What is Discovery Learning?

Discovery learning is a vitally important part of the learning process. Sometimes we need to sit on our hands and place a gag over our mouths so our children can figure things out for themselves.

Discovery learning is… FUN?

Well, in hindsight anyways!  There is something about the struggle to figure a problem out that gives intense satisfaction afterwards.  Today I’m sharing about the trials and triumphs of discovery learning and how important it is for us to take a step back and not do all the mental work for our kids.  Instead we can and should give them the TIME to discover how NOT to do something which is part of the process of discovery.

{I may or may not be really just preaching to myself.  But feel free to read along too…}

Learning how to view ‘failure’ can have a dramatic impact on their life and we have opportunities each and every day to help change our children’s perspective that will pay life-long dividends!


“It doesn’t look that hard,” my oldest commented as we read about how Benjamin Franklin ran his printing shop.

Famous last words, my son.  Famous last words.

You would think by now that he would realize that comments like this pose a challenge to his mama.  Naturally, I sat wracking my brain trying to figure out an idea for ‘playing print shop.’  A search led me to this idea that I quickly pinned.

We didn’t have stamps to use, but we ran down to the dollar store and picked up these foam A-B-C letters and I turned him loose.

We decided to start with something short to try out this whole ‘printing’ thing. He selected double stick tape to attach the letters to our cookie sheet. Do you catch anything amiss here? It took an incredible amount of self-control to not step in and ‘fix’ this. But I knew that if I stepped in, he would miss out on a valuable learning opportunity.

When inventor, Thomas Edison was queried by a reporter about the seemingly incredible difficulties associate with his work on the light bulb he rebutted,

“I have not failed 700 times. I’ve succeeded in proving 700 ways how not to build a light bulb.”

Learning from our mistakes can be very powerful way to cultivate critical thinking skills.But as a mother, it is oh so hard sometimes to not step in and ‘help.’ I have to constantly remind myself to stop.

Once he made his first print ‘backwards’, we talked about what he could possibly do to make it look ‘right’. Some personalities will handle this process easier than others. My second son would want to figure this out by H.I.M.S.E.L.F. It is harder for my oldest.

He is my communicator and it was helpful to him to talk it out. So as carefully as I could, I provided that sounding board without leading to the answer. Finally, he figured it out and we printed out the headline for our patriotic paper!

Not only did my son gain valuable insight into the printing life of Benjamin Franklin, but also the joy of discovery that inventors feel when they finally figure it out!

Discover learning is a vital component to the learning process.Discover learning is a vital component to the learning process.

Discover learning is a vital component to the learning process.

I’m thankful for homeschooling and the opportunity it is providing each of my children to learn through personal discovery. I’m thankful for the lessons in self-control that it provides for me.

 Discovery Learning is Important Because It…

  • Fosters Critical Thinking.  It is so important to sharpen their minds and engage them in the thinking process.
  •  Builds Problem Solving Skills. Having to figure a problem out for oneself is of far greater value than having them watch you do everything.
  •  Leads to Independence.  The two previous benefits work together to build independence! One of the most important things we can do for our children is help them to survive and thrive on their own.  This includes figuring out new challenges that come their way in life.

 How Do We Encourage All This?

 Discover learning is a vital component to the learning process. Sometimes, as parents and teachers, we just need gags and handcuffs so we don't interfere.

Gag and handcuffs, my friends.

Curriculum author Jessica Hulcy, talks extensively about discovery learning and uses this analogy. We need to sit on our hands, close our mouths and provide our children TIME to figure this out.  For those talkers in our family or to ease frustration in this process of discovery learning, we can ask a few open-ended questions to help them with the thinking process.  The goal here is for THEM to have that magical ‘aha’ moment when the light bulb of understanding turns on.  And like Edison, this might take time, but there CAN be joy in the journey.Discovery learning is important, but we have to step out of the way. Be encouraged by this article why you should encourage discovery learning and let your child figure it out on his own

Art Inspired Gift Ideas {Create and Appreciate}

Simple, engaging ideas to spark a love for art history and making some of your own.

