Crafting Play – Cultivating Learning

Utilizing the magic of dramatization in learning.

Drama, drama, drama. Yup, that would aptly describe our crazy home. And I’m not just talking the pull your hair out because life is driving you crazy kind of drama, although we get our fair share of that, too.

Over here, we’ve found that drama is a great way to maximize the enjoyment and retention of whatever we are currently learning about.On any given day if you were to stop by, you would frequently find kids dressed up and playing hard. What is so cool is that while they are playing (and I make a mad dash to the kitchen to pull dinner together) they are reinforcing what we’ve been reading about.

As we read books, sometimes the kids will zero in on something and run grab an item around our home that can stand in as a prop. I’ve found that a key prop or costume piece goes a long way to cultivate this learning through play. And this doesn’t have to be crazy expensive or complicated. Oftentimes, one small item coupled with their imagination is enough to transport them into many a historical epoch.

For instance, when we were learning about the Revolutionary War, the boys noticed that each of the soldiers had a cartridge box slung over his shoulder. My youngest knew where my stash of purses were kept and remembered that little black purse that I’d held onto for over 20 years now. That’s right folks, I’m the sentimental person that has kept my first ‘purse’ all these years. That little black leather purse was a constant companion for my little guy as he traveled from battle to battle.

To this end, we oftentimes try to utilize our crafting to maximize dramatic play. That was the case when we were learning about Joan of Arc. Book after book revealed her marching into battle with her white fleur de lis banner.

So we set to work cutting up an old sheet into a pennant shape. I didn’t even bother to hem the edges. I care about those things, but the boys certainly don’t. I simply made sure I folded over the edge big enough to go over our PVC pole that the boys already had sewed a loop. We’ve even been known to use fabric glue if I’m too lazy to pull out the sewing machine.

Next, we set to work making a stamp. We had some crafting foam from an earlier craft they made at someone’s home and we re-purposed that for our fleur-de-lis stamp. I simply printed off a picture from the internet and set about cutting it out with an exacto knife. I didn’t feel quite comfortable turning them loose with that sharp little tool at that time, but the boys have definitely upgraded to using exacto knives now (with mom’s ample warnings). The boys found an unused bobbin that could be used for our handle because I’m all about not making any unnecessary trips to the store.

And then, their favorite part – stamping away!

The result? “JON of Arc” making a courageous stand to free France from the English and help Charles VII claim his throne, over and over and over again! All it took was creating a flag and letting it fly!

Letting Go of Picture Perfect

It's a scary thing to let go of that picture-perfect ideal. But I'm here to tell you that it is well worth it in the end.

I called them in, these boys of mine.  We were studying the tabernacle at the time.  Visions of this exquisite, picture-perfect, to-scale model of the tabernacle were floating around in my head like the one I created during my junior high years with my sisters.  That one that was put on display at church.  Yes, that one.

The boys were excited.  Spray paint and hot glue guns have a special allure, don’t they?

Boys huddled around as building commenced.  In almost reverential awe, each one picked up the small saw and proceeded to cut balsa wood posts for the courtyard.  I hovered over them, Bible in hand, to make sure that it was perfect.

But as I continued to step in, to adjust, to pause the building to consult our Bible and our awesome book on the Tabernacle, they drifted off one-by-one until I finally realized that I was the only one left building.

In frustration, I shouted for them to come back…  This is school for crying out loud.  And fun school at that. But it was too late.  They had lost interest and I had no one to blame but myself.  My obsession with the perfect model had killed their desire.

Letting Go of Perfection – My 2nd Chance!

As the project languished on the front room table, co-op day arrived and I was hosting.

My assignment for the morning – build a walk through replica of the tabernacle and the courtyard.  I told them to be creative.  Boys gave me skeptical looks.  Given how the last week had gone down, I think they expected me to give a lecture on mathematical scaling and beautiful pseudo-authenticity.  But I had come to my senses.  The purpose here was for them to work together, creatively utilizing items from around our home that could symbolize each aspect of the Jewish tabernacle and then give the two moms a tour.

They stuttered briefly, before flying outdoors chattering with their friends as they constructed their own version of the tabernacle.  It was a rousing success.  They had fun and flexed those creative muscles.  They made it their own.  And while these images may not wow anyone on Pinterest, they made it.  ALL.BY.THEMSELVES.

