back-to-school

4 Simple Back to School Ideas and Traditions

Back to school time comes with so much excitement and anticipation, but sometimes, also, with a feeling of dread and anxiety.

For some, new classes, new teachers, new clothes, new friends, and a brand new year to grow and learn are reasons to wake up ready to go on the first day of school, while for other kids, those same reasons bring anxiety levels to a breaking point.

Going from 3rd to 4th grade was a bit of a transition for Addie (we homeschool using Classical Conversations). She knew the work load was going to increase as would the difficulty, so she was not particularly thrilled to start school this year. Ian, on the other hand, was starting Kindergarten- seriously, what’s not to love about Kindergarten! He couldn’t wait to start school!

I found that these four ideas, which have become traditions for us, help bring a sense of excitement to the first week of school. And, yes, we allow ourselves a week to celebrate.

Photo

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I have always taken a photo of the first day of school (like every mother out there!), but this was the first time I printed out signs for it. It will be neat (and heartbreaking) to put Ian’s “First Day of Kindergarten” and “First Day of 12th Grade” photos side by side one day.

We took these photos the day before we began school (because it was Sunday and we were already dressed up) so we wouldn’t take any time away from our actual first day of school.

If you want a copy of these signs for yourself, you can find them here at Homeschooling’ Mama.

Questionnaire

I love the idea of asking kids the same questions year after year. What better way to see their growth than by how their answers change!

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This year, I scoured the internet looking for a few questions that the kids could answer, and I posted Ian’s answers on Facebook. These are the questions I chose to ask them:

  • What is your favorite color?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • What is your favorite show?
  • What is your favorite sport?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?

Every year, I will ask those same questions. And I am sure that every year the answers will change in some way.

Special dinner

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One night during “Back to school” week we make an effort to either go out to dinner or have food brought in. It gives everyone something to look forward to (including Mom), and time around the table always lends itself to opportunities for great conversations.

Special breakfast

My son goes to sleep asking “What’s for breakfast?”

Knowing how important it is for kids to have a great breakfast (especially on the first day of school), I try to make breakfast something they will really enjoy. Some years, I have made their toast look like a bear with cream cheese, a few banana slices, and raisins. but this year we went with cinnamon rolls… because I know it’s a family favorite.

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However you choose to celebrate the first day or week of school, be sure to only take on what is comfortable and doable for you and your situation. Then, sit back and know you have added a brick to the foundation of love in your children’s hearts.

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The Simplest Possible Chore System for Kids

Chores… they are a necessary part of life, but they can also be a tedious task… and, in all honesty, sometimes teaching our children to help us can take more time than we are willing- or want- to give.

I mean, really, we can do the job faster and with more skill than they can, but by not taking the time to teach them how to help with the chores, we are depriving our children of the opportunity to learn how to be a contributing member of the family and, eventually, their own home, and in the long run, we are also depriving ourselves of the extra hands needed to make light work.

I am always looking for a good way to give our children a list of expectations for their assistance in our home, but I found that if I make out a nightly list for them, I get a little carried away and add too much to their list. If I print out a chore list online, many times it doesn’t apply to us.

One evening this past winter, I sat down and wrote out a list of the absolute musts that needed to be done on a weekly basis and divided them up between the easy (kid stuff) and the difficult (mom stuff). Then I divided the kid chores between the kids- some I even had them share so they would have to work together (another valuable life skill).

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Making these cards was very simple.

I went into the power point program on my computer (Keynote for Apple users), found a layout I liked, and worked from there. I used the complete template and didn’t change anything about it. I added a picture of the child the card would belong to and which 5 chores they would be assigned each day.

Each day has 4 of the same tasks and one different chore. It’s the daily change up that keeps them going… and their picture… and the fact that they can use a dry erase marker to cross off each task they complete (because who doesn’t like crossing something off, right?).

Our daily tasks are:

  • 4 things (which you can read more about here)
  • Empty the dishwasher (Addie handles upper cabinet dishes, Ian handles safe silverware and lower cabinet dishes)
  • Help fold/put away laundry
  • Read & play for 30 minutes

Our daily change ups are:

  • Clean the windows
  • Vacuum the tile/Dust the baseboards
  • Wipe down the cabinets
  • Clean up/organize and area of your room
  • Pull weeds in the flower bed

After creating the files, I uploaded them to Walgreens and had them printed out as 4×6 photos. When I came home, I laminated each photo, and Addie helped me cut them out.

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Do you need to find a chore system that is computer generated or online? No!

