Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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  • A Balanced Approach:

    Homepreschool and Beyond will give parents the knowledge they need to find “balance” for their family. Find out what young children need to know—and how to teach it. Gain the confidence you need to relax and enjoy those precious preschool years—and beyond.

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

    • 26 Chapters
    • Covers all areas of development
    • Covers all areas of curriculum
    • For a ages 2-8
    • Developmentally appropriate
    • Literature based
    • Spiritual and character building emphasis

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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 20, 2014

In my last post, I shared that two primary ways we teach our children about God are through example, and through teaching. In this post, I will share some specific thoughts/ideas about HOW to do it:

Through Example: The hardest part of parenting, I believe, is disciplining ourselves to be who we need to be, so that we are good examples for our children. (Self-control. Why does it always have to come back to that? SIGH.) In my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, I call this “teaching through parenting:”

The best definition of good parenting I’ve ever heard is from Anne Ortland, who says, “Successful parenting means: One, becoming what you should be. And two, staying close enough to the children that it will rub off.” She challenges us further by asking, “What will you become, in order that your offspring may turn out to be great human beings for God?”

We need to admit that we can’t be good examples in our own strength. We have to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us, and help us. So we can’t be good examples for our children unless we abide in Christ. One resource that has helped me tremendously in this area is the Christian classic, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. You can even get it for FREE on your Kindle! In this book, Brother Lawrence talks about how, no matter what he is doing, a part of him can be (no, IS) in the presence of God, and how the presence of God changes everything! It even makes doing the dishes a blessing. When we are conscious of the fact that we are continually in His presence, it changes how we talk to people, react to people (often with prayer instead of anger), and most importantly, how we think. One idea that can help us with this is to set some type of alarm (on a watch, perhaps?) for every 15 or 30 minutes, just to remind us to think about God and the fact that He is with us. Then, we can pray and thank Him for that.

Another resource that has been very helpful to me is, The Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Myers. The battle is in our minds, and learning about how to control our thoughts and spiritual warfare is very helpful. Her books on habits are helpful, too (replace the bad with the good!)

It is certain that the Lord is calling us to (greater) holiness. The Lord Jesus Christ wants true disciples who follow His example. No compromise. No shades of grey. No syncretism (mixing Christianity with contradictory beliefs or actions.) Are you willing to give up whatever has been holding you back from living the kind of life you should? Whatever part of YOU that you aren’t willing to totally give to God? What do you need to give up/change/start doing/surrender and submit to God in order to live in holiness?

Through Teaching:
The Word of God: Our children need to be saturated in the Word of God. In order to do this, we also need to be saturated in the Word. This is the only way to grow, to Abide in the Lord, and His Word. To do this, obviously, we need to spend time in God’s Word daily. It is easy to let this go in favor of extra sleep, more time to work, or simply being too busy. But I’ve discovered the hard way that when I don’t spend the time I need to spend in the Word (and in prayer and worship), several things happen: I’m not abiding in the Lord as well as I should be, so I start to be crabby, selfish, depressed, and…well…carnal. The old man starts to win out. OR, I begin to feel spiritually “off”, or even find myself in spiritual oppression/warfare. Satan loves to attack us when we’re down, and when we don’t spend time in the Word, we’re down…we have opened ourselves up to attack. Don’t give the devil an opportunity!!

Another point: If we aren’t in the Word, it is really difficult for us to answer our children’s questions about the Word, God, salvation, etc. We need to be growing ever stronger and more mature in the Lord, so that we can answer our children’s questions about God!!

I have to admit, this is still something that I am working on. I’m in the Word almost every day now…I still have occasional days when I slip up. I try to do my devotional times first thing in the morning. I highly recommend the “Lord” series by Kay Arthur. Buy the CD’s or MP3’s that go with them, or join a group study. I’ve especially enjoyed Lord, Heal My Hurts, Lord, is it Warfare? Teach Me to Stand, and Lord, I Want to Know You.

Another way to help our children (and ourselves) abide in the Word is by memorizing it. We use Simply Charlotte Mason’s method for memorizing scripture. I simply read the scriptures to them over and over, and they join in as they can. Sometimes I break the scriptures up into short phrases for them to repeat, or I’ll let them fill in every other word of verses that they know fairly well. I don’t care as much about memorizing the references right now as I do memorizing the verses themselves. You can also use scripture memory songs to help you memorize (you can make up your own, or find some on Amazon.)

As for what to memorize: When your children are very young, start with simple, short verses like these:
Psalms 119:105; Psalms 118:1, Psalm 147:1. You could also start with scripture memory books, designed just for preschoolers, and memorize one Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet. Scripture Memory Fellowship offers a nice one designed especially for two and three year-olds (along with lots of other topical booklets with Bible verses to memorize, for all ages,) or you can print up your own memory verse cards for FREE from Homeschool Creations. Another option that is especially good for 4-6 year olds is Susan Hunt’s book, My A, B, C Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Hearts. This book has a devotional and a memory verse for each letter (if I remember correctly, I had to self-edit a little of the devotionals to align them with our doctrinal beliefs, so you might want to pre-read the devotions before reading them to your kids.) This book contains slightly longer verses, for kids who have already had some experience with memory work.

As your children get older, move them up to longer verses, such as Psalms 34:13; James 1:19-20; Phil. 2:14; Romans 12:21; Psalms 56:3-4; Proverbs 20:11. Once your children reach second or third grade, you can also memorize the books of the Bible, the twenty-third Psalm, Psalm 100, the Apostle’s Creed, or even whole chapters of the Bible. Psalms and Ephesians are especially good for this.

Daily “Bible” time:
A daily devotional time with your children is an important component of teaching your children Biblical concepts, as is praying together, taking our children to church regularly, and simply talking to our children about spiritual matters.

Some families have their devotionals together first thing in the morning; others at night. If possible, dads should lead the devotions (in our home, Dad is going to start reading the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the week every night.) Young children need spiritual input from both their mothers and their fathers. A daily devotional does not have to be long; for preschoolers, 10-20 minutes is more than enough. This is what we do: We start by gathering in a comfortable place, such as a living or family room with a comfy couch. When our children were young, we’d start by singing active Sunday School-type songs, to get the wiggles out. Next, we’d sing a hymn or two. We concentrate on one or two hymns at a time, and start with just learning the first verse and the chorus. Hymns are important because they are filled with scripture (they can help with memorization) and doctrine. They are a spiritual heritage that I don’t want my children to miss out on, even though our church does “modern” worship almost exclusively. If you learn the hymns, the Lord will bring them into your mind to help, comfort, and encourage you when you are down…IF you know them. (NOTE: You can also buy more “modern” versions of hymns, sung by many of the popular contemporary Christian singers, if you want to. We have CD’s of hymns done by Amy Grant, for example.) We also sing some of the praise songs that we hear on the radio (we like K-LOVE) or that we sing in church. After this, we work on our Bible memory work, and finally, we read together. What we read depends on our children’s ages, listening abilities, and spiritual understanding. When our children were little, we’d read a short Bible story. As they get older, we move up to longer stories, and later, we read both stories and devotional books. Finally, we move up to reading the Bible itself.

Next post: What to read for daily devotions, final tips about teaching Bible, and things we must not overlook.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post were taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.


Posted in Challenge to Parents, Family Fun, Homepreschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Homeschooling, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Matters, Teaching Bible | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 18, 2014

Building relationships is our most important job as parents. As I stated in my previous post on relationships,

“Developing relationships is the most important part of any homepreschool/homeschool. We must help our children grow strong, loving relationships—first with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and next within our families. Many of us say that this is our priority, but in truth, it is not. If helping our children develop a close relationship with God was really our priority, it would be reflected in the amount of time we spend reading Bible stories to our children, memorizing the Word with them, praying with them (and for them), and worshiping together. (Discipleship.)
…I’m sad to say that we too often neglect what is most important (building strong relationships) in favor of other priorities (early academics, our own interests, etc.)
We must take the time to “make the main thing the main thing”, and teach our children about the Lord while they are young.”
(Excerpt from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.)

It used to be, back in the “early days” of our homeschooling (1990’s), almost all homeschoolers were Christians, and almost all were homeschooling primarily for religious reasons. It was almost a foregone conclusion. Not so any more. Homeschooling has become more acceptable, more “mainstream”, and the movement has become very diverse (which is a good thing.) Even Christian homeschooling families often start homeschooling with other priorities in mind (academics, as a reaction to problems in public schools, family issues, developmental/learning issues, and more.) But whenever I meet a Christian homeschooler, I always try to encourage them to redirect their focus, and “make the main thing the main thing.” And the “main thing” is always God.

The main reason we choose to homeschool is NOT because of curriculum problems in the public schools, common core, bullies, learning issues, or any of the PLETHORIA of reasons that many families become initially interested in homeschooling (even though these are all great reasons to homeschool.) We homeschool for eternity. Our most important goals are related to helping our children grow strong, personal relationships with God. So how do we do that? First, I will present some challenging questions for you to ponder, and then, some specific goals and examples of “how” we do it.

There are two main ways we can help our children develop close, personal relationships with God: Through example and through purposeful teaching.

*Through example: This is the hardest, but perhaps the most important way to help our children grow close relationships with God. The importance of parental example cannot be overemphasized. “Do as I say, but not as I do” just doesn’t cut it. We need to become aware of the fact that we are teaching our children all the time, whether or not we are aware of it. What have you been teaching today?
Questions to ask yourself: Do your children see you studying God’s Word consistently? Do they see you praying? Is your first course of action in case of emergency prayer? Have you ever stopped what you are doing and prayed when an ambulance or fire truck streaks by with its lights flashing? Do you pray together regularly as a family? Do you spend time praying for your children and their future spouses?
Do you attend church regularly, and take your children with you? Do your children see you giving yourself over to worship, and enjoying it?
Do you serve others in love?
And, hardest of all, do you live out the fruits of the spirit in your home-in your life? Is it obvious to others that you are a new creation in Christ? Are you growing in holiness? Does in show in your speech (what you say and don’t say), and in what you watch (or don’t watch) on television? In short, are you growing as a Christian?

*Through teaching: Do you dedicate the time you should to teaching your children about the Lord, or is teaching them their colors or learning the alphabet more important? Yes, those things are important, at the proper time. But have they become more important than God is in your home? Which do you devote more time to?
Does the topic of “God” come up in casual conversation in your house? Do you have a daily devotional/Bible reading time with your children as part of your homeschool? Do you encourage your children, once they can read, to start the habit of having their own devotions daily?
How are your daily devotions going? Do you skip them in favor of getting breakfast made or the laundry started?
Do you teach your children to memorize scripture? Do you memorize scripture?

Think on these challenging questions, and hang on for part two and three in a few days.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post were taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Holiness, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Homeschooling, Parenting, Spiritual Matters | Leave a Comment »

Adult Peer Pressure and the Homeschooling Parent

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 6, 2014

Have you ever considered how much peer pressure homeschooling parents have to endure? First there is the objections of friends and families when we decide to homeschool/homepreschool our kids. Then there is the unrelenting comparisons and academic competition (a lot of it, developmentally inappropriate, due to the curriculum “push down” that has been happening over the last twenty or thirty years of so.)

