportunity to pass on our core beliefs. We can discuss live and death issues while reading about dragon slayers and fairy princesses. Reading opens up a whole world to our children and enriches our relationship with them.

Now I know there are some children who do not have anyone to read to them, who do not have the advantages that other children have and they can certainly benefit from early preschool. But I am not talking about at-risk kids when I talk about play and reading being enough.

I have had many conversations that go like this:

Mom: “I have two children, four and two, and I am looking for a preschool program for my four year old.”

Me: “What are you looking for.”

Mom: “I don’t know. Really, I don’t want to send him to preschool, but all the other kids at church are going and my mother is asking where he is going to go. I feel pressure to send him, but I don’t really think I want to send him. Do you have any suggestions?”

Me: “What are you doing? “

Mom: “Oh we read every day. We take walks and collect rocks and leaves and sing songs. He helps me bake and can write his name and sound out a few letters. He can count pennies up to 10 and sets the table correctly. He plays well with his brother most of the time.”

Me: “It sounds like your son is very well adjusted.”

Mom: “Yes, but I think he needs socialization.”

Me: “Does he play well with other kids at church or at the park?”

Mom: “Oh yes. He loves to play and he pretend reads to his brother. He also wants to do everything my husband does—wears his shoes, wants to cut the grass, use the hammer and so on.

Me: “Does he mostly mind you?”

Mom: “Mostly [laugh], but he is very active.

Me: “It sounds like you are doing a great job. He sounds like his social skills are good, he is imitating his Daddy, loves to be read to and tries to be helpful and kind. I don’t think you need preschool. I would just do what you are doing.”

Mom: “Really.”

Me: “Really. What can he learn at preschool that he doesn’t already know or will learn when he is ready?”

Mom: “I don’t know. But everyone else…

Me: “That doesn’t make it mandatory. It doesn’t make it right.”

And then we finish up the conversation.

And this is why I am writing. If you want your child to experience preschool, by all means go ahead. But, if you don’t—feel confident that if you are modeling good life skills to your child, if you are reading to him, if he is using his imagination to play, you are doing a great job and laying a wonderful foundation for future learning. That is enough.

Take care,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Play is work...

Play is work.

For kids, I mean.

I get so frustrated with all the preschool programs that teach academic things that I could scream! For kids, play is {My sister-in-law she has been a legal secretary for over 30 years]
work! I think if adults would realize that, we would not try to rush and ruin the built in educational system that God has designed for little children. They are inquisitive, they ask questions, when they are ready to know something they try to do it, or ask about it, they learn quickly. And they play.

I love watching kids play. They are so creative. I mean, when I watched my boys play with match box cars they would drive them around, make engine noises, create road systems [small motor coordination], toss them up and let them drop [gravity training], see how many they could put in a bucket [spacial training], sort them in a million different ways and so forth. Look at all that math learned through play.

When Kari played with the same toys, she did a lot of the same things, minus the engine noises. She would drive the cars around and say things like, "OK, lets get out and buy some milk," or "Here we are at the library." Same cars, different play. She was much more verbal, much more directed- and her play was work too.

And the sandbox. I LOVE the sandbox-talk about play being work. Kids use small muscles, large muscles, engineering, city planning, molding, sculpting, getting along with sandbox mates and so forth. And if you add water to the sandbox, things just get better!

OK, I will admit it. I come from a long line of sandbox lovers. We always had a LARGE sandbox-not those little plastic turtle things they have now-a-days, but a huge sandbox that was so big that we had to have a dump-truck come and dump a load of sand at our house. I had one as a child and so did our kids. We thought of it as standard child rearing equipment. My mom loved the sandbox. As a grandma she would sit with the kids and play if she had a chance, and at the beach she was always playing with sand in some shape or form. My mom told me once about the sandbox she has as a kid and how she played in it till she was really too old for it.

I said, "How old were you mom?"

Mom, "Well, till I started dating your father." [And she wasn't kidding! She was 15 when she started dating Dad!]

See what I mean about having a history with sandbox play.

But, in addition to that-bikes and rope swings and balls and wagons and puzzles and blocks and dolls are all part of work for kids. They need play. They learn more from play than from some contrived activity at a pre-school.

Now I am not saying that preschools are all bad, nor am I saying that if a 3 year old wants to learn their letters you should withhold information; all I am saying is preschool is not necessary to have a well rounded child. They will not have their academic future ruined if they do not go to preschool or have preschool at home. Seriously!

I mean, my generation never went to preschool-we never heard of it. Yet, there are rocket scientists, brain surgeons, Nobel Peace Prize winners and so forth that are my age. How did we manage to actually learn to do anything without preschool? Playing. Good old fashion play.

For kids, play is work. I believe that with my whole heard.

Play. is. work.

More about preschool tomorrow...
Take care,

Monday, January 26, 2009

Something totally different...mopping and dusting...

I like a neat house.

I like things picked up, minimum clutter and no dishes in the sink-but I am not too thrilled about dusting and mopping. We live next to and across the street from gravel parking lots, so we have a lot of dust-all the time. And, my kitchen floor gets a lot of traffic and pretty much always used to be in need of a good mopping. Not any more! I have found a wonder mop and a pretty easy way to dust.

I know this is boring, but I am pretty excited about how great these two products work.

Mopping: I found this great electric mop called a Bissel Steam Mop or a Green Tea Mop. I am not sure why it is called that, except that it is an ugly green color. It is the size of an electric broom, but it is practically magic. You fill a little reservoir with water, plug it in, and in 30 seconds it is ready to go. It has a little trigger you can push and it gives a shot of steam, like an iron. The steam cleans like a miracle, even stuck on bits and then you can just easily go back and forth over the whole floor either with the damp mop or pushing steam. It is that easy. NO cleaning products, just water and about 5 minutes. [Like all mops though, you have to sweep up the loose bits off your floor before you start--it does not pick up dirt, rather steams the floor clean.]

The great thing is, it doesn't leave your floor really wet, so the floor dries in no time AND it comes with two removable cloth covers/pads for the bottom. Nothing to pitch or buy. Just wash the pads when they are dirty and you are good to go. I have used it on my kitchen and bath linoleum and my finished wood floor [use only minimally on wood, but it is nice when someone spills lemonade, etc.] I can't believe how clean and easy it bucket to fill, no drips, no throw away pads--just good old steam and no elbow grease. I love it!
The next miracle product is much cheaper. Do you hate to clean mirrors, windows and dust? I have one word...MICROFIBER! Yes, microfiber cloths. You can get them in the commercial cleaning section of Wal-Mart or in the automotive department of most stores. Just get them damp and you can dust, shine faucets, clean windows in a flash. No nasty cleaners, just quick easy cleaning. This is a good place if you like to shop on-line, but honestly if you go into a Wal-Mart and look where their garbage cans are, they have Rubbermaid cleaning products. Their cloths are about $7 for two.

