Thursday, July 22, 2010

day 199: don't put it off!

Today when I was cleaning out some old files, I found two tattered sheets of notebook paper from nearly twenty years ago. It had three columns I had made with pen--with each of Joshua (now 27); Kayla (now 24); and Cami (now 22) all written at the top of each column. Beneath each name was a list of things--songs, verses, rhymes stories, etc.

What was this twenty year old list for each of my first three children? It was a list of things that I was going to put on cassette for each one of them that year. A cassette that each one would have for himself or herself with my voice singing (!), reciting, etc. things that I wanted them to learn, things they loved, things I wanted them to hear over and over again.

Guess what? I never made that tape. Now, thankfully, I don't have tons and tons of regrets as a parent. I wasn't always perfect by any means, but I don't look back over my nearly twenty-eight years of parenting with long lists of things that I wish I could change. (Everybody has some regrets, of course.) However, I regret not making these cassettes. I mean, really, how long could have they have taken? An hour each perhaps? They weren't going to be studio quality, have sound effects or music, etc.

Obviously, it's not a huge deal--and they all still love me (talked to each of the three for thirty to sixty minutes each one-on-one today, for example!), and they eventually learned their ABC's, the words to "Victory in Jesus," and many, many Bible verses in spite of my laxness. However, I want to use this tattered sheet of notebook paper to encourage all of our Positive Parenting 365 readers to not put off those awesome things you want to do for or with your kids. To not get to the end of your kids' childhoods and wish that you had done this or that--especially to wish that you had or hadn't done something that would have truly made a significant difference in the lives of your kids.

Read some of the cool stuff I was going to put on each child's tape fun just thinking about it!

1. WW II facts
2. "My Country 'Tis of Thee"
3. "Lord's Prayer"
4. Old Testament book song
5. New Testament books
6. Hard addition facts
7. "Victory in Jesus"
8. "For Those Tears I Died"
9. 21 Rules of This House
10. Name, Parents, Phone, Address
11. Odd numbers; even numbers
12. Skip counting
13. Twelve Disciples
14. Micah 4:8 song
15. Fruits of the Spirit
16. "Count Your Blessings"
17. Proverbs 15: 20
18. Character definitions
19. "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
20. "We Three Kings"
21. "Go Tell It on the Mountain"
22. "Are You Washed in the Blood?"
23. Proverbs 1
24. Some trust in chariots verses
25. The Christmas Story
26. Psalms 61:1-3
27. Ten Commandments
28. Verses: Be Kind, Obey, Happy Is the Man
29. Psalms 100
30. Pledge to the Flag

1. ABCs
2. Numbers 1-50
3. Old Testament book song
4. Twelve Disciples
5. B I B L E song
6. Twelve Men Went to Spy on Canaan song
7. A says a and a rhyme
8. When Mom or Dad says come....
9. "Happy is the man" verse
10. "Friend Show Self Friendly" verse
11. "Lord's Prayer"
12. Serving from Galatians 5:13
13. Ten of Twenty-One Rules
14. "Count Your Blessings"
15. Sunday School Rules
16. "We always..."
17. "Go Tell It on the Mountain"
18. "Thanks for the Blood"
19. The Christmas Story"
20. Name and Parents

1. "Eyes of the Lord are everywhere"
2. Bible Time Nursery Rhymes
3. ABC's
4. Numbers 1-20
5. Only a Boy Named David
6. When Mom or Dad says come...
7. "Obey Mommy and Daddy"
8. Church rules
9. "Kindness"
10. Twelve Disciples
11. Character qualities

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

day 198: thirty days of romance

“I’m in love, I’m in love…and I don’t care who knows it.” Elf

Ray and I had our now-annual "thirty days of romance" during June/July. It was…well, romantic!
A few years ago, we celebrated being together for thirty years–thirty years since our first date, and we’ve been together ever since! Anyway, we celebrated those thirty years by having what we called "thirty days of romance." That is, for those thirty days we focused more on each other than other things. We thought of each other more, made each other feel important, did special things for each other, spent more time alone, and just generally tried to focus more on romance than "stuff"–those things that we always have to do. It was such a success that we decided to make it an annual event.

