Author Archives: Sallie

4 Don't Miss History Books

American History Picture Books – Bright Ideas Press

4 Don't Miss History Books

Are you looking for some quality picture books to add to your American History studies? I shared four of my favorites over on the Bright Ideas Press blog. Stop by to see which American History picture books will be a great part of your study of the Great Depression, immigration and more!

4 Don’t Miss Picture Books for American History

Enjoy!

Hibernation Homeschooling

Hibernation Homeschooling

Hibernation Homeschooling

Many of you have probably heard the term carschooling which is about homeschooling on the go. But I bet you’ve never heard of the opposite - Hibernation Homeschooling. That’s because I made it up to describe what Caroline and I have done this winter.

Rather than going through a detailed telling of all the events over the fall that led up to this, I’ll summarize it by saying that we were worn out from running around, sick of being sick, and basically hit the wall. When Caroline got Influenza A in early December, that was the proverbial last straw. She had had something every month since July. In addition, I was worn out from dealing with my health stuff.

When I tallied our medical expenses at the end of the year for our taxes, I counted up that between the three of us we had had 176 medical and health related appointments in 2014.

Yes, 176 appointments. For three people.

I told David that Caroline and I were going into hibernation. I was totally serious. Because we homeschool and work from home, there was nothing to stop us from making this decision.

And so we did.

Hibernation Homeschooling

For the rest of December, all of January and all of February Caroline and I have stayed home. Especially during late December and January when all of the crud was rampant, Caroline and I stayed home. David did the grocery shopping and errands. We live in a small town so almost everything we need (library, post office, banks, Meijer, etc.) is literally a mile from our home. David simply took over the running around. When necessary, we supplemented with ordering from Amazon where we could get anything we needed.

There were weeks when Caroline and I got out on Saturday or Sunday to take a drive and then didn’t leave the house again until the next weekend. Some weeks we left the house to go to a necessary medical appointment. Caroline went to the library a couple of times in February, but that was it. We have a babysitter who comes once or twice a week and we did continue that. Other than that we were pretty much on our own.

Yes, we were that committed to our hibernation.

We haven’t ended our hibernation yet. I imagine we’ll continue it for most of the rest of March since we live in a cold and snowy place. It’s been so cold that we would rather just stay home anyway and avoid stressing our bodies if we don’t have to do so.

I know some of you are thinking that we must be crazy. How could we stay home all the time? What about church? What about activities? What about playdates?

We decided that the most important thing we could do was take care of our health and there was no way we could do it if we were constantly exposing ourselves to everything out there. We basically let everything go.

By the Shores of Silver Lake

It’s funny that people think staying home for weeks on end is radical because it happened often in the past. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes in By the Shores of Silver Lake about the winter the Ingalls family lived in the surveyor’s house and they saw almost no one for months. The girls did all their learning at home.

Snowed In

We have the children’s picture book Snowed In that is about a Wyoming family in 1915 and the preparations they made before they were snowed in for the winter. They purchased pencils and paper at the general store. They stopped at the library and filled up two huge boxes with books to read during the winter. They homeschooled when the children couldn’t get to school.

Staying home and waiting out the winter is not that radical of a concept except in our culture that is obsessed with being on the go all the time.

Hibernation Homeschooling Results

So what are the results of our hibernation so far?

We have all been healthy. Caroline and I have not been sick at all this winter. We sincerely thank God for this.

We have gotten lots of rest and sleep. Because we have been home, we have been able to keep regular bedtime hours and sleep in to ensure we get a full night’s sleep.

We have greatly reduced our stress. By not running around, coming and going all the time, our stress levels have dropped. Transitioning in and out of the home is wearing, especially for introverts and children.

We’ve enjoyed lots of fires in the fireplace and family time together. The vast majority of the evenings we’ve had a fire in the fireplace for supper and enjoyed being together in the winter coziness.

We’ve accomplished much. Because we weren’t running around, we had much more time to be home and work on the things that interest us. Entire days at home are long days in the best sense of the word.

We’ve been learning. We’re relaxed homeschoolers so our learning just continued on. Obviously hibernation homeschooling is much easier today with laptops, Kindle Fires, etc. Even though we were home all the time, we had access to so much online that we never really felt cut off from the outside world the way others might have in the past.

I Wish We Could Do That!

While I’m sure some people reading this still think it sounds crazy, some people love the idea. Probably a few of you wish you could do the same thing.