Even if you can only afford a couple of these cloths, I suggest you get one or two and try them out. They are amazing and when they get dirty, just wash and they are ready to go again.

OK, that is my lesson for today. Now, if I could only find a no-work way to keep my porch clean.

Take care,

Friday, January 23, 2009

Amazing Grace! Why do some want to go back under the law...

This is different than my regular posts. I read a blog yesterday about why a great Christian Homeschool Company like Sonlight is not allowed into the Denver CHEC Homeschool Convention. It was entitled "Are you being treated like a child?"

The gist is that Sonlight is not "Christian enough" for the convention organizers and the reason?? They want to go back under the law-- they cannot accept God's grace. OK, that is not the official reason, but that is my amateur analysis of the situation.

Remember the Apostle Paul--the Apostle to the Gentiles? In Ephesians 2:9 he said [Young's Literal Translation] " [salvation] is not of works, that no one may boast" And again in 2 Timothy 1:9 "[God] who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity," [NASB].

So, salvation is by grace not by works--in other words not by keeping the law or a set of rules, which would make it works, but by God's grace; so that no man may boast.

I find this so interesting, since most Christian organizations have a list, usually a rather long list of what you must do to be saved. They may not say that, but they believe it. Just look at their requirements to be a church member!

I am of this opinion, that Paul gives as he is talking to his jailer, from Acts 16:30-31:

And [the jailer] brought them out, and said, Sirs, [referring to Paul and Silas]what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."

Interesting, isn't it..what they didn't say? They didn't say:

Believe in a young earth creation
Ladies can only wear dresses [of course they all wore dresses back then]
Women can't work
Believe in the Trinity
Don't work on Sunday
and so on and so forth

Every Christian organization seems to have their own flavor of legalism. Do you see what I mean? All of these things force people to go back under law. Maybe not THE LAW, as in the Jewish Law, but under law just the same.

Paul got really disgusted with this way of thinking in his lifetime. Paul would preach grace and then the Judaizers*, they were actually Jewish Christian believers [as Paul himself was] would go behind him saying, "Grace, oh yeah, but you need to be circumcised too," [my loose interpretation].

And Paul would say, "Grace." Yet they continued just the same.

In Acts 15:5 Peter was talking to some Pharisees and in this passage they are discussing gentiles who believe in Christ "
5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses."

And The Apostle Peter said in that same chapter, "10 "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" He knew as Paul knew, the law could not save and it was a yoke that no one could bear.

It is no different today, Grace and ________ [fill in the blank].

And this is what the folks at many homeschool conventions, and most notably CHEC have done. To be a Christian you have to believe their variation of this age old notion. They want Grace and a young earth only perspective.

They go behind Paul and say "Grace isn't enough, you need to believe the earth was created 6000 years ago."

They are going back under the law when the Apostle Paul says, "
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..." It is paternalistic. It is bad theology. And, it is way too prevalent in many? most? Christian organizations today.

It makes me wonder if most Christians today even appreciate why Christ came and died. If following the law could bring salvation, Christ died in vain. But He did not die in vain, he died to free us from the law! I don't know why it is so hard to grasp.

Take care,

* The "Judaizers" seem to be a group of Jewish Christians in the first century CE who preached to the recently founded churches of the Gentiles the need to conform to the Law of Moses, even after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This group originated in Jerusalem; we know little about them, only that they appear to be Pharisees (Acts 15:5). We do not know how organized they were or any names of any individuals within the movement. They are called the "Judaizers" for lack of a more official term; they attempted to make Jews out of Gentile Christians.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Homeschool Transcripts, not as scary as you think...

I talk to lots of moms and dads every year who ask about transcripts. They are not just concerned, but many are actually very worried about this aspect of homeschooling. There are all kinds of books, classes and lectures that focus on transcripts and getting into college, and many are very good, but this post is just to give you the basics. If you want more information, I suggest you might want to get the Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook [For some help in evaluating Sonlight Cores into credits, you may want to check out this post.]

In my experience, with our two homeschool graduates, it is not something to stress out over. My homemade transcripts were not questioned by the state universities and Christian College my kids applied to. But, I do have some helpful hints:

  • Keep REALLY good records, starting in 9th grade, or 8th grade if you child is doing high school level courses such as Algebra, a foreign language, Biology, etc. I suggest keeping a spread sheet with the course title, the text or books used, authors and publisher, and a course description. I will put a simple course description at the end of this post.
  • If it is a course that is more hands on or does not use a traditional textbook, then you might want to keep a record of time spent on the course. For example, for a class like "Fine Arts" you might want to record events and times at the events over the course of all 4 years. You could include trips to art museums, attendance at music events and so forth. Over the course of 4 years this could be enough hours to count for 1/2 to 1 credit. A regular traditional school credit is generally equal to 140-150 hours. Most people figure since it takes less time to school using a tutorial method, it would be about 120 hours of homeschool time to count for one credit. This can vary, but this would be a fair estimate.
  • Every quarter or at least every semester, award a letter grade to the course.
  • Contact the colleges or universities you are interested, or at least go on their website to see what they want courses they want to see incoming freshmen have. I would do this when my child is in late middle school and check at least annually. Gear your 4 year high school plan so that you include what they want to see.
  • Make up a transcript-you can email me for a sample- and keep it current. If you do this at the end of 9th grade and update it annually, it will a fairly simple thing to do. If you wait till your child is applying to colleges, it can get overwhelming. I used a combination of an Excel spread sheet and a Word document. You can find samples on-line or in the Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook
  • Remember transcripts can look many, many different ways. Every school district does theirs different, so there is more than one right way. You can organize the credits by year or by topic--for instance putting all the English credits together. Either way is acceptable.
  • Generally, all transcripts needs a cumulative GPA, a chart for telling what point value you give to each letter grade, an official signature, the name and address of the school, name and address and birth date of child and it must be dated. Check with the colleges you are interested in to see what they require if you have any hesitation. The admission officers are looking for a reason to accept your child, so they are very helpful.
  • Remember, you child's transcript is like a resume. It should include all classes as well as a listing of extra curricular activities-these are generally included on a separate sheet, with the actual list and grades of classes all on one sheet.
  • Keep a copy of everything you send in. Also, keep a copy of your child's best written works, term papers; a sampling of math work, and other work, just in case you need to show a portfolio. We were not asked, but you would be wise to keep a sampling, just in case.
If you have further questions, please email me or ask here.

