Redemption of the Picture-Perfect Moment

With Halloween over and the Christmas season beginning basically the next day, it means I have to mentally prepare myself now for the supposed “picture-perfect moment.”

For all you Dads out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Everybody is having a great time, the kids are content and you finally have a moment to sit and relax. Out of nowhere, you hear the words, “Alright! Time for a picture!”

If I’m your typical guy, I gladly volunteer to take the picture of everybody else. If I get stuck in the photo, I reluctantly give a half-hearted smile and rush to get it over with leaving everyone a little frustrated.

But what if you could redeem the picture-perfect moment? What if there was a way to take the typical guy response and transform it into a moment for the purposeful dad?

Here are three things to help you get through the infamous picture-perfect moment.

  1. Prepare yourself ahead of time. Mentally prepare ahead of time knowing you will have to take some pictures as a family. Be proactive and be ready to take the picture. Ask your wife ahead of time when the photo will happen so you can plan accordingly.
  1. Smile and have fun with it! If everybody smiled, posed and participated for the picture, it would literally be over in less than 90 seconds. Have fun with it! Think of something fun to say that’ll make the kids laugh. Tickle your wife (after the good picture was taken!) and have a blast with your family. Don’t let a picture get you down or ruin the rest of the day. Let the kids see you having fun… this may even condition your kids to be okay with taking pictures!
  1. Think about the picture-perfect future. This last one is the most important one.

In the age of social media, I originally titled this post, “The Curse of the Picture-Perfect Moment.” I feel like almost anything we do has someone’s smartphone capturing the moment rather than being in the moment. The five minutes following are spent on creating the right caption with the perfect filter. Then, I realized it really isn’t a curse after all.

Just a couple weeks ago, I pulled up old pictures on my phone and my 4-year-old daughter started looking at them with me. She would laugh and look at specific photos more than others. Anytime Halloween costumes came by, she would snicker and talk about how much she loved her outfit that year.

As we continued looking at pictures of our family, (you know, those picture-perfect moments that drove me nuts at the time?), my daughter looked up at me and said, “Daddy, I love our family!” Does she remember what we did that day? Probably not. Does she see our family having fun together? Absolutely.

Redemption! It all made sense now. She now associates those pictures with the love for our family and the time we spent together. All because of a “picture-perfect moment.”

That’s when I discovered my purposeful dad perspective on pictures.

The pictures weren’t for benefit in the present. The pictures were meant for the picture-perfect future. A future looking back on the past and remembering the good times we had as a family.

And that’s why, as a Purposeful Dad, I choose to be a part of the picture-perfect moment.

This post is a part of the Purposeful Dad series. If you know someone you can encourage with this post, feel free to share!

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A Morning Routine for Moms and Kids

Have you ever found yourself repeating what you have already said a million times?

“Get dressed.”

“Did you brush your teeth today?”

“Why isn’t your bed made?”

Getting our children (and ourselves) into a routine will not only teach them discipline, but it will also keep your life sane.

Mental fatigue happens when too many choices have to be made in a short amount of time. When our body is trained to function without having to think through each action, our minds are ready to take on the real tasks of the day.

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Right now is a great time to start a morning routine

If you have been wanting to start a morning routine but haven’t known when to start, right now is a great time. We have just entered a time change which has given us an extra hour. If you’re anything like me, your body is programmed to wake up at the old time, which is now an hour earlier. Why not use that extra hour to begin getting into the habit of your routine?

This next step is the most important part.

Discipline yourself to establish and stick with your morning routine

No matter how hard it is, or how much you don’t want to stick with your routine, don’t give up! If you want your children to stick to their morning routine, you need to set the example. Just remind yourself over and over again how much easier your mornings will be once you and your children are set in your routine.

What to include in your Morning Routine

Grab a piece of paper and pen, and write down all of the things that must get done before you head to work, take your kids to school, or begin your homeschool day. Things as simple as devotions, brushing your teeth, putting on the coffee, cleaning up after breakfast, and so on need to be on your list.

Then, write down all of the things your children need to do before heading to school or before their homeschool day begins.

Write it out or type, print, and laminate your list and your children’s list, and begin following it faithfully every day. Pretty soon, you will find yourself automatically “going through the motions” and saving your mental energy for more important decisions.

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A Morning routine example

Sometimes, getting a look at someone else’s morning routine helps in deciding what to include in your own morning routine. Below is the routine I have created for my children and myself. Remember, I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, so my routine reflects the time I have available to me and my children in the mornings.

