Monday, March 30, 2009

I live in Mayberry...

Well, maybe not literally, but it sure feels like it.

Last Friday night my husband, father-in-law and I went up to the local IGA for the Friday night Bluegrass Concert.

Yes, you heard me right. Leonard, the owner, moved the banana table to the side, set up some chairs and then the band came in. They set up speakers and microphones by the deli and then they were good to go.

I am not kidding! I was laughing to myself most of the time because it tickled me so much. And you should have seen the poor folks who were trying to fight their way through the audience to buy apples and salad in a bag. I saw one lady pushing her shopping cart down the aisle while doing a sort of down-home stomping dance [remember Jed Clampett?].

To be fair, the music was really good. Besides Crazy Joe Gerlach on the Dobro, there were other musicians on the bass, the guitar, the banjo and the mandolin. It was great.

Drew Scaggs--son of Ricky--played guitar and the musicians kept trading places and trading being the lead singer. They were all very good. It was kind of amazing that this high quality of music was being played in the produce section of IGA. People were smiling and clapping and were all in generally good humor.

Some folks brought their own chairs so there would be enough seating. Also, there were hotdogs available in the deli for $1.00, chili dogs for $1.50. Crazy Joe suggested people buy the chili dogs if "you aren't kissing anyone tonight."

It was really a little slice of Americana only 2 blocks from home. More Friday night concerts are planned and I can honestly say I look forward to getting a front row seat right next to the cabbage!

I have to say that once I saw what a treasure this was, my great husband went home to retrieve my camera. Thanks, Bob, for making this blog post seem a bit more real.

[Photos: top, Drew Skaggs singing, see the deli in the background?; middle photos showing the seats along the produce section-one of the empty ones is mine; bottom a photo of all the folks in chairs].

Stretching Cores--How can I do this?

Many people have asked me over the years, how to stretch a Core Curriculum out so it takes a year and a half. I have thought about this and have actually implemented the following plan and it works well. I hope it can help you too.

A school year is typically 180 days, or 36 five day weeks. However, we all know, there is no way we actually do every lesson, every day, for 180 days. I mean, no one does. That is why in my whole school career I never came close to finishing a math book. You have to figure in sick days, holiday events, field trips and so forth. So, for argument's sake, let's say we plan for 30 full weeks of school. The other weeks can be for whatever-such as I mentioned above—and/or maybe a two week Christmas school and a three week state history--something along that line. I will elaborate on these ideas at the bottom of this post. So, let's look at the 30 weeks this year and 15 weeks next year. A total of 45 weeks of school over three semesters.

Get a FIVE day core. Do FOUR days of it every week.

That's my advice.

Do days 1-4 the first week, then days 5-8 the next week, and 9-12 the next week and so on. You can either stretch out the daily work so it is an even amount each day, or do all the work in four days and use the fifth day to do science experiments, map work, time-line work and maybe give the house a nice cleaning before the weekend. Or, maybe you can have a continuing book series that isn't scheduled in Sonlight-like my personal favorite the "Little House" books-- and you read a few chapters of those on your "off" day.

Doing a core this way, gives you 45 weeks of curriculum and you haven't had to tweak or worry about pacing--just do four days every week and you will have it paced out for you.

[What this translates to, is use 12 "tabs" worth of Sonlight Curriculum every semester and you will come out just right!]



I started in 1990 the week after Thanksgiving! This was not a good time, but we were desperate. [To see why, go here]. At any rate Christmas and all its activities was looming.
I was so stressed out--I mean really! Ugh! School, decorating, shopping, cards, school, shipping presents--oh, my--I mean I was totally stressed out.

So, the next year I got smart. I planned for Christmas. We did no formal school for the two weeks before our Christmas break [for late middle/high school kids I did have them keep up with their math]. I had the kids help with cleaning, baking and addressing the Christmas cards. I had them help with wrapping presents, deliver goodies to neighbors and everything else there was to do. It was part of the school day.

In addition, I read great Christmas Classics--I read the Best Christmas Pageant Ever for 20 straight years. I read Dickens’s Christmas Carol and then we watched the Mickey's Christmas Carol Cartoon. Christmas was fun and not stressful. The difference--I planned for Christmas, made it part of school and included the children as much as possible. The work got done and we were not stressed out at all.

So, my advice: Plan for the times you will be stressed and incorporate your children as much as possible.


Most states require you to teach state history. We did it this way. We did about 2 -3 weeks or so worth of state history every year the kids were in elementary school--or at least 3-4 years.

In our case, each child got a notebook or scrapbook. They could decorate it the way they wanted. In preparation for state history studies, whenever we would go in or out of our state I would have the kids collect those shiny brochures that are in the welcome station. Also, I would have them each get a state highway map or two.

The map will have the state bird, state flower and lots of other information. Talk about this and have them cut these things out and put them in their scrapbook. Have them sort the brochures into historical things and into tourist traps. If you can, chose 1-2 historical places to visit during your state study. Take photos, talk to the interpreters or curators, learn as much as you can about these places and the people that were involved with these events and locations. Older children can do extra research and do reports, younger children can just make a scrapbook page. Keep it fun and interesting. Have your children cut up the colorful brochures and use those in their scrapbooks too.

Use the highway map to plot out how you will get to the historic site. Have your kids keep track of the miles and so forth, this will be good experience on how to read and follow a map.

Ask your librarian for good books about your state. These could be biographies or historical fiction. Do these as read-alouds during this period of study. We found some nice historical fiction about our state at the local Christian book store. Ask people in your area--perhaps the local mayor or the folks at your city hall, if they have suggestions of local historical places you can visit. My kids and I learned so much this way. It was exciting and gave us a little break from our regular routine.

Hopefully this will help you see how you can stretch your curriculum. If you have other ideas, let me know. I am always looking for ways to help and encourage homeschool parents.
[Photos of Shakertown, a historic place close to home]

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How do I limit the toys we have?

In response to my post "Tools or Toys" Lori asked this quesion:

This is fantastic advice. I'd like to move more in this direction with my kids, but I wonder if you have any advice for how to handle/decrease the junk toys that the extended family tends to lavish upon us?

I think the first thing to do is to talk to your husband about the idea of tools vs toys to be sure you are on the same page and he is behind your decision to move in that direction. Also, if you kids are old enough talk to them about reducing toys and blessing those less fortunate.

Next, find a good charity that can use toys. Perhaps Good Will or a children's charity. Even though you have too many toys, if they were divided up they would probably bless many families.