If hibernation homeschooling interests you, think about it for next winter. If you are worn out from sick children and running around in the cold and snow to the point of exhaustion, it is something to consider. Taking care of your health is important. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Many families would probably be much better off and happier if they chose to make a similar decision.

I know I am glad we did.

Philippians 3 for Self Righteous Homeschoolers

Philippians 3 for Self-Righteous Homeschoolers

Philippians 3 for Self Righteous Homeschoolers

Lest we lose sight of why we homeschool and the attitude with which we should do it…

All Confidence in the Flesh

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in your homeschooling efforts! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a challenge for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the educational standards. 3 For it is we who are education perfection, we who educate our children by the sweat of our brow, who boast in highly selective college admissions, and who put all confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have more reasons for such confidence than you do.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in their homeschooling efforts, I have more: 5 homeschooling my children from the first day, of the people of classical education, of the tribe of Charlotte Mason, an unschooler of unschoolers; in regard to the law, a common core adherent; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the textbook users; as for righteousness based on the homeschooling law, faultless.

7 But whatever were gains to my children’s character I now consider loss for the sake of obtaining a full ride scholarship to a prestigious university. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing we do it better than anyone else, and for whose sake I have lost all sense of personal value. I consider them garbage, that I may gain the best performing children on the SAT 9 and be found in their reflected limelight, not having an educational accomplishment of my own that comes from the joyful pursuit of wisdom, but that which is through striving to achieve—the achievement that comes from burning out on the neglecting of my sleep and health. 10 I want to know homeschool adulation—yes, to know the power of people envying me and congratulating me on my children’s success, becoming like them in their accomplishments, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to some personal sense of self-worth.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that golden ring for which drivenness took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is eternally important and straining toward what is valued now, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the ultimate prize in this life which has called me – money and position.

Following My Example

15 All of you, then, who are homeschoolers should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too I will make clear to you after you read my ebook and website series. 16 Only may you live up to what I have already attained.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have me as a model of homeschooling perfection, keep your eyes on those who live as I do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again with every Facebook update I post, many live as enemies of educational achievement. 19 Their destiny is community college, their god is their peaceful family, and their glory is in their child’s decision to follow Christ. Their mind is set on heavenly things. 20 But our focus is a prestigious education. And we eagerly await an acceptance letter from our dream school, the alma mater of my idol, 21 who, by the power that enables it to determine everything about my child’s future, will transform our lowly homeschooling family so that we will be like those who have achieved the pinnacle of education achievement.

Click here to read our true calling in the real Philippians 3.

Hygge Cabin Fever and a Cardboard Playhouse

Hygge, Cabin Fever and a Cardboard Playhouse

Hygge Cabin Fever and a Cardboard Playhouse

When you live in a place with long winters, you need to develop ways of not just coping with winter but thriving in it. Winter in Michigan begins sometime in November and ends sometime (hopefully) in March. That’s many weeks of cold, snow and dark. On top of that, West Michigan can be rather cloudy due to the effects of Lake Michigan. Winter is a significant part of life here.

I had never heard of the Danish concept of hygge until a few years ago, but as soon as I read about it I knew we were already doing it as a family. Maybe it’s my Scandinavian DNA (Swedish, not Danish), but I instinctively have developed ways to deal with the long winters. In fact, winter is my second favorite season (after autumn).

What is hygge?

Hygge is challenging to translate into English, but it includes ideas such as coziness, togetherness and well-being. One article explains that hygge isn’t just about physical surroundings, but it is above all a state of mind. It is more than hot cocoa and a soft blanket. It is a way of thinking about and approaching winter, relationships, etc.

Although we never use the term around here, hygge is a big part of our life. For us, it includes everything from having a fire in the fireplace almost every evening during supper to creating a cozy atmosphere in our home by the way we arrange the furniture and decorate. Our home is our nest where we gather together and spend quality time. We see our home as a quiet place to withdraw from the craziness of the world and rest together.

Creating a Hygge Mindset

Whenever I hear people complain about the cloudiness or the crummy weather, I reply with something like, “It’s not crummy weather! It’s cozy weather!” Just thinking about the gray outside in a different way changes your mindset. Cloudiness outside means the fire burns a bit more brightly, the lamps glow a bit more, and home is more of a peaceful refuge from the darkness. It’s a mindset to be cultivated.

