Rainy Day Reading

rainyreads

Incentive was high today to get through the basics quickly.  It was raining and that is cause for celebrating here in the desert! Late morning, we piled into the car with our umbrellas in tow.  As we headed out to the mountain range near our home to hike, the rain picked up.  With the streets starting to flood, I realized that hiking was out of the question.

We made a quick detour to the library. With a stack of fresh books in hand, we settled in for the rest of the day!

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We are wrapping up our exploration of astronomers.  I was pretty disappointed with the offerings on Isaac Newton at our local library.  I was reminded once again how important it is to preview books in this day and age…  I’m thankful for Amazon reviews that saved me the trouble with this biography.  {Have you ever checked amazon reviews before checking a book out from the library?  It has saved me on more than one occasion.}  From the cover it looks quite engaging.  But why, oh why do authors feel the need to devote an entire chapter of a children’s book to wild speculations about homo se xuality?  ugh.  After a little bit of research, I discovered that this author incorporates homosexual content into several of her biographies.  She’s now on my ‘avoid’ list.

Based on our enjoyment of the biography of Johannes Kepler that I wrote about a few weeks ago, I made the trek up to “Oma’s library” this morning and retrieved this engaging biography about Isaac Newton.  We are hooked.  It is so fun to watch my kids become wrapped up in the story and learn some great science in the process.  We’ve been eating apples and jumping off chairs to test the limits of gravity this week!

:warning: soap box rant ahead

We live in such a sex-crazed culture and it grieves me that it has infiltrated our children’s books.  I think we’ve lost touch with what is appropriate for children and what isn’t.  In my opinion, discussing a person’s sexual orientation, in the context of one’s scientific achievements is irrelevant.  This is  especially true in a children’s book.  There is a time and a place to discuss the ways of our fallen world, but this is not the context and this is not the time.  And besides, wouldn’t we much rather our children hear about the beauty of marital love before they understand the ins and outs surrounding how it has become twisted?   Maybe I’m alone in this – and that’s ok, but I would prefer to protect my children at this age and discuss these topics on my terms and in the timing that I deem appropriate if possible.

I’m thankful that there are options and that I have the freedom and opportunity to select books that are not only rich from a literary standpoint {another one of my soap boxes}, but also that steers clear of inappropriate content.

Yup, we’ll stick to the Sower Series whenever possible for biographies!  And at the rate that libraries are ditching good books, I’ll probably start buying books that we find especially delightful.  Maybe someday, my grandkids will get to benefit from ‘my’ library just like my kids get to now.

We did find a few good books at our library on various astronomers including: Nicolaus Copernicus: the Earth is a Planet, I Galileo, Galileo’s Journal.

10 Tips for Helping Your Picky Eaters

10 tips to help your picky eater start making better food choices.  It's worth the effort!

Oftentimes, someone will tell us how ‘lucky’ we are that our children eat so well.  But the fact is, luck has NOTHING to do with it.   It’s taken a lot of hard work, consistency and a little creativity thrown in as we’ve encouraged them to venture out and try new things.

But we weren’t always here…

Wide-eyed and new to this whole getting-a-toddler-to-eat thing, I remember asking an experienced mama her secret to getting all 5 of her boys to eat just about anything she put in front of them, including lots and lots of veggies.

Her simple response: “I expect it.”

I was left scratching my head a little.  This seemed daunting, but we were determined to work on it.

Now four kids later, they will eat nearly everything that we put in front of them…  because we expect it!

While there are still days that they begrudgingly eat, go on an eating strike and/or complain, it has been fascinating to watch them acclimate and actually enjoy eating healthy, nourishing foods with gusto.

Today I’m going to explain how we got here and how we are continuing help our children cultivate a taste for healthy food!

So without further ado, here are my top 10 tips!

1. Expect It!

Ok, ok, I just told you I would give you more than this, but it is important to have the end goal in mind. What do you expect?  You are the parent.  And yes, you can and should expect them to eat what you offer. Our children will rise to our expectations.