Take some index cards, write the day of the week at the top in different colored markers, and list the chores needed for each day. That’s it! As their ability changes, you can easily make a new set of index cards. The important thing is to start small and make your chore card doable for your littles.

Just a little side note for you Mommas who have tiny ones… begin a routine now of things they can do and give it a specific name. For example, have them pick up their toys or clean up their rooms at a specific time every day or evening, and call it by a specific name (toy clean up or room pick up) every time they do the task. As they get older, you will only have to say the task name, and they will know exactly what you want them to do.

What system do you use for keeping track of your children’s chores?

purposeful-dad

Four Tips to Becoming a Purposeful Dad

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, I thought it would only be appropriate to encourage the dads out there who may be reading this! When Suzette and Faye began the blog, I remember thinking, “I sure hope I can be a purposeful Dad to my girls!”

This post is a starting point for me to become a ‘purposeful dad.’ I am nowhere near perfect and still have a lot to learn, but here are four tips this Father’s Day I’d love to share with other dads out there who may be struggling on this fatherhood journey, especially when it comes to being intentional with your children.

1. Turn everyday tasks into family tasks. You know you’re going to have to go to the grocery store at some point. You know you’re going to have to get an oil change. There are things you’re going to have to do around the house or errands that have to be run. Instead of getting stressed or frustrated when you have to take the extra time to do those things (especially if it’s on your day off), turn it into family time!

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I have turned our grocery trips into daddy-daughter time. I block off at least an hour and a half. We all get ready and head to the grocery store. First stop? The Deli. Most grocery store delis hand out a free cookie to the kids. Now my girls get a little treat, make a memory with dad AND they stay busy while I get to work on that grocery list. Don’t forget to take a selfie! Side note: this is also a good way to give my wife a break at home!

2. Look them in the eyes. The past week and a half have been absolutely crazy for our family. From church activities, to officiating a wedding in Louisiana, to preaching at a camp… all while trying to answer work emails and spend time with my in-laws while they were in town for the week at our house! I was exhausted. Of course, I would love to come home and “veg.” As a dad, I realized my kids needed ‘dad time.’ Take the moments that you do have with your kids and look them in the eyes, tell them you love them and make them feel like nothing else matters when you’re with them.

Fortunately, I was able to put them to bed one night last week. As I put them to bed, I spent time with each child. I’m talking maybe five minutes each. All I did was look them in the eyes and just talk to them! No phone. No TV. No toys. Just me and my child. I looked them in the eyes and made them feel like they were the most important person in the world for the next five minutes. My time had been short with them, but the quality of time spent with them was high engagement and lots of eye contact.

3. Watch your screen time. This is one that goes hand-in-hand with the above mentioned. Quality time with my kids involves looking them in the eyes… and not at my phone. I found an article that showed me how to check the amount of time spent on each app on my phone. I always tell myself that I am “so busy” and don’t have enough time. And yet, when I checked to see how much time I was spending on my phone with social media apps or email, I felt terrible! How could I be okay with spending four hours on Facebook in the last seven days but not spend four minutes playing a tea party with my girls!

I realize our world is almost to the point where we can use our phone or apps for almost anything we do, so I know that having your phone always on you is just a normal routine for most people. I try to push myself to leave my phone in another room (on purpose) when I play with my girls. I also have turned off all email and social media notifications. Don’t be afraid to turn on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ button on your phone for “phone-free playtime.” My wife has also been a HUGE help in reminding me to be present when I am home and not staring at a screen (including the TV!).

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4. Pray for your wife and kids. Whether you’re the dad that stays at home and your wife works or you go to work and your wife stays with the kids, don’t forget that the most important “bread-winner” of the family is the one praying for your family. As you lead your family, be sure to lead them spiritually as well. Pray for your wife and kids. Be the father God has called you to be.

One of the ways I remember to pray for my wife and kids is by picking a day of the week to pray for them. That way I know, if it’s Monday, it’s time to pray for my wife and kids. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar. In the evenings, I lead my family in a short prayer time where I lead the prayer. I pray for the salvation of my kids and that our family and marriage would honor God. My kids will hear me and see me pray for my family. It doesn’t happen every night of the week, but our goal is to do it almost every night!

I realize it’s tough being a dad! I still have so much to learn. There are tough days being the dad and spiritual leader of my family. I continue to push myself to be a better dad each day and follow the example of my Heavenly Father. What an honor it is to be a guest blogger this Father’s Day weekend. I hope and pray this can be a starting point for you to become a “purposeful dad.”

Happy Father’s Day!