Now have your children help you pick their favorite toys. Maybe you can give them each a box and everything they love has to fit inside the box. Or maybe you can just ask them to choose 6 things to bless a less fortunate child with and put those in a box. Either way, you can start to reduce the amount of things they have. If they have a TON of stuffed animals you could tell them to get them all gathered around them and you want to take a picture. After the picture, tell them they need to put 1/2 of them [or all but 3] in a big garbage bag and you will store them. Then in 6 months if they miss them, they can switch them out for the ones they didn't store.

When my kids were little we used to do the rotating toys thing, where I would put 1/2 the toys away and rotate toys every month or two. If some toys were not missed, they made a trip to the Good Will store.

So, no matter how you do it, reduce what you have.

Now comes the hard part. Limiting what come in. I guess there is no easy answer but I have a few suggestions.
Print off a copy of my article and give to each person, and say this really resonated with you and your family and you would love to move in this direction, and ask them to help you.
  • Keep a running list of tools and clothes your kids could use and give copies to grandparents and others in your life that give gifts to your children. If you have a nice varied list, and keep it current, they will have a better idea of appropriate gifts.
  • Other gift ideas would be to have grandparents help with cost of being on a team. If you child regularly is on a little league team or is in cub scouts, perhaps grandparents could buy the uniform or pay the registration. And let you kids know who paid for it. Take a picture of them in their uniform and have them write a paragraph about the activity and send the photo, the paragraph and a thank you note to Grandma and Grandpa.
  • Perhaps suggest you would like tickets to a museum or aquarium, some family event. I know when my kids were younger we lived in Florida and we had grandparents pitch in to buy us seasonal tickets to Disney World. We had unlimited access to Disney for 4 months a year and since we lived close, we really got our money's worth. Every time we went I would remind the kids how both Grandmas and Grandpas paid for our passes.
  • If you have a big ticket item you would love, perhaps a play house or kid sized picnic table, a swing set or bike or bunk beds, ask the people who gift you to go in on it with you, This way you could get some good quality tools for your family.
  • If worse comes to worse, and you can't get extended family on board, have your child play with the thing, take a picture, then quietly donate it.
  • If you have enough nerve, you could take the item back, even asking for the receipt, and put the money towards camping equipment or something else that the kids would love, something that won't break in a month.
  • I think if you ask grandparents to think about how to get your children outside more that will give them good ideas for tools. Some great tools are a pogo stick [yes they are still made], a good long jump rope [nylon-you can buy heavy duty and cool-looking rope at Tractor Supply or a hardware store], gardening items, bubbles, a basket ball hoop and ball, sports equipment, bikes, sandbox, a big dump truck full of sand, orange cones to be used for goals, making obstacle courses, etc.. Anything to get kids moving and playing--building muscles and also interpersonal skills that come from interacting with others in a positive way.
  • Another idea, my mom used to take Kari shopping once a year for her birthday, starting when she was about 7 or 8. They would go to the mall [which I rarely did], have lunch out and then buy Kari an outfit and maybe something at the Disney Store. When Kari and I were shopping a couple of weeks ago for her 23rd birthday we happened upon the Disney Store. She started to reminisce about the great times she and Grandma had and about the Beauty and the Beast tea set Grandma bought for her. What great memories she has! And, you know, my mom and dad always sent a limit--they did not fling money around. So when they went shopping, Mom had a budget and she let Kari pick out something, but it had to be within the set limit. Those trips were so precious.
  • Another idea for grandparents or aunts and uncles. My dad used to send Scotty $5 every year to buy a present for our dog. I mean, that was a big deal. Scotty would ride his bike up to the IGA store and really take his time picking out the best dog treats for Lucky. It was like a present for Scotty. It taught him to shop carefully and really made a bond between he and his grandpa.
  • You might want to suggest the idea of a money bag to your parents. My dad had a cloth bag that he would keep change in . In fact, he would sometimes have to buy change at the bank. I have a funny story about that I will have to post another day. At any rate, a couple of times a year the kids could put their hands in the money bag and get as much change as they could! He would do this with nieces and nephews too! What memories were made through such a simple act. He would also, at family reunions, put money in a sand box or in the sand if there was a small beach. Starting with the youngest kids, they could search for the coins. Even in the evening, you could see the parents of the kids sifting though the sand absently as they chatted with each other.
  • I guess in summary, Tools are better than Toys, and memories trump them both.
I don't know if this his helpful or not, but I suspect most grandparents, aunts and uncles would love to get on board with this idea. They want what is best for your kids and they want to be part of it. If you can lead them in this direction I think they will feel more fulfilled in their gift-giving and everyone will benefit.

Thanks for the question, Lori,
Take Care,

[Photos: Top to Bottom--On a day trip with Grandma and Grandpa--they paid; Kari in new boots purchased by Grandparents; At Disney World with tickets bought from Grandparents]

For more of my Pre-School thoughts and suggestions:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tools or Toys...

~Dad in his workshop making himself a new workbench~

My dad had a lot of great advice. I mentioned before his idea about "Grant Writing," in relation to kids and allowances, but another thing I learned from him was the art of giving gifts to kids. I remember it clearly--at that time I had 3 little boys and Dad and I were standing in his workshop. He was making something and I was holding some tools for him and I commented that he and Mom always gave such great gifts to the kids. At that time I was in a ladies Bible Study and that same week some of the moms were discussing how their kids got so much "toy junk" as gifts and they were lamenting it and wondering how they could curb the toys, limit the junk.

Dad said, "You have to give kids tools, not toys."

That was the advice. He didn't really elaborate--which if you knew my dad, you would be smiling because he generally elaborated on everything. Tools not Toys--actually, he didn't have time to elaborate because someone [with three boys six and under--it happened a lot] started crying in the house with Mom and I left Dad in his workshop to see what the trouble was. Then I was off to other things and the conversation never really got finished. But, when I was driving home that afternoon those words came back, "Tools not Toys."

It goes back to the thought that we are raising kids to be well adjusted, functioning adults that will one day hold jobs, have families and be responsible citizens. We just have our kids for a little while and during that time we are to prepare them to take their place in society. So they need to learn a lot along the way. They need to be molded and shaped and directed along the way--they need the tools, we need the tools, to get them there.

My Dad, way back when, was a history and shop teacher. And one thing he instilled in us from a young age is, "You have to have the right tool for the job." He would sometimes shake his head when he looked at my husband's tools in our early married life. Many times he would give us the correct tool for the job, or let us use his. I mean, you can not fix plumbing without a pipe wrench, or work with electricity without a volt tester.

