Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finishing Summer Strong with Your Children

      It’s here! Summer celebrations are well under way! Sunshine, vacations, camps, swimming, and family memories have taken the place of school and extra-curricular activities. This time of the year is a unique time of having fun and having free-time for a child. But did you know this can also be a time to make progress in some unique and valuable areas of your child’s life? The weeks of summer can be an ideal for investing in the minds and hearts of your children in ways that the rest of the year may not allow.

               It seems for our family, there isn’t time to do some of the meaningful things we want to do throughout the year that I know my children need. So, I decided we would use the summer to do some things the rest of the year doesn’t allow for due to time. In addition, children are more open to doing things together in summer as there aren’t as many distractions from outside obligations and school needs that crowd their minds.

As you plan out the next 6 weeks or so of your child’s break, consider utilizing time during each day or at least a few times a week to do things that build the child internally. Move into a purpose-driven mindset that makes the best of the extra hours available. These days are gifts to parents as the children are looking for places and people to put their time and energy. This is a unique window of opportunity to guide them in fun yet productive activities. Plus, a bonus is that is can also help alleviate summer-time boredom that can lend itself to whiny, lazy, fussy kids that can get into mischief. (Not your kids, of course, but perhaps some kids you know?!)

               There may only be one or two things you will want to choose but if you do that over the years of summer time, by the age the kids leave home you would have accomplished much! The point is to choose things that make the most of the time given.

  1. Choose one book to read aloud and discuss what can be learned from it. Or have the children read on their own and tell you about it over dinner or during a car ride. The important thing is to choose a book that instills values or principles that benefit the child.  
  2. Plant a garden. Even wildflowers can be fun to grow if other flowers or food seems like too much to handle. A garden can teach the value of living things, patience, nurture, and the celebration of growth from something small to full maturity.
  3. Take a morning or evening walk. Listen to nature, stop and take note of neighbors you haven’t had time to interact with, or just chat casually as things come up. For those with little ones, use the stroller so you aren’t in work-mode as you chase tiny tricycles or carry toddlers.
  4. Learn a foreign language. Since there aren’t other subjects filling their minds or calling for homework, a new language or adding to one each summer can be fun for kids, especially if you use the right program or app.
  5. Write letters to relatives or distant friends. Perhaps there are grandparents or great-aunts and uncles, or former school friends and neighbors that don’t get time to see your child that would enjoy a handwritten, personalized card in the mail.
  6. Volunteer at a local organization that could use some help or encouragement. This could be as simple as asking your church, community center or foster care organization if they need any  help with a one-time project or as committed as having your teen assist weekly with a family of many children just to give the mom a breather without having to pay.
  7. Teach homemaking. Most kids know how to unload a dish washer or sweep a floor, but what about teaching (or perhaps learning together) how to build a shelf, organize a garage, change the oil, balance a checkbook, paint a room, sew a button, cook a new meal, or prepare for a yard sale ect. Most likely as parents we would do these on our own but kids and teens would enjoy learning these type things and will be able to use the skills later in life. 
  8. Nurture a new pet. Having a pet can be enjoyable to watch as well as teach responsibility. It could be as easy as a fish (our personal favorite) or as engaging as a new puppy. The summer allows for time to learn how to handle the new addition and set some habits of care into place before school starts back.
  9. Invest in others. All around us there are people who are in need of a caring relationship. Whether it’s a sick neighbor, an elderly person at the nursing home, a special-needs child from school, a family that just moved to town, a young mom with a new baby, or a foster teenager that is aging out of the system, taking time to call, enjoy a meal, give a gift, run errands or take somewhere can be just the encouragement they need. Summer is a wonderful season for relationships.  
  10. Build Character. The relaxed times of summer can lead to some of the greatest conversations about decision-making, friends, media, life direction, sibling love, peer pressure ect. There may even be some personal goals such as boundaries with food, being mature in proper settings, talking with an “inside voice”, building self-esteem or other skills that your child needs to learn but there hasn’t been the opportunity. These weeks are ideal for readjusting behaviors and teaching your insights for life character traits.

Enjoy these days! Make some lemonade and embrace these last few weeks doing whatever it is you want your children to do while you have some extra moments to invest in their hearts and minds!



