Thursday, April 25, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 15 - Be Different!

parenting, childhood, unique families, be yourself

In a world where there are a million people telling you the right way to do something, today’s #parentingtruth is here to encourage you to skip the ordinary life and be different!

Why are we obsessed with being normal anyway? Does it go back to our own adolescent insecurities? Perhaps. Do you remember anyone during your middle school years telling you to be normal? Maybe the word in your mind was popular. Are we as parents still trying to win a popularity contest? If you find yourself muttering at this point, then it is time to take a hard look at what motivates your parenting choices. Normal is a setting on a dryer, or at best, it is an average. We are called to be so much more than average. Our lives should not be normal, or ordinary, but rather extraordinary, regardless of our circumstances!

When we choose to live our lives differently than the world around us, we need to check our motives. Without this step we might find ourselves trying to be different as a form of rebellion. Instead, hopefully, we can choose to parent differently than our neighbors, or even our own extended family because OUR family is unique. When you focus your parenting style on what makes your family unique, you end up having more fun, spending more time with your children, and enjoying life more.

No family is perfect, but you can find the perfect groove for your own family by varying the parts of your life to fit your family’s specific needs. If someone is allergic to milk, you can choose to make specific meals just for them, or you can choose to live a dairy-free family lifestyle. Either option regards the needs of that person, but how you live it out should depend on what works best in your household.

This is your family, and your life. It is OK to be different, because your family is different. I have two daughters, you may have two or three sons. You might have six children while your next door neighbor only has one. There will be similarities to how we all raise our children, but there should also be differences. If you are not trying to keep up with the Joneses, or worse yet, trying to be the Joneses, you can enjoy those unique quirks that make your family special.

Along the way you will hopefully find some family friends who aren’t afraid to be different from the crowd. They are probably different than you, and that makes them even more valuable. These differing viewpoints can help you walk the road of being different, without being scary, or forgetting to teach your children the important lesson of valuing each person and their choices. When our children grow up surrounded by a variety of faces and personalities, they become much better balanced adults. They learn how to ask meaningful questions when getting to know someone new, and they become interested in learning even more about the world around them.

For those of us parents who are Christians, we are called to live a life set apart. That does not mean that we stay away from the world, it means that we teach our children how to life a meaningful life in this world. It means we teach them how to serve others. It means we show them the love of Jesus and then help them shine that light to the people around them. Living a life set apart means being different - in a good way! In Matthew 5:16, Jesus told His followers: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

It is ok to be different! Keep loving your family, and keep gathering friends who want to live extraordinary lives as well!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 14 - Evolving Friendships

parenting, friendship, long term relationships

This is a picture of my Mom and her friend Suzanne. They have been friends since they were college roommates over 50 years ago. What kind of friendship lets you laugh and have fun for decades? The kind we want to teach our children to have: honest, forgiving, long-lasting ones!

Today's #parentingtruth brought to you by the only thing besides God that is constant: change. 
Our own friendships evolve and we cannot expect our children's friendships to be any different. 

There seem to be four key stages children go through as they learn about friendship. Some of them only go through the stages once or twice, others seem to go through them every year. The stages are:

1- learning to be friends
2- everybody is my friend
3- no one is my friend
4- holding fast and letting go

These seem like a natural progression for us as adults, but our children need us to walk with them through the stages, because every friendship is a new experience for them.

Learning to be friends
Let's face it, teaching our children how to be a friend is a lot like teaching them how to share. There is no short cut, and you have to make them do it at first as you model the steps for them. Walk over to that person, introduce yourself, ask them their name, ask if they would like to play a game with you, or play with your ball. It can be a lot of hard work, and I think this is where parents often recognize the differences between their multiple children. No two children approach making friends the same exact way, so be patient.

Everybody is my friend
Here is where the elementary years are so fun, and often confusing to you as a mom or dad. Your child has gotten a taste of the fun hey can have in a group setting and suddenly everyone is their friend. There's the friend they sit by at school or 4-H. The friend they play with on the playground at the park, or the friends they have at the library, lego store, vacation Bible school, etc. They may or may not remember their new "friend's" name. Don't discount these easily made acquaintances as not being true friends. This is a stage, and better that your child learn to make a lot of casual friends and sort them out later than to be afraid of making friends because of an aside comment you might have made.

