A Year in Review

Here goes my reflection time. Last year was another season of huge changes. We moved across the country last year, and between my last birthday and this birthday, we invited our first girl into our home, and our third child. If I had to name three words that describe last year, it would be humbling, opening, and exploring.

My husband would say, this was a continuation of a work God was doing to humble us. I agree. It was opening, because I feel like God opened the doors to show me more and more about warfare. And it was exploring, because my family literally took up exploring this new part of United States with great enthusiasm.

God has been showing me areas of sin. While I won’t name them publicly, if you’re one of my prayer partners, then I have been transparent in sharing them, because I covet and need your prayer covering. He is merciful. I am grateful. God has been showing me where I am naive. One of these areas is to learn how truly hard it is to travel across country with three small children. It is just physically difficult to have small children, and to uproot them for a vacation is hard work. It’s worth it, but it’s expensive and it’s hard work. I am also naive to the juggling act of educating more than one child at a time. I’d say I have it easy, because my second one is young, and his education is not too demanding yet. Actually, my first one is young, and his education is also not too demanding yet. I just imagine what it’s going to be like in 3 to 5 years from now, when I can see myself with another baby or two, plus the others, who really require more rigor. It will be an awesome journey.

I’ve also decided that motherhood is somewhat of a blind faith journey. You trust what your mother said. You find mentors. You read the Bible. You reflect on your own childhood and life lessons. You pray. But literally, only God knows how it is all going to turn out. When you are a mother, you know your children are your life’s most prolific work. Your children will spin out whatever you teach them. But they are not a perfect product. There’s so much out of your control. My mom is in a Bible study right now, where everyone there seems to be preaching that your children will walk with the Lord if you do everything right. Can I get a “no” button? As mothers, we cannot control our children as adults, as teenagers, and even as young children. The way God designed us, is to have free will. Discipline is from the inside out. We are handicapped as humans, because we can really only work from the outside in, meaning we can only read our children based on their behavior. Then we fumble and strive first to know, and then to address the heart issue. Only with God’s mercy and help will we ever get this right. And even then, our children only turn out walking with the Lord by God’s own mercy. I digress.

God has shown up big in so many areas of my life this past year. I have been keeping a bullet journal. In it, I have a miracles page. He’s filling the page. This year, we had our first “Family Day” in April. It was truly beautiful to recount God’s blessings with my family that way. Amazing.

Although there is always room for improvement, I feel like I’m keeping things in balance in our homeschool. Like I said, there are many things I’d like to add that I consistently think of doing. But when we get down to the brass tacks of a first grade education, we’re hanging in there. I think this is largely because my Micah memorizes well, and he likes learning. Micah does a rock star job memorizing his Bible scriptures for Awana. To me, this is more important memory work than CC, but he memorizes that like a champ too. I just started reading lessons with Kade… as in M says mmmmm and S says sssssss. I also focus on songs with Kade, and we pick out different letters while we are reading books together. We also work on our speech skills when I notice he says a word incorrectly, like any word that starts in S… he usually needs repeating practice. And Hope, well, she’s in baby school, just learning how to eat food and use some sign language. I’m trying to teach her “milk”, and “more”. All this to say, what I’m really focusing my children on at these ages is to know and love the Lord, be kind and considerate with others and each other, have a cheerful and helpful attitude, and be responsible with their things. I’m really working on the tone of my home being cheerful and giving.

I need to make improvements in many areas in my 36th year however.

  • Keep better track of what we’re actually doing in homeschool. I need to improve my system of tracking things.
  • Do a better job of slowing down before I say yes to things, including saying yes to myself. I am an idea machine. My latest thing is I want to write and speak and produce a “wisdom series” for children. I had better ask God about all these ideas!
  • I could do a better job of keeping the clutter down in our home, and do more cleaning. This is a constant battle. I’m really trying to get my kids to do chores.
  • I need to work on hygiene and organization with my kids – this means I need to really have them work with me. When they have a stain in their shirts, they will need to spray them down and scrub them. When they are done with food, they need to clear their plates, and then wash their mouths and hands.
  • I need to do a better job of juggling the various hats I wear so I don’t drop balls. And God is taking different balls out of the loop anyhow.
  • My mind races. I need to do a better job of slowing my mind down. Lists help. But lists can also be the enemy.
  • I’m still chronically behind birthdays, and although I was doing a good job of being on time places, I’m starting to slip.
  • Spend more time organizing on the weekends.
  • Cook more for the family.