Morning routine for kids

  • Read the Bible
  • Brush your teeth (be inspected by Mom or Dad)
  • Get dressed (and put clothes in the hamper or fold and put away)
  • Make your bed
  • Brush/comb your hair

Morning Routine for Me

  • Get up a little before everyone else
  • Basic morning bathroom routine
  • Quiet time
  • Make coffee
  • Throw a load into the washer
  • Pack Brian’s lunch
  • Make breakfast
  • Send Brian off
  • Clean up after breakfast
  • Get dressed
  • Devotions with the kids
  • Prep dinner
  • Make sure house is in order (quick clean)

Once you and your children are settled into your routine, you will find that your are not asking the “did you” questions as frequently as you once did.

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May the Sales Be Ever In Your Favor | Proverbs 31 Series

“She is like the merchant ships; She brings her food from afar.” Proverbs 31:14

Shopping can be fun! But sometimes (especially during the Christmas season), it can feel like you are participating in some warped version of the Hunger Games. How many of us have gone out on Black Friday and prayed that we would be the one brave warrior to make it home alive?

Shopping doesn’t always need to feel like we are entering the arena, especially now that we have officially entered into the holiday, gift-giving season. Not only are we trying to survive the crowds, but we are also trying to get the best price on our merchandise. Make it home alive and lose as few of our resources as possible? Is that realistic?

There are ways to survive the crowd and find the best prices and deals to maximize our dollar, but sometimes it means being willing to drive to that out of the way store that has the best prices even if it’s not an all-in-one-stop shop.

What does this look like in real life?

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Grocery shopping

One of the most important methods to saving money on groceries is meal planning.

Meal planning, simply stated, is the process of planning your family’s meals so you aren’t left wondering at 5:30 p.m. what you are feeding your family for dinner that night.

It begins by looking through your pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what you already have on hand. Once you have decided which meals you can start with the supplies you already have, make your list based on what you still need. Fill in with breakfast and lunch staples and few snacks (or better yet, try making your own), and you will be surprised at how little you spend… if you stick to your list.

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Christmas

Black Friday is know for its great sales, but many times items end up in the shopping cart just because they are on sale, not because they are things that would have purchased anyway. Instead, start early in the year, and take note of what your family members are actually interested in. Then as you begin to notice items go on sale, you can pick them up.

In our home, we ask the kids to write down or tell us items in four categories:

  • something they want
  • something they need
  • something to wear
  • something to read

They can write down or name as many items as they want under each category. They know they will not receive every item on their list, but at least we have a better understanding of their interests and expectations for Christmas. It also gives us a head start on looking for gifts they actually want instead of spending money on items just so the base of the Christmas tree looks full on Christmas morning.

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Clothing

In style clothing is something that all women want, but who says you have to pay full price for them? Early on, my mother taught me to shop the clearance racks before checking out the retail priced racks. Shopping clearance racks for children is also a great idea. Rather than purchasing clothes in their current sizes, purchase clothes in the next size or two up. You will save a significant amount on clothes if you aren’t having to purchase them at full price.

Couponing websites and apps

Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.

Another way to save, which takes a little extra effort on our part but is completely worth it, is to use coupon apps. Not all stores participate in these apps, but the ones that do help us save significant amounts of money. Ibotta is my go to app. Just for making a purchase, I can earn $0.25. If I purchase items that have rebates in the app, I can make significantly more. The money earned back can be turned into gift cards for a whole host of stores, and if you use your gift cards to purchase items with rebates on the app, you can not only earn more money back, but you can do it without spending a dime of your own money.

As we add Proverbs 31:14 to our memorization list, let’s think of ways to stretch our dollar, save on groceries, keep our Christmas expenses low, and use technology to our advantage. And may the sales be ever in your favor.

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Teaching Thanksgiving

When the 1st of November hits, our attention moves to Thanksgiving. Facebook is flooded with people giving their thankful thoughts each day until Thanksgiving, beautiful, harvest themed memes reminding us of our blessings, and arts and craft projects to do with our kids.

However, we are missing something if our thoughts only go towards the warm, fuzzy side of Thanksgiving, and we skip over the historical aspect of where Thanksgiving actually came from.

Our children need to learn the story of the Pilgrims, how God protected them as they travelled across the ocean, how God came to their defense when the sailors verbally attacked them, and how he allowed their ship to be blown off course causing them to land in Massachusetts instead of Virginia. They need to know that the first winter was not easy. In fact, half of the Pilgrims that came over on the Mayflower died during the first winter. They need to know that God allows trials to happen in our lives to bring us to a place where we can be a blessing to others, as in the case of Squanto.

