Schooling With Littles

The most common questions I receive about homeschooling have to do with curriculum and how to manage school with younger siblings. Homeschooling multiple ages and grades can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. If the idea is embraced rather than resisted, it often leads to a richer educational and relational experience.

Seven years into this homeschooling journey, I have a few suggestions and recommendations to share. It is important to remember that every child, every relationship, every family dynamic is different. Attention spans and developmental skills widely vary across ages. Try not to compare your own children to each other. Be flexible and keep trying until you find what works best for you and your kids.

With that said, there are several things that have helped while I was homeschooling with a baby, then a toddler, then a preschooler, and now finally with three different levels.

1.) Include younger siblings in all lessons as much as possible. Little brothers and sisters love to be part of the action. Make a special spot for them at your homeschool table. Encourage them to try some of their older sibling’s activities. Print off an extra page, make a copy of the worksheet, give them their own paper and pencil. Make it a big deal that they have “schoolwork” to do too.

This might sound easier said than done, and it will probably add some distraction and extra things to manage. It may also require an extra dose of strength and patience. BUT it will make your younger children feel loved, respected, and important. This is great for building family team and rapport.

Homeschooling is really about teamwork. And you, as the team leader, are laying the foundation for your team to be successful. In a team, everyone is important and brings something special to the table. That includes the littlest team members.

2.) Plan special activities just for them.

Littles have a short attention spans. Lessons and activities should be kept brief, include movement, and varied activities. Include younger siblings as much as you can in big kid activities, but give them their own activities too. I’ve created a list of recommendations at my Amazon Storefront.

Child led, Imagination Infused, Play Ideas List

Some ideas to try:

  • Sensory Boxes. Check out a few ideas on my Pinterest board!
  • BOX TIME! Make special boxes for each day of the week. Label five plastic shoeboxes or bins with the days of the week. Add different objects, items and toys that can only be used during “box time.” Switch out the toys or items weekly or every couple of weeks. Items in the boxes could be as simple as a sheet of stickers and colorful paper, or as special as a new toy.
  • Music makes everything better. When emotions seem to be running high, try classical music as a calming agent. It does wonders for the imagination too!
  • Take time to stretch. Every so often, stop lessons, stretch together as a family. Try some jumping jacks or switch to dance music to get bodies moving.

(Amazon Affiliate links included. While it does not cost you anything extra, I earn a small commission for each product ordered.)

3.) Wait for naptimes to “do” school.

This was incredibly helpful to me when my son was born and my daughters were in kindergarten and first grade. I was nursing every three hours and being interrupted more often than that. I tried to “school” the girls, but all the distractions were very frustrating and usually resulted in one of us in tears.

We changed up our school schedule, and started waiting for my son’s naptime to do the work that required more focus and less distractions (reading, language arts, and some math.) This worked so well that we continued to do this until my son stopped taking naps.

4.) An effective behavior management system.

This is a big topic to break down and discuss, so I will save it for another blog post. But, do you have a system of behavior management and discipline that is working for you and your family? In short, the less words and emotion you use, the more clear and consistent expectations are given, the more effective discipline will be.

I really like Magic 1-2-3. I have found success with this program when I was teaching in a special education in a public school classroom and at home with my own children.

5.) Breathe

When homeschooling, especially multiple ages, each day can feel very long. Yet, the days add up quickly and go by fast. Enjoy the age that your children are at. Hard days pass, new challenges come. Don’t forget to breathe.


It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to be scared.
It’s okay to be sad.
It’s okay to be anxious.
It’s okay to be confused.
It’s okay to be angry.
It’s okay to be tired.
It’s okay to want things to go back to “normal.”

Our “normal” life had been turned completely upside down. It’s not “normal” to be isolated from loved ones, to have to talk to our parents and grandparents from driveways and through open windows. It is not “normal” to be forced to adhere to rules that limit the number of family members who can say a final goodbye to a loved one in the hospital. It is not “normal” to have to stand six feet apart from others in a store while trying not to give or receive suspicious glances.

Jesus knows all about “normal” turned upside down. Fully divine, and fully human. Jesus, Son of God, came to earth and turned the world upside down by his words and actions. He treated the downcasts, outcasts, and those suffering in ways that shook up, derailed, and challenged norms. Jesus met people where they were. He did not minimize fears, worries, pain, or situations. He did not ignore people’s realities; but he joined them in their present circumstances, often turning a life upside down, and right side up. He asked questions and listened. He invited and he provided. He loved. And loved. And loved.

The same Jesus that walked the earth thousands of years ago, is the same Jesus that lives today. He is the same Jesus who is very aware of our fears, worries, pains, and situation. He is aware of our struggle to find a new normal. He doesn’t minimize our feelings, but wants to join us in our circumstances. He sees every tear shed. He hears every cry for help. And he wants us to turn to him, and say to him, “This is not normal. I’m not okay. Please help.”