The same is true with kids. What kids need are tools not toys. If folks could just get a handle on that, much of the junk found in the typical kid's section of most stores could be reduced by half or maybe even 90%. But, what is a tool? [Happy days in the sandbox]

Tools, in no particular order: Balls, blocks, dolls, flashlights, sand box, wagon, bike, swings, picnic table, paper and markers/crayons, legos, scissors, games, backpack, fishing pole, compass, knife [older child], mess kit, camping supplies, books, actual tools like a screwdriver and hammer, woodburning set, knitting or crochet or any kind of handwork, magnifying glass, leather craft, jump-rope, kid sized baking or cooking set, puzzles, kitchen set [play food and so on], a cash register and play money, paddle ball, a big empty box, capes and costumes, gardening items like a pail, shovel and so on...really most traditional toys. I consider Match Box type cars and most action figures tools too.

Toys, in no particular order: Anything that has batteries or makes noise that drives a mom crazy [anyone remember the Tooneyville Choo-Choo?], if it is meant for the child to watch it rather than interact with it, video games, computer games--even educational games can be toys if you are not careful, anything that is cheap plastic and will break easily, stuffed things that talk and entertain--really anything [Scotty, age three, he loved his Dr. Drew blocks] that is meant as an entertainment. I am sure if you and I went together to a big box store, we could find tons of toys that would fall in this category.

Now, I am not saying "NO TOYS EVER!" What I am saying is: Tools should be a child's main diet and toys should be like a dessert. Dessert is nice, but you only have occassionally, not at every meal.

Tools will encourage imagination, develop large and small muscles, and should get the child outside daily. Tools will stand the test of time, can usually be passed down from child to child in a family, and have a lot of play value.

So, the next time you need to give a gift to a child,remember my dad's words, "Tools not Toys." Thanks for advice Dad.

Take Care,

For some suggestions on how to do this, you might want to read my next post--how do I limit the toys I have?

For more of my Pre-School thoughts and suggestions:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homeschool? Me? I don't know everything...

And some mornings I wonder if I know anything at all.

I hear this question a lot:

"How can I homeschool, I don't know everything? I am not a teacher."

I want to ask you, “Does anyone know everything?” I mean, I probably know a lot of stuff you don’t know, and you probably know a lot of stuff I don’t know, and yet we are functioning adults and do quite well.

We do not need to know everything in order to teach our children. We can learn right along with them. And, we really do not need to teach them everything they need to know by the time they are 18. Haven’t you learned a LOT since you were 18? I bet you thought you knew a lot when you were that age and now you realize how little you knew then. More frightening yet, is how little you know now. It seems like the more we learn, the more we realize we don't know. But, maybe that is a discussion for another day.

Take heart! Teachers don’t know everything either. Doctors, lawyers, rocket scientists—they don’t know everything either. In fact, and this is the honest truth, I talked to a rocket scientist last year. She and her rocket scientist husband were going to homeschool their five year old so she called me for advice.

I was mentioning how she could teach using literature and how effective that can be. She didn’t know she should be reading aloud to their children! I mean can you believe that? Here is a rocket scientist, someone who we think should know it all, or at least know a LOT, and I was giving her advice about reading aloud to her children in order to develop language skills, family closeness and to transfer core beliefs. She didn't know that. She learned something new that day and so did I.

No one knows everything.

Also, if you really get stumped, help is pretty close. I have found that there are people in my community that can help if chemistry or calculus is more than you can teach. There are community college classes that students as young as 14-15 can take. There are co-ops and other opportunities—tutors if you need them and the amount of help you can get on line or with DVD's and the like is staggering.

Maybe one of the best lessons your children will learn is that "we are not quitters" and "you're never too old to learn something new." I think if our kids see that someone as ancient as mom or dad can tackle Algebra 2 for the first time, surely they can do anything they set their minds to.

You don’t need to know everything. What you need is a strong desire to enable your child to learn as much as he can in the time you have him home. You can help him pursue his desires and encourage him as he struggles though something that does not come easy. You can learn Calculus along with him if you need to, or have him take it away from home.

Homeschooling does not mean that you know everything or that you have to teach everything. I loved it when my kids would say, “You didn’t know that, did you Mom?” And I didn’t. We learned it together.

What a blessing, to learn along side of your children.

Sometimes you teach, sometimes you learn, sometimes you tutor or mentor and sometimes you bring in outside help.

You can do it. You can homeschool. Take the first step now and don’t worry about chemistry labs and foreign language. You can worry about that when the time comes. And when the time comes you will be surprised how many different ways there are to accomplish an incredible high school education without going to a traditional school. You can do it-I know you can.

Take care,


[Photos: High school student Cris with book written and illustrated by Cris; Chad and Dusty in middle school working on school work, Scotty learning outdoor cooking.]

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Long Path, part 2

[ Part 1] We started up. And up. And up. There was only one way to get there, and that was up. It was dark. Very dark. There was a low cloud ceiling so not a star, not a ray of moonlight, nothing but our feeble flashlights to show us the next step. We couldn’t see the whole trail, just the next step. I kept thinking of bears but about had myself convinced they were not nocturnal, so they were probably sleeping.

The trail was rocky—I mean we were in the Rocky Mountains-what did we expect? I can’t remember who tripped first, but before long, both of us had fallen more than once and we had scratched up our hands and I think I was crying. It was awful and so dark and so hard and uphill and the air was so thin. We must be crazy. I think our flashlight broke, but maybe not.

At any rate, we were about ready to give up. I wanted to; Gail said why didn’t we try just a few more minutes. But, it was too hard for flatlanders like us. Just too hard.

Then it happened! If I live to be one hundred I will always remember this image. We came to the end of a switchback, kind of hovering over the valley below, and the sun broke through the cloud cover. The clouds were swirling around just below our feet—like waves on the beach except the sun broke over them and turned them gold and orange and red! It was like heaven itself, all shiny and glowing. The radiance was unimaginable and the whole side of the mountain leapt to life under the rays. We knew, without saying a word, that giving up was not an option.

We were going up.

After that, the going was still steep but at least we could see where we were going. We knew it was overcast and cloudy for those poor campers below, but we were above the clouds and all was right with the world. We continued on—over the boulder field [just like the ranger’s slides], through the key hole where it is so windy that on some days hikers can’t go past it because they will get blown off the mountain, and then we scrambled up the back side of Long’s Peak following the “fried egg” symbols on the rocks. There isn’t a path there, it is too rocky, so the rangers or naturalists many years ago spray painted fried egg symbols on the rocks so hikers will know where it is safe to climb.

I don’t think I mentioned why we had to leave so early in the morning. The reason is that you have to leave the summit at 11:00am to get far enough down the mountain so that when the usual afternoon storms come in you don’t get hit by lightening. I mean, you are the tallest thing in the park when you are up there, and unless you want to get fried like the egg symbols, you better be leaving the summit at 11:00 am.

We arrived at the summit, panting and exuberant! The air was so thin. We signed the register which is kept in a screw tight metal container, each ate an orange and some granola and just soaked in the view and the knowledge that we did it! We couldn’t have done it alone—no way. We needed each other. We encouraged each other. We helped each other up when we fell. Together we did it!