Sample Course Descriptions:

Algebra 1
1 Credit
An interactive course emphasizing the understanding of Algebra and Algebraic terms and concepts. Topics include real number system, number theory, algebraic expressions and sentences, linear and quadraic equations, inequalities, operations with polynomials, relations and functions, graphing equalities and inequalities, radical expressions, factoring polynomials and systems of equations.

1 Credit
This course covers the applications of geometric relationships and principles. Topics include a wide variety of constructions with compass work, inductive reasoning, points, lines, planes, angles, triangles, similarity and congruence, circles, three dimensional geometry, area, volume, trigonometry, and coordinate geometry. Understanding and real life application emphasized.

Personal Fitness/Physical Education
1 Credit
This course revolves around competitive swimming including, but not limited to: extensive practice and instruction, proper stroke formation, understanding of rules, participation in conference competitions, sportsmanship and teamwork.

Conversational Spanish
.5 credit
An interactive course emphasizing conversational Spanish with native Spanish speakers. Particular emphasis on listening and understanding basic Spanish phrases and words.

Social Studies
1 Credit
This course explores the foundations of other cultures, including their economics, geography, governments, religions and histories. This study is taught through a thorough look at Eastern Hemisphere countries. It utilizes map and encyclopedia work, as well as extensive literature, video clips, and in-depth look at how different societies and cultures have changed over time. Special emphasis on critical thinking and understanding people who are different than us. Taught in conjunction with English I.

Intro to Computers
1 Credit
Introduction to basic computer skills. This class will teach basic keyboarding, how to use the printer, digital camera, access the internet, email, on-line research and other basic applications. It will also introduce the use of Excel Spread Sheets, Word and other common software. Ethical and privacy issues will be discussed, as well as web safety.

As a note of disclaimer: I am not any sort of authority on this subject. I am just one mom telling you what has worked for us. If what I have recommended is helpful, great--but you should read some books, ask some folks and talk to admission counselors if you have any questions. Also, I have heard that there is various software available to help you with transcripts, diplomas etc. Perhaps you may want to Google "homeschool software" and see what comes up.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chores: The Nitty-gritty

Continuing what I wrote yesterday about allowances... One thing I didn't make clear yesterday is that I do not feel you should tie allowances to chores. Everyone in a family does chores because a family should work together. It encourages industry, team work, a good self image and is valuable training on the road to adulthood. Everyone in the family gets an allowance so they can learn to budget and to save, and to use and [Scotty, 8, taking out recycling and trash] manage money wisely.

So, after that disclaimer, let's get going on how to figure out how to do chores...

Do the same thing you did with the money. Take a few days and write down all the chores around the house. Have your kids and husband make a list too, and then after a few days compile the list. Put things down that are done every day and things that are done maybe once a week. The list could look like this:

  • Daily-sweep kitchen floor, unload dishwasher, set table, turn on porch light, pick up toys, feed dog, take out trash, clean out car, do laundry, put clothes away, wipe down bathroom sink, wipe down toilet
  • Twice a week: vacuum, dust [this could be dust living room one day, dust another room the other day],
  • Weekly: sweep porch, scoop up after dog, mow lawn, dust bedrooms, clean bathroom, water plants
OK, now that you have your list. Divide it up among the abilities of the kids. An easy way is to make index cards with each kid's name and put the chores on the card. You can put it on fridge, or laminate, punch a hole in it and tie them together and hang from a nail. The main thing is it should be written down so you don't have to tell them what to do--for non-readers, draw a picture.

An example of how you might assign the chores:

9 year old: sweep kitchen floor, empty dishwasher, vacuum, fold clothes
6 year old: set table, feed dog, take out trash, dust living room, wash down sink and toilet
3 year old: water outside plants with a squirt bottle, pick up toys [with 6 year old], dust low things, turn on porch light

Also, put weekly chores on their card--maybe to do Thursday afternoon or something. The card can have each day on it with the chores for that day, or daily chores listed in one column and then on Thursday you can list the weekly chore[s]--whatever works for you.

Now, here is the secret of making this work. As much as is logistically possible, everyone works at the same time! Don't you just hate to work and see everyone else sitting around eating cookies? It makes work seem worse than it is, and truly work is good. So, to make it feel like we are team, everyone working together, it needs to be done at the same time. In our house, when the kids were little, we worked after supper. [Many people do this before Dad gets home, but at our house, Dad was always home, so we did it after supper.]

So, after dinner the dish boys would start in on the dishes [2 boys], the laundry boy would fold the clothes [he and I did a couple loads each day, then he folded after supper], Kari pick up living room and vacuumed, Scotty would pick up toys other places and put in kids' rooms, someone fed the dog [I can't remember who]--all at the same time! Everyone worked! [Of course, someone had to set the table before supper, but you get the idea]. Generally this took about 30 minutes. Then the house was picked up, chores done, the kids would take their clean laundry and put it in their drawers and then we could all relax for the evening.

When the kids got to be 10th, 8th, 6th, 2nd and 4 years old, the laundry situation changed and after that everyone did their own laundry. I still did Bob's, Scotty's and mine, but by the time he was about 7 he did his own laundry. Then the chores changed a bit.

I have a friend that has 5 kids 10 and under. A couple of years ago [when they had 4 kids 8 and under] I happened to come in during "The 15 minute Flash." This was about 4:30 on a weekday. The kids were buzzing around like bees--the 8 year old was putting away toys and helping the 2 year old pick up toys too. The 4 year old was setting the table, the 6 year old was emptying the dishwasher--she had just swept the kitchen floor. Their chores as supposed to be done in 15 minutes, so they buzz around and make a race out of it. She actually sets a timer! I talked to one of the kids a few months ago, and they have all moved up in chores. So, some of the easy chores have gone to the next child down, and the older child has moved to harder chores. When the Flash is over, they can play till dinner. I think the dad cleans up the kitchen after dinner.

At any rate, I hope this is helpful. The thing is, start somewhere. You can always change, adjust, re-evaluate--see what works for your family. Also, to keep chores down, we did a lot of color coding. Everyone had one glass, in their specific color, that they used all day for misc. drinks. They had a clean one for milk at supper time, but for water/lemonade, etc. all day long, they used the same cup all day. This minimized the dishes and kept the dishwasher so it wasn't constantly full.

I also went out and bought each person ONE bath towel, each a different color. They used this till I washed them. This prevented the misc. towel on the floor-no one admits whose towel it is. We had pegs in the bathroom and each kid put their towel on a peg. A couple of times a week I did a load of towels and then just re-hung them on the pegs. This saved a LOT of laundry, especially with teen boys showering a lot. I know Martha Stewart would cringe at the lack of color coordination, but it worked for us. Just make sure the towels are all light colors so you can wash them at the same time.