Friday, July 11, 2014

What We Use for School

     After much, I mean MUCH, research, this is the easy-breezy, bottom line, thorough direction we have chosen to follow for our curriculum. One of the outstanding things about home educating is that we can pick what we feel is the best for our children according to their needs and our direction as a family.

     So, we use different things to teach our children including life experiences such as trips, church, extended family, hospitality, events etc. That is why we chose to name our home school "Liberty Classical...Free to Learn, Free to Live." We can totally decide what we want to do. Side note, most home school families do name their family school for organizational and record purposes, plus my girls thought it is fun to have an official name. (They also think its fun to wear a uniform to Wal-mart and march in a line like they are in the Madeline Movie! ha)

     Anyway, we have chosen some curriculum in book form, some in DVD, some in Audio, some in a teacher/classroom setting, and some online. This format has allowed our girls to flourish in education given in many forms.

In addition, something else we do that is unique but beneficial is that we send our girls to 6 weeks of public school at the end of the year. This has been worthy of doing for the experience (MAP testing, field trips, outdoor skills day and to see how other children live and learn) personal discipleship (by way of witnessing and being challenged by the world against their faith), and a change in pace of the flow of how we do life. This also gives me a little vacation and makes them appreciate home education the rest of the year! It truly does show them the pros and cons first hand rather than us always explaining why we do what we do the rest of the year.

    All that being said, I have listed the curriculum we use the rest of the year.  When you read below, you will see that we use much of the Classical Conversations material and school group. It's extremely inexpensive compared to private classical school and you will know your children are actually learning everything they need to know. This takes the pressure off of my mind wondering if we are doing what we are supposed to do as well as keeps me on schedule weekly.

     Classical Conversations is an awesome co-op (most likely there is one near you) where you don't have to teach. Hooray. And, it meets once a week and your children get many of the benefits of a school (recess, backpacks, classroom setting, field trips, school parties, year book, friends, teachers) without having to go every day.

     As stated previously, we use many methods and materials. The following is our list:

There is a checklist I have composed of all things needed by the end of the child's fifth year. Check posts for this list.

Kindergarten - 1st Grade
Geography, latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading and handwriting

Math - my own teachings from random workbooks at the store of basic addition, subtraction, clocks, and money

2nd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading and handwriting

Math - Math-U-See DVD program

3rd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Phonetic Zoo Audio for Spelling, G.U.M. Drops for Grammar

Math - Math-U-See DVD Program

Spanish - Rosetta Stone in the summer only

4th Grade-6th Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Classical Conversations which teaches the grammar, writing, and vocab using the IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing), and Phonetic Zoo audio for Spelling

Math - Math-U-See DVD Program

Spanish - Rosetta Stone in the summer only

7th Grade - 12th Grade
All Subjects are Classical Conversations ... but I haven't been to this point in school yet with my girls so this may change. Otherwise, this is my plan.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cousins Camp!

Woo-hoo! We just recently completed our 5th Annual Cousin's Camp! I gathered all first cousins who are 4 and older to make some major life-time memories. From the first-class greetings, to opening ceremonies, games and prizes, mini-group, and water fun we lived it up for yet another successful year of bonding. Here is a highlight video from this past month at Cousins Camp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WOSnGRN6fg

     After some thought, I decided that anything to lead and love children is worth sharing. Perhaps this will offer you some creative ideas to build relationships with the children in your world whether biological, extended, adopted, friends, neighbors, little ones you mentor etc. The main reasons we get together is to make an extra effort beyond birthdays and holidays (those are so busy) to grow in God, to have both sides of the family making memories, and for them to know their Aunt Casey loves them! Here is the schedule we use but adapt for your own interest and needs:

We keep the activities to two days and each day goes from 10-3:00. This is just enough time to do everything and yet not too much when things would get a little crazy.

10:00 WELCOME Greet outside with lots of energy and random instruments while cheering their name and making a tunnel. We do this until all arrive. Then we let the kids choose if they want to get their face painted which is done by a big kid or one of the helpers. Helpers are someone like an adult friend, relative, or teen. This year I had three helpers bc I am pregnant and also had 14 kids at the house…in addition, I decided I better have two camps next time bc the age gaps between the 4 yr olds and the 10-11 yr olds as well as the amount of kids! But it was fun!