Then, before we knew it, it was time to head back down to our camp. Down the fried egg trail, through the key hole and across the boulder field where we picked up the path again and we were on our way down.

I can’t remember how long it took to get down, but I know we were gone about 11 hours or so altogether. What an experience! After that, no matter where we went in the park we could see Long’s Peak and we knew we had been there, we had been at the top. We could do anything!
I am not going to make analogies to parenting or homeschooling or setting goals or anything. I think you can make them yourself. I just wanted to recount this adventure so you could see the significance of my blog title, Paths to Learning.
[The Long Path, part 1]

[ Also, as a note, the total distance was 15 miles round trip, elevation 14,259 feet with a gain of 4,259 feet, difficulty rating: strenous.I found this great blog with really awesome pictures and way more description of how difficult the trail to Long's Peak really is.]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Long Path...

When I started this blog, I named it Paths to Learning because I love to take walks, especially ones that are off the beaten path. Raising 5 kids, being a stay at home mom and homeschooling besides, was another “off the beaten path” hike I took and I saw many similarities between the two.

I started to think about the hardest [non-metaphorical] path I ever took and my mind went back over 35 years to a time when my sister Gail and I were camping in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We had driven out from Michigan in her VW bug for a week’s vacation. We surveyed the topographical maps and took short hikes to accustom ourselves to the thin air and higher altitude. I always get altitude sick, so for the first few days we did the regular tourist hikes around Bear Lake, up to Emerald Lake and a few others. We took a hike up to Twin Sisters and got in a hail storm attempting Flat Top. Then, two days before we were to go back to Michigan, we went to a ranger talk in the park.

It was the old days, where the ranger built a nice fire, got out his slide projector and then proceeded to talk about the night’s theme. That night it was “Long’s Peak.” Long's Peak is the highest peak in the park—towering over the other peaks at over 14,000 feet. The East face is bleak and threatening and only skilled mountain climbers can make the peak that way; but, if you go around the back, there is an easier way.

The ranger showed flora and fauna, talked about seasons and so forth, but when he said that if you wanted to make the peak in one day you had to leave the base station at 3:00 am—Gail and I looked at each other and smiled. We have always been kindred spirits of sort, and we knew.

We were going to try it.

We actually left the fire-side program, and smelling of wood smoke and bug spray, we made our way back to our tent. Gail said, “Well?” and I nodded. We set the alarm for 2:30, packed our day packs and lay down to sleep. Morning was going to come way too soon. By 3:00 am we were parked at the trail head, dressed in layers, flashlights in hand. We signed in the trail registry, and were off.

It was dark and very lonely. I don’t know if Gail was scared, but I was. I mean, what were we doing? Two girls on a path in the mountains in the middle of the night—what were we thinking?

[Continued tomorrow--picture of me about 35 years ago, resting on a path in the Smokey Mountains]

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

High School Again...Contract For Grade

More high school help because I have had more than a few inquiries about this lately.

"How do I give a grade for a class that doesn't have tests?"

This could be because of many reasons. It could be a class like Co-op, or personal finance or if your student is doing literature based history, such as Sonlight. In any of these cases, your student might not have tests or daily graded work such as you would in a math or science class. How then can you give your student an objective grade?

Well, my solution is called "Contract for Grade." When my husband was in seminary he had some classes that were graded this way and I thought it was an excellent idea to use in our homeschool.

You and your spouse or you and your student sit down and hammer out a contract for each class.
It works something like this:

Personal Finance Class-1/2 credit:
In order to get an A in this class:

  • Open a checking account and balance it every month. This will entail getting an official state ID card as well, so you you can use a check at local stores.
  • Set up a spreadsheet itemizing all your monthly expenses, including a budget for things you may only need once or twice a year, such as shoes or money for Christmas gifts.
  • Help mom[or dad] pay the household bills for 3 months.
  • Pretend you are going to rent an apartment, buy a car, pay for insurance and so forth. Figure how much it will cost you to live and how much you have to make to support yourself.
  • Read Money, Possessions and Eternity and one book of your choice about personal finance [or another book you might want to specify] and outline each chapter. Discuss each chapter with a parent after you read it.
  • Do a 7-10 page research paper having to do with personal finance issues: topic to be approved by parents
In order to get a B in this class:
  • Open a checking account and balance it every month. This will entail getting an official state ID card as well, so you you can use a check at local stores.
  • Set up a spreadsheet itemizing all your monthly expenses, including a budget for things you may only need once or twice a year, such as shoes or money for Christmas gifts.
  • Help mom[or dad] pay the household bills for 3 months.
  • Pretend you are going to rent an apartment, buy a car, pay for insurance and so forth. Figure how much it will cost you to live and how much you have to make to support yourself.
  • Read Money, Possessions and Eternity [or another book you might want to specify] and outline each chapter. Discuss each chapter with a parent after you read it.
  • Do a 2-3 page min-research paper having to do with personal finance issues: topic to be approved by parents
Then you and your teen sign it. This is a contract. They know what is expected, and you know it too. You might put a completion date on it, and you might talk about penalties if it is not done on time, etc. Their written work is a paper trail and the contract is your "proof" of how you graded, in case anyone asks. You can be as general or as specific as you want to be.

I hope this gives you some idea of how you can give fair grades in non-traditional classes. This is a legitimate way to give grades, as evidenced by the fact that Bob earned some grades this way in graduate school.

Let me know if you have questions I can help you with.

Take care,

For ideas on how to give high school credits for Sonlight Cores, go here.
For ideas on how to make high school transcripts, go here.

For More High School Helps

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

High School Credits for Sonlight® Cores (Through 2012 editions)

Many parents I talk to ask me how to translate the Sonlight® Core Programs into high school credits. I am not an expert on this, nor do I have any special insights or training into granting high school credits. But, I have graduated two children who used Sonlight® for high school and I can offer some idea of what is possible. My two children we accepted into state universities and a Christian college without any problems. They went on to state universities and did very well.

This is not any kind of official advice, just one mom giving you a place to start as you consider translating Sonlight® cores into high school credits. You may also want to check this post on creating high school transcripts. You may also want to read this post on making a "Contract for Grade" as a way to give grades for non-test classes.