Josh Waugh is the Associate Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church Hendersonville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Susie, have been married five years and have two beautiful daughters: Bella Grace (3) and Juliette (2). Suzette and Josh served at a church in Florida together for a season! You can follow Josh on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and blogs over at www.joshwaugh.com.

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teach-your-child-to-read

Teach Your Child to Read

Do you have a young child at home who you would like to give an advantage to by giving him a head start in reading before he heads off to Kindergarten? Do you have a struggling young reader who you would love to help over the summer so she can tackle the new school year in the fall with confidence? Are you homeschooling and teaching your child to read for the very first time?

Yeah, me, too!

I had never taught anyone how to read before. As a 4th and then 5th grade teacher at a private Christian school, my job was to teach reading comprehension, get my students thinking about the moral implications of the day’s reading selections, and develop critical thinking skills in my students while reading a passage.

My mother had taught me how to read by the time I was two and a half years old using SRA DISTAR by Siegfried Englemann, which my father’s cousin, a New York public school teacher, had given her because her school was throwing it out. I remember the spiral bound books and games my mother would play with me using the books.

Right before Addie turned one, I saw a commercial for the Your Baby Can Read series. I bought it, and faithfully sat with Addie every day to watch the videos, play the games, look through the books, and review with the flash cards. Within 6 months, she did learn to recognize what each card said, but she was unable to translate her knowledge outside of the cards, videos, and books. (The series is now called Your Baby Can Learn.)

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We began watching the LeapFrog: Letter Factory and in no time at all Addie began recognizing her letters and the sounds they made. By the time we began Kindergarten, she could read small words. The curriculum we were using at the time (Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools) had a reading program that required a lot of writing. She became frustrated, and reading became a dreaded subject for us both.

 

Mid year, I switched her over to A Handbook for Reading, Phonics Textbook (A Beka Book Reading Program) which gave her the phonics foundation she needed. The pages had colors and fun pictures and the words were grouped in easy to read sections. But she still had no confidence in picking up a book and reading it.

Frustrated with reading and having passed my self-imposed timeline for teaching my daughter how to read, I began asking my father if he remembered which reading program my mother had used with me. After a few phone calls and emails back and forth he remembered the initials SRA. I began researching and discovered that the program my mother used for me was still around, just under a different name- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I ordered it and began working with Addie as soon as it came in.

The lessons are designed to be 20 minutes long- perfect for little ones who have short attention spans. Each lesson covers more than just reading. Children are taught to sound out words by “saying it slow” and then reading words by “saying it fast.” They also learn the concept of rhymes and how to make up rhyming words through daily oral exercises. They are also taught how to write the letters they are learning to sound out in each given lesson. Sound blends like “th” and “ch” are visually attached to teach children how the sound works.

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Lessons are taken in small steps. For example, the first two lessons only teach the sounds for “m” and “s”. The type for the sounds to be read is nice and large making reading less intimidating for children. (That had been Addie’s biggest issue. She would only read books that had large type in them because she was afraid of reading small type words.)

As the book progressed, I found myself splitting lessons in half. They could be a bit intense the further into the book you journeyed. I had to remind myself that the goal was for my daughter to be able to read with confidence and understanding- not finish the book in 100 days.

One particular thing I loved about the book was that as we reached the last quarter of the book, the type gradually became smaller as the stories became longer. Addie never noticed the size change.

The evidence that she could finally read above her grade level with confidence and speed came one evening as I was preparing to review her Awana verses with her. I opened up to what I thought was a new verse, and she responded, “Oh, I already know that verse.” She then began reciting it to me complete with reference. I asked how she had learned it, and her answer was, “I read it, Mom.”

Within a few months of completing Teach Your Child to Read, she picked up our copy of Now We Are Six and read it in two days. I wasn’t sure about her understanding of the book, but when she told me about the poems she was reading, I knew she understood.

We have used a combination of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons, and The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer for Ian (the 5 year old entering Kindergarten this fall). I noticed that going to the same book day after day causes his interest to wane, so we change it up often to keep his enthusiasm up.

At this point in our reading journey, having enough books on hand is my biggest challenge.

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celebrate-ordinary-days-summer

Celebrate the Ordinary Days: Summer Edition- Part One

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Although Summer vacation has already started for some and will soon be starting for others, the official beginning of summer happens on June 21.

Here in Florida, summer means more time at the beach, sunscreen, sand, afternoon thunderstorms, more freedom to go out, and patriotic celebrations. The way we think of our northern friends during the fall and winter, they think of us during the summer.

I look forward to the summer because there are so many ways to make simple memories and traditions that our children will remember for many years to come.