Our children need to see that although life can be hard, God gives His people hope.

They need to see that the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of Thanksgiving to God for his faithfulness to them during their first year in the New World. Our children need to see a more realistic view of the first Thanksgiving instead of the caricature we tend to present with our perfect dinners, backdrops, and craft projects.

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If you are looking to give your children a more balanced approach to the story of Thanksgiving, here are some ideas to get you started.

Scripture References

The Psalms are filled with references to giving thanks to God. In fact, you can even find verses that specifically say Thanksgiving. Why not pick one and memorize it with your children this month?

Psalms 69:30 “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”

Psalms 26:7 “…proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.”

Psalms 147:7 “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!”

Psalms 95:2 “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

Psalms 100:4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Books

thanksgiving resourcesAffiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.

My absolute favorite book for teaching Thanksgiving to my children is Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey. As I mentioned in this post:

This is probably my favorite Thanksgiving book. Barbara Rainey has written it with the entire family in mind, and it can grow with your family throughout the years. She has written it to be read one of two ways- the larger print is to be read to preschoolers and younger elementary students, and the entire book to be read to mid elementary and above.

The book I purchased also comes with a music CD filled with beautiful instrumentals based on beloved hymns of Thanksgiving. It truly makes the atmosphere feel like Thanksgiving.

Because my daughter is reaching an age where we are encouraging independent learning, I also have several books for her to read on her own: Squanto: Friend of Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla, Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas, The Mayflower Adventure (The American Adventure Series #1) by Colleen L. Reece, and Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans by Rush Limbaugh.

These books teach the reality of Thanksgiving. Squanto is my favorite Thanksgiving personality because his life teaches us that although we encounter trials, hardships, losses, and unfair treatment, God can use those parts of our lives for His ultimate glory and to bless others. That is the story of Thanksgiving our children need to see.

Activities

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From pumpkin muffins and ice cream cone teepees to thankful trees and huge, obnoxious Mayflower hats, the activities are endless! The most important thing to remember about the activities is to pace yourself and chose ones that will fit your purpose in doing them.

Because we were focusing on being thankful, the Pilgrims, and Squanto, we have made the Thankful Tree, which you can read more about here, Mayflower hats (pictured above), and Thanksgiving Teepee Cupcakes. We have also gone into the yard to find leaves (okay, we pulled them off the plants… we live in Florida… leaves don’t actually fall here until January…) and made little leaf men. For us, crafts need to be quick, easy, and make very little mess, and these crafts fit the bill.

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We want our children to experience the warm fuzzies of the season, but let’s not forget to share with them the reason for the Pilgrims’ dangerous journey across the ocean, the hardships they experienced, or the life of Squanto.

Let’s teach our children to be thankful for God’s many mercies to them and those who came before.

Let’s teach our children Thanksgiving this year by sharing the hard times in our own lives that God has brought us through.

Let’s teach our children Thanksgiving by looking back in our own lives and showing how the journey God has allowed us to walk was not only meant for us but was also meant to ultimately be a blessing for others as well.

Let’s teach our children Thanksgiving by reading to them the Thanksgiving Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln and show them that Thanksgiving was created to be a day where our hearts and attention turn to God Almighty.

Let’s teach our children Thanksgiving this year and make this a Thanksgiving that will be foundational in their faith and lives.

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operation-christmas-child

Operation Christmas Child | A Family Christmas Project

We may only be in October, but Christmas is in the air in our home because of Operation Christmas Child.

I’ll never forget the first time I participated in Operation Christmas Child. I was very pregnant with my daughter, and the Christian school I taught at was participating. Brian and I chose to make a box for a 2-4 year old girl in our daughter’s name.

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Four years later, we took our daughter to the store to fill her very own box for another 2-4 year old girl. When we reached the cashier, this woman had a huge smile on her face. “I couldn’t help but feel so happy as I heard your little girl trying to pack the entire store into that little box. Who is this for?” And we were able to share with her about the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child.

When I served as interim Children’s Ministry Director at our church, I had the privilege of heading up the Operation Christmas Child drive for our congregation, and this time, both of our children were able to participate in helping to serve. We not only built boxes, stuffed them, and organized a packing party, but we were able to help take the boxes to our local drop-off location. We also chose to pay for our shipping online in order to track where our boxes went to really give our children the global perspective of the impact their shoeboxes were having.

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What is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry through Samaritan’s Purse which  provides a shoebox filled with practical and fun items for children around the world through the donations of people like you and me. When children around the world are given this gift, they are also presented with the Gospel, providing them with the greatest gift they could ever receive.

