Teaching Letters and Reading for Your Active Kiddo (OVER 30 ACTIVITIES!)

A lot of parents get a little jumpy about teaching their kids to read at the earliest age possible, but how do you do it when your kids won’t just sit down, listen, and do a worksheet?! Here we have lots of ideas on getting your movers and shakers to learn their letters, letter sounds, sight words, and start reading little words–all while being allowed to play and, you know, be KIDS!

Some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may make a small commission (but you won’t pay anything extra). This supports my bottomless pits kids, and they appreciate the food and shelter!

Learning the Letters

Trace the letters in flour. Grab a baking sheet (big and flat, but with a little lip around the edge). Put flour in the bottom of it, and show your kid how to make the letters.

  • Using sound effects for each line helps them remember and makes it fun!
  • Draw the letter, then have them draw it and erase. If that’s a struggle, draw the letter, and have them trace over yours and erase.
  • If you have an independent child, you can place the picture of a letter in front of them and have them draw it (I don’t usually prefer to do this because I want them to see the correct way to write it, but that’s a preference, not a demand).
  • PRO-TIP: Worried about mess? Instead of using flour, try using rice. Rice doesn’t stick to hands. However, if there’s still concern about rice on the floor, this would be a great time to help your kid learn how to vacuum (chores are excellent for kids)!

Get a Letter Puzzle. Foam Letter Puzzles are great; they can take them out and put them back in. Alphabet Wooden Letter puzzles are also great! My kids had one that had all the letters and pictures of things that started with that letter, but I didn’t like it as much because it’s best if each letter can be its own individual piece. They should be able to feel the curve of the B and C, the straight lines of the A and H, and so forth.  I wanted my kids to hold the specific letters in their hands, not puzzle pieces with the letters printed on it.

Sign Language: ABC sign language is a good way of teaching that each letter has an individual sign, so it can prevent some of the “elemeno” (LMNO) blends. So say the letter while you show the ASL sign for it, have your child follow you. You can do it to the ABC song or make up your own tune. (Music- also great for development!)

Get themed letter books: My kid likes birds, so here’s a bird ABC book that he LOVES and I have read 1,000 TIMES!! Another one we like is in the Ken Ham series- N is for Noah. (He also has A is for Adam and others, but this is the one we own and like.) There are ABC books for TONS of different subjects!


Sidewalk Chalk Letter Game: At the beginning, start with just two letters. Make two squares and write one large letter in each square. Ask, “Can you jump from B all the way to H?” (or whatever letters your learning).

My child, Ninja, likes me to put the squares really far apart. Add more squares around and tell them, “Jump to an H… Another H… Now a B, etc.” Fast, slow, have fun!

Ideas on Discerning if They’ve Mastered the Letters: 

  • Make a new square. Ask the child, “Which letter should I write this time?” If they say B, put an H, then ask if it’s right.
  • Alternatively, have them be the boss and tell you which letters to jump to. Look like you’re deciding between two squares, and then jump to the wrong one. See if your kid corrects you. If not, ask if you got it right, and see what they say.

If they’ve got it, start learning another letter or two so that the next time you play the sidewalk chalk game, you can be using three letters or four letters.

Refrigerator Magnets: If you’ve been reading for a while and you’ve been looking at and drawing the letters, then play the magnet game. I like to be in one room and ask Ninja to run to the fridge to get the letter “B.”  I put all the letters she doesn’t know to the top half of the fridge (where she can’t reach), then I put out three letters for her to choose from. Ninja likes running, so she digs this game.  I’ve put Xs on the floor in painters tape, so she has to jump from X to X (Ninja also loves obstacle courses). You can usually find refrigerator magnets at garage sales and thrift stores.

 Memory: It can be a lot of fun to play memory with a child. Start with all capital letters (finding matching capital Bs), then play capitol letter and lower case letter (each pair is one capital letter and its match is the lower case of the same letter). You can use letter flash cards (like these $3 Alphabet Flash Cards) or make your own if you’re on a budget!

  • ProTip: Get 2 sets of the flash cards if you purchase them. Then you can match a capital letter to a capital letter before moving on to the more difficult “capital letter to a lower case letter” game.  These could make great stocking-stuffers or birthday gifts, if your family asks what you want for your kid!

Go Fish: You can play Go Fish with letters (I made my own, but there are lots of Alphabet Flash Cards).  Do you have any B’s?

  • You can play with just two of each letter to make a quick game.
  • You can play two or four capital letters.
  • Then you can make two capital and two lower-case letters for a set of 4 cards (again, if you’re purchasing cards or getting them as gifts, you’ll want two sets for this game).

Tic-Tac-Toe: It’s traditional to play with X’s, O’s, but you can play with other letter combinations (just pick the ones you’re learning).  Then you can work to one person having capital B and the other having lower-case ‘b.’  I’d recommend making it a rule to say the letter as you put it down.  Switch letters each time (if your kid will let you… Ninja can be kind of possessive of her favorites).

Scavenger Hunt: Spread out some letters around the room. Similar to an Easter Egg hunt, have them search for all the letter Bs, but don’t get the Hs yet! Then find the H’s, etc.

Learning Letter Sounds

Songs: My kids really got a lot out of watching The Letter Factory videos. I’m not big on screen time, but once they learned those songs, they wanted to sing them. So when I’d ask them what something starts with, I’d sing the song, and they’d remember.

Toys of the Target Letter: Grab an item that starts with the letter and play with it, making the sounds. The B says ‘b’.   B-B-B-Ball! Catch the B-B-Ball!

Books of Letters and Sounds: You can use the same letter books you used earlier for this one. If the page talks about a box, ask them where the box is. They’ll point to it, and then ask them where the word ‘box’ is. Give them hints, break down the word, saying it slowly, and ask them what sound starts the word. Then help them look for words that start with B.

Fridge Magnets: Similar to before, but now you give the sound the letter makes, and they run and get the right magnet. Start with just a few, then work your way up to more letters in their reach (run and get the letter that says, “b”).

Scavenger Hunt: Let’s run and get things that start with the letter “B”! It’s wise to already have things set out in the room that start with the letter, like a banana or a ball. Great job! Now let’s get things that start with the letter H! (here’s a hat!)

Things in a box: Put objects in a pile that start with different letters that they know. Ask them to put all of the S objects in the S box (you can have a literal box or basket, or just a square of masking tape on the floor can be its designated area) and all of the B words in the B box.

Include running if you have the S box on one side of the room and the B box on the other side of the room and the pile of objects in the middle of the room.

Let them race a clock! Or you!

  • BONUS: (Sorting and Classifying is also a great MATH skill!)

Bingo:  Have a bingo chart with letters on it, you say the sound, and the kid covers the appropriate letter. This is great in reverse, too. You have the bingo chart, and the kid draws letters (or fridge magnets) from a hat and says their sound. They can watch you cover a letter, and you can ask if you got it right (and discern their mastery in so doing).

Side Walk Chalk: Similar to the game before, but instead you say the sound and they jump to the right letter. Or you say the letter, and they jump to it while saying the sound.

  • Level Up: You say a word, and they jump to the letter sound that starts that word (You say Book, they jump to the B).

Learning Small Words- Sounding it Out

Say It Fast: This game came from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Once it actually came time to read, this game helped my kids tremendously with being able to sound something out. Take a word and say it super slowly, breaking down the sounds without separating them (no pauses or breaks between sounds). Then tell the kid to “Say it Fast!”

So it could sound like this: SSSS “T” OOOOOO “P” (remember, no breaks between sounds)

You: Say it fast!

Your kid: STOP!

This is a great car game!

Word Puzzles: These are little 3-4 piece puzzles where each piece contains a letter, and together the pieces make a word (there’s often a picture that also spans over all three pieces).

Try to find ones where the word follows CVC format (consonant vowel consonant) and can be sounded out (not ‘boy,’ which they won’t be ready for yet, but ‘kid’ and ‘cat’ would be good). I have two sets of these, but honestly, I had to make my own because they both were busts. Most purchase sets will come with 4-5 CVC words and 15 words that they can’t actually read yet. They’ll do KITE when they’re ready, but when they’re just learning to sound stuff out, those words can be frustrating.

Sidewalk Chalk: Make lots of boxes with letters in them again. Say a word (UP or IT or AT, two letters to start). Say it slowly, and have the kid spell the word by jumping to the different letters. Don’t put all 26 letters down at once- just maybe 5 or 6 to start with. The “Say it Fast” game really helps with playing this game, too.

Spelling Hopscotch:  If you have those floor mats that are letter squares, that would help you do this indoors. Otherwise, you can sidewalk chalk outside. Or you can tape down papers on your floor with letters.

They have to get from one end to the other, while spelling the word correctly. Make something like this:

G D
A U
T B

You can have them TUG, so they’d have to step on the T, then the U, then the G. And so on.

Avoid “AN” sounds at first, because the nasal A should be taught separately. The A sound in CAT is different than the A sound in CAN or CAM. I’d do those as a separate unit later.

Read to Your Kids:

This one seems obvious, but there are several strategies you can incorporate into your reading time to make it more enjoyable and more educational!

