How easy is it to get lost in the planning, gifting, and chaos of the holiday season? Do you find yourself exhausted? Overwhelmed? Anxious? Is the holiday season taking over your life (and not in a good way)?
I completely understand. The demands placed on people during the holiday sometimes seemed completely unrealistic. This can be especially true for deployed or separated families, single parents, parents of special needs children, and single people. It is so easy to get lost in the chaos.
How do we get out of the funk the demands can place us in? Change our focus. Stop thinking of “me”, and start thinking of others. If you are still having a little trouble getting into the season, try some old family traditions.
Part of the fun of the holidays is the books and movies that get pulled of the shelf and dusted off to enjoy. Growing up, my mom used to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to kick off the season. My dad would read Luke 1 to us prior to opening any presents. It was in these calm moments the real meaning of the season came alive.
I have continued this tradition in my own home. It is so special to pass this on to my kid and husband. These memories require no money, just quality time with those you love. When my husband was deployed during the holidays, this was one of the things he missed most about not being home. This is also what helps me stay grounded in the chaos when things start to get overwhelming.
So, I invite you to slow down with us this Christmas season. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa, snuggle up (perhaps by a fire), and enjoy these fun movies and stories. May they bring you as much joy as they have our family.
I love Thanksgiving. I love that we take time out of the craziness that is life to be grateful; to say thank you; to enjoy our family, friends, and loved ones. This is something I have purposed to do throughout the year but love that I get a day to do just that. What a wonderful tradition!
I hope you do take time to slow down, reflect, and give thanks this Thanksgiving. For some steps on how to get a gratitude attitude (or just some good family ideas), check out my blog on 6 easy steps to a gratitude attitude.
But today, I want to talk about food! Although I love the family, memories, and time to slow down, I love (and my whole family) love the food!
My husband and son love the holiday for the delicious tastes and aromas that flood our home. I love the day for the family, the downtime, and the movies. I love snuggling by the fire after a delicious meal and enjoying time with family, friends, and loved ones.
In that spirit, today I wanted to share some good recipes for the big day. I am lucky and Hubby does the turkey (and sometimes ham depending on the number of guests we have). Sides, however, are typically up to me. Here are the top recipes we use that get an ovation every year.
Appetizers are so fun! But can be so time-consuming. They are the unsung heroes of the holiday. They waken the pallet and give something for little hands to do while they wait. But kids are fussy (and so are adults around this time of year). Here are a couple of easy appetizers we use for Thanksgiving that add color and are still healthy and easy.
Onion Dip (sometimes we make our own, sometimes we buy – depending on the time we have) or Hummus (there is a great recipe in Brain Food Cookbook) with sliced bell pepper, snap peas, broccoli, and carrots
Yogurt (we use the Brain Food recipe for ferments which takes 24 hours; if you do not have that time, use almond or coconut yogurt from the store) with sliced apples of all colors coated in a little lemon juice to prevent browning.
Tortilla Rolls: As the GIF above shows, this is so good, quick, and brings color to what can easily become a brown table. Just some spinach tortilla rols, sliced bell pepers, spinach, carrots, and I use red onion with a touch of hummas (or your favorite spread), rolled, sliced into one-inch pieces, and set out beautifully. This is easy finger food that will make even the fussiest people happy.
Sides can make or break a meal. Ever have a fantastic main dish that only found the accompanying side lacks luster? It can be what drops a review from five stars to three. Here are a few of my favorite unsung heroes of Thanksgiving:
Carrots are amazing! But become the ugly duckling next to green beans each year. Although I have grown to like green beans, carrots are my go-to for sides. I use them in everything from carrot fries (as I discovered in this gem for Autism/ADD recovering as well as Paleo/SCD/GAPS dieters) to quick on-the-go snacks without the mess.
I love mashed potatoes (and so do most of my friends and family). This staple is easy to make with a touch of almond milk. I dress mine up (depending on the day) with herbs and spices including. I like to throw in a touch of garlic and thyme for extra spice. I have also enjoyed replacing potatoes with cauliflower. This is an easy quick recipe for those who do not do potatoes.
You cannot go wrong with a good salad. For those traveling and needing to bring a dish, these are quick tasty dishes. With all the treats around the day, a healthy salad is, not only welcome, but needed, colorful, and can tie a meal together. Here are our quick recipes:
Chicken Salad: All you need is to cut lettuce, apples, strawberries, and red onion. Combine that with roasted or baked chicken cut into one-inch slices and your choice of dressing (we like the brand G Hughes and Skinny Girl) and voila! Colorful dish everyone will like.
Broccoli Cranberry: This is a fun twist on the traditional salad. Mix steamed broccoli heads, almonds (optional), and cranberries. Sometimes we add chicken or bacon bits (these are easy and do not require additional cook time). We sometimes add onion and sometimes add bell pepper for color. Mix and you are done.
If I am feeling super fun, I use a broccoli grapefruit, and avocado salad. All these mixed with a touch of green onion or shallots and yum yum!
Now to my favorite thing about the Thanksgiving meal – desserts! I love a nice warm cup of coffee or tea and a sweet dessert. Add in a fireplace and great company and you get a touch of Heaven. Here are just a few desserts (because I do love all things sweet) that I enjoy for Thanksgiving. Oh, who am I kidding? All year round!