10:15 OPENING CEREMONIES We gather around for the pledge to the American flag, then we circle up for a Cousins Camp Cheer (“We’re cousins! We’re cousins! We always stick together! I am with you, you are with me, its Cousins Camp Forever!”) then we put on some dance music and do a dance together (Electric Slide or something similar that is fun and easy).

10:30 BIBLE CHAT TIME There is a theme each year and we talk about a concept such as trusting the Lord, prayer, living a pure life, and learning what truth is in life. I lead the lesson and pass a balla round for each child to hold when it’s their turn to talk. We act out the lesson or use props to prove the point. It is the most valuable time of the whole camp as the children share their hearts and insights. Then we close with prayer requests and I remind them about being wise and choosing God no matter what life brings their way.

11:00 CRAFT TIME Anything from decorating t-shirts to stuffing panty hose with cotton and drawing faces to make long snakes, this is just a fun activity.

11:30 GAMES These games are easy and fun. We have two teams with equal ages on each if possible so older can help the younger. These games have included through the years tossing balls into buckets, throwing popcorn into mouths, playing Pictionary, guessing what items are missing from a tray or wrapping up in toilet paper races etc. The final game leads up one big game on day two such as a scavenger hunt for a treasure box with real coins or an obstacle course.


12:30 FREE TIME outdoors with sprinklers or set up pools, bikes, chalk, swingset etc.

2:00 SNACK TIME and sometimes we combine one of our girls bday celebrations during this part if the camp falls during a bday. We eat and open presents on Day 1. For Day 2, we do snack then give out awards for each child with a certificate or medal or trophy to acknowledge something special about each one. This year, due to rain, we had to move Freetime and snack to an indoor community swim area so I sent a picture with awards on it in the mail later.

2:45 PACK UP All kids gather their items and do a cleanup so the house isn’t too messy and moms don’t have to wait at pickup.

These years of effort have been worth every minute and I hope it inspires you to connect with the children in your life before they grow up and go their own ways. It truly is a gift to have influence and time with the heart of a child. ENJOY!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Father Shows Best

This is a favorite pic from when I surprised my dad at his 65th bday...which explains the party necklace too! HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to the man who set my life on the right path!

     Powerful. Influential. Heroic. Men, would you like to be these? When you are a father or a father figure, you have the potential to be all these and more. When someone positions you as the primary male role model in their life, you are crucial to their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. You are a big deal. And when it comes to life, you truly do show them best.

    While it is understood that being a dad to someone is a top-honor, what is often misunderstood is what should a man do once he is one? What does it look like to “show them best” if there isn’t a manual that comes with each young person? While there are thousands of stats and ideas on what can be done, there is one man that has lived fatherhood for one boy and one girl that is an example to all.

     My brother and I were raised by a successful dad. Although he was an Eagle Scout, Marine, and businessman, his most valuable success was in our home. He was and is a father that has showed us best through his actions and words. His sixty-five plus years of life can answer some of the questions about being a dad for other men just simply by hearing how he lived as we were growing up.

  1. He understood imperfection. Dad knew we would make mistakes and need understanding. He listened well to us before he enforced discipline. With his patience, we felt heard and respected even though we knew discipline was needed and would come. Afterwards, he always, yes, always, chose to forgive us. In addition, dad was the first to admit his own shortcomings. Whether it was from his childhood memories, relationships with others, or something at work, he would talk with us so we could learn from him and, at times, offer our own forgiveness to him. Dad kept life real and knew we weren’t perfect and that was okay. Consequently, we did all we could to please him and make him proud because of our gratitude for his understanding.
  2. He loved unconditionally. The words, “I love you unconditionally” came from dad countless times. And he meant it. He loved no matter what we did or didn’t do. And as any parent would know that isn’t easy and also says a lot. We absolutely knew no matter what extra-curricular activities, friends, clothes, music, hairstyles, colleges, or jobs we chose, as long as it wasn’t harmful or disobedient, he supported us. His words were encouraging and positive when he spoke to us and when he spoke of us; often times even when he didn’t know we were listening. Because of his love, we trusted him, and loved him unconditionally in return.
  3. He provided, protected, and played. Dad did everything he knew to do to provide for us with life necessities and anything above and beyond. He worked hard but not for his own gain, it was to give his family his best.  And because he worked hard, he protected us from anything that would come against us to break up the family. He guarded his faithfulness to mom, his time with us, and entertainment choices or people that weren’t beneficial to our minds and hearts. Consequently, had the freedom to enjoy the provided, protected life and had a blast playing with dad on family nights, in the car, on vacations, and at extra-curricular activities. We loved being with him!