No one is my friend
You might make it all the way until puberty before you hear this one. If you do, consider yourself blessed. There will come a day when your kid is sad because it seems like no one wants to be their friend. It might be that they were the 11th kid in line when pairing up, or the last one picked for kickball. Whenever it happens, be a listening ear and a comforting shoulder to cry on. Remind them with your words and actions that they matter to you. Then find them something to do that they enjoy doing alone. It's okay to step away from the fray of childhood for a few hours of reflection and solitude.

Holding fast and letting go
As your children become teens, and sometimes before then, you are going to need to help them learn how to evaluate their friendships. This means a tactful look at which friendships are encouraging them to be better versions of themselves, and which ones are dragging them down to where they might become toxic. Each and every person on this earth has immense value, but not every person is going to make a good long term friend for your kid. Help them learn how to cultivate the friendships that inspire and encourage them, and how to treat with kindness and respect those friends that they need to let go. These decisions will be ones they will need to make their entire lives, so use the wisdom God has given you to help them sort through this tough part of life.

There is a fifth point to consider as your children are learning about friendship: Mom and Dad's friendships change over time as well. Be honest with your children about why you yourself are now spending time with new friends, and the best way to maintain or distance older friendships as needed. Too often we stop seeing our own friends because we get busy with our kids' activities, switch jobs, switch churches, or because they move away. Sometimes though, it is because we had a disagreement that neither of us can be adult enough to ask for forgiveness for. How you handle your own friendships can either help or hurt your children's perspective on friendships and their value. 

As an adult I would rather have five close friends than twenty-five acquaintances, but some people are the opposite. I need to be honest with my daughters, and my husband, about why I do or do not spend time with people that they knew used to be a big part of my life. For every person who thinks, "Wow, I haven't heard from her in a while, I wonder what happened?" there are are probably five people who did spend the time to find out what changed in our lives. Those people who you love who love you in return do not stop being your friends just because circumstances change. They are still in our hearts and lives, even if we don't see them in person as often.

You know the best part about being a parent and teaching your children how to be a good friend? Someday, they will grow up and be YOUR friends. Think on that one a minute and then have a wonderful Easter weekend. 
Jesus is risen indeed!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Spring Homeschool Day at Conner Prairie ~ April 30th

Conner Prairie, living history, homeschooling, road trip

Spring! It it finally here, and most of our friends are looking for any good reason to get out of the house and go exploring. Here is a great reason: Conner Prairie is hosting its first homeschool day of the year on Tuesday, April 30th from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.!

The idea of a homeschool day at Conner Prairie was launched a few years ago. It is an opportunity for homeschool families to visit Conner Prairie at the school field trip rate, without needing 15 kids to get the reduced rate. It was an instant hit, and over time, a second day was added. Well thanks to popular demand, there will be three homeschool days at Conner Prairie this year: April 30th, August 27th, and September 11th. To see the details on the reduced rate for these days, visit this page on Conner Prairie's website.

If you've never been to Conner Prairie, now is the time to go. If you've been before and loved it - go again! Many of you know that we raised our girls with a huge emphasis towards hands-on learning. I nicknamed it E3 learning: Eclectic Experiential Education. Conner Prairie was always a place where they could touch and do. First as members, and then as they got older, they were even more involved as they each served several years in the Conner Prairie Youth Volunteer Program. Their experiences were second to none. The best part is, whether you visit Conner Prairie one time, ten times or 100 times, you will have fun learning: about Indiana's past, about natural resources, and about yourself! Arlene's favorite was always a tie between the Civil War Journey and the Loom House. When you come on Homeschool Day, keep an eye out, she is sure to be around somewhere!

I highly encourage homeschooling families to get a membership to Conner Prairie because it is such a wonderful resource, and the membership is a way to benefit both the museum and your family. For those who live far away, or who have never visited Conner Prairie and are not sure if it would be a good fit for them, a chance to take a road trip for homeschool day is ideal. 