I like pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I have loved this recipe from Betty Crocker for Pumpkin Cream Cheese pie. It is easy but prepare to have the pie sit in your fridge for 4 hours before you can cut into it.
If you are like me, sweet things are the Achilles heel. So, I love to make individual size things so the sweet is there without the regret later. This is a great recipe for apple pie bites that do not take a lot of time.
What good is warm without ice cream? I love to blend frozen bananas, almond milk, and frozen strawberries (no green), vanilla, or melted chocolate (the flavors are limitless) to have a fun tasty dairy-free option. Using a blender, this delicious treat is ready in minutes and does not require the bulkiness of traditional ice cream makers.
There are so many delightful things to enjoy at Thanksgiving. I hope this small list can help make things a bit easier when planning to be at home or travel.
I do hope you have a great Thanksgiving. May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face (Luke 1:78); the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand (John 10:27-28). Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.
For more on Thanksgiving treats and ways to celebrate, check out my Facebook page.
Welcome back! For those who have been following, this past year included deployment and a permanent change of station (PCS) move. In the crazy times of being a single parent to moving, tons of transition takes place. And, if you have kids, you know transition means growth. Growth means stretching, growing pains, and (sometimes) regression.
So, I took the past year to focus on my family and ensure we are set up for success in the new city.
This past year has seen deployment and moving for our family. If you have ever had to one or both, you know how stressful it can be. So how do you make it through? Where do you start? How do you face this giant change?
Here are three things I have learned in the process of deployments and moving that I think might help you too.
As with any change, the more prep work you do the better. Having a member of your family move or deploy is a huge shift in daily living. The balance of daily life changes. Who takes out the garbage? Mows the lawn? Makes dinner? Add into this crazy shift, kids. Kids ask questions (often the ones parents do not have the answers to). Kids act out because they see the unfair nature of sending a family member away for a significant length of time. All this can – and will – lead to disaster if we are not careful.
You have to prep. Spend time talking about the transition with your kids. Let them be a part of the planning process. Let them know you are all on the same team working for the same goal. Let them know where they can partner with you and how they might be able to step up (especially great for pre-teens and teenagers). Let them know how you plan to help them and ask them for ideas on how you can help them.
It is easy to get into the mind frame that you can do it all. Be everything to all people. But that is a myth. We all know it. We must be honest – with ourselves and those around us. It is ok to admit you need help. I am so thankful to my friends the Nelsons who came over multiple times to help me fix broken things while Hubby was gone. I am thankful to the Speers who would fix my car when it broke. I am thankful to Keiffers who let us enjoy holidays with them (and the occasional hang out).
Being honest when I asked for help made all the difference in how I processed the day. I knew that there were resources and people out there who wanted to see me succeed.
But honesty with yourself (and those who ask if you need anything) is not enough. You must be honest with your kids and spouse. Kids notice things (usually the stuff you do not want them to). So be honest. Let them the reality of the deployment. Let them know what to expect while the spouse is gone or what to expect when they get to the new house. Just like you do not like to be blindsided by change, kids hate it more. Be honest with them and the doors for open communication. Remember, sometimes just knowing there is someone out there who understands what you are going through is enough to make a world of difference.
Be Happy. Do Good.
In America, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There is a Will Smith movie that shows the struggle on this pursuit of happiness. King Solomon (credited as the wisest man who ever lived) said in Ecclesiastes 3:12-15, “’I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live,” and in Proverbs 17:22 he states, “A joyful heart is a good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Happiness and joy are innate in us.
However, today more people are plagued with depression, fear, and anxiety than any other time in history. (I honestly find this ironic since we live in the healthiest, richest, and safest time ever). So how do we stay out of this negative mindset when faced with deployments, moves, and sometimes worse? Follow Solomon’s advice.
Laugh. Laugh often. Enjoy the small things so you can appreciate the big ones. Do good. Get out of your own head and help someone else. Volunteer. Write a letter of encouragement. Have a cup of tea with your elderly neighbor. Be happy. Do Good.
Deployments and moves are hard. That is reality. But they do not have to be destructive or tough. Remember, you got this. All you need is to be prepared; be honest; be happy and do good.
For more on deployments and PCS moves, check out my Facebook page.
My son reminds me so often to celebrate the little things. He gets excited for every holiday – EVERY holiday. From Groundhog’s Day to Battery Day (February 18) to the traditional New Years’ to Christmas Day. Need some fun creative days to celebrate, check out this fantastic calendar! He reminds me that each day has a reason to be celebrated.
But, he also reminds me daily how hard it is to be a parent. Some days, weeks, months (if you have that teenager), it is so easy to focus on the negative. “My kid isn’t…. (fill in the blank) and should be.” Grades are down, a call to the principal’s office, a truancy notice. Some days it can be hard to want to love on our kids.
But, this month of love, I think we can (and should) do better. Our kids need to know they are loved just as much as we need to know our spouse or significant other loves us.
