10 Day Recap: 30 Days of Tween Parenting Encouragement Blog Party – Days 1 through 10

tween-parenting-blog-party

It's Day 10 of the 30 Days of Tween Parenting Encouragement over at Like Minding Musings!

If you haven't joined in yet, here's a recap of the wonderful tween parenting encouragement that has been going on:

Day 1: The Best Tween Parenting Advice I've Ever Received (Lee Felix)

Day 2: 3 Ways to be the Constant in Tween Parenting (Amy Michaels)

Day 3: Parenting with Purpose: Developing an Action Plan for the Tween Years and Beyond (Krystal McFalls)

Day 4: Pray Intentionally - My Teen Parenting Strategy (Tiffany Montgomery)

Day 5: Tween Parenting - 3 Tips to Give Structure Without Being Too Strict (Sara Borgstede)

Day 6: The Importance of Connecting With Your Tween (Me! ūüôā )

Day 7: Raising Mission Minded Tweens - A Two Step Approach (Emmie Manor)

Day 8: Helping Your Tween Deal with Pressure (Claire Musters)

Day 9: Parenting Tweens to Teens - Social Media Responsibility (MaKisha Reed)

Day 10: 3 Ways to Equip Your Tween with a Biblical Worldview (Marisa Boonstra)

I'm looking forward to 20 more days of tween parenting encouragement!

If you have a tween and haven't joined in yet, head over to the The 30 Days of Tween Parenting Encouragement Facebook Group and be encouraged!

How Reading Together Connects Our Family

Today, I want to share with you one of the best ways that I have found to connect with my children: through reading together.

Whether we are reading picture books, Bible stories, or chapter books, reading provides connection for my family like nothing else that I have found!

books we like to read

 

How Reading Helps Me to Connect with My Children

Reading provides physical connection. Part of connecting is being physically close.  My children love to sit close by and even have "snuggle time" when I read to them.

Reading helps my children to listen to me. My children are hearing my voice as I read to them. I truly think that this helps them to listen to me when I speak to them about other things!

Reading opens up discussions. Just talking about what the characters do in a story creates some very good conversations in our family. There are also many discussions about life lessons that books can initiate.

Reading creates special play time. I honestly cannot tell you how many times there have been that my children engage in imaginative play because of books we have read (And they love it when I play along with them!) They love to pretending to be different characters! We have had adventures as the Boxcar Children, the Characters from Little House in the Big Woods, the Miller Family, and the Animals from the Burgess Books (to name a few).

boxcar children props bennys pink cup henrys trophy blueberries bread milk and cheese
Our Boxcar Children Props, including Benny's pink cup and Henry's trophy.

WHY Connecting with Your Children Is So Important 

A few years ago I read this amazing book called Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.

This book really inspired the way that I think about connecting with my children.

The main message of the book is this:

As children grow, they begin to spend more time with other children and less time with parents. This changes their natural attachment to parents and instead attaches children to peers.

(This is due to the way our society is now set up and not the natural dynamic!)

The problem with this shift in attachment causes children to become "peer-oriented," valuing the thoughts and opinions of their peers more than those of their parents.

And this begins young (think preschool and kindergarten), but really manifests in the teen years.

The authors (A Ph.D. in child development and an M.D.) see this trend in our society as problematic. And I completely agree!

I want my children to remain attached to me and not transfer that attachment to peers because I believe that an attachment to parents is truly what's best for children.

So I encourage you to find ways to connect with your children. Reading helps me to connect with my children, but you may find something else that works better for your family.¬†ūüôā

I would love to hear from you!

Does your family enjoy reading together, too? What ways have you found to connect with your children?

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Why We Love Homeschooling Year-Round

One of the most important things that I have learned about homeschooling is that it doesn't have to look like "school at home."

While this concept includes the traditional learning style of textbooks and notebook paper and the 8:00AM to 3:00PM mentality, I have found that it also reaches much deeper than that.

It also includes the yearly homeschool schedule.

homeschool planner calendar

We homeschool year-round, and it works great for our family. Here are a few reasons why:

Flexibility in Our Schedule.