Here are some things you can be doing while you read that will also teach your child:

  1. Hold the book correctly, let the child hold the book correctly.
  2. Read to them, let them pretend to read to you.
  3. When reading, use your finger to point to the words as you read them, running your finger underneath sounds.
    1. This gives them practice in seeing the letters and hearing the sounds associated.
    2. It teaches that we read from left to right.
    3. It teaches that the letters and words associate with specific objects and ideas.
  4. Let them turn the page; they can practice turning the pages in the right direction.
  5. Occasionally let them see you sound out a small word (2-3 letters). Just saying “I-T. It.” Making the I sound and the T sound slowly, then putting them together quickly.
    1. Make sure you don’t separate the sounds [‘i’ sound] BREAK [‘t’ sound]. Slowly stretch out the ‘i’ sound and go straight into the ‘t’ sound, slowly, but which fluidity.
    2. Have a crisp ‘t’ sound. It’s not ‘tuh.’ Just ‘t’–You don’t pronounce the word ‘i-tuh’, just ‘it,’ so make sure your ‘t’ sound is correct and short.
    3. Don’t do this more than once or twice per page; you don’t want to slow down the story or lose engagement. You just want to model sometimes.
  6. Let them ask questions! That’s a great sign of engagement!
  7. Ask them open-ended questions.
    1. What do you think will happen next?
    2. Why do you think they did that?
    3. What’s your favorite part?
    4. What’s happening in the story right now?
    5. Who’s your favorite character?
    6. Was that nice or mean? What should they do?
  8. You read, then your kid reads (my kiddos prefer to do this by the book- I read the book, then they do. I have a friend whose kids prefer to re-read each page after their parent).

Conclusion:

 It’s really important that the kids like reading. There’s a time and place for powering through and discplining yourself to study anyway.

3 years old isn’t it.

If you’re frustrated, that’ll suck the fun out of the activity, and they’ll dread reading exercises. If they’re bored or frustrated, just call it a day and put it away. Go back to it in the next day or so.  It’s important to realize that your child may not be developmentally ready for reading yet, anyway. So don’t try to force something they’re not ready for. Let them lead how long you do it, and when they’re done, just be done.

If they repeatedly don’t have any interest in learning, then put it away for a few weeks. If the child reaches 5 and still has no interest, then consult with someone (maybe a teacher or childcare professional) to see if the child isn’t ready, is being stubborn, or needs to learn in a different way.

No matter what, remember the big picture behind parenting–it’s all about parenting for their hearts and building that family bond. Learning, parenting, discipline, everything in the home needs to fall into that paradigm, especially learning to read. So get out there and have fun!

Do you have more ideas on teaching letters and letter sounds to energy-filled kids?! Let us know in the comments below!

Teaching Your Child a Foreign Language (Even If You Don’t Speak It!)

Foreign Language Education: Intro

I’ve never met a parent who regretted teaching their child a foreign language. Most people would probably agree that speaking multiple languages is a good thing, even if it is just for the ease of communicating with other cultures (there are definitely way more benefits than that, details below). But how do you go about doing it?

Some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may make a small commission (but you won’t pay anything extra). This supports my bottomless pits kids, and they appreciate the food and shelter!

The American education system typically doesn’t begin foreign language learning until grade 9 (in my case, grade 10), despite the fact that research shows that language learning occurs best at earlier ages.

Side Note: There is currently some debate about this. Most researchers agree on the younger the better, but there are some current linguists who suggest that only the accent is learned best at earlier ages. Gabriel Wyner of Fluent Forever and Steve Kaufmann (cofounder of LingQ and internet polyglot) both postulate that learning a language can be done at any age without added difficulty; they discuss a lot of advantages to learning a language at a later age. Their ideas definitely have merit, so I won’t debate. The assumption of why you’re here, though is that you’d like to teach your child a foreign language.

The Method:

There’s more than one way to teach a foreign language. If you have a loose budget, you can:

  • Enroll your child in a bilingual elementary school or daycare
  • Hire a foreign language speaking nanny and instruct them on your goals
  • Hire a tutor who can be with your child after school hours and speak to them in a foreign language
  • Move to a foreign country for a while

If you have a tighter budget, though, then some of those resources may be a bit out of reach.

Some parents do well with the “One Parent One Language” method–one parent speaks one language exclusively, and the other parent speaks the other language exclusively. This works well, though there can be problems (particularly if one parent can understand both languages, but the other parent can’t; it can be frustrating to have to translate for the spouse and can make conversations tiresome).

Neither my husband nor I are fluent in any foreign language. We both took a few years of Spanish in high school. I also took a year and a half in college, but the Spanish that I know, “There are many books in the library,” isn’t super relevant to everyday life.

Using Everyday Life for Foreign Language

So where do we start? Let’s keep this simple: How did you teach your child their first language (in my case, English)?

I talked to them. And through context and practice, they just understood what I was saying and what I meant.

There’s no reason this process can’t be repeated in a different language.

Pick Something You Say Every Day.

I leave the house every day with my kids. That means there are a few things I say every day to my kids:

  • Put on your shoes.
  • Put on your coat.
  • Get in the car.
  • Buckle your seat belt.
  • Let’s go!

I wrote the sentences and their translations on an index card and stuck it to the front door. That way, when I was heading to the door to go to the car, there was my index card reminding me to do it in Spanish.

Start Small.

When I began with that first index card, I didn’t know how to say, “Put on your shoes.” I only knew how to say, “Shoes!” That’s enough, though, for my kids to understand what I mean. So when it was time to go, I would just shout, “Zapatos,” and they knew that meant shoes. After a week or so of that, I learned to say, “Ponte los zapatos,” and they understood through context that it meant, “Put on your shoes.”

I started with a single word. I built that up to the sentence. Then I built that up to several sentences- all my commands of getting on shoes, coats, and getting into the car.

There are several ways to get reliable translations, especially for Spanish in the United States.

Google Translate isn’t one of them.

I would get reliable translations by:

  • Asking people in stores who were speaking Spanish. They were usually incredibly impressed and supportive that I wanted to teach my kids Spanish. I was a little intimidated at first, but I’ve never had a bad experience by asking someone to share their language with me.
    • I have heard people say that Latin Americans are particularly gracious and supportive to Spanish learners, rather than being snobbish about any imperfections. I don’t know if that’s true or how to quantify it, but it holds true by my anecdotal evidence.
    • I have also heard people say the opposite about the French. However, when my husband and I went there, we did not have that experience. To us, the French were super polite and gracious with my absolutely atrocious French. Perhaps it’s an attitude thing? I dunno.
  • Ask people online. I don’t even have an official Spanish language group, but I’m in a few “mom” groups on Facebook, and out of 50,000 members, there are hundreds that are native Spanish speakers that will answer a quick question for me.
  • Use a PhraseBook. There are several phrasebooks available at bookstores or, if you’re frugal like me, through the library.  Becoming a Bilingual Family is great for speaking Spanish in the home (it’s written specifically for parents)
  • I use TalkBox.Mom also.  It’s a language-learning program specifically designed for moms. It contains different daily phrases, games, and challenges.
    • I’ll be perfectly honest. This program is expensive, but I honestly believe it’s the best.  It’s way better than Rosetta Stone, but the price is comparable (though it’s set up as a subscription box and each box is $80–you can suspend/cancel/ pause your subscription at any time, and it’s easy and straightforward to do).  I get this as gifts (they have a gifting option), so family members get it for me for Christmas and birthdays.
    • If you don’t want a box with all the stuff in it, they have a great phrasebook that’s only $35, and that has a ton of those same phrases used around the house.
    • There are TalkBoxes in 17 different languages, not just Spanish.
    • I also will pay for this by doing a little of my own side hustle; I mystery shop so that I can earn extra money. I spend some of that on homeschool supplies.

Just Talk!

Start by mastering your index card. Do the 3X Rule.

  1. Say it in Target Language.
  2. Say it in English.
  3. Say it in Target Language again..

After a week of that, try just saying it in the target language. See if your kids understand. If not, offer a translation. More than likely, if you say it once or more per day, after a week or two, they’ll pick it up.

Offer Proper Responses

I had one child who would fuss a bit about not being able to buckle the seat belt by themselves.  We have these conversations. “Don’t fuss. Just say, ‘help me, please.'”

Instead, I changed it to Spanish. “No, no- ‘ayudame, por favor.'” Then they repeat it.

There are so many phrases that I say on a regular basis in my home, that it’s quite easy to incorporate Spanish constantly. We just slowly transition more and more of our daily routines into Spanish.

This method works because

1) I get to learn the language along with my kids.

2) My kids have a better learning experience; nothing can replace human interaction, so even if you do Rosetta Stone or some other expensive computer program, the kids won’t be able to utilize it.

Incorporate Games in the Target Language

We play a game in my house to encourage certain commands and to have fun with the language. It’s super simple.

I say, “Camina. Camina.” (Walk. Walk.) And my kid walks toward me.