The best books I’ve either read, or revisited, for personal enrichment in my 35th year have been:

  • Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare Manual by John Eckhardt

  • Different by Sally Clarkson
  • Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend
  • The Core by Leigh Bortins
  • The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
  • Raising Your High-Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcina
  • The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Carol Stock Kranowitz
  • Strongman’s His Name… What’s His Game by Jerry and Carol Robeson
  • Childbirth Without Fear by Grant Dickey-Read
  • The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
  • The Life-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson (and the Life Giving Home Experience) <– I’ll probably use this one every month of every year if I’m smart
  • Expand, Grow, Thrive by Pete Canalichio

I’ve enjoyed being a Support Representative with Classical Conversations this year as well, as well as working with Pete Canalichio.

I hope in my 36th year I’ll see revival, family growth, and more self-discipline.


The struggle is real

This is a day that we got back to school work after having two sick days off. My toddler had a doctor’s appointment that involved numbing cream and a freezing cold cotton swab to continue to attack a wart on his ring finger that got bigger. We just couldn’t take him when his little sister was born – we were just trying to eat well and stay hydrated.

This was after we lugged all our heavy bags to the playground next door, because I planned on homeschooling my kids there. Except when I called my doctor about the numbing cream, come to find out it needs an hour to sit on the boy’s finger, which means we had to leave the playground and go to the pharmacy. At the pharmacy, we learn about how the Lord helped Jephthah and how Jephthah had to kill his daughter to fulfill his oath to the Lord.

Then at the pharmacy, the prescription hadn’t come over, and my toddler needed the toilet, so we had to leave with all our bags again to see the doctor’s office and use their toilet. By the time we got there, my toddler decided he didn’t need the toilet anymore.  Then I had to go back next door to fill the prescription. Then come back to the doctor’s office so my toddler to be seen by the doctor. This is the story of how 1 stop became 5 small stops, much to my chagrin. 

At the doctor’s office my children learned about Samson, his riddle, and his betraying wife; his revenge on the Philistine’s using foxes tied together, and how he became a judge. Then we learned about temperate forests, and how deciduous forests are different from coniferous forests. The toddler then gets called back for his appointment.

In the waiting room, I get my kindergartener started on his handwriting. He wrote 4 or 5 letters before the doctor arrived.

You would have thought the doctor was cutting my toddler’s finger off, all before anything even touched my toddler’s finger. And this is the most gentle doctor I’ve ever taken my children to, and believe me, we’ve had some good doctors! I had to hand my baby off to a front desk lady, because my toddler was such a mess. This was not easy!

The doctor gave my children peeps for good listening, even after my toddler was screaming bloody murder. Ewe. But they were both delighted.

We go to get in the car. Lo and behold, I had to withhold the peep from the toddler because he didn’t listen to me in the parking lot. This ensures more screaming.

Once home, my toddler refused to follow directions. That means, he wouldn’t carry his book-bag and walk into the house. I had to discipline him on the sidewalk four times before he decided he better listen to me.

After that, my children wouldn’t eat their lunch. Lunch was a delicious homemade chicken soup. Come on now.

I make chicken chili in the crock pot… which I’m thinking they are going to complain about later tonight, but I’m no short order cook.

The toddler goes for quiet time. He comes out 5 times in 40 minutes. During this, I nurse the baby, and finish school work with the kindergartener. Why are we doing school until 2pm in the afternoon?! Oh, that’s right, because it’s our first day back after two days off, and we lost our sense of discipline and concentration.

I lay down with grumpy toddler and the baby, and give grumpy toddler a bottle. He rejuvenates himself an is happy again. My kindergartener has quiet time now. He asked me no less than 5 times when his quiet time was over. I told him twice to stop asking me, and then the third time, I extended his quiet time. But I let him out early if he said some Bible verses with me about anger and self-control. I realized, though he’s learning to write cursive, he has a hard time reading it.

Today I started writing verses about disobedience and obedience. These verses will benefit the whole family.