     While being a “father that shows best” may take effort, it comes with matchless rewards. Perhaps you have attempted your best but have fallen short, start fresh. Even if your child is older, you can choose to be successful starting today. You can be that powerful, influential, heroic man to whoever it is in your life that needs you as a dad.
*Article used as published in Paradise Lifestyle Magazine June 2014




Tuesday, June 10, 2014

No Summer Blues! A Guide to At-Home Days with Kids

     Do you have the summer motherhood "I can't handle my children home all day" blues? Having a plan is imperative! I don’t know about your family but when we are home without our typical school schedule or a plan, our family turn into lazy, mindless, visionless, whiny, messy, bored, complaining, tv-overloaded people who ask for food all day. It isn't pretty.
    The summer can be overwhelming if you aren't in a routine of children being home more.  But the summer doesn't have to be a bummer! I bring you good news! Happiness can be found! All you have to do is think through how you want the summer to look then make a plan.  I guarantee that everyone enjoys the day more when it isn’t aimless.
    The below schedule is what our days look like when we are home. If we are out part of the day then we just pick right back up when we get home. This is simply our personal example. Adjust for what you need in your situation since some of you may have to go work or have other circumstances.  
8:00(ish) Get Ready: Wake Up, cartoons, breakfast, vitamins, clean kitchen, brush teeth, make beds, get dressed, do hair etc. Having the basics covered allows everyone to be ready for whatever may come for the day! And I feel relief knowing everyone is fed, kitchen is clean, beds are made, and everyone is presentable and yet the kids enjoyed seeing a show when they woke up. Since it’s more relaxed in the summer the thought would be that everyone is ready for the day by 9:30.
9:30 Prime Time. This is a perfect time to do something fun, productive and perhaps new! Do the things children may not have time for during the school year. Gardening, shopping, working out, cleaning, baking, gift-making, visiting friends or running errands are some ideas to use during these couple of hours. Toddlers can do different activities such as art table, room toys, sibling play, video, snack or join you if it works.
 12:00 Lunch, Clean Kitchen, Free time. We eat then everyone does a kitchen job such as sweep floors, clean off and wipe counters, pull out chairs, and help mom with dishes. A little tip during meal time is to play a tape (or CD/IPOD/Phone)and listen to stories. We use older story tapes like GT and the Halo Express, Adventures in Odessy, Dan and Louie etc. with a tape player from Wal-Mart which is a novelty to them. Once eating and cleaning is finished, everyone can do whatever they like for a bit.
1:30 Read together out loud a book (Angel naps) We choose a book that is one of those “every kid should read books but they don’t unless I read it with them” books. We are currently on Pilgrims Progress kid version. Reading together makes my mama heart happy since I can’t seem to find time for as much reading together during the school year.
2:00 Chic Chat Chocolate This time is our Bible time with a theme every month. We sit on a comfy blanket and eat chocolate while talking about scripture and life. It’s my favorite time with the children because it’s all about their heart and walk with the Lord. Summer is a fabulous time to instill values and character while the kids aren’t distracted by school and extra-curricular activities. (Angel naps)
2:30 Rest Time This is my quiet time to do whatever I need to do! Woohoo. And yes, I do sometimes take naps…even when I am not pregnant. Bria and Allison quiet time on beds, Candice and KG Spanish Rosetta Stone on computer/personal reading (Angel naps).This time gives everyone a breather from the playing and being together all day.
 3:45 Snack and Clean Bedrooms We get a food boost then clean. This is a daily job to keep rooms from being overwhelming.
 4:30 Afternoon Work These jobs come from a house list such as clean out car, vacuum, dust, and bath rooms, depending on house needs and day of the week. And it’s a perfect time to teach how to clean if a child needs some training.
5:00 Free Time Because there has been some order to the day, this play time is fresh and they play better together when free time comes.
6:00 Dinner and Kitchen Cleanup
6:45 Free Time This is more time to play with neighbors, watch a family movie, play board games, go out for ice cream, or be outside as a family
8:30 Baths and Showers
9:00 Family Snuggle on our bed all together to pray and chat
9:30 Bedtime This time is later than normal but works great for summer.
     This basic system has caused our summers to be enjoyable on the days we are home because the kids are ready for the day, learning new things, keeping the house clean and yet we still have plenty of time for rest and playing. My hope is that you would feel the same as your family is productive while being refreshed without any summer motherhood blues!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Leading Girls in Summer Ministry - A Post for Youth Leaders

