I have talked about children’s ‘SPARKS’ in numerous articles and in my book,Becoming A Present Parent. In fact, the issue of Sparks came up in last week’s comments – Can Children LOVE Learning?What’s a Spark, you may ask? Well, a Spark is anything that a child says or does that lets you know they’re interested in something right now. Sparks are valuable regardless of how you choose to educate your children.
My daughter Kate is not a homeschooling mom. However, last year, due to Covid, she became one. It isn’t something she plans to continue doing. But she, like most moms, is interested in teaching her children about life, core values, people, events, and other worthwhile topics. This type of learning occurs well in the family and home. Recently, Kate shared a person of interest with her children, Tessa and Elliott – Lily Hevesh,@hevesh5 a well-known domino artist. Elliott and Tessa have been in love with dominos for years. Tessa and Elliott were intrigued by this woman artist and what she had accomplished. For well over an hour, they worked on their own domino creations. My daughter sent me photos and included these words – ‘Light a spark and watch it burn!’ I loved it because those are my words. I didn’t even know she was paying attention to them. : )
A. Be Present. Do you want to know the number one way to see and hear your child’s Sparks? BE PRESENT. When we’re Present in all the mundane moments of a family’s day, we will see and hear what we may have missed up until now.
It’s hard to see Sparks if your head is filled with your schedule or if you’re engrossed in your technology. It’s hard to ‘see’ if you’re trying to avoid becoming involved or prevent a mess. You can’t see if you’re so busy working that the Spark appears to be an irritation or problem.
B. Ask good questions. You can jump-start your ability to see your children’s Sparks by asking yourself questions:
• What activity do you have to make them stop doing to get them to eat or go to sleep?
• What activity are they doing when they seem most engaged and alive?
• When they get to choose what to do on a free afternoon, what activity do they choose?
• What did they love to do when they were three years old? Five years old?
• What are they currently doing that bugs you?
• What do they do that’s making a mess?
• What do they collect?
C. Have mini-conversations.
• Share your Sparks, and they may share theirs
• Say “You’re very good at this”
• Say “You seem interested in this”
• Say, “This appears to make you happy/excited.”
• Ask, “Have you ever thought of . . . .”
• Say, “I had a great day today.”
• At dinner, ask “What was the best part of your day?” and have each person share
Pay attention to what keeps coming up over and over again in their answers and their conversations.
When we are in tune with what interests our children now, we can watch them experience joy just as Kate watched it happen for her children. Let others know how to do it too. : )
For many families, school has begun in earnest. Whether you are using the public system, a private system, or homeschooling, September usually means we are deep into it. Some years back, I wrote an article about how to help children remain lifelong learners, to become lovers of learning.
As I reread it, I was reminded of the value of helping our children love learning new things, to not be intimidated by what they do not already know. We don’t have total control if we use the public system or a private system to educate our kids. However, we always have control over what happens in our homes and between our children and us.
Homeschool parents are not immune to things that can take away a child’s love of learning. So often, there is the pressure to make sure our kids are up to par because parents may feel the need to prove they aren’t ‘ruining’ their kids. I have homeschooled, and I know that pressure!
I feel the information is as pertinent today as it was when I first wrote it. I hope you enjoy the read and that it gives you an idea or two that you can institute into your home to help your kids become lifelong learners by choice.
“But I must again repeat it, that the great secret of education lies in finding out the proper means of making young minds fall in love with useful researches…”
-George Turnbull, Observations upon Liberal Education, written in 1742
This is an interesting premise. If we can discern how to help children fall in love with learning, they can receive an excellent education because they want to.
I believe this love of learning comes naturally to children. I’m sure you have observed how children learn. Just watch a baby learning to use their hands. They are not discouraged by how long it takes to gain mastery over the hand. They just keep working at it. No one tries to help a baby learn to use their hands. We just watch them and encourage them and let them work it out. The same goes for learning to hold a spoon, walking, putting on a shirt, etc. We provide the spoon and the shirt and support and encouragement, but basically, let them work it out.
Watch an eight-year-old building a fort. They are dogged when it comes to a project like this and, if left to their own devices, will figure it out and enjoy every bit of the process. The finished product may leave a bit to be desired in our adult minds, but the child will be thrilled with his effort.
Herein lies part of the problem of maintaining a love of learning. The parent might comment on the unsafe condition of the floor or walls; how many nails they used, what of this or that could be better, the pile of accumulated debris. Then the comment, “Here, let me help you with this.” Both teachers and parents must be careful not to damage a child’s confidence in their efforts to help. They also need to be cautious about sending the ‘you didn’t really do a good job’ message.
Sometimes parents have a fear that their child might be left behind, in some way found wanting, or not be able to compete in the adult world effectively. Often, if children march to a different drummer, it makes us nervous. Occasionally a child doesn’t fit on the usual timeline for learning something, such as reading or math.
Our eagerness to help them can sometimes do more harm than good. If we are too energetic in our efforts, we can even cause a ‘hate of learning.’ We often fall into this trap regarding the ‘academic’ subjects or things that cause us inconvenience. School teachers are not immune to these same errors. Pushing too hard and criticism make loving a new skill or topic difficult for kids.