This mindset has become such a part of me that the past few weeks I’ve actually mourned a bit that the evenings are staying lighter longer and longer. Why? Because when we light the fire at suppertime, it doesn’t glow quite as warmly and brightly. It’s glow is reduced a bit by the sunlight coming in. I find myself already missing the extra coziness of deep winter evenings. I know that instead of spending cozy evenings at home, spring and summer will bring about more outside activities and yard work.

Developing an attitude of hygge has helped us avoid the worst of cabin fever. Because we homeschool and work from home, it would be very easy for us to get extreme cabin fever. For the most part, we don’t because of our adjusted attitude.

There are other things we’ve learned to do beyond hygge that have helped us learn to thrive in the winter. David and I take chewable Vitamin D3 every day. We have a natural spectrum floor lamp that we sit near for a bit each day it if it cloudy. We also make sure we get enough sleep each night.

Cozy Cardboard Playhouse

But perhaps one of the best investments we’ve made is this cardboard playhouse for Caroline.

playhouse 4

This has been a tremendous purchase. (Note: The price of this house varies widely. We paid much less than the current price on Amazon.) We pull it out every few weeks and assemble it for her. (It only takes a couple of minutes.) We set up a small television and DVD player. Caroline has a cute small lantern similar to this for cozy lighting. She covers the floor with soft blankets and brings in her favorite stuffed animals, Calvin and Hobbes anthologies, and whatever else she decides she needs. She has a little pink footstool she uses for a table and we let her eat her lunch or supper in there while she watches a video.

Inside the playhouse 1It probably sounds crazy, but this has been such a good purchase. She has her own little cozy place to go.

Inside the playhouse 2

Caroline thinks it’s fun she gets to eat in there. She continues to decorate the walls inside as well which makes it even more homelike for her. After it is out for a few days, we fold it up and put it back in the basement. When we pull it out again a few weeks later, it’s fun all over again. It’s sturdy cardboard and she’s careful with it so we’ve not had any problems with it falling apart. I anticipate we’ll get several years use out of this purchase and she’ll have lots of fun memories.

How do you find ways to thrive in the winter? Do you have any special tips or tricks?

Photo credit

Creating a Mom-Friendly Homeschool

Creating a Mom-Friendly Homeschool

Creating a Mom-Friendly Homeschool

One of the things I am passionate about is helping parents understand their child’s learning and personality needs. I have literally dozens of posts on my website about tailoring our parenting and homeschooling to our child’s unique bent whether she is right-brained, gifted, spirited, highly-sensitive, or wired differently in some other way.

But I also believe we have to balance this informed focus on our child with a mom-friendly approach to homeschooling.

What do I mean by mom-friendly?

Every homeschooling family needs balance. That balance is found in the intersection of our child’s needs and the mother’s needs, abilities and limits. (Yes, the father’s needs come into play as well, but I’m focusing here on the mother who is typically the lead homeschooler and stay-at-home parent. If the father is the one in this role, then this would apply to him.) While ultimately we have to defer to our child’s needs when it comes to homeschooling, we should only do so as much as necessary to give our child an effective education. The balance of that should be creating a mom-friendly homeschool situation where not only the child flourishes but the mother does as well.

Homeschooling is a tremendous gift we give our children, but it should not be at the expense of our own spiritual, physical and emotional well-being. Yes, we will make sacrifices when we homeschool and that is a choice we all choose to embrace when we make the decision to home educate. But homeschooling should not become our entire life.

What does a mom-friendly homeschool look like?

A mom-friendly homeschool should be the coming together of what is best for the child and what is best for the mom. This includes:

  • selecting a homeschool philosophy and curriculum that works for mom
  • finding a homeschool rhythm that works for mom
  • creating a homeschool atmosphere that works for mom

Selecting a homeschool philosophy and curriculum that works for mom

There are a number of major homeschool philosophies that we can consider when deciding to homeschool our child and each one has its pros and cons. There are many homeschool curriculum choices available today, each also with their positives and negatives. The combination of philosophy and curriculum creates an almost endless number of possibilities from which we must select what works for our family.

One of the things I’ve come to realize about our decision to become relaxed homeschoolers is that it is the approach that works best for both Caroline and me. We ended up relaxed homeschoolers because I realized it was best for Caroline, but I don’t think I fully understood until later how much my own needs instinctively drove me as well when making that decision.

While some moms might enjoy spending copious amounts of time reading about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy or researching classical education topics, that is not how I want to invest my energy. I frankly don’t want to spend hours and hours doing prep work to homeschool Caroline. It would seriously diminish my own capacity to flourish as an individual because being a homeschool mom is only part of my life. Relaxed homeschooling is the intersection of where Caroline can learn best and where I can be a happy and healthy mom. That isn’t to say I never find it challenging because I do. But of all the options available to us as a mother and daughter, the relaxed homeschooling approach is the best place for both of us to both give and receive.