Here are some ways to bring more love into your relationships with your kids:
Encouraging words. We parents are often so quick to bring to light the negative actions of our children. And there is a good reason for that (discipline is essential to growth and development). But how quick are we to bring encouragement? When was the last time you told your kid you were proud of them? Impressed by them? Complimented them? This month, I encourage you to try to do this once a day and see how much richer your relationship with your child gets.
2. Play. This is so hard! Most parents work and parent. By the time work is done, we are exhausted and tired and the last thing we want to do is get on the ground and play blocks or Lego with the kiddos. We don’t have the energy to play a video game or draw. When we spend time with kids, the adults typically chose the activity. I encourage you this month, to purposely set aside 30 minutes a day where your child gets to pick the fun activity and then pour heart into it. After all, aren’t they more important than a replaceable job?
3. Cook. It is amazing what bonding happens over food. The smells. The textures. The colors. Cooking together is a great way to get quality time naturally. Teaching how to cook or experiencing new recipes and flavors together invites conversation, laughter, and play into the home. Enjoy the mess. Enjoy the yummy product. Enjoy the time with these precious children.
4. Apologize. How often have we yelled at our kids out of anger? Frustration? Exhaustion? How often have we gotten on to them about disrespect? Self-control? The choice of words? Too often as adults, we do not practice this vital step in our relationships with our children. Then we wonder why the attitude doesn’t change or the disrespect increases. We must be willing to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness from our children when we respond negatively to them. They will practice what is modeled to them. Apologize. Talk it out with them like you would in the reverse. Grow together. Be stronger together.
5. Date night: We make it a priority in my home to have a date night with my spouse. But, I think this same tradition should be made with the kids. Quality one-on-one time with each child is essential. It allows the child the opportunity to speak freely, laugh honestly, and get needed coaching without an audience of siblings. It is a perfect time to pour in honest discipleship into the next generation – who loves you above all other people. Once a week, take your kid out or spend some time in, just you two, and see how they prosper.
What are you doing to fan the flame of love in your children?
It is the most wonderful time of the year. Hot cocoa. Chestnuts on the fire. Family and friends and loved ones.
Kids around the world have begun shouting at commercials, “I want that!” Toy catalogs are being circled with hopes and dreams of young and old.
But, for many, this year has brought heartache, fear, and darkness. Families and friends seem farther away than ever before. Fear clutches the hearts of even the most stoic.
But, it does not have to be that way. We can embrace the real and true meaning of Christmas – the greatest gift of all time. To celebrate this gift, my family has incorporated one of my favorite holiday traditions. I thought I might share with you how we have changed our house from a “Give me!” to a “Give them” household.
Elfing: It is better to give than receive – especially when you go out elfing. This is similar to “Booing” (a Halloween tradition). Many do this for friends and family, but my family likes to find those in need. We like to find the families struggling to get by, but would never ask for help. We like to find the families that feel so overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, that the simple act of love changes their life. Some years we choose a single-family and “elf” them weekly for the month of December. Some years we “elf” a different family in need every week. But, it is a weekly part of our Christmas tradition. All you need is a goody bag – or – stocking. Fill them with Christmas fun! Things like coloring sheets, crayons, candy, card games, elf hats, and ornaments are great. Cookies are a favorite of ours. **Tip: The Dollar Tree is a big money saver for small trinkets and fun children’s toys. Have the kids help choose the filling. Then wait till dark, load up the kids, and leave the gift on the porch. Ring the bell and RUN! RUN! RUN! The best part of “elfing” is no one “knows” it was you.
2. Christmas Caroling: Music is powerful! I spent years studying how music is used to create culture. But, of all music, there is something unique about Christmas music. The way it brings peace, hope, and love to even the darkest places is incredible. This year, with so many shut-ins, senior citizens, and families in quarantine, it is easy to think this tradition is out date. But, it doesn’t have to be. We have traditionally caroled with our Rotary Club and church groups, but this year, we are doing things, well, differently. We are caroling via the internet. Simply record yourself singing and send it to the same places you would normally go in person. If possible, make this a family event – my family loves singing together.
3. Give: This time of year is always a bombardment of “give me” from charities the world over. Having spent more nearly 15 years in the non-profit sector, this is often the time of year where most of the budget comes in. It can seem like everyone wants something. We have learned to use that as teachable moments. We present the different ways to give to our son, then we let him pick which ones should be a part of our giving. He also saves all year a tithe (see my article on finances for more) and this time of year is when he chooses where to put it. I highly recommend you look at the charities and non-profits in detail to know how they will spend that money – we ensure a majority of giving goes to the need (not the CEOs). Charity Navigator is a great place to start.
4. Out with the Old: As a military family, we move a LOT. In 15 years alone I have moved 13 times. We have discovered in moving, there is a lot we don’t use or need. So, about five years ago we started a new practice (partly out of wanting to make moving easier and not having to purge a lot). We decided that for every Christmas and birthday, for every 1 thing in, we donate 1 thing out. This helps keep our house manageable but also allows our little to understand that the needs of others are year-long – not just once a year.
So, whatever way you celebrate this beautiful time of year, I hope you find these simple ways to give away to remember what Christmas is all about. May it help take off some of the “keeping up with the Kardashian” mentality at bay and bring us back to the heart of Christmas.