Ten Ways to Foster a Love of Learning
So, what are some ways that we can encourage learning in any subject, even academics, without squashing the child’s own natural desire to learn?
1. Provide a safe and loving atmosphere for learning, more support, less pressure. Safer support would have helped me when it came to math. I loved math, but I was terrible at it. The harder the adults pushed, the more challenging it was to learn. It seemed to slow down my brain. Later, as an adult, I realized that I had a learning difficulty. I wish I had felt supported and safe when it came to math but I, instead, felt judged.
2. Provide inspiring materials. Expose children to inspiring music, great art, good books, etc. When I was of middle school age and into high school, I was teased by my friends because I read all the wrong stuff. That is because my dad had so many great books. I couldn’t help myself. What my friends were reading seemed lame. : )
My mother sang beautifully. She didn’t sing opera, but she played it, and she sang songs from Broadway. I didn’t listen to the same music as my peers. Yes, they did think I was a bit odd, but I had been exposed to the beauty of literature, art, and music. It changed how I saw the world.
If you want help exposing your kids to great art and literature, check out thisexcellent website. The Well Educated Heart (aka Libraries of Hope) is a restoration of stories from the golden age of children’s literature. Marlene Peterson has reconnected the modern generation of parents and children to the classic but forgotten stories that have instilled virtue and character in the hearts of generations past.
3. Read as a family on a regular, consistent basis. Reading as a familyhas great benefits. Even now, when my family consists of three people over seventy, I have written about the huge impact our family reading has had. This one thing will make a difference in your family and your children’s love of learning.
4. Inspire curiosity and then leave them to the wonder of experimentation and self-discovery. My grandson, Ben, loves this! Let them, experiment, fail, make a mess, etc. It leads to learning.
5. Leave plenty of time for thinking, playing, and being with family. Avoid too many lessons, clubs, and classes that adults manage. I have often written of the value of being at home, together, talking, reading, and playing. It takes effort to make this happen in our busy world of technology, but you will be well rewarded for the effort. Gotta put away the phone for at least a couple of hours each week. It takes dedication on a parent’s part, but you can do it.I’ve seen it.
6. Remember that play is the work of children. Encourage your kids to go outside and be in nature. Let them work stuff out together without adult supervision. Experiment with time off from technology. Organized sports and clubs don’t count. When kids are free to play and use their imagination, it does a body good.
7. Be patient with the learning process. I know I would have had a better outcome with math if those who taught me and those at home who felt responsible for my learning, would have been more patient with my timeline. I had a learning difficulty. Back in those days, we didn’t even know what that was. But there was such a push to move me along with everyone else that it became harder and harder to learn.
8. Learn to recognize and respond to Sparks.Sparks tell you what your child is interested in right now and may develop a passion for later. They are usually the things that bug you or make a mess. However, if you follow your child’s lead, you can both have a remarkable learning opportunity together.
9. Enjoy learning yourself. I read because my dad read and made books available. My mom read to us. She played all kinds of music and sang for us. My mom and dad taught themselves to run several brick-and-mortar businesses. They were always learning something new. It helped me be brave and willing to learn new things This example has served me well! Right now, at 71, I am learning Spanish!
10. Share what you are learning with your children. I would have loved to have more conversations with my mom and dad about what they were doing, reading, and learning. I know it would have helped me, but their example was all they could give at the time. So, give your children a bit more. Let them know what you are learning about.
When we safeguard this natural love of learning, we set the child on the road to success when they are ready for deeper levels of knowledge. They will be prepared to flourish in high school and college studies. They will do as George Turnbull suggests; they will seek out an excellent education.
Send these tips along to your friends who have to deal with the pressures of school, any type of school. They will thank you for it. : )
In our district, kids are going back to school only two days a week. WHAT!!That will leave a lot of parents with kids who want to do something fun and connect, as well as learn. Here is something that will help you out! : )
I began teaching and speaking over a decade ago. I focused on a learning tool that, at that time, was called The Closet. The printer said he loved my Closet Mastery Course but had to look inside because he wondered if I was training people to come out of the Closet. It also seemed odd to call this tool The Closet and then tell people they can use a box, a bag, or any old container that they would like – or even no container. So, the name was changed to The Spark Station.
When I began teaching this tool, my audience was almost exclusively homeschooling parents. The Spark Station initially helped kids want to learn so that the homeschool process would be less stressful. However, over the years, I realized what a fantastic, fun, and engaging tool it was for connection. My message morphed and eventually became a book, Becoming a Present Parent: How to Connect With Your Children In five Minutes or Less.
The Spark Station has lived beyond homeschool because
it’s a beautiful way to ‘play’ and connect with kids. This is a boon for adults like me, who are a little play adverse.
Years ago, I created a 13-audio course about the Spark Station. This year I have offered the entire thing to all my readers FREE. It is in its original homeschool format, but all principles, rules of engagement, and outcomes apply broadly across the parenting spectrum. Over the next few months, I will create a multi-part series of articles on the Spark Station to help you use it in your home. It’s WONDERFUL, FUN, and EXCITING for kids! It is useful for toddlers, children, and teens.