To say that I was a busy, active tomboy growing up would be something of an understatement.  My mom and I were laughing about it today and remembering back…  I had a tendency to prefer {full-body} action over contemplation and details. But a mother is in a place of powerful influence.  And my mother loved art.  She wasn’t an artist in the traditional sense, but was inspired by the idea of creating hidden art.  She loved to study the works of famous artists and engage us in discussions about the emotions and worldviews expressed in the realm of art. It was fascinating to recognize the interplay between art styles, the flow of history and an artists worldview. Over the years she’d bring in books on famous artists, take us down to see some new art exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum or host an art appreciation club in our home. Her excitement was contagious and to this day, I have a deep appreciation for art.

So on this 27th day of my 31 Days of Gifts that Inspire Learning {I’ll finish eventually}, I wanted to share a few of my favorite art resources that inspire both creation and appreciation for great art.  They engage even my active boys just as they did when I was that super-active girl.  Enjoy!

Give Kids Quality Art Supplies

Quality matters.  When you give your kids art supplies that work really well, it inspires the creative process.  I also like to keep it simple and there are my favorite art supplies to have on hand.

Quality art supplies matter. Lyra Ferby pencils are some of our favorites!

This post may contain affiliate links.

Colored Pencils and a Quality Sketch Book –  As you know, I’m a huge fan of our Lyra Ferby pencils.  I love the triangular shape that promotes proper pencil grasp and the color these babies produce is beautiful.  I will never hold a crayola colored pencil in my hand again.  It pays to buy quality art supplies.  Prismacolor is another top-notch quality colored pencil.  These artist quality colored pencils come in a tin and are much less expensive than the Lyra Ferby pencils. I’ve considered switching to buying these as my artist sister highly recommend them and my kids are getting older.

The right kind of paper can make a difference too.  My kids are PROLIFIC when it comes to coloring, so we don’t use this all the time, but I did buy spiral-bound journals one year.  It was wonderful to have all of their artwork in one notebook instead of random papers tacked up around the house!


Watercolors – My boys (yes, my rough and tumble boys) love to paint.  I can’t say that I blame them.  There is something very calming and therapeutic about creating with water colors.  Whenever I see fun techniques out there, I’ll pin them to my Art board so we can try them out later.  In the craziness of raising boys, its nice to have calm moments too.  Again, quality matters.  While I know you can get water color sets for a dollar, paying a little bit more makes a huge difference.  I threw out my cheap water colors and we only use Prang now.  It’s really not that much more and the brilliant colors produced make it totally worth paying more.  We use watercolors while I read-aloud, for easy patriotic crafting {because I like easy},  easy Easter art {did I mention I like easy, open-ended art?}, nature walk art, and vacation art {so simple to pack and take along!}. You need thicker paper when doing watercolors.  We’ve found upgrading to a watercolor paper really helps what we are able to create.  You can buy watercolor sheets or get a watercolor notebooks if you want to take your watercoloring adventures outdoors!

Pastel's - a fun art medium for kids {Art-Inspired Gift Ideas @CultivatedLives}

Pastel’s – Ever since getting A Simple Start in Pastel’s and following their tutorials {see below for a fabulous giveaway}, pastel’s have found a permanent place in our frequently used art supply.  They are a little bit messy and there is an art to using them, so I wouldn’t turn your toddler or preschooler loose with them.  These are perfect for elementary aged kids and up!

Books that Inspire Artistic Creativity:

Beautiful Oops – my mom found this and gave it to my nephew.  Of course, I had to sit down with my “artist boy” and read it before they took it home.  Check out the preview pages on Amazon to get a feel for the book.  It inspires kids to creatively see artistic potential, even in the midst of oops moments.
The Art Lesson – I love Tomie dePaola books and am thrilled that this is in our personal collection.  It’s an autobiographical sketch from this artist/illustrators childhood.
Hands: Growing Up to Be an Artist – Speaking of autobiographical sketches of artist/illustrators, here’s another favorite of mine by Lois Ehlert.  It’s inspiring.

Fun, gift-worthy ways to engage children with Art History! 