2. Small Portions!

When introducing a new food, we start with small portions.  They are required to ‘try’ it.  Our children each have preferences.  While we try to honor these to some extent, we’ve also taught them that they need to take at least a few bites.  We try to make this fun by issuing our boys the challenge of ‘training their tastebuds’ just as an athlete would train.

3. Give Them Better Choices.

If you were to ask my children if they would rather have a carrot or a cupcake, they’d take the cupcake each time.  The key here is to empower your children by giving them choices that are a win-win.

What not to do: Would you like a carrot or goldfish for your afternoon snack?
How about:

  • snack time: “Would you like pepper strips, carrots or cucumber slices?”
  • after dinner dessert: “Would you like an apple or an orange?”
  • oh, you’re still hungry: “I have sliced veggies in the fridge.”

My boys, even at their tender young age eat A LOT.  We’ve already been eyeballing our food budget and preparing for the teenage years.  While we set limits on carb foods and even fruit, there is an open-fridge policy for fresh veggies!

As I shared a few years ago, we’ve had great success in the veggie department when we are out and about.  For some reason, when we go to the zoo, they have voracious appetites.  Since veggies are the only snacks I pack, except for an occasional piece of fruit, they’ve acclimated to pounding enormous quantities of veggies in the form of red pepper strips, carrots, cucumber slices or peas.  Even if they are not currently into those veggies at home, I’ve found that if that disappear quickly when that is the only option on the road.

4. Give them a Reason: Nutrition Education

Taking lessons from Eat Healthy, Feel Great and going on a green/red/yellow light hunt at the grocery store.

It must be the homeschooler in me, but just about EVERYTHING in life becomes an opportunity to learn.  And that is certainly the case here.  We really hit a turning point in their attitude towards food when we equipped them with the ‘why’ behind nourishing food!  We fell in love with Dr. Sears book, Eat Healthy, Feel Great.  It has been read over and over again.  They actually understood ‘why’ we should put good food into our bodies and the concepts of food that helps them GO (and what boy does not want to GO), foods that slow us down and foods that stop us.  I blogged about our nutrition learning adventures with this fun book that literally had my kids begging for broccoli.

Long-term, if we want them to own healthy eating choices (or any choices for that matter) we really need to give them a reason to embrace good decisions beyond just ‘because I said so.’

5. Eat to Learn-Learn to Eat  

I’m a big fan of engaging the senses during our homeschool adventures and that includes our taste buds!  I always try and play up the adventure and encourage them to at least ‘try’ it!  We’ve eaten George Washington’s breakfast, foraged in our suburban neighborhood so that we could make pancakes out of mesquite pods and eaten Chinese, Mexican and Indian foods as we travelled the world during our geography unit.  While we’ve had a few flubs, these kinds of culinary explorations usually pay off.

6. Let Them Help

Bringing our kids into the process goes a long way to developing healthy eaters.

This powerful option was on full display tonight as I was getting ready for dinner.  My four-year old is all about helping me in the kitchen right now.  He loved peeling the carrots and pretty soon his brothers were peeling too so they could all have a pre-dinner snack.  Peeling is a great motor skill for those preschoolers of ours and a wonderful way to get them invested in the process.  They still love making cucumber boats and sailing them right into their mouth and down into hungry tummies! We’re also big fans of the apple-ring sandwiches!

I’ve been convicted in this area a lot recently and it has been paying huge dividends as let them do more in the kitchen.

7. Make It a Competition

Now I’m not sure how this would fare with the girls in your family, but our boys thrive on competition.  I used this to my advantage a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to unload the rest of the broccoli.

Mom: Who wants another serving of broccoli.
Boys: “me”
“not me”
“not me”

Mom {in a moment of brilliance}: “Fabulous.  Xander and I will definitely out-race you both   tomorrow after eating our extra servings of green-light foods!”
Boys: no comment, just a mad rush to claim rest of broccoli!