The Spark Station – Part 1 What is The Spark Station
I used to say, “So what is the definition of the Spark Station? Simply put, it is a space where parents have put items that they think will inspire their children to explore further and learn.” Then I had a mom tell me she was on audio five before she finally understood what The Spark Station was.
Now I say it differently. The Spark Station is a tool you can create. It can be an actual closet or a box, a dresser, or any other place you can put new items to share with your children. It’s not the same as a storage space where you keep your learning materials, books, and craft items. Its purpose is to create a time and place when your children will be exposed to new and exciting ideas or be able to engage in things that already interest them, and where parents connect with their kids. It’s a time and space where both adults and kids can share what they feel joy or passion in, and what interests them, their SPARKS. I’ll share information on how powerful SPARKS can be.
You can use the Spark Station at a set time each week, say on a Sunday afternoon. You can also use it anytime you feel like it. You can use it as part of your school day if you homeschool. Dad can use it to connect after long days at work. However, it is not to be used by children alone because you want your own time. It’s important to remember that it is a connection tool and that can’t happen if you are occupied elsewhere. Another important thing is that when kids use it alone, it turns into a mess quickly, and then no one uses it. This is one of the five critical rules which I will cover in another article.
What I want to accomplish here is to encourage you to begin listening to the FREE course. If you don’t have time for a 13-audio course, then view this one audio. It will give you enough information to determine if this is something you want to have in your ‘connection’ arsenal. Or you can read each installment of the series of articles titles Spark Station Basics as they are published.
I’ll end today with some pictures of Spark Stations. You will see how diverse they are and how fun they look. : ) You will notice that they are large and small, fancy and simple, for little kids and big kids. They are all different!
But before I show the pictures, here is a letter from a mom who took the leap and gave it a shot.
“The Spark Station and The Spark Station Mastery Course really work! I just had to share my experience with all of you. I finished lesson 5 of theSpark Station Mastery Course yesterday. I went through my home to see what I could find. I cleaned out the entertainment center (that is what we are using for our Spark Station). I was excited but nervous.
‘I found sand in the garage that I forgot we had, rice, material, art supplies, wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs, math wrap-ups, and the list goes on. I filled totes with the items I wanted to start with. The kids saw me doing this and were anxious to know when they could use all that cool stuff.
‘I dyed the sand; I dyed the rice, and I put the stuff in the Spark Station this morning. We did our devotional, and then we talked about how the Spark Station would work. I was really nervous.
‘The kids immediately went to the fabric and wanted to make capes. Unfortunately, the pieces we had were rather small, so we talked about using those pieces for other things and talked about how much fabric we will need to make a cape (it will appear in the Spark Station soon).
‘Then they found the colored sand, mason jars, and lids that I had in there. They used the funnel in the box to help pour sand into the jars and make beautiful designs with different colored layers of sand. While the older three were working with the sand, I pulled out the rice tub and set it up on a blanket. I had spoons, cups, bowls, etc. in with the rice. I just let it sit there, and as soon as my 18-month-old saw it, he was occupied until The older kids went to play with him when they finished.
‘When they bored with the rice, my older son pulled out the art box. He found cupcake liners in the box. Immediately the girls wanted some too. They asked me what they could use them for, and I told them anything they wanted. They seemed unsure; I told them I could see making a pretty flower. My son immediately said he wasn’t going to make a flower; he thought his would make a great head for a lion. They glued their cupcake liners to the paper and used the chalk in the box to draw the rest of their pictures.
‘I just sat there and grinned the entire time. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Why was I so afraid of this, it’s not scary, it’s incredible? I now have a…tool at my fingertips that gives me the perfect way to my kids. I can’t wait for tomorrow, and neither can my children.” Stacey S.
Please take a look at The Spark Station Mastery Course; it’s FREE.
Does your family have a good way to connect and do you use it consistently?
How would it impact your family if you added this one thing – consistent family play for connection?
Focus on what ties you together and your family can never fall apart. family.lovetoknow.com
Recently, my 45-year-old son graduated from college with a bachelor’s in philosophy. It wasn’t easy because he has a past that could have made it impossible.
When Seth was a small boy, he had some experiences which hurt his heart and soul. Sometimes, no matter how carefully we try to guard our children bad things can happen. This set him on a troubled road. He used drugs, dropped out of high school, went to jail, and was sentenced to the D.O.C. (Department of Corrections) and a work-release program. He stole some cigarettes from a closed gas station and received a felony that would make life hard.
The future looked poor. However, he was a good person, as most of us are. When his son was born, he decided to make a change. It wasn’t easy because of the past. People weren’t sure they could trust him and so they didn’t want to risk giving him a chance. He just kept looking and eventually, he found a man and a company that employed him. He worked in an underground mine running a huge haul truck and eventually became an underground miner.
However, after just a couple of years, his body wouldn’t take the shaking and jolting of the machine any longer and he was back on the hunt. He was hired at a scrap mental company sorting metal.