And when we turn to Him, Jesus answers us with love and his word:
It’s okay! You don’t have to be not okay alone. (Joshua 1:9)
It’s okay to be scared, but I am will be here with you. (John 14:27)
It’s okay to be sad, but joy will come again. (Psalm 30:5)
It’s okay to be anxious, let me help you with your worry. (1 Peter 5:7)
It’s okay to be confused, let me give you understanding and guide you. (Psalm 119:169)
It’s okay to be angry, but let’s talk about it. I want to help you forgive and find safety and security in me. (Colossians 3:13)
It’s okay to be tired, come to me and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)
It’s okay to want things to go back to “normal,” but maybe try to see that I am doing a new thing in your life. (Isaiah 43:19)

Jesus wants us to cling to him in all our imperfections, weariness, abnormal and “not-okayness.” He wants to help us. He wants to lead us to places where new “normals” might be found. And he wants to love. love. love us.

Take heart, dear one. It’s okay to be not okay. Just keep taking the next step.


Chocolate Raspberry Gluten-Free Cupcakes

These gluten-free chocolate cupcakes are delicious! The recipe can also be made into a vegan treat when substituting the frosting for a dairy-free one.

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Recipe by Emily, adapted from One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcake Recipes by Deanna F. Cook, Baking Class- 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love,

Ingredients:

Raspberry filling: https://www.wilton.com/raspberry-filling/WLRECIP-209.html

for the cupcakes:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups gluten-free flour (we like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-1 or King Arthur)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

frosting: adapted from Vanilla American Buttercream, by Rose Atwater, Cake Decorating For Beginners

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3-4 tablespoons of milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds (approximately 8 cups) powdered sugar
  • icing colors
  • icing bags and tips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Make the raspberry filling.
  3. Line 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
  4. Stir sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder in a large bowl.
  5. Add the water, coconut oil, vinegar, and almond extract. Mix until smooth.
  6. Pour batter into cups until they are two-thirds full.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.)
  8. While the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting.
  9. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat shortening and butter until smooth.
  10. Add two tablespoons milk, salt, and half the powdered sugar. Mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  11. Keep mixing, slowly add the remaining powder sugar and milk until desired consistency.
  12. Divide frosting into separate bowls, add icing colors, mix, and put in piping bags.
  13. Make sure cupcakes are completely cooled. Using a small spoon, scoop out the centers of the cupcakes, take out excess crumbs (save crumbs.) Fill with desired amount of raspberry filling. Then take the crumbs and fill in to cover the top of the filling.
  14. Decorate cupcakes with frosting.
  15. ENJOY!

The Shadows

I’m not much of a poet, but poetry seemed a good way to try to express my feelings for a group of people I call “The Forgotten.” The Forgotten are those whose pain and afflictions were at the top of the news headlines only weeks ago. Their stories captured our attention, their struggle and causes were held in our prayers. Replaced by the viral news of a virus and its impacts, their unseen fight continues and their lives go on. This is my attempt of a reminder to give “old news” our attention and focus some of our prayers toward “the shadows.” We are the warriors in the poem, whose prayers can change our hearts and the world.

THE SHADOWS

From the shadows,

A weary mother wails for her opioid addicted son.

An unemployed father fears for the future of his family.

A grandparent grieves over the suicide of their loved one.

A homeless veteran retreats further back into the void.

A community struggles to rebuild after disaster.

From the shadows,

invisible and forgotten stories    

vanish away likes vapors,

old news replaced by viral headlines

now wisps of causes

that once held the world’s attention.

In the shadows,

life goes on.

Needs still exists.

Violence still destroys.

Death still steals.

Depression still drowns and drags down,

and fear tries to rule.

BUT….

Into the shadows,

Light it breaking through.  

The overlooked are seen.

The forgotten are found.

Into the shadows,

warriors release the cries of their hearts.

The incense of the saints fill the air.

Love calls out,

surrender is heard.

Armies of angels are dispatched.

Trust turns to transformation,

Faith forges ways through.

Into the light,

the weary find rest.

The mourners find comfort.

The afflicted are affirmed.

A Redeemer, Protector, and Friend stands guard over hearts and minds.

In Him is faithfulness.

In Him is victory.

In Him is Light.

In His glorious light,

life is not invisible, but abounds in majestic proportion.

Peace protects beyond understanding.  

Hope strengthens and gives confidence.

Joy consoles and brings forth gladness.

And Love rules over fear forever.



