Sneak Peek at the new Chivalry Challenge

Sneak peek at the new Chivalry Challenge. The book is out in May!

Today, I unveil the official knight’s Code of Chivalry that ended up in the book and a free poster download for you as we begin the countdown to the book release at the end of May! Here is my original chivalry challenge post that inspired the book!

Today, I want to take you back to the beginning, six years ago when we first embarked on this quest.

“Boys, boys, come here. I have an exciting announcement!”

At the sound of exciting and announcement, they came running. Would it be ice-cream, an extra trip to the park, a playdate with friends, the end of naptime? Their minds were teaming with wonderful possibilities and I could see that their curiosity was piqued.

As my three boys gathered around, I pulled out a few books, including my childhood favorite, St. George and the Dragon, that I only pulled out for special occasions because my mother had inscribed a special note to me in it and my boys tended to get a little rough with their books.

“I have a mission for you, a quest that only the bravest and strongest of boys can undertake.” Eyes widened as they took in this news, not one of them was even tempted to admit weakness or fear.

“I think it is time to embark on knight training.”

“Knight training?” came the quizzical response.

“Yes, we are going to train to become knights. We will read about the exciting adventures of knights and practice your sword fighting skills.”

Cheers erupted as they started waving imaginary swords.

“But most importantly, you will learn how to live according to the Knights Code of Chivalry. Every young page would begin to learn what it means to live a chivalrous life and knights would remind one another to live up to the code. You boys are no different. I think you are ready for the chivalry challenge!”

Free knights code of chivalry poster download. Book out in May! #intentionalparenting #raisingboys

And with that I revealed the code of chivalry with a grand medieval flourish and began reading with the accent of a town crier making an important announcement.

“Hear ye, hear ye. Calling all knights in training who aspire towards the lofty role of knight. Listen to these words and take heed. Learn them well and walk in this way.”

And thus began our journey into knight training.Inspire boys to become "knights in training" and live up to the code of chivalry!

Six years ago we posted this in our home for the first time, little knowing how much it would affect our lives. Six years of learning to live by the code, six years of their imagination lit by the wonder of the Middle Ages and the feats of great knights. It has changed the way we parent and changed the way our boys have viewed these years of childhood. Life is by no means perfect. We are all very much in progress. But there is purpose and direction as these knights in training, our men in the making, progress through the years of childhood.

And today, I am sharing with you the code of chivalry that forms the framework for my upcoming parenting book and to let you know that my publisher has moved up the release date to May 30th!

Inspire boys to become "knights in training" and live up to the code of chivalry!

Roots of Chivalry

Chivalry is something that has fascinated people for over 1,000 years. The roots of medieval chivalry date back to the time of Charlemagne. We see threads of these early ideals of chivalry woven throughout the French epic, Song of Roland, a song sung by troubadours all over medieval Europe. This epic juxtaposes the story of two knights, highlighting the treacherous betrayal of one and the unyielding loyalty and bravery of the other. From this poem, 19 elements of the knight’s code of chivalry were showcased as the fledgling idea of knighthood took shape and force. Of these, I chose ten elements to focus on with my children and write about in my upcoming book.

Some historians contend that the idea of chivalry was formulated as a means of civilizing the warrior class. This very well may have been. Charlemagne who preached these tenets often struggled to live up to it and felt the pull between his faith that taught mercy, forgiveness and care for others and the warrior spirit that wanted to justify anything for the sake of victory and conquest. Charlemagne and others knew that without belief in God and a holy standard of right and wrong that a warrior became a mercenary, hiring himself out to the highest bidder. Training in chivalry along with training in the art of warfare was needed.

An entire culture was built around the ethos of the chivalrous knighthood. It became so compelling and so powerful in the shaping of young men that soon the nobility sought to include their sons in this knight training whether or not it led to their sons actually becoming practicing knights.

Why? While knight training developed the mind, it also touched the heart. It sought to teach empathy and social order that made for civilized societies.  Human nature, of course, made for an imperfect living out of the code. This is why knights continually called themselves to return to these ideals. Knight training raised up a generation of leaders who were ready to stand against injustice and protect the weak. It raised up a generation who pursued the way of generosity and pursue honesty in their dealings. It raised a generation who persevered until their very last breath as they gave their best to whatever quest they embarked on.

It is this embodiment of chivalry that has captivated people ever since and still today has the power to captivate our boys’ imagination and propel them towards becoming the kinds of leaders that our world so desperately needs.

It is this training that I write about in my book that will release in May. What does it mean to take up knight training in the 21st century? How can we embrace our role as trainer and help our boys embrace their role of being “in-training?” This is what I write about because these are questions we need answered here and now as we raise up the next generation.

