Monday, May 16, 2016

Getting the Kids to Play Outside Again...or not?

Every Spring, I notice we go through a period where my children need a lot of encouragement and, yes, parental pressure, to play outside again.  As they have gotten older, other more "interesting" forms of entertainment have taken over. 

I am sure I am not alone when I say that television, Youtube videos and video games play a major part in my children's lives.

 Being a nature-lover myself, when Spring does finally roll around (this year it is taking exceptionally long) I want to get out and I want the boys out there with me!

So, we annually have this conversation:
Mom: "Let's go outside."
Kids: "Mooooooom.  There's nothing to do outside."
Mom: "There's a ton to do outside! Ride your bikes, build a fort!"
Kids: "That's booorrrrring."

Eventually, I win (because I am the mom) and we go out.

I have done a lot of reading about this issue. Both online and in book form and there is a lot to say about how the world has changed since the 1970's and 1980's.  Whether it is a misconception or not (some feel it may be), many parents don't feel it's safe to let your kids wander around the neighborhood the way our parents did twenty to thirty years ago.  And there are some real dangers out there to be concerned about. I share those concerns.

And with the recent media frenzy over "free range parenting" - any parent who actually allows their kids to play in the yard (their own yard, mind you) without standing out there next to them, is afraid a neighbor might call the cops on them!

So, I ask you, what is a parent to do?

Everything seems to be consorting against us!

According to a news piece:

"A growing body of evidence is starting to show that it's not so much what children know about nature that's important, as what happens to them when they are in nature (and not just in it, but in it by themselves, without grownups). Respectable scientists – doctors, mental health experts, educationalists, sociologists – are beginning to suggest that when kids stop going out into the natural world to play, it can affect not just their development as individuals, but society as a whole."

Balance.  It's what I tell my kids.

Why can't they play video games and watch t.v. all day?  Balance, kids.  Just like grown ups, kids needs to have a balanced lifestyle.  A variety of external stimulation, the healthiest of them being outdoor play.

I am happy to report that eventually they begin to enjoy themselves outside and even find their own fun with gardening, spraying each other with the hose and digging holes in the yard (deep, deep holes).

Additionally, I have a toddler that LOVES to be outside. That makes me happy for sure.

So, this year, like every year, I will be pushing my agenda with my three boys: "get outside!" and I know one day they will thank me for it.

- Jenny

Ps I am working up a list of summer challenges for my kids to accomplish outside...forts, and scavenger hunts - which I will share soon!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sunshine is Finally Here!

So, I thought Spring was here in March. We had about two weeks of warm and sunny weather.  It was amazing.  My husband and I got outside and started clearing beds and raking. The kids were outside - even the baby (now 15 months). And then God reminded me that he was indeed still in control and it got colder and ... SNOWED.  My crocus were up already! 

During that period of about two days when that "white stuff" was on the ground, I tried not to look outside.  ha, ha.  I was pretending Spring was still here.

But, now, hallelujah!  The sun is back and the grass is turning green!  What a joy!

There is something about Spring arriving that always lifts my spirits, even if I don't realize they have been down.

We have done a lot to the garden already - widening it, removing an old sandbox and re-fencing it.  Our fence was about 10 years old and had seen better days. We hired some local people to come and pull out some of the really stubborn weeds which had taken root in the last three years - I think it was wormwood. The roots are long and the longer it sits there in the ground the deeper they dive and the thicker they get. 

So, that felt really good!

Seedlings have been started and the garden is cleared and ready for some healthy, mineral rich soil to be added.

We will be planting tomatoes, potatoes, kale, lettuce, carrots, peppers, spinach, cucumbers, and various squashes this year. How about you?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Homeschooling a Middle Schooler

The thought of homeschooling my sixth grade son makes me a bit nervous.

I enjoyed third, fourth and fifth grade.  But, now that we have hit sixth grade, I have to tell you, I feel the pressure increasing.  I know I am not the only one, too.

As I talk to other homeschooling moms who have middle schoolers, we say to one another, "I hope I am doing enough," and roll our eyes looking for a reassuring "yeahhhh."

Why does this happen when our kids hit sixth grade?

Let's face it, it's a time filled with changes.

 Here he is going off to his first sleep over camp.

1. MAJOR social changes are occurring at this age.  My son has had to work through some real friendship challenges this year. Acquaintances have tricked him, teased him and there is a definitely unspoken "are you cool?" thing going on.  He has started to comb his hair (shock), care about what he wears (well, at least a little) and insist on brushing his teeth before we leave the house (even if he already did - I am NOT complaining).