Setting the Goal and Sticking With It
Seth had a goal to make something of his life so he could be an example for his son and he became one of the BEST scrap mental sorters they had. Eventually, he was promoted and found himself running the front office involving the 20-ton scale and the selling and buying of scrap metals. Then during the market collapse of 2007, Seth was laid off.
He eventually found a job as a machinist and was promoted after a couple of years to the position of Quality Management Systems Specialist creating a Quality Management System training program and taught it to the employees at his plant and others in the state. This was the job that changed the direction of his life. He began to believe that he was smart enough and capable of returning to school.
While Seth was working at the mine, he developed a love for rocks and minerals. He studied them and began collecting them. He also learned to pan gold and joined an online club of like-minded people. Eventually, this love of rocks and minerals got him thinking about college. He determined to become a geologist. But he was pushing 40 and he had a felony on his record. He bravely decided to go for it.
At the University of MT, Seth did what he had done at the scrap metal job and as a machinist. He moved up. He impressed his professors and counselors and they asked him to mentor ‘at risk’ college students. His efforts were so effective that he was often able to keep all his mentees in college. He taught some classes. He was making a difference as he pursued his own goals.
All these opportunities moved him from seeking a degree as a geologist to getting a degree in philosophy. What a major jump!
We didn’t put Seth through school. He worked his way through! It wasn’t easy. I can remember times when he called me in tears seeking encouragement. He thought about quitting. After all, he was going to be 45 by the time he was done. It seemed indomitable at times!
This spring Seth accomplished his goal and graduated with a degree in Philosophy.
Anyone Can Build a Meaningful Life!
There is a purpose in my sharing Seth’s journey with you other than a mother’s bragging rights. It’s not the education or the degree that thrills me. It’s that he was kind to himself, trusted himself, set a goal and then accomplished it.
The reason that I find that so magnificently thrilling is that when we can set a goal and stick with it, no matter how hard, then we can always take care of ourselves and others. We can always make, not just a living, but a life. Way to go Seth!!
P.S. Currently Seth is pursuing setting up a program to coach troubled youth. He understands that you can’t just take kids out of bad situations. You must help them be kind to themselves, trust themselves, set a goal and then accomplish it. You must change how they think.
If you know someone who needs to be reminded that they can make a life,
It was early in the 1960’s and I was seated in a red vinyl chair, the kind you would have seen in a 1940’s dinner. I was waiting for a customer and I knew one would come. One always came when my grandpa took a break and headed out the front door to the Golden Spur Café next door.
I was about 10 and my responsibility was to measure the feet of tall cowboys and grizzled farmers. Then I would show them fancy riding boots, a good working cowboy boot or maybe a steel-toed work boot.
I had been measuring men’s feet since I was about 8 years old, every time my grandpa took a break. I had never yet sold a boot but I had shown a good many cowboys a good many boots.
What I didn’t know at the time was that my grandpa was sending those cowboys and farmers over to give me experience. When I stayed at my grandparents during the summer this was my daily routine.
At night I would find myself behind the counter in my Grandma’s Sweet Shop. My grandma had only a
fourth-grade education but she had taught herself what she needed to know to run a successful business for many years. It was right next to the theater and in those days there were no concessions inside the theater. You had to come to my grandma’s Sweet Shop to get them.
After a movie or the high school football game people come in for lime rickeys, an ice cream soda or a foot long hot dog with her famous and very secret sauce. I washed root beer mugs and ice cream dishes but occasionally I had the privilege of selling popcorn and candy. It was a delicious experience, no pun intended!
My dad was a hard worker and an entrepreneur too. He did many things and then went back to college when he had nine children. I learned the meaning of that word in high school but although I didn’t know the word till then I knew what one was. It was a person who owned their own business; who kept the books and hired people and paid the bills and sometimes got paid very little. I knew it was somebody who was always thinking up new ideas and putting them to work. It was a person who knew how to work hard and do it well. It was a person who could earn what they needed to care for themselves.
My mom was busy raising nine children but she was an entrepreneur too. She took in ironing from the neighbors. She used those meager funds to buy us Christmas, trips to the fair and the occasional pack of hot dogs for dinner. What a treat!
I learned about entrepreneurship and the value of work by being involved with my dad, mom, and
grandparents from my earliest days. This call to work and to do it well became part of my personal value system. It served me so well when I was putting myself through college and when I entered the workforce and on into my parenting days.
Learning to work paid off in many ways. I was able to do my chores well when properly motivated. : ) I got my homework done and I knew that doing it well mattered. No one ever bailed me out if I chose to do a poor job or to be late in getting an assignment done. I knew that if I needed something there was work I could to earn the money.
I became an entrepreneur myself despite being a stay at home mom raising seven children. I taught myself to make wedding cakes and did a fabulous job from my kitchen counter for fifty years. Many of our family perks came from those wedding cakes.
My children couldn’t help but develop a strong work ethic themselves. I will never forget the summer my five-year-old Jodie set up a rock selling business. She collected rocks on the side of the road and went door to door selling them. She sold some too. Her next venture was a large cardboard box christened “Junky Jimbo’s” (don’t ask me where she got that name!!) on the corner of a busy street where she sold lemonade. And so it went with all of my children.