We’ve used many a variation on this theme!

8. Find Fun Names

When my boys were really young, Rich and I found that much of our sons pickiness was mental and if we were creative in naming foods, we could circumvent his picky inclinations.

So we eat

  • Snowball Soup
  • Cowboy food  {finally got past the squash aversion with this one}
  • cheesy triangles -cheese crisps
  • trees-broccoli {actually this didn’t fool him when he was young, but it has been quite effective with our third born.}
  • flaming swords – red pepper strips

And our newest one we want to try: “Rabbit Food”.  A friend of mine told me her kids all gather around pretending they are bunnies and nibble on bits of romaine lettuce.  I’m intrigued!

Of course, sometimes even the best plans can totally flop.  My kids still don’t like raw cabbage, even when it came to creating boats.  While not full-proof, this can still be quite effective.

9. Have a Plan

My personal nemesis when it comes to eating better as a family is having a plan.  Since I’m busy with homeschooling and everything else, I’m usually too tired to even think come dinner time.  The habit that has saved me is creating a meal rotation to take the ‘think work’ out of dinner prep.  I have a 6 week spring/summer plan and a 6 week fall/winter plan. It has made life easier and we actually eat something for lunch other than pb&j from time to time…

10. Try, Try Again…

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And finally, it is important to keep on trying.  It can be discouraging at times, but it has been neat to see our persistence paying off!   If you keep offering them good food choices, they will acclimate.

This is still a work in progress for our family, especially now that we have a toddler in the house again… I’d love to hear what has worked in your home.  I’m always looking for new tips!

linking up with: Hearts for Home

Need some encouragement, Moms?

(if this video doesn’t show up in your rss feed or via email, click here!)

YOU are a wonderful mother…

yes, you.
 

Sally Clarkson just released this beautiful video to encourage all of us out there in the trenches of motherhood.  No matter how your day is going (but especially if it is shaping up to be one of ‘those‘ days), I want to encourage you to watch this short video.  Sally has been such an encouragement to me and if you haven’t checked out her blog, I Take Joy, I’d highly recommend you click on over!

Ok, so now that you’ve had a chance to watch it, didn’t you just feel so inspired to forge ahead to the glorious opportunity to disciple and cultivate these precious lives God has entrusted to you?

Cradle Rocking to Cooking…

Soooo, I’m pretty fixated on this whole idea of ‘cradle rocking’ right now.  As a visionary, it is so important for me to have regular reminders of what my mission is as a parent.  I’ve been mulling over what I want the culture of our home to look like.

Some things are no-brainers: I want a home where the Spirit of God is present and moving in all of us; a home where we pursue God and allow him to guide our interactions with each other and others.  I want a home where we delight in the adventure of learning.

Other areas are more subjective.  My sister and I were recently talking about how our mother created a culture of appreciating the arts and great literature.  I don’t have a natural bent towards art.  But she would regularly take us to art museums, discuss the worldview or artistic techniques of various artists and get us excited to do the same.  As such, I have a deep appreciation for art.  She started taking us to Shakespeare plays before we could even begin to comprehend the ‘old English’ way of communicating.  She cultivated a hunger for understanding and enjoying it!  We all love to discuss art and literature because that was the culture she created in her home.

On a more practical note, I’ve always ‘valued’ the idea of raising independent kids.  This week, as I’ve been pondering ‘my culture’ I realized that in my rush to be efficient and my desire to have things done ‘my way’ that I have not involved my kids in the kitchen with the frequency that I would like to think I have.  This became glaringly evident when my 8 year old walked into the kitchen yesterday at lunch and asked if he could help me put the burritos together for lunch.  I quickly told him no, thinking that it would take too long when the whole ‘culture’ idea popped into my head again.  What was I doing?  Was there really that big of a rush in my day that would preclude him from helping me make lunch?  He WANTS to help me make lunch.  When I really sit back to think about the culture I would like in my home, I realize that I want a home where we all work together as a unit.  And that can’t happen, unless I take the time to bring them into the everydayness of what needs to happen to make life work.