As I said above, studying art isn’t a one time event.  It happens gradually over time. Here are a few fun ideas to spark your child’s exploration of art history.

Learn how to study great works of art in a playful and engaging way with this series of books.art4 instagr-art

Spot the Differences: Art Masterpiece Mysteries – This and the rest of the books in the series deserve a permanent place on the bookshelf of every family that wants to cultivate a love and awareness of famous paintings!  Why?  Because these will be books that will be pulled out over and over again over the years!

My boys received the first book in this series as a Christmas gift a while back.  My boys – my busy, busy boys – were mesmerized.  Despite sweet muffins that Christmas morning, those hyper-active boys of mine sat sprawled and nearly motionless on my parents floor pouring over these pictures.  The book depicts a famous work of art on one side and then a counter-fit on the other.  You are challenged to “spot the differences.”  This fun game teaches kids the art of studying and appreciating great works of art.  Oftentimes there are delights tucked into the details and micro stories unfolding within the bigger picture.  This is a fabulous and painless way to expose them to great artists and some of their most famous pieces.  In the sidebars there are also nuggets of information about the artist or his/her work that are always interesting. While writing this post, I discovered there are 3 more books in the series!  You can bet those just went on my mental wishlist for sometime in the future!  Check out Book 2, Book 3, and Book 4.

Anholt’s Artists Books for Kids – This fanciful, engaging series has fictional characters encountering various famous artists and witnessing them at work.  I discovered this series quite by accident at the library one day when I saw, Cezanne and the Apple Boy.  If my mom had been there that morning, it would have been a proud mommy moment for sure as she saw my eyes light up in recognition and then excitement about the prospect of introducing my kids to Cezanne and getting reacquainted myself. Giving your child one of these books could make for a fun gift!


Piatnik Art Memo Game – Anyone care for a game of concentration with beautiful art tiles?  36 great pictures are represented here and the game comes with an instruction book so you can find out the name of the piece and who created it.  These kinds of games naturally build awareness and appreciation for great pieces of art in a fun and playful kind of way.

Fun Tutorials

Pastel's - A fun art medium to explore


To check out the whole series: 31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

7 Ways to Help Our Children Conquer Boredom


Tips to help our kids grow in creativity and conquer boredom - THEMSELVES!

I’m waxing nostalgic about embracing the good ‘ol days and learning to simply be over at The Busy Mom today.  And all of that got me thinking about the topic of boredom…

I’m sure we’ve all encountered kids who say, “I’m bored.” or “Can we just go somewhere today?” or “What are we going to do today?” Maybe you are turning the TV off or taking back your iPad when your kids start to whine for just one more show or 10 more minutes…

We live in an entertainment, entitlement culture where everything is about what someone or something else is going to do for us. It is so ingrained in our cultural ethos that it can be difficult to even recognize these influences. Summer tends to be put this on full-display.

How do we help our children cultivate creativity and conquer boredom without relying on us at every turn?  While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, I have 7 tips to get you started.  **Remember that parenting is an art and how you choose to implement these principles will look different for each family**


1. Realize that boredom is not some kind of disease.

It’s super easy to fall into the trap that we need to solve this problem of boredom.  It is not some kind of disease that we as loving, caring parents need treat.

It’s ok for our children to be bored.  Repeat after me…  It’s ok for our children to be bored.  Boredom breeds curiosity.  Boredom breeds innovation.  If we let it, boredom can lead to our children learning to creatively occupy themselves.   Keep that in mind as you read the rest of these tips.  Our goal should be to help our children navigate through this themselves.  Now of course on the flip side, boredom can also breed destruction.  So a wise parent will set up boundaries and parameters that clearly lay out your family expectations of behavior.

2. Turn off the screens… or at least place severe limits.

I’ve made the case before in great detail and it bears repeating again.  Screen-time, among other things, robs us of time and opportunity for other creative pursuits.  If your children struggle with finding things to do with themselves, start by removing or at least limiting this medium that can so easily become a crutch.  We have seasons of no screen-time in our home and times when we just put limits on it.  Growing up, my parents went through a period of putting the TV in the attic for a few months at a time because they deemed that the necessary step.  We have not felt it necessary to do this in our family (although, I’ve gone “dark” for my own benefit from time to time.) As kids wean off the screen-time, they will learn how to occupy themselves in creative ways.