We have had a few “30 Days of Romance” in the past few years, and we have loved them! In recent years, we have been getting too busy with my writing and editing, Ray’s work, our publishing company, our family speaking ministry, and all seven of our children and their needs. It just seemed like the long talks, special candy bars, frequent rendezvous (!), etc. were slipping away from us.

Some ideas we have used (and/or hope to use in the future)—some are just simple things that we forget to do in our daily busy-ness. (Feel free to share—we should start a Romantic Revolution!!! )

1. Make favorite meals —We had spaghetti at least twice–Ray’s favorite!; Ray will grab the kids and make me homemade French fries or have one of the boys make brownies, etc. sometimes

2. Out for dinner in Fort Wayne–since we started dancing, we seldom go to movies and/or dinner because it takes so much to get away to dance—and we do not feel like we can justify another evening away from the kids—during 30 Days of Romance, we take exception to that, even if it means dinner and movie on Tuesday AND dancing on Saturday!

3. Romantic comedies/movies—we have two ballroom dance movies we like to watch. Ray loves romantic movies; I prefer action/legal thrillers/drama, and I’m the one who usually rents movies, so I try to get more movies he likes during this month.

4. Just talking—for example, one night we went to the dance early and left it late to just not rush so much. We always barely come into a dance (and one of us is often on the phone to one of the older kids when we first arrive) or have to leave early, etc. etc it seems. Just wanted to slow down, dance some, talk some, and just not rush for a little bit! Talking without our older kids needing us is a luxury, so we just tried to focus more on that this month.

5. More phone calls and emails—and more little signs, words, and phrases that nobody but us knows what they mean in our phone calls and emails (though the kids try to figure them out!! )

6. More yielding—just taking our own advice (when we counsel people) to be the one who stops an argument or disagreement, to be the one who doesn’t have to be right, to be the one who brings peace in a situation that could become less than peaceful. We teach yielding in our book, curricula, blog, seminar, and workshops, but it is so hard to do in life everyday—just to remind ourselves that the other person’s feelings and that relationship is worth yielding for.

7. Song finding—this is a new thing we want to do—find songs that we like on the internet and have Jonathan buy them and put them on a cd for us—and decide which dances we would do with each one, etc.

8. Look up dancing together online—on rare occasions, we will sit down and look up a certain dance online and try to figure out how they do certain moves, or watch for styling or theory, etc. Listen to/watch “lessons” online. During "30 Days," we want to do this more.

9. Play games—before our kids got so old and needed us so much in the evenings (including our grown children on the phone, etc.), we used to play Scrabble, Guess Who, Blokus, Backgammon, and Cribbage in our room and watch a fun movie, eat snacks, and just enjoy each other and relax. Now it seems like we are always with one of the kids for something (i.e. Ray is at the table with Josiah and his algebra right now; I’m getting ready to call back one of our daughters to talk, etc. etc.)—or if we play games, it is with the kids (which is fun too, but not alone time). We seldom stop early enough in the evening to have our fun game time anymore. During this month, we will “make dates” to do that.

10. Go out for dessert—when the kids were all younger (but the oldest was twelve), a couple of times a month, we would put them all to bed at eight o’clock and go out for dessert. We try to do this some during our 30 Days.

11. Dance lessons—We have put private lessons on hold for the past three years due to the expenses with getting our publishing company off the ground; a wedding; two kids in college; etc. etc etc. We want to try to take at least two private lessons during this month.