This will look different for different moms. Some moms might do better with a more tightly scheduled day. They might feel more secure knowing that everything is mapped out for them. Some moms need the reassurance of a scripted curriculum and find a freedom in having all of that responsibility for figuring it out done for them. There is no one right way to do a mom-friendly homeschool and don’t be afraid to make a change when you need to. The point is to figure out what your child needs and the best way for you to deliver it in a way that allows you to stay happy and sane. An effective education for your child should not come at the expense of your own well-being.

Finding a homeschool rhythm that works for mom

A mom-friendly homeschool also means finding a homeschool rhythm that works for the mom as well as the child.  This can be a bit trickier, but it is important. A mom who feels that homeschooling runs her life is not going to be a happy mom long-term. And an unhappy mom eventually ends up a burned out mom.

Homeschooling should not run our lives. It should not be our master. It should be a tool we use to accomplish what we need to do for our child’s education. The times when I have been most unhappy as a homeschooling mom were when I felt like homeschooling and educational needs had overtaken our lives to the point that none of us were happy. Life was out of balance and it only takes a short time before that lack of balance takes a significant toll.

Establishing a healthy rhythm includes deciding how to organize your day, your week and your year. Again, the child’s educational needs come first (such as our decision to homeschool in the afternoon and not the morning), but those decisions also have to work for the mom’s rhythm as well. It may take some trial and error to figure it out, but mom’s needs have to be met too.

Creating a homeschool atmosphere that works for mom

Every home has an atmosphere. This atmosphere is created by how we decorate, how we organize our belongings, the behavior we expect from our children, the procedures we establish, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the language we use, how we dress, etc. These all combine to create a family atmosphere.

I think this is the area where the mom should consider most strongly her own needs. As the one who runs the home, mom has to be happy in the atmosphere in which she lives. This is especially true for a mom who is home all day, every day and is responsible for her child’s education.

Again a healthy atmosphere is going to vary from family to family. But mom needs to figure out what she needs in order to stay sane and happy and then work toward that end. It might mean needing to train her children to do a better job of picking up if messes drive her nuts. It might mean purging her own clutter if it stresses her out. It might mean needing to rethink the way she guides her children and the consequences they receive. Maybe mom needs to implement some new procedures to make homeschooling time run more effectively. Whatever it is, mom needs a healthy and happy homeschooling atmosphere in order to do this for the long-run.

If mama ain’t happy…

We all know the saying and it’s true. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It really is true in homeschooling families. An unhappy homeschooling mom is going to be ineffective as a mom, an educator, a homemaker, and a wife. Mom’s unhappiness then trickles down to the children.

Being a martyr for the cause of homeschooling isn’t going to do anyone any good. It’s far better for everyone to find ways to create a mom-friendly homeschool experience. If mama is happy, that happiness is most apt to spread throughout the home.

Presidents’ Day Lapbook, Activities and Resources

Presidents’ Day Lapbook, Activities and Resources

Presidents’ Day Lapbook, Activities and Resources

Presidents’ Day is coming up and I wanted to help you get a jump on your planning! I’ve gathered up some great activities and resources that focus on the two American presidents we’re celebrating – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In fact, the combination of materials in this post is enough to put together a comprehensive Presidents’ Day unit. Enjoy!

First up is my Presidents’ Day Lapbook (or Interactive Notebook).

Presidents Day Lapbook PREVIEW 1

This is an easy to assemble lapbook and it looks great when it is done.

Presidents Day Lapbook PREVIEW 3 It is especially designed to work well with reluctant writers or children who struggle with writing.

Presidents Day Lapbook PREVIEW 4

George Washington Mini Biography

For your visual learners, here is a short biography about Washington.

Abraham Lincoln Mini Biography

And here is another one in the same series about Lincoln.

History of Presidents’ Day

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Do you know how we came to have a Presidents’ Day? The Wikipedia entry has a brief history that includes the different names the holiday is given in different states.