3. Read them good books.

Books ignite the imagination.  It opens their minds to new worlds and often times it fuels their free play.  Read a story and then act it out.  Include beautiful picture books and chapter read-aloud books.  We recently read Little House in the Big Woods.  The boys were obsessed with hunting like Pa for a few days.


4. Encourage them to play by themselves.

We live in a culture that tends to promote shuttling our kids from event to event.  When they are home, there is tons of mommy guilt out there that says you need to plan all kinds of creative memory making opportunities.  Kids simply don’t need all of this.  If they are playing well on their own leave them to play.  My mom told me a story about how she had planned this really cool learning activity and came back to our room to fetch us.  She stopped herself at the door when she noticed that we were in the midst of writing a play and making plans to “produce” it later that day.  She wisely realized the value in our self-directed activity and put her super-cool plans on hold for another time.

Sometimes this might mean that you have to get down and teach them how to play.  I’ve talked to many families who have shared with me that their young children don’t know how to play on their own.  My kids have gone through periods where this has been the case – especially when they were younger.  Sometimes, we need to get down on their level and give them some prompts to get the creative juices flowing.  You can throw out some ideas such as playing house, store, doctor, etc.  In these situations, you are the facilitator, you ask the questions.   Try to encourage them to problem solve.  If you are playing doctor, you might ask your child where to set up the office, ask them what they need in the office and what objects around your house could stand in for common tools a doctor might use.  The idea here is that you want to keep it as open-ended as possible. Teach your kids to think outside the box, using their imagination and what they have around them.

Send your kids outside.  Help them conquer boredom.

5.  Send them outside!

Send them outside.  You could encourage them to build a fort, mud kitchen, have a battle, play house, try to catch lizards.  Or don’t give them any ideas.  Simply send them outside with instructions to “just play and don’t come back until dinner time.” As long as they are past the toddler years, let them find a space where there is some semblance of “alone” so that they can create, dream, play.  My kids gravitate to the side yards and lose themselves in imaginary worlds.  I only intervene if play gets unnecessarily rough or destructive (like the time they were caking the side of my house with mud).

Richard Louv, in his fantastic book, Last Child in the Woods, mentions research revealing that when children play in natural play spaces, they’re far more likely to invent their own games, than in more structured settings — a key factor in becoming self-directed and inventive as children and later in life.

6. Give them Work.

Pay attention to this one.  It’s GOLDEN. When I was a girl, uttering the words “I’m bored” meant getting assigned extra chores.  We learned quickly to find creative ways to occupy ourselves.  My mom’s philosophy was that if we didn’t know what do to then she would find more than enough constructive ways that we could help around the house.  Putting in the mental effort to dream up something to do soon became far more tantalizing then the menial task of scrubbing baseboards.  My mom was so devoted to this that she even put our co-op buddies to work one day when they complained of co-op being boring.  That was the first and last time they did that.  Trust me, this works.  And if for some reason it doesn’t, you’ll have sparkling baseboards and shining windows indefinitely!

7. Resist the urge to fill your schedule.

Too much of a good thing, is too much.  Where I live, you could literally sign your child up for a different program or activity to occupy their every waking moment.  Again, mommy guilt can play a factor here as you hear what great programs everyone else is doing.  I’m not saying that all programs and activities are bad.  We did VBS two weeks ago and are in the middle of swim lessons right now.  We simply want to protect our children’s free-time so they have that time to be bored…  Ironically enough, an article came out this last week on this very topic that I shared on facebook.   It lays out the many benefits of leaving room in your summer schedule for plenty of free-play!  Let’s buck the cultural trends and move towards being more people-focused instead of program focused.  It’ll be easier on our pocket books, our sanity, and our children’s development.

7 ways to help your kids conquer boredom!

Beautiful Busy Work for Read Aloud Time

The beauty of creating... Draw a design, hand them a needle and thread and turn them loose!