Instead of 36 weeks of the year to complete school, we have 52 weeks. This allows for a day off here and there for whatever reason without having to stress about it.

Our school fits around our life instead of our life being shaped by school.

More Frequent Breaks.

Homeschooling year round allows for more breaks during times when we want a break. We choose not to take a long summer break, but instead take more frequent breaks throughout the year.

We typically take a long break between Thanksgiving and Christmas to enjoy extra activities and to focus on the meaning of the holiday season.  And in the Spring when the weather is nice, we take more time off then as well.

We also greatly enjoy off-season vacations when the rates and crowds are lower.

Monticello homeschool field trip
Our day at Monticello early this Spring. Almost no one else was there!

To Make Learning a Lifestyle.

I grew up in a typical public school setting (as most children do) where school begins in the fall and ends at the beginning of summer.

But as I teach my own children, I have discovered that I want them to think of school as more than just a fall to summer occurrence.

I don't want them to be trained to take a vacation from learning. I want them to enjoy learning and not see it as a task to be completed.

I want my children to view learning as a lifestyle.

charlotte mason homeschool quote education is an atmosphere an discipline a life

Do you homeschool year-round? How does it work for your family?

Please leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you!

4 Reasons Why Nature Study with Young Children is Important

little flowers chickweed nature study

Some of my best memories as a child are times of being outside in nature to explore. I loved to study rocks, pick wildflowers, and chase butterflies.

I remember going on walks with my dad, who showed me interesting things. He taught me how to identify trees, showed me animal tracks in the dirt, and allowed me to help plant and harvest in his garden.

I believe that my early introduction to nature is why I grew to love it, and why I continue to love nature today. 

I have seen my children begin to develop a love for nature as well. And I've got to tell you that it thrills my heart!

Here are 4 good reasons why taking time for nature study with young children is important:

1. Nature Study Teaches Attention To Detail.

Attention to detail is a skill that will serve anyone well for an entire lifetime.

There are so many details in nature. When efforts are made to make children aware of these small wonders all around them, it's amazing how many little things they will notice on their own!

On occasion I have pointed out small insects, little flowers, and beautiful colors to my children.

nature study young child collection rocks twig flower moss

And now they are eager to show me the things they find!

2. Nature Study Encourages Exploration and Self-Directed Learning.

I don't think there is anything that stimulates more curiosity in children and a desire to research the way a new discovery in nature does.

When children see something interesting in nature, they naturally want to know more about it. So many good questions come from observing nature.

Children who have been exposed to nature study¬†seem to be sort of different in that they notice ‚Äúnature things‚ÄĚ in the city when others are only seeing the city. They¬†look for different flowers, birds, rocks, and bugs everywhere they go...

3. Nature Study is the Best Introduction to Science that a Child Can Have.

winter crocus nature study

In one way or another, nature study involves most of the sciences.

Nature study introduces concepts in Biology, Entomology, Botany, Zoology, Geology, and Astronomy just to name a few.

Chances are that children who study nature will already have some understanding (and real life experience) regarding many topics they encounter in early science books.

And because of their early hands on experiences with these topics, the subject of science will be fascinating to them.

4. Nature Study Inspires Awe and Reverence of The Creator.  

One way that God reveals Himself to us is in nature.

Psalm 19:1-3 says:

‚ÄúThe heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.‚Ä̬†

And look at Job 12:7-9:

‚ÄúBut ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Who¬†does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?‚Ä̬†

Even Jesus used the wonders of nature to illustrate truths about the Kingdom of Heaven in His parables (Parable of the 4 Soils, Parable of the Growing Seed, and others.)

forsythia blooming spring nature study

Nature is so full of God's wonder. I believe that God teaches us through nature and helps us to grow closer to Him by it.

I love the words about nature study recorded by Charlotte Mason, a well-known British educator of the late 1800s:

‚ÄúFrom the flower in the crannied wall to the glorious firmament on high, all the things of Nature proclaim without ceasing, ‚ÄėGreat and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty‚Äô ‚ÄĚ

So how do you "do" Nature Study? 

The truth is, there is no single way to do nature study. Nature study can be what you want it to be.