Understanding the value of work has been passed down to my grandchildren. They know that if they want something then there is a way to get it; come up with an idea and then go to work. My grandchildren have been babysitters, dog walkers, poop scoopers, pet sitters, vacation gardeners, tattoo sellers, magic boat sellers, cool bib sellers, creators of events for families, tickets 25 cents, lemonade sellers, newspaper deliverers, lawn cutters and now I have a granddaughter, just out of high school, who is working in a dental office. She’s saving to serve a mission for her church this summer.
WORK Develops Important Character Traits In Kids
Children reap many advantages when they learn to work. Work is key to developing important character traits.
the ability to use and value self-denial
We don’t have to run our own business to help our children reap the advantages of having a strong work ethic. When we teach our children to work and do the very best job they can we give them gifts that will be of inestimable value when they become adults.
Next week we’ll take a look at some ways that we can encourage our children to work and do it well.
Deciding to homeschool a special needs child can be challenging and rewarding. My granddaughter, Maggie, has severe cerebral palsy. Some of Maggie’s CP symptoms include – she can’t verbally speak, use her arms and hands well, walk, move on her own, or express herself in words. That can be challenging when it comes to homeschooling her along with her siblings. Despite the challenges, when Maggie was 5, her mother decided to teach her at home.
Maggie’s now 12 and attends a regular middle school. She still has all of the same physical difficulties that she had when she was five, however, schooling at home for a number of years was one of the reasons that Maggie was able to transition so well into public classes.
During those homeschooling years we learned some things that made our efforts more successful:
• Be patient
• Let them do everything they can even if the results don’t meet your expectations
• Help as much as they need, they will still feel accomplished. Sometimes, Maggie needs a lot of help. However, at the end of any project, even if she has needed a great deal of help, Maggie smiles as if she did it all by herself.
• If your child is non-verbal develop a system so they can answer questions. (Maggie can point to one of two or three fingers to answer yes or no questions and even more detailed questions. For example: Do you want to color the shirt in red, blue or something else?)
• Remember, they are just like any child in their need to do and learn.
• They are interested in the same things as other children their age.
• Don’t be afraid to let them try. They aren’t afraid to try!
• If possible, find others who can help you a day or two a week.
Here is an example in one of those early at home, school days with Maggie
One of the things that increased the success level for Maggie was finding her a special friend who would come and help one day a week. This gave Jodie a break or allowed her to work with the other children. Cindi Walker was a neighbor and went to church with Jodie and her family. She became a good friend and then transitioned to being a very special friend to Maggie.
The photos and example below occurred when Maggie was six, her brother Jack was four and her sister Mary was 2.
A homeschool day for Cindy and Maggie
When Cindy came she had learning activities that she could help Maggie do despite her physical limitations. She included Jack and Mary if they were interested. Sometimes they were but Maggie was 6 and so many of her activities just didn’t hold their attention.
On this day Maggie was learning about the letter “M”. Her lips do not close like most children’s so it was an
extraordinary challenge for Maggie. We hoped she would eventually be able to say this important letter. (Maggie is still non-verbal but the effort to teach her to speak was fun for both her and those of us who worked with her. She does say the letter I perfectly.)
In order to practice using the ‘m’ sound Cindy helped Maggie make a collage of many different pictures all starting with M. Cindy had pre-cut the pictures but helped Maggie use the glue stick and stick them on the paper. When the collage was finished Cindi would say the M word and then Maggie would give it a try.
Next, they read a darling picture story about “Mary, the Mouse with Measles” which Cindi had written. Maggie loved reading the story and so did her siblings, Jack and Mary.
Cindy and Maggie were putting a “Learning Journal” together. Cindy would help Maggie hold a pencil and write. On this day they wrote about the trip that they all had taken to the Utah School for the Deaf when Maggie’s had her ears tested. Here is what they wrote together: “Jack and I had our hearing tested. We can hear.” (Cindy asked Maggie, “Do we need a period or an exclamation mark?”) Then they practiced saying “We can hear” with emphasis!
While Maggie was busy learning Jack was all over the table and chairs
blowing his train whistle, eating cookies and making comments. He also turned the popcorn popper lid into a Darth Vader mask. Cindy is VERY patient with Maggie and all her siblings.
Maggie drew some “M” pictures with special crayons. She loved and still does, working at holding on to things with her hands and seeing the result.
Of course, they ended their “m” session by eating marshmallows. Maggie enjoyed that the most!
To finish off the day Cindy read to the children from the classic “The Secret Garden”. This book did NOT appeal to Jack or Mary but Cindi remained patient with their wiggles and giggles.
Homeschooling a special needs child can be a successful adventure. It is worth giving it a try. If your child comes to a point where they need more than you can give them at home, their time at home will be a great foundation.
How do you make homeschool work for your special needs child?
