Where are the grown ups?

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Cor. 13:11 NKJV

This video from Paul Washer got me thinking. Back in the “good old days” children couldn’t wait to grow up. They looked up to parents and other adults. They longed to share their responsibilities and respected their position as elders. And adults had great expectations of children. They took on responsibilities at a young age (partly because of the short life span). Not so today.

These days many adults don’t want to be grown up. They want to be hip and cool, accepted by the teens and children they know. Instead of setting the bar for adolescents in their lives, they allow the child to set it for them. Children decide what’s cool, what’s acceptable.

But not only that. Adults want to play. A lot. Online games, video games, chatting, messaging, farming, you name it. Adults flock to sites children think are cool and to products children have approved. How do we have time to study God’s Word, minister to our neighbor or train our children if we are always striving for entertainment?

So If the children aren’t the grown ups, and the adults aren’t the grown ups, who is doing the hard work? Who is striving and growing and mentoring and training and encouraging? Who will the next generation follow if we are following them?

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 NIV

What if we tried as hard to lead as we do to fit in? What if we put as much effort into shaping the next generation, into blazing a trail for them to follow, as we do to update the meaningless details of our lives?

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Cor. 11:1 NKJV

What if we looked up, stood up and grew up, not only for ourselves but for those who are depending on us? We need to follow Christ and take up our cross daily. Not take up our smart phones and laptops and game controllers. If we don’t make the tough decisions and stand for hard Truth who will the next generation look to? No one will take the Gospel to peoples in the jungle, where disease and wild animals could take you out. No one will work three jobs to provide for their family. No one will cross oceans to live in a country they have never visited to love the people and open a medical clinic to save lives and souls. No one will suffer in prison for preaching the illegal Gospel to their fellow countrymen, enduring untold abuses with quiet faith.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. 1 Peter 2:21 NKJV

Homeschooling is a bit like nursing

Since I have started working again I have noticed there are a few correlations between what I do now and home educating.

  1. Individual attention. I have two patients and so I am able to concentrate only on them.
  2. Specialization. It takes a special skill set to work as an ICU RN. It also takes a special skill set to homeschool.
  3. Continuing education. You are always learning as a nurse and as a home educator. If you aren’t learning in either role then something’s wrong.
  4. Critical thinking. You must constantly evaluate test results and assessments, put clues together and think three steps ahead.
  5. Caring for the whole person. As a nurse I don’t just care for a person medically. I also care for their spiritual well-being and their soul as well. As a home educator the same is definitely true.
  6. The little things matter. What I do–or don’t do– can make a BIG difference. And little changes in my patient can mean big things down the road. Noticing subtle changes in your children can also make a big difference down the road.
  7. Caring for the vulnerable. It is my responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves. They are counting on me to know what to do and how to do it. I also have to teach them things they need to know until they are well enough to take care of themselves. I feel it is my responsibility to not just make sure they are still alive when I go home, but that they are well cared for, that I do all I can to make their lives better.
  8. You can’t do it alone. No man is an island. We aren’t created to be isolated. Teamwork is important, even within families. Don’t be a martyr or a victim. I need help turning, double checking and sometimes just reinforcing my gut feeling when dealing with patients. Home educators can’t be lone rangers. You cannot be everything your children need all by yourself.
  9. They aren’t with us very long. My patients move out of ICU ASAP. That’s a good thing and as long as they are in my unit I want to make sure they are well cared for. Our children aren’t with us long either. Before you know they seem to move from toddlerhood to high school!
  10. You have to love it. You’ll burn out. You won’t do a good job. Those whose care you are charged with will resent you. You can make silly mistakes because your heart isn’t in it.

They are both critically important roles, and both extremely rewarding as well. When done right, they make a difference in the lives of the individuals in our care.

Blank books for children

With the holidays fast approaching and a sluggish economy, you may be looking for create gift ideas that are easy on your pocketbook. Blank books are great gifts for children, even those who don’t usually enjoy books or even read yet. With a little imagination you can take a blank book and make it a one-of-a-kind gift the child in your life will treasure.