The important thing is to get outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and then simply take notice of the world around you.

Point things out to your children.

Observe the birds. Look closely at flowers. Watch a busy insect. Look at the details of rocks.

And just be amazed by the world around you.

For information on a more formal approach to nature study, consider these sources:

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Right Now on Amazon – The Boxcar Children Book Series #1-12 Only $3.99!

Right now Amazon has the Kindle Edition of The Boxcar Children Mysteries: Books One Through Twelve available to download for just $3.99 (regular price is $59.99)!

The Boxcar Children Series follows the life and adventures of four orphaned siblings - Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny - and everywhere they go, they find a mystery to solve.

We LOVE the Boxcar Children!

Last year, we read aloud the entire original series (Books 1 through 19) as a family. We are currently reading the newer books. My children even pretend to be the Boxcar Children sometimes, which I think is great ūüôā

You can read more about WHY we are such big fans of the Boxcar Children.

And did you know that you don't need a Kindle device to read Kindle ebooks?

Simply download the FREE Kindle Reading App that allows you to read your eBooks on ANY device including your computer! (And there are many great ebooks for the Kindle Reading App that are FREE!)

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Healthy Strawberry Banana “Ice Cream”

A Cool Valentine's Day Treat (Dairy Free and Sugar Free!) 

Healthy eating is a challenge (for children and adults alike).

My husband and I make an effort to eat a healthy diet. We try to include lots of fruits and vegetables and limit our sugar intake. And we try to teach our children to do the same.

But it's really tough.

We have a long way to go when it comes to eating super healthy.

easy strawberry banana ice cream sugar free dairy free made with Vitamix blender

And we don't always make healthy choices. But we do try, and we are teaching our children to make healthy choices as much as possible.

One of our best investments for adding fruits and vegetables to our diet was the purchase of a Vitamix Blender. We especially love using it to make a variety of smoothies and frozen treats.

It literally took us a few years to decide to purchase one because of the price. They are SO expensive! But we are so glad that we did!

I just wanted to share a recipe with you today that I made up. It's super simple and we really like it:

Strawberry Banana "Ice Cream"

You will need:

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 very ripe frozen banana (peeled)

1/2 cup cold water

drizzle of honey

Put all ingredients in Vitamix and blend on Frozen Treats Setting.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

This would probably work in a regular blender, but it may be more chunky.  (If you try it in a regular blender, let me know how it turns out!)

Click on the image to save this recipe on Pinterest ūüôā

What we absolutely love about the Vitamix is how smooth our frozen treats turn out.  This really helps children who are sensitive to certain textures of fruits and vegetables (like my daughter) to get more nutrition.

I hope you and your family enjoy this cool healthy treat.

How do you teach your children about healthy eating? I would love to hear from you. Please comment below.

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Why My Daughter is Learning Cursive

Over the past year or so, to teach or not to teach cursive handwriting has been a major topic among elementary educators.

When I first heard of this debate, I actually could not believe that this was even a discussion.

I mean, why wouldn't you learn cursive? But then I began to really think about this question.

I remember when I learned how to write in cursive in 2nd grade. I LOVED learning how to write in cursive! I still remember how "grown up" I felt when I could finally do it!

And I can't help but to think of the valuable skill that came along with learning to write in cursive: the ability to READ cursive.

writing cursive at home

I could finally read what my mother was writing and what the handwritten notes in my birthday cards from my grandmother said!

But I must say that I can understand why cursive is not a necessity in today's world of education, and how the time could be better spent developing typing and computer skills.

But this post isn't meant to be an informative post about why you should or shouldn't teach your child cursive: It's about WHY I'm teaching my daughter cursive.

And the answer is quite simple:

I'm teaching my daughter cursive because she wants to learn cursive.

My daughter came to me last week and said that she wanted to learn how to write in cursive, so I started teaching her.

In the few years that I have been teaching my children, I have found that the right time to teach them something is when they truly WANT to learn it.

(This is why I think it is best to wait until a child is ready to learn how to read and should not be pressured into reading before they are ready, but that's another post ūüôā )

Learning happens best when a child (or anyone) is truly interested in knowing something. If children are allowed to learn in this manner, I have found that it truly keeps the love of learning alive.