2. He is looking for his VOICE.  This is that age I remember when everyone was looking for someone to "hang out" with.  Where do I fit in? What group do I belong to? As a homeschooler, I think we are spared some of this sort of pressure.  He doesn't have to choose yet between being an athlete or a word-nerd, but he is sensing the difference between his interests and his friends' interests.  "'So and so' REALLY like sports, Mom...." says my son who plays baseball, with varying levels of interest every Spring.

3. I am thinking about HIGH SCHOOL. Yeah, I have to admit it.  I am thinking about high school.  I am also wondering if I will be able to handle homeschooling high school. I am wondering if he will want to go to public school - and what I need to cover before he gets to that point so he's not totally behind.

So what am I doing this year?

I decided to utilize an online curriculum for him.  I am using Time4Learning and so far I am happy with the material. The reason I did this is because I felt I could not cover everything I needed to with Language Arts especially.

We are attending co-ops regularly with kids of his age group. We belong to two groups that have a bunch of 9-12 year olds and it helps him feel he is connected to friends who have the same interests as him.

 He continues to be involved with Boys Scouts which is a great confidence and independence builder.

What kinds of challenges are you facing with homeschooling your middle school age kids?

- Jenny

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mom I'm Bored...

I have three boys who are all different.

My oldest son has a to-do list in his head every day.  Legos, minecraft, play, tv, video games, play, legos...something like that (it's summer). At the end of the day, if he doesn't get something accomplished, he knows it and says so.

My middle son is different.  "Middle" wanders around the house waiting for something to jump out at him and say, "play with me!" He often schleps up to me and says, "Mom?? I am bored." (cue slouching and pleading look on his face).

More than not, it irritates me.

I don't know if it's because I tend to be more like the older child or because I am so busy with other things, but, just the thought of boredom is like a luxury.

I think the main reason is because I don't have any answers for him.

I actually think being bored is good for you.  I even say that to Middle sometimes.  He doesn't like it.

Let's get to the heart of boredom.  Why are kids bored sometimes?

For us, and for my Middle, it comes down to not being allowed to watch t.v. or play video games 24-7.  He likes to be entertained - easily.  So much so, that he has lost the ability to come up with something to do almost entirely.  Now, I say almost, because after a few tears and protestations, he will eventually find something to do.

He asks: "Well, then what should I do?"  At first I took the bait - I would come up with a list of things for him to do.  I should do it like my friend who if their kids tell her they are bored, she puts them to work.

Middle never likes any of my suggestions.  Any guesses as to why?

Number one is that he is disgruntled that I said no to technology.
Number two is that he doesn't really want to be told what to do.

He knows he should use his imagination.  He knows he can come up with something to do.  What prevent my son from choosing something to do is his strong desire for easy entertainment and something that I am going to war against in my home: technology addiction.

Here's the soapbox portion of this post.

It is my opinion that our kids are so used to being surrounded by technology these days - video games, television, handheld devices and cell phones, that a portion of their brain has all but shut down. The part of the brain that has to do with creativity, imagination and contentedness.  Technology is an escape and a lazy form of entertainment.  Viewers are not required to think beyond allowing the images and sounds to penetrate their eyes. Binge watching television can lead to later mental health issues too.

It's not a secret that technology is everywhere and our kids are surrounded on all sides.  So what are we to do?

I try to limit their tech time. 

We are striving to cut back as we speak.  This summer (and during my recent pregnancy) I let it get a little out of control to be completely honest with you.  By that start of school I am hoping to implement my yearly "no television before school, episode at lunch rule."  Since we homeschool, the temptation for t.v. is always there!

Also, I found that the longer my kids play video games, the harder it is for them to get off of them and to start interacting with other people in the house again. It's like they learn the ability to communicate while they are gaming! My kids have a hard time transitioning from video games to personal interaction.

I have also shared with them your concerns about how much technology time they have.  It's important to let them know you want them to be happy and healthy - and that staring at a screen 4-5 hours a day is not healthy.  My kids hate it when I say it, but, I tell them it will turn their brains to mush.

And the hardest one of all...I am trying to control my own technology habits.   I am a computer-geek.  I love to research things online and blog too. This one's hard for me - but - every time they come into the room and find me on my computer - I feel my conscience being pricked.