And that my friends, is powerful.
Learning about the Tabernacle: One of the best ways to review what your kids have learned is to have them create a walk-thru model of the tabernacle!Learning about the Tabernacle: One of the best ways to review what your kids have learned is to have them create a walk-thru model of the tabernacle!

Whether it is your high ideal or what seems like someone else’s beautiful reality, we must hold firm to holding things lightly, to letting go of that “perfect idea” and in this case look towards memory making and kid-involved learning rather than parent-driven perfection.

I’m a work-in-progress, but I’m thankful for lessons like this along the way that help me learn to let it go…

And that beautiful Tabernacle diorama? We never finished it.  I ended up throwing away all of the perfectly cut and painted posts, the half constructed tabernacle building, the hand-stitched coverings that the boys did make with the vivid, albeit crooked lines of scarlet and purple…  My friend on the other-hand utilized things she had lying around the house.  They used play dough and popsicle sticks. And it was awesome. Her kids loved it and her husband proudly posted pictures to Facebook.  Let go, my friends.  It’s totally worth it.

Kid-generated Tabernacle model

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

Little House and Other Pioneer Inspired Gift Ideas (Day 7)

Gift Ideas that will Inspire your Pioneer Learning Adventure Dressing up and entering INTO history maximizes learning opportunities!Yes, this is vintage homeschooling and that lanky girl in the magenta shirt is me. One of my favorite field trips as a girl was down to the historic town of Tubac in southern Arizona.  Our group had rented the old school house for the day.  Girls donned dresses and bonnets while boys ironed white dress shirts and added suspenders to complete their costume.  For an entire day, we stepped back in time.  We did old-fashioned school assignments (they aren’t for the faint at heart), packed lunches in cute little pails and even had segregated playground time.  As an avowed tomboy I was pretty disappointed to not get to play ball with the boys, but I quickly rallied the girls for some fun active games of our own.  They were awesome enough that the boys soon stopped to watch from their side of the school yard.  But I digress…

Reading about this era in history is fun. Entering into it with our imaginations took our learning to a whole new level.  Suddenly, we were experiencing it.  And while this particular experience stands out because we went somewhere, you can enter into history right from your own home.   How?  Costumes! Our costumes played a critical role that day.  Some were fancy and others more simple.  But they inspired each of our imaginations and served to transport us to another world, another time.   It never has to be an all-out thing, but adding in a key costume piece here and there works wonders!  Having a simple bonnet will probably do the trick with learning about this period of history.

This post is pretty girl-focused.  For boy ideas look back to my Cowboy or Davey Crockett posts.

Beautiful gifts to inspire learning about the pioneer days!

This post may contain affiliate links.

Dress the part!  Make one (it’s easy to find a pattern or two) or buy one.  Despite the blah picture, this one received good reviews.  And of course you can always go the Etsy route. Ashley’s Attic, has a whole line of pioneer dresses. This one is my favorite.  I’m also loving this dress that I found over there.  A less expensive option is to make skirts and get a tailored blouse that can go with it!  Skirts are much easier to make and we managed to make several in our day with our limited sewing skills.  The fun part is browsing all of the calico’s at the fabric store and picking out one that fits each persons personality.  Mine were always blue!

Bonnet – every girl needs a bonnet, or two…  Again, you can buy a pattern or I’ve pinned several free bonnet patterns/tutorials on my Costumes to Sew pinterest board.

Boots – If you want to take it a step further, getting these cute pair of boots will complete the outfit.  Plus they would be cute for winter wear right now.

Galvanized Washboard – so she can see what handwashing was like!  I’m not the only one who thinks this would be a super fun idea.  My friend, OhAmanda, threw her daughter a fabulous Little House birthday party and said that washing with a washboard was one of the highlights of the party!

Waldorf Inspired Little House Dolls – Aren’t these simply beautiful?

The perfect Christmas gift for a girl who loves Little House on the Prairie or playing dress-up!

And as I mentioned in my medieval and colonial gift guides, paper dolls are a wonderful and frugal way to encourage pretend play and foster a fascination with various historical periods.  Not only that but playing with paper dolls also promotes fine-motor skill development (which isn’t a toddler/preschooler activity), promotes creativity as they create their own pretend worlds and produces patience as they cut out dresses. fine motor skills, creativity, and patience!