October starts this week. A time of ghouls, ghosts, and goblins. Kids are discussing who to go as for Halloween – if trick-or-treating is even going to be something they can do. Fear is abundant as we look at the last quarter of the year, fiscal health for the holidays, and the fear of sickness. All things scary.
This month I am hoping to tackle some of the scary things I get asked about when it comes to parenting a special. The number one questions I am asked about is what happened when we found out about the life-changing diagnosis; I recommend checking out The Moment for more on that.
Today, I am going to attempt to tackle one of the scariest things people deal with in life – finances. This is a constant fear for most, especially as the unemployment rate rises in America. I was blessed to have parents who taught me the value of work and a dollar. Because of these lessons, I graduated with my undergraduate degree debt-free and paid off my student loans for graduate degree 2.5 years early.
Understanding finances starts young and should be taught in all households. A good understanding of finances will lead to less stress, less debt, and a healthier economy.
How do you teach finances to children? It can be hard, especially if you do not feel comfortable with finances in the first place. So here are six steps we use with our kid to help him understand finances as he gets older.
1. Talk about it: One of the most common things I hear from young adults is they do not know anything about finances. And really, why should they? We stopped teaching it in schools and 62% of America is in credit card debt with 62% of credit card debtors as college graduates! I often encounter people who explain their collection accounts, late payments, and bankruptcy due to being “young and immature.” This is really a claim of ignorance. If we want our children to be out of debt, we have to teach them from the get-go. We have to let them know that food they eat costs money, that light they are using costs money, and those clothes they like cost money. That money only comes from hard work. There is a balance. Talk about it.
2. Teach work ethic: Chores are an excellent way to teach work ethic. Having chores for as long as I can remember, taught me to balance, allowed me to work multiple jobs in college while going to school time and a half (and having a social life), and how to creatively think through problems. Work ethic will benefit children, families, and communities. Good work ethic is reflected in showing up on time and completing the task on time the right way with a good attitude. This should be reflecting in their chores and school work. Teaching these young will help ensure our children have this ingrained in them when they enter the workforce. A good work ethic will lead to better opportunities through more recommendations, higher bonuses, and promotions.
3. Teach giving: This is essential and often left out of finance conversations. If you don’t want to give money, try volunteering. This is a great way to change perspective and priorities. Financial giving is financially sound. This helps encourage budgeting by helping you shift priorities. We practice a 10% rule with my son. It is an easy number mathematically for him to understand. Whenever he gets money (for work done or as a gift), we immediately take 10% and save it for whatever he wants to give to. Sometimes it is the church, sometimes it is the zoo, sometimes it is buying a meal for a homeless person. He gets to pick.
4. Teach saving: This one is hard for most people in our instantaneous world. We are gratified instantly in almost all we do in the first world. We watch as three bubbles pop up on a screen showing a response to our message. We can stream almost any movie and binge-watch entire seasons of shows. Waiting is not something Americans, and most first-world people, are comfortable with. Saving is something that can actually financially save you. To help our little one, we also immediately take 10% of his money and put it into savings. This is what is used for unexpected expenses as adults (the car tire blew out or pipes blew). This account can also be used to save for vacations, new toys, and special experiences. Our son is saving toward a trip to Sea World to meet marine biologists and a loftier goal of adding a red panda exhibit to our local zoo.
5. Teach taxes: As a political scientist, I find teaching this concept is really difficult. Taxes are often taken right out of the check upfront, so when you calculate a budget, this number is very important. Taxes are designed to pay for things like that pothole-free street you drive on daily. Taxes pay for that public library and park you enjoy taking the kids to. Taxes pay for those firefighters who fight fires so you don’t have to. Taxes are helpful to each community. Taxes are paid either upfront or on tax day, but they are paid. We teach our son this but taking 10% of his income immediately and setting it aside in a Taxes account. This way, when he breaks something in the house (which is inevitable), the money to fix it is there. He paid his taxes, so that glass/towel rack/doorknob, etc. he broke can be replaced. The household tax teaches him about the income tax and where that money should go. A great resource for kids on taxes and finances is Finances 101 for Kids: Money Lessons Children Cannot Afford to Miss.
6. Teach budgeting: Budgeting is hard. It takes self-control and patience. When practiced regularly, it is actually quite easy and helps prevent that dreaded debt we all hate so much. Teaching our children this valuable tool is life-changing. Budgeting ensures you always have enough money for what you need and those things that are important for you. It also helps you shoot for a goal. If your hourly $10.00 job is insufficient, it gives you a goal target for where you want to be. Below is an excel spreadsheet that we use for our kiddo that helps. It is filled in with an example. Sometimes seeing the budget in black and white helps change a concept to concrete practice.
This week I have had a significant amount of requests to discuss homeschool. Questions like “How do you homeschool while working? What curriculum do you use? How do you socialize your child?” and so many more have poured int. I will not answer all of them here (in August I will be focusing on the daily tricks for homeschoolers). Today I will focus on curriculums.
With changes in education due to COVID-19, a lot of parents are really considering homeschool. It is not an easy choice (even without the pandemic). If you are anything like me, you wonder if you will be a good enough teacher? Will your child fall behind in academics, social skills, and emotional development?
The good news is there is so much good news!