Although we do not need to fill every moment of our summer with an activity or special over-the-top activity for our children (boredom is a good thing!), here are some upcoming days that we plan on celebrating or recognizing in passing throughout our summer. If you are looking for more days that your family might enjoy, check out National Day Calendar. There are so many “national” days, it is impossible to list them all here.

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Jun 21- First Day of Summer- This is the day with the most daylight hours, so to celebrate, we are staying up till the sun goes down. How will you celebrate?

June 21- National Selfie Day- Gather those kiddos together, and if hubby is available grab him, too, and smile big for the camera!

June 23- National Pink Day- Since as far back as I can remember, my girl’s favorite color has been pink (for a really short time, purple was thrown in there… but that was very short lived), so finding a day to celebrate this color was pretty exciting.

June 26- National Beautician’s Day- Those people who are dedicated to keeping us looking our best need a bit of recognition. This is also a great day to teach our children to show gratitude to others.

 June 26- National Chocolate Pudding Day- This  day lends itself to an easy snack idea.

celebrate-ordinary-days-summerJune 27- National PTSD Day- During my research for special days, I noticed that from Memorial Day thru the end of summer there are many patriotic observances and holidays. Today is a great way to bring awareness to our children that some of our soldiers have returned home with wounds that cannot be seen. It’s a great way to round out the honoring and observances of these patriotic days.

June27- National Sunglasses Day- Does your child own a pair of sunglasses? If not, today would be the perfect day to gift them an inexpensive pair to shield their eyes from the sun this summer.

June 28- National Paul Bunyan Day- Do your kids know about the Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox Babe? If not, why not show them a cartoon or read a book to them about this famous lumberjack legend.

June 29- National Handshake Day- Do you appreciate a good, hearty handshake? Give your kiddos a lesson in greeting others with a good handshake.

June 29- National Bomb Pop Day- Why wait for the 4th of July to enjoy these red, white, and blue treats? Grab a box and go outside to enjoy these with your family… let’s be honest, it’s more for the clean up aspect than for the fresh air.

June 30- National Meteor Watch Day– Go outside after dark, look to the skies, and see how many meteors you can count.
celebrate-ordinary-days-summerJuly 1- National Postal Worker Day- Have your kids write a card or if you can, leave a small gift for your postal worker. Day in and day out, they bring our mail to us. It’s a great way to show a little appreciation for their service.

First Saturday in July- Hop-a-Park Day- Do you have a local park you enjoy going to? Hop-A-Park day is designed to get families out of the house, away from technology, and enjoying the great outdoors together.

Jul 4- Independence Day- Get out and celebrate the declaration of our country’s independence. Until it’s time for us to get together with our family and friends, we have a Liberty Kids marathon where our children see and hear the struggle for our country’s independence alongside the young characters portrayed in the show. In the evening, after we have returned home or our guests have gone and the kids have gone to bed, Brian and I watch The Patriot together. It’s a tradition, and always makes us thankful for those who fought and died and are continuing to fight for our nation’s freedom.

July 7- National Father Daughter Take a Walk Day- Imagine the forever memories that can be made when our daughters take an annual walk with their fathers. Imagine the changes in topics that will occur over the years. And before they go on their walk, be sure to snap a picture… and take one each year so you can see the growth and change in both of them.

July 7- National Macaroni Day- Grab that box of macaroni, some paint, glue, and string and let your children’s imagination soar! You may even want a second box to use in your dinner plans!

July 9- National Sugar Cookie Day- Gather your children and baking supplies in the kitchen, and make a batch of sugar cookies. Then settle down with a book (If You Give a Mousse a Cookie is a good choice) and enjoy your freshly made cookies.

July 11- National Blueberry Muffin Day- Blueberries are a summertime staple. Find your favorite blueberry muffin recipe (mine is from this cookbook) and bake up a batch or two.

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July 11- National Cheer Up the Lonely Day- After you bake your muffins, you may consider taking some to someone you know who may be lonely- a senior saint, a widow, or an empty nester- and bring them some cheer.

July 11- National 7 Eleven Day- Don’t forget to go out and pick up your free slurpee at 7 Eleven! It’s been a summer tradition in our family for years.

July 11- All American Pet Photo Day- Although we do not have pets, many of our friends and family do. Take a photo of your fur baby and then share it with your friends and family.

July 12- National Simplicity Day- Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817. As an advocate of a life of simplicity, today has been dedicated the National Simplicity Day in his honor. Use today to read a few of his writings. You can pick up his book Walden in digital form free of charge here.