I send the children outside to play. They play for 15 minutes or so. I let them see a show for a half hour.

The neighbor brings over a delicious Tres Leche treat. I change and nurse the baby. I discover my other neighbor has a birthday today. We will make her a card.

My kids are going to go back outside to play after they finish their treat.

I am wiped out.

This is homeschooling some days. This is reality. The struggle is real.

Tomorrow will be better.

Tiny hands

Tiny hands, dependent eyes, unsure feet. I love mothering these little ones. I love their messes, their cries, their hugs, their clumsy ways, their laughs, their pats, and their squeals. I wish I could put it in a bottle and open it 30 years from now when I am having a hard time remembering. But then, maybe they’ll fill my arms with grand babies that can help remind me.

Children are utterly dependent on us. Perhaps this is why mothers are anxious that they are doing their jobs the best way, in a way that could gain God’s nod of approval. You cannot rely on the day-to-day to measure how well you are doing in this kind of job. There’s no performance review, no checklist to follow. There’s only quarter after quarter, or year after year, or maybe even decade after decade that will help you see what kinds of seeds you sowed. But these results are muddled by the fact that children will one day choose to go their own way. 

All this, to point to the fact that we are utterly reliant on God, who is merciful to cover our faults and smooth over our gaps, and deliver our children from the ruthless results of our own sin.

Lord, help my children love you more than life itself, more than me, more than their father, and more than their children. Help us all abide in You, and find life in You. And keep us from harm, that we would not harm others, but instead, that we could be useful in introducing others to Your perfect love. Amen.

4 days

It’s taken 4 days to give our home an internal makeover. If a house were a person, this means we left her skeleton (bones), flesh and hair color (walls and finishes) alone, but she’s had a serious wardrobe change. 

Though our furniture is the same, we’ve redone all the spaces. Every item in every single cabinet, shelf, storage area, pantry, medicine cabinet, closet, and drawer has met a scrupulous eye. And every area was chaos before correction. That’s the way life is, isn’t it?

I even overhauled the back patio, and raked and mowed our front lawn. My lower right hip is paying for it though. I did too much the first day.

We ended up filling our trunk to the brim with giveaways, our recycling bin with recyclables, and our big outdoor trashcan with garbage.

All this work made room for our new baby, and I will finally have a prayer closet again after 3 years of missing it. I will say with confidence, one does not need a prayer closet. You need simply to pray. But DO anything that helps your prayer life, please.

We also met our goal of 50% free closet space. I have an entire rack free… about 4 feet of space once the baby is born. And the boys now share space in their closet with Hope’s hanging items too.

I’m now enjoying a hot meal in bed, covered in new soft blankets, which replaced our old broken feather comforter (which I had sewn five times and was still leaking feathers). Oh, and I had three 20% off coupons to boot. My mother would be proud. She’s the coupon queen. Can you imagine how cushy I feel right now?

When I made the bed with the new blankets my boys rolled around in it like little happy puppies, before initiating a cannon ball / pencil / jumping party on it. They are so cute. (Don’t worry, the bed is on the floor again). 

I close by saying this: appreciate your life, your people, your health, and your things. My little family tries not to exist in a consumer mentality… which means when we do make purchases we really appreciate them. 
Happy New Year! 

Be Basic

Simplicity. Minimalism. Decluttering. Tiny homes. All trendy movements right now. Why?

The Information Age drives me crazy. There’s too much commotion, too much motion, too much busy. Coming out of the holiday season I have fought my way into a season of rest. And it feels so good! But then I realized that having my phone on me, with access to the internet has not been restful. What I need right now is peace and quiet… in my soul… which requires shutting down and shutting out the clanging world around me. 

The internet is a series of cymbols bashing and banging about, especially Facebook. My “friends” post their things, but then Facebook does this annoying thing of suggesting articles and advertisements it thinks I like based on false and incorrect algorithms. I even went into my preferences and unchecked everything possible. When a “friend” posts something I don’t care for, I block that particular newsfeed. 

We spent time seeing God’s amazing sequoia trees today. Just breathtaking views were ours to behold both at the national park and on the drive to and from there. The internet didn’t work. The cell towers don’t work there. I was a captive audience to God’s creation. I was with my husband and my two sweet boys, breathing it all in. 