So we worked together on lunch.  The 6 year old soon joined us and was given a job.  We had the opportunity to learn about cleaning up after our messes since quinoa, pulled pork and shredded spinach didn’t always stay on plates and inside tortillas.  But we were working together and they were eager to participate!  All that was needed was for me to have a shift in my thinking .

And then another novel thought popped into my head.  “Why don’t you let them do some cooking on their own.”  I’ve allowed them to ‘help’ me from time to time in the past and have now resolved to letting them help me out more, they are now old enough to start doing things independently too.  So I pulled out my old Kinder Krunchies cookbook and told the boys to look through it and decide on some things they wanted to make.  They were elated!

They settled on making cornbread and raced around the kitchen gathering ingredients.  It was a delight to watch them and only have to help out occasionally with asking questions to help them figure out where all of the ingredients were located. {you know saying things like, “no, next to your other hand.  other hand.  no, not that hand, your OTHER hand.”}

I love this cookbook because it has a pictorial element making it possible for even the preschooler to take part.  He loved being able to ‘read’ and tell his brothers the quantities needed. 

{ooooh, I just love my future little helper!}

I modified dinner for the evening and made a white chili to go with the cornbread.  I should have enlisted their help, for my reading skills were pretty lacking.  I mistakenly added red pepper to the chili instead of chili powder… It took a lot of work to salvage the chili and make it palatable.  Their cornbread certainly did save the day!
All-in-all a successful day.  The boys are so excited they are making plans to open a restaurant and invite people over to sample their many creations.  And I’m thankful for the reminder to get back on track with what I want to be doing with my family.

Observing Mother-Culture

Oh this picture makes my heart warm.  Last week sweet Greta and I hopped on a plane and went back to Michigan to visit my sister and her children.

We have talked extensively about the need to care for each other and our friends during the postpartum period.  It means so much to be supported during the healing and adjustment process after childbirth.  I loved hearing all of your ideas on how you enjoy being supported during the phase when I posed the question on facebook.  With her husband away for his first business trip after little Abraham arrived, Greta and I decided to go back and keep them company.

We cooked (and cleaned) and cooked (and cleaned).  But left her family with a freezer stocked full of nourishing meals!  I came bearing new baby gifts for my niece and nephew (because they should be able to sling their ‘babies’ too!) and hung out with my niece during ‘rest time’ so mama could nap!  Thankfully, her guy was almost 8 weeks old, because we did end up talking and praying for one another when we could have been going to bed earlier…  

I snapped pictures of her and her little guy because that little phase is so fleeting and should be captured on film.  Isn’t he just precious?

There is something powerful about being in another’s home.  It gives you the chance to observe the culture they are creating.  Remember how we as mothers are creating the culture of our home and shaping the future?

Watching my sister lovingly interact with her children, snuggle with her newborn, lovingly – yet consistently address the training of her strong-willed child inspire me.  She has strengths that I don’t possess.  It excited me to return home and continue to pour into my own children, to take care with setting the ambiance of my home, to love my husband.  It reminded me of the importance of inviting other women into my home and taking advantage of opportunities to go into the homes of others.  As mothers, we have much to offer one another in the form of encouragement, inspiration and reminders to take care in cultivating the atmosphere of our homes, our interactions with our children and the building of our marriages.

In other news, she started teaching me how to knit.  Now I just have to remember what she taught me and hopefully between that and youtube, I’ll be able to tackle the beautiful knit hat I’m envisioning for Greta!  Cast on, knit and pearl, knit and pearl.  Right? 