Hey!  Do you have any good ideas for making sure your kids don't spend too much on technology?  Tell me in the comments! I need some fresh ideas!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Clutter is a Joy-Killer

Do you love cleaning?  If you do, then, you don't have to read this blog post!  

Actually, could you read it and then comment below so we can all learn from you?

I was a slob growing up.  My mom would do this annual super clean of my toy-strewned room and I would be so happy in it for like two weeks.  But, then, it would be right back where I found it...naked Barbies on the floor, markers uncapped in a pile, Strawberry Shortcake and Smurfs mixed in with dirty clothes.  

Honestly I never learned to clean up after myself and be a good steward of my belongings. So, therefore I did not respect them or treat them well. This also was true of myself - my own self esteem and feelings about my body and my outward appearance - but that's another post for another day.


When I grew up a little I shared a home with three other single women. I had my own bedroom and guess what - it was a mess most of the time.  I would clean it every few months from top to bottom.  

Then, I got married and we had the cutest little apartment.  And the same thing would happen. Mess then major clean then a slow return to mess.

We have been in our 1,900 sq. ft. home for about fourteen years now, and with the addition of three precious, but highly imaginative boys, the mess has quintupled! With each birthday and holiday, more stuff.

And I still haven't learned to keep things clean, regularly.

Can anyone relate?

Part of the problem has to do with my personality type. Highly visual and creative/artistic. I like for everything to be visible

Also, when I put things away, I forget about them (Is that mommy brain??)

So, for the last two years I have been reading and seeking input on how to maintain my home. I have talked to some amazing people - professional organizers, authors and psychologists.  But, not much has changed in my daily routine.

I like to live in my space - but not maintain my space.

The first thing I have attempted to do is declutter.  I have so much extra stuff in my house, that when I look at a room, it is overwhelming in colors, shapes, sizes, styles, you name it.

Just Google or Pinterest that word and you will find so much information on the topic as well as hints, tips and success stories.  

For the past two years I have made a total of seven trips to Savers to donate bags and bags of toys, clothes, decor, and more. Honestly, it feels SO good to donate.  It also feels SO good to see it leave my house.  I have also bagged and trashed a ton of what I would call "junk," although my son hates that word because sometimes I apply it to his toys, ha ha.

So, step one: DECLUTTER

Here's my motivation:

Luke 16:10-13 "Jesus went on to make these comments: If you’re honest in small things,you’ll be honest in big things; If you’re a crook in small things, you’ll be a crook in big things. If you’re not honest in small jobs,who will put you in charge of the store?No worker can serve two bosses: He’ll either hate the first and love the second or adore the first and despise the second.You can’t serve both God and the Bank." (Message)
Now, of course, I don't think I am a "crook," per-say, but, by not taking care of the small things God has given me (my house, my belongings, my space) how can I enjoy peace in my home?  I am in a way "stealing" joy and peace from myself and my children by having a confused and cluttered house.
So, out go the clothes that don't fit, the toys which are no longer played with, the extra kitchen gadgets and stained, sentimental baby clothes. Out went my maternity clothes (I am done!) and the broken picture frames.  Out went the shoes that I loved but had a hole, the earrings I never wear and the Jello-molds that we only used once.

It's a beginning, right?
What have you done to declutter your home?

For further reading
1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
1 Corinthians 14: 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

'Courageous' and 'Called'

I ran into a mom I know from town the other day as we were both digging through piles of clothes at a local rummage sale. This mom, like me, has boys, and lots of them.  So we have always had a nice connection as friends. As we were talking she said to me, “So, are you loving homeschooling?”  I thought for a moment and decided I wanted to answer honestly just in case she was even considering it herself.
“It’s hard.  It’s emotional. It’s draining.  But I do love it, most of the time,” I said.  She nodded in understanding and replied, “I just think it is courageous living.” My eyes widened and as I decided I liked the sound of that, “courageous living.” I replied with a laugh. 

“Yeah, it does take courage,” I said. 

No doubt, waking up every morning to teach my children takes courage. 
Some mornings I am looking forward to what we have planned, some mornings I wish they were on a bus on their way to the local brick-box.  Some mornings I have had the time to prepare the lessons that most fit each of their individual learning styles and some days I flip open a workbook and say, “do this.”  Some days I can handle frustration and irritation caused by long division and spelling and some days I reward/remove privileges, all while holding a four month old and saying in a sing-songy voice, “somebody’s got a pooooopy.”

So, where does the courage come in?

