Archive | September, 2011

Time is of the Essence

“Now is the time to get things done…wade in the water, sit in the sun, squish my toes in the mud by the door, explore the world of a girl just four.

Now is the time to study books, flowers, snails, how a cloud looks; to ponder “up,” where God sleeps nights, why mosquitoes take such big bites.

Later there’ll be time to sew and clean, paint the hall that soft new green, to make new drapes, refinish the floor – Later on…when she’s not just four.”

- Irene Foster

How can I be an awesome mom today to the precious children given to me?

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Impacting Your Child’s Blueprint

Photo Credit

Written by monthly contributing writer, Trina Holden

It all started with a  mowhawk. Maybe I was finally tuning into my inner rebel. Maybe I wanted to prove to my son that how he wore his hair would never affect our relationship. After all, hair doesn’t really matter that much, does it? Whatever the reason, instead of buzzing all his hair short for summer, I left a strip on the top long, and showed him how we would mowhawk it next time we went out. It was cute and fun, and — I thought — entirely harmless.

Then came a conversation with my wise father-in-law over a family campfire later that month. I did a really brave (or stupid) thing, and asked him what he thought of how we were doing as parents to his grandchildren. I was not surprised when he mentioned the mowhawk. I tried to brush it off, to explain that it really wasn’t that big a deal. Jesse hadn‘t seemed to care much — it was pretty much a non event. But then Dad said something that opened my eyes to what I had been blind to. It wasn’t the mowhawk, or just the mowhawk that was the problem. He had observed that I had a tendency to put too much emphasis on physical appearance, and that giving my son a special hair cut at age 4 could be significantly affecting his blueprint in regards to his outward appearance.

What on earth is a Blueprint? We all have one –  it’s the mindset that shapes our thoughts and actions for all of life. Blueprints are set at a young age, often by a child’s first impressions on an issue. Many believe 5 years is the end of the first phase of childhood, and that life-long blueprinting has been cemented by this time. Biblical evidence backs up this theory. Moses was weaned at age 5 and left his home and his people, but he never forgot who he was. Samuel was also 5 when his mother left him in the care of Eli. She must have done well in training him in those first 5 years — he certainly didn’t become the Godly leader he was by following Eli‘s example. Our blueprint affects our choices about money, health, entertainment, relationships, self, God, and more.

After my conversation with my father-in-law I was suddenly sobered by the idea that the season of blueprinting my son was drawing to a close - he would be five at the end of the summer. We hadn’t  even started school yet, but he had absorbed so much. What did he already believe about life? His future decisions would be based on which impressions and examples he had received in these first years? And what was I subconsciously impressing on his little sister and younger brother? Now that I was aware of the process, what could I be doing to give them a more Godly, balanced blueprint? I quickly became aware of so many areas in which I needed to become more intentional.

  • Self-worth     Does my child get accepted and receive fellowship when he does good, and degraded or shunned when he fails? This can create a driven perfectionist who believes their worth is in their accomplishments. I need to affirm verbally and with actions that he is loved unconditionally.
  • Body Image     Am I putting too much emphasis on the physical appearance? I love to dress my kids and keep their hair tidy, but I need to be cautious of how much fanfare I create over their appearance. Overemphasizing beauty or looks can confuse the message that their heart is what matters most.
  • Technology     Does my child see that the internet is a tool, or that it takes priority over relationship with him?  My generation knows that we can live without the internet and cell phones, because we did until the last two decades. But he won’t have a vision for the proper role of technology in his media-saturated world unless I exemplify balance.
  • God     Does my child know that God is alive, personal, and loves him? Not unless I am living authentically before him – exemplifying and explaining prayer, repentance, humility, and the sanctifying power of the gospel will he have a blueprint that will guide him to a personal relationship with Christ.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed and fearful at the significant impact my every action can have on my son’s future, I’m excited and humbled by the opportunity to give him a strong foundation in things that are eternally significant. It drives me to go before God regularly to make sure I’m getting my own blueprint re-aligned with God’s view of me. May we be as intentional with what our children absorb outside the classroom as we are with the concrete lessons of reading and writing.

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Q & A’s for Mission-Minded Families: HOMESCHOOLING

by monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan, of Harvest Ministry

This month marks the beginning of our family’s 21st year of homeschooling. It’s because of God’s grace that we’ve been in this adventure for over two decades; and it’s only by God’s grace that I can confidently say, “We’re still in it for the long-haul!”

On this theme, Lindsay had a few questions:

Q. LINDSAY @ PASSIONATE HOMEMAKING:  What was your original vision and goal for choosing to homeschool your children, and how have you kept that vision burning for over 20 years?

