How I Survive the Summer with Kids

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Hi there!

One thing I really like about summer, is that my house is cleaner than any other time of year; not because I clean more (I am Not the best housewife), but because my kids clean more. (Woohoo!!)

A few years ago I ran into a great post on Pinterest on how one mom kept her kids from driving her nuts during the summer. She started her own summer camp. I loved the idea and ran with it, researching a few different methods and finally coming up with my own.

I have 7 categories of task that each kid can accomplish. Depending on their ages, they have to do 3, 5, or all 7 of the tasks. Each task is made more difficult as each kid grows older. I give them a checklist that they can check off the tasks as they complete them.

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If they want anything beyond the necessities from me, they have to complete their daily number of required tasks. So when they come asking to play Wii (or any other computer/video game), I ask, “Have you finished your checklist?” The same goes for when they want to do any activity that requires making a mess or adult supervision.

The 7 categories are as follow:

  1. TIDY UP YOUR ROOM: Make your bed, dirty clothes in hamper, clean clothes in drawers, stuff put away
  2. READING: Pick a book from the library books or from the bookshelves
  3. WRITING: Write a page in your journal, write a story, write about what happened yesterday
  4. EXERCISE: Go Outside! Do a physical activity, run a race, or play a sport in the backyard, bounce on the trampoline
  5. BRAIN WORK: Exercise your brain by doing a page or worksheet in math, science, history, another language, etc.
  6. GOSPEL STUDY: Study a gospel topic or read your scriptures for a set amount of time
  7. HELP THE HOME: Do a chore to help out – sweep the kitchen, vacuum a room, clean the bathroom mirrors and sinks, load or unload the dishwasher

This system has helped me to have a little less chaos during the restless summer months, especially as kids of all ages (from our first marriages) rotate in and out of the house. Regardless of age, when the kids have something to do, they spend MUCH less time creating trouble. And this helps them learn good habits. AND my house gets much cleaner! Hehehe.

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Thanks for reading my post. I hope you picked up something you can use. Please feel free to comment with ideas that help you through the summers.

Blessings,
Sarah

 

My 2017-2018 Curriculum Plan

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Hi there!

So school is about to start and I’m spending time putting together my lesson plan and gearing up for school to start. We’re starting early this year to coincide with the kids’ new “Monday school.” Monday school is a one day a week enrichment program for homeschoolers in my area, where the kids get to do Art, PE, and other classes I don’t usually focus on. I am better at teaching the “core” curriculum, so Monday school is perfect for balancing my kiddos out.

I am definitely more of a classical method teacher than a crafty teacher. I have often beat myself up over not being able to help my kids get creatively messy. But it’s just NOT one of my strengths. So I was VERY grateful to find this enrichment program. Now my kiddos get social skills and messy and creative, and I don’t have to clean it up! (Heehee, Woohoo!)

Anyway, this is my 3rd year homeschooling and I’m just starting to get into a routine that I like. Though I realize that will be turned upside down by adding my kindergartner.

My oldest homeschooled kid is starting Second Grade and we are both excited for the new year. I’ve decided to use the following books for my core subjects this year:

For Scripture Study, we will be reading through the New Testament, I have a manual from Sunday School (Primary 7) that I use to hit the highlights and teach the gospel topics. The picture shows the Old Testament book (Primary 6) because we haven’t received the New Testament book yet (see my note in the next paragraph about being a bit behind my plan). I chose Old Testament last year to coordinate (loosely) with the History curriculum, which started with Ancient Times. So this year we will continue forward in time.

For History, we will continue using Story of the World. We will start on Volume 2: The Middle Ages in October or November. We moved across the country last November so we fell behind quite a bit. I had hoped we would get more done during the summer, but it’s summer… I let go of stressing about it months ago. After all, this is part of why we homeschool. We don’t have to be slaves to a book’s beginning and ending. This year should be much more stable so I expect we’ll make good progress.
(On a side note, while we were packing and moving and unpacking, we were using unit studies and life lessons on the days that we could.)

For Language Arts, we are using 2 different books; for Grammar we’re studying First Language Lessons, and for Spelling we’re using All About Spelling Level 2.