Is your homeschool (OR homepreschool) being held hostage by the expectations of others? Sometimes it sure feels that way. This is the question Heidi St. John tackles in this wonderful article I just discovered. I really needed this article today. I sometimes feel I’m “held hostage” to the expectations of the next few years…we are starting junior high again next fall. Lots more writing and heavy “academics” are expected. What about you? One thing this article says is that we should be free NOT to do preschool. Hmm. I always enjoyed the preschool years, and it was always fun to me. But how has it been for you?

Do you feel you have to “prove” yourself, and the value of homeschooling, to your extended family? Does that take away your joy? Does planning activity after activity wear you out? Do you feel pressured academically about preschool and Kindergarten? Please. Don’t. Go. There. You have so many years ahead of you. It will all be covered, in time.

Do you have young children, and yet are already worried about “how in the world will I teach Algebra?” Don’t. Go. There. God will provide a way!! It’s OK to let your little ones be little, and enjoy them at the age they are at right now. It’s OK to let them spend the day playing. Please, DO. I would much rather see parents swing the pendulum towards “no preschool” than swing it towards an academic-type homepreschool: Worksheets, two or three years of “alphabet” type activities and so on are not what preschoolers need! Remember, they will pick up those preschool “facts” (A,B,C’s, numbers, colors, shapes, and so on) simply through good parenting, if you trust them to do so. And if they haven’t learned all their “preschool” facts before Kindergarten, then teach them to them in Kindergarten! Remember, as homeschoolers, we don’t have to make our preschoolers “ready” for Kindergarten. Instead, we can make our Kindergarten ready for them!

Remember not to overlook the forest for the trees. Remember WHY you are homeschooling/homepreschooling. I hope that it is for spiritual reasons.

What is really most important at this age? The 4R’s: Relationship, Routine, Readiness, and Reading aloud. Throw in lots of play, art, and music and you’ve got it covered. Really. Trust me on this!! If you need a refresher, please revisit my tabs (above), and explore the articles on “readiness” in the archives. You also might want to take a moment to read the “Goals for the Balanced Mom”. But for now, PLEASE take a moment to read this fantastic article (linked above). Think about it, and pray about it. Then ask God what priorities HE would ask of you for this year. What should your children be learning this year? How should you teach it (what methods should you use?) Ask for a bold vision, and then when it is given, don’t be afraid to obey God and follow his vision…no matter what that vision may be. It may have to do with academics. It may have nothing to do with academics. Most likely, it will have to do with building relationships with God and family, teaching morals and character, learning to love those basic Bible stories, being consistent and intentional, growing your patience, spending more time in the Word and in prayer as a family, and so on.
Hugs! ~~Susan

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Early Academics, Elementary School, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Kindergarten Readiness, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, Uncategorized, Vision | Leave a Comment »

Preschool at Home: You Can Do It! (Easy Ways to Help Your Child Learn at Home)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2012

I often receive phone calls and emails from parents who are excited about homepreschooling.  Many ask me how they should get started, or what curriculum they should use. The truth is, homepreschooling is not something parents suddenly “start”…every parent who has preschool-aged children is already homepreschooling!  After all, you taught your children to talk, didn’t you? And who held your baby’s hands while he was learning to walk?  You did, of course.  You are already a teacher, and already the facilitator of your children’s natural growth and development.

Parents nowadays have been programmed to think that they cannot possibly teach their own children.  The so called “experts” have encouraged them to think that they are not “qualified” or smart enough to homeschool—even at the preschool level!  But parents needn’t worry that they are not “qualified” to teach their own preschoolers at home.  The truth is, you are the expert when it comes to your own children.  No one knows and loves your children as you do.  As a homepreschooling parent, you can assess your child’s interests and readiness, and then carefully move them ahead–without pushing them.  No “preschool” can provide the amount of attention you can…and no “preschool” can individualize your child’s curriculum to fit your child’s own learning styles and interests as you can.

After all, it is God’s design that children be loved and raised by families, not institutions. Within a family, children grow strong, secure emotional attachments, which are vital to healthy personality development. Within a family, children are able to grow close relationships with people of all ages, including their own siblings. Within a family, children receive individualized attention, and children’s speech and vocabulary is enhanced by 50-100 times more individualized responses than they would receive in an institutional preschool (source:  Moore’s Home Grown Kids.) Within a family, children’s character is molded, and their hearts are gently drawn to God.

Homepreschool doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.  The best thing you can provide for your preschooler is your time and attention.  Your children will never need anything or anyone as much as they need you!  Most of what your children need to learn can be taught simply though good parenting.

Here are some simple, developmentally appropriate things that all parents can do to help their children learn.  Good parents do these things instinctively, but it is always good to be reminded about them:

1.  Provide your child with a stimulating home environment, rich in books, music, and open-ended play activities that grow with your child as he does: Play dough, blocks, cars, dolls, puzzles and so on. As your child gets older, have art materials available for your child to use anytime: Paper, crayons, felt-tipped pens, scissors and glue.

2.  Give your children lots of free time for creative play. Play is greatly under-valued in our society. Through play children release stress, get exercise, get a handle on their emotions, and learn skills vital to their academic growth.  Give your children time to play outside every day, weather permitting. If you can, provide a swing set, tricycle, balls and other outside toys; pets to love and care for, gardens to tend, and so on.  Inside play should play should be “creative” or “dramatic” play, as much as possible.

3.  Have your children work alongside you. Children need to learn to work with cheerful attitudes. Working is almost like play to the young child; they are practicing/pretending about their future adult roles. Teach them how to work while they are young and willing. Working together should be a bonding experience for you and your child, and an important learning experience for your preschooler.

4.  Try to make all “learning” fun at first.  As much as possible, let all “academic” learning take the form of games and play. If your child resists, back off for a while. It is much easier on both of you to wait for readiness and teach something in ten minutes than it is to spend ten hours (or days!) trying to teach the same skill before your child is developmentally ready.

5.  Read, sing and talk, then read, sing and talk some more!!  Help your child grow his vocabulary and base of knowledge about the world through conversation, lots of reading aloud and singing together. This is the true heart of homepreschooling.

6.  Provide your child with the opportunity to succeed by giving plenty of practice with new skills and concepts learned–through repetition.  We may become tired of hearing favorite books or songs over and over, or practicing jumping off the steps over and over–but preschoolers don’t!  Repetition strengthens and reinforces learning.

7.  Limit passive entertainment. Even “educational” television or computer games can’t match interaction with real people or real objects when it comes to learning. Most children spend more time watching television or playing computer games than they spend sleeping—much less playing!  Too much passive entertainment can be harmful to young children’s development. Commonly observed effects of too much television or computer time include over-stimulation, shortened attention span, and a reduction in active playtime. Don’t let the television replace real life experiences, play, reading aloud and conversations in the life of your family.

8. Introduce your child to the best in art, literature and music. Art and music are more than just “extras” your child can do without; they are vital to healthy, normal, early childhood development. Enjoying literature of all kinds with your children lays the foundation for literacy. (Several chapters of Homepreschooll and Beyond are devoted to these topics.)

9. Explore the real world together. Visit the grocery store: Purchase new foods to try, and talk about where they are grown/how they are made. Visit your local state and National Parks; explore the streams, mountains and beaches, taking time to wade in the streams, toss rocks in the water, and look for wildlife. Visit your local fire station, police station, train station, and airport. Plant a garden in your own backyard. Work, play and experiment together, and talk about everything you do.

10. Remember that your children are learning all the time, whether you are aware of it or not.  Homepreschooling parents simply take advantage of this fact, and choose to embrace a lifestyle of learning–consciously deciding to take advantage of those “teachable” moments. Life itself is the very best curriculum for preschoolers.

        You CAN provide everything your children need for early learning. Your children will never need anyone or anything more than they need you. Let them have the love, time, and attention of their own parents. That’s all they really need.

*This is a compilation of excerpts from: Homepreschool and Beyond: A Comprehensive Guide to Early Home Education, by Susan Lemons, used with permission.  Much of the material in this book was originally printed in Home School Enrichment Magazine, and is re-used with permission. You can read the complete article, What Your Preschooler Really Needs, HERE.

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Family Life, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Mothering, Parenting, preschool at home | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 5, 2012

Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2012? I can’t believe how fast 2011 went. Why do the years seem to go faster the older you get?

This is the time of year when many of us reassess our lives and our homeschools, making changes and setting new goals. How are things going for you? I have to admit, I seem to be making the same type of “resolutions” the last several years…I think I have a problem!!

While I’ve been contemplating this and re-working my goals, the Lord has laid something on my heart. We always examine the goals that we think are the “big things” in our lives—the main things–and rightly so. But what about all those little things?! Sometimes those little things add up to really big things—or they are important components of the “big” things.

As always, I think about relationships first. I’ve been considering how much little time I really spend on them. We all know we can never spend enough time with the Lord (reading/studying His Word, praying, etc.) Along the same lines—I’ve also been considering how I model prayer for my kids. I want our prayer time to go way deeper than it has before. And now that my boys are getting bigger, I want to encourage them to pray more on their own, as well as practice/become more comfortable praying aloud—even in front of people outside of our family.

When it comes to my relationship with my kids: I want to be sure that I don’t live only for peace and quiet, or rules, or routines; yes, those things are important, but relationship if MORE important. So I’m asking myself if I’m taking the time to do those little things that communicate my love and availability to my kids. Am I taking the time to build our relationships? Am I doing those “little” things, like:

-Am I giving the boys plenty of (appropriate) loving touch (cuddling, hugs, ruffling hair, rubbing shoulders, patting their backs at night, etc)

-Do I really listen to them, or do I tune them out and say “uh-huh,” without really paying attention?

-Do I call to them across the house, or get up and attend to their needs? (OUCH—I’m SO guilty of this one!)

-Do I do little things to let them know that they are loved/that I’m thinking of them? Things like buying them their favorite yogurt, making their favorite meal/treat, and so on?

-Do I praise their good behavior, naming the character trait they are modeling (obedience, patience, diligence, self-control, etc?)

-Do I take the time to play with them? Play games with them? Get silly with them?

-Am I making time for the “fun stuff” in our homeschool? (We did lots of “fun stuff” over our Christmas break—I want to keep the trend going!)

I know there’s one thing I have been overlooking: Time outside—exercise—otherwise known as PE. All kids need it, but when it comes to pre-hormonal boys….well, let’s just say it becomes a necessity. No matter how I feel, I’ve got to take the time to go outside with the boys and make SURE they spend at least an hour playing hard, be it in free play or in specific skill areas. I’m thinking about putting together a PE post…would that be helpful to any of you?

Finally, I’m going to re-read my tab, “Goals for the Balanced Mom.” I know I have lots of new subscribers, so I’d like to encourage you to take the time to read it, too, if you haven’t already. It talks about those “main things” all children need, no matter their age. By keeping our goals in mind, and remembering those little things that make up our larger goals, we can break our goals into “do-able” bits that we all can accomplish.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Making Storytime Special

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2011

 (Classic repost, updated.)     

       Many years ago I had an experience I’ll never forget.  While visiting a friend’s house–a mother of preschoolers–I observed the following: Her little one brought her a book, and trundled onto her lap so that she could be read to. My friend pulled her up onto her lap, and started reading to her…but this was no ordinary story. It was the fastest story I’ve ever heard! There was no expression, nor any discussion of the book or its pictures. She read it as quickly as she could, just to get it over with. 

       I hope this wasn’t the usual way stories went at her house. I understand that she did have company, and she wanted to placate her child so that we could continue our visit. But the whole thing made me sad. It’s something I’ve never forgotten.