A. ANN @ MISSION-MINDED FAMILIES:  I became intrigued with homeschooling during college, as I was studying Elementary Education. During this time, as Jon and I were also preparing for marriage, I read a book called The Way Home, by Mary Pride, which challenged me — big-time — about God’s purposes for homemaking, motherhood, and home education. As I completed my student teaching, I observed how a student who had been absent (for even 2-3 weeks) could quickly “catch-up” with the rest of the class with only a few days of 1-on-1 tutoring, causing me to question the time-effectiveness of a typical classroom. Later, as newlyweds, Jon and I led several youth mission trips. On these teams, we observed a huge contrast between the peer-orientation (and worldliness) of many public (and even Christian-) school kids, compared to the parent-orientation (and spiritual depth) of many homeschooled kids. Sometimes, the homeschooled parent-and-teen similarities were so strong, it was funny; but it showed us homeschooling’s discipleship potential.

For our family, it’s God’s call.

As for long-term vision, “Whenever God CALLS, He gives grace to COMPLETE.” I love the song, “His grace is enough . . . ” and the hymn, “Though none go with me, still I will follow . . . ”

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Simple Toddler Learning Activities

Sorting M & M's

Looking for some basic ideas for hands on learning fun for your littlest ones? Or maybe some simple activities that your toddler could do alone while you work with an older child? I have collected a bunch of different simple activities that I could do together with my toddler each day in between spending learning time with my older daughter. Many of these activities can be done independently. I have compiled them in a pdf document for your own use or to simply help give you some inspiration. Many times my four year old wants to join in the fun too! It provides such a fun springboard for focused quality time with my toddler which he enjoys immensely. There are approximately 25 different activities that can be sprinkled throughout the month.

I wrote each activity on an  individual 3 x 5 card. Bind index cards together with a simple hole punch and string for safe keeping and collect all your supplies and store in a basket for easy access all in one place. This way we could easily access an idea to do each day without running around the house trying to find the supplies.

Our toddler activity supply basket

These 25 activities can easily be rotated to complete on a monthly basis to keep reinforcing and building skills.  Let your child choose the activity if desired and play together. The document includes a master supply list, specific activities with the supplies needed for each activity, additional hands on learning toys that we recommend, and a list of fun songs to sing with your toddler.

Download Toddler Learning Activities document here.

Have fun!

Look at Me activity

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Struggles in Child Training: Finding Solutions in the Word

Mom and sonPhoto Credit
Written by monthly contributor, Natalie Didlake

As my children grow older, I am continually tempted to think training and raising them grows more complicated. Every day seems to hold at least one situation that I have no idea how to handle. I regularly feel like that high school teacher we all had: the sweet, quiet one who got spit balls on the back of the neck and whose verbal warnings got drowned out by an out-of-control class. It can be downright overwhelming and confusing.

I am tempted to sigh in frustration when we have unresolved issues, telling myself it’s gotten out of hand. I want to give in to feeling hopeless, or ignore the problem entirely. Yeah right. Deep down, I know that if I surrender to my parenting problems, they will not go away. My kids will be incomplete, and so will I.

So what can I do when I have no clue how to handle my kids? I know I’m the authority. I want to do my job. But I have no idea what exactly that entails.

Recently, I’ve been having many victories over my hopeless attitude, and also gaining lots of insights into how to handle my kids better!

The tools I’ve been using are so simple, I can’t believe I ever by-passed them and choose frustration instead! Here’s a summary:

  1. Identify my “give-up” attitude toward raising my kids. Vow to mentally tackle the issue at hand, ASAP. No more brushing it under the rug.
  2. Pray. Confess your reliance upon God as the source of the answers. I believe He wants me to raise my kids in the Lord, since he says so in Ephesians 6:4. Therefore, I also believe he will give me exactly what I need, if I ask. (James 1:5)
  3. Think hard, trying to narrow down the specific issue at hand. Not trying to reason through it myself, but allowing scripture to sort through what my kids need to trained in, and what to let go. Oftentimes the hardest part!

A few months ago, our third child joined the other two as a full-blown talker. All three of them talking, talking, talking, all day long!

I had a general sense there was far too much talking here. But I couldn’t very well say, “Don’t talk so much!” or “Be nice in what you say!” or “Can’t I just have 5 minutes of peace and quiet!!!” Nope. Not great parenting.

I decided to just pray and ask the Lord to show me how to teach them about their speech patterns. I began seeing more specific issues that I needed to tackle one at a time. Things like interrupting (being rude, I Cor. 13); arguing (Phil. 2:14); and using harsh tones (Pr. 15:1).