Core 5: Eastern Hemisphere and LA 5
[I do feel this course is high school worthy. My older boys went to public high school starting in 10th grade and these studies are way more than they did for world history, but use your own judgment. You may want to add extra research or more in depth writing]

• World Cultures or Eastern Hemisphere or Eastern Hemisphere Geography: 1 credit
• English: 1 credit [If you increase the difficulty and expectations of the writing assignments and make sure they do the research in the Eastern Hemisphere Explorer]
• Geography: ½ credit if you student does all the mapping assignments and does a bit more research on the areas studied
• Bible: ½ credit

Core Alt 7 or 7 with LA
[I do feel these are both high school worthy. My older boys went to public high school starting in 10th grade and these studies are way more than they did for world history, but use your own judgment. You may want to add extra research or more in depth writing]

• World History [Alt 7] or Modern World History [Core 7]: 1 credit
• English: 1 credit [You may want to break this down into composition and world literature, ½ credit each, but I just called it an English class]
• Bible [an elective]: ½ to 1 credit depending on time spent

Core 100-American History in Depth (up through 2012--the format was changed in 2013)

• American History : 1 credit
• English : 1 credit [You may want to break this down into composition and literature, ½ credit each, but I just called it an English class]
• Bible [an elective]: ½ -1 credit depending on time spent

Core 200- History of God’s Kingdom  (up through 2012--the format was changed in 2013)

• Church History or Western Civilization or World History [depending on what you child needs and what type of college, secular or Christian, they are applying to]: 1 credit
• English [You may want to break this down into composition and literature, ½ credit each, but I just called it an English class]
• If you child just does only literature part, you may want to call it Classic Literature and give 1 credit for it, and perhaps give ½ credit for composition.
• Bible: 1 credit
Another mom I know counted Core 200 this way:
Western Civilization: 1 credit
English 1: Introduction to Classic Literature and Composition: 1 credit
Bible 1: Christian Apologetics: 1 credit

Core 300- 20th Century World History  (up through 2012--the format was changed in 2013)

• World History, Modern World History or World History 20th Century: 1 credit
• Modern World Literature: 1 credit
• English : 1 credit
• Bible study: 1 credit
*As a note, I would give this if the student has done most of the writing assignments. If they did considerably less, I would give 1 English credit and maybe ½ credit of World Lit.

Core 400: Government/ Civics(up through 2012--the format was changed in 2013)Total of 2-4 credits, using any of these combos, depending on what you covered, what writing was done, if you did the Bible, etc]

  • American Government or Advanced American History: 1 credit
  • Civics or Political Science or Constitutional Law: 1 credit
  • US History and Constitution: 1 credit
  • Honors American Government and Civics: 1 Credit
  • American Literature: 1 credit
  • English: 1 credit
  • Bible: 1+ credits [Depending on time spent and depth of discussion with parent/mentor]

Core 530: British Literature

• British Literature: 1 credit
• English or Composition: 1 credit

For More High School Helps

Monday, March 16, 2009

Homeschoolers are changing history...

I love history.

As a child my history teacher dad took us on all kinds of road trips. We drove up to Alaska, down to Veracruz, Mexico and from coast to coast, stopping at historical landmarks, museums and spots of interest along the way. You know those pyramids in Mexico where human sacrifices took place? I have climbed them. I have seen the wagon wheel ruts put in solid stone from so many covered wagons passing over them.

The first Pony Express station? I've been there--I think you get the idea. Living and breathing history as a child, I just took for granted the many things that others only learn about in books.

What I learned though, is that while people are making history, they seldom realize it. Some people do--I mean Thomas Edison knew he was making history, so did Henry Ford and Alexander the Great. But, regular people seldom realize it.

They go about their lives, living and working and breathing and dying, and what they do seems mundane. But later, in retrospect, we can see the impact they had on history.

I am thinking of the scribes who faithfully copied great literary works, the folks who first found out that coffee was amazing in the morning, people who charted the stars and so many more. We don't know their names in most cases, but we know what they have done. They changed history.

I believe that the moms and dads that sit around their living rooms and kitchen tables faithfully teaching their children are doing the same thing today. I know it can be lonely and trying and some days we ask ourselves why we do it.

But, homeschooling is about more than education. I believe homeschooling families across America and across the world are raising children to be competent men and women, well read, articulate and with a heart for the world. As a minority we are changing the way America thinks about education. We are changing the way society thinks about families. We are changing educational history and impacting our communities one family at a time.

Take care,

High School Transcripts--Not as scary as you think...

I talk to lots of moms and dads every year who ask about transcripts. They are not just concerned, but many are actually very worried about this aspect of homeschooling. There are all kinds of books, classes and lectures that focus on transcripts and getting into college, and many are very good, but this post is just to give you the basics. If you want more information, I suggest you might want to get the Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook

In my experience, with our two homeschool graduates, it is not something to stress out over. Do not let the thought of making transcripts keep you from the joy of homeschooling your high school student. My homemade transcripts were not questioned by the state universities and Christian College my kids applied to. But, I do have some helpful hints:

  • Keep REALLY good records, starting in 9th grade, or 8th grade if you child is doing high school level courses such as Algebra, a foreign language, Biology, etc. I suggest keeping a spread sheet with the course title, the text or books used, authors and publisher, and a course description. I will put a simple course description at the end of this post.
  • If it is a course that is more hands on or does not use a traditional textbook, then you might want to keep a record of time spent on the course. For example, for a class like "Fine Arts" you might want to record events and times at the events over the course of all 4 years. You could include trips to art museums, attendance at music events and so forth. Over the course of 4 years this could be enough hours to count for 1/2 to 1 credit. A regular traditional school credit is generally equal to 140-150 hours. Most people figure since it takes less time to school using a tutorial method, it would be about 120 hours of homeschool time to count for one credit. This can vary, but this would be a fair estimate.
  • Every quarter or at least every semester, award a letter grade to the course.
  • Contact the colleges or universities you are interested, or at least go on their website to see what they want courses they want to see incoming freshmen have. I would do this when my child is in late middle school and check at least annually. Gear your 4 year high school plan so that you include what they want to see.
  • Make up a transcript-you can email [] me for a sample- and keep it current. If you do this at the end of 9th grade and update it annually, it will a fairly simple thing to do. If you wait till your child is applying to colleges, it can get overwhelming. I used a combination of an Excel spread sheet and a Word document. You can find samples on-line or in the Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook
  • Remember transcripts can look many, many different ways. Every school district does theirs different, so there is more than one right way. You can organize the credits by year or by topic--for instance putting all the English credits together. Either way is acceptable.
  • Generally, all transcripts needs a cumulative GPA, a chart for telling what point value you give to each letter grade, an official signature, the name and address of the school, name and address and birth date of child and it must be dated. Check with the colleges you are interested in to see what they require if you have any hesitation. The admission officers are looking for a reason to accept your child, so they are very helpful.
  • Remember, you child's transcript is like a resume. It should include all classes as well as a listing of extra curricular activities-these are generally included on a separate sheet, with the actual list and grades of classes all on one sheet.
  • Keep a copy of everything you send in. Also, keep a copy of your child's best written work, term papers, a sampling of math work, and other work, just in case you need to show a portfolio. We were not asked, but you would be wise to keep a sampling, just in case.
If you have further questions, please email me or ask here.