I guess that is it--if you have specific questions, please ask. I hope this helps.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Allowances, the Nitty-gritty...

After reading my posts on kids, chores and allowances, I got this email from my cousin:

"Hi Jill,

"Thanks for telling me about your blog. It's great!! I look forward to reading each entry. "I'd like to draw on your 125 years of parenting and ask you a question. "I didn't have an allowance growing up and I didn't have chores. Let me clarify that I wasn't lazy and always helped my Mom and Dad. If money was ever needed for something, they would pay for it. If I ever got money (gifts), I would save it. Till this day I don't like spending money (I don't even like to shop!). My question is, how should I implement chores and allowance with my kids (9, 6, and 3). They do some things around the house, but I feel like they should be doing more. Since I don't have past experience with it, I'm lost. "Thanks for your help Bluegrass Mom!"

I thought others might be interested in this as well, so today and tomorrow I will speak to her questions:

Glad to hear from you. I sure don't want you to think that everyone has to have an allowance and chores to be successful--I mean, you are doing all right :), but I really do think it teaches so many things like responsibility, self worth, management, team work and so much more. So, here goes my suggestions--take what fits, toss what doesn't.

And, I don't like to shop either!

Well, first things first--and there are really two issues here. Allowance and chores. I guess I will start with allowance. For a three year old, maybe none. I think we usually started with allowance at about 4, but you can use your own judgment. Let me give an example for your nine year old. Take a few days to write down everything you pay for for your nine year old now.

Let me offer some suggestions:

  • Gifts: birthday gifts and Christmas gifts for family members. Let's estimate $5.00 for each gift, times number of family members to buy for times 2 [how many gifts each]. So, for a family with 3 kids and 2 parents, this would be $5x4x2=$40 per year. Divide that by how many times you give allowance. In this example, let's say you give allowance every 2 weeks. 40/26=about $1.50.
  • Church offering and dues to any activities: like scouts, etc. Let's say $2.50 every 2 weeks. Perhaps you don't have dues in the summer, if so, figure that in. [An alternative is things like dues could be taken out of a family "dues" can. Mom and Dad could fund with change, so that child can take dues out of it. The can could be for milk/lunch money too, if you do that.Whatever seems to work for your family is fine.
  • Spending money: Figure what you normally hand out--candy bars, little toys when you are at Wal-Mart, garage sale money, soda--think through what you buy for the kids and how much your normally spend for this type of thing. Let's say $1.00 every two weeks.
  • Money to save: Do your kids save up for bigger things like a team hat [Scotty used to spend almost all extra money on Packer's hats], new baseball, craft items, etc.? If so, add that amount so they actually have some money to save to buy bigger things. Let's say $1.00 each payday.
Anything else you can think of. I can't think of anything else, so let's add it up.

Every two weeks:
$1.50+$2.50+$1.00+$1.00=$6.00 [if you don't have a dues can]. If this sounds about right, then that would be for one child, let's say the 9 year old, then you would scale down for the 6 year old, perhaps $4.00 per week.

Every birthday the amount is raised, more privileges, more responsibility.

The other thing is you don't just hand this money over. You can use the envelope method or the three bank method, or whatever works, but you help your child to distribute the money in the category it is for. So, the gift money goes in a gift envelope to accumulate, the spend money in a spend bank, and so forth. This helps them budget and limit their spending.

[Kari, 8th birthday, growing in responsibility]
I know when Scotty started getting his clothing allowance monthly [he was about ten or eleven] he could not use the money without getting approval-otherwise it would have all gone for hats. We had to set a limit of 2 hats a year with clothes money. So, make adjustments as you see fit.

Tomorrow I will speak to the question of how to figure out and assign chores.

Take care,

The Nitty-Gritty of giving allowances...

After reading my entry about the value of giving allowances and doing chores, I got an email from my cousin that said:

"I'd like to draw on your 125 years of parenting and ask you a question.

"I didn't have an allowance growing up and I didn't have chores. Let me clarify that I wasn't lazy and always helped my Mom and Dad. If money was ever needed for something, they would pay for it. If I ever got money (gifts), I would save it. Till this day I don't like spending money (I don't even like to shop!). My question is, how should I implement chores and allowance with my kids (9, 6, and 3). They do some things around the house, but I feel like they should be doing more. Since I don't have past experience with it, I'm lost.

"Thanks for your help Bluegrass Mom!"

I thought, if she had questions, others will to, so I thought I would address this question today and tomorrow. Here is what I wrote back:

I don't like to shop either.

Well, first things first--and there are really two issues here. Allowance and chores. I guess I will start with allowance and we can talk about chores tomorrow.

For a three year old, maybe none. I think we usually started with allowance at about 4, but you can use your own judgment. Let me give an example for your nine year old. Take a few days to write down everything you pay for for your nine year old now.

Let me offer some suggestions:
  • Gifts: birthday gifts and Christmas gifts for family members. Let's estimate $5.00 for each gift, times number of family members to buy for, times 2 [how many gifts each]. So, for a family with 3 kids and 2 parents, this would be $5x4x2=$40 per year. Divide that by how many times you give allowance. In this example, let's say you give allowance every 2 weeks. 40/26=about $1.50.
  • Church offering and dues to any activities: like scouts, etc. Let's say $2.50 every 2 weeks. Perhaps you don't have dues in the summer, if so, figure that in. [An alternative is things like dues could be taken out of a family "dues" can. Mom and Dad could fund with change, so that child can take dues out of it. The can could be for milk/lunch money too, if you do that. Whatever seems to work for your family is fine.]
  • Spending money: Figure what you normally hand out--candy bars, little toys when you are at Wal-Mart, garage sale money, soda--think through what you buy for the kids and how much your normally spend for this type of thing. Let's say $1.00 every two weeks.
  • Money to save: Do your kids save up for bigger things like a team hat [Scotty used to spend almost all his extra money on Packer's hats], new baseball/basketball, bell for bike, craft items, etc.? If so, add that amount so they actually have some money to save to buy bigger things. Let's say $1.00 each payday.
Anything else you can think of. I can't think of anything else, so let's add it up.

Every two weeks:
$1.50+$2.50+$1.00+$1.00=$6.00 [if you don't have a dues can]. If this sounds about right, then that would be for the 9 year old, then you would scale down for the 6 year old, perhaps $4.00 per week [maybe less expensive presents, less spending, no dues, whatever].

Every birthday the amount is raised, but with more privileges there comes more responsibility.

The other thing is you don't just hand this money over. You can use the envelope method or the three bank method, or whatever works, but you help your child to distribute the money in the category it is for. So, the gift money goes in a gift envelope to accumulate, the spending money in a spending bank, and so forth. This helps them budget and limit their spending.