When I asked my 6 year old daughter why she wants to learn how to write in cursive, her answer was "because it looks pretty."

So she is learning cursive right now because it's what she wants to do, and she is learning it well and loving it too!

 

Pie Baking and Birdhouse Making: Making Time for Fun Projects as a Family

Happy New Year!

Yes, I know it's February 1st, but I took the entire month of January off from blogging ūüôā

But now I'm back and will hopefully be posting at least once a week.

I just wanted to share with you something that we have decided to do as a family each week in the year 2017.

One of our family goals for this year is to do a fun project together each week.

During the Christmas season, we did a fun project every day for 12 days.

(In case you missed it, see Our 12 Days of Christmas Crafts).

This was great fun! The children and I really enjoyed it. Since we were taking a break from official schoolwork during this time, we had extra time in our day for these craft projects.

In case you haven't noticed, we really enjoy crafts around here ūüôā

But we decided that our weekly projects of 2017 don't have to be a traditional art type craft, but just some fun activity we can do together.

We received this Peanuts Wooden Birdhouse Set as a Christmas present, so we decided make it our very first project:

painting snoopy woodstock peanuts wooden birdhouse
putting together wooden birdhouse
putting stickers on woodstock birdhouse
snoopy Woodstock peanuts wooden birdhouse art set

Other projects we have done together so far this year:

We have worked a 200-piece puzzle together.  And we have baked a peach pie from scratch.

peach pie from scratch

I know working a puzzle and baking a pie may not seem much like craft projects, but here is why that doesn't really matter:

This goal we have isn't so much about what we are making - it's more about just doing something together so that we can enjoy time with each other.

I am looking forward to many more creative family time projects this year, and I hope to share some of them with you.

What are your favorite ways to spend time with your family? How do you make time?

I would love to hear from you! Please comment below.

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

12 Days of Christmas Crafts – Day 6 – Perler Bead Ornaments

My daughter received a Perler Bead Bucket as a gift yesterday. What a terrific gift this was for her! She loves all things crafty.

If you aren't familiar with Perler Beads, basically they are craft beads that are placed on pegboards in a design and then ironed with special paper over them to slightly melt the beads together.

The finished products can be made into key chains, magnets, coasters, and many other things like Christmas ornaments.

perler beads bucket sunny days

Yes, Perler Beads can be used to make Christmas Ornaments!

So we decided to make Perler Bead Christmas Ornaments for Day 6 of 12 Days of Christmas Crafts.

If you google "Perler Bead Christmas Ornaments" or look on Pinterest, there are so many creative patterns and designs. It's really amazing what you can create out of these beads!

Most of the Christmas designs require red, green, brown, and black beads and a round or square pegboard. However,  the bucket set that she received came with pastel and bright colored beads, a Butterfly pegboard, and two flower pegboards.

While it doesn't seem like there is much we could do for Christmas with this set, we made it work (which shouldn't surprise you if you've read about how I choose crafts for my children).

We created two patterns:

A Candy Cane and Snowman.

We used the colors that came with her bucket and one of the flower pegboards.

 

 

perler bead Christmas ornaments snowman and candycane using flower pegboard

For the candy cane, we chose white and dark pink beads.

Here's how we positioned it on the flower pegboard:

perler bead candy cane Christmas ornament on flower template

For the snowman, we chose light blue beads for the eyes, an orange bead for the nose, and dark pink beads for the smile.

Then we filled in the rest of the body with white beads.

And here's what our positioning of the snowman looked like on the flower pegboard:

perler bead snowman Christmas ornament on flower pegboard

Here's how you make them stick together: 

A special type paper that came with the set (it's like wax paper) goes over the design before you iron it.

According the instructions, your iron should be set to medium dry heat.

Iron over the design for 10 to 20 seconds until you see that the beads are starting to melt together.

how to iron perler beads. what the paper looks like that goes over your design

You can iron both sides if you want a more melted look, or you can iron just one side.