July 12- National Paper Bag Day- Paper bags and a life of simplicity have always gone hand in hand in my mind. With the ability of being useful in so many capacities, paper bags can be used to carry groceries, pack lunches, hold gifts, and make crafts. Hoe many ways can you use a paper bag today?

July 13- National French Fry Day- A quick trip through the drive thru will take care of this day and put a salty smile on any little face!

July 14- National Mac and Cheese Day- This is an easy day to celebrate! Grab a box of mac and cheese and serve up dinner.

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July 15- National Give Something Away Day- This is a great day to get our children thinking beyond themselves to others. Have them go through their things in order to pick something to give away. Then take them to your local Salvation Army, Goodwill, or a local shelter to give their items away.

Third Sunday in July- National Ice Cream Day- A lot of very easy days are coming up! And all you really have to is, “Guess what guys, today is…” and then let that day direct your meal or dessert. Today, why not go out for ice cream to a local ice cream shop, and celebrate National Ice Cream Day!

July 19- National Hot Dog Day- Frankfurter… hot dog… whatever you call it, celebrate the hot day today. Serve it for lunch or dinner and you are all set!

July 19- National Lollipop Day- You know those big obnoxious lollipops that you only pick up on special occasions? Today is the day pull them out and let your little ones have a taste.

July 21- National Junk Food Day- I know we are supposed to shun junk food, but in all reality, we all enjoy some from time to time. While teaching our kids healthy eating habits, don’t be afraid to grab a small bag of chips or a candy bar or a slice of cheesecake and enjoy it!

July 23- National Vanilla Ice Cream Day- A half gallon of vanilla ice cream and a few toppings are all that is needed to mark this day at home.

Fourth Sunday in July- National Parent’s Day- Today is a great day to teach your children Ephesians 6:1-3. Then recognize your parents in some small way. Our children will do as we do, and if we remember our parents, they will most likely remember theirs.

July 24- National Cousins Day- They say cousins are the first friends you ever have. We have been blessed to have a very close bond with many of our cousins. Give them a shout out on Facebook, post a picture of you all as kids, or recall a special memory you have with them… and teach your children to do the same. Talk with them about their favorite things about their cousins, put a handmade card in the mail, FaceTime or Skype with them, and remember the necessity to stay close with family.

Jul 27- National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day- Do you have a family member that was in the Korean War? Talk to your children about this hero that lives among them, and maybe make a visit or make a phone call to ask him or her questions about their experience (if they are willing to share. I guarantee you will make their day.

Although summer doesn’t end at the end of July, this list will get you started at turning a few of your ordinary days into special ones. Stay tuned for Celebrate the Ordinary Days: Summer- Part Two where we look at August and September.

Other posts in this series:

Celebrate the Ordinary Days: Fall Edition

celebrate-ordinary-days-summer

summer

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Every time I think of summer, I think of the summer of 2013. For me, it was the best summer ever!

It truly was.

I felt as though we took each and every day of our summer and squeezed as much fun and adventure out of it as we possibly could.

But, I could not have pulled it off alone.

As someone who loves being (and staying) at home, I needed help finding ways to get out with the kids to enjoy this season of lazy days, rainy afternoons, and looser schedules.

I discovered that our community was filled with opportunities for us to make memories together and individually by keeping my ears (and eyes thru Facebook) open for announcements. Here are some of the things we found here in our county that have worked really well for us over the last few summers.

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Library classes- Our library system does a series of classes throughout the entire summer. They are educational, entertaining, and the kids really had fun. We have brought home meal worms, planted seeds, learned about our local wildlife and participated in fun science experiments through some of the activities the library provided.

Our library also has a Summer Reading Program that encourages children to spend at least 24 hours worth of time throughout the entire summer reading. At the end, our children can earn a ticket to see the Tampa Bay Rays play. Our sports loving family really enjoyed this in years past and will continue to participate for years to come.

Check your local library system’s event calendar to find out the activities they have lined up for the summer.

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Arts and Crafts- We discovered that Michael’s Crafts Store has a program called Passport to Imagination which runs all summer long, three days a week. The cost of the 2 hour class is $4 per  child per day. It’s a great way for kids to explore their artistic side… without giving Mom a mess to clean up. That’s a win/win in my book!

Movies- Check into your local movie theater’s schedule to see what they are offering for children during the summer. We have a couple of theaters in our area that offer $1-$1.50 movies once or twice a week. We have taken advantage of these. It is a great way to get out of the house but still be in the air conditioning.

Season Passes- Do you have season passes to a local theme park? Summer is a great time to use them and get the most out of that pass. On evenings when you find yourself wondering what you could do, pull out that pass and enjoy your theme park for a couple of hours.