       Reading aloud should be a special time of bonding between parent and child. It should never be viewed only as an obligation—something to be rushed through at break-neck speed. Story time should be enjoyed…relished. 

       There are so many ways to make story time special. They are all simple, and so much fun!  Here are a few ideas:

 -Take your time and enjoy the story. Read a little more slowly than you think you need to. Enunciate your words clearly; your children copy your speech.

-Read with expression, and get into character: whisper, shout, growl, squeal, and make animal sounds as appropriate. Make male voices sound low, and female voices higher. Make each character as unique as you can–my boys love it when I add a southern accent for Hank the Cowdog.

-Encourage your children to chime in when there is a familiar or repetitive phrases.

-Pause at the end of phrases, to see if your child can fill in any missing words.   

-Try reading in new places:  How about a picnic read aloud time?  You can have a picnic indoors or out.  Maybe your little girls would enjoy a “tea time” reading. Read in different rooms, in your bed, in front of the fireplace, during bathtime, and so on. We love to read while snuggling on the couch, under a fluffy blanket.

-Try including pets or “loveys” (favorite blankets or stuffed animals) in your reading time.

-Extend your read-aloud time by acting out nursery rhymes and favorite stories, and watch your children’s play for signs that your read-aloud time is sinking-in: You’ll know you’ve found a gem of a book when your children include the book in their pretend-play spontaneously.

-Talk about the story:  Speculate: What might happen next? What could the character have done differently? Notice the details in the pictures, as they relate to the story. Ask your child to describe the characters:  What kind of dog is Harry? (A black dog with white spots.)  What is the one thing he doesn’t like?  (He doesn’t like taking a bath. These details are from one of our favorite books,  Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion.)

-Notice details in each book’s art: How are the pictures made? Are they drawn, painted, colored, or collaged (what is the medium used?) Notice the artist’s use of color and light as well.

-Have your child tell the story, or part of it, back to you (narration.) 

-Give your child a “print-rich” environment.  Keep books at your child’s eye-level, to encourage them to investigate books themselves—or pick out books that they would like to hear. We used plastic rain gutters to make bookshelves right by our boy’s beds and provided them with reading lamps to encourage them to read in bed.

-Choose books that are about topics that are of special interest to your children. Consider turning books/storytime into a daily or weekly unit study or “theme” by reading about one main topic at a time, and by adding fun activities/art projects/dramatic play, etc that enhances the reading experience.

-Communicate to your children that books are important to you.  Let your children see you reading books. Share books that you loved as a child with your children.

-Buy books as presents; give books as rewards (books are only rewards if they are GOOD books. Check out my archives for “book lists” and my post on  “Choosing and Finding Classic Picture Books”.)

-(For older children): Read a book, and then watch a movie based on the book.  How are they different? Which is better? Why?   

-Something we do: Quote special sentences/passages from favorite books (and movies) when appropriate. Ask your children if they remember which books the sayings are from, which character said it, how he said it, and so on.

      Don’t just read to your children—make reading special!

© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

Posted in Book Lists, Challenge to Parents, circle time, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Fun, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Picture Books, preschool at home, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Parable of the Public Poolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 9, 2011

By Jonathan Lewis

NOTE: This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug 2011 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine and is used with (gracious) permission.

Once upon a time, in a place called America, someone had an idea. It was a bold plan—one that would alter the very social fabric of the nation. It wasn’t long before word of the idea began to spread, and many people thought it was simply marvelous. In due time, after enough support had been generated,the plan was put into action.

At first glance, the plan seemed simple enough. Its proponents said it would be fair, free, and effective for all. The plan was this: to construct government-funded public pools in every community across the land. “Every child deserves a positive swimming experience,” the plan’s proponents argued. “Only the government can truly accomplish this through our new public pool system.”

The plan had its detractors, but in the end, it went forward, and soon virtually every city and town in America had its own government-funded public pool. All the children in the community spent their days at the pool under the supervision of the state-certified lifeguards.

At first the pools seemed wholesome enough. True, there were those who said it wasn’t the government’s business to operate a pool system, but most people seemed satisfied. Things went along smoothly, and within a few generations, the government pools were entrenched in the public mind as a necessary and helpful part of society. They were as much a fixture as baseball, Mom, and apple pie.

In the course of time, however, things began to go wrong. It was observed that the pools weren’t as safe as they had once been. In fact, not only were
they not safe, they were becoming downright dangerous—even deadly. Somehow, the public pools all across the land had become infested with man-eating sharks. Children were returning home scarred and maimed. Many were even being devoured alive.

It was at this point that a handful of parents across the nation became alarmed. They decided not to send their children away to the shark-infested public pools any longer. Instead, they would keep their children at home and supervise them in their own pools. In time, this new movement came to be known as homepooling.

In days gone by, homepooling had been common practice in America. But with the introduction of the government pool system, homepooling had become increasingly rare. It may seem shocking, but homepooling had even been outlawed in some states! Certainly America had wandered far from her ideals of freedom and liberty when parents were no longer able to direct their own children’s pooling.

The pioneers of homepooling were greeted with much skepticism. Most parents were complacent, content to ignore the safety hazards of the public pools. In the meantime, conditions continued to worsen, with more and more children being devoured by the sharks. Statistics reported that up to 85% of the children who went swimming at the public pool were being injured or eaten alive.

As a result, the new homepooling movement began to grow. And it was observed that not only were homepooled children surviving, they were thriving. Researchers began to take notice, and it was discovered that homepoolers performed far above their public-pooled peers on standardized swimming tests. Homepooling was beginning to be vindicated as a valid option.

In an average community in America lived a woman named Mary. She and her husband had both been raised in the public pool system, though it wasn’t as bad when they were growing up as it was today. Now, Mary herself was a young mother of three children whom she was accustomed to sending to the public pool. Every morning she would get her children out of bed, feed them a hasty breakfast, then rush them out the door to catch the pool bus. All her neighbors did the same thing. It was just how life in America worked. Then one day, she met a homepooling family at her church. She was impressed! The children were polite, respectful, and were all excellent swimmers. Mary had heard of homepooling, but had never met a family that actually did it. She realized she needed to give the matter some attention.

One day, as she was researching homepooling, her 8-year-old son arrived home on the pool bus. As she saw him limping into the house, Mary knew something was wrong. Upon inspection, she noticed he had deep wounds on his legs—a narrow escape from a shark. That settled it for Mary and her husband. They notified the public pool superintendent that their children would no longer be coming to the pool—they were going to begin homepooling right away.

It wasn’t long before Mary became a staunch advocate of homepooling. She loved having her children at home with her. She was glad that she no longer had to fear the constant menace of the sharks at the public pool. Her children were safe at home where they belonged.

With all the blessings homepooling had brought into her family’s life, Mary expected all her friends to be excited about it too. She was sure they would
begin homepooling when she told them how wonderful it was. But instead of excitement, she was greeted with indifference by many, and even with hostility by some.

One friend at church told her, “You’re overprotecting your kids. How are they going to handle the sharks out in the adult world if they don’t learn how
to deal with them now?”

Another responded with a more spiritual sounding argument. “My kids are being salt and light out in the public pools. If all the Christians
pull their kids out of the pools, who will reach the other kids?”

Mary didn’t think that argument made very much sense. If her kids were being eaten alive, they certainly weren’t going to be reaching many others.

Yet another mom told her, “The pools in our town aren’t like the pools in the bigger cities. They have sharks and stingrays and alligators there. Ours
aren’t like that. We have a great pool system here.”

Mary soon discovered that very few people were willing to admit that the local pools had problems. “We have an above-average lifeguard-to-swimmer
ratio,” another church friend said. “Plus, some of the lifeguards are even Christians.”

Great, Mary thought to herself. They can pray for your kids while they’re getting eaten up by the sharks.

As she tried to spread the word about homepooling, Mary was astonished at the indifference she saw all around her. Children were being maimed, injured, and even killed every day, yet so many seemed unconcerned. As she continued talking to others, Mary couldn’t believe the excuses people were using. If it had been a spiritual issue instead of mere physical safety, she was sure they wouldn’t use these same arguments. After all, if the public pools had been harming children spiritually—if they were causing kids to walk away from their faith, leave church behind, or rebel against their parents—surely they would see the significance and would begin homepooling. As it was, too many parents were ignoring the issue altogether. After all, it was just a matter of their kids’ physical well-being, and apparently that was easy for many parents to ignore.

“Look,” one friend said, “if I wanted to start homepooling, I’d have to quit my job, and you know we can’t get by on just one income. It isn’t practical in the modern world. Maybe homepooling worked back in the pioneer days, but it just won’t work now—not for us.”

Mary was startled that her friend would put finances above her children’s safety. After all, this other family wasn’t destitute. They had a reasonably nice home, two cars, and plenty of extras such as cable TV, a couple of cell phones, Internet hookup, and more. Wouldn’t it have been worth sacrificing part of their lifestyle to protect their kids?

One friend was bluntly honest. “Oh,” she said, “I just wouldn’t have the patience to homepool my kids! I think it’s great that you can do it, but it just wouldn’t work for me. I’d probably kill them the first day,” she laughed.

Never mind what the sharks are probably doing, Mary thought to herself.

She was surprised at how many people were worried about socialization. “How will my kids have friends if I homepool them? I don’t want them to be social misfits,” explained one.

“Homepooling doesn’t mean your kids won’t have friends,” Mary answered. “It just means you can have more control over who your kids are with. Plus,” she added, “you won’t have to worry about all the sharks and other problems that are in the public pool.”

“That’s just like you homepoolers,” her friend retorted. “You’ve got such a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. You think everyone should homepool, and you have to start criticizing the public pool every chance you get. I think I know what’s best for my kids.”

Mary didn’t see how close encounters with sharks every day could be best for any kids, but she knew better than to try to reason with her friend now.

Others were concerned about their kids missing out on the opportunities afforded by the government pool system. “My son really loves the diving board at the public pool,” Mary’s neighbor said. “I couldn’t provide that for him at home.”

Others were afraid of teaching advanced swimming techniques. “I never did very well at swimming myself,” one friend confessed. “I just don’t think I could teach my daughter some of the advanced things she wants to learn.”

Mary could relate to this one. She still felt a little intimidated sometimes too. But she knew there were answers. “There’s lots of great curriculum out there that will help you—books and DVDs and all kinds of things. Lots of other people are doing it, so I’m sure you can too!”

Her friend wasn’t convinced. “Well, maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see how things go.”

As she looked around, Mary was saddened. How could her friends not realize that their kids were more important than their careers, social standing, personal free time, and all the other things that prevented them from homepooling?

Time went by. Her friends at church had been insisting for years that their kids would be fine in the public pool system. But now that the kids were getting older, they didn’t look like they were doing well. Lots of them had already become casualties of the sharks and had disappeared from the church pews. Many others walked with a limp from injuries sustained in close encounters. “It’s just a phase,” some said. “All teenagers go through this. There’s nothing we can do. We just have to believe that everything will work out fine in the end.”

“It’s tough to raise kids in today’s world,” others said. “There’s only so much you can do.”

You could have done something years ago, Mary thought. You could have done something before the sharks got to your kids.