Sample Course Descriptions:

Algebra 1
1 Credit
An interactive course emphasizing the understanding of Algebra and Algebraic terms and concepts. Topics include real number system, number theory, algebraic expressions and sentences, linear and quadratic equations, inequalities, operations with polynomials, relations and functions, graphing equalities and inequalities, radical expressions, factoring polynomials and systems of equations.

1 Credit
This course covers the applications of geometric relationships and principles. Topics include a wide variety of constructions with compass work, inductive reasoning, points, lines, planes, angles, triangles, similarity and congruence, circles, three dimensional geometry, area, volume, trigonometry, and coordinate geometry. Understanding and real life application emphasized.

Personal Fitness/Physical Education
1 Credit
This course revolves around competitive swimming including, but not limited to: extensive practice and instruction, proper stroke formation, understanding of rules, participation in conference competitions, sportsmanship and teamwork.

Conversational Spanish
.5 credit
An interactive course emphasizing conversational Spanish with native Spanish speakers. Particular emphasis on listening and understanding basic Spanish phrases and words.

Social Studies
1 Credit
This course explores the foundations of other cultures, including their economics, geography, governments, religions and histories. This study is taught through a thorough look at Eastern Hemisphere countries. It utilizes map and encyclopedia work, as well as extensive literature, video clips, and in-depth look at how different societies and cultures have changed over time. Special emphasis on critical thinking and understanding people who are different than us. Taught in conjunction with English I.

Intro to Computers
1 Credit
Introduction to basic computer skills. This class will teach basic keyboarding, how to use the printer, digital camera, access the internet, email, on-line research and other basic applications. It will also introduce the use of Excel Spread Sheets, Word and other common software. Ethical and privacy issues will be discussed, as well as web safety.

As a note of disclaimer: I am not any sort of authority on this subject. I am just one mom telling you what has worked for us. If what I have recommended is helpful, great--but you should read some books, ask some folks and talk to admission counselors if you have any questions. Also, I have heard that there is various software available to help you with transcripts, diplomas etc. Perhaps you may want to Google "homeschool software" and see what comes up.

For ideas on how to grade non-test subjects, you may want to read this post on Contract for Grade.
And for ideas on how to give credits for Sonlight Cores, you can go here.

For helpful no-cost brochures on Record Keeping, Developing a High School Plan, Planning for College or Work, a Timeline for Keeping onTrack and You Can Homeschool Through High School; click here.

[Pictures of our two youngest children who graduated from our homeschool]

Another blog post on transcripts.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kids, Allowances and Money...

Money is a funny thing.

It is essential, it is limited, and for most of us, the more we have, the more we spend.

Daughter teaching a craft class to little girls

For kids, it is almost magical. Most kids, especially younger children, don't have any idea of the time and effort it takes to actually get money, or the capacity to understand how to use it wisely.

I am a firm believer in regular allowances for young children and salaries for older children/teens. I hear some of you gasp, but honestly, I don't know how kids can learn to budget, save and spend if they don't have a regular amount of money coming in. I don't think it has to be a lot of money, but it needs to be enough that they can learn to manage it. I have seen the articles saying that a child should get $1 for every year of age, per week, to spend. Honestly, we NEVER gave anywhere near that amount for 2 weeks.

If a 7 year old gets $2.00 every payday--let's say twice a month--and he has to buy any snacks and toys for himself out of it, plus put 10% aside for savings and perhaps a percentage aside to give away, he is learning valuable lessons for less than $50 a year. Not only that, but if he really wants something that costs more than a few bucks, he either has to save for quite a while, wait for his birthday or find a way to generate income on his own. We found our kids could be quite resourceful in finding ways to earn income.

Our daughter babysat starting at about nine years old [she was at a neighbor's and I was home], a few of our children started mowing lawns at age ten and as a family we had a bread baking business for a few years and the children earned money this way. You have heard of the lemon aid stand--some of our kids did that too, or different variations of it. They would ask if I had any extra chores they could do to earn extra money, and so on. I want to talk about chores, but I think that will have to wait for a later blog.

As children age, they should be given more responsibility, as well as more money to manage. It is part of learning to be a responsible citizen. I have seen well meaning parents rant and rave about why kids should not get allowances "They don't need to get paid for doing their chores!" and then
Youngest son selling and enjoying Coke

hand the child a $10 bill whenever the child or young teen asked for it. That kind of money management leaves me shaking my head. I mean, what does that teach? I think it teaches kids to be dependent on someone else to find mercy and give them something for nothing. It does not teach them to save, or plan or have a sense of responsibility about money. It teaches them that dad or mom is a money tree.

Our kids didn't get paid for chores. They had to do their chores. Period. They couldnt' say, "I don't want to wash the dishes, so don't pay me as much." They had to do their chores, and we gave them an allowance because they were part of our family, and family members get an allowance. And doing chores helps to develop responsibility and self esteem.

As the kids aged, when they got to about twelve, the allowance stopped, and a "salary' was instituted. I got this idea from my parents, who did this with my younger sister. I thought it was a great idea.

We sat down with each twelve year old and talked about how they are getting older and so forth. At this time, if we hadn't done it earlier, they opened a checking account and we went to the county clerk's office and got them a state ID. It looks like a driver's license, but they couldn't drive.

Then we wrote down their expenses...things like clothes, youth group expenses, entertainment, gifts, giving, lunch money and so on. We estimated that cost for a month. Then every month we paid them that amount. If a youth trip came up, they had to pay for it themselves. They did not ask us for money, they did not expect us to take them shopping for new shoes or clothes. That became their responsibility. Obviously we still took them shopping, but they could decide where and what they needed to buy and they payed for it themselves.

What usually happened is that if they wanted the latest-greatest tennis shoes they needed to save and probably needed to make some outside income. If they needed/wanted something big, and they talked to us about it, sometimes we would go half with them. My dad called this "writing a grant" and it is something he did with my older kids and with me as an adult from time to time. If we wrote down what we wanted, the price and why we wanted it, he would evaluate and might go half on it. We did not have our kids write the grant, but they did have to come to us with the request and have good ideas for wanting us to go half. Usually it was something big, like a bike or lawnmower or perhaps a big trip.

You don't have to give the kids a lot of money. Our income has always been limited. My husband was the sole bread winner and we had five we did not hand over lots and lots of money. Actually with a salary, a parent probably spends less because you are not financing every activity, birthday party present and so forth. The kids learn to save and be creative--kind of like "real life." And, you should see how happy they are when you buy them new socks or some sheets for their beds! They do not take these things for granted.