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle…

I’m sure you all are familiar with the phrase,

“The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”

As mothers, we are creators of culture.  We have the awesome privilege and responsibility to train up the next generation.   We are not merely cooking, cleaning or simply keeping our children clothed and alive {although some days that seems like a miraculous feat in and of itself}.  We are cultivating the very culture that will shape who they become…

By how we interact with our husbands they learn the value of marriage and how to get along with one another.  By how we interact with our children, they learn of their own value.  By how we spend our time, they learn about what really matters in life.  By how we treat others, they internalize how to do the same.  By choices we make, our children learn what to value, how to relate to others, how to relate to God, what marriage looks like and how to view the adventure of learning.

We are creating culture whether we like it or not.

And lately, I’ve found this sobering, especially as I’ve seen some of my less attractive qualities on full display in my children.   Thankfully, this isn’t cause for despair.  I am realizing what a gift it is to recognize those less desirable qualities staring back at me NOW.  God is at work in me.  He is faithful to remind me of the wonderful opportunity I have to directly influence these four lives.

Fellow mothers, we are in a 24-7 discipleship ministry.  We must not lose heart. God not only calls us to train and disciple our children, but then He also fills us with His Spirit and empowers us to do so.  So today, I draw close to the Lord.  I purpose in my heart to say ‘no’ to the flesh and ‘yes, please’ to the Spirit as I seek His guidance in how to go about this glorious task of ‘creating culture.’

Seven Benefits of Reading Aloud!

Seven reasons why we should read aloud to our kids EACH AND EVERY DAY!!!  Even to our older kids!

With summer here and summer reading programs starting up in full force soon, we get frequent reminders to read to our children.  Reading together is such an intimate activity that we get to do with our children.

But I’m a WHY person and sometimes it is good to have a reminder of WHY it is so important to read to our children!  Am I alone in this???

There are so many benefits to reading aloud.  One of the best gifts we can give our children is shared experiences with books!  The benefits are numerous and profound.  Let me share a few with you.

Reading aloud, EVERY.SINGLE.DAY, is so important because it:

1. Promotes Relational Intimacy

  • There is something so special and intimate about curling up with your child/children to read a good book.  When tempers are short and we are on edge with one another, I frequently turn to reading aloud.  It is amazing how it calms everyone down and gets us to a place where we can address what is going on in our hearts.

2. Feeds the Imagination

  • The imagination is a powerful tool in the learning process. Reading aloud feeds and nurtures this as everyone is transported from the couch into the story at hand.

3. Cultivates an Interest in Books

  • There is something magical about sharing the joy of reading by communicating pleasure in the story.  This goes a long way in growing an interest in books.

4. Develops a Taste for a Variety of Good Literature

  • As parents, we have a powerful opportunity to shape their taste for good books and a variety of different KINDS of books.  This can be key, especially as children get older when introducing them to literature that might not be something they are naturally drawn towards.

5. Increases Attention Spans

  • Drawing them into the story helps to focus their attention for increasing lengths of time.  This not only helps with reading, but with many other areas of their lives.  This can be especially important for those really active children.  I’ve found that busy hands make for focused minds.  As such, I’ll often give my boys paper to doodle on, play dough or pipe cleaners/wiki sticks.

5. Builds Phonemic Awareness

  • Reading builds phonemic awareness and an understanding of the general cadence of our language.  Phonemic awareness is simply being aware of how sounds combine to make words.  This is such an important precursor and ongoing strengthener of reading skills.  Reading to our children introduces them to words and draws them into listening how they are put together.
  • An early childhood longitudinal study found that children who were read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness.  Imagine the effect when we read to our children daily!

6. Builds Vocabulary

  • Reading aloud is one of the most powerful ways to build our children’s vocabulary.  The size of a child’s vocabulary when they start formal academics is the single greatest predictor of school success or failure.  The words they know before this point determine how much of what is taught will be understood.
  • Once they begin reading, personal vocabulary either feeds or frustrates comprehension.  And that leg-up in vocabulary will keep them at an advantage as material grows increasingly more complicated.
  • Even as kids get older, research has revealed an increase in vocabulary acquisition by 15-40%.  So it is important to KEEP reading to our children, even after they can read on their own.