I know when Scotty started getting his clothing allowance monthly [he was about ten or eleven] he could not use the money without getting approval-otherwise it would have all gone for hats. We had to set a limit of 2 hats a year with clothes money. So, make adjustments as you see fit.

Tomorrow: The Nitty-Gritty of chores.

Take care,

Kari 8th birthday-growing responsibilities

Monday, January 19, 2009

When Family Disapprove of Homeschooling...

I was going to post this at a later date--this is something I wrote a few years ago, but a friend of mine asked me to encourage a discouraged homeschool mom whose family disapproves. So, I thought I would post it now so she could read it. Perhaps it will encourage others as well.

When Family Disapproves, by Jill © 2003

I come from a family of teachers, in fact I have a teaching degree but chose to stay home and have a large family (5 children) instead of working. My parents were opposed to homeschooling from the start---and that was in 1990. We treated homeschooling as the proverbial "Elephant in the Room" -- we didn't talk about it. My dad did teach the boys drafting and woodshop, but my parents felt the kids needed a classroom setting in order to be able to go on to college, etc. At that time we were in a church of about 3000, and we were the only home educators in our church.

I was raised with the premise that education is your salvation. It is how my dad pulled himself out of poverty, so it is no wonder they were skeptical. Although Christians, they did not understand any of our convictions for educating our 5 children at home.

After SEVEN YEARS, my dad came and sat at the table where I was checking over some math papers and said, "You know we never approved of you homeschooling the kids. (Long Pause) But I see what great kids you have, and the closeness they have, how well they are doing and want to tell you your sacrifice was worth it. You have done a great job and you made the right decision."

Sometimes you just have to live it out---you can't talk it out or prove it with statistics, you have to live it out, just like your faith---day by day. My dad died a few years later, and oh what a sweet memory the above is for me. How glad I am that we stuck to it, that we lived it out, that we were kind and gentle with scoffers. Hopefully you will be able to tell your own stories of acceptance in the years to come.

Take care,

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Best Hot Cocoa...

It is really cold here today, in fact it is zero degrees outside and 53 degrees in our bedroom! We keep the vent closed and use a nice fluffy down comforter. Great for sleeping, but hard to get up.

Cold days scream for cups full of hot cocoa, so today I thought I would post my two favorite recipes. The one I make most is an old fashioned cocoa type:

[Scotty sledding age 3]

For one quart of cocoa:

1/3 Cup of baking cocoa, I like the Hershey's Special Dark
1/3 Cup of white sugar [May use 1/2 to 2/3 C sugar if you like it sweeter?
1/4 Cup of water

Blend together in a sauce pan, bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for about a 45 seconds, then whisk in:

1 quart of milk

Heat, but do not boil. If you have a thermometer, 180 degrees is a good temperature for cocoa.

1 tsp vanilla
1T butter [optional, but it does make it more creamy, this is real butter not whipped margarine]

Serve hot, may top with whipped cream and a bit of dry cocoa or cinnamon sugar or marshmallows.
The second recipe is an "Adults only" type cocoa. Not because of adult ingredients, but because it is more chocolaty and not as sweet.


This is the most chocolatey, richest chocolate I have ever had. If you want more of a creamy taste, add a dollop of whipped cream, but for showing off the complexities of the rich chocolate taste, this can’t be beat. This is a grown up hot cocoa—just give the kids some Swiss Miss!

6 ounces of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (not unsweetened), cut up
1 ½ C boiling water
1 ½ C milk

Place the chocolate in a small saucepan. Pour about ½ of the boiling water over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the rest of the boiling water and the milk. Heat over medium heat, whisking continuously, until hot, but not boiling. 180° is the optimal temperature for cocoa. Serve immediately. (Use chocolate with 60%-70% chocolate).

Recipe comes from the amazing book, Bittersweet by Alice Medrich and Deborah Jones

I don't want this to become a recipe blog, so I feel I owe you all something beyond two recipes. I love chocolate, and after careful research, I have discovered that it actually has only a small amount of caffeine when compared to coffee or cola drinks. I thought chocolate lovers everywhere would love to have this information.

The chart shows the beverage or food and the average mg. caffeine

[Cris, about 14]

COFFEE, 5 oz cup

Brewed, drip method 115
Brewed, perc. method 80
Instant 65
brewed 3
instant 2

TEA, 5oz cup
Brewed, major US brands 40
imported 60
Iced (12oz glass) 70
Instant 30
Decaff. brewed 3

SOFT DRINKS, 12oz 30-60

Cocoa, 5oz cup 4
Chocolate milk, 8 oz 5
Chocolate flavored syrup, 1 oz 4
Milk chocolate, 1 oz 6
Dark and semi sweet, 1 oz 20

You will notice I didn't publish a calorie chart!

Take care,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tools or Toys...

~Dad in his workshop making himself a new workbench~

My dad had a lot of great advice. I mentioned before his idea about "Grant Writing," in relation to kids and allowances, but another thing I learned from him was the art of giving gifts to kids. I remember it clearly--at that time I had 3 little boys and we were standing in my dad's workshop. He was making something and I was holding some tools for him and I commented that he and Mom always gave such great gifts to the kids. At that time I was in a ladies Bible Study and that same week some of the moms were discussing how their kids got so much "toy junk" as gifts and they were lamenting it and wondering how they could curb the toys, limit the junk.

Dad said, "You have to give kids tools, not toys."

That was the advice. He didn't really elaborate--which if you knew my dad, you would be smiling because he generally elaborated on everything. Tools not Toys--actually, he didn't have time to elaborate because someone [3 boys 6 and under--it happened a lot] started crying in the house with Mom and I left Dad in his workshop to see what the trouble was. Then I was off to other things and the conversation never really got finished. But, when I was driving home that afternoon those words came back, "Tools not Toys."

It goes back to the thought that we are raising kids to be well adjusted, functioning adults that will one day hold jobs, have families and be responsible citizens. We just have our kids for a little while and during that time we are to prepare them to take their place in society. So they need to learn a lot along the way. They need to be molded and shaped and directed along the way--they need the tools, we need the tools, to get them there.

My Dad, way back when, was a history and shop teacher. And one thing he instilled in us from a young age is, "You have to have the right tool for the job." He would sometimes shake his head when he looked at my husband's tools in our early married life. Many times he would give us the correct tool for the job, or let us use his. I mean, you can not fix plumbing without a pipe wrench, or work with electricity without a volt tester.