But if Mary was grieved by those who rejected homepooling altogether, she was even more grieved by the behavior of some homepoolers. She couldn’t believe it, but some of her homepooling friends were actually putting sharks right in their own backyard pools. “We can’t get by with this,” Mary protested. “Our kids aren’t immune to injury just because we’re homepooling! We can’t bring the same influences that are out in the public pools into our homepools and expect everything to be fine. A shark is a shark. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the public pool or in the homepool—it’s still going to hurt your kids!”

Some who had begun well decided to quit homepooling and started sending their kids back to the public pool. They seemed to have forgotten why they started homepooling in the first place. Mary couldn’t understand it. She knew she was going to keep homepooling all the way through to the finish.

Mary saw the cost of sending her kids back to the public pool. Yes, there were times when homepooling was difficult and taxed her patience. But what was that compared to the heartbreak of seeing her children come home from the public pool with ugly wounds and scars—or worse, perhaps seeing the day when they wouldn’t come home at all? Yes, there were times she wished she could go back to her old job, make more money, and have a more luxurious lifestyle. But what were the luxuries of this life worth in comparison to the blessing of knowing her kids were safe and happy at home?

Mary knew she was unnoticed by the world. She knew she might forever miss out on the acclaim and praise of man. She knew she would probably never achieve success as our world defines it. Many said she was wasting her life. But Mary didn’t care. How could she? Wasn’t it worth any sacrifice to raise her children for the glory of God? Wasn’t it worth any cost to see them reach adulthood whole, happy, and vibrant? Yes. A thousand times yes.

Jonathan Lewis, 28, is a homeschool graduate, and glad of it! Together with his parents and older brother, he helped start Home School Enrichment Magazine in late 2002, and currently serves as Editor. As a passionate advocate of home education, he writes and speaks from his perspective as a graduate, encouraging parents that homeschooling really does work! If you would be interested in having him speak to your group (or to contact him for any other reason), drop him a note at jonathan @ homeschoolenrichment.com

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Homeschooling, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, Thinking About Homeschooling? | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Importance of Responsible Parenting

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 27, 2011

Does this describe you? I never really thought about it before, but I am a: “Helmet, life-vest and hat wearing, sunscreen using, hand-holding, cross walk-walking, stair-rail grabbing, ‘obey the rules kids!’” kind of mom. You know the type; the kind of mom who gets nervous whenever crowds, strangers, traffic, water or heights are involved. The kind of mom who rides the amusement park rides with her kids (with her hand firmly across their laps) AND/OR the type of mom who begs her husband, otherwise known in the family as “Dad,” to accompany the children on the rides until Dad finally intervenes and MAKES her let their ten-year old ride the roller coaster alone–“but only as long as you stay in line with him,” she insists…so there she stands, watching and praying the whole time. Yup. That’s me. My husband even said to Josh, “Obey the rules and hang on tight, Buddy, because if you get hurt, Momma is going to blame ME” (he survived, by the way….)

But what I’ve noticed in other families really worries me. Last week we traveled to beautiful Yosemite, and this week we are camping in the Redwoods above Santa Cruz, CA. Camping gives you a unique opportunity to “people-watch”, or more accurately in my case, “family-watch.” Have you ever taken the time to watch other families, or observe how other parents interact with their children? I’ve done a lot of that lately, and I must say: while many parents are “doing what they are supposed to be doing” safety/parenting-wise, it seems like many more are not. This week I’ve seen parents who think that letting their children sit or even walk on the edge of a rock wall just above a hundred foot drop is fun, who think barriers and warning signs should be ignored, who let their children sit where they shouldn’t sit on the bus (or walk around on the bus while its going), and who let their very young children (around 2 and 4 years) wade into cold, swift-flowing rivers that could drag them away as fast as you can blink (while they relax on a rock twenty feet away….do they really think they could get to them fast enough?)  What are these people thinking?!

Sometimes I think it is a miracle more children aren’t hurt….or kidnapped… (Our home neighborhood is full of unsupervised children of all ages roaming around at will)….sometimes I think it’s a miracle that ANY child makes it to adulthood at all!

I do try to find a balance of some sort my cautiousness and not become a total “helicopter” mom, but it is hard to find a reasonable balance nowadays when so many dangers abound. Only my husband keeps me from going completely overboard (sometimes I think he’s goes too far the other direction).

In addition to doing my job to keep my children safe,  (and hopefully instilling good habits in them),  I try to  train my children to be sensible, to obey the rules (even when I’m not around to enforce them), and of course, as necessity demands nowadays, I teach my boys about “stranger danger,” potential “child lures” and so on (minus the details of what might happen.)

Challenge: If you have “backed off” as far as safety rules or cautiousness is concerned, or if you’ve just gotten TIRED, as often happens, and stopped being diligent, please reconsider! It only takes a split second for a child to get hurt, lost, or worse.  I think it comes with the territory as “mom” to try to protect our kids, and make sure that they:

-Wear their bicycle helmets, even if they are riding “just for a minute.”

-Wear their life vests, especially when boating, swimming in the ocean or other places where there might be strong currents or unexpected drop-offs. And when my kids swim in friend’s swimming pools, I swim, too, or sit right on the edge of the pool and actually watch them! Personal story: My mom did the same, even when told by other moms that I would “be fine” and that “the older kids will watch Susan.” Thank-goodness my mom listened to her heart and refused to go into the house with the other moms, even though it was a very shallow pool….I’m sure she felt vindicated when she pulled me up from the bottom of the pool a few minutes later. The older kids didn’t even notice.

-Wear sunscreen: My mom passed away from Melanoma (skin cancer), so we are pretty strict about sunscreen.

-Wear hats: Hats do a lot to protect children from sunburn, and they also help protect their eyes. If the sun is bright to you, it’s bright to your kids! We trained all our children to leave their hats on when they were tiny babies. I simply kept putting that hat back on their little heads, and said, “NO” whenever they managed to pull their hats off. (I was determined, and I outlasted them.) Personal pet peeve: Parents who put babies in strollers or car seats and let the sun shine right in their eyes without concern (or even awareness.)

-Hand-holding: Yeah, I’m the mean mom who makes her boys hang on to a grown-up’s hand when crossing streets, in crowds, strange places, near the edge of cliffs, etc.

-Cross walks: Whenever cross walks are available, we use them. Not only is this a safety issue, but it’s the law.

-I tell my kids to “obey the rules!” I teach them that grown-ups don’t make rules to be mean or to spoil their fun, but to keep them safe. Additionally, when we obey the rules, we encourage others to obey them, too; we are setting a good example to others. The first step in this teaching my kids these safety rules is obeying the rules myself! I would hate to be the person who disobeyed a rule in front of a child…and then the child felt it was OK to disobey the rule, too, resulting in an accident.

What do you think? Are you a “helmet, life-vest and hat wearing, sunscreen using, hand-holding, cross walk-walking, stair-rail grabbing, “obey the rules kids!” kind of mom, too?!

~Susan (temporarily from Felton, CA)

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Family Life, Family Rules, Manners, Parenting | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Building Baby’s Brain

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 16, 2011

NOTE: I wrote this article for Home School Enrichment Magazine, and it appeared in issue #39, May/June 2009. They have graciously allowed me to reprint it on my blog.

 We’ve all seen them: products that promise to optimize your baby’s brain growth, increase the neural connections (synapses) in your baby’s brain, and give your baby a head start on learning. These claims are based on the fact that babies’ brains grow at a phenomenal rate, which, manufacturers claim, offers  a unique “window of opportunity” that parents can use to maximize their baby’s development. Some manufacturers imply that if you miss this special window  of opportunity, your baby’s intelligence will suffer. These claims are based on the premise that parents can somehow design or wire their baby’s brain, “building” a better baby. Better than they were before! Better, stronger, faster, and of course, smarter.

Many parents do believe that they can greatly influence their baby’s development. They believe that with the proper enrichment and stimulation, they can grow their baby into some sort of genius. Just follow the money and you’ll see the proof of these beliefs: parents spend more than 2 billion dollars on products promising such results every year. But do these products really work? To answer that question, we need to learn a little about brain development.

See How They Grow: Baby Brain Development

There is a lot about the human brain that scientists don’t know and can’t explain. Here are some things they do know: Babies are born with immature brains. While they contain almost the same amount of cells that adult brains do, the cells are not organized or connected properly (compared to an adult brain). During a baby’s first three years especially, his brain is busy building connections between cells. These connections are called neural connections, or synapses. By the time a child reaches three years old, his brain has made most of the necessary connections. In fact, your baby’s brain has made too many connections: the brain of a 3-year-old is twice as active as an adult’s brain. This is because his brain is less efficient than an adult’s brain. Over the next few years, the neural connections are refined: the connections that are used are strengthened, and those that are not needed are pruned away. But this pruning isn’t a bad thing. A child’s brain must prune connections in order to become more efficient. This is not the end of the story, though. The brain continues to grow and prune connections throughout life. Yes, you read that right: the truth is, the brain continues to grow and prune synapses as needed throughout life!  Since babies build these synapses based on experience, many parents assume that the more experiences they can provide for their babies, the more connections their babies’ brains will make, the bigger their brains will be, and the smarter their babies will become. This is not necessarily true. A bigger brain is not a guarantee of greater intelligence. Just look at nature. Many animals have bigger brains than humans do; human males have larger brains than females. Size does not correlate to intelligence. What makes the human brain more intelligent is its unique, God-given organization and refinements.

Since the human brain grows at such a phenomenal rate during its first three years, many “experts” urge parents not to miss the special window of opportunity to influence baby’s mental development during those years. They warn that once missed, the opportunity will be lost forever. They claim that certain skills are especially important to introduce early—primarily the development of second languages and learning music. In truth, the optimal “window of development” extends much longer than some “experts” suppose. From the book, Einstein Never Used Flash Cards:  “The window extends far beyond early childhood. Professor Huttenlocher writes, ‘Second-language teaching and musical training are likely to be more effective if started early, during the period of high plasticity, which includes the early school years (ages 5 to 10 years.)’  Thus, we needn’t rush music and language learning training into he crib.” [Emphasis added.]

There is great comfort in this—comfort for parents who have adopted an older child, for parents of developmentally delayed children, and for those of us who have older children.  We should never think that it is too late to learn music or a second language. It is never too late to enrich and develop your child’s mind and abilities—or even your own.

The Truth about Early Learning Systems

There is no evidence that videos, flash cards, or other infant “learning systems” will make your child smarter. But there is considerable evidence to show they are harmful. As David Elkind says in Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk, “When we instruct children in academic subjects, or in swimming, or gymnastics, or ballet, at too early an age, we miseducate them; we put them at risk for short term stress and long term personality damage for no useful purpose. There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.” In Einstein Never Used Flashcards, the premise is put forth that the danger of too much early enrichment contributes to “neurological crowding.” This occurs when too much information is presented to children, competing with the neural connections that should be forming in the brain. This competition can potentially crowd out necessary connections and actually decrease the size and number of brain regions related to creativity and intelligence.

Babies need face-to-face interaction with responsive adults to learn. If you are truly concerned about helping your baby grow and develop his brain to its maximum capacity, you should spend time talking to and playing with your baby. Television takes away from a baby’s true learning time. In her article “Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All,” (TIME Magazine, August 6, 2007), Alice Park reports on a study from the University of Washington that showed that “With every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form. The article continues: “Three studies have shown that watching television, even if it includes educational programming such as Sesame Street, delays language development. ‘Babies require face-to-face interaction to learn,’ says Dr. Vic Strasburger, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. ‘They don’t get that interaction from watching TV or videos. In fact, the watching probably interferes with the crucial wiring being laid down in their brains during early development.’”