This summer you will have the opportunity to issue your own chivalry challenge and invite your boys into the adventure of Knight Training! I wish I could step back in time and give myself this book back when I started. But the beauty of this challenge is that it spans the entirety of childhood for our boys just as much as it did for the knights of old. And in our cultural climate, we desperately need a return of civility and chivalry! So without further adieu, I give you a sneak peak at the Code of Chivalry!

DOWNLOAD: Knights Code of Chivalry Poster 

Inspire boys to become "knights in training" and live up to the code of chivalry!

Giving the Gift of Books!

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Books make for wonderful companions. They inspire and inform. They take us to exciting places and give us a taste of new experiences. I love to have bookshelves full of good books that we read over and over again!

And now it’s that time of year when I start getting gifts for the people that I love. At the top of that list are books, of course. From now until Dec 8th you can get $5 off a $15+ book purchase at Amazon using code GIFTBOOK at checkout.  I’ve loved using these codes from Amazon to order the books I had on my list. {affiliate links used}

If you are needing some inspiration, here are a few of our favorites!

Picture Books

Building our House! by Jonathon Bean. I think Greta had me read this to her twice a day for at least a month. It finally landed a spot in our permanent library.

This is our Home, This is our School by Jonathon Bean. Turns out the author of one of my favorite picture books was homeschooled growing up. If you homeschool, this book deserves a place on your shelf. Your kids to read about other kids living this kind of life (the class bully was priceless) and as a mom, you’ll appreciate (and laugh) at his recollections from his childhood. Learning can be messy and this book reminded me to take a big breath and embrace the chaos.

Chapter Book Current Favorites

Dangerous Journey – We’ve read this book probably at least a hundred times. The boys love it. It inspires us to live out this crazy faith walk with its beautiful prose and amazing illustrations.

My Side of the Mountain – This childhood favorite of mine is now a favorite for each of my boys. They’ve all read it multiple times!

The Tripod Trilogy – I discovered this when I was in that tween age and it became a childhood favorite that my kids now love. This series is very well written and it was my first encounter with a literary “Christ-figure.” If you end up reading this, be sure and start with the Trilogy. He wrote a prequel afterwards called When the Tripods Came” that isn’t as interesting unless you’ve read the series first. I compare it to reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe before reading The Magician’s Nephew. You’ll enjoy the prequel far more when you have context.

Swallows and the Amazons This is  a delightful book that my sister gave (along with two more in the series) to my children last year for Christmas.

I love books and referenced great books in each category for my gift guides that inspire learning.  Here are a few more of our favorite books!

AdventureBooks

FaithBuildingChapterBooks

Gifts that Inspire

ChristmasBooks

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31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

For more ideas see my 31 Day Series on Gift Guides that Inspire Learning. Nearly every one features the best books to capture the imagination and promote learning about history and science! I love to give the grandparents Christmas ideas that relate to what we will be learning about the following semester. It is a win-win because the grandparents get great ideas and they are gifts that inspire the imagination and foster a love of learning!

We are clearing things out and rearranging over there. I’m super excited to put up our teepee again as a permanent reading nook. I can’t get over how much they’ve grown since I took this picture…

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Stories that Inspire our Children to Live with Purpose

Listening to The Cat of Bubastes!Time seemed to fly by on this particular trip downtown because we were all swept up into the drama of our newest audio adventure, The Cat of Bubastes.  I heard audible sighs as we arrived at our destination and the boys realized that we would need to put the story on hold. Even Greta was disappointed. There is nothing quite like a good audio book or audio adventure to help these longer trips just speed by and with good reason; stories have a profound impact on our lives. Narrative is powerful because it inspires a sense of purpose. As I watch these kids of mine grow so quickly, I’m reminded of the importance of helping them catch a vision and realize that they are here to make a difference in the lives of those around them.  As we listen to these adventure stories, my boys minds are swirling with a world of possibilities.

I’m not sure if it can count as “work” since I enjoy it so much, but I work hard to find great stories to introduce to my children. We love to read aloud – both chapter books and picture books. After several years without, we are ever so thankful that our van now has a working CD player because it means we have lots of opportunity to enjoy stories on the road. Sometimes it is an audio book from the library, other times it is one of our audio dramas!

We love the audio adventures from Heirloom Audio. These tales are high on adventure, always provide some humor, and yet have important lessons to impart. The newest one, The Cat of Bubastes opens with a young prince marching into a life of slavery in Egypt. Instead of being consumed with anger or destroyed by depression, he resolves to make the best of it. Despite the horrible circumstances in his life, he perseveres and lives with integrity.  He becomes a slave in the home of an Egyptian priest who is kind and gracious.  This man reminds his own son to treat others with love and respect, because you never know what life holds for you and when situations might be reversed. And indeed, this story is full of intrigue and mystery and yes, roles are indeed reversed as they encounter the one true God and the cost that comes with following Him.