Operation Christmas Child is a beautiful way to encourage the hearts of our children to think of others before thinking of themselves. Because Operation Christmas Child kicks off before the Christmas season does, it causes our children to think of others before their thoughts have a chance to turn to what they will receive on Christmas morning. Operation Christmas Child gets our children thinking beyond their own four walls to children around the world and gives them a hands on way to put into practice Matthew 25:40, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

How can I get involved?

Many churches and Christian organizations around the country are participating in Operation Christmas Child. If your church is not participating in Operation Christmas Child, don’t worry! There are still ways you can participate.

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Where can I get my shoebox?

Many participating locations will provide a cardboard shoebox free of charge, but you can use a large shoebox from your own recent shoe purchase or purchase a plastic shoebox from the dollar store for longer durability. Hobby Lobby sells official plastic Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

What can I put in the boxes?

If you have participated in the past, be aware that this year, candy and toothpaste are not allowed for customs reasons. Otherwise, Samaritan’s Purse has a list of suggestions which are allowed, such as a “Wow” item, personal care items (no liquids), clothing (think t-shirts and socks), crafts and activities, toys, and a personal note.

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Where do I take my shoebox when I’m done packing it?

If you are looking for a drop off location, you can find the nearest one to you here, but you need to be sure to drop your box off (with your $9 shipping enclosed) during National Collection Week, November 13-20, 2017, in order for your box bless a child.

Most importantly, don’t forget to add $9 for shipping in your box, either in your box or by paying online and attaching your tracking label to your box so you can find out where your box ends up.

Operation Christmas Child is a tradition in our home, and our children look forward to as just as much as I do. It is a great way to kick off the Christmas season and simultaneously be a blessing at Christmas time to another child somewhere in the world.

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twas-the-evening-of-christmas

Twas the Evening of Christmas | Review and Giveaway

Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Christmas is coming!

With Christmas comes all the feels and wants of making this the most wonderful time of the year, and in our home, there are three ways we make that happen: books, traditions, and beauty.

Christmas Is a Great Time for Books

When you think of Christmas books, what comes to mind? Go ahead… I’ll give you a second.

I have a list of books, which I will share with you next month, that come to mind for me. But now on that list are two books by author Glenys Nellist.

Last year, Mrs. Nellist wrote a beautiful book, Christmas Love Letters from God, which filled every one of my personal requirements of a good, solid Christmas book. It now has permanent residence in our Christmas book basket. This year, Glenys has outdone herself… again. She has taken a well- loved classic Christmas poem, and created a beautiful version of her own, charmingly retelling the biblical account of the Christmas story.

Twas the Evening of Christmas demonstrates Glenys’s ability for taking a story, setting it to rhythmic poetry, and letting the words paint a picture on their own. As I read the story to my children, the words flowed so easily, and I couldn’t wait to read the next page to see how she would retell each part of the story in the way only she could.

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Christmas Is a Great Time for Traditions

As each Christmas rolls around, I want my children to expect specific recurrences. I want there to be expectations in their hearts that I can fulfill. Reading certain books under the tree during the evenings in December is something I want my children look forward to. Twas the Evening of Christmas is one of those books that will continue to be read year after year, and one day will be read to the next generation as well.

Christmas is a visual treasure

When I think of Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind is what Christmas looks like. Twinkling lights, beautifully decorated trees, full evergreen garlands, large green wreathes, and wrapping paper in every color and print imaginable. The images of Christmas leave as much of an impression as the smells and sounds do.

One of my favorite aspects of Glenys’s books, outside of her skillful authorship, is the illustrators she chooses to tell the visual story. Whether you are looking at her books for toddlers and preschoolers, her Love Letters books, or her newest book, Twas the Evening of Christmas, her illustrators tell the story with artistic beauty.

Elena Selivanova has done an amazing job of illustrating Twas the Evening of Christmas. There is such a nostalgic look to her art, and it fits this book so perfectly. When I asked my children which illustrations they loved the most, each chose something different. Ian, 6, loved the illustrations of the Baby Jesus. Addie, 9, loved all of the illustrations depicting the animals.

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I want to send a huge thank you to Zondervan for sponsoring this giveaway so you can possibly win your very own copy of this visually beautiful, beautifully written book, Twas the Evening of Christmas. I hope you take the time to enter the giveaway below.

Note: This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, who have a physical street address (no PO boxes).

Next week, Shawn Howell at Prayer Lights will be sharing her review. I look forward to tuning in to hear what she has to say!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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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?

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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 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

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