July 11th- Don’t forget that on 7/11 each year, 7 Eleven offers free Slurpees!

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Fruit Picking- Here in Florida we kick off our summer break with blueberry picking. It is always a great way to get us outside, and we bring home pounds of blueberries for a fraction of the cost of buying them in the stores. What fruit comes into season in the summer in your area? Look into where there may be a U-pick farm near you and have some fun!

VBS- Vacation Bible School is a free week long program that churches offer to their communities. Many times, the churches in an area or community stagger their VBS weeks so parents can utilize as many of these programs as possible.

Beaches and/or pools- Are you located near a beach? Are you a part of a community that gives you access to a pool? Do you have friends who invite you over to use their pool? Does your area have a sprayground? These are all great ways to get out into the summer sunshine, keep cool, and get that summer glow. Just be sure to keep the sunblock generously applied, hats on small heads, and lots of liquids on hand.

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Sporting Events- Baseball season is under way and football season is gearing up. Summer ballgames are almost an all-American must! Some ball fields will allow you to bring in your own food which helps to keep costs down to a minimum.

Football season is also gearing up. Our local team (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has a Fan Appreciation Day and open the gates (free of charge) for the fans to watch a practice. Check your local team to see if there are any free fan events happening in the summer.

Cow Appreciation Day- One day our children look forward to each summer is Chick-Fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day. The idea is to dress like a cow (as much or as little as you want). For minimal participation you get a free chicken sandwich. For maximum participation you get a free meal! Each year, we haven’t paid a dime for our dinner.

American Girl Movie Premier- I don’t know how it is in your house, but in our house the summer television premiere of the American Girl Doll of the Year movie is a big event. It is a free night, we don’t have to leave the house, Addie gets to pick out her own fashionable outfit, and I give her a special hair style using my hair supplies. It’s a tradition.

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Make the Most of the Holidays- Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are all considered summer holidays. Why not make the most of these with crafts, special snacks, and activities? My 4th of July Pinterest board was a huge help to me last year in coming up with a week’s worth of stay-at-home activities and fun.

Kids Bowl Free- Although the Kids Bowl Free program has been around for a while, we plan on taking advantage of it for the first time this year. Through this program, children receive two free games per day throughout the summer (cost of shoes is not included). There are also discounted rates for parents to play throughout the summer, too. It’s a great way to get out as a family for some fun. (Check your local bowling alley for restrictions)

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to make this summer your best one yet. I think the most important lesson I learned during the summer of 2013 was to make a big deal of the little moments.

Those are the moments that our children will always remember.

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graduation

Why Every Homeschooling Mom Needs to Attend a High School Graduation

My kids are 9 and 5.

We are a long way off from high school graduation.

Or are we?

This week I had the realization that my daughter is entering 4th grade- the grade I used to teach in my pre-mom life. I used to think those kids were so “big,” and now many of them are graduating college, getting married, having families of their own, and sending their little ones to school for the first time.

I remember these same kids wearing their private, Christian school uniforms, sitting in class, and learning their spelling words using the say-spell-say method. These kids stood just below my shoulders and many of them (especially the boys) now tower above me.

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Now my daughter is entering 4th grade. If these last 9 nine years have flown by so quickly, how quickly will the next 9 years go? Because when she’s 18, she will graduate.

A few years ago, I attended a our local homeschool graduation ceremony. As I looked around at all of the families attending, I knew these parents had thought graduation was a long way off for them, too.

I was there for one particular student. I had known this young lady through church since she 4 years old and had the privilege of being her fifth grade teacher when I taught at the Christian Academy. When she was entering 9th grade, her mother began homeschooling her.

From the moment the processional started and she walked in, the tears began. In my mind, I could see the little 4 year year old her with two pigtails walking down the aisle…. and then I envisioned a grown Addie and Ian making that same march.

Right now, the graduation of my own children seems to be a long way off. I am still very deep in the trenches of homeschooling. Ian is entering Kindergarten, and Addie is going into 4th grade.

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There are days when I wonder why I have chosen to homeschool my kids and take on myself a responsibility that others actually get paid for.

There are days when it takes my super smart nine year old five minutes to give me the answer for a simple division problem…. not that she doesn’t know it. Her mind takes little trips and she asks me a million unrelated questions in between finding the answer and writing it on her paper….. like “Mom, why do mosquitoes bite? Is it because of Adam and Eve?”

There are days when being wife, mom, teacher, home-keeper, cook, and launderer are overwhelming.