I’m just getting started…  I’ll continue on with some tips on ‘how’ to help your children enjoy the read-aloud times more, talk about the importance of different types of books and anything else that comes up!

Related Post: Cultivating Read-Aloud Time

Finding Good Books Just Got a Whole Lot Easier

Cultivating Gratitude

Intentionally cultivating gratitude in our children takes practice!

Expectations…

If you don’t clearly communicate what they are (and add some practice role-playing in for the littles) disaster and disappointment can ensue…

I’ve had to chase down a certain 3 year old more times than I care to admit because I didn’t clearly communicate before hand proper etiquette at the park.

So I’ve made a regular practice of RELATING expectations and REHEARSING proper behavior before we go anywhere!

Relate, Rehearse, repeat

This Christmas provided yet another opportunity to do just that.  We wanted to work with our boys on gratitude when it came to receiving gifts.  So on Christmas morning, before any gifts were opened we huddled close and I laid out the game plan:

We would open gifts, one at a time.  Afterwards they were to seek out the person who gave them the gift, look them in the eye (because they are famous for shouting a thanks, but not making eye contact) and thank them specifically for the gift.  “Thank you for _______.  I’m so excited to do ____ with it!”  As a physical expression of their thanks, a big bear hug was in order.

Since we have been making a habit of pausing and thanking God for his many gifts to us, we explained that this is a natural extension to pause and thank the person who gave us a gift…

Throughout all of the ‘training’ I’ve found it also important to season everything I do with regular reminders to the boys on ‘WHY’ we are doing what we are doing.  Jesus outlined the two greatest commandments when He said:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment. 
And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:37-39

It is important for them to understand that everything we do is an act of worship and and opportunity to bring glory to God.  Additionally, these are opportunities to show love and respect for others.

And I have to say, I think the fruit of our little training session that morning was one of the biggest highlights of my day!  They were so adorable at our home as they put this into practice.  The excitement and gratitude were contagious.  Brothers giving each other bear hugs and getting held tight myself with beautiful eyes looking deep into mine made for a memorable morning.

Of course, they needed frequent reminders once we joined up with extended family and the distractions exponentially increased.  But overall it was so exciting to see so much growth!

We’ve been busy over here – trying to pull myself back into gear and still faithfully teaching and training my wonderful boys in addition to caring for the baby.  I’m in overhaul mode intentional training has been taking a growing role in our home that had grown lax in the first weeks after the baby.  So I’ve been taking the principles of RELATE and REHEARSE into many aspects of our lives…

Putting toys away, tidying up their room, going to the library, learning to listen for my voice and respond, and most recently in preparing for our upcoming trip to Disney World.  In fact, just today we rehearsed proper etiquette for visiting the doctor which made for a smooth trip taking my sweet little Greta in today.

And throughout all of this, I repeat my oft repeated mommy mantra…

training takes time, training takes time, training takes time.

I’m so thankful for the precious rewards that pop up in the process!

Where have you found it helpful to prepare and train your children?

It’s A Date!

While up at the cabin last month, I decided to take each of my boys out for some special one-on-one time before Greta is born and life gets a little crazy.  Do any of you do that with your children?  I remember my mom taking each of us girls out for a special ‘date’ each summer.  It was the highlight of our summer each year!

Treyton (3.5 years) and I headed over to a local mall and rode the carousal and then went and explored a small military museum inside the mall.  He had so much fun and jabbered up a storm.  He will still regal me with stories of our little adventure that day a few weeks ago…

 Keegan (5 years) is my little artist.  So I decided to take him to a local art museum.  I wish I had just plunked down the money to take him to the children’s art museum because there are so many opportunities for the kids to participate and make some art of their own.  In the end, I opted for free, especially since they mentioned having some stuff for kids to interact with.  While they did have a little kid sized table in each gallery, the extent of the kid friendly portion centered around a large flat panel TV playing cartoons.  Ugh.