You know, it’s so easy to teach things to children. Every day there are ordinary opportunities to teach. This last Sunday, Ben, who is six, picked up the hymn book and was trying to sing. He’s in kindergarten and is a fabulous reader. But he couldn’t figure out how to follow the words. So I took my finger and I began pointing to each word. I watched him read and sing. It was thrilling for him because he loves to read, likes music and was fascinated by how the sentences move from line to line, each verse underneath the one before. It was the world of music that he got to step into on Sunday and he was so happy about it.
I was reminded how wonderful it is to learn something new, to have the fogginess of not knowing lifted. That’s especially poignant for me right now because I am working on learning some new things – what a hashtag is and how to use one, how Instagram works and what can be done on the phone besides make a call. : )
Getting on the other side of something that you don’t know how to do is a wonderful process and when you help someone else do it, it’s rewarding.
Many Sundays ago I had the same wonderful experience I had with Ben with four other young children. I took these neighborhood children to church with me each week – Gaby, 6, Roxy, 5, Danni, 2 and Kyle, 4.
They, like Ben, wanted to understand how to read the music and sing along. I showed them where the hymn numbers for the day were posted. Then each Sunday one of them would ask just as we sat down in the pew, “So the first hymn is 1-2-6?” “Yes, and that is said page one hundred and twenty-six.”
Next, I showed them how to find a page higher than 30 when that was as high as they knew how to count. “First find a page with a 1 as the first number. Good. Now you need to find a page with a one and a two at the beginning. See this page has a one and a three. Oops, you have gone too far. Go back some pages. Look this page has a 1 and a 2 and an 8. You’re almost there. Good job!” Isn’t it wonderful all of the learning that was going on – naming numbers, counting, sequencing, patterns, as well as learning something spiritual as we sang together?
For the next 100+ Sundays, I would go through this ritual three times each Sunday morning – opening song, rest song, and closing song. That gave us a lot of time to practice learning the names of larger numbers, remembering what they look like and how to find a hymn in the hymnal.
By the time Gabby was 8, she could find any hymn in the book and could say the number correctly. Roxy at seven could find any hymn in the book given enough time and she could say most of the numbers correctly. Kyle at 6 was just starting to find the numbers, that is when he was motivated to do so. : ) Danny at four was beginning to notice that everyone else seemed to know something she didn’t. She had begun to pick up a hymnal and ask for help. By this time I didn’t really need to help her because the bigs were capable of doing it. I watched them help her find the page and then point out where on the page we were singing.
This wasn’t just a valuable exercise in learning how to find a page and sing a song. Gabby had to work extra hard with reading and it was challenging to get her to read at home. However, on Sunday she would move her finger along with each word, staying right where she should be for the most part. I could see her lips moving as she tried to read the words. She missed many because music moves quickly but she got more of them each Sunday. There are a lot of strategies to teach reading but making it part of life was working for Gabby.
For Roxy reading came more easily and she missed only the really big words. However, I noticed that although she was singing all the words she couldn’t stay with the music. She was singing each line as you would read a sentence so she was always ahead.
“Roxy, do you see that little black dot? It means the word is sung for a short time. Do you see that little white circle? Well, that means you sing the word for a longer time. I demonstrated what I meant. Love vs. loooove. As we sang I pointed to each word or syllable and said long, short, short, short, short, long, and so forth.
Those 100+ Sunday singing, reading, and pre-math lessons were fun for me and the kids. This last Sunday it was fun watching Ben go through the same process.
Every day we do many ordinary things but they are opportunities to teach children what they may find difficult to learn in more formal settings – reading labels at the store and looking for pricing, buying gas and counting as the meter turns, counting out tithing for Sunday, reading a newspaper headline along with dad.
But this isn’t just about teaching kids important skills such as counting, reading or singing. It’s about parents practicing being Present. All those Sundays I had to be Present during singing time. I had to see what was happening. Who was lost, who didn’t understand, who was successful? I had to pay attention. Using ordinary moments of daily living to teach is valuable practice for us as we learn to be more Present parents.
As you pay attention to teaching your children in the everyday moments you will begin to learn how to be a more Present Parent despite the busy-ness of life. The fogginess will lift and you will experience more and more success. And that extra practice will pay huge dividends in your relationship with your kids. It’s wonderful to learn something new, to have the fogginess of not knowing lifted.
What have you been able to begin teaching your children in this new year?
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November was National Non-fiction month. As an author of a non-fiction book, I decided to celebrate by reading and reviewing Cherri Brooks Teaching Children About Sex.
Last week I gave a presentation to a group of mothers called BEING ALL IN. I shared ways that help parents be ‘all in’ despite the difficulty of the job of parenting. The number one tip was to parent with intention. I know that when we have a concrete plan for what we want our families to feel like and the values we want to instill we get better results.
Cherri Brooks book can help you teach your children about sex with greater intention. When it comes to teaching about sex I know from experience and talking with others that we usually fly by the seat of our pants. Not a very comfortable way to navigate a difficult subject. Usually, we have the ‘big talk’ breathe a sigh of relief and think we are done. But if that is our approach then the results for our children might not be as successful as we hope.