Part of the family heritage we will pass to our children is an appreciation of the Great Outdoors. We want them to understand stewardship in all senses of the word. In fact, my husband’s life calling has to do with leaving the Earth cleaner than when we arrived one day: he’s in solar. We make a habit to pick up roadside trash and carry it along to a can, to recycle, and to be aware of leaving no trace behind when possible. 

We are not perfect. After my kids really start eating food I switch to disposable diapers and wipes. Sometimes we use paper plates. Sometimes we use plastic. But we try to develop an overall conscientiousness in our kids that the Earth and how we treat it matters. This stewardship, we figure, starts with just being in nature, taking it all in. There’s nothing more interesting that pondering the ecology and development of a place, how various creatures came to be and survive there, and who competes for what natural resources. How are the smells and sounds different in different places? What makes one tree different from another? Why does snow glisten in the sun? What causes fog, and why do clouds look flat on bottom sometimes?

And since I’m nesting right now, I’m very aware of how cluttered my brain in, how cluttered my home is and how busy our lives are, and I want to dumb it all down. 

Part of stewardship is managing time. My husband was given forced time off this week, so I have the gift of time and extra help. To God be the glory! Therefore, I have big plans for this time.

Here are some ways I create more margin of time and space in my life:

  1. Plan for homeschool for the upcoming 12 weeks. I will take a whole day to do this while my husband whisks the boys away on an adventure. To prepare, I’ve ordered supplies (as part of our Christmas gifts already) and previewed and even begun some of them as a sort of gentle introduction to them. I’ve also reorganized our homeschool shelf, and enlisted my kids to help with a “toy cleanse” before Christmas even began. I’ve replaced old storage bins with clear ones which I’ve labeled. What a breath of fresh air!
  2. I’ve also taken an honest break from all schooling except reading since Dec 23. We just needed a breather. All of my own work activity stopped then as well, and continues to halt until after the New Year. I’m on vacation. We all just needed Sabbath. I’m a go-go-go gal, a “recovering type-A”, and I like to smile and say. Allowing a break is SO revitalizing!
  3. I’ve said “no” and “probably not” a lot. Sometimes it’s the godly and right thing to do.
  4. I’ve identified what’s been bothering me like (1) things in my backyard that we don’t use or we can’t store (2) boxes of clothes without a home (3) old photos that need to be scanned (4) underutilized closet space (5) baby clothes that need washing (6) things that need to be donated (7) under sink items that aren’t valuable to save or use (8) what I call restless head syndrome… which happens when you allow your mind to jump about, not really focusing on one thing for long enough to amount to anything productive. There’s more. Too much to list. I need to stop and bring it all to God, who has been gracious to answer some of my big “boulder” questions. I need to bring my “stones and pebbles” to Him too, and even the water that fills the space between these rocks in my container called life. Really, I’m asking God to catapult all that doesn’t belong right out, and bring in the tiller with His design alone.
  5. I’ve been pondering what physical things I can depart from in each room and closet. What don’t I use often enough? How do I feel about it’s permanent removal? What precious items could use a makeover? Would other types of furniture suit us better? I’ve been radical in these thought experiments, like what would change if we had no more dining room table and replaced it with a pop-up coffee table? I’ve asked my husband his thoughts and respected his answers. In small space living, this economy of space is critical!
  6. I’ve set space goals in certain areas. In my closets I want 50% of the space clear. I’m happy with my dressers right now. I want to cut down on binders and old paper work by half – this impacts old homeschool supplies, but also old work items and old business-of-life documents. I want our backyard toys cleaned and stored or given away.
  7. I need to recreate our utility binder – it is a central place I list information for baby-sitters, holds vendor information, etc.
  8. My computer has been cleared of 6 gigs of memory since we cleared out old applications no longer used.
  9. Memberships will be evaluated and on the chopping block. I belong to too much. Likewise, email lists will be blocked and removed. Spare me your coupons, retail. I don’t want to consume.
  10. I’ve thought about how I might prioritize the order of attack. Clothes, hope chest and closets first. Kitchen cabinets and pantry next. Medicine cabinet and under sinks. Shed and backyard. One by one. Step by step.
  11. Less Facebook, more communion with God. Use empty closet space for a prayer closet. I had a prayer closet in the first home we owned. I want it back again. I need it. Already discussed it with the husband. He’s on board.
  12. Create stronger time boundaries for various time commitments and reinforce those most important critical habits. 