I love these Little House on the Prairie Paper Dolls, both The Big Woods Collection and the Christmas on the Prairie collection.  There is a pop-out scene that is two sided giving a backdrop for your little girls play.

I think the perfect gift combo for a young girl would be this boxed set of the Little House series (because every family should own them) and a bonnet.  A bonnet is one of those key pieces that immediately takes you there even if you don’t have the rest of the outfit!

Oh and if you are wanting pioneer themed paper dolls that aren’t hinged to a particular “story”, then check out these American Pioneer Family Paper Dolls.


Lincoln Logs

Another wonderful toy that both inspires the imagination and promotes problem skills through building are Lincoln Logs.  They get to build their own frontier lob cabins.  Throw in this Wild West TOOB set and you have the makings for some great pretend play!  I’m also curious to try out this LINCOLN LOGS Building Manual.  As one who is not engineer minded, I’d appreciate some more directions!


Pair it with a book!

Wonderful books that will make the pioneers come to life!

Books always make great gifts, especially when tied in with a theme.  Here are a few of my top recommendations.

Picture Books (no one is ever too old for a good picture book!)
Apples to Oregon – a delightful book about a father who brought fruit trees (and children) across the plains!
My Great-Aunt Arizona – love this fanciful book
Pioneer Days: Discover the Past with Fun Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes – a great collection of resources to make the most of your pioneer adventures.
Daily Life in a Covered Wagon – an engaging read that helps you imagine what it would be like to go west in a covered wagon.


Wagon Wheels, Level 3, Grade 2-4 – My boys love this one, but I thought I’d include it here.  It is great for the new reader and a quick, empowering read even for the older ones.
Prairie School (I Can Read Book 4) – Love this book that inspires kids with the power of learning and discovery.  I love the natural learning atmosphere that is embodied here – much like I try to create in our own home.

Chapter Books

Little House on the Prairie Boxed Set – because every home should have a set so you can read them over and over again.
Little House TV Series – ok, ok, I know this isn’t a book, but once you’ve read the books (read them first!), this series is delightful and clean family entertainment.
The Courage of Sarah Noble – a classic read-aloud book.
Sarah, Plain and Tall – another classic pioneer days book.
Caddie Woodlawn – As a tomboy, I LOVED this book as a girl.  She loves adventure just as much as I did.

Want to follow along so you don’t miss a single post in this 31 days of gift ideas that will ignite the imagination and inspire learning?  Enter your email address below. {Your privacy matters.  Emails are never sold and only used to receive blog post updates.}

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

Room to Learn… A peek into our learning spaces

Homeschooling?  What do YOU want to do to set the stage for a life-style of learning?

As we dive into a new year, I love to sit back and take stock.  I’m reminded that one of the benefits of homeschooling is that it doesn’t have to take place in a schoolroom or between the hours of 8 and 2, Monday thru Friday.  No, education is an atmosphere.  It’s a way of life.  But it is also a discipline and in the name of taming chaos, we have spaces in our home devoted to some of our learning adventures.  I’m giving you a peek at those today. But the reality is that learning takes place everywhere.

Yours will undoubtedly look different.  Each family has their own particular interests, their own limitations on space, their own unique style.  But we can all take steps to take stock of our homes and prepare our environment to foster the learning process.  We need to give them room to learn.  Not in the sense of space, but rather with opportunity, flexibility, and accessibility in the home.

For me that means taking stock of my priorities and striking that balance with the need for order with the “clutter” that comes with everyone living and learning in one space. It’s ever a work in progress.

Over here, we seek to have a home that is bustling with creativity, one that is warm and happy.  It is not perfect.  It doesn’t look perfect.  In fact, oftentimes it is downright messy.  And the people that live here are beautifully (and sometimes painfully) imperfect too.  But this is our home where we learn and grow together.  In setting the stage for this atmosphere of learning, I like to have:

Room to Read

Give your kids access to books!


Reading to our kids is one of the best gifts we can give them, even reading the same book over and over again.  There are so many benefits to reading aloud and it is a priority over here. Our bookshelf is the newest addition to our home.  I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of person and in my mind had the grand idea of huge bookcases gracing my home.  Well, that simply can’t be a reality right now, but when we were given these old bookcases this summer, we decided to move things around and find a place for it.  Seriously, I wish I had not aimed at “perfection” and found a way to get bookcase like this a while ago.  Now that we’ve sorted our books by category (science, history – chronologically, geography, fiction, readers, etc) I’m finding that we all use the books we own far more.  Before I had them stuck in various boxes or on random smaller bookshelves around the home.  I like having “Reading Central” in the main place where we spend our time!