My boys need to see that no matter their circumstances – whether in times of triumph and success or in your darkest days, that we can live lives full of purpose. We all need reminders that we do not know what the future holds. We need to see that by being faithful to what we are called to do in the moment that we can play a role in the grander scope of history. As Christians, we are regularly reminded that we are called to play a role in the kingdom of God. Stories like these remind us of the everyday opportunities we have to be faithful and how God can use those moments to make a difference. The grand sweep of narrative has the power to inspire us to live a life of purpose, even and especially in the midst of challenges that people oftentimes face. It does so by providing a safe place to deal with the emotions that come with the triumphs and struggles in life. There is a wisdom that comes only with experience that allows one to truly appreciate and understand life from a big picture perspective, but I’m a firm believer that reading about the lives of others infuses our own life with more wisdom and long-term thinking than we would have without them.

And that would be why I let them read while they cook or listen to stories when they do their chores.

And this is why our audiobooks and audio dramas continue to play an important role in our family life. Oftentimes, they’ll listen to one while they build with their legos.  The older two boys received mp3 players for their birthdays this year and love to clip that baby on and listen to a story while they do their chores. I smile and am thankful for the gift of good stories and the lessons they are learning from them.

We love our Heirloom Audio CD’s. I’ve written about them before. The Cat of Bubastes does not disappoint! It is a beautiful story that will inspire everyone to persevere, to be loyal to friends, to remember that God has a grand plan, and that we are called to play a role! It is a welcome reminder that we are called to live with purpose.

 

Trey doesn’t know it yet, but he will get his own MP3 player for Christmas. This one is our favorite. We like that the sports clip, the variety of colors so each child knows which one is theirs, and the lack of wi-fi capabilities that allows us as parents to set what goes on them.  When Greta gets older, they even have a pink one!

{Disclaimer: While we have listened to and loved these audio’s for a few years now, I was sent The Cat of Bubastes for free and compensated for my time invested in putting this post together. All opinions, as always, are solely my own. Please see my disclosure for more information.}

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Why I’ve been MIA… It’s a baby.

Hey there, remember me? I used to write in this space with frequency. Then we moved to Texas and health issues cropped up, leading to a year of rest… Little did I know that this time of rest was preparing us for a year of big ch-ch-changes!

I’m having a baby!!! I don’t know about you, but when I’m pregnant, the baby pretty much takes over my brain. And that is my explanation for why I haven’t been very active here. This baby is due to arrive next June. Are you confused yet? This little baby of mine was conceived last December, which means I’m already 11 months into this “pregnancy.”

As you can see, this is a very different kind of baby. While we wouldn’t mind adding another cuddly little person to our family, that door seems to be shut. This baby that I am growing right now is a book baby.
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Don’t I look excited, nervous, and maybe already a little bit sleep deprived? I’m signing my contract which means that I get to officially tell you all.

I’m working on a book about raising boys. It’s about the grand call and adventure of raising knights-in-training and what it means to raise chivalrous boys in a 21st century world! The official title will probably be Knights in Training: Ten Principles for Raising Honorable, Courageous, and Compassionate Boys.

I had no idea how much work it would take to write a book. It was my major focus this summer and why I turned down a few speaking engagements to do it. As much as I love to get out and encourage other families in person, I knew that this would take every extra bit of time outside of being wife and mom.

The Back Story

So this book baby… I guess you could say that it all started in May of 2015 when a reporter from the New York Times contacted me. She was writing an article on teaching manners and wanted to interview me about a post I had written years earlier on our chivalry challenge. I’ve done my share of media interviews, so I didn’t really think much about it.

Afterwards, when I didn’t hear back from the reporter, the interview faded from memory until December when she contacted me again. It was going to go live soon. A friend of mine had just had a really bad experience with a news interview and suddenly I was nervous. It’s been nearly 18 years since our last bad experience with a reporter. We still cringe when we think about it.

The day before we left for Arizona for the holidays, the reporter emailed me to inform me the article was live online that day and would come out in print the following day in the Times. When I hopped online to read the article, I noticed the hyperlink to my blog and frantically set about to freshen up that old blog post so people coming over could find it. I flung it out there the following morning before grabbing my keys and setting off on our 15 hour drive to AZ.

Like any blogger, I enjoyed my 15 minutes of “fame” as traffic exploded for a few days and then forgot about it as we enjoyed time with family and friends until a few days later when I received a strange email in my inbox.

Long story, short – an editor from Penguin Random House reached out to me about writing a book. After prayer, my family and I decided to make the leap, as my mind swirled with the possibilities and the vision for the book really took root! So it has been a crazy year over here. I found a wonderful agent, wrote my first book proposal, finished up our homeschool “year” and speaking commitments before settling down this summer to write in the margins of life.