Sometimes people ask of homeschool day is too crowded. The short answer is No. Conner Prairie does not schedule other school tours on these days, so it is just you, a thousand or so of your closest, or soon to be, homeschooling friends, and a reasonable number of daily visitors. I've never found the grounds to feel really crowded unless there are more than 5000 visitors... and so far, they've not reached that number on a homeschool day. Imagine if the state homeschool convention took place outdoors, and had more games and less books,... you will see homeschooling families from all around the state having fun and learning about Indiana's past.

If you already have a membership to Conner Prairie, I challenge you to invite at least two friends (and their children) to join you on homeschool day. Be an ambassador and show them how much fun hands-on learning can be. Offer to be the one to bring lunch to eat outside the Welcome Center on the picnic benches, or treat them to ice cream at the Cafe on the Commons. You already know you love visiting Conner Prairie, so tell your friends about it!

Still wondering if you should come? The answer is YES! In 2016 Conner Prairie added Treetop Outpost, one of our favorite places to hang out on the grounds. Imagine if your dad had actually built you the treehouse of your dreams... that comes close. You can read more about it by visiting this post I wrote a while ago about Treetop. It is a little bit like Tedd Tripp meets Richard Louv when you get out there. So much to do and see, and lots of time to interact with your children.

Lest I forget to mention it... there are already a LOT of new baby animals in the Animal Encounters barn this season! This is one of the working farm parts of Conner Prairie, where they strive to preserve and expand their heritage breeds of livestock. You might see the new Arapawa kids (goats) or the Tunis lambs! They are so cute! I've already shared a couple pictures on our Instagram feed, and I know there will be more soon. :)

So stop wondering if you want to come to the Spring Homeschool Day and get busy planning for it! Text your friends, facebook message your groupies, and get ready to pack up your car, van or SUV for an unforgettable day of fun and learning at one of the most unique historic places you will ever visit!

It is only two weeks away! 

See you on April 30th! We will be there, will you?

Friday, April 12, 2019


Today's Five Minute Friday prompt is: lack

five minute friday writing prompt, thoughts, contentment, grace, eternal life

When I look at the world around me, at my writing, at my home, at my marriage, I can focus on all of the things that I lack. It appears on the surface that others have so much more than I do. I can see with a calloused heart and a cynical eye what the world is offering, and I wonder, do I even really want those things?

My apparent lack of the things that make up the American Dream does not bother me as much as it used to. That is only because Jesus stepped in and showed me a new way to live, a life that is eternal, but that begins here; lived out in my day to day life on earth. When I remember that God's Word promised to provide all that I need for life and Godliness, I realize that I lack nothing. 

Truly, I lack nothing!

My life is not like yours, and that is okay. My life is filled so full that some days I am not even able to put those thoughts and feelings into words to show you that indescribable joy that Jesus has offered to me, that He continues to offer to me, that I have come to accept as my daily bread.

This life is not perfect, because I have not yet been made perfect, and the people I live with are not perfect. I am still a faulty human, but I am redeemed. There is NOTHING so big in my life that God cannot handle it for me. Every time I am tempted to build up a wall to protect myself from a niggling fear, God reminds me that I am safe in His arms. He shows me that I can daily, hourly, minute by minute pour out my struggles to Him. He hears me, He sees me, He acts on my behalf. That produces a peace that the things of this world cannot take away.

My marriage still has struggles, my children still forget to clean up their rooms, my bank account may never hold a million dollars, but those things that others think I lack, they do not matter in light of this amazing relationship with my Heavenly Father.

I lack nothing, because Jesus never fails.

I could have had a miserable life... 

But God, in His infinite mercy, showed me a better way.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 13 - puberty

parenting truths, puberty, teenagers, family relationships, love

Today's #parentingtruth is one that no one wants to talk about but everyone wants to know the answers for... you guessed it - how to handle puberty!

There are some simple things to remember when your child hits that dread age... usually sometime between 11 and 13. First off - you are not alone. Your friends are going through something similar with their kids, and they are probably just as confused, so hug each other often, pray for one another, and offer to take all the crazy kids to the park sometime soon.