This is what I’m doing to better honor God, discipline my mind and cultivate better relationships. What’s been on your mind, heart and spirit?

Our children need us to model a good life. We can’t do that when we’re too busy stirring the pot. My goal is to have less to take care of in the physical, so I can take better care of us: our spiritual well-being, our emotional selves, the way we eat, the way we spend our precious daytime hours, the way we should be “present” in each moment, how we spend and save money… what we read, watch, hear and eat… all of it.

I feel better already. Ha! I hope this has helped you too. 

Chores for littles

By request, I’m writing about chores today. Let’s break this down into three parts:

  1. Why are chores important?
  2. What chores can my kid do?
  3. How do I teach kids how to do chores well?

Chores matter because it’s an integral part to teaching kids responsibility. Responsibility matters because one day, you’re going to send those young birds out of your nest to fend for themselves in a relatively unforgiving and competitive world. You don’t want them to wonder how to clean their own laundry, do the dishes, and even how to cook a meal. You want them to know how to pay their bills, budget, and balance a checkbook. You need them to know how to save money for the future, and what the fruit of hard work looks and feels like. You want them to know how to run their own households. Start building good work ethic by training them in these skills from the very beginning.

There are so many lists available on the internet that outline what kids can do by what ages, but one of my favorites is this one: http://lifehacker.com/the-chores-kids-can-do-by-age-group-1689862131. Mind you, only use someone else’s list to get you started. You know what your kids are capable of, and what your family needs. I’ve observed that large families do a better job delegating and training their kids in doing chores well out of necessity – moms and dads are just out-numbered! This means the parents of smaller families need to make delegating and training kids to do chores “feel” all the more important to them (the parents). And remember, it’s mom who ‘generally’ sets the stage for this kind of work. Mainly, because moms operate the home.

Training your kids to do chores well is a three-step process which I’ll come back to in a minute. Let me tell you what’s going to happen as you introduce each new chore. In the beginning, you’re going to get a some, or a lot of, resistance. Because. Chores. Are. Hard. Don’t you remember how making your bed when you were young was so hard, because the sheets were so long compared to the size of your body and your arms, and you could only fluff a pillow so much? Plus, your attention span was that of a gnat… or it seemed that way to your parents. To you, you just remember something else glimmered in the corner of your eye and so you went to it like a moth to a flame… and the next thing you know, you were in trouble for not listening to your parents. Granted, the level of resistance you get from each child depends on his or her personality, age and attitude. Use chores as an attitude-tuning tool. In our home we say “How do we obey? All the way, right away, and with a cheerful heart.” We’ve also found the need to start teaching my strong-willed first born to obey us first and ask questions afterwards, lest we fall into the trappings of an argument.

Children need some motivation. And all children are motivated by something different. As someone who used to do behavior therapy, I was taught there are some broad stroke categories of rewards that kids respond to: positive and negative reinforcement. This could be positive or negative attention; access to items like food, activities, toys, money, or motion; pain or attention avoidance, and sometimes self-stimulation (this could be like rocking, or hand flapping). When you think about your kid, you’re trying to understand the ‘why’ that underlies whatever behavior you’re seeing. You’re trying to figure out how to motivate that child to act or behave in a certain way. At the same time, you’re training their minds through your dialogue with them to process certain outcomes in a particular way. Here’s what I mean:

  • ‘I’m really proud of you. Hard work pays off. I’m going to tell [insert loved one’s name] how well you did today’.
  • ‘You worked hard on that. How do you feel now that you’ve learned a new skill?’
  • ‘You see how your father and I have to wait for to finish some things before we can do other things? Why do you think that is?’
  • ‘After you do this ten times, you’re going to be a pro, and you can take a turn to teach me how to do that better. Once you can teach me, we’re going to go [insert reward].

Of course, with a child who is a toddler, you don’t engage them with all those questions. You just fill their minds with phrases and consequences to form those associations as you want them:

  • ‘Yay!!! You did it! You put your toys away!’
  • ‘You’re so big! You did pee pee in the potty!’
  • ‘Great work! Let me give you a hug and a high five!’