The goal is to help them understand how to manage their money responsibly. I would be naive to think that all my kids applied everything we taught them and never had any money issues after they left home. I am sure my kids have struggled with money, just like most of us--but I think they know the principles that will work, they know how to get on track, how to manage money and not be held a slave to it.

Take care,

Daughter Kari on far right. She is weaving bookmarks on a homemade loom. She and two friends were vendors at craft fair. This was great business experience. I think she was about 12 at the time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Free Lexington Homeschool Fair--June 13th

That's right, folks-I said FREE! There will be vendors and speakers and more!
You can go to this website to see all the information Lexington Homeschool Fair
For a list of Vendors, go here. Vendors

I am excited to be able to participate in this event which I hope will be well attended! Free and close to home--an unbeatable combination. I hope to see you there.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Never Tease a Weasel-Part 2...

Yesterday I talked about the problems that I had trying to teach my children important character traits by reading books written specifically for that purpose. They just did not translate across to make an impact on my children. They might know to Never Tease a Weasel, but brothers were fair game!

I believe character traits are caught not taught! But, I think we can do something to make catching them a bit easier. It is somewhat of a secret, but I will share it with real books! Not books designed to teach character--kids are too smart for that, but when you share real, living books with your children you will have many opportunities to talk about the characters in the books--what they did right, what they did wrong, what they should have done.

I remember when I read Little Britches to Kari and Scotty. That book is full to the brim of character lessons-most of them learned by the author, Ralph Moody when he was growing up in Littleton, Colorado around 1910. This autobiography is a wonderful account of growing up on a ranch--about responsibility and honesty and about the relationship between a father and son.

Ralph is an amazing storyteller who weaves his story like a fine tapestry. It is amazing how he remembers so well what it was like to be a child and the lessons Ralph learns in the book are as applicable today as they were 100 years ago. Whether you homeschool or not, this is a delightful book to read aloud to your children. It will make a lasting impression on the whole family.

And who can forget about the elephant who is "Faithful, 100%"? Horton Hatches the Egg is another story where you can talk about doing what is right, about responsibility and friendship, about love, adoption and what makes a good parent. This is a great read-aloud book that brings up many character issues for you to discuss with your young children.

There are so many wonderful stories with great story lines and characters worthy of emulation or of scorn. One of our favorite biographies was about Eric Liddell--the guy the story "Chariots of Fire" was based on. He was dedicated to running and to God, yet he had to make a choice between them. His story is inspiring and humbling--a great book to read-aloud to older elementary and middle school children.

And then there is great historical fiction like "Daughter of the Mountains," that teaches faithfulness and sticking with a job. There are bad guys you can talk about as well as those who are good and kind. This book, like many others, gives you, the parent, an opportunity to talk about those core beliefs that you want to pass on to your children.

Another book for younger children is "The Bee Tree." It not only teaches natural science, but also the value of reading and the wisdom of older people.

I could go on and on--and if you want more recommendations, let me know, but basically, pick out a good book and begin reading it to your children. Talk about the situations, the characters, their decisions and what they could have or should have done differently. What would you do if you were in their shoes?

So read a book to children,
Now there's some good advice...
You can talk about the characters
And whether or not they are nice!

Take care,

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Never Tease a Weasel...

Over the years, I have had many people ask me about how to teach positive character to their children. Years ago, I thought you could teach it through books specifically designed for this purpose. We checked out books with titles like "Let's Talk about Whining" and "Let's talk about Lying" from the church library. We still own a book called "Never Tease a Weasel." It has been well over a decade since I have looked at this book but I can still recite:

                       Never tease a weasel,
Now there's some good advice.
                      A weasel will not like it,

                     And teasing isn't nice.

But, you know what? Those books did not help one bit to teach my kids not to whine, lie or tease. It was like the books were one thing, life another.

My husband went to a seminar once and brought home some beautiful books with animal lessons. Each animal was supposed to teach a Biblical truth, a character trait for the children to emulate. They were beautiful books with matching coloring books. The kids enjoyed the stories and learning about the animals. One year I had Chad [then late middle school age] teach a lesson every week to Kari and Scotty for their science. The books were that good!

There were ducks and wolves and all sorts of interesting facts woven into the fiber of the underlying theme of teaching character. They loved those books! But, just because a baby duck has to obey his mother at the first call or he will be left in the nest of the hollow tree to die, it didn't make my kids want to obey when I first called. And, if you follow the logic of the book, the mother duck had some serious character issues of her own if she would leave a baby behind just because he didn't obey her the first time she called. I mean, he was her baby, after all.

Then I understood! Character is caught not taught!

The way to teach children how to be honest, is to be honest. [harder than reading a book called "Let's talk about honesty."]

The way to teach children compassion is to be compassionate.

Scary huh? You know it's true. Kids watch us like hawks and they don't miss a trick. They see if we give back the extra quarter the clerk gave us in our change. They see if we help a neighbor or look the other way so we can avoid them. They know if we pick up the phone when we know it is our mother-in-law on the other end. They hear us gossip. Don't get discouraged! Granted, we are not perfect and we make mistakes; but I think realizing that we are teaching character when we think our kids are not looking, will make us better parents-- better people- and better ambassadors for Christ! And, we don't have to be perfect to do a good job.

Character is caught, not taught.

Next time I will talk about another way to share your core beliefs related to character with your children. [Never Tease a Weasel part 2]

Take care,

[Photos: The kids learning the value of hard work and being good workers; Chad reading to siblings, showing kindness and compassion]

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chores-The Nitty-gritty...

One thing I would like to make clear is that I do not feel you should tie allowances to chores. Everyone in a family does chores because a family should work together. It encourages industry, team work, a good self image and is valuable training on the road to adulthood. Everyone in the family gets an allowance so they can learn to budget and to save, and to use and manage money wisely. I will talk about allowances in a few days.

[Scotty, 8, taking out recycling and trash]

So, after that disclaimer, let's get going on how to figure out how to do chores...

Take a few days and write down all the chores around the house. Have your kids and husband make a list too, and then after a few days compile the list. Put things down that are done every day and things that are done maybe once a week. The list could look like this:

  • Daily-sweep kitchen floor, unload dishwasher, set table, turn on porch light, pick up toys, feed dog, take out trash, clean out car, do laundry, put clothes away, wipe down bathroom sink, wipe down toilet
  • Twice a week: vacuum, dust [this could be dust living room one day, dust another room the other day],
  • Weekly: sweep porch, scoop up after dog, mow lawn, dust bedrooms, clean bathroom, water plants
OK, now that you have your list. Divide it up among the abilities of the kids. An easy way is to make index cards with each kid's name and put the chores on the card. You can put it on fridge, or laminate, punch a hole in it and tie them together and hang from a nail. The main thing is it should be written down so you don't have to tell them what to do--for non-readers, draw a picture.