Here's a key point to remember about your kids when they hit puberty, err, I mean when puberty hits them: everything around them and everything inside of them is changing and you as their parents need to stay the same! Mom still needs to be mom, Dad still needs to be dad, and you both need to pause before you answer any question and make sure you understand what your kid is asking of you. At this age they develop an uncanny sense of knowing when you are trying to multi-task and they will call you out on it. They need you - 110% of you - and you need to make sure you are available and listening. And regardless of what they say, they still need your physical presence right now - so go ahead and hug them every day. They might make a face, but they will appreciate it.

Puberty wrecks their brains. There is no nice way to say this, it just turns them into mush-heads. Girls who loved math now cry "I hate math." Boys who used to like legos now say "Um, no thanks, that's not cool." Do they really mean it? Probably not, but they are so confused by everything that is changing that they need a (figurative) hill to die on, so it is probably going to be math for girls and writing for boys. Why these subjects? I have no idea, but I've seen it often enough in our own daughters and with children of our friends that it just plays out that way. Whatever subject they used to love and now reject, don't let it throw you for a curve. Just try to think back to how crazy it was when YOU hit puberty and offer them some more grace - and some scheduling/ homework help!

Deal with the root issues. Lack of sleep, lack of compassion, defiance, these might all be outward signs that your child is struggling with something on the inside related to puberty. If they are not already taking a good multivitamin, now is the time to start them on one. Yes, you'll have to remind them - every single day - to take it, just do it. For your girls that were happy smiley 10 year olds who now turn into the Wicked Witch of the West at the drop of a hat - consider a strong dose of B Complex every day. At one point when both of our girls were dealing with the hormonal changes that puberty brings, they would harp on each other if they didn't take their vitamins: "you're a grouch, go take your B complex!" For either boys or girls who have trouble sleeping, you might want to look into a quality magnesium supplement paired with calcium. If all else fails, make an appointment for your child with your Doctor or Nurse Practitioner. Discuss options related to changed in diet and supplements, but don't automatically rule out other options. Some pre-teens are going to get hit really hard and may need some extra help to balance out their chemical makeup and stave off depression.

Be THAT parent. Yes, that parent that says "No" sometimes. Your children, whether they be tweens, teens, or somewhere in the middle are going to need you to make those hard choices for them. At the age when puberty hits them the hardest there are going to be so many new choices thrown at them: drama club, swim team, book club, band or choir, spring sports? So many choices, and regardless of what you may have read on the internet - they cannot do them all! Also be THAT parent who makes home a safe place for everyone. Be the parent that invites all the other half-crazy 11-13 year olds over to hang out. This is a crucial time to keep tying heartstrings with your children, and with their friends. (See #parentingtruth No. 12!) Your children's friendships are going to be constantly evolving and changing at this time in their lives. Set aside time to get to know them all their friends, so when your kid asks for help in deciding which friends to keep for the long haul, you can offer sound advice.

Finally, the biggest thing left to remember is that this is still your child! Puberty may have put them (and you) through the wringer, but your adorable little child is still in there somewhere. Spend one on one time with them. Do activities that matter to them, even if it is getting out those "not cool to friends" legos and helping them build the Death Star or a pink and purple shopping mall. Let them know they matter to you!

Your children are going to survive through puberty. You will too. But instead of making it a goal to simply survive, plan to help them thrive. They need you in a different way then they did at 2, or 6, but they still need daily interaction with both parents. If one of you travels a lot, it is time to invest in a phone that can Skype or FaceTime easily. Daily time spent together, whether you feel like it or not, is the way to still hold their hearts, even if they won't let you hold their hands anymore. :)

Now go find those adorable scamps and give them a hug!

parenting truths, puberty, teenagers, family relationships, love

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

April Showers sale at SchoolhouseTeachers and Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Plannner

*affiliate links used in this post* 

Happy Spring! Has it finally arrived where you live? I hope so. Yesterday evening Kurt and I took a drive through the country to go locate a group of birds we had heard about and I so enjoyed seeing all the green grass and blooming daffodils.