There is something about creating. It is calming and enjoyable. While learning about the trinity {We loved the book, 3 in 1.}, I decided to introduce the boys to embroidery, not that I really know how to do it properly. I’ve enjoyed playing around with it when making birthday crowns or bean bags. In keeping with our discussion of the trinity, they each chose a symbol to represent the trinity: an apple, the fleur-de-lis and three concentric circles.

We drew our outline on some scraps of fabric I had lying around, selected some embroidery thread and set to work. A quiet sense of fascination and satisfaction took over our home. Aside from a mishap with the thread here and there, they were busy at work and I was able to pull out the Bible and commence with some more of our reading  I pulled out some verses showcasing the trinity and read them to the boys. It was amazing to see how when their hands were kept busy, their minds could focus on our reading…

We also ended up tackling a recent read-aloud book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweilerwhile they worked.

Letting kids embroider during read-aloud time. kids and embroidery kids and embroidery

Related Posts:
Created to Create
Adventure Books to Inspire a Boys Faith
Delightful Books to Inspire a Girl’s Faith
Intentionally Filling Up with God’s Presence 
A Beautiful Way to Develop A Christian Worldview

But Wait? That’s Not on the Lesson Plans?

Don't be afraid to ditch the schedule when curiosity comes knocking.

When curiosity hijacks your day…  run with it!

It was a day much like any other.   We sat around the breakfast table, eating and talking.  I was excited about the day before us.  We’d slipped into a beautiful, smooth-going routine.  And then it happened…

An innocent comment about rocks.  Turns out my little turkeys had raided my stack of rock books that I had stashed away for our upcoming vacation.  I don’t normally take “school” with us on vacation, but when a friend up in Payson mentioned that this was a great place to learn about rocks, I couldn’t resist!

The boys began rifling questions my direction.

What are rocks made from? What is a rock hound?  There are volcanic rocks down the street.  Does that mean a volcano was here? Do you think we can go out front and dig for gold? No?  Well, what about rock collecting.  Please, mommy. Please.

And just like that I realized that I could be a slave to my routine – that glorious, smooth-going routine, or I could feed their curiosity and run with it.

Oh the beauty of homeschooling is that we can strike when the iron is hot.  When there is interest in a subject, a wise mama can rearrange the schedule and make room for spontaneous learning.  When curiosity is lit, it is amazing what they will learn.

So we went rock hunting.  We compared our neighborhood discoveries to that same trusty little rock identification kit that I had used as a girl.  We read about rocks and marveled at God’s creativity!  And now in hindsight, it was excellent preparation for our time up at the cabin; far better than my original plan.

The math, spelling and phonics happened on a smaller scale that day.  But memories were made and minds engaged in a magical way that I could never orchestrate on my own.  Learning like this, integrated naturally into a day, helps lay the foundation for a life-long pursuit of discovery!

Don’t be afraid to ditch the schedule when curiosity comes knocking!  It will be there waiting for you.

Don't be afraid to ditch the schedule when curiosity comes knocking. Don't be afraid to ditch the schedule when curiosity comes knocking.

Created to Create – Finding Your Inner Artist

We are all created to create! We can daily embrace in ourselves and help our children to as well!A Simple Start in Pastel's - one way to embrace the artist within!

We settled down around the kitchen table and pulled out the pastels.  There is something so cathartic, so peaceful about the process of creating.  After we read through the tutorial in our Simple Start to Chalk Pastel’s book, we set to work.  Well, all of us except for one.  This son of mine starts to complain.  There aren’t enough directions. What EXACTLY is he to do?  I try and give a few more instructions, but remind him of the value in the creative process and how everyone’s picture would turn out differently.   He didn’t believe me.

In frustration, he huffed – “I’m not an artist.  I’m just not.”

At that moment, I was at a loss on how to respond.  I excused him from the table and he grabbed the kindle to go reread the directions while the rest of us finished our pastel drawings.