Homeschooling is not new to the world. In fact, for most of human history, parents taught children or tutors came to houses (if you could afford it). You know your child better than anyone, so you know where they struggle the most and where they can just breeze through. You can essentially create your own IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for each of your children. As my mom used to say, we have “different children with different needs.”
The first major concern is socialization. I get that. It was a big one for me. I will talk more about that next month. For those who have worked with me in editing or social media marketing, you know how much I value data. I have even used data in helping with behavior challenges with my own kid.
As any good data analysis would do, the first thing I did in answering that question was to track how much socialization my child actually got in school (note, this was done when my son was in elementary school). My son left the house at 7:30 on a bus and came back at 3:00. When I learned he was not allowed to talk on the bus, I removed any transportation time from the social component. Lunch was 20 minutes and the recess was 15. There was no talking allowed in hallways. And interactive work with children in the classroom had significantly declined – other than 1 class project a week, my son was learning next to and not with his peers. Taking all that into consideration, as well as really speaking with his teachers, my son was really only allowed to socialized 30 to 45 minutes a day. With home school, that increases so much with play dates, co-ops, small groups, sports, and so much more.
There are so many curriculums out there. And the best part of home school, is you do not have to pick and choose. If your child is a verbal learner, there are curriculums for that. A visual learner? There are curriculums for that. Learns kinesthetically? There are curriculums for that. There are so many, we actually mix and match for our son.
As a researcher at heart, I spent six months reviewing and researching curriculums prior to starting homeschool. Here are some we use, why we use them, and some we don’t but think are pretty great. Many of the below have Facebook groups, local co-ops, and more for additional help and socialization for the kids.
1. Time4Learning***: They are relatively inexpensive with a monthly fee of $25.00 and a military discount. They also use a refer a friend program that helps decrease expenses. This is a DOD approved national standard-based curriculum. This is a great curriculum for kids with special needs.
This is our foundational curriculum. This is great for military families that move a lot because it is national standards and teaches to that. They have 4 foundational courses (math, science, social science, and language arts). Their curriculum is interactive, game, and video-based teaching a variety of methods to problem-solving. They also have built-in Time4Fun (recess of fun games) and the app is mobile so it can be done anywhere.
As I work from home, and reports are due to the school district, I particularly like the freedom this curriculum gives me to work. It has so many tools for reports (attendance, duration in class, scores, etc.) It allows me to input the amount of time a week, length of the school year, and pick and choose what I think is appropriate for the mental development of my child. It then plans the school year for me allowing to change the plan at any time to add in breaks, modify curriculum, and more.
This curriculum also allows my son to have a bit more control of his learning by giving weekly or daily assignments and checklists.
2. Easy Peasy: This is a completely FREE (yes, FREE) curriculum. They recommend a once-yearly $15.00 donation, but even without the donation, you can still use the curriculum. This is a Christian based curriculum. This has all basic subjects as well as Bible, computer, PE, music, Art, Critical Thinking and so much more. They offer Spanish as a language for middle school. (Time4Learning does offer Rosetta stone at any level, but it costs a bit more). This is our supplemental program.
This curriculum also has cash prize contests for writing and science. For those who want to simulate science fairs and excellent writing, this is a great way to help develop those skills with a great incentive!
3. Adventure Academy: This is a fun exploration web-based learning curriculum. They allow the learner to take some control of their learning process. I have not used this curriculum, but I like what is offered. This allows for a more social learning environment by allowing the learner to create their own aviator and work with other online learners. They are currently having a sale of 49% off the subscription – which drops this curriculum down to approximately $10.00 a month. It is super fun! This is interactive and has a lot of visual components.
4. Abeka: Based out of Pensacola Christian College, Pensacola, FL, this Christian based curriculum is used throughout the country and states both in homeschool and private schools. This curriculum has all basic foundation classes, reading, and Bible. They offer video lessons and standardized testing! Depending on your state requirements, that can be an essential factor. This one is more expensive ($100s to over a grand a year and increases with each grade). HOWEVER, they offer flexible pricing, accredited contents, and for those in high school, a DIPLOMA. That diploma will essential for those military families using the GI bill for their kids.
5. Classical Conversations: The basis of this Christian based curriculum based out of Southern Pines, NC is trifold: Classical, Christian, Community. The community that comes along with this curriculum is great for those worried about socialization. As you move to high school, the success on the SAT and ACT for those who use this curriculum is high. For middle school and high school, they offer trained tutors once a week. This is a great curriculum for kids with special needs! This curriculum grows both the social community and the independent investment for kids. If you are a working parent, the requirement for in-person get-togethers may be a challenge, but definitely worth looking at. If you cannot due the community part, you can still access their bookstore with great resources!
6. Liberty University Online Academy: This Christian based curriculum is fantastic. This one is pricey, but offers family discounts, military discounts, and payment plans. They offer structured and customizable learning plans, around the clock access to the curriculum and certified teachers. This curriculum does offer dual enrollment for up to 60 college credits. This is something to consider if your state does not offer this. Dual enrollment has the ability to let your child graduate high school with an associate degree as well! This curriculum also allows your student to graduate with a diploma recognized nationwide!