It was a summer and early fall of 5am writing sessions at places as glamorous as my grocery store and McDonald’s because they were far less distracting than coffee shops with the loud music or home where I am always needed! Weekends were spent sequestered away in the library. We made a secret trip to AZ this summer so my kids could play with cousins while I hid away and thought and wrote and wrote and thought all day every day.

I’m so excited to share everything that is tucked away in this book. It is full of so many things that I am passionate about – the power of play and the imagination and the importance of good books. It is a book about embracing all that makes boys so incredible and about inspiring and equipping them to own who they will become. It’s coming next summer!

For now, I’m in a bit of a breather period for a couple of weeks and we are enjoying having weekends back as a family! I am not getting up as early and we are enjoying the rhythm of learning and living! Long walks, zoo trips, spelling lessons, grading copious amounts of math, and a return to more read-aloud time is the norm once again.  I’ll also be back in this space, writing once again.

Until then…

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Our Secret to Surviving Long Road Trips

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Anyone have some long road trips planned for this summer? We don’t, but that’s only because we clocked about 60 hours in the car at the end of last year…  Surviving with your sanity intact is imperative.  Being ready and willing to do it again is the cherry on top.

I want to share our biggest secret to surviving long road trips and doing so screen-free!

A few years ago I wrote a post about Creative Travel Ideas for Young Kids. When my kids were little, I took as much care with preparing for a road trip as a general would planning an invasion. For our really BIG trips (6 hours to California) I loved to do an hour-by-hour countdown with special activities to pull out along the way.  And when we would fly, I’d break my little to no screen-time rule to let them watch a movie.  I figured that being stuck in a metal box in the sky was NOT the place to be for a melt-down or restless child, so we’d sedate them with a movie which was a special treat for our screen-deprived children. I broke that tradition a few years ago when we flew over the same weekend, that I had agreed to participate in a national “Screen-Free” week. I lived to blog about it later.   But even with the movie my kids would watch on our trips across the country, I was still careful to pack special toys or books to occupy them during the remainder of the flight.

Everything has eased up since then. Now that the kids are older, I throw a few things in a tub for the car, being sure to pack some special items to occupy the 4-year-old and we set off.  Only now we live in Texas where you can drive A.L.L. D.A.Y. and still be in Texas.  Anything under 6 hours is now considered a quick road trip because it takes 15 hours to get to see my family and 9 hours to drive and visit my hubby’s family.

While the kids are older and better able to sit still, we’ve honed in on the BEST way to pass time in the car…  Audio books and audio dramas!

Our absolute favorites, hands-down, are the audio dramas from Heirloom Audio. Have you heard of them? Listened to them? If not, you seriously need to check them out!  This is the newest venture from the former producers of Adventures in Odyssey! The boys received their first one for Christmas 2 years ago.  They fell in love with In Freedom’s Cause, which takes us into the life of William Wallace. He was an amazing man of faith and conviction – a true hero that I love introducing to my boys.

Last fall, I shared about how sick I had been and how we fell in love with In Lee in Virginia which was the perfect companion to our study of the Civil War. We loved them so much that I packed a portable CD player in our aging minivan on our road-trip that we took around Thanksgiving because our CD player in the car was broken. You would not believe how quiet a car full of kids could possibly be as they strained to hear the story from my portable CD player. Thankfully, we had a new-to-us minivan for our 15-hour drive to Arizona. Yes, 15 hours of me with 4 kids as we departed for Arizona for a couple of weeks before Rich joined us at Christmas.  Yes, that was the time we drove ALL DAY and were still in Texas…

We survived, thanks to hours of these audio adventures!

In recent weeks, as we’ve simply been driving around town, we’ve been listening to one of their newest adventures, The Dragon and the Raven. After listening to it one weekend, my middle guy surprised me with this little impromptu note on Monday morning…

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He’s especially excited to now jump into the book that inspired the story that I just happened to have on our bookshelf and was hoping he’d read this summer! #win

Let’s Give Them Access to Real Heroes

The more I look around at what the world has to offer our boys by way of entertainment, the more I’m sold on reading great books to them, exposing them to these kind of heroes via audio dramas. Boys need heroes.  Girls do too, but in an age where boys tend to be adrift without a sense of purpose, I’ve found that filling our boys minds with the stories of brave men who have gone before, performed heroic deeds, made a difference in this world is so very important. These accounts inspire my boys to want to make a difference too. They inspire them to apply themselves to the work of learning and growing up so that they too can make a difference in their culture, in the world they will be thrust into.  And with how things are going, we are in desperate need of modern-day heroes, people who have firm convictions, people who are willing to live selflessly to serve others, to serve a greater good and to draw people to the truth and the One who is Truth.  And I love to watch the role that these audio dramas play in this unfolding of their going from boys – to – men.

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So if you are looking for a way to make the hours in the car just speed by, if you are looking to inspire your kids with some amazing real-life heroes, and you want something they will want to listen to over and over again, then check these out. I’m sure they will become favorites in your home and car, just as they have in ours!