I forgot about his struggle until I was chopping broccoli for dinner an hour later.  By this time, he had cranked up some kids praise music and was singing at the top of his lungs–lost in worship.  This son of mine loves Jesus and loves to sing.  As I watched, I saw a different boy from the one attempting pastel drawing earlier.  He was relaxed and enjoying himself immensely as he worked out motions to the song. He broke my reverie by announcing that he wants to be on the worship team at church.

Created to Create - Finding Your Inner Artist!

And that’s when it hit me – He IS an artist.

I excitedly wave him over and look deep into his inquiring eyes as I carefully lay out my revelation.  What is an artist?  It is someone who creates something.  It could be music, dance, art, building, etc.

“YOU are an artist Xander, because you are created in the image of our Creator God.”

Eyes widen.

I tell him that when we create, we are reflecting our Creator God to those around us.  It is not only immensely satisfying; it is an act of worship.  When you sing, worship, and seek to draw others into it through your creative expression, you are an artist.

His two dimples deepen as a smile slowly spreads across his face.  He is an artist.  He relishes in this revelation.

He pauses and looks at me before dropping another bombshell.  “You are an artist too, Mom.  You are an artist when you write.”

I cringe inside and doubts immediately whisper otherwise to my soul.  I’m working on a book and yet still askew the idea of being a writer, of that being my art form.  I’m quick to point out others far more gifted, talented or successful than I am.  I look back to my childhood of hating writing and the many battles I had with my mother over this subject.  But he is right.  There is a passion that runs deep to communicate.  While I may not love the actual act of writing, I love to communicate.  There is pleasure in crafting words–whether spoken or written.  There is pleasure because I was created to create.   There is pleasure because this is how He is calling me to create right now.

Maybe we just need to learn to think outside the box.  Maybe we need to let go of our perfectionist tendencies and embrace this imperfect reflecting of our Creator…

So how do you create?

Do you make music with an instrument, use your voice, paint or draw?

You are an artist.

Do you enjoy taking care of the yard, decorating or organizing  your home?

You are an artist.

Do you get excited about baking yummy treats or putting a healthy dinner on the table?

You are an artist.

Do you take care in snapping pictures and capturing the essence of childhood or the passing of days in your home-even if no one but family sees them?

You are an artist.

Do you sew, knit, work with wood or creating any other kind of things?

You are an artist.

Do you delight in finding good books for your kids and creating special moments with them?

You are an artist.

Do you dream up ways to make others laugh, seek to encourage others with your words or with your writing?

You are an artist.


You don’t have to be the best or even recognized by others for any of these talents.  Art is still art, even if it is hidden – even if it seems insignificant.  You are a beautiful {albeit imperfect} reflection of your creator God.

Today I choose to embrace the artist inside of me.  Today, I seek to recognize and point out the artist inside each of my children.  Today, I marvel at the ultimate creator and am thankful for the taste he gives us of this most amazing privilege–to create.

 And my son… with this boost of confidence, he tells me that he’ll give the pastel’s another try.

Related Posts:

A review of my favorite book on Hidden Art

The Creativity Crisis

Harnessing the Power of Pinterest to Grow Creativity in our Children

 April 13-15th, 2015 ONLY

50% off ALL art curriculum

How to Waste Brain-Boosting Opportunities

How to waste brain-boosting opportunities?  Reasons why we should limit screentime.  {Day 6 of Boosting Brain Power}

So we’ve been talking for the last week about boosting brain-power.  Water, nutrition, sleep and exercise are foundational.  When it comes to our educational environment, movement is the key to turning our children ON to learning.  Friday, I wrote about how active, rough and tumble play contributes to wiring the brain to learn.

As much as movement turns the brain ON to learning, today I’m tackling the unpopular topic of how we turn their brains OFF to learning and rob them of the time needed for all of these brain-boosting opportunities…

Screen Time

Yes, the biggest culprit that kills active play and learning is screen time – and by this I include TV, movies, netflix, computer and touchscreens (like the ipad and iphone).

I think deep down, we all know screens are time-suckers and should have strong limits.  But in today’s culture that is very hard to put into practice, isn’t it?  So, let’s start with a fresh reminder of why we should limit screen time…

Why is Screen-Time So Bad?