Abraham Lincoln in The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has an online collection of materials about Abraham Lincoln that you can peruse with your children. There is lots there to provoke discussions about all aspects of Lincoln’s life.

lincoln library of congress

 George Washington’s Mount Vernon Online Tour

The official Mount Vernon website is excellent and has many wonderful resources for those of us who don’t live close enough to see the estate in person. It includes videos, pictures and educational materials.

mtvnewrm_3-4

U. S. Presidents Fun Fact Cards

If you and your children want to learn about many of the presidents this month, check out my U.S. Presidents Fun Fact Cards. This is a collection of fascinating facts that you won’t find everywhere. I guarantee you will learn some fun things along with your children while using these!

SB-Presidents-Pocket-Fact-Cards-012614-PREVIEW

America Literacy and Math Pack

If you want to go beyond Presidents’ Day materials this month and focus on America in multiple areas, my America Literacy and Math Pack is full of reading, writing and math activities that will last for weeks!

America-Literacy-and-Math-Pack-PREVIEW-092313

I hope you enjoy this collection of Presidents’ Day activities and resources!

Our Family's Experience with Minecraft

Our Family’s Experience with Minecraft

Our Family's Experience with Minecraft

I freely admit that I was skeptical about the value of Minecraft. Part of that was my own inherent bias since I’ve never been inclined to play video games. But after reading more about it, we decided to load the Minecraft – Pocket Edition onto our Kindle to see if Caroline would enjoy it. (She was seven and a half at the time and is now almost eight and a half.) It was cheaper to spring for the Kindle version than the PC version so we started there. I really wasn’t sure if she would even like it.

Wow. Minecraft has rocked our world in many ways. I was not expecting our family’s experience with Minecraft would be such a powerful and positive one for Caroline.

How Our Family Uses Minecraft

Caroline uses the Minecraft – Pocket Edition on her Kindle Fire 95% of the time. We do have the PC version loaded onto my computer now, but she prefers playing with the Kindle. She either plays on her own or with David since they can network their Kindles through our home router.

Caroline started out playing in Survival mode, died almost instantly, and decided that Creative mode was far better. She did not want to spend her time trying to stay alive. She wanted to build things and explore. She spends 95% of her time in Creative mode (although she has started branching out a bit with David into the lowest level of Survival mode the past few weeks). We don’t connect to an outside network.

Caroline also spends quite a bit of time watching Minecraft videos on YouTube. Like many kids who play Minecraft, she thoroughly enjoys Stampy and learns so much simply by watching what he does and creates.

Self-Directed Learning with Minecraft

Perhaps most profound for Caroline is that playing Minecraft is empowering. She is a very right-brained child. She does not like to be taught and thrives best with self-directed learning. Minecraft is a perfect fit for her in this regard.

In a very short amount of time she was whizzing around Minecraft and figuring out what to do. It was very empowering for a creative girl who is a visual-spatial learner.  (By contrast, just looking at Minecraft overwhelms me. It’s not how I’m naturally wired.) The opportunity to run with something engaging was fantastic for her personality and learning style.

Reading, Vocabulary and Conversation

Caroline loves it when we read to her which we do every day and have since she was six months old. But she isn’t inclined to pick up a book and read on her own yet. However, she will pour over and read Minecraft books completely on her own.

Between the game, the books, the Stampy videos and the detailed conversations she has with David about Minecraft, I am amazed at her vocabulary development. She has always been verbal (which I attribute to being homeschooled and with two highly-verbal parents all day). Minecraft has opened another level to her conversation abilities and vocabulary.

Minecraft and Character Building

David spends time playing Minecraft with her so he has his own perspective on what it has meant to Caroline. When I asked him about this, he immediately began listing various character traits that he sees being developed through their Minecraft time together. These include:

  • Perseverance – Continuing to look for the materials she wants and needs to complete the tasks she wants to accomplish
  • Collaborating – Working together to accomplish a task including sharing materials
  • Compromise – Learning to negotiate and come to an agreement about how to do something
  • Confidence – Teaching her daddy how to play Minecraft was a significant experience for her
  • Risk-taking – Being willing to try new things, accept if it doesn’t work out, and try again
  • Courage – Going back into Survival mode was a big step for a highly-sensitive child

So overall we can see many good things coming from the time Caroline spends on Minecraft.

Parenting Challenges with Minecraft

Okay, so what are the parenting challenges associated with Minecraft? Let’s be honest. They exist.

The game is highly-engaging bordering on addictive. Caroline would spend hours and hours every day playing it and watching Minecraft videos if we would let her. But it’s not good for her neck, it’s not good for her hands, and it’s not the only thing she should be doing with her time.