These were the easy ones. Some we are working through, and others I haven’t identified yet. But one stands out in my mind as a moment the Lord spoke crystal clear, through a scripture.

My children suddenly had begun coming to me about every 2 minutes, saying things like, “Mommy, R. hit me.” “Mommy, S. won’t share.” “Mommy, L. ate my snack.” I believed they were telling the truth. And I knew it was my job to serve justice. But really? Complaining about each other all day long? I knew it wasn’t the tone I wanted in our home, but could think of no concrete way to explain it to my toddlers.

Then I remembered what I read that morning, what Jesus told his disciples:

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. John 5:45

Accusing…that was it! My children were accusing each other. It’s so clear that Jesus is about helping, defending, and rescuing, not accusing. No wonder it bothered me so much! I researched and found out that Satan is called the “accuser of our brothers…who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Rev. 12:10)

I was so thrilled to see a solution emerge right from God’s mouth, his very word. I sat down my kids and explained to them the contrast between Jesus and Satan, and how they speak about people. Their eyes went wide when I told them Satan is an accuser who spends all day accusing us before God!

How incredible, for God to speak so directly to me and my children, as I struggle to train them!

How has God spoken to you through his word in your child-rearing? Please share!

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Fun and Frugal Field Trips

Written by monthly contributor, Emily Pastor.

I am not a home body.  As a stay-at-home mama, I love the chance to get out of the house with a fun and frugal destination in mind.  Taking intentional field trips with your young ones is a fun way to include them in the “back to school” season.  Field trips provide an excellent learning experience for children of all ages, but especially for little ones with short attention spans!  They don’t need to be fancy or expensive to be exciting and bursting with learning opportunities.  Here are a few ideas for outings both you and your little ones are sure to enjoy!

Library Story Times
Most libraries offer story times for young children and even babies. These “story-times” rightfully involve more singing and playing than they do “reading” but they introduce young children to the joys of the library in a fun and interactive environment. Story times are a fun weekly routine that offer social outlets for both mother and child and provide a weekly way to bring home new books to explore together.

Free Passes to Museums
Libraries usually offer free passes to area museums and zoos, which you are able to reserve much like you would a book. These passes often have a long list of holds (think hundreds) so don’t expect to see one soon, but if you’re not in a hurry and would like to enjoy some museums for free, this is a great option.

Parks and Playgrounds
Don’t forget the importance of play in learning! Children are wired to play. Playing opens doors to many areas of education such as social skills, physical coordination & development, creativity, and nature awareness. Find a new park or playground to explore with your little one and watch the learning unfold.

Nature walks
Take an age-appropriate nature walk. For a toddler, this might look like a walk down the block collecting pine cones and talking about how they look and feel. For an older child take a hike and collect leaves and identify them at home and make crayon rubbings of each one.

Local Farms
Farms make an excellent field trip for all ages. Young toddlers will love seeing animals up close and imitating them. Older children will enjoy learning how a cow is milked, sheep are sheared, or crops are rotated.  The next time you visit a farmer’s market, strike up a conversation with a friendly vendor and ask if they’d be willing to let your family visit their farm as an educational experience.

As you pursue fun and frugal field trips with your little ones, remember:

1. Be creative.  With a little creativity, a normal drive to the grocery store can become a game of “I spy” or a chance to learn a new song.  Pray that you would see and maximize the meaningful amid the mundane.

2. Not everything needs a lesson behind it!  Be careful not to turn everything into a lesson.  Children need to see their parents having fun just for the…well, fun of it!

3.  Ask the Lord for wisdom.  Pray each day that the Lord would give you wisdom on stewarding your child’s mind for that day.  Don’t get caught up in all the things your toddler needs to master before graduating high school.  Focus on today.

It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.
-Elisabeth Elliot

I’d love more field trip ideas to try!  What fun and frugal outings do you take with your little ones?

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Newborn Cloth Diaper Reviews

I have always loved to cloth diaper by babies since my first born, Karis, was just a few months old. It’s not just the cost savings and environmental benefits that appeal to me, but also the pure cuteness of cloth diapers. I appreciate putting something completely natural against the skin of my babies, but I also love the pleasure that comes in simple sustainability. With the huge selection of cloth diaper choices available on the market today, with the wealth of cute patterns and colors, I don’t know why any one wouldn’t want to at least try cloth diapering. ;)

We decided it would be best to use disposables for the first week while I was in recovery so I wouldn’t have to think about washing them, but I was so eager to start trying out our sampling of newborn diapers that I only lasted 4 days! We are huge fans of one size pocket diapers at our home, and have always used Bum Genius pocket diapers, which fit well starting around 10 pounds and continue through potty training. Since most babies cannot fit into that size right away, it is nice to have a collection of newborn diapers to use for the first 1-3 months. Here is my review of the newborn cloth diapers we tried.

