The End Game: Long-Term Goals for Children

January 11th, 2021

long-term-goals-for-kids

Years ago, back when my kids were tiny, I saw an article in a homeschool magazine that stressed the importance of setting long-term goals for our children if we wanted to see them accomplish everything we consider important. The magazine article broke the long-term goals into different subject headings, so I tweaked and brainstormed what kinds of skills and knowledge I wanted my kids to have acquired before leaving home as adults. Because I knew what my end game was, I knew that I needed to break those goals down into incremental steps over the years, to achieve those goals with my kids.

I brainstormed not only skills and knowledge in different subject areas that I wanted my kids to know, but also areas of character. As a result of those goals, I knew where I was headed, and I focused on the things that mattered rather than on frivolous things. Over the years my kids were able to advance in so many ways, far beyond where I was at their ages, even in their character.

Here is a workshop I delivered recently about goal-setting, where I go into more detail in each subject area, and why we stressed some areas more than others:

If you want to see the full list of goals I wrote so many years ago, here they are:

The skill areas encompass reading, writing, and math, as well as other practical skills such as swimming, cooking, sewing, hand-eye coordination through basic sports skills, driving, etc. For example, I wanted my kids to be able to swim, at least to tread water and get back to shore if a boat was capsized. This skill was important for my kids to have before they left home.

Knowledge areas include science, history, geography, literature, etc. For example, my children learned how to identify over 50 plants and trees based on leaves and other features of the plants. We also read a lot of classical literature, which helped my kids expand their vocabulary so that they could read on a higher lever.

long-range-goals-for-children

Experiences also affect learning. When you experience something, you are more likely to master it or retain the information. This is why I have valued hands-on learning all the way through my children’s upbringing. We experienced a different culture by traveling to Guatemala to see my childhood stomping grounds. We experienced a medieval feast and a Renaissance fair to get into those historical time periods. We went on numerous field trips to see and experience the most out of life that our tight budgets would allow.

The character of my children was the most important area that I stressed, and I’m glad I did. Not only are my kids honest and kind, but they are eager to help other people, they are funny, and they are deep thinkers. I love who they are turning out to be. And we have had so many experiences as a family that have bonded us together in unity, to give my children a sense of identity. They know who they are.

This is why I highly recommend setting some long-range goals for your kids. When we plan long-term goals for our children, we are more likely to achieve those goals, and we can have great experiences along the way.

Quarantine Introspection

January 4th, 2021

quarantine-introspection

Never could we have imagined what 2020 had in store one year ago, while ringing in the new year. Never could we have known the whole world would shut down over microscopic particles, that the economy would bankrupt thousands of companies, that looting and prejudice would rise up, and that politics would be so divisive.

This year has had it all. And yet of all years, this year I have learned to be more of a Mary at the feet of Jesus rather than any other year. Instead of doing for the Lord, I was being more in the presence of the Lord. Yes, there was still plenty of ministry, but it seems like I sat in the presence of God way more this year than any other year because of the pandemic.

As we move into the new year, here are 5 Scripture verses that God brought to my mind to prepare our hearts for 2021:

Looking back over 2020, here are some things we’ve done as a family to pass the time productively during the quarantine:

  • Going for walks around the neighborhood for exercise
  • Putting together a world puzzle & learning about different countries
  • Creating a backyard oasis and vegetable garden
  • Reading books and doing creative writing, including poetry
  • Deepening relationships over the phone and through Zoom

To get a picture of a productive activity that you can do during a quarantine, here is a video of my daughter and I, on a walk during the pandemic. My daughter has the goofiest conversation that she makes up on the spot:

I would like to leave you with a poem I just wrote:

The Quarantine: A 10-Minute Freewrite Poem

hunkered down inside a house
with curtains drawn
waiting for the plague to pass
examining our hearts
looking up to the Almighty
setting our houses in order
wondering if the next fatality
will be someone dear
afraid to hug, to be near
separated by distance
never quite connecting
alone in a pile of thoughts
inactive and desensitized
waiting for things to get back
to normal, to the expected
but life will never be the same
fragility of life is in the forefront

May this New Year bring more of the presence of God into our lives, and may we prioritize the things that matter!

Snow-Themed Hands-on Activities

December 11th, 2020

snow-themed-hands-on-activities

I recently gave a workshop on snow-themed hands-on activities, explaining how to cook snowflake funnel cakes, how to make snowflakes that cling to glass, how to build a successful snow cave, and how to create snow scenes for a centerpiece for your dining room table.

Snow-Themed Hands-on Activities

Here is the workshop with snow-related fun this winter season:

The workshop began with a demonstration of how to make paper snowflakes. This is important in making snowflake funnel cakes because in the same way that you cut out snowflakes on paper, you can cut out snowflakes using flour tortillas.

Cut a piece of paper into a circle, and fold the circle at least twice. With scissors, cut out designs as illustrated in the video. Then unfold the paper to see your unique snowflake. You can glue glitter to your snowflakes or hang them from the ceiling.

Snowflake Funnel Cake

In the same way, grab a fajita tortilla and fold it twice. Using the kitchen shears, cut designs into the tortilla’s folds. Then open the tortilla.

snowflake-funnel-cake

Heat about an inch of oil in a pan, and deep fry the snowflake tortilla on both sides until golden brown. Remove the tortilla with tongs and place it on a plate with a paper towel on it. The paper towel will absorb some of the oil. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the tortilla snowflake. Enjoy eating your snowflake funnel cake!