For Math, I’m trying out Lessons For a Living Education. I wanted a curriculum that balanced worksheets with real world examples and this seems to do it nicely. It also doesn’t overwhelm my kiddo with dozens of practice problems. It has a nice balance between practicing new skills and reviewing old ones. So far my son really likes it. And he can do it mostly independently, so I like it too. This is the first time I’ve stuck with a Math curriculum for more than a week, so I’m very pleased with it (we’ve been using it since April).

This year I’ve decided to add something new into the mix, with Manners Made Easy For the Family: 365 Timeless Etiquette Tips for Every Occasion. I’m going to try one tip per week and see how it works. Also for Life Skills, each child has a chore to do for the home (on top of keeping their room and bed tidy). I’ll do another post on how I do this later.

Of course, all of my kids will be expected to read to himself each day and sit and listen while I read-aloud. This year we are going to start with Aesop’s Fables and then move to Fairy Tales as we get further into the middle ages.

For my kindergartner, I’m still not going to do a full schedule. But for her part-day, 5-10 minute lessons, I am going to have her join us for Scripture Study, History, and Manners. Then we’ll work on Handwriting and an occasional All About Spelling (Level 1) lesson for Language Arts. One thing I really like about All About Spelling is that I can help her learn how to spell without her having to write the words. Her handwriting is struggling quite a bit, but the tiles AAS uses helps her learn the methods and rules without requiring her fine motor skills to be perfect. We’ll round out the plan with Math games or manipulatives.

My toddler preschooler will join us when he feels like it. I have books and busy boxes for him when he feels like hanging out in the school room with us. He wants to be close to us most of the time, but sometimes he wanders off into the play room for awhile.

(FYI: For your convenience I’ve linked to the sites for the curriculum I use, so you can research them more if you like. But I don’t get anything if you follow the links, so I don’t have a “disclosure policy.”)

So there it is, I’ll do another post later on how I organize my kids to be more independent, as well as one on how I organize myself. But this is enough for now.

Good Luck and God Bless on your journey! And please feel free to add your comments below on what works for you.

Blessings!
Sarah

Author Interview – Rebecca Yarros

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Hi there!

I just finished a wonderful interview with the Amazing author Rebecca Yarros! I absolutely LOVE her writing style and subject matter, though (honestly) I’m not really into the genre she publishes in (YA).

She had some fantastic advice for me and asked that I pay it forward, so here is my first, but certainly not last attempt at passing on her advice.

First off, this is all based on me having a second draft manuscript, and having¬†already started on my author platform. If you haven’t done that yet, take a look at this article. Second, Rebecca is traditionally published, so she went through the onerous process of finding an agent to get published.

So on to the goods:

  1. Don’t submit a draft manuscript. You need to make sure your manuscript is the cleanest, most polished, best developed story you can turn out, before you send it to your first agent. In order to do that…
  2. You need a tribe. Search Google for local writing groups. Go sit in on local workshops, conferences, etc. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a 200 word children’s book, or if it’s a 100K+ fiction, you need people to tell you what’s wrong with your book. And, believe me, there’s something wrong with it. Which leads me to…
  3. You need a thick skin. You will be rejected, criticized, and attacked. You need to find a way to get used to it and let it fall off you. Separate yourself from the work, and be prepared for 1 star reviews. Rebecca has a folder in her email labelled “Too Bad For Them,” that’s where she files her rejection letters from agents, — after she learns from them. Be sure to listen to the criticism because it can help you get better, but don’t let it slow you down from sharing your bit of awesome with the world. As for finding an agent…
  4. Try Querytracker.net. They have a listing of practically all the agents in the business. Search for agents in your genre. As you find them…
  5. Make an ABC list. Sort the agents into A’s – amazing, top of heap, awesome (most likely closed to queries), B’s – really good, this would work for me (probably also closed), and C’s – probably new, open to queries, might be able to get you started. And how do you know who’s awesome and who is as green as you…
  6. Research the agents. Go to their website, follow them on twitter. Get to know what they are looking for. Get to know which Authors they already rep. But don’t become a crazy stalker! Another great way, possibly Best way to get to know agents…
  7. Go to a Writer’s Conference. Research the conferences. Take workshops on writing, query letters, etc. Sit on panels where you critique others’ query letters. And, this bit can be expensive, but sign up for 1 on 1 pitching sessions. You get 5 minutes with top agents and their feedback can be invaluable. But most importantly…
  8. Be patient! Finding the right agent for you takes time. When you send out your query letters, send only a handful at a time. Then be prepared to wait 6 weeks before following up, with a nudge. If you get a rejection letter, that’s better than nothing. And if you get critiques, that’s awesome! You can use their advice to get better before you send your query out the next batch. It’ll take awhile, but use the time to strengthen your platform and write!