That said, I also remember when I was a child and I would spend literally hours every day reading. I would lay on the couch and read until I was sick to my stomach. So what’s the difference? I was an avid reader. Caroline’s an avid Minecrafter. I suppose you can throw in the debate about whether all that screen time is good for her versus my reading books and I think that is valid.

I don’t have a solid answer for how much time is too much. We do have to cut her off because she will rarely put it down to do something else. This is a question every family will have to answer for themselves. But we do let her do Minecraft a couple of hours every day and hope that we’re making the right choice.

We have not dealt with the violence issue because she hasn’t wanted to play in Survival mode in the highest levels. I really can’t give an opinion about that aspect of it. Given her sensitive nature, I would be very surprised if she ever headed into that direction with it. I think she’ll continue to spend her time building houses, cities, gardens, spawning animals, etc. If we come to that question, then we’ll have to deal with it. At this point, that isn’t on our radar.

Not Turning Minecraft Into School

One choice we have deliberately made is to not turn Minecraft into school. There are lots of articles and ideas online about how you can use Minecraft to teach math, etc. We’re not going in that direction.

Caroline enjoys Minecraft because it is self-directed and it’s something she’s really good at on her own. If we come in, take over, and dictate to her what she’s going to start doing with it… What does that tell her? I believe she is already learning a great deal by using it. I trust that she will continue to do so. She doesn’t need us taking the pure joy out of it just so we can accomplish something on our agenda. Because we’re relaxed homeschoolers, this is something I’m comfortable with in our relaxed learning experiences. While I believe in the value of teachable moments, I also believe in allowing my child to discover her own interests on her own without my interference. This is one area where we are practicing that.

So do I recommend Minecraft? Absolutely.

Does it have value? Yes, I think it does.

Does it open up some challenging questions of parental management? Yes.

Is it worth the trouble? When I see the joy on my child’s face after she has completed some challenging task on her own, I know it is.

Increasing Your Pinterest Reach by Deleting Pins

Increasing Your Pinterest Reach by Deleting Pins

Increasing Your Pinterest Reach by Deleting Pins

With the recent changes in Pinterest, many bloggers and TPT sellers have found their repins dropping. There have been many theories about why this is and what we should do to recover. I happened across this post entitled 9 Reasons You Should Be Deleting Your Pins and found it thought-provoking.

Delete Pins and Pin Less

The bottom line in Sarah’s article is that we need to ruthlessly delete poorly performing pins,  pin only very high quality pins, and pin fewer pins. Flooding Pinterest with quantity does not work. Pinterest wants to see quality. Less is more.

I don’t have nearly as many pins or followers as Sarah, but her insights were compelling enough to make me decide to give it a try. I started going through my Pinterest boards and removing any pins that had zero repins and that I didn’t truly love. I also removed pins that had a few repins, but didn’t seem to be high quality. It does seem counter-intuitive to delete pins, but I trusted her advice.

It does seem to be working although it will take some time to know for sure. My following on Pinterest is significantly smaller than hers, but I can see a difference in my own stats.

Pinterest Group Boards

I also found her insights on why group boards are failing quite interesting. It all goes back to the bad pins. Group boards are overrun with pins that perform badly. And if they perform badly with few repins, then Pinterest thinks the board as a whole is low quality.

So for those of us who participate on group boards, we need to look carefully at which boards have pins that are consistently getting repinned and which do not. If we’re pinning to boards full of dead pins, our pins are going to perform badly as well simply because they are associated with a perceived lower quality board.

Expanding Our Pinterest Boards

One thing that I came away with is the need to expand my own personal board collection, populate them with super high quality pins, and stop spending time on group boards that are going nowhere fast. Unless the board owners are willing to purge the group boards they run, those group boards may never perform well under the new Pinterest algorithm.

Board owners purging group boards opens up an entire can of worms. I can see many pinners becoming upset if their individual pin is deleted by the board owner. I have no idea how I would handle that since I’m not a group board owner. But if you are, it’s something to think about and communicate to your members.

The bottom line for bloggers and TPT sellers? Consider deleting poorly performing pins and stick to only pinning the best stuff in reasonable amounts.

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Saying No to Church Pressures

Saying “No” to Church Pressures

 

Saying No to Church Pressures

Belonging to the body of Christ can be one of the most wonderful aspects of our lives. And belonging to the body of Christ can truly be one of the most difficult or even worst parts of our experience on earth. In this age of interconnectedness, our belonging to the body of Christ isn’t just limited to our local congregation. We can also be impacted by online relationships with other Christians around the world. So what do we do with pressures that come from being a part of the church? How do we say “no” to church pressures?