So where do we actually read?  The couch, the floor, on a bed – wherever we find ourselves at that particular moment.

Room to Explore

Setting the stage to explore scientific and mathematical concepts with a #STEM corner.

This is a new corner in our home.  I’ve finally drummed up the nerve to pull my microscope out.  I {theoretically} love the idea of my kids finding treasures outside or around the home and inspecting them in greater detail.  In our “Explore” box I’ve placed our magnifying glasses, binoculars, blank slides and {eeek} some Methylene Blue.  If you find me venting on my facebook page that the kids have dyed my carpet blue, you’ll know that this little experiment is over.  But I’ve discovered that my toddler girl is completely different than my toddler boys.  With some training, I’m feeling confident that I can teach her to not touch this corner without mommy there!  I found this amazing microscope book that details all kinds of wonderful things you can look at with your microscope, so I’m hoping to strew this and a few other books around the home and invite them to start exploring!

Housed at this station are our math exploration tools as we take a more “game-based” approach to math this semester.  I bought these two Ikea stands off of craigslist 2 years ago and I finally feel like I’ve hit my groove and figured out what I want to do with it.  Home decorating and organization don’t come naturally to me, so it usually takes me forever to get projects like this off the ground.  Each kid has two drawers that are color-coded for them.  One box contains their Bible and Awana books and the other is for whatever treasures they want to keep downstairs, but I don’t want to keep finding on the floor or worse, all over my kitchen counter top!  When they finish both their time of devotions and practicing AWANA verses, they can flip the tub over so it reads DONE. {Thanks, to this idea that I pinned so very long ago.}

Room to Write and Store

Here is where I do much of our spelling dictation.  We utilize our white board to jot down ideas for a story or writing asignment and it serves as an impromptu place for me to jot down that grocery item or blog idea that pops into my head when we are busy with our studies…

This also is my storage central station.  Beneath that flowered cloth cover is my filing cabinet and then you get a glimpse of my messy book shelf with all of our curriculum and stuff.  Since we are now several weeks into our new school year, it is already woefully messy.  #RealLife for you.

Room to Make Connections

I love our KONOS timeline {the new ones are thinner, making it easier to fit into a smaller space}.  Even if we were to switch to another curriculum, I’m sold on having this timeline up.  Even the youngest can distinguish before Jesus or after Jesus.  We are blessed with a large corner section of wall where we can really spread this out.  I had this timeline as a girl and found it so helpful to make connections when studying art, science, music, political history and anything else.  I liked seeing the scope of history at a glance.  When we learn about some event or some person, we’ll place that on the timeline and look to see who were contemporaries to that person or event.  It helped me on many a college exam when I was able to place people and events mentally on our timeline and into the course of history.


Room to Travel

We just bought new maps at Costco to replace our tattered old one, since we will be doing a lot of geography this year.  I like to put them down low to the ground to invite them to sprawl and explore.  {Our world map still needs to be put up next to the States one.} It’s a way of travelling to far off lands without needing to leave home.  Our globe that a friend gave us is still holding together, barely.  I cannot believe how much we have used it. And they still pull out the Global Twister map I designed several years ago.  With our new-to-us bookcase, we get to have all of the geography books down low as well!

Room to Chat


This place in my home is where I converse with the Lord and oftentimes it is where one of my kids will pull up a stool and talk to me as well.


I’ll be the first to admit that my home could be better organized.  I still need to take steps to tame the clutter, but perfection is not our goal.  Perseverance in the context of relationship as we pursue faithfulness to the Lord’s calling is what matters.  With that in mind, I continue to move in the direction I feel the Lord leading as we facilitate the explorations and growth we are called to experience as a family.


P.S. In honor of crazy birthday week (3 people birthdays and 1 book birthday), I’m having a flash sale on my book, The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks.  Use the coupon code “BIRTHDAY” to get $3 off the print or ebook!

Flash Sale - Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks.  Harness the power of quick movement breaks to focus and learn!