  • Robs Time ~ Watching TV (movies, etc) is a deprivational activity.  It deprives us of the time and opportunity to do something more productive.  For children – especially young children this critically inhibits the development of language and listening skills, imagination and various problem-solving processes that are essential in learning how to read.  It robs all of us of opportunity for real-life hands-on exploration, creativity building and time spent exploring, talking (to real people) and real rather than virtual experiences.  Time spent in front of a screen is time NOT spent doing something that builds the brain, builds relationships and builds a healthy, whole person.
  • Slows Brain Activity ~ Remember when we talked about the cerebellum last week?  Computer imaging of the brain has revealed that the cerebellum is almost entirely inactive during the passive activity of watching a screen.
  • Lacks a hands-on, multi-sensory component that is critical to learning.  When a person moves and interacts it fires up the cerebellum and speeds up the learning process.
  • Lacks verbal, personal interaction.  Children need to communicate WITH someone, not just having an impersonal ‘machine’ talking at them.
  • Highly Addictive ~  A recent study came out that reveals that screen time produces a chemical response with dopamine in the brain similar to the affect of other addictive substances (drugs, sugar, cigarettes, etc).   If you don’t think you or your children are addicted to your screen of choice, try taking it away for a day or even a week.  It’s hard to do.  Oftentimes, you’ll even notice withdrawal symptoms.
  • Rewires the Brain ~ As scary as this sounds, researchers are finding this to be very true.  Even actively engaging with screens when we are on computers and touch screens is having a rapid and profound affect on how our brain is wired. Researcher Gary Small said,  “The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate, but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains.”   The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains explains that the very act of how we read and process information is changing when more time is spent learning ‘online.’  For instance, we lose the ability to focus and and read long articles.  We develop what’s been coined “popcorn brain” where we are constantly hopping around from topic to topic without the ability to delve deep.  For children in this season of intense learning the affects can be devastating.

The New Nanny

In this digital age, it is vital for us as parents to constantly be assessing where our families are spending time plugged-in and whether or not this is beneficial.  TV or video game consoles were the default ‘babysitter’ of choice when we were kids, but now with the technology boon, we have the opportunity to keep our kids plugged in at the park, in the car, at the store, the waiting room.  It’s as easy as handing over our smart phones or a tablet.  But should we be handing over these devices every time we want to keep them quiet?  Are we abdicating our responsibility to parent and to teach self-control?

But Aren’t Touch Screens Different?

With the explosion of smart phones and tablets, many schools are rushing to embrace a tech-centric approach to education and marketers are quickly saturating the market with all kinds of ‘educational aps’.  Since they are ‘educational’ does this make them good?  Well, the truth of the matter is that there is NO real research on this.  The ap makers themselves assert the benefits, but this is not true research.  It reminds me of the whole ‘Baby Einstein’ craze and then subsequent recall when complaints were filed stating that parking kids in front of educational DVD’s didn’t actually make them smarter, but harmed them.

A rationale for why we should limit screentime for our children! {Day 6 of Boosting Brain Power series}

So What to Do?  Some Thoughts…

Take Stock ~ Take time to record how much screen time your family is getting.  It is helpful to see how much and when you are using screens.

Assess ~ Decide what amount of screen time you want for your family. Each family is going to be different. For instance, we are a football family. We watch almost every NFL game that is aired on ‘regular’ TV (we don’t have cable). But the kids don’t watch any other TV, we don’t have Netflix and they only watch an occasional movie, maybe twice a month or so. In our family, we utilize a portable DVD player on the airplane. Being trapped in a metal tube 30,000 feet in the air with a hundred other people made plugging my kids into a movie sound like a great idea. When we drive however, I have the ability to pull over and address temper tantrums and help my children learn how to occupy themselves in the car without the need to plug in. Car time, provides us wonderful opportunity to talk and for them to observe the world flashing by them… So we keep our car screen free.

Cut BackJust do it!  We’re going screen-free next week.  Want to join us? {This mama needs it just as bad as the kids!}

Constantly Reassess ~ Last week, I had to take all four kids with me while I had my teeth cleaned.  I strapped Greta into the umbrella stroller and had snacks for her and then let the boys take turns playing Angry Birds.  In hindsight, I realized that they are old enough now that I could have had them bring a book to read.  We’ve trained them enough on how to sit still and behave that I didn’t NEED to use the screen.