Then when I yell, “¡Corre, corre!” (Run, Run!) And my kid runs back to his seat. It’s silly, but fun and simple. And then my kid wants to be the boss and have me walk and run.  I love that because then they’re practicing speaking.

Then I added stand up and sit down to the game as well, so it’s up to four commands in the game.

We recently purchased Spanish Bingo from Half Price books, and my kids have been all over that as well!

Conclusion:

If you view learning a language as something of a project for the entire family, it can be a fun and immersive practice in the home. If you have family or friends that speak the target language, even better (we don’t happen to).  Starting small and building up by adding your target language into things you already do and say every day, over the years, can lead to quite a bit of fluency in the home.

Do you have cool resources or ideas to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Separating the Kids’ Rooms

It’s getting to be that time- the kids are getting a little older, they’re mixed gender, and it’s just becoming less and less appropriate for them to be sharing a room.  Once you decide that it’s time for them to separate, how do you do it? Here’s one mom’s experience!

1. The Separation:

7/30/18- We separated the kids into different rooms today. It was a bit coming, but we finally did it. We had some trepidation since the kids both get kinda scared at night, and we were nervous that they would have a hard time sleeping separately. That may be the case. Today is just the first day doing it, so the novelty might wear off after a day or two.

Tip 1: Get Them Excited–New Bedspreads!

My oldest ended up moving to a different room, and the youngest stayed in the first room. We have bed spreads that we use for guests for when we rent that room to make extra money. We let the kids have those guest bed spreads since we, obviously, won’t be renting that room any more. This helped them get excited about moving into their new rooms.

Tip 2: Get Them Excited–Decoration!

We also made signs; my oldest wrote their own name on their paper and colored it. My youngest had me write their name, but they colored it and put a bunch of glitter glue on it. We then let them tape their names to their doors and talked about the rules of having your own room; other people have to knock, and they need to wait until they are told they can come in before they enter and such.

They were pretty excited about their rooms. Then they got even more excited when we moved all the stuff and separated it between the two rooms. We talked about letting them paint their rooms and discussed how they can choose colors.  My oldest wanted four different colors for each wall- red, yellow, blue, and pink. Wow! That’s a lot of color! I told her she was allowed to pick two colors. I’m a big fan of accent walls. She sort of wants every wall to be an accent wall… which is an awful lot of accents. If Robin Williams were wall décor, my kid wants his style all over her walls.  This is still in discussion.

Tip 3: See How it Goes, Apply Necessary Changes

It was about an hour into bedtime when one came out. “I have to go to the bathroom.” We nodded, told them to go quickly, and didn’t even finish our admonishment of rapid urinary release when we were interrupted by our other kid with an, “I have to go to the bathroom.” Little head peeking around the corner of the doorframe… The Sympathetic Urinator.  We meet again.

All in all, the kids did have a late-ish night, and they were both a little nervous, but it still passed relatively easily. I did have to go in a few times to give them another kiss and hug, assure them of their safety, and assure them that I would leave the hall light on and the door a little open. We tried night-lights, but they do better with the hall light and open door.

Tip 4: Rework the Bedtime Routine

I haven’t quite worked out yet how we’re going to do our bedtime routine.

Usually, this is how it goes: I put the kids into their beds, we take several deep breaths together as I remind them that we’re calming down, I’ll pick them up and sing them a song. They’ll sing if they’re rowdy. I’ll remind Trampoline that the bed is not a trampoline and we’re laying down now. I’ll remind Interruptagon that patience needs to be exercised, and I can’t be interrupted while I’m talking to Trampoline. If they need my attention while I’m talking, then they can lay a hand on my arm and I’ll be with them momentarily. I then have to remind Trampoline that just because I have started talking to Interruptagon, that doesn’t mean Trampoline now has free reign to re-begin jumping on the bed because the previous admonishment was, in fact, still in effect.

This is about the part where I start thinking about yogurt-covered pretzels, but that’s neither here nor there.

I usually read them a story, and then they lay down (“You can just LAY DOWN, Trampoline, you don’t actually need to stand up again in order to jump into a laying position on your bed…”)

They try to start conversations. Sometimes I let them. But I’m picky about it. “What are we going to have in the morning for breakfast?” gets a, “We’ll talk about it tomorrow morning at breakfast.”  But sometimes a, “Today was a bad day” will merit a, “Tell me what was bad.”

But it ends with butterfly kisses and normal kisses and sometimes nose kisses, then both of them laying in their beds. As I turn out the light and retreat through the door, I tell them, “Okay, guys, no more talking. I mean it. We’re all done talking. I love you both very much, and I’m so proud of you. Good night.” I leave the door ajar and turn on the hall light.

But now I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the bedtime routine. As you can see, it’s pretty regimented. Actually, the thing of it is that once they’re in bed and we do the story, any movement at all or any distraction from the bedtime gets them VERY riled up VERY quickly. So I don’t want to do the bedtime routine and then have them separate rooms and wake them all up again. But I don’t want to do two whole bedtime routines… gracious!

So I’m not sure how this is going to work out, yet, but as of now, they are in separate rooms and they are okay. So we’ll see how things go tomorrow.

Update: Almost a Year Later…

We’re closing in on a year of separate rooms.  We’ve figured out the bedtime routine. I will read them the story together, then tell them to lay down in their separate beds. Then I go to each room and kiss and hug the child, do the mini-conversations, and tell them I love them. And that works well.

The new problem is that the children love using their bedrooms in the power struggle against each other. If I’m in one room with a kid, the other kid will knock on the door and ask to come in. The kid who’s in the room with me loves to say No.

Yes, we do have individual dates with our kids, and no, I’m not often in a room with a kid. This is purely a control thing.

Naturally, I talk to the kids about it, “Listen here, Kettle, did you like it when the Pot did this to you yesterday? How did it make you feel? So how do you think you’re making the Pot feel? What should we do now?”  Sometimes they still don’t want to let their sibling into their room. Then I go out into a public space, “Darling Pot, I love you and want to play in your room with you, but I love the Kettle, too, and I won’t let you use your room to make Kettle feel excluded.”

This is still an issue we’re working through. But overall, the transition ended up being pretty smooth.

Did you have any experiences with separating you kids’ rooms? What tips and advice can you share? Let us know in the comments below!

The “Why” Behind Homeschool

People homeschool for all sorts of different reasons, but for people who are on the fence about homeschooling, knowing why you’re going to homeschool in specific, articulate terms is akin to having a mission statement for your business. It’s crucial. The “why” behind your homeschool is what’s going to get you through the days with tears, the wondering if you’re doing the right thing, the mornings that just aren’t going right, and the days where no one wants to do school. Your kids will probably, at some point, tell you that they hate you and wish they could go to school like all the other kids. That’s when you have to remember why you are doing what you’re doing.

It’s good to articulate why you’re homeschooling, but I also think it’s beneficial to know what other people’s why is, and sometimes that can help us define with specific clarity why we are homeschooling. And then that “why” will motivate us and help us push through during the best and worst of homeschooling times.

#1. The Best Education

I want my kids to get the best education possible, as we all do. I am trained in secondary English education, so I teach high school English and have no experience with teaching elementary. However, there are a few reasons why my teaching is better than what a public school can offer.

  • Worksheets are tough on my kids.

A lot of elementary classes have to rely on worksheets a lot. This is not to say that it’s their fault, but we have a school system that requires documented accountability every step of the way.  I believe the best way to learn is by doing. Through my homeschool, I can minimize the “sitting down and doing worksheets” and emphasize the hands-on manipulatives.

  • Catering to one vs. catering to 20

In the school of education, they taught us that we need to cater to a wide variety of educational styles in order to maximize the engagement of all the students. You show a video, you give a lecture, you have them read something, and you have them take notes or fill out a worksheet. This is good for catering to 20 kids because, more than likely, each student learns best through one of those methods (those ideas are just examples). But if my kid doesn’t get anything out of videos, then why would I show them? I don’t have to cater to a wide variety of learning styles- just one. Or more depending on how many kids I have.

  • Smaller Classes Provide Better Learning Environments

Not a single person would say that kids learn better in a large classroom. When a kid is struggling with school, they get a tutor (would you pay $20/hour for a tutor that’s teaching 20 other kids at the same time? Of course, not).  But with homeschooling, my children’s education will be completely done through tutoring, essentially. I can speed things up when they are understanding easily and slow things down when there’s a concept that’s more difficult for them to grasp. Having an education that is catered to their specific needs will make their education more efficient, more enjoyable, and more thorough.

  • I want their heart.

I care about the state of my children’s heart. I care about their character training, and I believe that to be more important than academic training.  Through no fault of their own, teachers simply can’t pay attention to the minutiae behind all of the behavior in a classroom with 20 kids in it.

Case in point: I’ve got two kids. The Captain is a bit more aggressive by nature and will sometimes go over to my other kid, Cool Hand Luke, and take a toy from Luke’s hands. Cool Hand Luke is pretty chill, so he doesn’t always get angry when The Captain does this (particularly when they were younger than 3). A daycare worker has real fights to worry about, so they may not even see this or address it since an argument hasn’t broken out.