Brooks has written her book from a Latter Day Saint (LDS) perspective. She has shared how looking at the LDS temple as a sacred house of worship and then comparing that to our bodies can give us some wonderful guidelines as we teach our children about the sacred nature of their bodies and sexuality.
Many of my readers are of the Latter Day Saint faith and many more are not. However, the bulk of my readership has a faith they participate in and many, if not all, revere a temple or other place of worship. I am sure that anyone of faith can and will relate to Cherri’s ideas, despite any doctrinal differences (they will be few) and that making the effort can really help you become more intentional as you teach your children about this important and beautiful part of human relationships.
The focus of the book is to teach appropriate sexual behavior with the correct attitude. Brooks reminds us that sexual behavior is personal conduct and that sexuality is an attitude. This little book will help you study the topic of sexuality so that when your child has a question or you need to address the topic, you will have the knowledge you need to answer in the best way possible for you and your child.
Section 1 covers building a sexual educational foundation at home. Many parents leave that to the public school system but most would do more at home if they knew how. We are, after all, the voice that we hope our children will hear and follow. In section 1 Brooks reminds us that our bodies and those of our children are temples and deserve the same respect and care. She discusses how our attitudes can color how our children feel about sexuality despite the words that we say. Many times children see and feel more than hear what we tell them. Finally, she gives some compelling reasons to begin teaching our children about sexuality early and how this can pay dividends as our children enter puberty. She gives clear directions for preparing ahead and planning effectively.
Section 2 concerns age-by-age sexual education. It is broken into 3 phases:
Phase 1 – Curious Learners (0-5)
Phase 2 – Concrete Learners (Ages 6-8 and 9-11)
Phase 3 – Conduct Learners (Ages 12+ and Premarital)
This section, besides great information on each age group and their needs, contains sample questions and answers that would be age appropriate, as well as value statements for each question. They may not reflect your personal values but will help you identify and then teach yours. There is also a list of conversation starters that are age appropriate. A real help for parents!
Section 3 covers special topics that children are hearing about as they navigate their world and which parents may not know how to effectively address:
What I really liked about this book was that it was easy to read and understand. It was simple in its approach. It was written in a manner that was clear and easy to follow. The information about children and how to approach conversations about sex at each age level was so helpful! Brooks has wonderful real-life examples that most of us will relate to.
Cherri Brooks has done her homework and her book will help you do yours.
Cherri Brooks grew up with an aspiration to be an author. As a child, she practiced typing on an old, clunky DOS computer. She found her passion for parenting and healthy sexuality through her education at Utah State University, where she earned her BS and MS in Family and Human Development. She also taught courses at South Dakota State University in Marriage and Family Relations and Parenting. She loves talking with parents about raising sexually healthy children. She currently lives in Clarksville, Tennessee with her husband and three children.
Another way that I am celebrating National Non-Fiction Month (November) is to give away five copies of my own book. You still have plenty of time to enter and win. The drawing happens on December 21st. No strings. No list. Just the chance to win and become a more Present parent.
I learned two new words that relate to online schools, asynchronous and synchronous.
Asynchronous classes allow students to work without a live instructor via materials, lectures, tests, and assignments that have been provided. Synchronous online classes are when students and instructors are working together live.
The topic came up during a conversation I had with Adam Hailstone, CMO and Director of Leadership at Williamsburg (https://vimeo.com/195837948) I was asking him about the school because online schools are such a hot topic right now and I wanted to know more about how they work, the value to students and about Williamsburg in particular. I learned a lot!
I loved the fact that at Williamsburg https://www.williamsburgacademy.org/ they have mentors rather than teachers; the fact that students and mentors see each other and interact during class via a chat option; that they use a ‘smart whiteboard’ (this is sooo cool); they have students from all over the country and mentors from all over the world.
If you have been considering an online school for your middle school or high school age youth let me share what I learned About Williamsburg and it might help you make your decision.
Mentors rather than teachers
At Williamsburg, teachers are called ‘mentors’, because they do more than just dispense knowledge––they inspire, challenge, listen to and guide students as they learn how to learn. They help youth learn how to lead themselves and others.
Mentors spend a lot of in-class time with the youth. Students have access to mentors live in office hours, via email as well as in live classes. They can receive live feedback on assignments.
What intrigued me was that mentors, because they teach in a virtual classroom come from all over the world. Mentors at Williamsburg (https://vimeo.com/195837948) live in the USA, Europe, and many other countries. Last year they had a mentor from Nepal. How cool is that!
This idea of worldwide teachers is certainly 21st-century style learning. Because teachers are not locked into a geographical area the school can vet or head hunt from anywhere in the world. This makes it possible to have world-class mentors.
One last bit of information that I gleaned about mentors at Williamsburg, they are able to give students more one on one time than they might get in a brick and mortar building. That can mean the difference between doing OK and thriving for some youth.
What and How Youth Learn
Williamsburg (https://vimeo.com/195837948) focuses on teaching youth how to think not what to think. It is a liberal arts program coupled with a leadership program. The culture is not just academic but is larger in scope and includes helping young people determine how to live a meaningful life and how to reach their full potential.