12. Little surprises—When we didn’t have so many needs to meet, we just thought of little things more—you know, picking up my favorite editing pen at Walmart when Ray is getting groceries or grabbing his favorite pop at the gas station—just the little things that let the other person know he is being thought of. One "30 Days" Ray had a dozen roses (of different colors–beautiful!) delivered in increments of three–during my "CQLA Cottage Class" day. Thus, every couple of hours, the florist would come with three more roses–my students thought it was a hoot–but I just loved it!

13. Not work at night so much—Because of homeschooling during the day (and teaching fifty kids in Ossian and Fort Wayne writing each week), I often work at night while Ray oversees kids’ homework, teaches some of their classes, does driver’s training with whomever happens to be learning to drive at that time, works on meal clean up with the kids, etc etc. I often have trouble stopping my work. (I really love to work…especially writing and editing!) When it is payroll time, student billing time, etc. etc. Ray often works after he is done with the kids in the evening too. Anyway, during 30 Days, we designate certain nights for me to stop working at a certain time (i.e. 9:00 instead of 11:00), etc.

14. Planning and dreaming together—We always used to plan and dream together—now it seems like life happens so fast that we hardly have time to plan ahead or dream about what might be. We take more time for that during this month.

15. Get away—Since this “30 Days” fell over our anniversary, we had a get away during it. If we can get away and go to a dance (especially at the beautiful “Roof Ballroom” in Indianapolis) and stay overnight a day or two, it makes our “30 Days” even more romantic.

16. “Twalks”—before we started Training for Triumph and I started writing so much, we used to take a “twalk” many days after work. This was a time in which the two of us just took off on a walk to talk. We are trying to incorporate more of these—without cell phones on us!

I recommend “Thirty Days of Romance” to all married couples—whether you’ve been married ten years or forty. It just puts the focus back on each other in marriage—and that focus is so easy to lose with the demands of parenting, work, ministry, and more.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

day 197: composition help

I have posted several links and ideas to help you get your kids ready to go back to school, but I wanted to share some “writing help” with you as well. Our publishing company/family ministry has many writing books and many language arts books that we write for homeschoolers and Christian schools.

At our website, we offer three week samples of each of our composition books, entitled “Meaningful Composition” (MC). We only have Levels 4th through 8th and a couple of high school books (though our Level 8 first semester and Level 8 second semester are considered high school beginning writing books) done so far, but you are more than welcome to go to our site, print off the samples of a couple of books and work through them with your kids over the next few weeks.

MC books are written to the student in what we call our “directed writing approach.” This means that they give step-by-step directions to the students in each assignment (as opposed to writing ideas or prompts).

For example, if your student does not understand the basics of what a paragraph contains, you can print the samples for MC 4 I (formerly 4+) and do those with him. If your student does not the basics of putting paragraphs together for essay or report writing, you can print the samples for 4 II and do those with him. There are several books in Levels 5 through 8 that have writing lessons for the middle grades. And if your student does not understand the basics of research report writing, try MC 9 I samples.

Go to our site and click MC samples—and see if you can find any help for your reluctant writer to get off on the right foot this fall in composition:

*Note: This page also contains links for our “Character Quality Language Arts” samples. This is our complete language arts program. Just skip on down below this for the “Meaningful Composition” samples.

Monday, July 19, 2010

day 196: knowing where to “tap”

There is a story told of a man who was trying to fix his broken boiler many years ago. He tried and tried over several weeks but was unable to repair it. Finally, he gave up and called an expert. This “expert” engineer took a look at the boiler and gently tapped on the side of it. He then stood back as the machine sprang to life.

As the repairman left, he handed the man a bill for a full repair job. The owner of the boiler said that he should only have to pay a small amount since the task took just a few moments. The engineer responded that the man was not paying for the worker’s time but rather for the years of experience it took the repairman to learn just where to tap the boiler.

What does this have to do with parenting? The minute I read this story I was reminded of twenty years ago when I had a few young children and begged God to show me how to parent. When I cried because I could not get my strong willed little girl to obey. When I worried and fussed over a selfish child, sure that I was not equipped for this job, not “expert” enough to raise sons and daughters in a Christian home. When the parenting machine went haywire, I felt that I beat all over the side of it in vain in order to fix it—just like the owner of the boiler in the story.