If you would like to order the series now click here.

With this special package you will get:

  • All four audio dramas (The Dragon and the Raven, With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom’s Cause, Under Drake’s Flag –there are 2 copies of each audio drama so that you can give one to a friend!)
  • Study Guide and Discussion Starter Sets for each audio drama
  • Award-winning soundtracks from each audio drama
  • Poster Art from each audio drama
  • Four limited edition Henty Collector Coins
  • ALL of this for only 79.95 !!!

Here are the details:

Recommended Ages: 6+ (some intense action and war scenes, complete with sound effects)

The Dragon and the Raven
Historical Setting: Alfred the Great, 800’s AD, England
Lessons: Mercy, Courage, Faith,
Duration: 2 hours

In Freedom’s Cause
Historical Setting: William Wallace, 1290’s-1305 AD, Scotland
Lessons: Persistence, Courage, Humility, need for God’s guidance
Duration: 2 hours

Under Drake’s Flag 
Historical Setting: Sir Francis Drake, 1500’s, England
Lessons: Courage, Conviction, Character, Faith
Duration: 2 hours

With Lee in Virginia 
Historical Setting: Robert E. Lee, Civil War – 1860’s, United States
Lessons: Loyalty, Freedom, Human Dignity, Honesty, Faith
Duration: 2 hours

{Disclaimer: While we have listened to and loved these audio’s for a few years now, I was sent The Dragon and the Raven for free and compensated for my time invested in putting this post together. All opinions are solely my own. Please see my disclosure for more information.}

What our kids need to know about FAILURE!

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No one likes failure, but I think some of us may struggle with it more than others.

I have one child in particular who loathes failure. He is often paralyzed by merely the thought of it; so much so that he can’t seem to get started. Now this isn’t all bad. He’s my cautious one, the one who thinks before jumping into things and takes the time to analyze.  But there is a fine line when analyzing and thinking about something can slip into speaking doubt to oneself and stalling out.  Because let’s face it, there are things we are all called to do that seem impossible from the outset. And if you engage in negative self-talk you will talk yourself out of doing just about anything before you have even begun. You won’t fail, but you also miss out on doing anything. You’ll miss out on witnessing that seemingly impossible feat happen!

We have opportunities to learn from our mistakes each and every day. Just this last week, we went to the airport to drop my older two off.  They were meeting my mom at the gate to leave for Washington DC.  Maybe I’m paranoid, but in this day and age, I wasn’t about to let those two out of my sight at a busy airport until we met up with my mom which meant getting a gate pass for myself and the younger two so we could get through security.  Everything was fun and smooth sailing until starting loading up the conveyor belt at the security checkpoint.  At this point, my youngest boy turned to me with a horrified look and whispered his confession as he peeped his swiss army knife out of his pocket. #facepalm  With a hint of tears, he surrendered his beloved knife after I unsuccessfully tried to figure out a way to have them hold it for 30 minutes while we dropped the older two off.  That was a “no-go”.  It was a painful mistake to make and after using his allowance money to get this new Leatherman-ish replacement, I think he will think twice before taking that to the airport again.  THIS was an opportunity to talk about how we can learn from our mistakes.

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So what is it for your kids? Not understanding that math concept the first time around, saying something stupid (welcome to the club, kid), breaking something because they weren’t careful enough, performing in that recital after you bombed the last one…

Opportunities abound to help our kids walk through mistakes and failure.  We NEED to let them make this walk.

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Because here’s the thing that they need to know about failure.  Here’s truth that we need to revisit over and over again as we move out bravely into new territory and unknown adventures…

FAILURE IS THE BEST WAY TO LEARN 

We need to learn to embrace failure and the opportunities that it affords. Failures are a part of life. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you’ll never change.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison

FAILURE ISN’T FINAL

tryFailure isn’t final unless you remain where you’ve fallen.

It’s okay to not know, but its not okay to not try.

You are stronger than you think.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Failure is the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.

FAILURE AND SUCCESS GO HAND IN HAND

Failure is success in progress.

You always pass failure on the way to success. – Mickey Rooney

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill

Reminding ourselves that we are not alone: “When we are weak, HE is strong.” 2 Cor 12:9

WE ALL FAIL.

progressI think it is easy for our kids to think they are the only one’s who fail.  Helping them to see when others fail and then pick themselves up is important.

I had the opportunity to do that with this child of mine earlier this week. In my rush to get the last blog post out, I forgot to size a couple of pictures and then something wonky happened with my formatting.  Everything looked fine on the blog, but the mortification I felt when I saw the email that went out was enough to make me want to give up on the challenge of the techie parts of my blog. I had to talk myself down from that tree where I was flirting with the idea of running away from it all.  Having recently given my son a pep talk on failure and moving past it, I decided to listen to my own advice and see how I could learn from it.