The same is true with kids. What kids need are tools not toys. If folks could just get a handle on that, much of the junk found in the typical kid's section of most stores could be reduced by half or maybe even 90%. But, what is a tool? [Happy days in the sandbox]

Tools, in no particular order: Balls, blocks, dolls, flashlights, sand box, wagon, bike, swings, picnic table, paper and markers/crayons, legos, scissors, games, backpack, fishing pole, compass, knife [older child], mess kit, camping supplies, books, actual tools like a screwdriver and hammer, woodburning set, knitting or crochet or any kind of handwork, magnifying glass, leather craft, jump-rope, kid sized baking or cooking set, puzzles, kitchen set [play food and so on], a cash register and play money, paddle ball, gardening items like a pail, shovel and so on...really most traditional toys. I consider Match Box type cars and most action figures tools too.

Toys, in no particular order: Anything that has batteries or makes noise that drives a mom crazy [anyone remember the Tooneyville Choo-Choo?], if it is meant for the child to watch it rather than interact with it, video games, computer games--even educational games can be toys if you are not careful, anything that is cheap plastic and will break easily, stuffed things that talk and entertain--really anything [Scotty, age three, he loved his Dr. Drew blocks] that is meant as an entertainment. I am sure if you and I went together to a big box store, we could find tons of toys that would fall in this category.

Now, I am not saying "NO TOYS EVER!" What I am saying is: Tools should be a child's main diet and toys should be like a dessert. Dessert is nice, but you only have occassionally, not at every meal.

Tools will encourage imagination, develop large and small muscles, and should get the child outside daily. Tools will stand the test of time, can usually be passed down from child to child in a family, and have a lot of play value.

So, the next time you need to give a gift to a child,remember my dad's words, "Tools not Toys." Thanks for advice Dad.

Take Care,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chores and Self Esteem...

I have a theory that kids who have chores have better self esteem. I can't prove it, but I think I can make a case for it.

Everyone needs to be needed and feel they have value. I mean, think about it. Think of the little child that has learned how to feed the dog or fold a towel. They are so proud, they want to tell everyone what they have done. Now, think about the retiree who dies 6 months after he retires. This happens a lot and I have read over and over again how this happens to people whose whole identity is tied to their work. No work-no reason to live.

Work is good.

Inherent in everyone is the desire to be needed, to count, to matter. And work is a big part of this. Now I don't mean you have to get a job. Honestly, there are enough jobs around the house to provide a goodly amount of work. And with work, comes a feeling of being needed and self esteem.

Consider two children-about 4-6 years old. The first child has most things done for him. Oh, he might dress himself and make his own bed, but beyond that, he is entertained and doted on by his parents. They wash his clothes, make his food, wash his dishes, take him where he wants to go--he is the little "master" of the house and the parents work hard to provide him a happy, care-free childhood.

It sounds nice, but this child is more of a pet than a member of the family. He is not really needed and he knows this, maybe not consciously, but he knows it. What is his value? Oh, his parents say he is smart, nice, cute and so forth, but what is his value? His parents will tell you he is priceless, but as years pass, if things do not change, he will feel less and less worthy.

Now, consider a child who has regular chores. He has to feed the dog or take out the trash or wipe down the bathroom on [Kids helping with a family building project] a regular basis. He knows he is important--I mean, what would the family do if he wasn't around? The trash would overflow, the dog would starve, the bathroom would be unusable. He KNOWS he is needed. And, his self esteem flows from that knowledge.

What a great gift to give our children. The knowledge that they are important, they are a necessary member of our family and they are learning skills that will serve them well in the years to come.

And this extends beyond parenting. Consider the youth program at a church. The kids are generally "kept" in a youth room, [Photo above: gardening with Grandpa] have adults conjure up lessons and activities calculated to teach kids about the Christian Life, and then a couple of times a year they do a youth service, or a service project or maybe do some type of _____-a-thon [fill in the blank with walk, run, rock, fast--you get the idea].

And what does this teach? That it takes a staff to entertain youth, that they will be part of the church some day, but right now they need to be kept out of the way, in a fun room with lots of supervision. It drives me nuts.

In some places, mostly smaller churches, things look a lot different and I believe the youth have a greater sense of responsibility. Usually, in these churches, the youth are already part of the church. They are working in the nursery [if there is one], singing in the choir [or playing the piano], helping with ground maintenance, teaching Sunday School, bringing snacks for fellowship time..., in short-doing what the adults do. They are important. They are part of the church now, they are involved in the church service regularly not just on youth Sunday. This gives kids a sense of ownership, commitment and a positive self image. They know they are needed. The church benefits and so do the kids-it is a win-win situation.

My husband pastored three churches like this many years ago, and they were awesome churches. Adults, youth, kids--all were brothers and sisters in Christ, working together and worshiping together. Those churches and the people [of all ages]healthy too.

It all goes back to the same issue. Everyone needs to be needed and feel they have value.

Take care,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why we started homeschooling back in 1990...

The following is something I wrote some time ago, but it gives you an insight into why we started homeschooling. I am printing it here because I think sometimes people worry about their kids and don't know what to do. In our case, homeschooling ended up being the answer that made such a huge difference in how our older son blossomed physically, emotionally and intellectually.

The Whistle
by Jill © 2003

My son was looking poorly. He had stopped whistling and his shoulders were hunched as I picked him up from school that fall day. It was hot--it was hot most of the time in our Florida community. He looked so small coming out of that big school, so slender and vulnerable.

He was trapped. We were all trapped. Since school started a few weeks before, Cris had been sick with asthma one day out of every three. Threatened and pushed around by the bigger boys because he wouldn’t fight back, his health was deteriorating. There were gangs and he was an easy target. Even though he was 12 years old, my husband and I couldn’t let him walk the 1/2 mile to and from school every day. It wasn’t safe. The neighbor boy had been badly beaten doing that very thing only a year or two before. It was one of the hardest times in our lives.

We tried getting him transferred which required a special permit. Dead ends. All dead ends. We had four younger children at home and my husband was the sole bread winner. We couldn’t afford a private school, and we were losing Cris to discouragement. The asthma was draining the very breath out of him.

A friend of mine mentioned homeschooling. This was in 1990 and I had never heard of it before. Was it legal? Would it work? Did I have the time? Were we crazy to even consider it? In no time my friend had put me in touch with a friend of hers, and before I knew it I was sitting in a park with my two preschoolers and several moms, perusing math books and scope and sequence charts. I had graduated from college years earlier with a teaching degree, but to teach all subjects with two little children under foot seemed daunting.

Still, it was worth a try. My husband and I felt God leading us in this direction, and Cris was willing, so I ordered 7th grade text books and waited for the mailman. In no time the books arrived. With warnings from the superintendent that he could probably never go to college or get back into public school again, we withdrew Cris from school, and began homeschooling.