Daily Devotion
My minister said something once that has stuck with me for a long time. “Doing something daily is radical.” It’s true. Doing something every day is radical- whether that’s working out, reading the Bible, taking a walk, drinking eight glasses of water, you get the picture.  
The same goes with homeschooling every day, in and out, even during the worst homeschooling months in New England - February and March - when we are snowbound.  The discipline it takes to recommit yourself to something on a daily basis and not just talk about it, but do it – I’ll be honest, it’s hard.  
Of course when it comes to your children, there is a fair amount of self-induced pressure involved as well.  Homeschoolers typically struggle with knowing that they are doing “enough,” that they are challenging their students as well as helping them to be well-rounded.  That’s a tall cup of coffee if you ask me (or several).

So daily is courageous.  It’s especially courageous when you are working through some difficulties in your personal life (illness, depression etc) or your child is having a hard time learning (due to disability or just personality or learning style).

Back to the rummage sale.

My sweet friend then said something else to me, something like, “I just love it that you are called to do this.”  

I think the word ‘called” that people sometimes use in regards to homeschooling comes from the scripture in Ephesians 4.   The context is having to do with the church in the first century growing spiritually.  Paul says, “11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  (Also see 1 Peter 2:21, Romans 8:30)
In other words, Paul was saying that in order for the church to function properly, each person would have a different role, all so that we can reach unity in the faith.

Going a little deep and spiritual
Somehow along the way, people started saying that one has to be called to homeschool (and other things too – called to a job, called to move).  And that you are either "called" or "not called."

According to this scripture, I see the word “teacher,” but upon further investigation, the Greek of this word “teacher” (διδάσκαλος) seems to refer more to a teacher of religion.  Now, like many Christian homeschoolers, we do take up the word of God daily and learn right and wrong as revealed by the bible itself. But this scripture, in my opinion, does not necessarily apply to homeschoolers, persay.

I do of course think that there are plenty of scriptures that make it a wise choice if you desire to see your children grow up in faith (see Proverbs 22:6, Deut. 4:9).  But I think it's possible whether your kids are at home or not.  Each has it's own challenges.

That is not to say that I don’t feel accompanied by God on this journey (three years so far). 

So, how did I end up here if I didn’t feel like I was called? 

Well, to be honest, it’s just like any other big decision I have made in my life.  I felt the desire within me to do it, I prayed about it and waited for God to reveal his plan, to show me whether it was just an emotionally based desire or a Holy spirit-based desire.
In fact, we had been thinking about homeschooling since my older son was about 2 years old, and it wasn’t until he was 8 that I finally made the decision to pull him out of public school and start schooling him myself.  This was after many conversations with my husband and two long years of praying through my fears about it and also waiting for my husband to feel 100% about it.

So, do I call myself called? No...I don't feel like that word fits me.  I hope I am obeying God’s will for my life. That I am approaching educating my children with prayer and asking God to intervene at every turn.

When I got up this morning I saw that it was a beautiful, sunny Spring morning.  The day ahead will include chores, learning and a trip to the post office and yes probably some video games.  I will be with my boys (all three of them) all day long and will probably break up a few (or a lot) of disagreements.  I will most likely correct them on the “nice” way to say something a few times, and I will change more than one poopy diaper in the process.  So, YES, I do like to think of this as courageous living.  Why? Because I will do it all over again tomorrow…and the next day….and the next.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Taking a month off, planning for the future

Happy times!

We are pregnant and expecting a baby in December! 

March, April and May were tough months for me though, as I had a lot of fatigue and morning sickness.  These are things I really never experienced with my other two pregnancies.  So, they came as a bit of a surprise. I am not sure if it is because I am so much older now (41) or if it's just this baby's way. With my husband's hard work and support, I made it through and the beginning of the second trimester has been a lot better.

The boys, therefore, got a lot of free time during those two months.  We were unable to have very much school (although I insisted on math and reading).  They, of course, watched a lot of tv and sort of lost some of their better, in late May, when I began feeling better, we came back to school.  It was a little tough, but we ended in late May with the promise to do school "lite" in July.

So, we are in our June break and it has been great for everyone.  We went mining, camping, and had lots of family time.

It is also giving me time to plan for the Fall school year and start to think about the coming baby. 

Funny thing is, I have nothing!  I gave away my crib, bassinet, bouncy seat, changing table and most of my clothes....!!

A generous friend has given me all her maternity clothes (thank goodness) and I am sure we will make out just fine on all the other stuff.  Especially if it's a girl. 

Wouldn't that be fun, if it's a girl?