7. Duoling: This is not a curriculum, but a FREE learning resource. This teaches almost any language with an interactive online environment. Learning a language at a young age can help with communication, critical thinking, and socialization. This free program sends weekly progress reports and daily reminders to practice. With built in incentives of rewards and trophies (much like a video game), this allows your child to move at their own pace. We do use this, but we do not grade our son on this.
8. Supplemental Learning: I am an avid reader and believe, like Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, that learning is done through reading. For those of you who follow my son’s amazing history, you know reading taught him to speak. In addition to the above, we incorporate state level reading into our year. This is approximately ten books a year. The book is read, a paper is written and a project is done. Projects have included everything from building Lego diagrams and book reports to writing a play. This is usually a month-long process, so my son learns how to executive plan at the same time.
9. Unschooling: This is a relatively new idea. This allows teaching children based on their interests and not following a curriculum. This is often termed “natural learning” or “independent learning.” This is not a curriculum, not a method, but a way of looking at children and life. A great example of this is the movie Captain Fantastic about a family that homeschooled their children in the wood. (Do not watch this with your young kids; this is rated R and has adult themes). This type of “curriculum” is an opportunity for you as a parent to educate your child in the way you think is best.
10. Tutors: Yes, tutors still exist. They are also great resources throughout the education of your child. A quick google search will generate thousands of results for tutors near you. A lot of homeschool curriculums offer tutors, but if you choose one without that and need one for your child, this is a great resource to consider. Prices will range with each depending on course work, grade level, frequency and more. This is a great resource to have in your back pocket as your children get older as well.
The best part about homeschooling is that it is fluid. What works for one child might not work for another. What worked one year might not work the next. There are so many options out there. You do not need to feel stuck in one curriculum ever. Do what works for your family.
Know too, that this is a change for your family. Anticipate growing pains for everyone. Give yourself GRACE. No one expects you to be perfect. We don’t expect teachers who go to school for years of getting trained to do this to be perfect. Teaching your kids will be hard (teaching anyone is). I have a teacher friend who once told me, “I love teaching, but there is NO WAY I could teach my own kids.” That is a teacher. Teaching your children is not without challenges. But, picking a curriculum should not be one of them.
Go forth in decision knowing you are not alone. There are tons of communities out there to help. Reach out to me anytime. I would love to know how I can be of better service.
*****As a member of Time4Learning, I have been given the opportunity to review their program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. For more information, check out their standards-based curriculum or learn how to write your own curriculum review.
“You can’t trust kids these days.” “They never do what you ask.” “Kids always talk back.” “Kids today don’t know how to follow through.” “If it doesn’t require a social media post, don’t count on your kid to do it.”
I have worked with youth and their parents for more than 20 years. I hear the same things time and time again from parents, youth leaders, coaches, and the like.
But, in my experience, kids act this way because of the models they have. In my experience someone meaningful in their lives is absent (maybe spends 60 hours a week at work or just not there at all). Someone may be in their life but has broken promise after promise. That weekend promised to teach them to ride a bike or go see them in the school play comes and goes with an apology only.
Children are taught how to behave by adults in their lives. Great children are taught to be great adults by adults who invest in them. It is that simple.
I was lucky to be raised by a man who worked long hours during the day and went to school at night. But, every school play, every graduation, every school assembly growing up, if I asked, Daddy would be there.
Daddy taught me three significant lessons that have instilled in me the very foundations of who I am and how I raise my little one. These lessons are at the very core of what it is to be me. These lessons are what I hope to pass on to all those young kids who come into my life.
Honor Those Who Came Before You
There is no one in the entire history of the world who accomplished great things on their own. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Martha Tereasa all built on pioneers like Martin Luther, Thurgood Marshall, and John Weasley.
American freedoms, the very foundation, were built on the hard work and determination of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson who tirelessly worked together writing not just the Declaration of Independence, but researching every known government in preparation for the Congressional Congress created our Republic.
Great-great-great Granddad John Adams, though admittedly opposed to the rule of law of the day, represented the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre to ensure they received a fair trial successfully negotiated the Treaty of Paris (ending the American Revolutionary War), and went on to be the first American Vice President, Second President and his son became the fourth President.
These men denied everything, fighting for life and liberty, for a world that NEVER existed before. In fact, it took over 20 years, war, and near collapse of a nation under the Articles of Confederation from the Declaration of Independence to the signing of the US Constitution and the birth of American freedoms. Our nation, imperfect as it is, was the first in the world to allow basic human freedoms to the average citizen.
When I look back at my accomplishments (graduate degrees, excellent job, published, author, award-winning public speaker), I know that those accomplishments are a direct result of those who invested in me. My parents, my coaches, the amazing adults who poured into me through Youth Focus, Inc. all impacted not only my success, but the trajectory of my life.
Daddy taught me, not only to be aware of this, but to thank and acknowledge those who invested their time, money, and energy into me. Thank you, Coaches, Mr. & Mrs. S; Mr. and & Mrs. G, Shim, and Brandy, Florence, Carl and Mary Carol, Patty, and most importantly, Mom and Dad. Your efforts have helped create the amazing life I have. I could not have done this without you.