Figure out what motivates your child by testing their response to various reinforcements. The best reinforcers will lose their salience over time, and you’ll have to constantly go back to the drawing board anyway. Depending on your child, and their level of competency and competitiveness, you will also ‘up the ante’ for receiving their reinforcers over time. You could do that by increasing the number of times he or she completes the chore before receiving a reward, or increasing the skill with which you child completes the task. Ideally, both of these requirements will increase over time until you consider your child a master of that chore. Once your child masters a chore, either he or she becomes totally responsible for the chore in your home (even on a part time basis), or then is responsible to help train the next child in your home who is ready to learn that chore.

Now let’s return to that three-step process of training your child how to do chores. It’s simple, and it’s complicated at the same time.

  • Step 1: Model the chore how you want it done. Show your child how to do the chore. Give the chore a name. Call it the same name every time. (i.e. cleaning the bathroom, dusting, cleaning the floors). Include the same steps to completing the chores every time. Break a multi-step process down into smaller steps (You don’t give a two year old a 5 step process, you give them one task. You give a five year old two or three tasks, depending on his or her ability. Keep the task the same until your child does that one thing well. Then add the second task.) Cleaning the bathroom (for a teenager) might look something like the list below, but put it in check list form so they can keep track of where they are. You always want to give a child a review time after completing a task that includes what he or she did well, and what you want him to focus on doing better next time:
    1. Reminders
      1. work from top to bottom
      2. have a cheerful heart
      3. your reward is this: ______________
      4. your goal is to finish this in [insert time]
    2.  Prep
      1. gather white vinegar, microfiber rags, a toilet brush, cleaning spray (we use water, white vinegar, and essential oils), whatever knock off brand of magic eraser you could find for cheap on Amazon… because they exist for cheap on Amazon, and some good music
      2. put away countertop and bathtub clutter – organize drawers and cabinets if necessary
      3. put baking soda and white vinegar in the sink, toilet and bathtub to let soak (remember to plug the drains first)
    3. Top
      1. dust the corners of the ceiling
      2. dust the light fixtures
      3. dust the window frame, clean the window panes, dust the window sill
      4. dust above the bathroom mirror, clean the mirror
    4. Middle
      1. clean countertop with spray
      2. clean sink faucets and shower/tub fixtures with spray
      3. clean sink basin with spray
      4. dust sink cabinet sides and doors
      5. clean back of toilet tank, sides, toilet lid and top and bottom of seat, toilet basin and flush, and then finally the toilet base all the way to the floor
      6. clean sides of shower walls with spray and that fake magic eraser
    5. Bottom
      1. clean tub basin with spray and that fake shower eraser
      2. wipe down baseboards
      3. sweep (always start farthest away from the door and remember to go behind the toilet)
      4. empty trash, put in new trash bag
      5. mop (this usually requires some work on your hands and knees, unfortunately, to achieve a really clean bathroom floor)
  • Step 2: Guide while he or she is doing the task. You want to show your child how to do the task, and then let him or her take turns doing it for you. You will offer mid-course corrections along the way, and stay with the child to ensure success. You may even place your hand over your child’s hand to show them how much pressure you want them to apply. Please do yourselves a favor and keep this a positive experience. Watch your tone, your words and your body language. Keep track of your facial expressions. Give honest feedback. Don’t sugar coat what you’re feeling. Ask your child for feedback. Ask specific questions. Monitor and correct your child’s attitude along the way. If you cut corners or take over doing the task because it’s easier for you in the short-term, watch your child cut those same corners later, or put up a fuss because he or she knows you will allow him or her to escape the activity. Be persistent, kind and supportive.
  • Step 3: Let your child complete the task without you hovering, and come back to offer feedback once your child is done (or a certain amount of time has elapsed). When you have feedback to give, have your child go back and correct items that aren’t done.

If you want to be very thorough, you’ll keep track in a journal somewhere how well your child is doing on various aspects of the chore. That way you’ll see patterns emerge and be able to address them. Be aware of your child’s physiological or neurological handicaps too, please. If you’re child has vision problems, memory or hearing problems, don’t penalize them for something her or she can’t help. Help him or her figure out ways around those issues. Some children pay better attention to detail than others. Some children are natural people-pleasers. Some children simply lack the physical strength for certain tasks. In that case you’ll have to teach the child ‘hacks’ like using the weight of their upper body so they can scrub better, or finding the corner of the top sheet of the bed and walking it up towards the pillow instead of trying to shake it out like he might see you doing.