Television and videos can actually delay language development instead of improving it. Additionally, some experts contend that television and videos actually shorten children’s attention spans, overstimulating their immature brains. Television trains children’s minds to expect high levels of stimulation—bright colors and quick changes. Real life is not always as interesting.

The AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics suggests that babies 2 and under shouldn’t watch any television and that it should be strictly limited even after this age. Television takes time away from play, exploration, and interaction with adults. This is where true learning takes place.

Finally, there’s context: Meaningful learning takes place in context. You can teach a baby to memorize the look and shape of words, and perhaps to recognize them, but without the appropriate life experiences and vocabulary to go with those reading skills, this “learning” is meaningless. They will not understand what they “read.” Research has proved over and over that there is no academic advantage to early reading.

What Parents Can Do to Enrich Baby’s Development

• Relationships first: developing a strong, emotional bond of love and trust is most important for you and your baby.

• During the early years, you are training your child’s habits and tastes. Television watching is a habit that is easy to acquire, but hard to break.

• Go ahead and expose your child to classical music. Sing to your children, too.  This may not make them grow synapses, but it will help set their tastes. It will set the stage for appreciation of music, and later, learning music.

• Instead of television, provide your little ones with interesting things to see, do, and explore. Put your baby on a blanket on the floor and place colorful toys around him. Let your toddler play with play dough or explore an indoor “sandbox” made from oatmeal or rice (for toddlers who won’t put it in their mouths!) Add plastic measuring cups and plastic-ware for more fun.

• Change your baby’s point of view. Switch your baby between the floor, a swing, a bouncer seat, a playpen, your arms, etc., and give him a new perspective on the world.

• Talk to your baby/preschooler all the time, about everything you are doing. Talk to your baby using “parentese”: that special, high-pitched voice and exaggerated facial expressions parents instinctively use when talking to babies. Involve your baby in “conversations”: when baby makes a sound, copy it, and then talk to baby. Be sure to pause and give baby time to respond to what you say. This teaches conversation skills.

• Remember that the “experts” who misinterpret brain research to mean that babies must be sufficiently “stimulated” or “taught” before age 3 do so to promote their products. They are using fear and guilt to compel parents to buy unnecessary merchandise.

• This isn’t to say that babies don’t benefit from enriching activities. It is the type and amount of stimulation that matters. Natural learning, as always, prevails as the best way to stimulate your baby’s development: things like gentle, consistent care, talking to babies, singing to babies, and reading to babies.

• Gentle sensory stimulation, if not overused, can be beneficial to babies. Place small babies on different types of textures: carpet, blanket, parachutes, and so on. Play baby games like “X Marks the Spot” or “So Big.”  Give your baby a gentle massage.

• If you want to spend some money on baby-learning products, remember that babies earn through relationship, interaction, play, and exploration. It would be better to invest in quality, old-fashioned toys and spend time playing with your baby than it would be to plop her down in front of a video.

Remember that there is no single window of opportunity that slams shut once babies reach a certain age. The brain continues to grow and prune synapses throughout life. You will not harm your baby by giving him a normal, loving babyhood minus the flash cards and videos. To the contrary—you will be giving your baby the best start possible.

© 2009 Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

You might also like: Curriculum for Babies?!

 What Babies Really Need: Creating a Stimulating Home Environment

Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers

Posted in Babies, Early Academics, Family Life, Mothering, Music, Parenting, Toys | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mother’s Day Smiles/Resources for Moms

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 9, 2011


        Happy Mother’s Day!  Have you ever noticed how God makes something beautiful out of our difficult situations?  He did that for me today…you see, for the past eight years, Mother’s Day has been melancholy for me; it makes me miss my mom all the more (she passed away from cancer). PLUS, my husband had to work today, and two of my children were sick (some type of flu? I sure hope #3 doesn’t end up sick tomorrow!) and so we had to stay home from church.

        But even on days like today, the Lord offers us encouragement. Just like the flowers growing alongside the road, God can turn something that is unusually stark and ugly into something beautiful. Here is what made my day beautiful today…

        This is a poem that my 10-year-old made up for me: “Mom, I love you all the time, I love you when you are happy, I love you when you are sad, I love you all the day and night. Thank-you for teaching me, being the best mom in the world; Everyday, every-night, you are the best, Clean out of sight.” So sweet, huh?

        More encouragement via the television: As I said, I didn’t get to go to church today, but I did get to watch a great sermon on raising children by Dr. Charles Stanley. If you’ve never listened to him before, you’re in for a treat.

        I was encouraged that he emphasized a lot of the same things I do, such as building relationships (spending time) and conversations (he especially talks about listening). He also shares that we should discipline our children based on the desire to protect them (protecting our children is a good thing, contrary to popular belief.) He said that our society and our educational system (public schools) are ENEMIES to our children.

        He lists eleven things we should teach our children–and best of all, he mentioned a couple of “catch phrases” to add to my repertoire.  Here are a few of my favorite points:

-Spending time with our children is an investment in their eternity.

-Teach your children that the most important thing in their lives is their personal relationship with God. (Make the main thing the main thing!)

-Teach them to be in the Word.

-Teach them to “Obey God, and leave the consequences to Him.”

-Teach your children that they are accountable to God.

-Teach them that God has a plan for their life.

-Catch phrase: “Look your best, do your best, be your best.”

        You can watch the video of the entire message and download notes HERE. It’s worth the time. 

        Another treat for you: Ann Voscamp of A Holy Experience posted 3 Guideposts that can Radically Change Parenting (printables). 

        Finally, perhaps you are feeling down today, too.  Perhaps you are missing your mother, like I am, or perhaps your children are difficult to handle, your nerves are on edge, and you’ve started to wonder if deliberate, Christian parenting is worth the effort.  Maybe you’ve been having health problems or problems of some other kind, and you wonder if homeschooling is worth all the time and effort. If this describes you,  I hope you’ll remember with me that Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not become in weary doing good, for at the proper time we will reap the harvest if we do not give up.”   And do you remember the words to this old hymn? “Something beautiful. Something good. All my confusion, He understood. All I had to offer Him is broken-ness and strife–but He made something…beautiful…of my life.” 

        Thank-goodness “God uses broken pots.” All of us are broken in one way or another. Some of us might feel close to giving up. But God can make something beautiful out of our struggles. Our weakness highlights His strength, and encourages us (and others.)

        If you are struggling, comment on this post and I will pray for you (or, better yet, we can pray for each other!) Hang in there, stay in the Word, and keep on doing what God has called you to do. He promises that we will reap the harvest if we don’t give up. 

    O.K., O.K., so this isn’t the rules to double solitaire…they are coming soon, don’t worry!  ~Susan

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Discipline, Encouragement, Family Life, Mothering, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

More About Family Games/Playing Games with Preschoolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 7, 2011

        Is your family a game-playing family? Our family loves to play games. In fact, some of my favorite childhood memories involve games, because games are a wonderful way of building relationships (watching movies…not so much.)  I can remember playing games with my mother when I was young, and playing hours-long Monopoly games with my brothers. The first games we learned to play were Parcheesi, checkers, Uno, and Booby Trap;  when we got older, we played Scrabble, Rummy-Z (a tile-rummy game; look on E-Bay), Yatzee and various card games.  Most of all, I remember our “holiday” games. There was another family that we were very close to; we spent almost all our holidays together. Traditionally, we would play games after dinner.  Most often we would play Tripoli (a combination of Poker, Michigan Rummy and Hearts) or Rummy-Z, although we dabbled with other games, as well. We would laugh at how seriously our friends took the rules, and looked suspiciously at anyone who had to “look at the box” (the directions ofTripoli were printed on the lid, and explained which hands were the best during poker.) There were almost always peanuts on the table, and chips and dip nearby.

        The key to game-playing is, dare I say it? Starting early (gasp…) I feel the same way about music, too…listening to and participating in music play from an early age is key to develop an “ear” for music/musical skill, just as watching others play/enjoy games from an early age helps children become interested in games, learn the rules of games, etc (as long as you keep it FUN and developmentally appropriate.) Our children grew up watching us play games, sitting on our laps to “help” us play games, etc. It was an important day for them when they graduated to sitting next to mom or dad, playing on their own hands!

        In my book, I list a ton of games/learning games for preschoolers—some home-made, some store bought. Some are “learning” games that teach specific skills, others are more generic. I can’t share all the game ideas that are in my book, but I can list some of our favorite, “generic”, family games. I’ve listed them (approximately) by age. Since game playing is another developmental skill, be sure to check the recommended ages and use your own discernment. We found that our children could often play the games at least a year younger than recommended on the box (especially with help) but your children might be different.

First Card Games (age 4 and up, with help)

Go Fish, Uno, Tutti Fruiti (this game is not made anymore; watch for it at yard sales or on Amazon and E-Bay. It was from Discovery Toys.

Other First Games

Uno Moo, Memory, Toss-A-Cross, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders

Next Step Card Games (in approximate order of easiest to hardest; age 5 with help, age 6+ independent play):

Slamwhich OR Slap, War, Casino, Four Kings in a Corner, Uno Attack

Other Next Step Games:

Twister, Sorry, Parcheesi or Chinese Checkers (basically different takes on the same games); Blockus; Checkers (begin to learn, anyway; a fun variation is to play it with different colored Goldfish crackers or small cookies; eat what you jump!), Monopoly Junior, Jenga,Sum Swamp, Connect Four

Harder Card Games (for older kids/adults):

Golf , Solitaire, Double Solitaire (I’ll share our special rules in the next post), Racko, Pit (loud, fast, and fun! Great for a crowd of older kids, teens and adults); Skip Bo, Poker, Uno Flash, Simple Rummy Games (various)

Other Types of Harder Games:

Chess, Mancala, Monopoly, Apples to Apples Junior/Apples to Apples, Up Words, Scrabble, Banana Grams…

        There are so many more!  We have several new games we’re dying to try out: Five Crowns, Swap, Phase 10, Monopoly Deal, Rage….fun, fun, FUN! 

        If your family has never been a “game playing” family, I’d like to encourage you to try. Set aside a special “game night”; serve an easy, favorite meal (pizza, barbeque, etc) and then spend an hour (or two!) playing games.  You will be building relationships, building memories, and helping your children build thinking skills. Give it a try; you won’t regret it.

        Is your family a game playing family? Do you have any games to recommend? I’d love to hear your comments.

         Next post: Rules for Double Solitaire

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Fun, Games, Parenting, Play, Relationships | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Advice From Peggy

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 10, 2011

        A dear friend of mine passed away a few days ago, straight into the arms of Jesus. She was a Godly woman, beloved of many, and a mentor to hundreds (if not thousands) of homeschoolers–including me. We had a special “sisterhood” since we had both already lost our moms, and continued to miss them terribly.

        Peggy was a woman of vision who served the homeschooling community since 1993 as a support group founder/leader, private school administrator (in CA homeschoolers are private schoolers, so many form their own schools–in some states these are called “umbrella schools”– which provide services for/oversee the work of homeschoolers), and mentor.   Peggy was a gifted teacher, as many blessed homeschool graduates can attest; she especially loved to share her love of science (she was an archeologist/creation scientist who loved to share her fossils.)  But perhaps two of Peggy’s greatest gifts were the gifts of love and encouragement.