We still enjoyed taking his art book and sitting down to sketch.  We also ended up stopping by the Christian bookstore and I bought him his very own Comic book style picture Bible like Xander has.  He was so excited to have a ‘bigger’ Bible for Quiet Times.  It was so cute to see him plop down to ‘read’ it!

This last week, Xander (7 years old) and I went out for an afternoon.  We went to the Arizona Museum of Natural History.  I was excited to have just him so that we could linger longer at exhibits that interested him and to have some one-on-one time to really focus on him too!  We’ve also been reading The Baby Sister (which is an incredible and very positive book about a new sibling) that Tomie dePaola, one of my favorite illustrator/authors wrote.  He asked last week if we could go buy some ribbons for Greta’s hair just like Tomie wanted for his little sister.  So we headed to Ribbons and Lace and picked out a few ribbons for Greta.

I loved the opportunity for a special afternoon with each of my boys.  We will definitely be doing this again!  I’d love to hear how you all spend special one-on-one time with your kids.

Setting Goals

As I’ve said before, I love setting goals and casting vision.  It really helps to keep me focused!  I’m also a big ‘to-do’ list person.  Can anyone else relate?  There is something just so satisfying about checking things off…

Continuing in the tradition of my mother, I’ve been in the habit of making ‘semester’ evaluations since I was in college.  It is nice to take some time to sit back, pray and take stock of where I am at and what direction I feel the Lord is leading me towards in many different areas of my life.  Now that I have children, I’ve taken to setting semester goals for them as well.

Because we seek to live integrated and holistic lives, my goals for my children encompass far more than just academics.  We write down our priorities and goals for each of our children in the following areas:

  • Spiritual – I pray about how to reach each child and help them draw closer to Jesus.  In this section, I outline areas that I would like to see them grow or things I would like to relay to them.   For instance last semester I hoped to talk to my oldest about communion, have opportunity for a clear gospel presentation with my middle and help my youngest start talking to God (prayer).
  • Character – It is tempting to me to work on character development in a variety of areas, but that can easily get overwhelming and the impact is lessened if we are not focused.  So I try to pick one character trait per child to focus on specifically while allowing for life circumstances to certainly give clues to needed adjustments.  This last semester, obedience was a huge theme in our family and coincided nicely with our curriculum which is based around character traits and focused on this trait.
  • Academic – While there are many things that we learn and explore at any given time, I’ve found it helpful – especially with core academic subjects, to have a special focus.  I try to always be mindful to make sure that goals and expectations are attainable and age-appropriate.  It is easy to get ambitious in these areas and set goals that our kids brains simply aren’t wired to do yet.  Doing flashcards with your 3 or 4 year old in an attempt to get them reading early and reducing them to tears is one example that comes to mind…
  • Chores – With the arrival of our chore chart, this has become so much easier to keep up on.  I try and pick a new chore skill that I want my children to learn how to do per semester.
  • Physical – Especially since I know how much movement and exercise play into other aspects of their lives – like neurological development and future academic success, not to mention burning off an abundance of energy allowing everyone to stay sane, I like to set goals for this area as well.

Of course, I don’t leave myself out of the equation.  At the bottom of this sheet, I have a section for myself with areas to write goals for my roles as a child of God (spiritual), as a wife, as a mom, for my home and physical.

As I look back at last semester’s goals I’m quite please, overall, with progress made and aware that some of our goals I failed to work on or are ones that are simply still in process.  But it sure is nice to have a general game plan.

I plan on unplugging for the next week or two and spending focused time in prayer as we seek His will on what our family needs to be focusing on.  In the meantime, I thought I would share my goal sheets with you all in case you might find them helpful.  I’ve included a one page goal sheet for 2,3 or 4 kids + mom as well as a sheet with more room to write if you want a separate sheet per child.  I prefer to keep one sheet with all of us on it and place it at the beginning of my lesson plan notebook so I can reference it often!

I’d love to hear how you set goals and any approaches you have found helpful as well.

I’ll be back in a week or two…

SEMESTER GOAL SHEET download!