Let Your Yes Be Your Yes and Your No Be Your No
Daddy taught us, no matter what, yes is yes. Sounds easy. But in a world where we glorify a social hierarchy that loves self-image, self-entitlement, and immediacy, this is a hard thing to grasp as a kid.
Simply put, if you make a commitment, follow through. If you said you would help you kid sister learn to ride a bike, but the lead cheerleader invites you to a party, you help your sister. If you said you would watch your little siblings so Mom and Dad can have a date night once a week, you do that instead of going to the weekly football games. It means, if you said you were committing to the school play, track team, debate team (pick a team), you follow through with your best the entire season long – especially when it gets hard.
This allows everyone to trust your word – the very basis of integrity. People will know they can count on you in the big things because you showed up in the small things every day.
Find Something Worth Dying For and Go Live For It
The most important lesson Daddy taught me is to “Find something worth dying for, and to live for it.”
That has been Daddy’s motto for as long as I can remember. And when you think about, it is perfect for finding and understanding your calling.
A key characteristic of leadership is the belief in the cause. The causes that pass the 24-hour news cycle, are those whose leaders are willing to walk the walk, and lay down their life, if need be. IF we want to raise excellent leaders, we need to know what their passions are and help teach them how to cultivate them for good.
As our children grow, we often ask them, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” or “What are you going to study in college?” But these do not get to the root of a person’s passion. Passion is what will keep one motivated through the dark woods of real life. Passion is what will change a weak leader to a strong leader.
Instead, let’s ask our children, “What excites you?” or “What gets you fired up?” “What are some things that you want to change?” When they tell us, regardless of what we believe about those passions, celebrate them. Help them cultivate them. Because they will find a way with or without your help. Use the opportunity to help lead and teach them to be the best at whatever they chose.
These questions will start leading our kids to find their passions so that they may LIVE for them.
This #fathersday week, let us honor those who came before us. Let us stay true to our word. Let us find those things worth dying for, and go live for them. Let us be the beginning of positive change for our children.
Hello from the inside – of the house. It seems to be the same mantra every day these days. Don’t leave the house. Don’t visit friends. Don’t be routine.
It is easy to fall into the habit of leggings and bonbons if you are not careful. But this would be devastating to both health and wellness.
So how do we have a community when we cannot leave the house?
As a parent in the special needs community, I know firsthand how essential it is to have a community – and how hard it is to find. People hear the word special needs, autism, ADHD, blindness, deafness, cancer (take your pick) and give that sappy smile and gracefully bow out of every invitation.
Now we cannot leave the house and we are still supposed to have community? This seems like an impossible task.
But there is hope!
Some simple steps to a strengthened sense of community that will lighten the atmosphere at your home and remind you that your community, neighborhood and good friends are still there…on the other side of the glass.
ZOOM Dates – the New Play Date
Over Easter, we usually have a lot of people over for a feast and egg hunt. My son will create some form of costume for everyone. This year he made jackrabbit hare ears for the older kids and snowshoe hare ears for the younger. We had prepped and told him this year there would be no guests at our Easter table – but he did it anyway.
When the time came for feasting, he said, “We can’t. My friends are not sick. They are coming.” To which we had to explain again, thank you #COVID-19, that this year was a celebration with just the family.
But this was eye-opening.
Our normally social only in scheduled events kid was really asking for a play date. So we did what any parent would – Zoom play date with his best friends.
This is an easy way to see faces, hear voices, and laugh with friends. Near and far. It can last as long or as little as you wish.
Make It A Game
During any phone call, it is easy to not want to chat after a few minutes. It is important to make the play date just as fun as you would if it were in your own home.
Play some games. We used dry erase boards and played Pictionary. Some other great games would be Hedbandz, Speak Out, Bingo and good old fashioned Hangman.
Some other great apps are HouseParty and FacebookKidzMessanger. The nice thing about FacebookKidzMessanger is the a parent is in control the whole time, and the kids can text between calls.
Old Fashioned Letters
It is so nice to be able to see people’s faces and hear their voices with technology like Zoom, Google Video, and Facebook.
But there is something to be said about getting a letter or card in the mail.
You know when you get mail (that is not a bill or junk mail), your heart skips a beat and you think to yourself, “Someone thought of me! How nice.”
Kids get that feeling times 100! My son sees a piece of junk mail advertising a car and immediately states in excitement, “Guess what!? We are getting a car?!” (Yes, he missed the fine print). But the excitement is real!
Our son writes to those in the hospital, in nursing homes, his aunts, old teachers and pen-pals.
There is nothing like seeing him open his mail and immediately want to write back.
So take a minuet and remember the thrill. And encourage letter writing all around.
I know it seems like a neighbor and community are things of the past right now. I know it feels like you are alone in a new world of parenting never seen before. I know you feel lost, anxious and confused. We all do. But these little changes can really impact your health and wellness. These changes will remind your child (and yourself) you are not alone. You are never alone.
Take a minute this week and try one of these things. See how it changes your perspective. Then let me know how it worked out for you. I would love to hear your stories.
When one pictures parenthood they see themselves as perfect parents with perfect kids. Children will be well behaved and, if all goes according to plan, will be captain of the football team or dance diva and go to the best colleges on a full ride. Parenthood is supposed to be filled with lots of girl scout cookies and football games. (Don’t believe me, just get a load of the Netflix show Yummy Mummies!)