        Whenever any of us “moms” were discouraged, she was the “go to” person. We were guaranteed encouragement and a hearty hug…and she always seemed to know just what to say (perhaps because she had already successfully homeschooled her own four children all the way through high school, so she knew what we were going through.) I can remember several times when I was upset about something that was going on with my kids—when I was worried about their behavior, or worried that they weren’t learning enough. She gave me some great advice, which I will now pass along to you. I remember her hugging me and saying, “Now listen, sweetie. Your kids are going to be just fine. You are teaching them about the Lord, and that is the most important thing. If we can teach our children to know and love the Lord, how to read and write well, how to do basic math, and how to do research (so that they can look up anything else they want to learn–fill in any “gaps”), then what else do they need? We’ve given them all the necessary tools to succeed—to become anything the Lord calls them to be.” That advice always comforted me. It really makes homeschooling seem “doable”, doesn’t it? 

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Encouragement, Homeschooling, Parenting | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Some Goodies for You

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 20, 2011

A new review of Homepreschool and Beyond from Homeschool Hangout

A new article I wrote for Design Your Homeschool:  Are You Giving Your Preschooler “Mommy Leftovers”?    Do you ever worry that you aren’t “doing enough” for/with your preschooler?  Many Moms feel they are giving their children “mommy leftovers”–especially moms who are homeschooling their older children but have preschoolers, too.  Give yourself the quiz and see if you are giving your preschoolers the leftovers.  If you have been, why not commit to giving your preschooler an hour a day of mommy time–“homepreschool”?  After all, we schedule, plan and work with our older children everday…can’t we give our preschoolers a little time?  Don’t they deserve it?

A link for you:  10 Point Manifesto For Joyful Parenting by Ann Voskamp

Coming in a day or two:  A new post on methods…this time, on aspects of  the “Creative Curriculum,”  specifically, on learning centers.

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Mothering, Parenting, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

What’s Wrong With Your Face? What’s Wrong With Your Manners?!

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 22, 2011

        I have always taught my children not to stare at people who are different, not to ask rude questions and not to make rude comments.  But last night my son was on the receiving end.

        My 10 year old Josh (like the rest of us) has been sick.  First he was diagnosed with a sinus infection and then he got the flu on top of it.  After he got over the flu, we thought he was finally on the mend…then he got severe hives.  Ends up he’s having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic he’s been on. 

        I really hated to take him out at all, but last night I had to get my daughter to a college class.  While we waited for her we went to get blood work done on Josh (he didn’t even flinch!).   Then we had some time to kill before her class was over.  There was a Borders store nearby so we decided to go there.  Josh looked awful (felt awful, too) so I warned him that people might look at him funny, or stare, or even ask him about his rash.  I told him if someone asked, he should answer that he wasn’t contagious, and that it was just hives–an allergic reaction.  It’s a good thing I warned him. 

        I thought perhaps another child might try to talk to him about his rash—but not an adult!

        While we were at the store, I had to use the restroom.  I told the boys to sit down outside the hall of the restroom and stay there for a minute.  In the time I was gone, an adult walked up to Josh and asked him, “What’s wrong with your face?” 

        I BEG your pardon?  What’s wrong with your face?!  This “adult” apparently didn’t know she was being rude, or didn’t care.  At least she could have asked nicely.  ”Are you feeling OK?” would have been appropriate; even, “Are you contagious?” would be understandable.  Better yet, she could have waited until *I* came out of the bathroom and diplomatically expressed concern over him to me—out of his earshot.  But, “what’s wrong with your face”?  I can’t tell you how upset that made me.

        It’s a good thing I wasn’t there…I honestly don’t know what I would have said.  I couldn’t believe that an adult would be so insensitive to a child. 

       Josh answered just as I told him to, and his feelings weren’t hurt, thank the Lord.  But the experience really got me thinking…and it did give me an opportunity to discuss it “differences” with the boys. 

       I told them to imagine that the rash was permanent.  What if his face was like that all the time?  How would it make you feel if people stared at your face, asked you about it all the time, or even made fun of you?  Imagine how hard that would be, and how much it would hurt your feelings.  What if one of us had another physical disability that made us different, such as a severe limp, the loss of a limb, hearing aides, scars, having to use a wheelchair, etc?  How would we want others to treat us?

       I guess the end of this rant is a simple:  Teach your children to be kind to others, especially those who are different.  Teach them not to stare or make rude comments.  Tell them that if they have questions about someone else’s appearance, they should ask you in private.  Most of all, lead by example.  Put yourself in another person’s shoes before you speak.  Watch your manners!

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Disabilities, Family Life, Manners, Mothering, Parenting | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Year’s Resolutions/Planning for a New Homeschool Year

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 31, 2010

         Sorry I haven’t posted for so long; I’ve been busy enjoying the season with my children.  We had a wonderful Christmas, and hope that you did, too!  This is the first year that my daughter has had her own money to spend, and she really enjoyed spoiling us all—especially me.

       I really can’t believe that Christmas is over, and that it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions/our plans for a new year of homeschooling.  Do you re-examine your school plan this time of year, while you are thinking about your other resolutions?  Your family life?  Your spiritual life?  We do.  Below are some of the questions I have been considering. 

     Let me make it clear:  I am not posting this list so that I can beat you over the head with it.  Rather, I am beating myself over the head with quite a few of the questions.  I do hope some of them will make you think….they sure make me think!!  I believe that every Mom can think of several areas that need attention/improvement. 

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (NIV)

     Here are the questions I’ve been asking myself:

-Am I walking in the Spirit, or in the flesh?  This question is top of my list, because I think it is the most important (along with examining our relationships—see below.)  I think this question is at the heart of everything that happens in our home. 

     Our Pastor has started a series entitled, “Living in the Covenant in the New Year” and it has already been a blessing to me.  I appreciated it so much because Pastor explained our new life in Christ versus “the old man” in a way that even my boys could understand.  (I’ve been trying to explain it to them for years!)

      I hope you’ll take the time to listen to the message linked above.  Also, consider reading the book, “Practicing the Presence of God”, by Brother Lawrence.  You can read it online for FREE.  It is life-changing…living a perpetual prayer life. 

     Here are the rest of my questions I’m asking myself:

-Am I spending enough time in the Word? 

-Am I spending enough time in prayer?  Specifically, am I praying for my children enough?  Am I consistently praying for their future spouses, as well?

-Am I speaking (AND thinking) blessings over my children, or curses?  When my children come to tell me something, do I act as if they are merely an interruption, or do I listen with care and respect (in other words, do my actions communicate to my children that they are a blessing?)

-Also, what do my children think of themselves?  What do they say about themselves?  I want to be aware of this since our perceptions become our reality…we can “curse” ourselves (as well as our children) with negative self-fulfilling prophecies (“You’re so stubborn”…”Why are you having such a tough time with this?”, <child> “I can’t read!” VERSUS “You are very determined, and you have lots of stick-to-itiveness,” “You’re so clever…I know you can do this!” or  <child> “I can read!  I know I can do it!”)

-Do I control my tongue?  Am I teaching my children to control theirs?

-Am I teaching my children the importance of controlling their thoughts?

-How is my mothering?  Am I doing the things I know I need to do for/with my children mentally/physically/spiritually?  What about discipline-wise? 

-Has my attitude been what it should be?  Do I set a good example to my children?  How are my children’s attitudes doing?  Towards discipline?  Towards school?  How can I help them improve and grow?

-How is my tone of voice?  Am I gentle with my children?  Compassionate?

-Is there enough follow-thru to provide accountability when it comes to obedience, attitude, chores, school, etc?  (This is one I really need to work on—as well as total consistency.)

-How is the culture of our home?  Have I become lax in regards to what I let my children watch on TV—or how long I let them watch? (Yes.)   Have I become lax with our computer rules? 

-What is the character of our home?  Is there peace in our home? 

-What is working/not working for us school-wise?  This is a good time of year to revisit your curriculum and make changes as necessary.

-Is my home conducive to learning?  Are art supplies easily at hand?  Are there lots of different types of books available for my children to choose from freely?  Is my “school area” organized and ready to go?  (In other words, is our home an enriching environment?)

-Am I providing enough creative play/outside play time for my children?

-Am I planning time for the “fun stuff”–and getting it done?  (Not nearly enough!)

     And, of course, most importantly, I ask myself about the 4R’s:

 -Relationships:  How are our family’s relationships with God going?  What is our spiritual temperature?  Are we sick, or healthy?   Are we, as a family and as individuals, growing in the Lord?  What do we need to change?  Are we putting off the “old man”, and becoming new creatures? 

     Am I taking the time I need to grow relationships within our family?  Am I teaching/helping my children grow their relationships with others in the family?  Am I making time to play with my children? Do we laugh together, play games together, etc (do we take time for relationship builders?) 

     Do I provide each child with enough cuddle time?  What about hugs/affectionate touch throughout the day (ruffling the hair, rubbing the shoulders, etc) to communicate my love to them?  

    Here is a Spiritual Growth Assessment from Lifeway that might be helpful to you.   

-Routines:  How are our routines working?  Do we need to make any changes, or simply work on being more consistent?  How well am I managing my time?  Am I teaching my children to manage theirs?

 –Readiness:  What are we doing too much of/not enough of?  Are there subjects/areas where we are falling short—areas where the curriculum needs to be beefed up?  (Am I providing the learning activities/opportunities that my children are ready for?)

     Alternately, am I trying to do too much?  Am I pushing my children too hard?  Am I frustrating myself and my children with inappropriate expectations?  Remember that with young children, it is important to wait for signs of ability, interest, and spontaneous learning before trying to instruct our children in academic subjects.  If you have a preschooler, remind yourself that you don’t have to work your child to death getting him “ready for Kindergarten.”  Instead, you can make your homeschool ready for your Kindergartener. 

      If you have a Kindergartener, give him a relaxed, traditional Kindergarten experience and ease into seatwork/the 3R’s only as they are ready (and never forget how much they learn through real life, hands-on experiences, conversation, and through being read to!)

-Reading aloud:  Am I spending enough time reading aloud to my children—no matter their age?  We need to continue building up our read aloud time.  One goal I have set for myself is getting my boys ready for bed earlier, so that we have more time to read before bedtime.  We are in the middle of two series:  My husband and I are taking turns reading Hank the Cowdog to the boys, and my daughter has just started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to them (this is in addition to the reading we do for homeschool.)

     All these questions boil down to three main questions:  1) Am I walking in the Spirit (and receiving His power to help me do what I know I should do),  2) Am I a balanced Mom?,  and  3) Am I making the main thing the main thing–in my personal life and my home life?

     I will prayerfully consider each of these questions over the next couple of days, and write out some goals in response to them.  What about you?  What questions have you been asking yourself?  Are you making any New Year resolutions this year?



© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, The 4 R's, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

More About Routines: Why They are Important

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 19, 2010

        When Jolanthe from Homeschool Creations wrote a review of my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, she asked her readers to check out my blog and then post on her blog as an entry to win the book.  They could choose between naming some of the articles that originally inspired me to write the book (see the tab, “my articles”), OR share which of the 4R’s (relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud) they needed the most help with.  Here is the breakdown of the replies about the 4R’s: 


17–Reading Aloud



         As you can see, routines won hands-down.  Many of the mothers stated that they needed help with their routines; some even wondered if routines are really necessary.  In response, I’ve decided to write a couple of  posts that will answer these concerns (I will also write a post about the second most chosen of the 4R’s: Reading Aloud.)  Anyway, here is the first post—“More About Routines.”