I’ll tell the Captain, though, “We don’t take toys from others’ hands. Give it back, please.”

The Captain will hand it toward Luke… and Luke is already playing with something else and doesn’t want it back. Of course. If the teacher made it this far, they would probably move on in that case- no one’s actually fighting, so why engage? There’s already a lot going on.

I, however, am not done. I still take that toy from the The Captain and tell them that that’s not how we treat our friends. And I ask how would they like it if somebody took a toy away from them. And keep bringing things back to their conscience, constantly. Constantly appeal to the conscience. And The Captain learns empathy. And they learn that they never get their way by stealing.

Obviously, I love my kids equally. They all have strengths and weaknesses. The Captain would probably become a bully if I wasn’t constantly on him. I love that kid so much, but they are naturally aggressive, cunning and smart, excellent problem-solving skills, and they care quite a bit about getting their way.

Now aggression in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. If I take those problem solving skills, those abilities to lead, those smarts and abstract thinking, and that unstoppable force that demands that the goal be met and that their cause is worth fighting for and I can point it toward something good, I have a recipe for a child that will change the world profoundly. And I don’t say that lightly.

But a public school wouldn’t be able to do that. A cunning child can easily take advantage of others and be sneaky about it. The Captain is good at being sneaky, and those attributes that are either peace-making or weaponize-able wouldn’t be properly cultivated.

Would a daycare teacher be able to consistently call out a kid, “Hey, Captain! I saw you take that toy just because you heard Cool Hand Luke ask for it. Where’s your heart?” That’s a lot to ask from someone watching so many kids with so much material they’re required to get through.

  • Kids Aren’t Built to Sit Still

My child, who does not like to still, shouldn’t have to for hours on end. American schools are seeing a decline in music education, physical education, and recess time, while seeing an uptick in homework at younger levels. Research shows that academic performance is better with more recess and more physical education.

My concern is that if I send this child, whom we’ll call Fonda, to a public school, Fonda would be a distraction to the class, a discipline problem for the teacher, and they would slap her with an ADHD label before the first week is out. They would ask me to medicate her, and a growing number of pediatricians are recognizing that ADHD is both overly diagnosed and overly medicated.

Frequently overactive movement isn’t actually a problem with behavior. Again, I really don’t mean to sound like I’m bashing public schools. I know that they really are doing their best. However, I know that they can’t have 20 kids running around like crazy. My Fonda would be a discipline problem for something that is not truly discipline- related.

I can do school in intervals. We usually do 20 minutes on and 15 minutes off. Then we’ll change subjects. I also can combine subjects and overlap them. I can make movement a huge part of our homeschool, like moving while we learn reading!

#2. Teaching Truth

I have a problem with some of the things that schools are teaching. This includes both cultural trends and some things that are theories that are being taught as fact.

When I teach about sensitive issues, I want it to be taught my way on my time, not on someone else’s timeline and in their way, particularly with things regarding sex education.

#3. I Emphasize the Importance of the Home

I want our emphasis to be on the home. I believe that family is one of the strongest units that exist on earth. A lot of cultural trends have been seeking to replace one or more features of the familial unit, and I don’t believe in that. I want to be around my kids. I want them to know that they always have a home. I want to have a relationship with my kids– a close one. I want my husband to be close to his kids. I simply don’t want an institution, teachers, or other kids having more influence over my children than me. No one loves my kids as much as I do. And I want that. The relationship and the influence.

#4. I Want Foreign Language Instruction

I really believe in foreign language instruction. It seems that everyone universally acknowledges that the younger you start teaching languages the better. However, it is also standard practice in our culture’s school to not begin teaching foreign language until high school. I can incorporate it regularly into our daily routine. Through our program, we can learn language that they will use regularly in home, rather than some arbitrary vocabulary list that they will probably never use (and not even learn it until high school).

#5. Avoiding Bullies

I got bullied a lot in school. And, though I know that this is not the norm and I am in no way claiming this as a universal fact, my first experience with bullying was being bullied by my first grade teacher. I did have other very supportive teachers, a few exceptional ones, but I remember being bullied by that teacher, and she was the first person in my life whom I let convince me that I was stupid.

Bullying got really bad in middle school, and I ended up switching schools twice in high school because of bullying. You really don’t know which kid is going to get picked on. I was athletic, played year-round sports, and was an A/B average student. I can’t prevent my kids from getting bullied. And I don’t want that. Not at this age.

Now I know some people believe that you can’t protect your kids forever. I agree, but there will come a day when someone tells my child that they are stupid. Someone will try to convince my kid that they’re not good enough. But that person won’t be someone who can speak into my little child’s heart at the age of six. Whenever someone does start telling them that, when the world tries to convince my child that no one cares about them or their feelings, I want it to be so established in their bones, in their soul, in their heart, that the idea seems preposterous.

I don’t want them to be able to get a foot in the door. Is there a place for saying that homeschool parents are over- protective? Perhaps. But you have to remember that we are home schooling them while they are still children. We’re not home schooling them until the are 45, we’re home schooling them until they’re 17 or 18. And in the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing.

Also, if part of my job is to ensure their ability to function in the real world at the age of 18 (with regards to college), the statistics are showing that home schoolers do better in than their public-schooled counterparts. Colleges are starting to offer more scholarships to homeschool students.

Homeschool students can:

  • manage their time effectively
  • work independently
  • teach themselves
  • find resources that they need to help them complete things
  • work without a manager telling them to do so
  • finish projects
  • maintain discipline
  • stay committed.
  • test better on things like the SAT and ACT, despite belonging to a school system that under-emphasizes testing. This is perhaps counter intuitive– one would think that public school students, who have been taking tests multiple weeks out of the year in order to satisfy the needs of ISTEP and such, would have more practice and would therefore be better at taking these tests. However, the results show that homeschoolers perform better on these exams. This of course, make them eligible for even more merit-based scholarships.

This is why I homeschool. I want the best truth-rooted education for my kids, encompassing both academics and their character, in a child-centered, non-combative way that is tailored to their specific needs.

Why do you homeschool?

Let me know in the comments below!

The Top 5 Objections to Homeschooling

I didn’t come from a homeschool background. I’m a product of the public school system, and I didn’t have a ton to show for my education. Not to sound ungrateful, I know the government did its best. I had normal teachers, a few exceptional ones, and a few profoundly bad ones. Other than a bit of an uptick in bullying, perhaps, I’m sure I’m unremarkably average in every way.

So I know I want to homeschool. And I know that I have solid reasons for why I want to homeschool, but it’s still a daunting lifestyle to jump into. Luckily, I live in a homeschool-heavy community, and I got to ask a lot of questions to a lot of people. Here are my biggest fears concerning homeschooling and what decades of experience had to say about them.

(My posts can contain affiliate links. They’re only products I honestly use and love, and at no extra cost to you, I may make a commission if you purchase them. This supports my family and my coffee budget, and I thank you for it!)

  • Objection 1: I’m not qualified.

One of my biggest concerns was that I am not qualified to be an elementary teacher. I have never taken Elementary education classes, I don’t know how to teach those things, I’m not crafty, and I don’t particularly like kids or kid activities. So how on Earth am I supposed to teach my kids?

Response 1: The Resources are at Your Fingertips (frequently FOR FREE!)

I didn’t realize the plethora of resources that are available today. I’m on a very strict budget. If you’re not, then you’re in even better shape than me. There are all sorts of curriculum that have everything mapped out for you, what you’re supposed to do every single day, and all of the resources that you’ll need to do it.

For example, I don’t know how to teach my child to read, but there is a book that was recommended to me called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It works really well for a lot of my friends, and I was able to get it free through the library. My child ended up hating it because they found it to be boring, so then I did some research and found out that the Hooked on Phonics program is also available for free through my library. And the Hooked on Phonics program has everything laid out from pre-reading and on (we do have to occasionally take breaks from the reading program because it’s been put on hold at the library by someone else, but I think my kids kind of like the ebb and flow of subjects; however, if it’s within your budget to purchase, it may make life a little easier).

There were also several Leapfrog: Letter Factory videos that my kids really enjoyed watching, available for free through the library. It’s really amazing what’s available in the library. So I may not know what to teach, but I can get it through the library.

Response 2: Real Teachers Learn With Their Students:

I may not know how to teach anything to my kids, but I do know that teachers say that the most education that they ever receive about their target subject is their first year of teaching. They learn more that year than any other year of their education. And so they end up learning right along with their students.

I used to teach high school English (I believe this puts me at a disadvantage with homeschooling for a few reasons), so I know that there were some books I was assigned to teach that I had never read before. I was doing the reading right along with the students, sometimes a chapter ahead and sometimes not at all ahead. Sometimes my students knew, but I preferred it if they didn’t.

But I’m qualified. And there is no reason that, as my kids are learning, I can’t be learning, too. I can learn how to teach them better. I can learn their interests and tailor their education to that. I can learn what they’re learning and how to make it more fun. I am all right. And I believe that anybody who really wants to homeschool can do it. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it is for everyone who honestly wants to.