No one expects news from the pediatrician, “Your child has some special needs.” Cancer. Downs Syndrom. Autism. Those scary words are not on the top 100 of what you want to hear from the doctor. I have heard it described as a feeling of being put in shackles.
Immediately upon hearing that your child will have more needs than a “streamlined” “average” “normal” child, your life changes. You enter the grieving period. You grieve the football star. You grieve the dance recital. You grieve the sleepovers and parties. You grieve a life you planned for your kid…and yourself.
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. These are the five stages of grief. As a parent with special needs, you will (and we did) go through all of these stages…again and again. But, I would argue, every parent goes through these stages over something about their children.
I know parents who grieved because their child didn’t grow up to the NFL football star. I know parents who grieved because their child chose college instead of military service (and viseversa). I know parents who grieved the loss of children. With children (and here is the part they don’t tell you), you will grieve…at some point…over something. Anyone who says something different is selling something.
When my husband found out our little guy had Autism denial was the word of the day. He blamed our son’s behavior on teachers and babysitters. He blamed the delay on lack of routine due to deployments. Autism just could not be true; not for his son…not for our family. Surely the doctor was wrong…surely there was a need for a second opinion…surely this life long diagnosis was not meant for our family.
I came into the picture later in our son’s life. Children were never really a part of what I thought my family life would include. So, as marriage was a packaged deal, I skipped to step six. But many of my friends have told me story after story of denial. It is from their stories that I write today.
Hubby never really got angry. He skipped the next two steps…once he came around.
Anger is something I can relate to. With Autism there is never a dull a moment. For every two steps forward, with every small change, one can “regress” four steps back. This gets old fast.
This stage of grief comes in waves for me.
When I see my son make so much progress and then we get orders to move and behaviors I thought we had overcome a long time ago come back; when hormones begin to hit and my son has more challenging behaviors; when no one comes to his birthday party because he is considered the “strange” kid; when no one wants to babysit because they do not understand the diagnosis I get angry. I get angry at the diagnosis. I get angry at life. I get angry at me for not knowing how to better understand or handle a situation. I even, yep, I get angry at God for allowing something like this.
Now, please don’t hear this as life is angry. It is in no way angry. These are just stages that we go through as life molds and changes with us. We have learned to celebrate life. But I would be lying if I said I never got angry over the reality of life with special needs.
For some of my friends the bargaining starts with God. “God, if you take this from me, I will go back to church” or “God, if you take this from me, I will volunteer more in my kid’s classroom and be a better parent.”
My husband and I both skipped this step. Perhaps because he is logical and just deals with life as it comes and I already believe God has the best plan for me to give me a hope and future. But this stage is often a long-lived stage.
When I found out that my little guy had autism…well, I did not deny at first…I skipped to the sixth step. But when I realized his nieces and nephews of the same age were joining sports teams and having play dates and birthday parties, I jumped to depression.
The life of a parent with special needs is a lonely life. People, in general do not understand (or do not want to) the reality of life with special needs.
Many times, when I would reach out to family and good friends, I learned quickly that many challenges with special needs need to be faced alone within our immediate family. Instead of support, I learned we got pity, ignorance, and family and friends withdraw. You quickly learn who your true friends are…and they are few and far between.
For me, add in being a military wife and moving every few years, I have found finding friends and keeping them to be much harder.
This is sort of where I came into the process. Because my husband and son are a packaged deal, I just came to terms with the fact that my life was forever changed by the sweetest and most challenging kid I could ever imagine.
It was at this stage I started researching.
I researched what caused Autism (spoiler alert – NO ONE KNOWS). I researched cures for Autism. Guess what? There is none. I researched what effects those with Autism and how to make life easier for them.
There is so much out there! From ABA therapy to diets to vitamins, this field is young but connected. I have learned so much!
One in fifty-nine children, according to the CDC, has Autism. Autism occurs in all races, ethnicities and socio-economic classes. It is the fastest growing diagnosis in America. But it is also the least studied. Yet, nowhere in the research did it say this was a life-ending diagnosis. Nowhere did the research say life stops because of this diagnosis. Nowhere in the research did it say this was the person.
With a variety of tactics and lifestyle changes, my family is more and more healthy because of this diagnosis. We eat better. We spend more time together. We even communicate better – believe it or not.
For those wanting to know right away what we did to get my son from not talking to talking or from not being able to hold a broom to hitting a tennis ball with a baseball bat, I promise to share.
For those who just found out their child has a special need or life-threatening condition, it is a process. No one expects you to have all the answers. And the stages will come and go in waves…if you are anything like me.
But, you are NOT alone! No longer should we be a community that hides away. Reach out for help. If you’re angry, be angry. If you are scared and depressed, reach out! No one should have to walk through life alone.
Man is not an island. There are probably more people than you know in your life touched by this need or that need. Go for a cup of coffee and vent or watch a good documentary or enjoy listening to the problems of others (believe me, it really helps to know you are not the only one with problems!)
But, please, don’t let the circumstances of life dictate how you live it. You are the rudder of your ship. You get to choose which way you go.