  • Make it into an alphabet book they can fill with words and pictures for each letter.
  • Cut and paste random pictures and phrases as journal prompts.
  • Add pictures of things the child loves.
  • Draw in random frames for them to add their own custom art work.
  • Add pictures. The child can make up a story to go with the pictures.
  • Make a picture book that has no words. Let the pre-reader make up a new story each time.
  • Make a drawing book that has only half of each picture. The little artist can fill in the other half.
  • Add random affirmations or compliments. As they fill up the book they will come across your kind words.
  • Include some “Poetry Recipes,” simple poetry ideas (like haiku or cinquains) they can practice in their book.
  • Sprinkle “story starters” throughout the book for budding authors.
  • Include pictures of family and friends.
  • Call it something special, like a Dream Catcher or Idea Machine. Not everyone likes to journal but everyone likes to capture their ideas at one time or another.
  • Add inspirational quotes or stories to feed their passion in a subject.
  • Add library pockets with tags, envelopes, fold some pages and add other scrapbook paper goodies they can manipulate.
  • Add words at random they can add to their writing vocabulary.
  • Ask them questions about themselves on a few pages and let them talk about themselves.
  • Draw some random shapes and let them doodle them into their own creations.
  • Make your own dot-to-dots or coloring pages by tracing family’s or pets’ faces.
  • Give it to them to start a back and forth journal with a parent. Sometimes children will write things that can be hard to say out loud and it can be a great communication tool.

Make sure to include colored pencils and an eraser so they can create to their heart’s desire. My next book arts post will give you some ideas on making books from scratch for children.

Commonplace Blogging

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/crespoluigi/3334034556/in/photostream/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=Before the internet craze of blogging we wrote our thoughts down in something called a journal. Or a diary maybe. But it was for your eyes only, no worries of nasty comments from people you’ve never met–or kudos either. There is a comfort in putting pen to paper, capturing thoughts in space and time with the confinement of the written word is challenging and exhilarating.

This article (and my other passion) got me thinking about what I do here online. While it’s good and helpful and sometimes I dare say necessary, it is something my family, even though they participate by default, know very little of this part of my life. I don’t sit and read them my posts or share articles from other moms that bless me. They don’t know most of what I share here, not because I have a secret but I suppose it just never seemed necessary–at least not at this time.

But what about later, when they are older, when they have children of their own and are filled with questions, or when they are searching for more homeschool memories, the little memories that are crowded out by more urgent matters. I could just point them to this URL and let them search, like any stranger could, probing for information and answers. I don’t want a cold computer screen sharing my thoughts on this season of life with them. I think I can do better than that.

I have decided to keep a written record of the posts I feel are the most poignant to my family. I want a sort of scrapbook, more of a commonplace book about our homeschool years, filled with blog posts, pictures and all the other memories that make everyday life interesting. It will be in my own handwriting (ugh) and filled with my thoughts and dreams and hopes and yes, even fears, with those who mean the most to me.

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nate/412783683/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=This is a gift, something I can leave as a legacy, my blog posts and more, written by my own hand. Who doesn’t love finding treasures like that up in Gramma’s attic? We all love poring over old letters and pictures. Who wouldn’t love to hear great gramma’s thoughts on a particular time of life? Family is a big deal and I don’t want to deprive mine of the part of my life I share with all of you.

Commonplace books on our family. Now there’s a treasure worth leaving future generations.

Making the first school day of the year special

image courtesy jonathangarcia

First day of school is an exciting day for any kid who’s heading off to school in a building. New supplies, new clothes–it’s all so fresh and brimming with potential. There’s not reason home educators can’t make the day one to remember. Even if you educate your children year round, chances are there is a date on the calendar that you can point to as the start of the next school year. Here are some things I’ve done to mark the occasion with style.

  • I make a special breakfast. My children love crepes so that’s usually the choice.
  • There’s a new outfit. It’s fun to have something new to wear, even though we don’t invest in a whole wardrobe at one time.
  • When it’s school time there’s fun music playing. I make it a big deal that it’s time for the new school year.
  • I wrap all their new school supplies in wrapping paper so it looks like Christmas. After they open them they put their supplies where  they go. I love to start the year with new crayons, pencils and glue sticks. It makes it seem new and special.
  • We take pictures of them all together and alone.
  • We allow them to bring a friend to school–dolls, etc. Usually we don’t want these distractions, but the first day is special, after all.
  • We don’t do a lot of schooly things on this day. We set up our notebooks, talk a bit about expectations for the new year and talk about how they want to grow in learning.
  • We have started making time capsule books (will offer directions in the next post). In a few years we will also be able to open one each year. Right now we are only making them. They are so excited! You can make a time capsule from an oatmeal box or shoebox.

School days are fun. It’s one of the only “jobs’ you’ll ever have that has a start and a finish each year, that has such satisfation and a way to start fresh on a regular basis. I hope you’ll make the first day special and convey to your children the idea that learning is important and worthy of celebration.