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Chore Charts for Little Ones

Setting up a simple chore system for my little ones was on the agenda this past month in our home and what a fun delight it has been to establish a little routine for my little ones to reinforce responsibility and service to one another in maintaining our home and cultivating good stewardship of the resources God has blessed us with. We have kept it very basic but doable for their levels.

Since they are not able to read at this level, we took pictures of each task, printed them out, glued them on construction paper (color coded for easy identification – blue for boy, pink for girl), and then laminated them. I cut them out and put them in envelopes on our refrigerator. We labeled one envelope with “do” for all the tasks yet to be completed, and the second envelope is labeled “done”, to which they can transfer the task card when it is completed. At the end of the day (twice a week or so), I will reward them with a nickle to put in their piggy bank.

Here are the tasks we assigned:

2 year old:

- Pick up library books and place in basket/shelves
- Carry plate to the sink after each meal
- Pick up personal clothes and put in hamper
- Pick up toys

4 year old:

- Make bed
- Pick up personal clothes and put in hamper
- Empty dishwasher
- Clear table after dinner
- Fold towels

Thus far we have incorporated the majority of these chores into our morning routine as we get ready for the day after breakfast. They will complete their chores while I clean up the breakfast dishes. We love to sing while we work – “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.” Keeps us all going when we work together and sing while we work!

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The Best Way To Teach Our Children

Photo credit

Written by monthly contributing writer, Kat at Inspired to Action.

It was 102 degrees outside.

“Mama? Can we go for a run?”

“Sure sweetie. Let’s go.”

We ran, we walked, we sweat buckets and we guzzled water.

Nine year olds don’t naturally want to go running in triple digit weather. So what made her do it?


She wanted to run because I run. She drinks tea (and tries to convince herself she likes it) because I drink tea. She rolls her eyes because I roll my eyes. Her closet is messy because my closet is messy.

For better or worse, our children are mirrors. They learn from our actions more than our words. One good example is worth more than a thousand good books, curriculum’s or sermons.

The best way to train our children is to imagine what we want them to be…

…and be that.

Note from Lindsay: This is Kat’s last post with us as a contributing writer. I just want to say a huge thank you for this dear friend and her faithful contributions over the last year and a half! Check out her awesome ministry over at Inspired to Action.

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Continuing Early Learning Preschool at Our Home

It is an exciting new year to continue our early learning education at our home! I am excited to take another year to really invest in my daughter, Karis, before launching her into kindergarten. Although she could begin this year with her knowledge of letters, sounds, and numbers, I don’t want to rush it or force her into a more structured environment before she is ready. At four years old she is in love with books, hands-on activities, and plenty of playful learning. We are starting to incorporate a fun Circle Time (inspired by Preschoolers and Peace) into our mornings together, including my two year old as well. This will be a time where we sit and read together, study the Bible, and memorize various Scripture, poems, the catechism and other things.

Here are some of our goals this year and the resources we will use to accomplish them:

1. Bible & Character Building

We will continue to read and re-read the Jesus Storybook Bible, as our favorite story bible for children. Along with this, we are reading Big Truth for Little Kids by Susan Hunt and memorizing the catechism questions. After completing this book, we will be studying the names of God using Desiring God’s resource, God’s Names. For character building, we plan to use a Child’s Book of Character Building series by Ron Coriell.

2. Memory work

We want to really utilize the fun and ease of memorizing in these early years to store up some basic facts and truths. We are memorizing one Scripture verse each week, utilizing My ABC Bible Verses to continue through reviewing and memorizing a verse for every letter of the alphabet. We also are memorizing the continents and oceans of the world and other countries using Geography Songs. I also want to memorize a few poems throughout the year.

3. Reading

As we feel inspired we will launch into a basic phonics program (but this will likely wait till next year), using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and The Reading Lesson. But ultimately, I don’t plan to rush it at all. My main goal for these early years is to continue to do a lot of reading together as a family. I am borrowing a weekly load of books from the library as we work through the 1000 Classics book list (for the primary level) and Sonlight’s Kindergarten book list recommendations. Although we are not using Sonlight this year, I certainly appreciate the book recommendations that are offered in their programs and want to enjoy the benefits of these excellent stories. We also have a list of quality literature that we are going to read aloud together throughout the year, most likely as a family in the evenings. Our list includes:

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