One of the things that I considered a perk at Williamsburg was that kids can do most of what gets done in a brick and mortar school. They can talk live with their mentors and with the others in their class. They can get almost instant feedback.
Mentors create breakout rooms during live classes so that students can collaborate in small groups. They participate in group projects, peer presentations, student government, simulations, engaging videos and readings, challenging projects and assignments, and oral, written, and project-based assessments.
Williamsburg https://www.williamsburgacademy.org/ works to create a culture of thinking and problem solving through the wise use of mentors, dynamic classes, and in person social engagements which are designed to lead to a meaningful purpose.
Classes run 50 minutes but not all learning time is screen time. There are plenty of reading projects and all sorts of assignments to help kids learn to think and to accomplish.
There is a lot going on inside every virtual Williamsburg class and just in case your family has to be away every class is recorded. This gives individual families the flexibility they need.
What About The Social?
We all know that kids want to be with their peers so how does that work at Williamsburg? (https://vimeo.com/195837948) Socialization is part of a larger learning culture with punctuated social experiences rather than day to day socialization. They have what they call ‘in person’ social engagements.
A few times a year students gather live to learn, work, and interact with each other. This can be in the form of summer camp, conferences, travel adventures, etc. Recently students went to Germany to learn about WWII. This summer students will be going to Guatemala and this fall to Nepal. What a way to spend time with your peers!
The need for social interaction with peers is also satisfied as students work in teams and classes on projects on-line each year.
I was amazed to learn about a recent project that a group of 6th graders completed. They had heard of a charity that wanted to provide a school for a village in Bolivia. However, after some research, they realized that without a water pipeline kids wouldn’t be able to go to school. This was because children spent much of each day carrying water from a lake to their homes. There was no time for school.
The pipeline was going to cost $11,000. The sixth graders decided to raise $4000 of that cost. So they came up with a plan and put it into motion. They used what they were learning at school – creating a website, writing, e-commerce skills, working as a team, leading, reaching out for donations using rhetorical skills, and so forth.
When the project was finished they had raised $19,000 which paid for the pipeline and part of the school. These were sixth graders!
These kids really got to know each other. They spent real time and virtual time together. They learned that even young people can do powerful things across the world.
Summer is almost here and that means lots of kids with lots of time on their hands. For the most part, we want our kids outside playing and having fun but there’s no getting around the fact that they will spend time on their digital devices. Here are some great apps that are safe, fun and can be educational.
Tons of educational apps are now available for download but this doesn’t mean that all of them are good for your kids. Bad educational apps can provide distractions instead of learning, and if you aren’t careful, there are even apps that shouldn’t be on your kid’s phone.
As a parent, you want to ensure your kids are learning from good sources and here are 10 of the best educational apps for your kids:
1. Kids ABC Letters Lite
This app will help your child become familiar with his ABCs. It includes fun games, such as creating letters through colorful puzzle pieces. This version, however, isn’t complete. As it’s a lite version, you may have to pay to get the complete app.
2. Marble Math Junior
Marble Math Junior mixes marble maze games with math problems. It’s best for children who are still learning to read as it includes a voice that reads the problems to your child.
3. Endless Alphabet
This is a monster-themed app that teaches kids how to spell. It doesn’t have a time limit and it doesn’t even keep scores. This helps assure that your child can work on spelling skills without feeling pressured or stressed out.
4. Superhero Comic Book Maker
If you want to enhance your child’s creativity, then this app is a must. It lets children write their own stories, just like a comic book. There are different scenes your child can choose from, and there’s also the option to move the character the way they want.
5. WriteReader Pro
WriterReader Pro is suitable for children age 5 and up. It allows kids to write their own stories while making sure their parents are able to monitor their progress.
6. Read Me Stories
Reading stories to your children is one of the precious moments you share with them. You can download this app which enables you to read a new book to your child every day or let them read a new story by themselves. It’s a good app for practicing, whether at the park or school.
7. Barefoot World Atlas
This app will familiarize your child with animals, people and everything about the world. It has a 3D rendition of the globe and children can zoom in or rotate the viewing angle to get a closer look at the descriptions and photos. It also has BBC presenter Nick Carter to guide your child. What’s great about the app is that it shows your child landmarks and distinct natural features from the comfort of their bedroom.
Poptropica is a role-playing app that adds a fun twist to mystery solving. It’s particularly geared towards children ages 6 to 15. In this app, kids create their own avatars which are used to conquer quests. They can change not only the avatars’ facial features but their attributes as well. The game can be saved for future gaming sessions.
9. The Robot Factory
The Robot Factory is created for school age children. It encourages kids to explore, design and create robots. After designing the robot, children can test their creation and then redesign the robot.
If you’re looking for a way to help your child learn more than one language, then Duolingo is one of the best educational language apps you can find. It’s great for visual learners and kids can earn badges every time they are successful with a new level.
Rose Cabrera is the lead content writer for Top Security Review. She’s passionate about sharing security tips and tricks to help keep the whole family safe.
Mary Ann Johnson | Relationship Transformations for Busy Parents, 2017