My parents, and especially my dad, were really against the whole thing. A retired public school teacher and college professor with a Ph.D., Dad worried that Cris would never get into a college, and he wouldn’t learn what he needed to know.

Meanwhile, Cris began to flourish. Within two weeks I heard the sound I had prayed to hear for a long time ... Cris was whistling! He wasn’t so pale, he was standing taller and his asthma was practically non-existent. As we finished that year we looked forward to the next.

Our second son Dusty was supposed to go to the same school the following fall. I knew what we had to do, but I felt unequal to the task. “Lord,” I prayed, "I don’t want to homeschool them all. I am not qualified. How will I find the time?"

But God was faithful and I remembered His promise to be with me always. So the next fall I had an 8th grader, 6th grader, 4th grader, Kindergartner and a two year old in my homeschool. Could I do it? My husband Bob, my biggest cheerleader, was behind me all the way. The curriculum came and school started.

My parents were still against it, but Dad volunteered to teach the boys drafting and woodworking. He was such a good sport, even though he disagreed with us. We never really talked about homeschooling ... it was the elephant in the room. We all knew it was there, but we avoided talking about it. We agreed to disagree.

Years passed and after seven years my dad was visiting us (we now lived in Kentucky). I was busy correcting papers when he came in and sat at the table with me. “You know I never approved of your homeschooling.” Then there was a big pause. “You have done a good thing. When I see your kids, their character and what they know, I realize that the sacrifice you made was worth it. You have done a good thing.”

My dad died three years later, but that moment stays with me in my heart and mind. The sacrifice God had called me to WAS worth it. My homeschooled kids have been a joy and a blessing to my husband and I, to each other, and to the community.

Sometimes the hardest times in our lives lead us to the best decisions in our lives. Sometimes it takes years to see our sacrifices pay off. Sometimes we never see them pay off. But always God is with us; leading, guiding, helping us do what He has called us to do. Helping a little boy to whistle again.

Take care,

As a note:
  • Cris graduated from Asbury College in 2000 with a degree in Physical Science, and the College of Engineering at University of Kentucky in 2001 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He is married and lives with his wife Jen in Lexington, KY.
  • Dusty is married, and he and his wife Sharon also live in Lexington, KY. Dusty has recently gone back to school at University of Kentucky to complete his degree in accounting.
  • Chad graduated from the University of Kentucky majoring in computer science and math. He is married Molly this past summer and works as a computer programmer in Lexington.
  • Kari graduated from our homeschool in May 2004 after spending her 10th and 11th grade years in public school and graduated from University of Kentucky last May. She works and lives in Lexington.
  • Scott graduated from our homeschool, having been homeschooled his whole life. He attends Eastern Kentucky University, majoring in Homeland Security.
Photo: From left to right: Jen and Cris, Sharon and Dusty, Bob and I, Chad and Molly, Kari and Scott.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kids, allowances and money...

Money is a funny thing.

It is essential, it is limited, and for most of us, the more we have, the more we spend.

Daughter teaching a craft class to little girls

For kids, it is almost magical. Most kids, especially younger children, don't have any idea of the time and effort it takes to actually get money, or the capacity to understand how to use it wisely.

I am a firm believer in regular allowances for young children and salaries for older children/teens. I hear some of you gasp, but
honestly, I don't know how kids can learn to budget, save and spend if they don't have a regular amount of money coming in. I don't think it has to be a lot of money, but it needs to be enough that they can learn to manage it. I have seen the articles saying that a child should get $1 for every year of age, per week, to spend. Honestly, we NEVER gave anywhere near that amount for 2 weeks.

If a 7 year old gets $2.00 every payday--let's say twice a month--and he has to buy any snacks and toys for himself out of it, plus put 10% aside for savings and perhaps a percentage aside to give away, he is learning valuable lessons for less than $50 a year. Not only that, but if he really wants something that costs more than a few bucks, he either has to save for quite a while, wait for his birthday or find a way to generate income on his own. We found our kids could be quite resourceful in finding ways to earn income.

Our daughter babysat starting at about nine years old [she was at a neighbor's and I was home], a few of our children started mowing lawns at age ten and as a family we had a bread baking business for a few years and the children earned money this way. You have heard of the lemon aid stand--some of our kids did that too, or different variations of it. They would ask if I had any extra chores they could do to earn extra money, and so on. I want to talk about chores, but I think that will have to wait for a later blog.

As children age, they should be given more responsibility, as well as more money to manage. It is part of learning to be a responsible citizen. I have seen well meaning parents rant and rave about why kids should not get allowances "They don't need to get paid for doing their chores!" and then hand the

Youngest son selling and enjoying Coke

child a $10 bill whenever the child or young teen asked for it. That kind of money management leaves me shaking my head. I mean, what does that teach? I think it teaches kids to be dependent on someone else to find mercy and give them something for nothing. It does not teach them to save, or plan or have a sense of responsibility about money. It teaches them that dad or mom is a money tree.

Our kids didn't get paid for chores. They had to do their chores. Period. They couldnt' say, "I don't want to wash the
dishes, so don't pay me as much." They had to do their chores, and we gave them an allowance because they were part of our family, and family members get an allowance.

As the kids aged, when they got to about twelve, the allowance stopped, and a "salary' was instituted. I got this idea from my parents, who did this with my younger sister. I thought it was a great idea.

We sat down with each twelve year old and talked about how they are getting older and so forth. At this time, if we hadn't done it earlier, they opened a checking account and we went to the county clerk's office and got them a state ID. It looks like a driver's license, but they couldn't drive.

Then we wrote down their expenses...things like clothes, youth group expenses, entertainment, gifts, giving, lunch money and so on. We estimated that cost for a month. Then every month we paid them that amount. If a youth trip came up, they had to pay for it themselves. They did not ask us for money, they did not expect us to take them shopping for new shoes or clothes. That became their responsibility. Obviously we still took them shopping, but they could decide where and what they needed to buy and they payed for it themselves.

What usually happened is that if they wanted the latest-greatest tennis shoes they needed to save and probably needed to make some outside income. If they needed/wanted something big, and they talked to us about it, sometimes we would go half with them. My dad called this "writing a grant" and it is something he did with my older kids and with me as an adult from time to time. If we wrote down what we wanted, the price and why we wanted it, he would evaluate and might go half on it. We did not have our kids write the grant, but they did have to come to us with the request and have good ideas for wanting us to go half. Usually it was something big, like a bike or lawnmower or perhaps a big trip.

You don't have to give the kids a lot of money. Our income has always been limited. My husband was the sole bread winner and we had five we did not hand over lots and lots of money. Actually with a salary, a parent probably spends less because you are not financing every activity, birthday party present and so forth. The kids learn to save and be creative--kind of like "real life." And, you should see how happy they are when you buy them new socks or some sheets for their beds! They do not take these things for granted.