The family newspaper

I had come across this great idea from Lady Lydia and liked it so much I started doing it here and from the beginning it was a big hit. It’s so simple I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. It’s a family newspaper.

family-paperThe premise is simple:

  1. take a sheet of paper and fold in half.
  2. Fill the pages with all sorts of interesting things.
  3. Give it to your kids to read.

I made a little title that fit our family and set about filling it with jokes, extended family trivia, menus, weather, encouraging words and something exciting that was coming up for each of  the kids that we could all get excited about (or maybe an acknowledgement of some success).

They love to read it while they eat their breakfast. They feel grown up and they love to read about themselves and their family. It has opened up some great conversations too.

I don’t make one every day because I don’t have the time for that. I probably make one every week or so. It’s not fancy. I make one and copy it on the copier so there’s not a lot of color. It’s hand drawn with love and they never complain that it’s too homemade.

Why do it? It’s another way to connect with your kids. And my kids write for the paper too, so it strengthens their writing skills. And I can add “don’t forget” things, so they don’t get another nag session from me. They learn things about their extended family with my trivia and I feed their souls with poetry and their spirits with Scripture.

You’ll be surprised how much you cna fit into this little newspaper. If you make one, please take a picture and share the response in the comments below.

Raising good cooks: part three

There are few things more frustrating to me than trying to cook something without the right tools. Just like in carpentry, you need the right tool of the right job. I don’t mean a lot of fussy gadgets to clutter your kitchen, but the basic tools necessary to create almost anything you want to make in the kitchen.

There is a skill to setting up a good kitchen. With ten basic categories you can have a well-prepared kitchen that will be ready for any dish you want to prepare.

cookware. Quality cookware is a must. And knowing when to use what pan is a skill in itself. A basic set with a saute pan, a skillet, a stock pot and a couple of sauce pans will get you going.

cookbooks. Two basic, complete books are really all you need.

Foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper. Having the right tool makes cooking so much easier.

utensils. Whisks, slotted spoons, colanders, spatulas, a non-porous cutting board and ladles make cooking so much easier.

bakeware. It is hard to bake without a few basic pans and baking dishes. Two round cake pans, a sheet cake pan and an 8X8 square pans are three to start with. An maybe a glass dish for casseroles.

measuring tools. It’s impossible to cook accurately without quality measuring sups and spoons.

storage containers. You need somewhere to keep your leftovers so you aren’t storing food in your serving dishes or cookware.

mixing bowls. It’s hard to mix a cake in a cereal bowl. Three sizes are adequate.

electric tools. A mixer and blender are almost indispensable. Others you may want to invest in include a microwave, a food processor, a crock pot and a toaster oven.

rags, oven mitts and towels. You can’t get hot food out of the oven without one. And you need rags for cleaning too.

Next stop: stocking the pantry.

Raising good cooks: part two

Becoming a good cook isn’t about being flashy or complicated. I think the best cooks are a ones with a few simple techniques that they do well. There are some things that will give any cook confidence.

Reading a recipe. Knowing how the recipe will flow helps you be a more confident cook. And also knowing if you have the ingredients/equipment on hand is good to know too.

Knife skills. Learn chopping, dicing, peeling, and the right knife to use.

Measuring. Liquid measuring cups are different than dry measuring cups. They should not be interchanged. Learning the abbreviations for measurements is important too. And how to accurately measure dry ingredients like flour. Math is important here, because you want to try your hand at doubling or tripling recipes or seeing if you have enough of an ingredient on hand.

Greasing and/or flouring pans. Not hard, but useful.

Methods for mixing. Whipping, folding, stirring, etc. are the most basic food preparatory skills.

Reading food labels. Eating healthier begins with knowledge of what you are buying.

Planning a menu. Food choices are fundamental to good cooking.

Culinary lexicon. It is necessary to know terms such as braise, simmer, saute and soft ball. Learning basic terms will make you a better cook because you will know what you need to do.

Equipment. Know what basic tools are and how to use them. These are basic tools like whisks and electric tools like blenders.

Food safety. This is a biggie. Know when food is unsafe, how to store food properly and first aid too (treating burns and cuts, for example).

Cleaning up. Sanitation, or how to properly clean cutting boards, counters, non-stick pans and knives. You may want to include stain treatment/removal.

Next: Part three–the top ten tools to have for a cook’s basic kitchen.