Let us encourage one another in purposeful parenting – to minimize screen-time and maximize relationships and learning!

 10 Days of Boosting Brain Power series {Day 6: How to Waste Brain-Boosting Opportunity}

Day 1: Boosting Brain Power Starts with Food and Water

Day 2: How Sleep Makes Us Smarter

Day 3: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Day 4: Why Movement Matters

Day 5: Active Play Boosts Brain Power

Day 6: How to Waste Brain Boosting Opportunity

Day 7: Brain Breaks: An Important Tool in Your Homeschool

Hopscotch with the iHomeschool Network

Harnessing the Power of Pinterest to Grow Creativity in our Children

Tips for maximizing creativity development via pinterest projects for our kids!

It has been one full week.  You know the kind of week where when you get the kids down each evening, you look at your husband and can’t put two coherant thoughts together…  Each time I’ve sat down to write, there is simply nothing there.  And so I head for bed because I know this whole new ’embracing mornings’ thing is going to come beeping into my slumber before I know it.

This has been a week of embracing routine again.  As I wrestle with the challenge of encouraging boys back into the swing of things, I’ve found myself pondering why, oh why I ever let the routine slip.  There is something to be said about habit.  It makes life run smoother.   I can feel us all starting to relax as routine becomes familiar again.

As a reward the other day, I introduced the kids to the wonder of Pinterest.  They were quite taken with this idea to make an airplane which I slyly directed them towards.  They squealed in delight to discover that I just so happened to have bananas and cottage cheese (a rare treat).  They puzzled over what do use for airplane windows and there may or may not have been a few tears as they attempted to cut their bananas into workable shapes…  But all in all, they were thrilled with their creation and clamboring for more food creation inspiration.   I showed them how my friend Becky’s son made this creation with yogurt instead of cottage cheese and we had fun brainstorming variations on this theme.  It’s fun to stoke the fire of creativity and see what they can come up with once that creativity is stoked!

Using Pinterest to Promote Creatiivity

I think I might let them pick out some inspiration for next week and take them shopping for ingredients or see what they can rustle up at home to aid in their edible creations.  It’ll be fun to see where their creativity will take them.

All this got me thinking…

How can we utilize pinterest to promote creativity?

Don’t Expect Pinterest Perfect ~ There is nothing wrong with beautiful pinterest pictures.  They are inspiring.  But when it comes to our kids creating we need to value process over product.  The point is that THEY are the one’s doing the project, not you…

Encourage Improvisation ~ Don’t provide all of the ingredients.  It is good to let them learn to make-do or come up with the solution themselves to create what it is they want to create.

Don’t provide directions. ~The picture might just be enough to get creative juices flowing.  There is a certain triumph experienced when you’ve struggled to figure something out.  I simply gave the boys one banana and left them to figure out how they could utilize that ONE banana to make their creation.

Brainstorm ~ Have a brainstorm session where they are free to throw out all kinds of ideas to create their pinterest-inspired design!  This could very well lead to some totally new creations.

I’m thinking we’ll have to add these fun food creation ideas to our list of tips for helping picky eaters too!

Creativity Inspiring


We’ve recently come under the spell of this incredibly creative book.  It is always a good sign when an adult is just as captivated by a children’s book as they are.  Rich and Greta inspected this book for a good part of the morning a few weeks back.
We found ourselves chuckling at the ingenuity and inspecting each page to see what everyday items were used to create the pictures!  I love books like this because it encourages us to think outside of the box and use objects we have around the home in open-ended ways.

Of course sometimes this creative ‘out of the box’ kind of thinking backfires.  For instance, last week my three year old took the baby Jesus doll that he made in Sunday School out of a nylon and was using it as a slingshot and/or lasso.  For some reason that just seemed a wee bit disturbing to see him whipping it around and racing to attack his brothers…

What everyday objects do your children play with and transform into something else?