  • Objection 2: The Socialization Issue

Response: There’s more than one way to socialize your kids!

I was petrified that my kids would become unsocialized weirdos (that’s a clinical term).  I have realized how social my kids lives can still be despite not being in school. My kids were socialized before school started. Even though I was staying at home, and they were with me, they were socialized. We did play dates with other moms, I have a membership to the YMCA, and my kids get to stay in their Child Watch while I work out, we go to church on Sunday mornings where my kids are in Sunday school with other kids, and we’ll go to parks and playgrounds where there are usually other kids playing.

Even before my kids were 5, they already were socialized. They are around a plethora of people from small children at the library and Chick Fil-A to the other adults in our family. I’m not sure why I was so scared of my kid becoming an unsocialized weirdo at 8 when they aren’t one at 4… Still, though, it was a pretty hefty fear.  As my kids get older, there are dance classes, programs through the YMCA, club sports, and a host of other activities in which my kids can take part with other kids their ages.

Something to note: I used to teach high school homeschool coops. There are weird kids, yes. But if you think about it, there are also kids in public schools who have a really hard time in social situations…. so is it really the schooling choice that produces that? I’m not convinced.

  • Objection 3: I Hate Being Home All Day

Response: It’s Homeschool. Not House Arrest.

Home bodies: BLESS YOU! Feel free to skip this section.

I did not realize that homeschool and house arrest are not the same thing. Before having any exposure to homeschool, I imagined it as being a bunch of people (think a parent and probably 8 or 10 kids) sitting around a table, and all of them have out worksheets and pencils and calculators, it’s really quiet, and everyone’s working.

I dreaded that.

I know that lifestyle works for some people, and I applaud women who have that many kids, but I can’t stay in one place all day. I just can’t. But you know, we do go somewhere pretty much every day. Some days we go to the library in the morning. Some days we go to the YMCA so that I can work out. Other days we’ll go to Chick-Fil-A where we hang out with the in-laws, and the kids can socialize with other kids while I talk with them. Some days we go grocery shopping.

We aren’t stuck. Sometimes I will take my kids to Starbucks and we’ll do school at Starbucks. Other times we’ll do school at the library. Other times we’ll do school at home, but then we’ll go somewhere else for fun. Constantly moving, not stuck at all, and that is so important to me.

I just hope this is empowering; you can make your homeschool whatever you need it to be. Mobile, static, whatever. 180 days of school doesn’t mean 180 days of staying home. Or 180 days of worksheets, time at the table, or whatever else you dread homeschool looking like. Beautifully flexible, perfectly tailorable, structured or less-so, this is why homeschooling truly is for ANYONE who truly wants to do it.

  • Objection 4: My Kids Will Hate Me, and I’ll Resent Them.

Response: Homeschooling Isn’t About Academics. It’s About Relationships.

This was my biggest fear.  I was afraid that they would hate me as the constant drudgery of homeschooling grated on us, slowly chipping away at our relationship as I nagged and pleaded them to finish their schoolwork and they railed against me, hating school and hating me.

And I was afraid that I would resent them. After giving up everything I cherished to stay home for them: my freedom, my career, my independence, my income (and, consequently, my standard of living) all to teach them–what if they hate school?

I was afraid that I was going to resent my life and resent my children. And I didn’t want to look back on my life and regret the choice that I had made.

I know that this will never happen. Honestly, though, this is one of those things that you have to make true for yourself. I will tell you what I realized, but unless you commit to making this your truth, letting it root in your heart and settle in your bones, then nothing I say will be able to assuage these fears.

Here’s what I’ve come to realize about that: There is nothing that will separate me from the love that I have for my children.

It seems simple. And I understand that some school days are going to be bad days. I know there will be tears.

But I believe all good parenting comes from the pursuit of the child’s heart. I firmly believe that if I stick to my parenting principal that I will pursue their hearts before anything else, then I do not believe that we could possibly grow to resent each other.

There are some days where one of my children just doesn’t want to do school. And that’s okay. Some days I make them do it anyway. Other days, I can incorporate more fun things that they’re interested in into the school day.

Now I know that there is a place for teaching self discipline and working even when you don’t feel like it, and I do teach those things, but I don’t want every school day to be like that. It has happened before where we just stopped doing school for the day. Other days, I give them a break for 15 minutes to go play, and then we can come back to school. Other days, I can give them something fun and educational to do, like building a STEM project like GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank, and they can learn while doing something that they truly love.

They love those school days. I have learned that my kids do not respond very well to worksheets, and I know that means that school will be harder for us as I try to use less and less of them, but I care more about my kids’ hearts than about doing something that’s difficult. So I will find a way. I don’t know how, but I will.

We do use worksheets sometimes, but I try to have the majority of the learning be done outside of worksheets. Then sometimes I will check their knowledge with a worksheet. That’s not every day though. So right now I simply cannot believe that they will grow to hate me or school when I am so willing to use my homeschool flexibility to accommodate their education to their needs.

And I will do whatever is necessary for them to love learning. Because I love learning. And I love them. And my relationship with them is more important than any pre-conceived notion about textbooks or worksheets.

  • Objection 5: What if I fail, and my kids turn into incompetent bank robbers?

Before beginning homeschooling, I was so scared that my kids would just be… idiots. And then, of course, they’d probably turn to a life of crime and rob banks. What’s worse, they wouldn’t even be good at it…

Response: Trust Yourself. Get Help When You Need It.

One quick note on here: Statistically, this is highly unlikely. Not many people rob banks these days.  But seriously, imagine if you were super rich, and you could afford every subject for your student to be taught by a private tutor. Would you be convinced that they would become dumb? Of course not. We all know that education is more efficient in smaller groups. The difference is just that the parent is the tutor.

Also, there are so many homeschool resources available. There are coops (I used to teach for one) where students go to a specific location once a week with other kids and learn. The tutor can help with the learning. There are lots of homeschool options online now, as well. Reaching out to homeschool communities can be a great way to connect to others and get help and ideas.  Don’t know where those groups are? Type “Homeschool Group” into your Facebook search bar and see the hundreds of groups that pop up. Type in the city where you live for even more specific search results.

I’m still in the middle of everything, so I have to admit that there have been some places where I realized I hadn’t taught something that I probably should have.

This was brought to my attention once when we were at the grocery store, and we saw some firefighters grocery shopping, too. My kids were really excited about meeting firefighters, and they had a million questions for them, like “Do you have a big hose? Do you put water on the fires? Do you have a dog?”

They were really geeking out about seeing these firefighters. A firefighter asked my kid, “What do you do if you catch on fire?”

My child looked at him, and with all seriousness in his eyes said, “You die.”

My other child nodded along gravely, like, “Yes, that’s what happens. That’s the end.”

The firefighter looked at me, looked back at them, and said rather incredulously, “No, you stop, drop, and roll.”

To be honest, I’d forgotten about that. I’ve never caught fire, it just went into the void in my brain, I guess. And I realized that I actually had missed that rather large safety discussion. I was really glad that firefighter brought that to my attention… and I felt like an idiot.

I know that there are some books out there that will tell me what I should teach my five-year-old, my second grader, my fourth grader, etc. I have used some of them. I currently do have a curriculum that tells me everything that I’m supposed to do during the day. I bought it used, and I’m glad that I did. However, the reading is also vastly behind where my child is, hence having to use the book we tried and the Hooked on Phonics program.

I like that I’m able to integrate different curriculum into what we’re learning.

But sometimes I still get a little bit nervous that there might be other things that I should be teaching my kids that I have completely forgotten about. But at the end of the day, I trust that they will learn everything they need to know in time, through my intentionality, and we’ll keep working together, learning together, and improving together.

It’s not about being perfect. It’s about trending up!

 

10 Exercises For When You Have the Kids!

Everyone knows that exercising is important, but when you’ve got some little ones running around it can be really hard to find the time to work out. Sometimes, it’s simply not possible to get away from the kids for a few hours to hit the gym (let’s be honest, it’s not always possible to find the budget to pay for a gym membership either). Here are some ideas, though, for helping you incorporate exercise into your day, even with the kids around!

Cardio Exercise:

Jogging Stroller:

Need to elevate that heart rate? Investing in a jogging stroller can make it possible for you to get out of the house and work out with the kids in tow!

I don’t know if this is every baby, but when I go outside, it always helps calm my baby down when they’re throwing a fit. Sometimes the fall asleep, sometimes not, but I never took a baby outside and they didn’t calm down the crying, especially when I’m walking or running (as opposed to just standing still).

Fitness Videos:

If your kids are a little older than the baby stage, it can also be a lot of fun to do fitness videos with them! My kids like to try to follow along with me on my video workouts, like Yoga, Zumba, or Tae Bo, but they also have Fitness DVDs in all three of those categories for kids, so they can have fun doing it, and I can do it with them! We especially like doing the dancing videos because my kids LOVE dancing! They don’t really follow the people on the video, but hey! The point is is moving, right?