Yes, home educating is my job

I used to bristle a little when people would ask me what I “do,” only because my answer seemed to disappoint them. It implies that work outside the home is somehow more valuable than what I “do” within these four walls. Now that I have given it some thought, I am glad to say that home educating is my job. People with a “job” have:

A defined task(s). I have the task of teaching my kids. Love it. Best job I have ever had. And I have to plan. I have a defined set of tasks that I prepare for. I am not a mom that does well with unstructured or vague school time. I know that all of life is learning but I am also obligated to make sure they can work with numbers, read and write and know something about the natural world. For my family that is best done with a set time for lessons and my kids look forward (most of the time) to learning something new that I have prepared ahead for them.

Measurable goals. My Bible is my standard. It’s filled with my goals. I try to evaluate myself regularly and I ask my

photo courtesy Banalities

photo courtesy Banalities

husband to do so as well. Once in a while, when I’m feeling especially brave, I will ask my kids how I’m doing. That always gets me more than I bargained for. They are also surprisingly gentle. They often focus on different things than I do and they help me lighten up a bit.

I also set yearly and long term goals for each of my children, and for our home education in general.

Opportunity for advancement. I get promoted every year. It’s never boring and I get to constantly experience new things alongside my kiddos.

A schedule. There are certain hours for working certain jobs. I find we are the most productive when I guard our homeschooling hours. If I schedule time that is dedicated to learning and actually stay home to homeschool, amazing things happen. My children thrive on routine and a regular schedule is a tool that will make learning easier and more productive.

Commitment. Companies expect commitment and loyalty. I have to be invested if I am to do a good job. I believe if you are going to homeschool you have to be all in or it won’t work. When you are tentative your kids sense the wavering and school won’t go as smoothly. Whatever you do, do with all your might. If you are going to homeschool, why not go for it? You will have a much more fulfilling experience when you do.

A boss. I work for Him. I’m not trying to sound super-spiritual, but it’s true. He’s Who I most care to please. I look forward to the day I hope to hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Remuneration. My pay comes in the form of well-written papers, drive-by hugs, and peanut butter sandwiches with my kids as we watch the clouds. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about the “Benjamins.” When my daughter won the essay contest I was paid. My hard work teaching her paid off. I don’t think of their learning success as evaluation as much as payment. And when they are able to receive scholarships to university because of what we have done in our little homeschool, I really will get paid.

Benefits. I have a day that I can schedule and a life that I order, with God’s help. I have vacations, days off (for errands) and sick days (not mine, theirs). My benefits include snuggling to read in the middle of the day and being a part of my childrens’ light bulb moments. Benefits are not always evident, so you have to look out for them and be aware–things like flexibility of schedule for things like doctor visits, not having to get out in the cold and snow to take them to school, being able to travel, taking special field trips to enhance learning and tailoring your child’s lessons to their learning style and bent.

Average kids are gonna rule the world

photo courtesy m@rg

photo courtesy m@rg

I’m convinced of it. The over-achievers are distracted with perfection and, well, over achieving. Their parents make sure they always get a trophy and always get an A and that they always feel good.

The slackers aren’t a threat because they are mostly lazy–mentally, if not physically. Their parents might not make them do chores if they don’t feel like it. They may just lack ambition and their parents don’t require more. But they are not doing much. And they aren’t going to do much. At least not unless their feelings say so.

It’s the average kids who are gonna get ‘er done. They’re the ones with a healthy self-image and a solid work ethic. Their parents aren’t so concerned with their kids’ feelings. They’re more concerned with their character–which they know is lacking at times. These kids know they aren’t always the best but they’re okay with that. The average kids know their limitations. They know they have to work hard to do things because not everything comes easily to them. But they appreciate the reward of hard work and know that if they try they can probably do it. And if they work really hard maybe they can do it really well.

There are average kids in the news every day, doing little works with love. Helping a neighbor. Writing a pen pal. Maybe even winning an award. But they are still just going to scouts, practicing their music, playing outside, doing their chores. They may not excel at much of anything but they are really good at being average, being themselves.

They know mistakes are for learning, not covering up or running from. Failure can be an excellent teacher and they learn well. Their parents probably didn’t spend a lot of time telling them how they are the most special kid ever and how they are practically perfect in every way. But their parents didn’t insult them or require nothing of them either. Their parents are probably telling them that sometimes life is messy, but they’re good kids and that if they work hard they will have a good life. So they do, and they do. And I pray that more average kids get the idea that average isn’t so average anymore. And that they will band together and take over the world–in an average way.

They know that average is a really good place to be.