Quick Tips for School Days at Home

Have you recently been promoted as your child’s homeschool teacher? Need some ideas, resources, and help during this transition. I’ve been homeschooling my three children for over seven years, and would love to offer you encouragement and recommendations.

Quick tips to starting a “school day” at home:

– make a schedule, BUT be flexible when keeping to it (leave lots of room for connections and conversations)

– choose a “classroom” This could be the kitchen or dining room table, playroom, desk or office area. In our homeschool, we always start in our designated school room, then end up “schooling” through the house.

– read aloud as much as time allows. Our read aloud time is one of our most treasured homeschool times. A few of our favorite read alouds are the Chronicles of Narnia (https://amzn.to/2TS3Iz7); The Penderwicks (https://amzn.to/3aUQfvX); The Witch at Blackbird Pond (https://amzn.to/2WbAdtj) Beverly Clearly books, (https://amzn.to/2xChcGo) and Heroes of the Faith books (https://amzn.to/3d1hhno)

– nail down those math facts! We use a free computer program https://xtramath.org/#/home/index

– Life is a learning experience. Cooking can be a reading comprehension, math lesson. Cleaning the house works on character building and time management. Sending a letter to grandma helps with writing and organizational skills.

-take a trip around the world. Online, virtual field trips are available to many incredible places around the world, like exploring the inside of a pyramid or viewing an art exhibition at the Louvre https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne

-get outside!! I can not stress this one enough! Free play, problem solving, confidence building, exercise, imagination, and vitamin D- a whole body experience. We keep track out our outside hours with a fun chart that I am happy to share- just send me a message.

– use this time to explore your child’s interests and hobbies. Your child was created with unique interests and giftings. Use this time to help them discover them.

-sometimes stopping is the best action. One of the benefits of homeschooling is flexibility. If a school day becomes stressful and pushing through work becomes frustrating and unfruitful, just stop. Take a break, enjoy some ice cream, go back to it later in the day or take the rest of the day off.

– give grace and enjoy. Give your kids grace, give yourself grace, accept grace. Transitions are hard. Pray. Do your best, and let go of the rest. And enjoy this time! Kids don’t keep. While moments seem long, they add up to years that go by too quickly.

I am happy to share anything I’ve learned and offer specific recommendations. Please comment below or send me a message.

Grace and peace to you!

Post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no cost my readers.


#sundayscripture

When I was twenty years old, I experienced a situation that caused me a tremendous amount of anxiety. I tried everything in my power to solve the circumstances on my own. I manipulated and controlled things so they would turn out the way I wanted them to be. I was exhausted, hurt, and caught up in disbelief.

Eventually, I found myself at a dead end. Crushed by the weight of anxiety and false control, I was trapped and isolated. I longed for a way out, but didn’t know where the out was.

One day in a moment of desperation, and in need of something concrete, I took a meaningful object connected to the situation and marched out into the woods behind my house. With tears streaming down my cheeks and with as much force as I could gather, I threw the memento as far as I could into the trees as I yelled aloud (to God), “You take it!” The words were few, the implications many. I wanted help. I wanted him to take it-all of it! The whole thing! I couldn’t and didn’t want to deal with the situation on my own any longer!

It was the first cast, and the first crack in the control I had so desperately clung to. Over the next days and weeks, I casted more and more. As I did, God helped me face reality and my fears. I was letting go, and embracing something new. It was hard and hurtful. It was a process, and I knew I would be okay if I kept casting forward.

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Dead ends and desperation can lead to humility. Learning to let go of our will, walking in obedience even when it doesn’t make sense, and accepting consolation and grace, are beginning steps toward overcoming anxiety and taking strength in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Jesus wants us to cast- or throw- our anxieties and concerns on him. But this isn’t a game of catch. We shouldn’t wait for Jesus to throw our anxieties back to us. Nor is casting anxiety like a 50/50 custody arrangement in which we share the responsibility. We should not choose between the concerns we want God to be responsible for, and the ones we want to keep for ourselves.The Bible tell us to cast ALL anxieties on him.

Casting and releasing can be difficult though, and it often picks a fight with our will. Our humanity and lack of patience tempts us with the desire to take back cares back under our control. But Jesus wants to take our anxieties, hold them captive and work through them in his perfect power. In doing so, he restores, confirms, strengthens, and establishes us. (1 Peter 5:10)

Turning to God, turning over our anxieties, and taking hold of his truths are daily disciplines. It is the only way to successfully cast away and not take back our cares. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can humble ourselves and trust that God cares for us and has a good plan for our lives.

In the right and proper time, God will set us high over our anxieties, and he may even give us a view of the larger picture of his plan. A plan that gives us hope and a future, a plan that often is very different than we thought. Until that time, keep casting, waiting, and practicing humility.

Happy Sunday! ❤