If you’re child can’t read yet, make simple picture charts. Your child will gain a certain momentum or inertia if he or she does the new chore more often and consistently in the beginning. If you’re teaching your child how to dust, find something for him or her to dust every day at a certain time of the day, like before lunch.

I hope you’ve found these instructions helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to post comments for me.

Young Peacemakers for the Early Years

I’m so excited we got the Young Peacemakers book for my rising 5 year old. We got it so we could use a common language and framework for conflict resolution, and teach him more about how to correctly express himself without getting in trouble for needing to tell us what he needs. He does a fairly decent job of self-control for a little guy with a hot fuse at his age, but hey, we call need help with self-control and self-expression, don’t we?

It’s recommended for 3rd through 7th graders, but if you want to make this book accessible to your younger kids too, here’s how I did it.

Tools you need to do this how I did it:

This book is split into 3 main sections: understanding, responding and preventing conflict. I’m not covering them in order with my son. Following the classical model, and going top down, this is the order I’m using:

  • Chapter 1: We will define conflict and see on a high level how we can respond to conflict
  • Chapter 6: We will look at what the Bible says about honoring God
  • Chapter 8: We’ll look at the freedom we find in forgiveness
  • Chapter 7: The Five A’s for resolving conflict

Then, we will back into the rest:

  • Chapter 3: Choices have consequences
  • Chapter 4: Making choices the wise way
  • Chapter 10: Think before you speak
  • Chapter 11: The communication pie
  • Chapter 2: What causes conflict
  • Chapter 9: Altering choices
  • Chapter 12: Making a respectful appeal

Of course, you may decide to use a different order – this is just what makes sense to me for our family.

Due to the age of my older son, who will be 5 soon, we are learning through games and interactive tools. I have leveraged the book’s tools to make my own ‘manipulatives’.

I’ll share pictures of what I created in the order that I’ll be using them. And I’m sure you can figure how to use the book’s images in tandem with the pie charts and brass brads to create your own at home.

For chapter 1, I laminated the slippery slope after adding a little color to more visibly show my son the danger vs safe responses to conflict. This is hanging on our wall at home for reference now.

I also made print outs of the images we found on pages 23-27 that further defines each type of response. We will use these cards to play games, put them in order of the slippery slope, and to test our memory of what the terms mean. We will act out these types of responses, examine the responses of people we read about in books and ponder how the books would end if the characters had responded differently to each other, and certainly use the suggested activities and Bible stories in the Peacemaker book as well.

The images below share the same colors I used in the slippery slope above, and are laminated on card stock as well. The backs of the cards have their matching descriptions from the book. I just used a glue stick to glue them onto a rectangular shaped piece of card stock to center the images and words.

It’s obvious the lesson lengths are much longer than a 5 year old can take in at one sitting. We will do the whole lesson, but in 3-4 sessions, playing our games in-between lessons. We will also add the corresponding memory verse to our memory work for the weeks we are doing each chapter.

In chapter 6, the book discusses honoring God through conflict by trusting Him, serving others, and growing to be more like Christ. I made a pie chart for my son to play with while we discuss how we wish to respond to conflict. I’m doing this chapter second because we lead with desired behavior in our home whenever we can. Here are some example questions you can use with your kids at home too:

  • Wow, that was awesome obedience! You obeyed me ‘all the way, right away and with a cheerful heart!’
  • I’m sure proud of you because you really pleased God when you [insert victory]
  • I can tell your heart is growing more like Christ’s because you [insert victory]
  • You really demonstrated a new attitude when you [insert difference]. You used to [insert old habit], and now more and more I see you showing more [insert fruit of the Spirit]. I can tell you’re working hard. Praise God!]
  • Let’s look at what happened together. God allowed this [insert experience] to happen. Then He used it to [insert lesson]. And you showed maturity when you [insert response].
  • Is that doing good?
  • How is that serving your friend?
  • How can you bless your friend? your father? your sibling? me?
  • How can you imitate God? What does the Bible say about [insert struggle].
  • Does that [insert behavior] honor God? How can you do that better?