So basically keep going, keep growing, and keep it up. MANY Thanks to Rebecca and Good Luck and God Bless to you, me, and anyone else who needs it. See you out there!

Blessings,
Sarah

Some Days Are Better Than Others…

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There’s a country and western song for that… “Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug.”

Today I feel like I’m the bug. I used to struggle with depression daily, for years. So I have a familiar rut I crawl into when I get overwhelmed. And I did that this morning, after getting out of bed, getting dressed, and starting the day, — the despair hit. I tried looking at the budget again to see how we’re going to make it work. I was trying to find that silver lining, that bright spot in a sea of dark. But all I found was more reasons to lose hope. I feel like we’re drowning.

So I shut down.

I went back to my room and crawled back into bed. I didn’t feel like I had the strength to hold myself up anymore. My whole body felt like it was being dragged to the ground. So I lied down and hid under my husband’s pillow.

And then I heard my stepson get up. I hoped that he would feed my little ones breakfast so that I wouldn’t have to get up and move. He didn’t. He told my 2 year old to wait for mama. And then, in answer to the little ones request, he opened the back door so he could go play outside. So, here then I have a teenager eating breakfast alone, 2 kids playing a game upstairs in their room, and the youngest outside in his pj’s with the rains from the night still on the ground.

I HAD to get up. It was time to be mommy.

But I couldn’t. My arms and legs still wouldn’t move. I tried to tell myself he would be ok, after all, it’s July, it’s 75 degrees outside. I can lie here for a few more minutes. …

Then the argument in my head began. First the mommy voice, then the despair, then the mommy, then the despair, then the voice that was upset about the battle inside my own head. And for the first time in at least a decade, I had voices in my head fighting with each other.

I started sobbing. I couldn’t take it, I was overwhelmed.

I started talking to God. I told Him that I knew He was there. I asked Him for help, — and told Him I didn’t want it. I told Him I knew He could get me through it, — and I told Him I didn’t care. Basically, I brought Him into my internal battle.

Then He gave me the answer. “The very fact that you are here is the proof that you will get through this.” Oh!

In other words, you are being dragged down into the darkness because you are on the edge of the dawn. You are drowning because the dam is about to break. It’s going to work out, and you know it will, because you are being attacked by your demons!

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TADA!!

That was the epiphany the I needed.
I recovered my strength.
I got up.
I dressed my youngest and fed my kids breakfast.

And Now, I am Mommy again!

I don’t have any idea how we are going to fix our budget woes, but I know the answer is right around the corner. Why else would the adversary be using so much effort to hold me back? Something great is on it’s way. And I can have faith and know that All is Well.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read through all of this! If you have had similar experiences, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Gratefully,
Sarah

 

Drowning Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash
Sunrise Photo by Blake Richard Verdoorn on Unsplash

The TRULY Most Offensive Word in America — Submissive!

 

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The first in my series on values, I’m tackling one of the most reviled, Submission!
This has been on my mind for a long while, and though I’ve tried writing about it many times, I’ve been too nervous to really start. That said, here I go!

First off, a little background; I was raised unchristian, by that I mean I learned to look to every source of wisdom and teaching EXCEPT to Christ. I was a heathen, a pagan, an atheist, an agnostic, a buddhist, a selfian, a humanist, and primarily of the school of “If It Feels Good, Do It!” Not surprisingly, I suffered from depression for more than a decade, with suicidal ideation at times. I felt lost and empty. I filled the hole in my heart (and soul) with cheap and meaningless relationships, and recreational chemicals. I hurt everyone around me, and was hurt by them. And I ended up married to a man who understood manipulation better than love. And through all of that, I abhorred the terms submission, obedience, repentance, prayer, etc. I grew to believe the words represented holding someone down, chaining them, forcing them – in general they meant slavery to me. The sad irony was that I was already a slave.