Not Back to School Blog Hop: School Rooms


Sometimes they take you literally & other adventures in the imagination

Adventures in Imagination

The imagination is a powerful tool.  Of course, sometimes it can have some funny results.  Take my two year old, for example.  I was craving soft pretzels a couple of weeks ago and delighted my family by actually baking during our summer heat.  The boys devoured theirs on this Saturday morning and romped back outdoors because they are young and don’t mind our intense summer heat.  Greta took a break from her “snack” and proceeded to run around while I snagged a couple of quiet moments to sit on the couch and read my book.  She flitted into the room toting a plastic pistol. {That kind of thing happens when one has 3 older brothers.}  I stopped her after she took aim at me, explaining that we don’t shoot guns at people.  In an attempt to engage her imagination and send her off into that imaginary adventure {so I could return to my reading}, I told her that guns were for shooting food.

I forgot that she was only two.  I forgot to clarify what that meant and explain the concept of hunting for meat.  But my prompting had the desired affect.  She pranced off into pretend play land.  I didn’t get the chance to return to my reading, however, because it wasn’t long before my hubby called from the kitchen to inquire why our daughter was shooting her pretzel.

Encourage Ingenuity — It’s Frugal!

Speaking of the imagination, in this culture of instant access to all kinds of resources and inspiration, we can sometimes fall prey to the lie that we must buy our kids lots of things to aid them in their pretend play or that we need these amazing supplies to engage their imagination and foster the learning process. I know I can easily fall in love with that beautifully made, detailed costume.  But our children regularly remind us that they don’t need much.  In fact, with the imagination, they can convert just about anything into a useful plaything.

Any guesses as to who my little guy is trying to impersonate here?  They’ve come up with all kinds of creative costume solutions to fuel pretend play of one of their latest obsessions.

Imagination doesn't need fancy toys

As I look forward to our new school year, I’m reminded afresh that when it comes to our dramatization and projects that we’ll be doing this year, that many times less is more.  Encouraging their creativity and ingenuity can be of far greater value than providing them with that amazing manipulative, costume or educational toy.

Related Posts:

The Power of the Imagination

10 Toys  that Ignite the Imagination

There and Back Again… Musings from a Homeschool Grad.

Looking back in thankfulness and forward with anticipation to the homeschool adventure!

It is always interesting to go through similar experiences but from a different perspective…  I still remember that first year of motherhood.  It rocked my world in the best kind of way and yet was also challenging.  I had a whole new respect for not only my mother, but mom’s everywhere.

I’ve had moments peppered throughout my entire post-high school experience when I’ve been thankful for my homeschool years.  It happened a lot while I was in college as time and time again, I realized how well prepared I was for most of the things I encountered.  Not everything however.  I’m pretty sure I heard more foul language in my first day at the university than I had in my entire life up to that point and then there was the experience with the locker combination lock…

This last week, I’ve found myself reflecting yet again on my childhood homeschool adventure, the subsequent college years and also, with anticipation,the remaining years I have with my own children.

I posted some of my thoughts over at Free Homeschool Deals when I shared 10 unexpected benefits that I’ve experienced now as a result of my homeschool years.  As with motherhood in general, I have a new-found respect for my parents now that I’m on the other end of the homeschool spectrum!

I loved my experience in college from an academic perspective, but also felt so well-prepared to not only stand firm in my faith, but also to defend and share my faith even when it wasn’t popular.  Xander and I had the opportunity to catch a sneak preview of the upcoming movie, God’s Not Dead.  It provided a great opportunity to talk knowing what you believe and walking out those convictions even when you are mocked and even if there is a cost.  It made me thankful for the heritage that my parent’s gave me as well as fill me with excitement and faith as I turn to God, entrust my children to His care and prepare them to be Daniels in whatever situation’s that comes their way.  We must be intentional and this movie was a great reminder to step back and look at the big picture. The movie releases in theaters next month.  You can find city/theater locations here.  Rich and I couldn’t go see it together since someone had to stay home to watch the kids, but I’m hoping we can make it back as I know it will give us much to talk about as we set about this role of intentionally parenting the children He’s given us. 

What inspires you in your parenting?

Head on over to Free Homeschool Deals to read my post!

There and back again...  10 unexpected benefits of homeschooling from a graduate's perspective.