I can still feel the excitement of the arrival of summer when I was a teenager. The school load was lifting, the sun was shining and I was ready for whatever may come my way! I knew I had 12 weeks to use my time and energy for friends, sleeping, vacation and perhaps some place to make money. But most of all, I would look for a place to be involved that was beyond myself. I was ready to be a part of a mission’s trip, small group volunteering opportunity and church-wide outreach. Summer was a perfect time to do ministry!
The teens in your life most likely feel the same way. They are thrilled to enjoy the freedom of summer and yet are searching for a place to use their lives to help others through outreach. While this is a time for routines to be relaxed, it is also prime time for your students to get involved in ministry. Here are some ways to encourage your girls to be a part of all God has for them this summer:

  1.  Communicate with them Never assume the students know what is going on. Take time to let the girls know what is available with your girls group, youth group or church. A text, phone call, conversation in the hallway, email invite, or message on social media can be just what is needed for the girls to know what is happening and that they are invited to be a part of the ministry event. Sometimes teens need many reminders! As a teen, I could sit through a whole announcement and somehow my mind would be somewhere else and I missed what was going on. That extra communication from you will assure that the girls know the upcoming outreaches.
  2. Cheer them on Just because it’s on the calendar doesn’t mean the girls will want to go. That’s where we come in as leaders to cheer them on! I can fondly remember my youth leader telling me, “I am counting on you being there, Casey! It won’t be the same without you.” It took my decision to go to a whole new level as I chose to be a part. Let girls know their participation is important for the ministry to be effective. Show them how their gift set can be used and why it’s beneficial for their growth in the Lord. They may also need some assistance in making the outreach a priority with their schedule. Cheering them on encourages them to see it as a valuable way to invest their time.
  3. Connect with them After the girls know what they can be involved in and are encouraged to help, having you there with them is the best part! There is something special about working together for a ministry project. The time, prayers, and hard work together-moments are things teens will never forget. My favorite memories are not only the tasks of ministry but the people who were a part of it with me. It deeply impacted my life to see my leaders not only lead up front but to also serve alongside of me in the details. And if you are unable to join them at all the events, connect with them afterwards to hear all about their experience. Just showing you care about what they did and how it went can be of value.

         The next several weeks can be memorable for you and your girls to make an impact. Help teens embrace the opportunities to live beyond themselves in excitement and fun with some summer ministry!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mom's Fight Out