Play Tag:

Playing tag is probably one of the best cardio workouts you can get. You can easily do intervals where you switch between sprinting (when you’re chasing) and running slower (when they’re chasing you).  It’s also great for building familial relationships, which is what parenthood is all about anyway.

One thing I recommend: Try having your kids be on a team. I have to tag both of my kids before they tag me, and they get to tag me together (only one of them has to touch me before I’m “it” again). I do this so that I’m “it” more, which means I get more cardio in, and it also builds teamwork between my two children; they work together to tag me by trapping me in corners and such. I’m all about teaching them to be unified!

Run While the Kids Are at the Park:

Sometimes when I take the kids to the playground, they will play on the slides and swings while I run laps around the perimeter. It’s a nice way that I can keep an eye on them while also getting in some cardio. We’ll see some strength training exercises later that also take place at the playground, so I’ll do intervals where I’ll do strength training (usually involving a kid) and then go do some laps and back again.

Clean the House Cardio:

I’m a HUGE fan of incorporating kids into cleaning. I want to teach them from an early age that cleaning is important, that they’re expected to help out since they are a part of the family, and that cleaning can be fun (no shade if you pay your kids to do chores, but I don’t happen to for chores that are a part of daily living in the house; I’ll pay for extras like cleaning out the gutters, but not dishes and laundry).

One of the most fun ways to clean the floor is to get those re-usable Swiffer Pads (we have them for a Shark floor cleaner). They’re designed to velcro onto the bottom of the Swiffer or Shark. Instead, we velcro them onto our feet! Then put on some dance music, throw some soapy water on the floor, and you’ve got a mopping dance party that will get your floor clean and your heart rate elevated!

Dance Party Cardio!

Throw on the tunes and get dancing! Kids love dancing and have no idea what cool looks like (depending on how young they are)! Right now my kids are really into Imagine Dragons (my 4 year old’s favorite) and the Trolls soundtrack (my 6 year old’s favorite).

Strength Training

Incorporating strength training is actually the easiest for me because with very little time you can incorporate a lot of exercise. One thing I will suggest is wearing tennis shoes throughout the day, even if you have a pair of clean ones that you can wear in the house. Wearing tennis shoes puts you in an active mindset; mindset is everything. It also sets an “I’m going to be more active today” intention for the day when you go through it wearing active wear.

Incorporate the Kids Into the Workout

Have you ever done leg lifts? It’s not that hard to lift your leg off the ground. Have you ever tried doing leg lifts with a child hanging onto your legs? WAY HARDER! I’ll have one of my kids grab a leg and then lift them up and down, up and down, and then tell them to switch legs. It’s like a ride for my kids! Then I’m exhausted. And then, of course, my other kid comes up, “Can I have a turn?!” I didn’t think I could, but I can’t leave this kid out, so now a second set will push my muscles farther than they thought they could go and prove to my children that I love them both equally!

Then the first kid asks for another turn. And… no.

Burpees on the Swings:

My kids love swinging on the swings, and they still prefer me to push them. I can do burpees in between each push! My goal is to finish the burpee before they swing back to me, so I have to do them kinda fast. Mind you, I don’t do the push up or the jump at the end. I put my hands on the floor, jump feet out to plank position, jump feet back in, and go back to standing.

Make sure you don’t do your burpee too close to the kid that’s swinging. Please don’t get smacked in the face.

Bench Press

My kids think it’s hilarious when I bench press them. We can practice counting together when I do that, and it’s fun for me and math for them! I also like that the weight adds on slowly and gradually, so I naturally lift more weight as time goes on. I’ve got one kid who thinks it’s hilarious to, as I’m bench-pressing them, to stick their stinky feet in my face when my arms are fully extended! I’m hoping to upload a video of this soon; it cracks me up and grosses me out at the same time.

Arm Curls with Kids

In the same vein as the bench press, build those biceps by grabbing your kid underneath each of their arms and lifting them up, bending only the elbows. This isolates the biceps, and helps tone those arms. This is another opportunity to practice counting with the kiddos. Are they past counting? Try counting in Spanish!

Start small and build up! The biggest obstacle for me with exercise is getting out of my own head. Sometimes, I make New Year’s Resolutions that include things like 30 burpees every day for a year! And you know what? I fail. But still, that was two months of 30 burpees a day that I did complete. That’s like 180 burpees that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Who cares if I failed the entire goal? I still did a lot more exercise than I would have had I NOT made that goal!

Energy begets energy and the more I keep moving, the more movement I seem to have to spare (if not, then it’s probably something I’m eating).

It’s more important to me to model to my kids that activity and time with them are a priority, that health is a priority, and that they should want to do it, too, because I’m having fun. I want to be remembered as the mom who said YES to “Will you play with me?” more often than she said NO.  Incorporating these little bits of activity throughout the day are powerful and effective; it does not matter if you can’t fit in all your exercise in one giant sitting. Don’t let that stop you from doing one thing.

Just one thing.

So let’s get moving!

Waiting in Faith Pt.2: How God Shows Up

Trusting God with everything, including finances, can be one of the most difficult parts of a Christian’s walk with God.  It’s not usually that hard for me, but a month ago our furnace died. It cost $1,950 to replace it, and we didn’t have the money. At all. I wrote an article the day it died. The day we were told that was how much it would cost. The day we realized that even if we depleted our savings entire, it still wouldn’t be enough.

I’m glad I did it then. The post mentions how it’s easy to discuss God’s provision in hind sight, once you already know how everything’s going to work out. I think it’s harder to write about it when it’s still fresh. When you don’t know the outcome. When you hope that God’s going to provide, even though seeds of doubt start trying to root themselves in your heart.

You hope that God won’t provide the furnace by racking up a ton of credit card debt. You hope God won’t provide by actually having you endure through a winter with no heat.

And you have to ask yourself: Even if this is how God’s going to provide, is it good enough?

Is God’s chosen form of provision good enough?

I had to ask myself that. Because here’s what happened:

Nothing.

The furnace guy’s company offered financing. We depleted our savings to pay off 50%, then we had 6 months to come up with the rest. We were prepared to try to ride it out until the tax check came in; things would have been really tight in January, but we thought we could do it.  But that was it.

Am I okay with losing my tax check? We had plans for that tax check. Paying off our last student loan. Tucking some away into savings in case something happens (you know, like the furnace dying).  We were counting on it.

But the miracle I was sort of hoping for when I wrote that article didn’t happen. No one showed up on my doorstep with a furnace that they accidentally bought two of, and they couldn’t return it to the store. Our furnace didn’t just suddenly decide to be 20 years younger.

And I honestly kind of had to wrestle with that. I was hoping for a big miracle for… for us, for this blog, for all of you people reading this. “Come on, God!” I thought, “What am I going to write?! No one wants to read that nothing happened! Singles of people are waiting with bated breath to read about the glorious miracle of dropping a furnace from an airplane, but the parachute somehow makes it land directly in our driveway!”

Is God’s form of provision good enough?

Yes.

I wrestled through that. And then I counted my blessings. We could do it. Things would be tight, but we’d be okay. We had our daily bread, which God promises. He doesn’t promise a fireworks show to accompany said daily bread. And I needed to settle with that.

So I did. I was at peace with the way things were.

Just so you know, no one I know reads this blog. I don’t tell anyone about it, so no one knew our furnace broke. My husband (my Rock) asked me not to tell anyone because he didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to give us a bunch of money. I was fine with that. So no one knew.

We celebrated Christmas with my Rock’s family this past Saturday. It was a lovely Christmas, and the kids got lots of presents they were super-excited about. My grandfather in love   law asked to speak with us for a minute.

“Last year my investments did a little better than we expected them to,” he said to us, “and so I took a portion of the extra profits and gave it to (my Rock’s) parents. Well, again, this year the investments have done better than we expected again. So this year I decided to take some of the extra profits and give it to you guys. You can use it however you want, but this is just something extra for you.”

Isn’t he the sweetest?

Inside the envelope he gave us was a check for $2,000.

On the one hand, I sort of feel like in this instance, God was waiting for me to square with His provision, done His way. I needed to get my heart in a place that allowed God’s will to be done, and I needed to get out of my head expecting my will to be done.

Jesus had expectations placed on Him when he came to earth about being a king. His version of being a king ended up being way better than what they were thinking, right?

God’s plan is better than ours, but sometimes our plan sounds pretty exciting. And that’s okay, but I think my disappointment was out of line when God didn’t grant me the giant miracle I wanted (not to say all disappointment is bad, but mine was in this case).

Then when I got my head and my heart in the right place about it, it was like He said, “Just trust me, okay?”

Then He gave me my miracle anyway. Just cuz He wanted to.

I almost hesitate to write about that. God’s not a slot machine. Relationships with Him aren’t transactional (I’m still working through this on a whole different level). You can’t put in a quarter and then get your prize. You can’t order from Him like you’re at a restaurant or like you found Him in a genie’s lamp.

And I don’t want you to think that I am in any way saying that if you accept His will, then He’ll grant you lots of money… (though if that’s what you’re thinking, then you kinda still haven’t accepted His will…. but that’s neither here nor there).  That’s not how it works. You can’t control God or make Him do anything.