I just wanted to pop in here and make sure you knew about the April Showers sale over at I know several of you are already members, but do not tune out, because I have great news for you to read below!

Homeschooling, it takes a toll on you some days. Spring can be tough because the kids want to be outdoors, and you want to be outdoors, and no one really wants to finish their math assignment or do their writing. That makes this a perfect time to switch up your daily routine and choose something different to write about. If you take a scroll through the course offerings at SchoolhouseTeachers you are sure to find something interesting for even the most reluctant writers. You can find simple themes for kids to write about, help with those book reports for middle grades, and writing assignments covering a wide range of topics for your high school students: folklore, adventures, classic literature.

With the April Showers sale going on this month, new members can join for just $111 for twelve months AND you can get a copy of the new Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner when it ships in May! Use the discount code: ONES. I always appreciated that SchoolhouseTeachers is just one membership for the entire family, with no extra book fees.

To see pictures of the inside of past issues of the Hey Mama! Planners, click over and see my past reviews here and here. You will also get some ideas of how you can adapt the pages to best fit your own teaching/ learning styles. :)

What if you really want to just finish up this year and start on next year, then it is time to do some planning. If you are already a member of, you can have a copy of the new Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner shipped to you in May just by paying for shipping by April 30th ($8 in USA, higher internationally). To see this option, log into your account and click over to your dashboard, then click the Special Offers for Members tab!

I really recommend the Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner to everyone looking for an adaptable, easy to use print planner. I used the Hey Mama! planner every year it was printed, and on the other years I printed off pages form the digital version and had them spiral bound to use in our homeschool. I've seen just a couple glimpses of the color scheme for this next year and it almost makes me wish we were still homeschooling, it is SO beautiful!

If you have decided to not use, but still want to get your hands on one of the new Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planners, you can purchase a copy from The Old Schoolhouse store for $29 with free shipping if you live in the US, slightly more (plus shipping) if you live in Canada. It is also available to be shipped internationally.

That's it for today. Go outside and enjoy some sunshine!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 12 - Tying Heartstrings

family relationships, unique children, family time

For our #parentingtruth this week I want to talk about tying heartstrings. I want to credit this train of thought to my dear friend Diana Waring who has taught for years and years about living a relational lifestyle while homeschooling. To look at the heart of how we relate with our children as even more important than how much they learn. You don't have to be a homeschooler to tie heartstrings, you just have to want to love your children better tomorrow than you have today.

For our family, tying heartstrings means sharing moments, memories, and the things we love. This photo was from the day several years ago when my Mom bought a new car. The girls and I went with her, because big events, or even small ones, are best when they are shared moments that turn into shared memories.

You can begin tying heartstrings with your children at any age, and then continue to do so for the rest of their lives. I'm 46 years old and I still enjoy experiencing things with my Mom... you're never too old to tie heartstrings! When you tie heartstrings through time spent with your children, you deepen the relationships you have. This is really important as they hit puberty, because that will be the time when it feels like they are cutting the heartstrings faster than you can tie them. But guess what, if you have tied enough of them during their earlier years, you will both weather those transitional years intact.

Cultivate those relationships with your children both in a group, and as individuals. Some times you are going to want to go on an expedition all together, maybe a trip to the zoo, to watch a baseball game, or to go hiking in the woods. On other days you are going to take time to go on adventures one on one. 

Remember that each of your children is an unique individual. Because of this, you need to set aside time to work on an activity that interests each child. As you value that time for them to be the center of your attention, they learn to share things that they are holding deep down in their hearts. That freedom to know Mom or Dad is listening can last a lifetime. Earlier this week Arlene (now 18) said to me, "Mom, I like when we have these deep philosophical discussions sometimes when it is just us in the car."

I didn't do anything special that you could not do to get to this point. I set aside time to listen to each child. I let them know they were safe, and I reminded them again and again that they are loved. 

As you think about your young children growing into young adults, imagine a relationship where you have so many heartstrings tied that you cannot even count them. It is possible, and it is how God wants us to live our lives. In community, with our families, loving one another.

Now go tie some heartstrings!

family relationships, unique children, family time