You are probably expecting some long explanation of all the things that can go wrong in a church setting and examples of these church pressures. I’m not going to do that. We all have experienced enough of that already and there is no reason to rehash all the negative. (If you truly have no idea what I’m talking about, count yourself extremely blessed.)

When it comes down to it, saying “no” to church pressures means basically one thing: Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.

It means not listening to people who try to steal your freedom in Christ.

It means not listening to those who try to draw you into their rigid rules and legalistic schemes.

It means not listening to anyone who teaches Jesus plus something else no matter how great that something else might seem.

It means, at times, stepping back and separating your relationship with Jesus from the local body or church. Even if this means leaving the church without somewhere else to go. Yes, sometimes it is necessary to leave a church in order to save your relationship with Christ.

While the body of Christ is found in the local church, not every local church or church member is a part of the body of Christ. There are many unregenerate people out there sitting in the pews and even standing in the pulpit who have no idea what it means to truly belong to Christ. There are many people who present a form of godliness, but there is no life and no Jesus in it.

I suspect you can trace almost every church pressure we experience in life back to a lack of focus Jesus and what He accomplished for us on the cross and in his resurrection. It is Jesus plus something else. Or in some cases there’s no Jesus in it at all.

Fellow believers who truly love you and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit will not feel compelled to control you and your spiritual life. Anyone who is trying to control you, manipulate you or shame you into anything church related should be avoided like the plague. In fact, even more than the plague because the plague only destroys the body. Those people will seek to destroy your soul.

This post is part of my 5 Days of Saying “No” series.

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Easy Winter Writing Project Ideas nad Writing Prompts

Easy Winter Writing Project Ideas and Writing Prompts

Easy Winter Writing Project Ideas and Writing Prompts

Winter offers so many great opportunities for creative writing projects! If you are looking for something to add a little variety to your writing time, here are some easy winter writing project ideas and writing prompts to encourage developing writing skills.

Cabin Fever Idea List

Brainstorm fun activities that can be done inside when the weather is too bad to go out. Create a list, type it up and display it somewhere in the home for when you need inspiration!

Winter Sticker Stories

Kids love stickers and they can be a great way to promote writing! Give your child a sheet of winter-themed stickers such as snowmen. As she writes, she can substitute one of the stickers each time she wants to use the word.

Winter Word Search

Brainstorm a list of winter-related words and write them on a piece of paper. Give your child a piece of graph paper and have her make a word search complete with a list of the words used in the word search. Give it to a sibling or parent to complete.

Or if you just want print and go word searches, check out my Winter Days – 10 Themed Word Search Puzzles.

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Winter Shoebox Diorama

Have your child choose one of the writing prompts below and write a short composition. Then have her create a shoebox diorama that illustrates part of the written piece. Attach the composition to the top of the box and display.

Winter Themed Writing Prompts

Here are some fun writing prompts your child might enjoy.

Winter Writing Prompts

•    When Will It Snow?
•    Too Much Snow!
•    The Case of the Backwards Footprints
•    Feeding the Squirrels When I Meant to Feed the Birds
•    The Toboggan Race
•    The Disappearing Mittens
•    The Day My Snowman Came to Life!

Winter Sports Writing Prompts

•    The Ice Skating Disaster
•    Racing Down Big Thrill Hill
•    The Day I Thought I Could Snowboard
•    Ice Fishing Rescue!
•    Runaway Snowmobile!

Polar Creatures Lapbook

If you have a reluctant writer, he/she might enjoy this Polar Creatures Lapbook! It is designed for minimal writing for children who struggle to write, but it is full of great information!

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Graphic credit

Saying No to Homeschool Pressures

Saying “No” to Homeschool Pressures

Saying No to Homeschool Pressures

If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time, you know that it comes with its own set of pressures. Choosing a homeschool philosophy, curriculum, how you structure your day, and outside activities can all bring out very strong opinions amongst homeschoolers. Those are the external pressures. There are also internal pressures. Let’s look at some of the external and internal pressures homeschoolers often experience. Then we’ll explore a few ideas for saying “no” to homeschool pressures.

External Homeschool Pressures

We’ve all experienced the external homeschool pressures. Which ones below apply to you?

Family and Friends

These can fall either way. They can be the people who secretly want you to fail because they think homeschooling is the most ridiculous idea ever and you are going to ruin your child. Or they can be the people who put pressure on you to be absolutely perfect and, in turn, try to put pressure on your children to perform whenever you are around them.