You can ask. You can expect Him to keep His promises, like that He’ll make all things work together for the good of those who love Him (check out Romans).

I’m glad that God used this as an opportunity to work on my heart a little more. Trusting HIS choice of provision. It’s simple. Do I have my daily bread?  (Not my bread for two weeks or even a month, but just enough for today.) And do I honestly consider that to be enough?

Now, admittedly (I have no problem being super transparent about my sinful nature), God has to work on my heart even more because my Rock’s first response was to give away 10% of it as a love offering.

And I don’t want to because I’m selfish.

But YAY! God has another opportunity to work on my heart (and my willful submission to my husband’s spiritual leading), and I consider it pure joy to go through these trials, because these trials will produce… well, lots of good stuff (check out the book of James).

I love hearing about other ways God answers prayers in ways you don’t expect, so please tell me your stories in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Kelley Elly

10 Fresh Ways to Add Exercise in the Home (for the BUSY Parent)!

Those of us with small children know that it can be as difficult to schedule exercise into your day as those daily mani/pedis we all deserve. Funding a gym membership, finding childcare, and fitting in the time can seem impossible. You may feel like the rest of your life is doomed to paunchy pregnancy post C-section tummy (or am I the only one?), but here are a couple of ideas to fit in exercise in some fresh ways.

Before you even get started:

Ditch the all or nothing attitude!

If you’re not going to start your fitness program until you can schedule two hours a day, then you’ll never start. Does anyone with small children have consistent, large blocks of time? If so, those are probably those same unicorn mommies who don’t get stretch marks, wear stilettos in their third trimester, and never experience back sweat (you don’t? Me neither.).

They’re a rare breed.

Anyway, you can fit in exercise in small pockets throughout  the day. Anyone who thinks 2 minutes isn’t a long time has never done a plank before.

Small workouts throughout the day can pay off big dividends– consistency over time trumps large sporadic sessions every day of the week (and twice on Sunday). There are several fun ideas for adding in mini-workouts into your day below. Pick one and GO!

Focus on adding small activities into things you already do.

Consider what you do each day that only require part of your body. Here are some examples from my day:

1.Brush your Teeth.

Every day, I brush my teeth (sometimes twice, even!), and that only requires the use of my hands. That means that I can set a timer and do a 2-minute wall sit while I brush my teeth!

2. Make Coffee.

Every morning, I make coffee. I microwave my unsweetened almond milk for two minutes before adding it to my coffee because I like my coffee so hot that it burns off my face. The microwave serves the dual purpose of heating my milk and timing my plank! My plank, in turn, serves the dual purpose of increasing my core strength and reminding me that it’s been a minute since I cleaned my floors.

Side note: I have a lot going on in the, um, boobal area. Because of weight issues and not getting a properly fitted bra until I was in my 20’s, I’ve had back pain since high school. I noticed a significant decrease in my back pain once I started doing planks each morning. Even if I’m not currently skinny, a reduction in pain is definitely worth the price of two minutes in my morning!

3. Use the Potty Bathroom.

I usually go to the bathroom during the day (it’s been known to happen more than once, actually), so for a while I instituted a rule to do 10 burpees as entrance fee for the bathroom.

I ran into some problems concerning the length of time it takes to do ten burpees compared to the length of time I’m able to hold my bladder… So I had to turn it into a 10-burpee exit fee. My kids think it’s hilarious to watch me do burpees.

5-8. Watch TV.

I will occasionally watch an episode of something as my husband and I are winding down for the evening. There are a hundred different things you can do while you watch TV.  I take TV-watching pretty seriously, and I’ve considered all the different factors to exercising while watching TV, and I believe I have the best strategy for implementing exercise into your TV-watching regime.

5. Arm Circles: 

If I’m watching a movie on DVD or Netflix (no commercials), then it’s important to do an exercise where your head won’t be bobbing up and down- it takes away from the experience, and you need to do something where your face stays consistently pointed to the screen (yes, I know how ridiculous this sounds, but seriously- it’s science).  Therefore, arm circles (big arm circles forwards, big arm circles backwards, small arm circles forwards, small arm circles backwards) are a perfect exercise for that! Set an interval timer and go to it!

SIDE NOTE: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but if you brush your teeth, make coffee, and watch TV in a single day, that’s your lower body, middle body (some people call it the core), and upper body that you’ve worked; you’ve officially helped strengthen your entire body just doing those things you already do anyway!

6.  Boat Pose- 

Boat pose is also perfect for watching movies and commercial-less television. To do boat pose, just sit on the floor with your knees bent (you should be able to give your knees a hug if you wanted to or if they’re feeling lonely). Wrap your hands around the backs of your thighs (so your hands are sort of in your knee-pits, if that makes sense). Rock back a little, rolling your tailbone under, and lift your toes off the floor. Your torso and thighs should be in the shape of a V; be sure to keep your back and neck as straight as you can (don’t strain those because you need them). Your shins/calves should be parallel to the floor.

Then just watch your show! Hold that pose as long as you can (a stopwatch is good if you want to write down how long you held it because then you can see your progress).

When you’re ready to challenge yourself a little more, extend your legs out so that they’re straight, so now your whole body should be in a V-shape. When you’re ready for another level up, extend your arms out to your sides.  Boat Pose is great for the core and back, so have fun watching TV and getting fit!

SIDE NOTE: My husband and I did work into our budget a membership at the YMCA. I’m so thankful for it because they have childwatch. While I’m there, I frequently will use my phone to watch a movie while I run, do intervals, or walk at a high incline.  I hope that one day I can get a treadmill into my home, but we just don’t have the space or money right now. There are some treadmills where you can log in to an account (like Netflix or Hulu) so you can stream while you watch. That would be an easy way to fit in cardio for me!

If you’re watching TV with commercials, then I like to alternate exercises during commercials. Most commercials are between 20-30 seconds, so it’s a great interval timer!

7. Commercial Intervals of Squats and Push-ups:  

For one commercial, I’ll do push-ups (modified with a mat under my knees if I need it), then I’ll do squats for the next commercial. After a while, the squats weren’t hard enough, so I’d do pulse squats, and those did me in!

For a pulse squat, get in your set stance and squat down, weight in the heels, knees tracking over the toes, thighs parallel to the floor. Then pulse up and down by three or four inches (instead of going back to standing, the way you would with a full squat). Make sure you stay low; your thighs should always return to being parallel to the floor again.

8. Commercial Intervals of Sit-ups and Leg Lifts:

Another great interval would be to alternate doing sit-ups and leg lifts to work the upper and lower abs. You can get in a total ab workout this way, and feel better about the amount of television you watch! It’s also a great idea to alternate burpees and planks during commercials, too!

9. Cooking Push-ups:

Occasionally, I cook… sometimes. That’s not true. I’m a SAHM (stay at home mom), so I cook about twice a day. (I don’t cook breakfast.)  I’ll do push-ups off my counter while I wait for the oil in my pan to heat up. I don’t actually get on my counter. But I’ll stand and lean against my counter, and I’ll do push-ups at an incline. Because these are easier than push-ups on the ground, I’ll really pay attention to my triceps here, putting my hands under my shoulders and making sure my elbows brush past my ribs. I don’t have great triceps. These are hard for me.  I can also walk around while I’ve got things cooking. I don’t have a step-counter… but I’m thinking about it.

10. Butt Clenches… what’s that? 

I’ve even done butt clenches while sitting in my chair watching TV (What? No I haven’t. That’d be weird).

What are some fun ways to work exercise into your day? Let me know in the comments!

Be sure to read the next article: Working Kids Into Your Workout for more ideas on incorporating fitness into your home!

 

From Someone Who Had a Lazy Spouse (and How to Deal With It)

The Problem:

I Am Just Saying What You All Are Thinking……

Let me paint an all too familiar picture. You have been working all day, only to walk into the kitchen and find a sink full of dishes that you just emptied before you left. Then, you walk into the bedroom to find clothes on the floor that you had cleaned up that morning. Your mind starts flooding with thoughts of an inconsiderate, lazy, ungrateful, selfish and rude spouse.

You start adding to the list of things you are ready to tell your friends at the next lunch gathering at your favorite little sandwich shop. Your mom asks you how things are going at home and boy o’ boy, you start enlightening her about how he/she would be lost if you were not there to clean up their mess and fix their problems.

Have you ever felt like your spouse is not the same person that you married? You didn’t know that you were signing up for what you got? No one ever told you that they do this or constantly say that. I am ashamed to admit that I had these thoughts at times when I first was married (and even for a couple years after that).

It all started when we began living together after we got married. I had this idea that we would share the responsibilities; I would give a little and she would give a little. I began to compare who was doing more and, in my mind, I was the one doing EVERYTHING! (This was not the case but none the less, this is how I felt). I began to keep a record, in my mind, of the things I had done and the things she had not done.

This was my fuel when I needed to let out my anger on her after I came home, and things were not up to MY standards. After years go by, countless times of nagging and several sharp words spoken that caused her emotional scars, our marriage was worse than when it started. It seemed to me that all things I was saying about my wife, to my wife, that I thought other people were thinking but just didn’t want to say, was not doing anything to change her.