Related Posts:

Intentional Parenting: Planning with the End in Mind {printable}
Intentional Parenting Means Setting {bite-sized} Goals {printable too!}
Raising Daniels and Fresh Resolve
The Hand that Rocks the Cradle

Satan, burping and how it relates to reading readiness?

My little guy looked up at my with big doe eyes and asked if he could come to the service with us instead of go to his Sunday School class.  I love having my children with me and quickly nodded my assent.  As the sermon progressed, Trey nestled into the crook of my arm, *taking notes* and decorating the church bulletin.   Suddenly, I felt his body stiffen and he tugged at my arm as he pointed to his drawing.

“Mommy, does this spell “Sa tan?”

In shock, I glance down and sure enough, he’s drawn a picture of a snake (the pastor had just mentioned the fall in the Garden of Eden) and he had boldly written S-A-T-I-N.  I stopped my giggle before it escaped as I nodded my head.  At 5.5, this boy of mine has been so eager to start reading and while we progressed beautifully with our Cursive First program and doing gross-motor handwriting and phonics work, he just hadn’t made the leap into blending sounds.  I’ve read all the research {and collected helpful links on reading readiness} and I know better than to push.  It’s far better to put it aside and pick it up later.   It is far more valuable to feed his imagination with great books, give him meaningful work to do and protect his time for free play so he can cement into his mind all of the interesting things that he’s learning about.

But here he is, just a few weeks later, blending and independently sounding out words.  Oh how quickly they change.  Last week, I participated on a Google Hangout with the iHomeschool Network.  The topic was one of my favorites: the preschool years!  Ironically, I had actually shared about Trey’s desire to learn, but the evidence that his brain just wasn’t wired to progress just yet.  And in the blink of an eye it seems, something happened and it is clicking.  With relish, he is running around sounding out words.

And today, he begged to do spelling first!   So I set the bigger boys off on their math and settled down to have him put his first words in our little hand-made spelling notebook that I’ve done now with each of my boys.  With an earnest look in his eyes, he seriously asked me if I could teach him how to spell BURP.  In stunned silence, I just sat staring at him… He pleaded with me to add this word to his spelling lesson.  Can someone say, “ALL BOY”?

My goal by the time he grows up is that he will learn the proper time and place to BURP since I’ve come to realize that I’m fighting a losing battle to make this topic and behavior seem unappealing.   With the added bonus of learning /ur/ the er of Church today, this eager, but still young son of mine lasted for a grand total of 3 words before he was off to fight imaginary revolutionary war battles…

p.s. This has me thinking again on the topic of reading readiness and making me wonder if I should revisit the idea of a whole blog series on the topic…  Would anyone be interested?

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.

Homeschooling: Why Socialization Matters

Yes, socialization matters and homeschooling affords unique perks and wonderful opportunities to make the most of it!

What about Socialization?  Why it matters and how homeschooling facilitates it!

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As a girl, being homeschooled, I took the “What about socialization?” questions in stride.  Homeschooling was a relative unknown 20+ years ago and so out of the box that it was expected that people would wonder if homeschooled kids had any interaction with the outside world.  But with how much homeschooling has grown, I’m surprised at how common the question still is today.  Oh yes, I’d still say this is the most common question I receive and it is one that I love to answer.

Why?  Because I can empathize.  Socialization matters.  It is really, really important and yet another reason why our family loves homeschooling.  Like most parents, we want our children to be able to easily interact with those around them.  So how does homeschooling provide the opportunity to actually HELP with this?

Homeschooling provides opportunities for:

Positive Socialization

When it comes to our kids getting “socialized,” who do we want to be the primary influence in this department?  A group of 25-30 other kids in need of socialization?  I melodramatically think Lord of the Flies

I much prefer the primary socializing influence to be loving, {hopefully} mature parents?  If socialization is indeed as important as everyone seems to think it is {and it is}, I prefer to take a bit more ownership over who is helping my kids in this department.  Kids learn better in a smaller, more personalized environment.  The same holds true for acquiring good social skills.  My kids are with other children in our support group, weekly co-op and playing with kids in the neighborhood.  But their primary socialization comes from us!

Diverse Socialization

Socialization that prepares one for real-life is best accomplished out in the real world.  Our kids need to diversify their experiences and learn how to interact in different situations!