On pages 47, the book outlines main root desires that cause conflict, and the two kinds of choices people can make as a result of our desires. The pie chart below is just so we can review again where conflict comes from and the kinds of choices we can make in response to them. We will discuss at what point we go wrong in our decision-making. We will revisit this again when we talk about chapter 2, but I’m ‘spiraling’ back on purpose to this tool below.

In chapter 8 we look at how to forgive. We will memorize this simple poem below: good thought, hurt you not, gossip never, friends forever.” And my son can color this page if he wants with wipe off markers. Chapter 8 really does a deep dive into the falsehoods of forgiveness, and how it looks different in God’s economy: what it really looks like to fully forgive someone, when to forgive, and the why’s and how’s of forgiveness. This is a chief lesson of life. I wanted to hit this lesson sooner rather than later.

In chapter 7, we will use a spin dial to work our way around how to really forgive someone else properly, and make sure we’re addressing the three principles of forgiveness: repentance, confession and forgiveness which underlie the steps outlined below. We will use this tool again and again until we’ve got it down.

And now we are ready to back into the rest of the meat in more depth.

We already understand choices have consequences in our home, but we will visit this again in chapter 3. I didn’t make a tool for this chapter, but we will really review the concepts on page 54: the lists of consequences for wise vs poor choices. Then we will discuss how to make wise choices in chapter 4. This chapter reinforces chapter 3 quite nicely.

From chapter 10, we will learn how to think before we speak. This is my favorite lesson from the book! When we’re over the heated emotional part of conflict, we’ll go back to work our way through this dial below. As you know with young children, you have to ‘bring the temperature down’ before you can have any real conversations about what happened and how they are feeling. We separate and calm down before we examine and talk about how situations could be handled with more gentleness, wisdom, and kindness in the future.

In chapter 11 we will focus on how we are communicating. We struggle with attitudes in our home, so this chapter on self-expression is paramount. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture of the inside of the ‘pie’ for you for this one. But the pie is divided into 4 main sections: respectful words, respectful tone of voice, respectful body language, and respectful listening. In each pie slice, I’ve written some examples of each of the main sections. In respectful words, it says things like gentle answers, one message. In respectful tone of voice, it says things like pleasant tone, normal volume. In respectful body language, I wrote things like good eye contact, friendly or compassionate expression, standing or sitting up straight. In respectful listening it says “I’m sorry I don’t understand what you mean”, “Could you explain what you mean by that?”, “It’s hard to hear that, but I see”, and “I understand but disagree.”

We will finally go back to chapter 2 to look at what causes our conflicts.

In chapter 9 we can discuss how to make different choices, and we’ll add this to our layers of learning when we’re responding to problems. We’ll brainstorm how we could have avoided that particular conflict in the future, and problem-solve together to prevent more occurrences like the one at hand.

And finally in chapter 12 we will learn how we make a respectful appeal. We’ll learn what an appeal is, and how and when to make one. We can practice by making mock situations, or if we come across a real instance when it’s appropriate, then we will be well equipped.

This book has a lot of depth for a 5 year old, and even for a 9 year old. We will most likely revisit this book every 2-3 years or so for reminders, and for the next child of mine up and coming to this age. I’m glad we now have a framework for conflict to use in our home.

What we did prior to this was similar, but had a little less structure because it was more appropriate for a younger child. Now that we’re getting into higher cognition and awareness, we’re addressing the heart issues more and more, and training my older son how to ask God to examine his, and request changes from other people.

Classical education calls for defining grammar first, then application and finally self-expression. That approach may help you see why we focus on definitions and memorization so much. To ensure mastery of this topic, before we move from lesson to lesson, I’ll make sure my son can tell me the various steps, lists, or attributes from each major category we’re studying. We memorize through games, stories, pneumonic devices, song, and movement. (Believe me, his power for memorization is stronger than mine. I’m studying the skill of memorization right now through two books, just so I can keep up with him!) Then, when we’re applying the terms to real situations we will have agreed on a basis for the conversation, a method of assessment and some pathways to resolution.

I hope you’ve found this helpful!