     It’s 11:40 p.m. I just came home into a quiet house with everyone asleep. The beautifully dim light accentuates my favorite aspects of this house. But after ten seconds my mind went back to reality as I walked from the garage to the bedroom. I had thoughts race through my mothering mind within a matter of minutes, “What is that foul smell? Whew. Yuck. It can wait til morning…Did the kids and Scotty really need all those dishes tonight, especially when I ordered pizza? Oh, there are my Haiti sponsor letters that I have never mailed. I need to do that.  And I forgot to get medicine picked up. Bummer. She is totally out. Well, what’s one day with a kid with no meds? Wait, I should go first thing and get it. Should I go kiss and check on all the children? Better not, they may stir and need me. Not worth it. Who’s underwear is in the middle of the foyer and why? I am hungry, but not sure why since I had a salad and an entrĂ©e then frozen custard. Maybe I should ignore the hunger.Should I wash my face? I am too tired but I know I need to…and floss...and shower…and wash my hair…and shave. Ugh. I can’t do all that. So, I will just get my makeup off then maybe brush my teeth after I go eat some cereal. I need to read the papers the school sent home. And is tomorrow the last day for teacher appreciation?! I need to write thank you notes! How am I going to do that plus pack for our weekend trip and go to Wal-mart and take a shower…and make my bed…and read my Bible…and parent the kids, and answer Facebook messages…and bring the trash can in…and take all my vitamins…and clean the foul smell coming from the mound of dishes…and redo the load of laundry in the dryer that is now wrinkled and ruined from setting...and put gas in the car and, of course, exercise then all the other things that come in a day that I have to leave by 2:00 p.m.? And where did I put my wedding ring when I took it off? Ugh. Breathe. This is not the time for a panic attack.” This was all while my fabulous five were sleeping. Imagine what it can be like when they all wake up, and even more so, when I give birth to my 6th one here in a matter of weeks. Being a mother takes a lot

     Trust me, I LOVE motherhood. I have embraced motherhood. God has miraculously turned this “worst babysitter ever” that “didn’t like her first child” into a redeemed mama soul that is thrilled to be obedient in raising the people God has given her. They are precious and priceless. They are worth every minute of selfless living. It’s just that all the logistics that come with mothering can sometimes get in the way of my heart. I have to have a mom’s fight out mentally and emotionally to feel what I know to be the true core of who I am as a mother.
My mom and I out to the movies tonight!
     And I know there are others of me out there feeling this same way. In fact, tonight, I saw the new witty comedy Moms’ Night Out movie. It. Was. Awesome. My mom and I sat through the whole thing either laughing, crying, or saying, “That is sooooo how it is!” The movie completely revealed the same mental, emotional, and even spiritual battles that we plunge through on a daily basis in our mom-fight. For me, seeing a highly-produced movie about moms and their challenges on the big screen made me want to stand and yell out, “I LOVE THIS! I LIVE THIS!” while wondering if the person who wrote the script can be my new best friend.  I recommend the movie to anyone who is a mother or who has a mother because it humorously reveals the deep-rooted concerns in the chaos.    

     Being a mother is hard. It’s a fight. And yet, I believe it’s a fight we can win with the Lord’s help. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t rely on your own ability. Stop trying to be strong enough. The house will always need work. The paper stack will always grow. The children will always need something. Choose to hand it over to the Lord in your heart and how you think. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13. Discontent? The grass is just as itchy on the other side. Escaping will only mask the core issue for a season. Take time to learn what Paul did in Phil. 4:11 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” He didn’t have it naturally but learned it. Contentment will come when we are living in obedience. If we are right with God then we can rest instead of wondering if we should be somewhere else doing something else. If He wanted us to make a change, we would know.  Insecure? We know that Satan loves to lie. He loves to tell us we aren’t good enough and can’t do what we need to do. Only believe what the Lord says about you. He says, “I give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29. If God made the child then He will strengthen to parent the child as well. Guilty? All of us have things we regret as mamas but not forgiving ourselves and re-playing our mistakes keeps us in bondage. But Christ said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9. Be free! Ask for forgiveness, do what you can to make it right then move on! If not, then you are saying God’s forgiveness isn’t enough so you still have to carry it. Mentally overloaded? “God will keep you in perfect peace when your mind stays on Him, because you trust Him.” Isaiah 26:3 Relax. God has the world under control. Take a deep breath. Rest in Him. Whether it is a sick child, a stray-hearted child, family changes, financial burdens, or marriage issues, we may have to walk through the hardship, but the Lord gives us peace as we trust Him to bring us through with His wisdom.

     No matter what the mom-fight is for you, you can win. We win with the power and help of the Lord. We aren’t alone in this journey! There are millions of us doing all we can to mother and God will help every single one us. Now, I can let all my late-night mom’s fight out thoughts go, and just rest in a the fond memories of the Moms’ Night Out movie. Much love and prayers to all my mothering friends...and go see the movie!