         I know from experience that routines can be hard. Routines involve self-discipline…they just aren’t going to happen by themselves!  We’re starting our 18th year of homeschooling now, and we have tweaked our routines more times than I can count.  Our routines have changed due to my husband’s work days and hours, the ages of our children, our health, the time of year (in summer we play in the morning and do school in the afternoon, for instance), and more.   You’d think that after 17 years I’d have it all together by now, but I don’t…especially in regards to my homemaking routines right now.  In fact, writing this post has been convicting to me–I know what I need to do, but making myself do it on a consistent basis is another thing.  So don’t be discouraged—you’re certainly not alone.  Read on, and know that I’m working on this with you.  Be sure to check back again soon to read the next post on this topic, “establishing routines that will work for you”. 

What are Routines?

        I want you to know that when I talk about routines, I’m NOT talking about a down-to-the-minute “schedule” that becomes a burden or a slave driver to your family.  You don’t have to rush through your day, trying to meet artificial deadlines every fifteen minutes or half-hour. What I’m talking about simply a sense of “what comes next.”  Perhaps a good term to remember is a “relaxed routine.”

        A relaxed routine doesn’t mean that you don’t have any goals, though; as with everything, there is a need to find a balance.  For us, this has meant that meal times, snack time, naptimes and bedtimes are kept as consistent as possible—you might think of them as the “skeleton” of your routine.  The rest of the routine, however, is much more flexible.  I like to allow enough time to follow my children’s lead within the routine—so if the children get caught up in their play, or want to paint 4 pictures during art time, or feel like doing 3 math lessons (yes, this has happened at our house), it’s OK.  We might have to shorten the next activity, but that doesn’t throw the rest of the day into chaos. 

        It’s a good idea to have some basic goals for different times of the day—for instance, “we should have our breakfast, chores, family worship time, circle time, a preschool activity (art OR cooking experience OR science activity OR game-time OR manipulatives OR planned/creative play), snack time, and outside play time finished before 11:30 so that we can eat lunch at 12:00”.  Another one might be, “we should finish lunch, get washed up/brush teeth, and be ready for our read aloud time by 1:00 so that the preschoolers can be napping by 1:30.” 

        There are several different types of routines that you might want to put into place:  Morning routines, mealtime routines, bedtime routines, and school routines….some parents prefer to think of them separately this way, while others think in terms of the whole day’s routine.  We do a bit of both.  Additionally, I plan cleaning routines and personal routines as well.  I call our cleaning routines “standard operating procedures” or SOP for the kids.  (“Did you finish the kitchen SOP?”)

Why Are Routines Important?

        Now let’s address the question, “Why are routines important?” And, “Are routines even necessary?” 

        I believe that routines are not only necessary, but vitally important.

        Routines help children in many different ways.  One of the most important things that routines provide for children is emotional security.  Children—especially young children—derive security from that sense of “what comes next.”  This security helps children learn to trust that their parents will take care of them, and this trust enhances the parent-child bond.   This security/trust/bond is especially important to grow and maintain during the baby/toddler years…but of course, it should be a continuing part of life, all life-long, for every child. 

        Routines help children stay on an even keel emotionally, and will prevent emotional meltdowns.  This will save your sanity.  It helps your children behave better and makes your home a more peaceful and happy place to be.  Conversely:  Children who aren’t on a regular routine are often over-tired, hungry, irritable and stressed.

        Without a daily routine there could be important activities that you overlook on a day-to-day basis—even things like personal hygiene (brushing teeth, baths, etc), as well as important activities such as reading aloud, time spent with each child, etc. 

        Routines help children grow helpful habits that will benefit them the rest of their lives.  Good habits help us do the things we should do with little thought or effort.  Habits involve not only the “big picture” of our daily routine in general, but all those little things that make up our daily routine as well (personal hygiene, picking up toys, etc.)

        I believe that our very character, attitudes and manners are affected by the habits we learn (or don’t learn) as children.  Charlotte Mason wrote, “the habits of the child produce the character of the man . . .every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

        Once a good habit is learned, little mental effort is involved in the task at hand…it’s just something we do.  It requires little thought and practically no effort.  You might say that we work on “autopilot.”  This is more help than you can imagine.  As Charlotte Mason says, “A mother who takes pains to endow her children with habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.” 

        Finally, routines help young children grow their self-confidence and independence.  Once children are secure in their routines, they’ll know when its time to brush their teeth, get dressed, and so on—and they’ll be confident and ready to try those activities independently.    

        Next post:  Developing Your Own Daily Routines

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Babies, Challenge to Parents, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Mothering, Parenting, Routines, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Generations Radio Interview

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 22, 2010

      Ever wonder what I sound like?  I’m sure it won’t be what you imagine.  But if you’d like to know, you can listen to me on Generations Radio

    I was blessed to be interviewed this week by Kevin Swanson, a Pastor, author, leader in the homeschool community, and a homeschooling dad. 

    We talk about my book, the advantages of homepreschool versus institutional preschool, building relationships, the importance of conversation, music, and lots more.  You can listen HERE.

     Live the 4R’s!


Posted in Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, Mothering, Music, Parenting, Picture Books, Play, preschool at home, Radio Interviews, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Susan Lemons, Teaching Reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What Kind of Homepreschool Mom are You?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 8, 2010

    Tonight I wanted to muse about about different types of homepreschooling moms.  I’ve noticed three common types over the years; I wonder if you agree with my observations. 

1.  Keep ’em Busy Moms:  These moms have a singular goal:  Keep their preschoolers busy and “out of their hair”.  These moms overload their homes with toys and videos, with the hope that they will keep their children occupied and quiet.  These moms interact with their children only when they have to:  When the children are misbehaving, need physical care, or when meals must be served.  There is no schedule, little conversation, little time spent reading, little to no time spent participating in enriching art activities (too messy), and even less intentional spiritual or character training happening in these homes. 

2.  Competitive Moms:  These moms are aware of the importance of the preschool years, and have the best of intentions:  They want to give their children every academic advantage. They follow a strict daily schedule overloaded with “educational” activities, phonics lessons, math lessons, music lessons, and more.  There is little time for creative play…all play must have an educational purpose. Toys likewise must be “educational”, with electronic games dominating the toy box.   There is a lot of time spent reading aloud, but the reading selections are often too advanced for the children to enjoy.  Art and other enriching activities are offered, but since the emphasis is often on a lesson or an end product instead of the experience itself, the children don’t enjoy the activities.  While there is much time spent in conversation, there is little time to enjoy each other’s company…there is little time for JOY.  The children feel pushed, pressured and stressed; day by day, they are become more and more squirmy and resistant to their “lessons”.  Little time is spent on Bible or character training, since the total emphasis of the home is on academics.  The pressure is always on for these children, and the relationship they have with their parents suffers because of it. 

3.  The Balanced Mom:  The balanced mom seeks to address the needs of the WHOLE child…academically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  The balanced mom first and foremost emphasizes relationship with her children.  It is her goal to help her children grow close personal relationships God, and then with his/her family. 

     Balanced moms understand that children need to feel wanted and loved, and so she deliberately spends time working, playing and talking with their children everyday. 

      Balanced moms develop a simple daily schedule for her children–one that includes reading Bible stories, prayer, music, story time, and play time.  Children often dabble in art or music– (just for fun), and spend hours playing every day.  These children are neither ignored or indulged, over-stimulated or under-stimulated.

      Balanced moms want their children to learn, but understand that every child learns best in natural ways, and at his/her own pace.  Balanced moms see all of life as a learning opportunity, and try to take advantage of the interests and ‘teachable moments” in the lives of her children.   

    The balanced mom “makes the main thing the main thing,” emphasizing personal relationship with God, and character training. 

   What type of mom are you?  What type of mom do you WANT to be?!

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.   

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Curriculum, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Mothering, Parenting, Relationships | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

“I Can” Homeschool and Chore Chart

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 22, 2010

   One of Charlotte Mason’s mottos for children was, “I can, I ought, I will”, so I suppose it’s only appropriate that our family’s way of rewarding our children for their daily routine, chores, and anything “well done” is called “I-Cans”.  

    I first got this inspiration from a friend who showed us her I-Cans.    Over the years I’ve tweaked the system to meet the needs of our family. 

   Below is a picture of our I-cans (my first pictures on the blog–I’m so excited!)   I made the I-Cans by copying and pasting the phrase “I Can” over and over on a sheet of paper, and then having my son draw and add the “eye” picture (on Photoshop.)  Next I drew circles around them.  My I-Cans are between the size of a quarter and half dollar, so that they fit inside our pocket chart perfectly.  Once I had a page of I-Cans, I went to a copy center and had several sheets copied onto heavy paper, and then cut them out.  I made our I- Cans in a different color for each boy.  You could also make special colors to indicate special rewards. (Another option:  Use tickets.  You can find tickets–the kind they use at raffles–at school supply stores in several different colors.)

      We use our I-Cans in two different ways; in our chart, and on a pin.  Notice the holes punched in the I-Cans?  This is to accomodate the pins.  (I used a tiny hole punch.)  We put the I-Cans onto baby diaper pins and pin them to the children’s shirts, where they become a constant reminder of how the children are behaving that day (or not.) 

     Each child starts the day with ten I-Can’s.  Everytime they are naughty, they have to give up an I Can (rule: give it up nicely or lose another for bad attitude.)  Every time I catch them being good or doing something extra nice, I reward them with an I-Can.  At the end of the day, we count and see what they have left.  If they have more than five left, they get another  I-Can and/or some small instant reward. 

     Every night before bed we count that day’s I-Cans and “bank” them (save them in the bank).   Our bank is inside the door of our kitchen pantry, and our chore chart is on the outside, secured with Command Adhesive strips. 

     Friday is Banking Day.  Fridays are the only days that the children are allowed to count all their I-Cans.  Each week, the boys have a choice:  Do I trade in my I-Cans for a short-term reward? (This would be small treats like choosing a movie to watch at home, a small toy like a Matchbox car or bouncy ball, sidewalk chalk, or a candy bar–we love the dollar section at Target for our prizes.)  Do I save up my I-Cans for a better reward (a trip to the ice cream shop, going to an appropriate movie at the theatre, etc), or do I save for a month or more for something I really want?  (The best rewards take a long time to earn.)  We might buy a Lego set that they really want and place it on the fireplace mantel for them to drool over.  We label it with the number of I-Can’s they’ll need to earn it.  A set worth $25 might “cost” the boys 300-400 I-Cans.  Another option is to assign a dollar amount for each I-Can (ten cents each, for instance), but this can get too expensive!

         I use a pocket chart from the school supply store to make our chart.  You can order one like mine HERE, but there are many different chart options available.  HERE is another one from Amazon (chores only); HERE are some different ideas for using charts and some FREE printable charts. 