We chose to iron both sides for the  candy cane, but just one side for the snowman.

We just added a piece of thread through the hole of the top bead to complete the ornament.

Instead of thread, you could use a regular metal ornament hook.

We really enjoyed making these perler bead Christmas ornaments.

perler bead snowman and candy cane Christmas tree ornaments

I think this is just the beginning of perler bead crafts for us!

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

perler bead Christmas tree ornaments candy cane and snowman

If you are looking for more great Christmas crafts, check out other posts in the 12 Days of Christmas Crafts Series:

Paper Plate Christmas Trees (Day 1)
Handprint Reindeer Christmas Ornaments (Day 2)

Have you ever used Perler Beads? What is your experience with them?

I would love to hear from you! Please comment below.

12 Days of Christmas Crafts – Day 2 – Handprint Reindeer Ornaments

When I first saw these on Pinterest, I knew we would be making them!

I think handprint crafts are adorable, and these Handprint Reindeer Ornaments are no exception.

I love how they looking hanging on our Christmas tree, don't you?

Here's how we made our Handprint Reindeer Ornaments, and you can too:

To get started, you will need:

Handprint Reindeer Ornament Christmas Craft

Brown Construction Paper or Cardstock

Pencil

Scissors

Small Pompoms

Wiggle Eyes

Small Decorations (1/4 to 1/2") such as foam shapes and foil star stickers

Hole Punch

Pipe Cleaners

Glue

First, trace your child's hand.

Or your child may be able to do this alone depending on their age/fine motor skill level.

We used brown construction paper because it's what we had, but I think it would be better to use Brown Cardstock since it is thicker and would hold the weight of the decorations better.

child tracing hand for reindeer handprint ornament craft

Next, cut out the hand print.

Now it's time to transform your cute little handprint into a cute little reindeer!

We chose a red pipe cleaner for the antlers, a black small pompom for the nose, and small foam shapes and Foil Star Stickers to decorate it.

 

pieces-for-the-reindeer

Time to glue the pieces!

Glue the wiggle eye and pompom nose onto the handprint.

Then, choose 3 small decoration pieces for the reindeer's body.

We used the foil star stickers and a heart shaped foam piece.

Gluing pieces on the reindeer handprint ornament

Cut the pipe cleaner into pieces as shown in the picture.

This step is best to be completed by an adult since pipe cleaners do not cut very easily.

**WARNING** The ends of cut pipe cleaners are very sharp so be careful when handling them in this step and the next.

cutting the antlers for the handprint reindeer ornament craft

Assemble the Antlers.

Twist 2 of the small pipe cleaners onto one side of the larger piece.

Only do this for one side right now.

putting antlers on the reindeer handprint Christmas ornament craft

Punch a hole about 1/2 inch behind the eye for attaching the antlers.

Now put the half assembled antlers through the hole and twist the pipe cleaner a few times near the reindeer's head.

Now you can complete the antlers by adding the other two small pipe cleaner pieces to the other side.

The pipe cleaners were a bit heavy for the construction paper, so we had to add a piece of tape on the back (This is why I think using cardstock would be a better choice for this craft).

handprint reindeer Christmas ornament

You don't have to add hooves, but at this point my children decided that their reindeer should have hooves.

My daughter cut small black pieces of construction paper for her reindeer's hooves so they would "look like real reindeer hooves."

My 3 year old chose more shapes for his.

Punch two more holes in the reindeer's back to add the Christmas Tree Hanger.

They should be about an inch apart.

Put a piece of pipe cleaner through and twist.

If you are using cardstock, a simple piece of ribbon or yarn with only one hole would probably work well.

Your handprint reindeer is finished!

finished handprint reindeer Christmas ornament with hanger

And here are the finished handprint reindeer ornaments!!

I think they turned out really well. What do you think?

You can pin this craft on Pinterest if you would like to try it later with your children! And you can follow me on Pinterest for more craft ideas and tips on teaching your children at home.

If you are looking for more great Christmas crafts, check out other posts in the 12 Days of Christmas Crafts Series:

Paper Plate Christmas Trees (Day 1)

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

I would love to hear from you! Please comment below.