Yet through it all I was still seeking for Light and Truth. And one day I finally found it. Unlike many who turned to Christ after falling to their deepest low, I was starting to finally succeed. As a child, my family was transient and homeless at times. My parents divorced when I was 4, and their perfect American dreamed exploded in the fury. With it, their faith was shaken, especially my mom’s. Despite her lack of financial prowess, my mother placed a very high priority on education. She did everything in her power and more to send us to the best public schools in the city, sometimes causing us to drive 45 minutes every morning to get there. After receiving my High School diploma in what I believe to be the best public high school in Colorado (at the time, anyway), I was easily accepted into college. Five years and many part time jobs later (up to 4 at a time one summer), I had my Bachelor’s, and after a few years of struggling found a perfectly middle-class white collar job.

Finally, my life was starting to make sense. I had a husband, a baby, a new job, and was even renting a spacious 4-bedroom home in Highlands Ranch (suburb of Denver, the capital of Colorado). It was my success in my new suburban life that awoke me to the realization that something fundamental was missing…

I finally figured out that I really had looked everywhere else, and that I was avoiding turning to Him. As I learned more about the Gospel, the church, etc. I ran into these words that I had reviled against. I plan to devote a post or more to each one, but this one has been on my mind much in the past few days especially. Two of the triggers that stirred my thoughts on this topic are found at Kristi Clover and at Women Living Well. The former article I read 2 years ago, and the latter just yesterday. In both articles the authors succinctly spell out the Bible’s teachings on the subject. But I wanted to add my more personal perspective as well on how this virtue has enhanced my life and deepened my daily peace.

It’s important to note that I define submission very differently than in my youth. As a feminist, I equated submission with slavery, willing or not. But now that I have an eternal perspective, I can see submission as a natural part of every healthy relationship. [Please understand this does NOT mean submission should be part of an unhealthy relationship, especially a manipulative or abusive one (I have experienced this, so I get it).] A student submits to his teacher if he is to learn anything. A child submits to his parents when being taught, especially regarding safety. A church-goer submits to his bishop’s INSPIRED guidance to draw closer to Christ. A disciple submits to Christ as the ultimate teacher, counselor, and King. And, the most controversial of all, a wife submits to her husband to strengthen their marriage.

I know that learning to control my nagging, controlling, over-worrying, and competition with my husband has strengthened our relationship deeply (I should mention that I am on my second marriage now; I and the husband I mentioned earlier failed to learn how to build a strong marriage). I have learned how to love my husband better by allowing the Lord to teach him, rather than trying to “fix” him myself. I take a deep breath and bite my tongue. I let him make mistakes and I try really hard not to say “I told you so.” In doing so, I show him more respect, and that respect is returned back to me. Submission to me means letting him be the man the Lord created. It means allowing him to strengthen his innate strengths as a husband, father, and provider by making the final decisions for our family. It means curbing my natural desire to pressure him, and instead providing my counsel and letting him make the final call. It means trusting his “gut,” and helping him by allowing him to do the same. I’ll admit, sometimes it doesn’t work out for the best, sometimes we’re driving around in circles adding 10 minutes to our delay. But that 10 minutes is WELL worth the moment that comes later, when he humbly says, “Thank you for not pushing me.” My husband and I draw closer through allowing each other to grow our own way. I humble myself and follow his guidance, and he humbles himself and tries to listen to me more.

We grow closer and create an eternal marriage. We trust each other and are at peace in our daily relationship. We lean on each other, strengthen each other, and support each other. I am content, at peace, and often joyful, even in the midst of extreme stress. That is worth all the individualism in the world.

Thank you for sitting through all of this post. I appreciate your time. Feel free to add your comments below, though understand that I will not approve any that are attacks on anyone. I would love to hear how you have grown through coming to peace with this Christlike virtue.

Blessings,
Sarah

Parenting and Tempers Don’t Mix Well

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So I’ve been researching how to parent better for over a decade now (see my previous post, I Have Difficult Children), it’s an ongoing thing. Anyway yesterday I was reading a great article about keeping calm when doling out consequences (The Distracted Mom) and remembering the advice received in the parenting class I had to take after my dear boy, Aagh was diagnosed with O.D.D. (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). I took the class back in February, so I had practiced the methods that The Distracted Mom described. And I have seen them work.

However, I am not good at keeping my cool on a day-to-day basis. More often than I’d like to admit, I am frustrated with myself for hollering at the kids, again. So, I’m working on it. But I’m still human, last I checked.

Feel free to comment with your commiserations and/or techniques for keeping cool.

Thanks again!

Sarah