      My chart has three rows for each boy; each of the rows is highlighted with his I-Can colors.  The first row lays out our morning routine; the second row our school day, and the third row highlights behavior.  That leaves one extra row.  We call this row weekly “priviledge.”  I made the labels on our chart with my P-Touch.  Take a look:

Priviledge close up chart

   To the left is a close-up of   the “priviledge” row.  Each week one of the boys is on “priveledge.”  Whoever is on priviledge (we call it “Josh’s week” or “Ben’s week”) gets to do certain special things (priviledges), but in exchage for the priviledge, extra chores are assigned.  “Priviledge” solves a lot of problems for me.  Whose turn is it to get the mail?  Whose turn is it to choose a movie if they can’t agree?  Who gets to choose their seat in the car?  Who gets to sit on my left side (don’t ask why–I have no idea why they’d fight over this) during story time?   Who gets to pick the story at bedtime (if I’m offering a choice),  and who gets to choose the story tape to listen to at bedtime?  The answer is always on the chart.  

      To make the marker so that the boys can see their names, I glued two “I-can’s” –one for each boy, in his colors–back-to-back onto a small piece of cardboard (about two inches high) and then laminated it. 

      The extra chores in exchange for for “priviledge” are:  Go-fer (bring things to mom/run inside and grab the cell phone, etc), pick up dog poop (once a day), laundry helper (tote and carry, help fold or put away as needed), check animals daily (food/water), and take the garbage/garbage cans out (as needed), wipe the outside of the toilet (daily.)  Remember, my boys are 9 and 7.

     Every morning we do our first row (with one exception these are “before school” chores.)  As the boys finish each chore, they earn an I-Can.  Our morning chores are (from top to bottom):

Breakfast, vitiamins; one of the boys has “inhaler” on his chart (for asthma), and the other has “fingernails” (he is a nail biter, so we inspect his fingernails, and paint them with something like “Thum“.)  They must eat what they are offered at breakfast and cheerfully take their inhaler or get their fingernails painted to earn an I-Can.

-The next pocket is dress, (get dressed appropriately for the day), laundry (pick up any clothes on the floor and put jammies away), and bed (straighten.)

-The next pocket is teeth (brush), face (wash) and hair (comb.)

-The next pockets say:  Josh-unload dishwasher; Ben-wipe bathroom sinks/counters and “bathroom check” (look for anything left on the floor, check hand-towels and toilet paper.)

-The final chore box isn’t entirely done before school.  It says: Josh-lunch table (clear food away and wipe table) and garbage out (kitchen); Ben-breakfast table, floor under table and floor patrol (look around in the family room for toys left out, and pick them up.)  Wiping the table without making a worse mess is a skill we are still working on.

-The school row is the same for each boy.  Right now it is slighly out of order, but we use it as-is.  The pockets are (from top to bottom): Bible, memory (memory verse/recitation practice), hymn; unit, game; math; reading, copywork; speech (speech therapy practice) and PE/play (outside time.)  I didn’t add rewards for art, music, etc, since the boys love to do them so much.

-The final row is our behavior row, and it too is the same for each boy.   In that row we have: Obey, Honor; Cheerful, Helper, Share; Worker, Picked up; Good Eater.

     Our I-Can Rules: 

-Each chore or school subject completed cheerfully and well earns an I-Can. 

-At the end of the day, we go over the behavior chart and add I-Can’s for good behavior.  Alternate idea:  Go over the behavior portion of the chart at noontime, too. 

-Once I-Cans are in the chart or in the bank, they cannot be taken away; these have been earned.  Only the I-Can’s pinned to their shirt can be taken away for bad behavior.

-At the end of each day, we put the I-Cans earned for that day in the bank. 

-Banking day is the only day the boys can count their I-Cans and retrieve their prizes.

Rules for pins:

-When you “lose” an I-Can from your pin, you must hand it over cheerfully or you will lose another one for bad attitude.

–No asking or hinting for I-Cans.  Mom can’t see everything; sometimes doing good is its own reward.

-You can tell Mom when your brother deserves and I-Can (when he does something extra nice for you); but you may NOT tell (tattle) on your brother, saying he deserves to have one taken away.  Mom decides this.

-Be careful with your I-Cans:  No bending them or getting them wet.

-Five or more I-Can’s left on the pin at the end of the day earns an extra I-Can and/OR a small treat (right away.)

-You may not remove your I-Can’s from your shirt after Mom pins them on you, or you lose them all.

     It sounds complicated, but once you get going on it, a chart like this works really well.  Just make sure your children know all the I-Can rules before you begin enforcing them.  You should also be sure that your children understand your house rules, so that they understand which behaviors might result in losing an I-Can.

     Final tips:  Teach one new chore at a time.  Teach it in the four step process:  Show them how to do it, help them do it, watch them do it, inspect the job they’ve done.  Inspection is extremely important!

-Remember that the goal is to develop a routine that becomes a habit.   Working cheerfully, properly, and well should also become a habit (eventually!)

-Make sure your chores are developmentally appropriate.  Preschoolers can do chores like straightening beds, feeding pets (dry food), sorting laundry, tote and carry, picking up after themselves, wiping counters (if you ring out the rag), vaccuming, sweeping, dusting, and so on.  For ideas about teaching your children to work, check out the books below.

Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field

401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Character Traits, Discipline, Family Rules, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Parenting | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

What Babies Really Need: Creating a Stimulating Home Environment for Babies

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 11, 2010

         If babies don’t need curriculum, what do they need?  Babies really need only two things:  1). Loving, responsive, and consistent care from their parents, and 2). A stimulating (or enriching) home environment.

         The most important thing babies need is their parents. No substitute caregiver or expensive “curriculum” can replace this need.  During their first year, babies are bonding with their parents, and learning that they can trust their parents to take care of them.  From this trust grows security—and security is essential for normal personality development.  

Loving care:  Babies need to know that they are loved.  We communicate our love to them in many ways; by gently caring for them, through appropriate touch, and by the tone of voice we use when we talk to them. Remember to make eye contact with your baby, and engage her in “conversations” (she makes a sound, you reply; you then wait for her to respond again.)

Responsive care:  Some developmental “experts” encourage parents to deny their instincts when it comes to their babies—even newborn babies.  They encourage parents to strictly schedule their baby’s feedings, and make them “cry it out” at night until the clock says its time for them to wake up and/or be fed.  Babies don’t function by the clock.  (Dr. Penelope Leach has made the news lately by stating that crying it out damages babies brains…it’s common sense that such a strict schedule might be emotionally damaging for babies.)  For nursing babies, it is especially dangerous (some parents have actually starved their nursing infants to death by keeping them on a strict feeding schedule….nursing is a balance between supply and demand.)  Instead, follow your heart and respond to your baby’s cries.  Remember that your baby has emotional and social needs as well as physical needs, and give your baby the time and attention he deserves by letting him be closely attached to you.   Also remember that comforting your baby and bonding with him are legitimate reasons to let him nurse, even if “he shouldn’t be hungry yet.”

        Some “experts” believe that babies can be spoiled by too much attention…especially if they are held too much.  But in my experience, babies can’t be spoiled.  In fact, by giving them the emotional attachment they need while they are small, we are giving them what they need to grow up to be independent, self-confident and secure.  Besides, studies have shown that babies who are held more cry less…and isn’t that every parent’s goal?

Consistent Care/Routines:  Too strict of a schedule is problematic not only for baby, but for you as well.  Instead of trying to adopt a strict schedule, try a simple routine.  Instead of a timed-to-the-minute schedule that can become oppressive, a routine is simply an “order of events” for the day.  It can be flexible, reflecting baby’s needs and your needs as well.  This allows us to be consistent in our care-giving, while allowing for interruptions to our routine such as illness, travel, etc. 

        Babies, like preschoolers, come to depend on that sense of what comes next.  Routines keep babies on an even keep emotionally, and helps prevent meltdowns.  (See the tab 4 R’s: Routine.)   If you really are serious about enriching baby’s development, consider planning to include some of the elements listed below under “a stimulating home environment” during your baby’s quiet and alert times.

Repetition:  Babies thrive on repetition.  They don’t need a “curriculum” full of 20 million different board books, lullabies, baby-games, nursery rhymes, etc; instead, choose a few of your favorite elements and include them, a few at a time,  every day (as part of your “stimulating home environment”.)  Remember, babies love and need repetition, so use only a few at a time.

A Stimulating Home Environment:  Babies don’t need a pre-planned curriculum to learn.  We can easily provide them with all they need.   Here are some of the most important elements:  

~Routine:  Bring baby into your daily routine, talking to her  about everything you are doing. 

~Floor time:  Babies need time on the floor every day to help them improve their muscle control  and coordination.  Try these ideas:   Place baby on his tummy near a shatter proof mirror, or place colorful toys, toys with black and white designs, or board books with pictures of faces near baby.  These encourage baby to lift his head to take a look around.  You can also try laying baby on his back underneath a mobile or baby gym. 

~Offer your baby a change of perspective:  Alternate baby between different places and types of safe environments so that she can get a new perspective on the world.  Besides the floor, try a baby swing,  bouncer seat (we used these a lot on top of the kitchen island while I was cooking),  saucer seat,  Johnny Jump-Up,  etc as is appropriate for your baby’s age and development.  Babies love being outside as well—sometimes nothing else will soothe them.  Just remember to keep your baby out of the direct sun (we trained our babies to wear hats from infancy, to protect their tender skin and eyes.)   Even providing a new quilt for baby to lie on during floor time changes baby’s view of the world. 

~Play time:  Our babies need us to play with them every day.  Traditional baby games such as Peek-a-boo, How Big is Baby?, etc are not only fun but bonding and learning experiences for babies.  For some great ideas, visit your local Gymboree class, or invest in one of these books:

 ~Reading Aloud:  Have you started reading aloud to your baby everyday?  Reading aloud is one of the most important things parents can do to help their baby learn.  Here are a few of my favorites for the first year:

~ Singing:  Do you sing to your baby?  Babies need to be sung to everyday, no matter how bad we think we sound.  Singing to babies helps them to develop their language and listening skills, musical skills, and more.  Here are some of our favorites:

  • Lullabies:  Jesus Loves Me, You are My Sunshine, Rock-a-bye Baby, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Hush Little Baby, Brahms Lullaby, etc. 
  • Action songs and lap songs:  Wheels on the Bus (circle hands or feet), Row Your Boat (circle baby’s feet), The Noble Duke of York, Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes (touch correct body parts), and Open, Shut Them (since babies can’t open and close their hands yet, do this by spreading their arms way out, and then crossing them over their chest for “shut them”), This is the Way the Ladies Ride, and so on; and bath time songs such as “This is the Way We Wash our Hair” etc (my favorite source is Joanie Bartel’s Bathtime Magic ~~all of hers are good.  I also recomend Raffi’s Singable Songs for the Very Young.)   

Final Helps:  Here are some articles to help you become a more responsive parent to you baby:

More about Dr. Leach & crying babies (both sides of the issue) http://www.wikio.co.uk/news/Penelope+Leach

 Dr. Sear’s site on attachment parenting (remember to keep this balanced…no one can hold their baby all the time, and co-sleeping has it’s own pro’s/cons/safety issues):  http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/T130300.asp

 You Tube Videos on Dunston’s baby language (how to understand your baby’s cries–it’s worth a try!):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6CFSGAueyo

 Dunston’s own website: http://www.dunstanbaby.com

        Remember, what your baby needs most is not some new “educational” toy or “curriculum”; your baby needs YOU.  

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Babies, Book Lists, Curriculum, Mothering, Music, Parenting, Play, Reading Aloud, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »