HELICOPTER PARENTS: DON’T FLY AWAY!

LauraAll Posts

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Every time I scroll through my social media account, I see some type of warning about being a helicopter parent. They say kids these days are too sheltered and are suffering from our fear-laden over-protection. I know that I’m not supposed to obsess over my child’s life.

I’m not supposed to solve his problems for him, perfect his resume, or rescue him from natural consequences, but I’m wondering, am I a helicopter parent?

Are you? 

And if we are, what should we do instead?

I’m concerned that as a society we’ll panic and swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. In an effort to avoid over-scheduling, over-indulging, and over-controlling our children’s lives, we’ll simply steer our helicopters away, erring on the side of neglect.  In 20 years, we’ll discover that our children have grown up without the much-needed presence, wisdom, affection, and support of their parents. Parents will simply “helicopter” somewhere else, obsessing over careers, self-image, health, pets, or whatever.

Simply “flying away” is not the solution.

God helps helicopter parents by giving us a clear vision of what our relationship with our children should look like in Deuteronomy 6. In verse 7, in particular, he tells parents, “You shall teach [God’s character, ways, and commands] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

If we want to avoid helicopter parenting, our best alternative is to get out of the helicopter and to put our feet on the ground next to our children.

God’s vision of parenting is intimate and relational. It is ordinary and on-going…

Continue reading at enCourage.com.

The Importance of Wisely Timed Words

LauraDiscipleship, High School, Motherhood

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

It was one of those afternoons with a thousand commitments. The kids and I loaded the van with the snacks and bags and strollers we’d need in order to make the most out of our trip into town. The first stop would be to drop off our 13-year-old at ballet. We’d swing back around at the end of our excursions to pick her up. She was bringing a change of clothes, so she could go right from ballet to attend a volleyball game with our church youth group. After the little ones were buckled into their seats, she climbed into the passenger seat, squished her ballet bag between her feet, piled her clothes on the center console, and stashed a brush and a handful of hairpins on her lap. She’d fix her hair into a ballet bun during the 20-minute drive to the studio.

I had a million things on my mind. It wasn’t until we were a solid 10 minutes down the road that I finally exhaled and settled into the stretch of country road connecting our farmhouse with town.  I glanced over at my daughter. The visor mirror was open, and she was gathering her hair into a pony tail, holding a few hairpins between her teeth. I asked if she had everything she needed for ballet and money for the game. “Mmm hmm,” she mumbled through the hairpins. Then, I looked at the clothes that she brought for the game.

“That’s what you’re going to wear to the volleyball game?” I asked with disappointment in my voice. “With those shoes?” I added. “They don’t match very well.”

Read about the important lesson I learned by heading over to the enCourage blog…

Reading Valentine Cards, Little House on the Prairie, and Charlotte’s Web

LauraBooks, Reading-aloud

When E.B. White recorded the final audiobook chapter of Charlotte’s Web, he couldn’t get past Charlotte’s death without crying. It took him 17  tries. We nod our heads and know why.

The time is coming – not soon enough – for me to pull our copy of Charlotte’s Web off the shelves for our annual reading. We wait until the lilacs are blooming on the lilac bush by the swing-set so I can read chapters at a time while little ones swing or join me on a quilt under the scented bush. I’ll never forget the year we spread the blanket out under the tree and were set to read when we realized that the 3 pigs had escaped their pen in the barn. We left the book and ran up to the barn. While the children waited outside, this farm-girl-in-theory-alone called out to the God and walked the pigs down the hallway to their stall. Each step in the right direction was both uncertain and wondrous. As if an angel led them, the pigs filed into their pen obediently. I fastened the latch and breathed again. The kids and I returned to the book and gaped when the chapter for the day was, “Pig’s Out!”

Until those lilacs bloom, we’ll be reading the final chapters of These Happy Golden Years, followed by The First Four Years. This is history for us: our first time reading through the entire Little House on the Prairie series aloud together. May it not be the last.

We’ve also been reading aloud the children’s valentine cards. One of my fondest childhood memories is when my dad and I would sit on the couch with my white paper bag full of valentines. Dad would take each card out, open it up, read aloud the message, fold it back up, and return it to the bag. I remember it so fondly because it felt reverent and grounded. I’m convinced that these moments helped me to love my classmates and to feel loved in return. It helped my dad to learn the names of my classmates so he could ask me about them later and recognize them when they came over to play. These 30-some years later, I snuggle next to my sons and daughters to open each card, read each message, and close it. This year, a bookmark valentine from “Lily R.” smells like grapes. We take turns inhaling its sweet scent then tuck the love notes back in the box. As February goes out like a lion with its wind and cold, we are tucked in by this tradition.

3 Practical Tips for a More Peaceful Homeschool Day

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Sonlight

Create a Peaceful Homeschool Day

I’m in the midst of homeschooling an 8th, 5th, and 2nd grader along with a precocious K-4er… add to that a 2-year old with a twinkle in his eye and a newborn. It’s a full house around here and I am always on the look-out for tips and tricks that will make our days more peaceful and productive.

This year, we’re using Sonlight 100 for our 8th grader, Sonlight E for our 5th grader, and Sonlight LA 2 for our 2nd grader. This means there’s lots of learning going on at many different levels: there are read-alouds, creative writing projects, Bible songs, research papers, patriotic songs, timelines, maps, vocabulary enrichment, spelling quizzes, and art projects galore.

Surprisingly, much of our daily happiness comes from the decisions we make in the small details of homeschool life: in this case, how we organize assignments, how we arrange our desk space, and how we deal with distractions.

I’ve just gotta share these 3 simple things that have added a tremendous amount of peace to our daily lives this year.

(I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion.)

Homeschool Assignment Books

I first heard about this very simple method from Sarah MacKenzie at The Read-Aloud Revival (don’t you just love her?). I dug up some spiral notebooks right away.

We’ve been at it for at least 3 years now and here’s why they work for us:

  1. They provide a daily log of each child’s work. At the end of the year, I flip through these with our evaluator and ask for feedback about my daily expectations. She can see the progress and consistency of our work.
  2. They are an easy way for each child to see what is expected, to learn time-management, and to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
  3. They are a simple way for me to set each child up for success for each day. Here’s what works for me: in the afternoon, I grab my “Mom Binder” that contains a 6-week chunk of pages from our Sonlight Instructor Guides and simply transfer the assignments into each child’s assignment book for the next day. Even our 8th grader who follows along in her own Sonlight 100 Student Guide likes that I let her know what I expect from her each day. (Sometimes I jot an encouraging note, a verse from the Bible, or draw a silly cartoon in the margin to spice things up.)

Study Nooks

Study nooks make me ask myself one big question: Why has it taken me so long to make this happen?!

For some reason, all of our kids like to do their work downstairs with the whole gang… and all of the hubbub. It’s practically impossible for our 2nd grader not to be distracted by the pre-schooler’s story time, the 2-year old’s antics, or – of course – the little one’s show time. (Who can resist the Treehouse Detectives when stuck in the middle of a math fact sheet?). At any rate, I splurged and spent a few dollars on a tri-fold poster board, cut it in half to make 2 study nooks, and changed our lives forever. These provide just enough privacy to help my 2nd and 5th graders focus on their work. They feel like they have their own place in the world while being in the midst of all of the fun.

The bonus, of course, is that you can decorate the nook with study aides. We post the week’s spelling words, memory work, and math-tips.

Noise-cancelling headphones

As it turns out, our homeschool rivals a rock and roll concert. After all, we need the same equipment! Any variation of our kids may use these noise-cancelling headphones whenever I’ve lost control of things and the 2-year old is jousting with the 4-year old while the baby cries and Mr. Demme calmly teaches about binomials on the TV and the 5th grader practices the A minor scale on her violin.  (It kinda does resemble a rock and roll concert, doesn’t it?)

These headphones help whomever can’t focus, to focus. That’s a win.

(When they arrived in the mail, our 8th grader tried them on. Instantly, a serene look came over her face. “Oh, I want to wear these forever!” she swooned.) 

Do you have any tips and tricks to add? What helps to bring peace and productivity to your homeschool day? I’d love to know!

 

5 Simple Ways to Connect with Your Child

LauraHealthy Living, Motherhood

Looking for a simple way to connect with your child today?

You don’t have to go to Disney World or spend the weekend at an indoor water park in order to build your relationship with your child. Honestly, sweet day-to-day connections happen right at home when we make a few good choices.

I’ve been feeling mid-winter stress that can darken and distance me from the people I love the most. That’s why I’ve been calling to mind these very simple-yet-powerful things that will make a difference in my home. I hope that they strengthen and encourage you, too.

Oh, and be sure to remember this: spring is always on the way!

 

The Day in the Life of a Homeschool Middle Schooler Using Sonlight Curriculum

LauraAll Posts, Middle School, Sonlight

How to… middle school homeschool?

I’m glad you asked.

Good morning, world! This is me, Viv. I’m an 8th grader who is learning history, literature, language arts, and Bible through Sonlight 100. Are you curious about using Sonlight’s middle school curriculum? Come see what a typical day looks like for me at home. I’m about to start my day… and this is my pile o’ books.

MORNING

BIBLE

(We received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain our honest opinion.)

Sometimes I wake up around 6:45 to enjoy my quiet time with God. Other times, I wake up around 7 or 7:30, eat breakfast with my family around 8 a.m. and enjoy my devotions after that. Here I am doing a lesson in the Holzmann’s Bible Study Sampler. (I love that it is straight-forward and simply teaching me to read, interpret, and apply the Bible.)

MATH

I like to do math right away in the morning. I spend about 30 minutes on Algebra 1 (from Math-U-See). Today, I’m learning about polynomials. Mind-boggling.

HISTORY

Sonlight 100 has me reading through Joy Hakim’s A History of US series. It is so interesting! When I read history, I read every which way: I stand, walk around, lay on the floor, stretch… In warmer weather, I lie on the trampoline or relax on the porch.

LANGUAGE ARTS

(That’s my sister, Lia. She’s in 5th grade and she is working on Sonlight E Intro to American History Year 2 of 2.)

After that, I tackle a bunch of desk work: I add details to my Timeline Book and maps, I practice spelling words, do Wordly Wise Book 8, and work on the Sonlight 100 Language Arts assignments. This week, I’m researching Autism for a research project that is due next week. (I’m exploring the ways we can best educate and nurture children with autism. My aunt has worked very hard to learn about this topic and she pointed me to The Autism Navigator and this podcast.)

Some days, I use this block of time to do my homework for my Science and Literature co-op classes. We meet on Thursdays. (So, get this: in science, we are studying Arctic Climates. I wonder if that’s why Antarctica came to us this year. It was 8 degrees today! Check out this cool YouTube clip of a scuba diver in Antarctica!)

Of course, I’ve gotta cuddle with this cutie whenever possible, too…

Lunch time! It’s “Make Your Own Sandwich Day” aka, “Make Your Brother’s Sandwich, Too, Day”. 😉

FRIENDSHIP, OUTDOORS, PLAY PRACTICE, READ, EXERCISE…

It just so happens that today, my mentor came over. (We get together a couple of times a month.) Right now, we are working through Life Purpose Planning. I treasure our friendship!!

After that, I went to play practice (I’m a Bird Girl in Seussical Jr.!) and went to a friend’s house for the afternoon, but USUALLY, on an average homeschool afternoon, my siblings and I play outside, exercise for 30 minutes (we circuit through rowing, running, and the 7-minute app), read for an hour, and work on art projects while my mom reads to us.

EVENING

We have dinner as a family around 6. We do the dishes, then we may watch a show, read, or play a game. (For those of you who know me in real life: I’m taking a break from all of the hours of ballet that I was doing earlier this year, and I honestly really like the regular evenings at home. It’s kinda nice.)

So, there you have it! I’m learning so much – and reading unforgettable good books – by using Sonlight 100. At this point, I am able to manage most of my coursework on my own, which I really like. I’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have about using Sonlight 100 (or homeschooling in general) from a middle schooler’s perspective.

OUTTAKES:

Yep! That’s my life! 🙂

Your Suffering Is Not the End of the Story

LauraDiscipleship, Ministry

Our pastor was dying of cancer. On weekdays, we’d receive updates about his treatments and his suffering. We’d beg God to heal and sustain him. Of course, we trusted God’s sovereignty and knew that He would do everything in love, but we also lamented that things were not as they should be.

In the dark days leading up to our pastor’s death, his preaching seemed supernatural. A thin, frail man would approach the podium, but as he opened his Bible and taught us about Jesus, he’d transfigure before our eyes! He’d become a young vibrant man, full of vim and vigor, with glowing cheeks and a strong body. At the end of his sermon, he’d pray, close his Bible and slowly—carefully—shuffle back to his seat as the transformation dissolved.

Halfway Healed

One particular week, our Bibles were open to Mark 8:22–26. We read that:

Some people brought to [Jesus] a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

I wish I could remember what our pastor said about the passage, but I can’t. I wish I had written some notes in the margin of my Bible or saved the sermon outline. All I can remember is that at the end of the sermon—after expounding on Scripture in all of the right ways and teaching us that, most importantly, Jesus came to heal our hearts that are blinded by sin—our pastor looked out at us and quietly said, “I do not know why Jesus did not heal this man completely the first time.”

His painful honesty settled over us like a blanket. Of course, we knew that he was actually saying, “I do not know why Jesus hasn’t healed me completely . . . and I do not know why Jesus hasn’t healed you completely.” We sat in silence, grappling with the mysterious ways of an all-powerful God.

Please read the rest of this powerful story on the True Woman blog by clicking here.

When “Maximizing Your Potential” Isn’t Enough

LauraBible Study

I don’t know about you, but I feel so much pressure to make a name for myself, be all that I can be, and to maximize my potential. I feel like we’re all in a race to promote and protect ourselves, to achieve self-actualization the fastest. I’m so tired of focusing on me, me, me.

That’s why today I’m asking myself, would you invest your life to promote someone else?

Instead of maximizing your own potential, you’d maximize theirs.

Instead of working hard to advance your own agenda, you’d promote their message, desires, and life’s calling.

Instead of building your own audience, pursuing your own happiness, earning your own reward, and leaving your own legacy, you’d be all about theirs, theirs, theirs, theirs.

How would that feel?

(Read the rest of the article at enCourage.com today!)

How to Successfully (and Peacefully) Breastfeed Your Newborn at Night

LauraAll Posts, Babies

Guess who I think of when I wake up to feed my newborn at 2:30 in the morning?

I think of you!

It’s true! As I pull on my bathrobe and quietly walk into our sweet baby’s room each night, I reflect on all that I’ve learned over the past 14 years of feeding babies at night and I think, I should pay it forward by sharing the things I’ve learned with my readers.

With our first baby – and even our second – I spent hours every night trying to feed those babies and comfort them back to sleep. I swaddled and shushed and sang and swayed myself to exhaustion… and depression. Even with Babies #3 and 4, there were things I was doing during those nighttime feedings that were perpetuating my exhaustion and postpartum depression.

I needed to learn how  to make those night feedings more peaceful and successful.

Thanks to the advice of generous people over the years, nighttime feedings have gotten better and better with each baby. Now with Baby #5 and Baby #6, nighttime feedings have been much more efficient. Baby and I get better sleep and I don’t struggle with PPD like I used to.

Here’s what works for me. I’d love to know what works for you! If you share it in the comments, we’ll all be stronger for the insights.

How to Successfully (and Peacefully) Breastfeed Your Newborn at Night

  1. First, watch The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD

You don’t have to read the book, just borrow the DVD from the library or from a friend to learn 5 things to try when comforting a baby. When you welcome your sweet baby into the world, try each of the 5 things often. Don’t give up! Just because swaddling, shushing, etc. seems awkward at first, keep at it. These are tried-and-true ways of comforting a baby; there’s a big chance that at least one of them will work well for you and your baby.