I chose to show him that what should have been a beautiful email with lovely pictures and how it went horribly wrong. I gave him a glimpse into my failure and then walked him through things that I was going to do differently to try to prevent that from happening next time.

Bringing our kids into our failures, owning up to them, and then letting them see us working through can have a big impact.

We can be our own worst critic and in our family having visual reminders really helps us speak truth to ourselves.  I’ve put together 8 of our favorite phrases to combat fear of failure into a free download for y’all!

Subscriber FREEBIE!


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(For those of you faithful email subscribers, you can simply enter the same email address in the form below again for immediate access to the download.)

Learn thru Failure Cards
8 printable cards with to inspire and equip our children (or ourselves) to overcome their fear of failure in order to learn and grow!

 

 

My favorite way to vacation with kids…

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“Wahoo! This is the coolest place ever, mom!”

Jubilant shouts could be heard as we pulled through the trees into an opening that enclosed our hideaway for the next couple of days.  We were hear to unplug, to unwind, and to reconnect as a family. We packed food, books, our coloring pencils and watercolors ready for time to slow down and savor. I’m always pretty exhausted after a weekend of speaking at a conference and we knew that we were preparing to move into a new and busy season for our family, so this seemed like the perfect time to sneak away for a break.

It’s become a bit of a tradition in our family.  Starting back 5 years or so when we’d escape to a cabin with my parents, sisters and their families.

While I love to drag my kids to all kinds of cool museums and historical sites, tucking all 6 of us into a hotel room is not on my list of relaxing and enjoyable things to do…  While it is fun to go out and see new sites, I have to say that my favorite way to vacation with kids is to rent a house or cabin somewhere and flee from the distractions and business of civilization.  I’ve shared about our “cabin” experiences before here because I’ve found them so refreshing.  There is something magical about escaping into nature to simply enjoy God’s creation and each other. My hubby is not the camping kind of guy, so renting a cabin is the way we go.  I must say that I do like having access to a kitchen and hot showers!

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This year was no different.  For three days we disappeared.  We didn’t see a single other human being and simply enjoyed hiking the trails on this property.  It was a truly magical set-up with cute trails, hidden “man-caves” and a huge porch and big lawn to play on.  We played hard, read books, went on nature walks, napped often, and of course played games (Everyone but Greta can now play Dominion! #win}.  And the best part?  My phone didn’t work there, so it was truly an opportunity to unplug, unwind and delight in cultivating relationships with my favorite people.

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How do you like to vacation?

Our various cabin experiences:

Because Sometimes You Just Need to Unwind and Think

Rocky Vacation Learning and What I Learned Along the Way

Wildlife Count and the Slow Demise of a Tomboy

Prayer: Opening Eyes to See the Miracle

A Welcome Break

Anytime Art

 

Introducing Children to the Wonder of Prenatal Development

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Mommy, mommy!  Look at my blood.

My breath caught in my throat as I heard my daughter screaming this while running in from the backyard. Normally tears accompany blood, but this girl of mine is tough, real tough.

I exhaled, as a quick look assured me she wasn’t leaving a trail of blood; she is simply filled with wonder…  Wonder at how she was made, wonder at the miracle of pregnancy and making connections with what she looked like while in my tummy with what she can see now.

A few weeks ago, my friend Danika Cooley’s new book, Wonderfully Made, arrived in our mailbox.  I hadn’t really talked to Greta about that since there was no obvious reason to do so.  But she has been full of questions for a while as we see pregnant ladies at church or at our weekly park day!  She is at the age where she is asking all kinds of questions about babies and how they bake.  And with her aunt having a little girl this summer, those questions are not going away anytime soon!

Since I know that many of you have new babies coming or already snuggled in your arms, I wanted to share about this book with y’all.  I’m a firm believer in giving our kids accurate, age-appropriate information.

This book definitely fits the bill. Kids who read and comprehend the material in this book will understand more than most of the college students who took my Human Anatomy and Physiology lab at the university. {I was amazed at the responses my students gave on my reproductive anatomy and physiology quizzes.  Apparently years of sex-ed taught them next to nothing about pregnancy, even questions as basic as where does the baby develop… }

The beautiful thing is that this isn’t a book about someone else’s pregnancy.  Nope. This book delightfully connects our children with their own development. It takes you back down what would be memory lane if we could remember and gives us nearly a week by week look at development.

Here is the page that Greta was referencing when she noticed (again) the veins she could see on her hands.

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This book is perfect for every child, but I can see how it would be extra special and a fun resource to have around if you are expecting a baby and want to bring your older kids into the wonder of it all since they could easily reference the book at each stage of your pregnancy.

For us, we are content to simply be filled afresh with the wonder of being wonderfully made.

Challenges of blogging... When your son plays with the settings on the phone...

Pregnant and/or looking for hands-on ideas to learn about pregnancy and fetal development: I shared about what we did here!