Well, news flash, I was the one that needed to change………and quickly! Through several circumstances and people sharing wisdom with me, I began to see that I was the one that really was damaging our marriage. My wife opened up to me and began to slowly share with me, after years of being patient or quiet, how I had damaged her with my words.

I wanted a better marriage and thought I was working towards that by “making my wife better,” and all the while I was tearing her down and destroying our marriage. I saw very quickly the angry and critical person I was and how I was not doing things out of LOVE for my wife, and eventually my children. In the years to come, my two children came along, and I was starting the same bad trends towards them that I had acted out towards my wife.

I thank the Lord that He showed me what kind of husband and father I truly was and the path that I was headed down. Over the past couple of years, I have learned what it truly means to love and to remember the commitment that I made to my wife and the altar over eight years ago.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives us a picture of what love is: “patient, kind, not jealous, not proud, not boastful, not rude, keeps no record of wrongs, is not irritable, does not rejoice about injustice, rejoices when the truth wins out, never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through all circumstances”! I realized as I looked at each of these definitions that most of these I was not following.

The very next chapter (14) in the first verse it states, “make love your highest goal.” My highest goal? I wasn’t even placing love on my to do list. Sure, I thought I was aiming high to love my wife, but my idea of love and what God says love is were not the same thing.

When you start to think of yourself as higher than your spouse or begin to compare, you have missed the mark of marriage. Marriage is that commitment that says I will be with you no matter if it is a good day or a bad day, you’re sick or I’m sick, we’re rich or dirt poor, he/she is faithful or unfaithful.

However, a lot of marriages fail because they look to their spouses to sustain or fulfill them and when that bad day comes, they’re sick, you’re poor and he/she has been unfaithful, they are left empty and dissatisfied with their marriage.

Two perspectives that changed my life and turned my marriage around were:

1) I am guilty of my own faults and weaknesses just as much as my spouse, and Christ still loved me enough to die for my salvation.

2) I should never enter a marriage with the mindset that my spouse will be able to satisfy me in a way that only Christ can.

Do you feel empty a lot? Do you feel like you give and give to your husband/wife and kids without much being given back? There is this often-false idea that I am going to get married so I can rely on this other person to fill this void or need that I have had up until this point, like a need to be loved by another person or a need to feel like an equal (frequently, our feelings can be misleading).

Marriage should be a commitment you make to a person you love and will choose to love despite whether the feelings are there or not. Maybe you have not experienced it yet, or maybe you have, but marriage is filled with ups and downs. If you are serious about the vows that you took at the altar, I want to encourage you to think on these words from Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart (where feelings flow from) is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” and Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

I found that one day I would think my wife was the greatest gift I have ever received and the next day I would think “does she even love me?”

I write these things to you with a grieving heart. I have seen too many marriages and families left torn apart because spouses leave when marriage isn’t the fairy tale ending Disney promised. The kids grow up in a single-parent or divided household. The parents incite the children against the other parent with debasing words.

Maybe it starts with a sink full of dishes or clothes on the floor, but then it turns into yelling at your spouse, bad mouthing them to friends and family behind their backs or in front of them, dividing the kids to favor one parent over the other and before you know it, you are separating yourself further and further from your spouse.

If you are thinking right now that you can’t stand your spouse, or your children, and you just need to distance yourself more and more, you could not be further from the truth. You need to chase after the hearts of your spouse and children with the same ferocity that you had hoped your spouse would have for you.

When was the last time that you asked your spouse what they would like to see change in you without ever mentioning what you think they need to change?

When was the last time you got a babysitter and went on a date with your spouse having not mentioned a word about yourself or the kids?

It is NEVER too late to change and seek after your spouse. Even if you are on the verge of, going through or have gone through a divorce. I have seen marriages restored after years of them being divorced. God always created marriage to be for a lifetime! A lot of the western culture has gotten so far away from that and have entered marriage after marriage with selfish and destructive intentions.

My hope and prayer are that you, yes YOU, are reading this with conviction in your heart and are ready to make a heart-change! I say this with having gone through my own valleys of marriage.

What You Can DO:

If you are finding yourself in a marriage that leaves you dissatisfied,
thinking thoughts and/or speaking words of abuse towards your spouse, distancing yourself more and more, then please consider some of these thoughts and applications to your life.

First, start communicating with your spouse in a way that seeks to build them up and evaluate your behavior.

Second, make 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 your highest goal in how to love your spouse.

Third, never, I repeat, never speak in a way to tear down or degrade your spouse either to their face or behind their back. Always seek to build your spouse up, even when you don’t feel love towards them. This is difficult. Apologize when you mess up.

Fourth, pray for your spouse in a way that asks the Lord to work in their lives for their benefit, not yours!

Finally, keep pursuing your spouse even when the feelings are not there because the heart/feelings are deceitful above all things and beyond cure! Pursue your spouse even if it feels like it’s in vain. Even if it feels like they don’t even notice or care. Even if you’re convinced they’ll never come around. PURSUE YOUR SPOUSE.

God bless you! I hope that this was helpful and encouraging. Let’s brainstorm some ways that we can pursue our spouses! Let me know in the comments below!

Waiting in Faith: Where’s the Money Coming From?

He just left, the furnace guy. And, unfortunately, our 20-year-old furnace, after a long and fruitful life, died. Our quote for replacing it?

$1,950.

He delivered the news kindly, the Furnace Coroner. He mopped his forehead with his shirt sleeve and apologized, “There’s just nothing to be done this time.” He’s been out several times, but it’s just kaput.

I immediately felt a tightness in my chest, a constriction that wound its way around my heart and into my wallet.  Earlier in July, I was offered a job as a storyteller on a Christmas train. I turned it down because, though I’d done it years past, I just developed a strong conviction about participating in something that makes Christmas all about Santa when I don’t even do Santa in my house.

Before people start sending me letters, my kids know Santa as a pretend character just like the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge. But if what I’m doing actively detracts from the gospel, and it takes time away from my family, then is doing that job how I should spend my holiday season? (This is my conviction, not yours, and I’m not judging anyone.)

I developed this conviction in July. I talked to my wonderful husband about it (seriously, he’s my Rock), and he immediately supported my conviction and decision.

Decision made.

It was a really hard choice- simple, yes, cuz God’s the boss- but I LOVE performing. I love telling stories. I love trains. And I really love making awesome money in only six weeks out of the year.

But God provides, my Rock and I said back in July. So we didn’t worry about it or put another thought into it.

We’re now three weeks away from Christmas. I was able to earn enough money mystery shopping to pay for Christmas. And now the furnace has gone out, died, bit the dust.

For a split second, I regretted my decision to not do the train. With the money I’d make only working weekends for six weeks, I’d’ve (oooh, double contraction!) been able to pay for Christmas and that furnace outright.

But then I stopped and checked myself. Does God provide?

Yes.

Does He give us convictions for a reason?

Yes.

Does He want us to trust Him?

Yes.

God knows we need the money. He didn’t want me to do that job. Do I trust that He’ll take care of us?

I have to admit, I’m a little nervous heading into winter with no heat, but I’m more excited to see what God’s going to do.

Will we go into winter with no heat? Maybe.

Perhaps some stranger will bump into me on the street and say, “Hey! You look like you could use $1,950! You also have fabulous charisma and I can’t even tell you’ve had kids!!” Probably not on that last part (my charisma’s more quirky than fabulous), but maybe!

Maybe it’ll be a super mild winter, or maybe a furnace will show up on my doorstep. I don’t know.

We were given one week to decide. We either buy the furnace, or if we don’t buy the furnace, we have to pay $200 for today’s service.

I immediately needed to post this because I don’t know how it’ll all turn out. It would be easier to wait until the situation resolves and then post about how God answered my prayer. Sorta like saying you knew the Cubs were going to win before they did (and, of course, you’ve always been a Cubs fan), or now telling people that you knew fanny packs would come back into style (honestly, WHO saw that coming? 10 years ago- no one did).  It’s easy to say those things, once you’ve seen them come to fruition.

So I’m writing this now. I have no idea what God has in store. We may get radio silence from God for the next three months. Hopefully I will still be singing God’s praises at the end of it.

Maybe a miracle will happen. Maybe one won’t.

All I know is that we need $1,950, and we flat-out don’t have it.

Sometimes faith is hard, but I’m trying to step out on my faith now by saying that I know God will answer my prayer for provision even though I have no idea what that’s going to look like.

In the meantime, I have some interesting things to work through, like finding the line between our responsibility to earn more money (I’m a stay at home mom, and my Rock lives on support since he’s a missionary–no extra hours/extra income deal here) and also depending on the Lord instead of our own efforts.

We want to live out on faith. We want our trust to be in God, but we also want to be diligent and responsible.

We’ll see how all this plays out. I could use some prayers.

I look forward to writing the follow up posts. Like I said, we have one week to make a decision. So be praying for my family, and I’ll see you in one week!

How are you having to live out your faith today? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

Kelley Elly