For us, swaddling has been a bedrock of peace in our parenting. We’ve used it for every baby and we are believers in its ability to calm and help our babies. In general, we have happy and peaceful newborn-days: I think that swaddling is a big reason why. It helps our babies feel safe and secure: it helps us feel confident and calm.

2. Invest the first 3 days after birth in breastfeeding your baby. 

Put your feet up. Enjoy the opportunity to rest your body. Focus on breastfeeding your baby as long and as often as possible and necessary. I actually choose to stay in the hospital as long as possible so that I can focus on breastfeeding. For me, this helps my milk to come in and it helps my babies to learn how to breastfeed. Once my milk comes in, baby typically receives a full feeding and we are well on our way to maintaining a 3ish-hour cycle of feeding, waking, and sleeping.

This also puts me in a good position to anticipate the night feedings once we are home. Night feedings tend to be every 3 – 5 hours for the first couple of weeks.

3. Get the nod from your pediatrician to let your baby wake you  when she is hungry. 

At the 2-day appointment, I ask if I can stop setting my alarm clock to feed the baby every 3 hours. When the doc says “yes,” I’m all-in! I sleep soundly and trust that baby will wake me up when it’s time to feed.

4. Don’t turn on any bright lights, screens, or sounds. 

My goal at night is to convince my body and my baby’s body that it’s night time, time to sleep. I keep things dark and quiet. I cuddle and handle the baby tenderly, but I don’t talk to the baby.

I don’t use my phone, I don’t watch TV or listen to anything while I’m night feeding. (When I night fed Baby #4, I read on my iPad or phone, but learned that it was a major contributor to my anxiety and PPD. As it turns out, sleep studies have discovered that breastfeeding mothers suffer from insomnia and unhealthy sleep when they use screens at night. Apparently, the stimulation turns our brain on and inhibits us from falling back into deep sleep even when we do get back to bed.)

So, join me in just rocking quietly. We don’t have to be productive or entertained all of the time. Let’s give ourselves a break and enjoy the sweet peace of the night. If I’m lucid enough, I will enjoy the time in prayer, otherwise, I just rest quietly in the darkened nursery.

5. I aim to follow these steps for every  night feeding:

  • If necessary, use the bathroom and fill water bottle first.
  • Then, un-swaddle baby, leaving the swaddle blanket laid out in the crib for an easy re-swaddle.
  • Nurse baby on one side, burping baby when necessary.
  • Change baby’s diaper.
  • Re-swaddle baby.
  • Nurse baby on the other side, burping baby when necessary.
  • Baby falls asleep while nursing.
  • Lay baby on her back in the crib.
  • Return to bed immediately. Savor the sleep… zzzz….

6. Get the most out of each feeding… even if baby falls asleep before he’s done.

Try not to skimp on a feeding.

It is SO tough to make sure baby gets a full feeding when baby falls asleep and I am deliriously tired. Whenever I’m tempted to lay baby down prematurely and return to my own warm bed, I remind myself that I’d rather work hard to get in a full feeding now and earn a 3-hour stretch of sleep than enjoy the instant gratification of returning to bed now only to be woken up in 30 minutes by a hungry baby.

I’ve learned that if I need to rouse a baby who is already changed and re-swaddled, I just need to lay her in her crib and sit in the rocking chair for a few minutes. Sure enough, she starts to move and root for her next feeding. I pick her back up and finish feeding her.

If you’re ever tempted to shorten a night feeding, I hope you hear me cheering you on to get the full feeding in! I know you’re exhausted and your bed is so so comfy-cozy, but if you complete the feeding, you’ll LOVE that 3 or 4 (or 5!) hours of sleep that are coming your way.

7. Remember: things change dramatically at 3 months.

During the early newborn days, I have to remind myself often that SO much changes when a baby turns 3 months old. Typically, everything gets much, much easier: nursing, sleeping, playing, everything. By remembering that the most challenging days of breastfeeding and sleep-deprivation are numbered, I feel encouraged to serve God – and my baby – gladly, in this season.

I hope that something here is helpful to you.

Please check with your doctor before listening to anything I say here. I’m not a pediatrician. I’m just a momma who is sharing what works for her. 🙂

What are your tips and tricks for these sweet newborn days? 

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