An example of how you might assign the chores:

9 year old: sweep kitchen floor, empty dishwasher, vacuum, fold clothes
6 year old: set table, feed dog, take out trash, dust living room, wash down sink and toilet
3 year old: water outside plants with a squirt bottle, pick up toys [with 6 year old], dust low things, turn on porch light

Also, put weekly chores on their card--maybe to do Thursday afternoon or something. The card can have each day on it with the chores for that day, or daily chores listed in one column and then on Thursday you can list the weekly chore[s]--whatever works for you.

Now, here is the secret of making this work. As much as is logistically possible, everyone works at the same time! Don't you just hate to work and see everyone else sitting around eating cookies? It makes work seem worse than it is, and truly work is good. So, to make it feel like we are team, everyone working together, it needs to be done at the same time. In our house, when the kids were little, we worked after supper. [Many people do this before Dad gets home, but at our house, Dad was always home, so we did it after supper.]

So, after dinner the dish boys would start in on the dishes [2 boys], the laundry boy would fold the clothes [he and I did a couple loads each day, then he folded after supper], Kari pick up living room and vacuumed, Scotty would pick up toys other places and put in kids' rooms, someone fed the dog [I can't remember who]--all at the same time! Everyone worked! [Of course, someone had to set the table before supper, but you get the idea]. Generally this took about 30 minutes. Then the house was picked up, chores done, the kids would take their clean laundry and put it in their drawers and then we could all relax for the evening.

When the kids got to be 10th, 8th, 6th, 2nd and 4 years old, the laundry situation changed and after that everyone did their own laundry. I still did Bob's, Scotty's and mine, but by the time he was about 7 he did his own laundry. Then the chores changed a bit.

I have a friend that has 5 kids 10 and under. A couple of years ago [when they had 4 kids 8 and under] I happened to come in during "The 15 minute Flash." This was about 4:30 on a weekday. The kids were buzzing around like bees--the 8 year old was putting away toys and helping the 2 year old pick up toys too. The 4 year old was setting the table, the 6 year old was emptying the dishwasher--she had just swept the kitchen floor. Their chores as supposed to be done in 15 minutes, so they buzz around and make a race out of it. She actually sets a timer! I talked to one of the kids a few months ago, and they have all moved up in chores. So, some of the easy chores have gone to the next child down, and the older child has moved to harder chores. When the Flash is over, they can play till dinner. I think the dad cleans up the kitchen after dinner.

At any rate, I hope this is helpful. The thing is, start somewhere. You can always change, adjust, re-evaluate--see what works for your family. Also, to keep chores down, we did a lot of color coding. Everyone had one glass, in their specific color, that they used all day for misc. drinks. They had a clean one for milk at supper time, but for water/lemonade, etc. all day long, they used the same cup all day. This minimized the dishes and kept the dishwasher so it wasn't constantly full.

I also went out and bought each person ONE bath towel, each a different color. They used this till I washed them. This prevented the misc. towel on the floor-no one admits whose towel it is. We had pegs in the bathroom and each kid put their towel on a peg. A couple of times a week I did a load of towels and then just re-hung them on the pegs. This saved a LOT of laundry, especially with teen boys showering a lot. I know Martha Stewart would cringe at the lack of color coordination, but it worked for us. Just make sure the towels are all light colors so you can wash them at the same time.

I guess that is it--if you have specific questions, please ask. I hope this helps.

Take care,

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chores and Self Esteem...

I have a theory that kids who have chores have better self esteem. I can't prove it, but I think I can make a case for it.

Everyone needs to be needed and feel they have value. I mean, think about it. Think of the little child that has learned how to feed the dog or fold a towel. They are so proud, they want to tell everyone what they have done. Now, think about the retiree who dies 6 months after he retires. This happens a lot and I have read over and over again how this happens to people whose whole identity is tied to their work. No work-no reason to live.

Work is good.

Inherent in everyone is the desire to be needed, to count, to matter. And work is a big part of this. Now I don't mean you have to get a job. Honestly, there are enough jobs around the house to provide a goodly amount of work. And with work, comes a feeling of being needed and self esteem.

Consider two children-about 4-6 years old. The first child has most things done for him. Oh, he might dress himself and make his own bed, but beyond that, he is entertained and doted on by his parents. They wash his clothes, make his food, wash his dishes, take him where he wants to go--he is the little "master" of the house and the parents work hard to provide him a happy, care-free childhood.

It sounds nice, but this child is more of a pet than a member of the family. He is not really needed and he knows this, maybe not consciously, but he knows it. What is his value? Oh, his parents say he is smart, nice, cute and so forth, but what is his value? His parents will tell you he is priceless, but as years pass, if things do not change, he will feel less and less worthy.

Now, consider a child who has regular chores. He has to feed the dog or take out the trash or wipe down the bathroom on [Kids helping with a family building project] a regular basis. He knows he is important--I mean, what would the family do if he wasn't around? The trash would overflow, the dog would starve, the bathroom would be unusable. He KNOWS he is needed. And, his self esteem flows from that knowledge.

What a great gift to give our children. The knowledge that they are important, they are a necessary member of our family and they are learning skills that will serve them well in the years to come.

And this extends beyond parenting. Consider the youth program at a church. The kids are generally "kept" in a youth room, [Photo above: gardening with Grandpa] have adults conjure up lessons and activities calculated to teach kids about the Christian Life, and then a couple of times a year they do a youth service, or a service project or maybe do some type of _____-a-thon [fill in the blank with walk, run, rock, fast--you get the idea].

And what does this teach? That it takes a staff to entertain youth, that they will be part of the church some day, but right now they need to be kept out of the way, in a fun room with lots of supervision. It drives me nuts.

In some places, mostly smaller churches, things look a lot different and I believe the youth have a greater sense of responsibility. Usually, in these churches, the youth are already part of the church. They are working in the nursery [if there is one], singing in the choir [or playing the piano], helping with ground maintenance, teaching Sunday School, bringing snacks for fellowship time..., in short-doing what the adults do. They are important. They are part of the church now, they are involved in the church service regularly not just on youth Sunday. This gives kids a sense of ownership, commitment and a positive self image. They know they are needed. The church benefits and so do the kids-it is a win-win situation.

My husband pastored three churches like this many years ago, and they were awesome churches. Adults, youth, kids--all were brothers and sisters in Christ, working together and worshiping together. Those churches and the people [of all ages]healthy too.

It all goes back to the same issue. Everyone needs to be needed and feel they have value.

Take care,

For Chores, the Nitty-Gritty, go here