 

Giving away my favorite preschool resources

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“Mommy, can you do something with me?”

It’s a common refrain that I’m hearing these days.  Instead of simply making sure my youngest doesn’t get into trouble, we’ve transitioned quite fully into the phase where she is wanting to do “real school” and participate in every tiny aspect of our days!  I know I’m not alone with having one or more kids in this phase, so I thought I’d share about some resources that I’m loving right now.

I thought it would be extra fun to give away a copy of each, so be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post!

Here are three areas where I need to have something special for my preschooler!

Together Learning!

The power of finger plays for preschool learning!

I love things that bring us together as a family.  We start our morning together for something we’ve come to call, “Circle Time.”  We pray, sing, and read together. I love focusing some of this time on my youngest and bringing my older kids into the process of investing in their sister’s life. I used to try to think of a preschool song or finger play that I could add into this mix, but oftentimes would either forget or end up doing the same old songs each day.  That’s when I decided to get a little strategic and my Finger Play and Preschool Song cards were birthed.

Preschool Finger Play and Song CardsA must-have for every mother of young children: 30 amazing finger plays and preschool songs right at your fingertips!

Want to know the easiest way to develop important preschool skills in as little as 5-10 minutes a day?  Sing songs and do finger plays with your kids! There was a reason why our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did all kinds of finger plays with us.  It is a fun, natural way to learn most of the preschool skills needed in order to be ready for more formal learning.  It’s a painless way to learn how to count, develop their vocabulary, cultivate phonemic awareness and work on those gross and fine-motor skills.

We have just loved using these cards each morning in our home.  While I love this “vintage preschool” resource for my youngest, I’m amazed at some of the conversations I’ve had with my other kids.  My littlest loves this special time each morning when we focus on her!  We pick out a song or two and sing.  It’s been fun to watch her develop the dexterity and fine motor skills to really do all of the hand motions for the Eensy Weensy Spider.  While I sort of miss the looks of concentration she would display when trying to wiggle her fingers while simultaneously raining them downwards, it is now fun to watch her utilize all the motions with a look of triumph.  The improvements in her pronunciation and vocabulary have been fun to witness, too!  This will definitely continue to be a tool that we’ll utilize every day in our home for a while longer.

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I also have a coupon code for you!  You can utilize the coupon code “SPRING” to receive $2 off good through the end of March!  If you purchase a card set and then win the giveaway, I’ll send you a complete refund.  No excuses, right?

 

One-on-One Learning!

One-on-one time with each of our children is so important and naturally Greta sees me working with each of her brothers on math and spelling/grammar each day and has started inquiring about doing “school”, too.  I’m a firm believer in not rushing academics, so unless they are showing clear signs of readiness (like when my middle taught himself how to read at 4.5), we don’t start reading instruction until 5 or 6. But I do strive to make them feel included. While I have a couple of math items that I pull out during math time and a whiteboard and marker that she can use to follow along during spelling lessons, she wants a lesson of her own.  I have limited time and to be honest, think that many of the “preschool” activity books out there simply aren’t necessary.  But I do love Basic Shapes

Basic Shapes for Beginners

My friend, Heather Gruetman who blogs over at Growing Hands On Kids, is an occupational therapist by trade.  She put together Basic Shapes for Beginners * for families to utilize to have a fun way to develop the important fine-motor skills needed to start writing.  While I used to research this kind of thing with my oldest, I love that I have an easy-to-use resource now with my youngest.  In our home, we teach our kids how to read by teaching them how to spell first which explains why we are always talking about “spelling.” My littlest calls this “my spelling” and asks to do it all the time.  I’ve done a few of the activities informally up until now, but we are systematically working through a little bit each week and she loves this special time to do “school” with me!  (I don’t do this every day, but try to hit it once or twice a week for a quick 10 min lesson.)

You can purchase the ebook (PDF format) from her website or get the Kindle or print version at Amazon.

Basic Shapes for Beginners eBook

 

Something to Occupy Them!

I love items that they can play with that don’t require active adult supervision.  I keep a box of these items that only come out during “school time”.  Favorites include: Lauri Fit-A-Space, watercolors, pattern blocks, and of course puzzles. Here is my favorite new addition!

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I wrote about falling in love with these Kwik Stix last fall.  Whoever invented tempera paint in a stick deserves an award and certainly receives the thanks of mothers everywhere!  I keep thick paper and these sticks in a drawer next to our dining room table and Greta joins us during our table time almost everyday to create works of art.  There is little to no mess.  In the name of complete honesty, Greta did dig her fingernails into the paint stick once and then proceeded to wipe that off on her clothes.  But there is no way I could give a 3 or 4 year old regular tempera paint and let them at it while I tackle a spelling lesson with someone else.  They’ve just come out with neon colors which Greta loves because there is hot pink and a pretty lavender purple in the mix!  My artist boys of course couldn’t resist organizing our classic and neon colors according to the colors of the rainbow! And our metallic kwik stix set is due to arrive this week! I love that you can now buy the classic, neon and metallic colors all as a set now!