There are many days when I have to remind myself that my goal is not to have super smart children but to raise godly people.

Attending that graduation ceremony gave me the long term perspective I needed.

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I was able to see the tape across the finish line as each parent handed their student a diploma.

I was able to remember all of the answers to my “why’s”.

I was able to picture Brian and myself handing our children their diplomas and sending them into their next life adventure knowing that we had completed our purpose in the first part of their lives.

I was able to celebrate with these families who had once been in the trenches and had now reached the end of their race.

At one point in the ceremony there was a recognition of the families who were not only celebrating their child’s graduation but the end of their homeschool journey because this was their last child to be homeschooled.

I cried… again!

It dawned on me that homeschooling does not last forever.

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This race has a finish line.

My children will not stay little forever.

I will have to let them go at some point.

I am so glad I attended that graduation. Sometimes, you need to see the bigger picture to appreciate the small strokes you are making in canvas of your child’s life on a daily basis. These strokes can add beauty or can ruin the overall portrait.

As my friend Kristi often says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

I’ll rephrase it: the school days are long….. but the school years are short.

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Reflect the Son

This article was originally published in Strong and Courageous Women magazine issue 3. You can subscribe to Strong and Courageous Women here.

We live in a dark world. The moral compass of our culture and country is changing direction. In this dark world, we need to raise up a generation who will be a light in the darkness, just as the moon shines in the darkness of night.

In science this past year, my daughter and I learned about astronomy. The sun, moon, Earth, planets, rotations, revolutions, orbits, and galaxies.

During one of our classes, I was hit with something I have always known, something that is so elementary, but something that impacted me more as a parent than it ever did when I was a student.

The moon does not produce its own light. It reflects the light of the sun. Without the light of the sun, the moon would not shine at all. However, nothing else in space reflects the light of the moon.

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And it hit me.

In a manner of speaking, I am the moon.

I cannot produce my own light. My job is to reflect Jesus. And how often do I forget that no one is supposed to reflect me?

Yet, that was a burden I was placing on my children all the time, and sometimes still do.

I would tell them that their behavior reflected the kind of mother I am. I would tell them their behavior was supposed to make me look good.

Now do not get me wrong. I have great kids. They are very good, but they are kids, which means there is always going to be a level of unpredictability involved when we leave the house.

Yes, it’s important for my children to behave in public. The should behave in a manner that is above reproach.

But they are not supposed to reflect me. They are supposed to reflect Jesus. My light is not strong enough, it never will be.

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Their behavior is not to bring me glory. It is to glorify their Heavenly Father, not their earthly mother.

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Our children need to know that as believers in Jesus, our behavior needs to reflect the One who lives in us. We need to shine with kindness, love, obedience, gentleness, and respect for others.

My job is to bring them into the presence of Jesus. The more they are in front of the Son, the brighter their light will shine for Him. The more I bring them into His presence, the more their moral compass will align to His, and the choices they make will reflect Him. The more they stand before Him, the brighter their light will shine in the darkness.

The way the moon shines in the darkness, I want my children to shine in this darkened world.

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Superwoman Had a Team

I am not Superwoman.

In fact, if I hadn’t been her daughter I would have thought Superwoman was a myth.

But when I look at my mother and all that she was able to do within the course of her day, I realize that she was not alone.

Superwoman had a team!

Her team Leader was The Lord, and her daily quiet times with Him gave her the recharge she needed to attack the challenges in her day.

Her partner and supporter was her husband (my father). He supported her and backed her and provided so that she could do what she did best.

Her two side kicks were my sister and me.

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My mother delegated some of the jobs within her home to us so she could homeschool us, be an assistant to my father who was serving as an associate pastor, lead a women’s Bible study, disciple one on one with women in our church, host gatherings in our home as part of my father’s ministry responsibilities, and cook and grocery shop and do the other things that “normal” wives do day in and day out.

My jobs were to keep my room clean, take care of the laundry, and kitchen cleanup after each meal. My sister had her own set of chores and responsibilities.

I don’t remember when our training as sidekicks started because helping was just something we always did. Our jobs were always age appropriate, and the older we got our jobs changed to meet our level of responsibility.

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Now I am the woman of my own home and I am finding that I don’t have enough hands (or enough of me) to do all of the jobs that need to be done. Yet I have the same resources at my disposal that my mother had.

I have The Lord, and my daily time with Him is an absolute must. It recharges me so that I can tackle the daily challenges I face. (A little secret I found is to just get up for a bit when I wake up in the middle of the night and spend my time in the Word or wake up just a little bit earlier than my family does.)