How to Make Snowflakes that Cling to Glass

To make snowflakes that cling to glass, you will need dimensional fabric paint (or regular white school glue), wax paper, and a paper and pencil.

tracing-snowflake-glue

First, draw a snowflake on a piece of paper. If you prefer, you can find a design online, and print it out. Place wax paper on top of it, and tape it down. Have your child trace the design with the dimensional fabric paint (or white school glue). Make sure that there are no thin lines. All lines should be thick so that when you peel the cling snowflake off the wax paper the next day, it will stay together.

snowflakes-that-cling-to-glass

It works much better with the dimensional fabric paint, since it is thicker and more solid, but it can also work with the white school glue. Make sure to dry the snowflake overnight before trying to peel it off the wax paper. You can stick it to a window or a mirror.

How to Build a Snow Cave

snow-cave

To make a strong snow cave that will not collapse, start by building a mountain of snow. Have the kids climb on top of the hill of snow to compact it down. Then start digging an entrance to the cave. You can make several rooms depending on how big your mountain of snow is. It’s particularly fun to play in the snow cave at night with a flashlight. For more information on building a cave out of snow (and a video of the finished snow cave my kids built), go to: How to Build a Snow Cave.

Snow Scene Centerpiece

In the video I describe how to make a snow scene centerpiece. You get a glass container and dump rock salt in it. Grab some greenery and some winter decorations (or a nativity scene), and arrange it on the “snow” in your scene. Take a look at one of my creations: Snow Scene Centerpiece.

Bonus: How to Make a Snowflake Card with Yarn

I’ve added a bonus snowflake hands-on activity for you: snowflake cards. I did not discuss this craft in my workshop above, but I give a step-by-step tutorial here: Snowflake Card.

snowflake-card

You will need black card stock paper, white string or yarn, and a thumb tack. Draw a snowflake with pencil on the black paper, and use the thumb tack to punch holes along the lines. Then sew the snowflake onto the card. You can use a thick needle, or just push the string through by hand. It looks gorgeous as a Christmas card!

Hands-on Thanksgiving Ideas

November 9th, 2020

Hands-on Thanksgiving Ideas

This year of all years, we have had unprecedented world problems, from the pandemic to the rioting to politics. If we focus only on the negative, then we are likely to become stressed out and even depressed. Instead, why not focus on the positive?

  • The relationships with family members that you have been able to build during this time.
  • The interior design projects you’ve done around your house because you have finally had time to get to things on your to-do list.
  • Gardening has also been really popular during this time, along with getting exercise, going for walks around the neighborhood.
  • I have had opportunities to pray with people and encourage them and see them draw closer to God.

Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what we do have. Look around you and list all the people in your life that you are thankful for, and all the basic things like shelter, a bed, food, and water that we often take for granted. I grew up in the third world country of Guatemala, and I saw true poverty, houses with dirt floors where all they ate every day was beans and rice. And a lot of times, they seemed happier than Americans.

Hands-on Thanksgiving Ideas

In this workshop, I speak about how to be thankful during difficult times, and I describe many hands-on activities you can do with your kids to make this Thanksgiving meaningful:

Here are some activities that can help us focus on thankfulness:

1. Thankfulness tree: Get autumn colors of card stock paper and cut out leaf shapes. Place the card stock paper into your printer and print out maple leaf shapes that your kids can cut out. (There is a free template here.) On the back of each leaf, the kids (and the adults) can write what they are thankful for. You can hang them up on an indoor tree with Christmas ornament hooks, or you can attach them directly to a blank wall with sticky tack.

2. Thankful cards: Why not write thankful cards to each member of your family this year, and hand them out at the Thanksgiving table? You can tell each person what you enjoy about them and why you are thankful for having them in your life. These can be really meaningful.

3. Point out positive qualities about each person: Go around the room after Thanksgiving dinner, highlighting each person. Other people say good things that they appreciate about the highlighted person.

turkey-cake

There are lots of other activities that you can do for Thanksgiving that are whimsical, but they are meaningful because you are doing something fun with your kids, and that creates family bonding:

1. Turkey cake: Bake two cakes from a box, one rectangular one and one with two circles. One circle is the body of the turkey, and you can cut out the head of the turkey from the other circle cake, with a bowl. Make the feathers with the rectangle cake. Or if you prefer, you can use twinkies. Then tint frosting with autumn colors, and frost the cake. I kept a small amount of white frosting for the eyes, and put chocolate chips for the pupils of the eyes.

2. Live turkeys: Go look at some live turkeys, either at a farm or around your neighborhood. (You can even watch an educational video about this bird.) For several years now, we’ve had a whole family of turkeys parading down our street. I captured it on video:

3. Culinary arts: Teach your kids how to cook and bake while you prepare for your Thanksgiving dinner. After Thanksgiving, have the kids brainstorm new recipes for leftover turkey. One year we made little pies by using a muffin tin to place circles of pie dough filled with cherry pie filling, and criss-crossed strips across the top of each one to give them a lattice look.

This is also the perfect time to study the Pilgrims. For several years, we put up a Mayflower ship on our back deck using inexpensive PVC pipe and an old white sheet. The kids dressed up as Pilgrims, and we made candles and butter from scratch. We did a lot of other hands-on activities, which I show you in my Pilgrims Unit Study (that happens to be on sale right now for only $5).

I hope you have gleaned some ideas on how to make your Thanksgiving more meaningful. It really does make a difference when we focus on the good. May you have a Happy Thanksgiving!