Competitive and Helicopter Homeschool Moms

Think competitive and helicopter moms only exist in the public and private schools? Think again. Competitive moms and helicopter moms exist in the homeschool world. They seem to especially like to hang out in online forums, Facebook pages and co-ops where they make sure everyone knows their child is the most awesome child ever and they are the best homeschool mom to ever walk the face of the earth.

Homeschool Know-it-alls

These could be bloggers, people in your church, people in your co-op or anyone else who has determined exactly what is and is not acceptable for all homeschoolers. They will tell you the only acceptable way to homeschool (Charlotte Mason, Classical, unschool, etc.). They will make clear the only way to schedule your day. They will set up detailed plans of how you should run your home and homeschool because they have it all figured out. Woe be unto any newbie homeschooler who dares question what they say.

Homeschool Theological Know-it-alls

These folks take the know-it-all to the next level because they not only tell you how you should homeschool, but they present what they believe are air-tight cases from the Bible that prove their every point. They are especially adept at talking but not listening.

Large Family Advocates

For some reason, there is a vocal group of homeschoolers who think that Christian = large families. If you are a Christian and not homeschooling a large family you have totally missed the boat. They can be quite aggressive.

Adoption Advocates

Although I think this has lessened in the past year or two, there has been a very vocal group of homeschoolers pushing for adoption, especially overseas adoption. And not just pushing. But basically saying if you don’t adopt an overseas child in need you must not love Jesus and you certainly aren’t following the directions from the Bible about caring for orphans.  In this case, it is Christian = multiple overseas adoptions.

So we ultimately end up with Christian = homeschool a large family with multiple overseas adoptions.

When you are a Christian homeschooler with a large family that includes multiple overseas adoptions, you have pretty much reached the pinnacle of Christian homeschooling perfection.

(In which case I am a miserable failure with my home-grown only child.)

Internal Homeschool Pressures

The pressures aren’t limited to the external. Let’s face it. We put plenty of pressure on ourselves. What kinds?

Perfectionism and Procrastination

Many people who struggle with perfectionism are well aware of that trait in themselves. But did you know procrastination is a symptom of perfectionism for some people? Whichever end of the perfectionism spectrum you fall, perfectionism can be a huge internal pressure for homeschoolers.

Have you purchased the perfect curriculum? Maybe not? Better get a different one. Have you signed your kids up for the right number of activities? Should they do more? Less? Different ones? The list is endless of things homeschool parents can obsess over in their desire to give their children the best. homeschool. experience. EVER.

Fear

There isn’t a conscientious homeschooler alive who hasn’t been gripped by an overwhelming sense of fear at least one time.

Fear that we’re ruining our kids.

Fear that our kids won’t get what they need academically.

Fear we’re doing it all wrong.

Fear that people will find out your kids actually like learning with textbooks.

There’s a lot of things that could cause us to fear.

I’m personally convinced that being gripped by momentary fear at least once in a while is an indicator you are probably doing a good job. It means you sincerely care about your child’s education and that’s a good thing. But we should never live in fear.

Saying “No” to Homeschool Pressures

So how do we say no to these pressures? We do it by regularly reminding ourselves of these important truths.

Every Child is Different

This is the bottom line. Every single child is different. There is no one way to homeschool effectively. Period. Tell yourself that every day if you have to. The more we focus on the idea that every child is different and every homeschool experience should look different, the sooner the homeschool pressures will dissipate. Some children learn differently. Some children are right-brained. Every child has unique needs, including yours.

Every Family is Different

The only correct way to homeschool your family is the way that means your children learn and you have healthy relationships in your home. How you get that done is up to you. For us it has meant adjusting expectations even to the point of homeschooling in the afternoon instead of the morning.

It doesn’t matter a bit what Superstar Homeschool Mom at co-op is doing with her kids. They don’t live in your home. And God didn’t give your kids to her. He gave them to you.

Praying and Seeking Direction

Homeschooling your children is one of the biggest challenges you will probably undertake in your life. It’s a huge deal. So we should definitely be praying and seeking direction from the Holy Spirit as we plan, teach, and disciple our children. We can scour the internet for information, ask for input in forums, and try to reason it out on our own. But asking the Lord to direct our steps in the midst of it will bring the best results and the most confidence as we move forward.

 

This post is part of my 5 Days of Saying “No” series.

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