I have a partner as well. My loving, supportive husband who provides for us so that I can be home and do what I do. He encourages me in each and every endeavor, and I in turn want to do the same for him.

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I also have two little sidekicks in training. They are both learning how to help around the house by doing chores that are not only age appropriate, but are also suited to their personalities. Their help is invaluable.

With the big help my little sidekicks offer, I already feel the sense of relief that comes with delegating some of the smaller jobs that can put big pressure on me.

Sweet Mama, you do not have to do it alone. You have a team.

If you haven’t already, start getting your team in shape. Start them small. Be consistent. And remind them that they are an important part of your team.

Superwoman had a team.

I have a team in training.

You have a team.

Maybe one day our kids will think we were Superwoman.

But more importantly, our children need to know they have an important role on our team.

This post was originally featured on my blog The Joy of Homemaking.

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To the Expectant Mother Soon to Give Birth

Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 30:5b- Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Dear Mom Ready to Give Birth,

Motherhood is hard. There are so many challenges in a single ordinary day. But there is also beauty with each challenge we face. So many will be ready to remind you of each new challenge you will face- “war stories” of births and raising children. But many will fail to remind you of the beauty hidden deep within each challenge, and the treasure that you will find if you look hard enough.

I want to remind you that within each challenge hides a beautiful treasure.

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Two weeks before I gave birth to our daughter, my mother went home to be with the Lord. I thought I was going to have to walk through motherhood alone. I hadn’t read any books or listened to the “experts” because I had assumed my mother would be there to guide me down this road called motherhood. And yet as hard as facing motherhood without my own mother was, God brought beauty in a way I had not expected it.

God brought women along side of me to help walk me through the early stages of motherhood. Some of those women were there for a season and some have continued to walk beside me. God has used my aunts, mother-in-law, and other godly women to come along side me and encourage me with God’s Word. I also had the chance to see how awesome my husband really is. From changing diapers- I’m talking the really dirty ones– to quieting a colic-y baby, I was able to see the true man that he really was but had never really noticed or given him credit for before.

The beauty of discipleship from seasoned, Christian women and the hands on love from my husband were a treasure I discovered during those difficult first few months.

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Five days before I went into labor, a senior saint decided to tell me every painful and gory detail about her birth and delivery story. I listened wide-eyed and I began to dread this fast approaching event that according to her would take 3 days with no medication.

Yes, the contractions came, and I experienced more discomfort than I have ever felt, but there was something beautiful about that period of discomfort. My room was filled with those who I loved and loved me. My husband, sister, in-laws, 2 aunts, an uncle, my cousin and her family, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law surrounded me. They breathed in with every contraction that showed up on the monitor and exhaled as each one dissipated.

That was the beauty in that moment of challenge. The community that God knew I so desperately needed at that very moment. He knew that I needed to know I wasn’t alone. I was watching and hearing my family and extended family feel my pain with me. The send offs and joyful laughter as I was wheeled away to deliver my daughter followed me down the corridor. The rejoicing that went on in that room when my daughter entered the world was God’s reminder that when His people “Rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep (Romans 12:15)” His love is visibly evident in the real world.

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I had to have an emergency C-section, and I was faced with having an extra set of bills I wasn’t anticipating, not having the type of birth I had hoped for, and now I would have a life-long scar.

Yet, the beauty came when I realized that my husband and I would have this moment to share all to ourselves. No one else would be able to impose on this moment that was going to turn us from a couple into a family. God allowed our insurance company to not only cover the c-section, but to also reimburse us for the entire pregnancy, reminding me that “my God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.” (Phil. 4:19) And my scar is a constant visual reminder that I would do anything for the sake of my children.

As we moved our new family home from the hospital, I began to experience the sleepless nights and midnight feedings that everyone “warns” you about with dread and gloom. As I would get up for each feeding, I would plead to God to let my baby sleep through the night. I was tired.

But the beauty came as I began to use those middle of the night times to have my quiet time. I had no room for distraction- nothing could be cleaned without waking anyone up. No one needed me once the baby had been put back to bed. Those middle of the night feedings turned into a nightly “meet-up” with God, and I began to look forward to it. When our son came along, his middle of the night feedings allowed me to continue having my time with God since I would be waking up to an energized preschooler and my day would get away from me.

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As your life changes in the next few weeks and you add this new little person into your home and family, with each challenge, look for the beauty. It will be there. Sometimes you won’t recognize it right away. But as you look back at the early days with little one, the moments filled with the most challenge are the moments you will remember most and miss once they have passed. And it is then that the beauty will start to become evident.

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