The “what about socialization?” question hinges on a popular misconception that assumes that if you are not contained in a room filled with your peer group, you couldn’t possibly be properly socialized. Nothing could be further from the truth.

♦ Diverse Ages

Homeschooling provides the opportunity to interact with children their own age as well as those older or younger.  Because they are tagging along with mom and dad during normal life living, they also learn to interact with adults.

Homeschooling: Why Socialization Matters

♦ Diverse Situations

Our kids need to learn how to interact in a variety of different situations.  My parents were interested in politics.  As a result, we learned how to go door to door to get petitions signed.  We learned how to interact with our elected officials.  No one was exempt from this.  Ironically enough, the shy, introvert among us ended up being the one to pursue political involvement and lobbying in her teen and adult years.  Homeschool kids have the flexibility to run and play like hooligans in the backyard, but then also conduct themselves with quiet respect in a library.  They learn proper etiquette in the workplace through visits to dad’s work or internships during the teen years.  They need to learn how to interact in informal as well as formal situations.  Homeschooling provides the time and flexibility to get these “out-of-the-classroom” kind of experiences.

♦ Diverse People

Instead of a class filled with their peers, homeschooling can bring you into contact with all kinds of people.  They interact with the doctor, the librarian, the store clerk, the construction worker {well, if your boys are anything like mine} and even the homeless person at the park.  And even the homeschool community is quite diverse.  We dress differently, have different doctrinal beliefs.  Some unschool, while others TigerMom school.  Some wear denim skirts, some wear broom skirts and some wouldn’t be caught dead in a skirt.  I still chuckle about the time I accompanied my mom to California to do a workshop and getting to know a boy who was shocked that I didn’t recognize his dad for the famous soap opera star that he was…  It’s important to learn how to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds.  We can get along with one another, even if we have our differences.  For me, this kind of exposure proved invaluable in each of my jobs that required me to converse and work with a diverse range of people.


How do we cultivate optimal socialization?

Let’s face it, homeschooling is no guarantee that your child will come out well equipped to interact with others.  I think it provides amazing opportunity, but that doesn’t automatically translate into reality.  So what can we as parents do to cultivate the skills our children need to interact with all kinds of people or situations?

1. Recognize Opportunity

It is super easy to just stick within your comfort zone.  For many that can mean either sticking close to home or interaction with only close personal friends.  In this culture where we are becoming increasingly isolated from one another it’s easy to go to the grocery store without even looking the clerk in the eye at check out.  We need to always be looking for opportunities to interact with others.  As believers who have a call to do kingdom work, personal interaction with those around us is a non-negotiable.  Opportunity is everywhere.  Be on the lookout and then stretch yourself and stretch your children as you reach out and take advantage of these perks to homeschooling.

2. Model

Gulp.  Better caught than taught.  If we want our kids to have good social skills, we need to cultivate them ourselves and then live it out in front of our children!  How do we strike up conversation? How do we look for common ground with others?  How do we interact with those who are different?  Need help?  Get a book like Conversationally Speaking or one of my favorites, How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Pray and ask God to give you a heart for other people.  Share this motivation of a love for others with your children…

3. Train

Training our children - a key to TRUE socialization

In addition to modeling proper social etiquette, we need to train our children.  You can teach them gratitude, how to give the gift of a smile…  I was inspired by Sally Clarkson’s recent post on cultivating graciousness.  You, sweet mama have the chance to disciple your children so they understand proper behavior for the playground, the library, church, etc.  Think through where you will be going and help them by laying our clear expectations in advance!

4. Practice

Knowing what to do and actually doing it are really two different things.  We need to give our children the opportunity to practice what we’ve taught them in everyday life.  A homeschooling friend of mine was painfully shy, but thankfully her mother wasn’t content to let her retreat into her introvert comfort zone.  In group situations, she challenged her daughter to find 3 new people who looked lonely and come up with three questions to ask them.  It was painfully hard.  But my friend learned invaluable social skills that served her well into adulthood.

Want more ideas?  Check out my pinterest board: Learning Social Skills

So the next time someone asks you, “So what about socialization?” you don’t need to get defensive.  Instead, you can excitedly tell them of all the wonderful benefits that homeschooling affords your family!

A few of us are tackling the subject of Homeschooling and Socialization from different angles.  Be sure to check it out.

Homeschooling: Why Socialization Matters