The goal is to help them understand how to manage their money responsibly. I would be naive to think that all my kids applied everything we taught them and never had any money issues after they left home. I am sure my kids have struggled with money, just like most of us--but I think they know the principles that will work, they know how to get on track, how to manage money and not be held a slave to it.

Take care,

Daughter Kari on far right. She is weaving bookmarks on a homemade loom. She and two friends were vendors at craft fair. This was great business experience. I think she was about 12 at the time.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Homeschoolers are changing history...

I love history.

As a child my history teacher dad took us on all kinds of road trips. We drove up to Alaska, down to Veracruz, Mexico and from coast to coast, stopping at historical landmarks, museums and spots of interest along the way. You know those pyramids in Mexico where human sacrifices took place? I have climbed them. I have seen the wagon wheel ruts put in solid stone from so many covered wagons passing over them. The first Pony Express station--I've been there--I think you get the idea. Living and breathing history as a child, I just took for granted the many things that others only learn about in books.

What I learned though, is that while people are making history, they seldom realize it. Some people do--I mean Thomas Edison knew he was making history, so did Henry Ford and Alexander the Great. But, regular people never realize it. They go about their lives, living and working and breathing and dying, and what they do seems mundane. But later, in retrospect, we can see the impact they had on history.

I am thinking of the scribes who faithfully copied great literary works, the folks who first found out that coffee was amazing in the morning, people who charted the stars and so many more. We don't know their names in most cases, but we know what they have done. They changed history.

I believe that the moms and dads that sit around their living rooms and kitchen tables faithfully teaching their children are doing the same thing today. I know it can be lonely and trying and somedays we ask ourselves why we do it.

But, homeschooling is about more than education. I believe homeschooling families across America and across the world are raising children to be competent men and women, well read, articulate and with a heart for the world. As a minority we are changing the way America thinks about education. We are changing the way society thinks about families. We are changing educational history and impacting our communities one family at a time.

Take care,

Friday, January 9, 2009

Soap therapy...

I love to make soap. I don't know what it is, but chemistry was not fun until I started making good old fashioned lye soap. I have developed many recipes, but basically I take granulated lye--the type that unclogs your sink--and dissolve it in water.

Then I combine it, when everything is the correct temperature, with liquid fats, butters and oils. And this is the part I love. When the lye water and oils have a chemical reaction called saponification, they are no longer two things, but now it is soap. I always feel a rush when this happens, when I see the reaction take place. Then I have to work fast to add any enriching butters and essential oils.

I pour it into molds and then the next day, unmold my soap. It has to cure for 2-3 weeks. Here you see Coconut Lime and Comforting Comfrey. My soap cures in plastic trays in my walk in closet and it makes my bedroom smell fabulous.

After curing, I wrap it and it is ready to use. The problem is, I never do anything in a small way. So, in no time we were over run with soap. I mean, at 18 bars to a batch, and I usually make two batches at a time, well you can see how quickly we were over-run. We like to be clean, but no family can use the amount the soap I was turning out. That is why I had to start selling it.

I love to develop new recipes and especially like making goat milk and coconut milk soap. They are harder to make, but give me more satisfaction.

If you are interested in making soap, I highly recommend you check out Millers Soap . She has lots of great information, better than I could find when I searched a whole host of books. Her recipes are easy to follow. And, of course, if you have questions about making soap, feel free to ask me. I am always glad to help.
Take care,

Concurrent Parenting

I have been parenting for over 125 years and I can prove it!

Parenting is a joy, but a lot of hard work and for a very long time. I would never really want to compare it with a prison sentence--but for the sake of the analogy, here I go...

A person commits, let us say, robbery. He may get a 10 year jail sentence from the judge. But what if he committed the robbery using a gun and a innocent bystander gets in the way of his escape so he takes that bystander as a hostage.

He goes to trial and he is convicted for three offenses:

10 year for robbery
10 years for using a deadly weapon in a crime
10 years for kidnapping

Now he is thinking, I will be in jail for 30 years, I will be an old man when I get out. And then, just before the gavel drops, the judge says two words that change everything..." served concurrently." Now he only spends 10 years in jail because he gets to serve his time concurrently.

And that proves that I have parented for 125 years [kids are aged 30,28, 26, 22, 19]- I have just been serving my time [so to speak] concurrently. And I should get credit for each and every one of those 125 years because each child is so different. So many different scenarios come up with each child, that it only seems fair that some days, if we have 5 children, we should get credit for 5 days of parenting.

So, for any moms and dads who feel really worn out or feel like sometimes each day can seem many days long [like when everyone has the flu], give yourself credit for more than one day, count one day for each child you have--you are just serving those days concurrently!

Take care,

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Inverse Parenting

Something has been bothering me for a long time and it is what I call "Inverse Parenting." You see it all the time, but I don't know that it really has a name. I thought about this when my kids were little but felt like I needed to try it for a long time to see if my theory was correct. I am not sure this is scientific at all, but my kids are 19-30 [four sons, one daughter] and it has proved true with us.

Good parenting should look like this...Hold your babies close and as they become aware of more, make sure to impose limits and teach right from wrong. Make sure they will mind know when you say they need to do something they do it, they don't say "no" and get away with it. You will have to be diligent as "folly is bound up in the heart of a child."But you must be in control, and they must learn to be under your authority. They will likely be under some authority all their lives, so they may as well learn when they are young.

As the children grow, you can begin to let go, so by the time they are early teens, they have more privileges, can make more decisions, have more freedom. This should increase with age until the child is an adult. At that time, they become accountable to God.

But, what I see is INVERSE PARENTING. This looks like the whole world revolving around the child. The parent asks the child's opinion on many things, lets the child say things that a child ought not say, like "I hate you," or "You can't make me," or "I won't eat this," and so forth. A child may do this and not get away with it, but in inverse parenting the parent looks the other way, or tries to talk the child through it, or thinks it is cute.

As time passes, the child usually becomes more demanding, less respectful of all authority and the parent finds that when the child becomes a young teen they are harder and harder to manage. At this time the parent tries to pull in the reigns, be more strict, set firmer limitations at the very time when they should be letting go. I have seen this over and over again with so many families that I know. And rarely does it work.

These children usually go through a very rebellious teen time, and many times do come out OK in the end, but they sure upset the family in the process. It is so much more enjoyable for the whole family and society in general when the child is obedient in young years. Good parenting is much more likely to produce likable teens and responsible adults than inverse parenting.

I know it is not easy to be consistent with young children. I know it can drain you to correct them and train them-but the rewards are great and I think you owe it to your children.

Take care,