Fast forward ten years later when I had babies through teens. I was learning “where to tap” in terms of parenting babies, toddlers, and young children. I was becoming an “expert” in the loosest sense of the word—simply from parenting every day. I gained confidence in those areas as I had my years of experience with the first few children to know what worked and didn’t work. However, I was just entering the stage of teenagers—and I had no idea what to do. I tapped endlessly all over the parenting machine---and felt that I only seldom hit the right spot.

Fast forward twenty years later, and I still worry, beg God, and cry--but a lot less often than I did in my early years of parenting. Do you know why? Because after so many years of “doin’ the stuff” there are many days in which I actually do know where to tap in order to solve the problem. There are some days in which answers come simply because I have years of experience now—and can slide my metaphorical hand along the side of the deteriorating situation and feel a quickening within me as to where to tap.

Oh yes, there are still “those days.” Ray and I still look at each other on occasion like we have never faced a certain situation or circumstance with no clue as to where to tap. But my twenty-seven years of experience has given me tools, opportunities, and intuition that I simply lacked many years ago. And some days, I know just where to tap—and I thank God for those days as I seek to tap into my children’s hearts and lead them in the way the Lord desires for me to lead them.

If you are a young parent, do not despair! Every situation you encounter now with your children is building within you the experience and skill to become an expert tapper of sorts. Some day you will realize that you can solve a problem more easily than you could before. Then another time it will happen again. And you will know that you have become an accomplished tapper of your children’s hearts—and you will tap away every day, knowing that you are leading them in the way the Lord desires for you to lead them.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

day 195: summer academic help for the final month of summer—individual LifePacs

Summer is winding down….and you might want to dig in during the last month and work on getting ready for school. I have written extensively this summer about building your child’s reading skills (foundational to most all other learning). Today I want to introduce a company that is a homeschool provider—but has an added benefit to those desiring work on skill building in any subject area for a month or so.

The company is a huge publisher called Alpha Omega. Many homeschoolers and private schools use their material for their entire curriculum. But for our purposes here, I wanted to tell you about them because they have a workbook approach in which you may purchase one month of a subject at a time for only $4.50 a booklet in any subject area. This is an especially good avenue for working on specific skills in a specific subject or two.

This program is called LifePacs, and as I said earlier, is used in its entirety for entire curriculum. Here is how they can help you with your student’s summer “school” help:

1. The full curriculum for each subject area is available in ten worktexts. This means that each worktext has the teaching text and the student’s workbook in one.

2. Each worktext takes three to four weeks to complete.

3. A little known fact is that you can go to your child’s grade level (from this past year if you are looking to review), click on the subject area you would like to work on, and look at the titles and skills lists of each of the ten “LifePacs” for that subject area. Then choose the one that you think your child needs to work on the most, as follows:

a. If you can tell by the contents of each LifePac which booklet would best help you with the skills that your child needs work on, do it that way.

b. If you are unsure of the exact skills your child needs, but you know he didn’t have trouble until mid way through the year, considering getting one of the middle worktexts. (Or ending ones if he had trouble near the end of the year.)

4. You will probably need to call to order individual ones. (I didn’t see it as an option, but I called, and the saleslady told me that it is definitely possible.) So once you know that you want say 5th grade, LifePac for math #6 and 5th grade, Lifepac for grammar #8, you can call and just order those two for $4.50 each.

5. The worktexts are short and not the least bit overwhelming.

6. You might need to purchase the inexpensive answer keys for the entire year in order to check your child’s work, but those are not pricey either.

7. The first link here will take you to the LifePacs, then you choose the “look at this curriculum,” then the grade level, then the subject area:

If your child seemed to drag near the end of the school year in a specific subject area, this is a great way to focus on just that in an inexpensive, non-stressful way. I highly recommend it!