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Find ideas and inspiration for using Kwik Stix on their Pinterest page and follow them on social media.

 

  Facebook  Pinterest

I’m excited to give away a copy of each of these resources today to help a fellow mama out!

What’s included?

** Preschool Song and Finger Play Card set (ring included)

** Basic Shapes: Hands-on Pre-Writing Activities

** Kwik Stix Classic and Neon set

You can enter below to win this great set!  Giveaway ends Monday, March 28th, night at midnight. (for U.S. mailing only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Some affiliate links are used in this post – full disclosure here.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Read-Aloud Time

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So you want to read aloud to your kids more…  You understand how important that can be

Where, oh where do you start with growing those precious times of reading aloud to your kids?

Here are 6 ways to cultivate your read-aloud times!

1. Keep it Short, Do it Regularly
The key to making a habit of reading aloud to your kids is ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE!  If your kids are young, or you haven’t done very much read aloud, you’ll also want to keep those time periods short as you get started.

Plan times into your day for just sitting down and reading. In our home we start the day on the couch and end the day reading to them in bed!    This is a great place to start.  From there you can add reading for longer periods as they grow to enjoy those special times!  During these hot summer months, we enjoy sitting around in our damp swimsuits, under the fan with a good book!

2. Plan Strategically for Books that Stretch Them
For books that might be a bit of a stretch for my boys, I’ll read during lunch or at bedtime.  Lunch time reading has been especially beneficial as we’ve transitioned into reading more ‘informational’ books that don’t have a story involved.  With tummies being filled, they were happy to listen  and ask questions.  The downer with this is that I end up scrambling for time later to wolf down some food.   So obviously, we don’t do this all the time.  Chapter books at bedtime work beautifully because they are always looking for any excuse to stay up just a bit later and my younger one’s don’t mind the lack of pictures as much.  We love to hear ‘just one more chapter, please!’

3. Go with Your Child’s Interest
Picking books that your pique your child’s interest is a great way to nurture the desire to read and be read to.  This is very important with a reluctant reader/listener when you are wanting to boost your read aloud time.  Does your child like horses?  Find some stories centered around horses.  Do your active little boys like battles?  Find some engaging picture books about knights or the revolutionary war.  Meet them where they are at and pull them into the beauty of reading.

4. Be Willing to Cut Your Losses
Sometimes you start a read-aloud book that you are sure everyone will enjoy, only to find it dragging…  A wise mama will sometimes choose to cut her losses and move on to something else. I give a book 3-4 chapters and if it hasn’t captivated interest, we put it aside and find something different.  Our goal is to raise children who love books and sometimes that means giving up. If you are anything like me, sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to not finish something.  So consider this post your “permission.” I will say that sometimes it really does pay off to persevere.  We just finished The Swiss Family Robinson.  It took us MONTHS to read.  Yep, that’s right.  It had a really, really slow start and the only reason we kept with it was because one of my boys kept asking to return.  We are all now thankful that we persevered.  On the other hand, no one has asked me to pick up Cheaper by the Dozen which was a book that our family gave up on.

5. Choose Well-Written and/or Beautifully Illustrated Read-Aloud Books
Never under-estimate the power of a good picture book.  When I find one with beautiful illustrations and a captivating story line, we will enjoy it over and over again.  Picture books are not just for the really young.  A good picture book will delight any age.  While my kids enjoy the Froggy books, I can only handle them in {very} small doses.  The kids find that those kinds of books ‘need‘ to be returned to the library quickly while the more interesting or creatively illustrated books tend to stick around much longer.  I’m always game for a Tomie dePaola book (like the one’s I’ve mentioned herehere and here) or Robert McCloskey (written about here and here).  In the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing lists of my favorite authors/illustrators and some of our very favorite books!  In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed the book suggestions in Honey for a Child’s Heart and at Simply Charlotte Mason (picture books or by grade level) if you are hankering for some good suggestions right now.

6. Pull in Books Relating to What You are Learning About
Much of our read aloud time is centered around interesting fiction books that relate to what we are learning about!  You can do this no matter what curriculum or educational approach you use and it really goes a long way in not only creating interest in reading, but increases interest in the subject at hand too!  If you check out my collection of blog posts on children’s books we love, you’ll find many examples where we’ve done just that!

How does read-aloud time work in your home?  Would you add anything to this list?  I enjoyed reading some of your ideas on the benefits of reading aloud and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ‘how to’ of this as well.

 

Related Post:
Sweet Rewards of Reading
Benefits of Read-Aloud Time
Why You Should Read the Same Book Over and Over Again