Summer Goals

This is my first summer as a mom with kids in school. The first summer where our day-to-day will look dramatically different than when school is in session.

It’s also the first summer that I haven’t been having a baby, living in another country or moving. So, I’m pretty excited and I want it to be an intentional time of reconnecting.

Before we started making our summer plans as a family, we talked over how we wanted this summer to feel. Did we want to travel? Did we want to move? Did we want to make some strides in personal growth?

After talking it out, we all agreed, we wanted to reconnect. Reconnect with each other, reconnect with what’s important to us. Settle in to some healthy rhythms, not do anything crazy or disruptive.

Now that we had a direction, we started making some individual notes and plans. I made up this “Goal Sheet” for each person in the family to fill out and then we got together and funny enough there was a lot of overlap.

We each wanted to stay healthy, we each wanted to do some pleasure reading. We each wanted to have some fun family adventures.

After laying it all out we created a few rhythms:

  1. Daily rhythms: With four kids, if I don’t set up SOME sort of structure on the daily, things will run into chaos. So, we set up a daily rhythm that we employ most days. – Chores, – Reading, – Imaginative Play, – Screens. We also do highs & lows for the day and read a family book out loud each evening. This is our daily order for most days.
  2. Weekly rhythms: We decided to exercise four times a week in the mornings, have ONE family fun adventure per week, one day a week for playdates with friends, and a weekly reading list that IF we all complete, means we get a family pizza party.

Of course I realize all of these plans may go to nothing once the summer get’s going, but I love moving into these next 10 weeks knowing what fun activities we have planned, when we are free to get together with friends, a simple daily rhythm for those days we stay home and just play, read, go to the pool or bake together.

What I don’t want is to go into the summer with no plan, no direction, no guidance, no goals – kids saying they’re bored, me feeling like the days are hot and endless, way too much screen time, and getting to the start of another school year wondering where our summer went.

Here are the printable you can use to create your own reading lists, adventure lists and individual goal sheets. I hope it inspires you to seize this summer, let it be a time of joy, connection with your kids and lots of fun.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD SUMMER GOALS PRINTABLES

Traveling to Paris with Kids Part 2

I can’t believe we’ve been back home for over a week now. I probably shouldn’t have followed the instagram #walkinginparis because now my feed is FULL of people’s photos as they stroll through Paris and I’m dying to go back.

But today I’m sharing the second part of our tips and experiences from our trip to Paris with our four kids ages 8, 7, 5 and 2. It was a crazy adventure and we LOVE traveling with our kids – even if it is a lot of work.

If you haven’t read Part 1, make sure you read it first, and now we’ll pick up with transportation and how we got around the city.

Transportation

We took at Uber van to and from the airport, because 6 people + luggage, but other than that we just took the Metro. We got a pack of 10 tickets (it’s cheaper for kids, so that was nice) and we bought them right at the train station. The kids LOVED taking the metro – except at rush hour in the afternoon on a weekday, it was SO packed we were squished into that metro car tighter than I thought possible. You really can get anywhere via the metro, and it was very easy to navigate.

Of course we did a lot of walking. My kids typically complain if we have to walk a LOT – but maybe it was all the amazing buildings and people to watch, they barely complained at all and walked a TON and didn’t seem to be bothered by it at all.

We brought a cheap umbrella stroller with us – because the metro stations don’t have elevators and we wanted something light we could carry up and down the steps. It did break after just three days of using it – but we did let our older kids ride in it when the baby didn’t want to, so that might have been the really problem with that. A lot of the “paths” in the parks and even at Versalles, are small stones, so it can be a little tricky to have a stroller.

I did get to borrow a toddler sized baby carrier for our 2 year old and she slept in it every single day for her nap, it worked out really well. We absolutely got a workout, carrying a 35lb baby most of the time, but we made it through.

Parks

We stopped at a TON of parks. Every day we stopped at least 2 to 3 times. This was a good idea for several reasons: first, the city is packed. It reminds me a lot of New York. People everywhere, trying to get where they need to go in a hurry, no patience for kids or strollers or large families trying to figure out how to get places. We all needed a break from that every so often. And Paris has some amazing parks. Instead of one massive one in the middle of the city, like New York, there are a few large ones and lots of small ones. Once again, being there in the spring had it’s perks, flowers were blooming like crazy and it was so beautiful.

Here are a few of our favorite parks:

Bois de Luxumborg – This was by far our favorite of all the parks. It’s big but not too big, lots of chairs to sit, beautiful statues, and buildings all around. We visited here more than once.

Gardens of Versailles – The gardens of Versailles are gorgeous – a little big, but breathtaking and two large fountains. Plus, it’s right in the middle of all the action. The open space over by Antoinette’s cottage is beautiful, peaceful and enchanting. I know this isn’t TECHNICALLY in Paris, but make sure, if you head to Versailles, you give yourself ample time to explore the grounds.

Park by Cathedral of Notre Dame – This park was gorgeous, and right by a super fun coffee shop and book store called Shakespeare and Co.

Park at Saint-Jacques tower – We loved this little retreat in the middle of a busy shopping area, and the ancient gothic tower is pretty cool too! You can actually go to the top of it I believe.

Coulée Verte René-Dumont – This is almost a MUST SEE in my opinion. it was beyond beautiful, the views are fantastic and it’s a really safe and gorgeous place to let the kids run and explore. 

Park in front of Eiffel Tower – Just lots of open space, kids can run and play and let off some steam. We had the BEST ice cream here at a little stand, and there are some fun playgrounds here as well.

I hope this helps as you plan your trip to Paris. There is so much to see and do, and even thought I wouldn’t call Paris a particularly “kid-friendly” city, our family was impacted and changed because of this amazing trip. I will cherish these memories forever.

One last thing to share – on expectations – at the beginning of the trip I was a little disappointed because the kids were fascinated by finding random bits of trash on the streets, bottle caps and broken souvenirs left behind by other tourists. I kept saying “Guys! look up!! Look at these buildings! What do you think of that statue?!” I was so deflated because we spent all this time and money and I felt like my kids were missing it, focused on dirt and garbage!! And then I realized, I can let their narrow focus ruin MY trip to Paris and constantly nag them to stop, and look, and pay attention, or I can be happy they are entertaining themselves, realizing this may be a coping mechanism they need to handle all the stimuli, and enjoy the heck out of Paris and not require them to enjoy it the same way I do.

It helped SO much – for all of us. So what if they enjoyed sketching Pokemon characters in the park, when there is a thousands year old gothic tower right next to them? So what if they are more interested in kicking a rock through the streets than admiring the architecture? They got from the trip EXACTLY what they needed to get from it, and I was going to be fully engaged in MY experience, no matter what.

Later in the evenings, when discussing the day, I would be amazed at the things they remembered from exploring the city, I thought all they were looking at was the ground, but they picked up on so much more. And I didn’t need to force them to pay attention or look up, they were fine.

If you do take some travels with your kids, whether to Mexico, Paris or anywhere else you decide to go, I hope you reach out to me! I’d love to hear about it and follow along, and CHEER YOU ON, because so much of life is EASY, and traveling with kids is not….but when we make the effort, we get the reward <3

You can follow me on Instagram @van_fernan and I hope you do introduce yourself, tell me about your travels and say hi!

Traveling to Paris with Kids – Part 1

This spring we went to Paris with our four small children.

Call us crazy, but when we saw some great flights on the EXACT dates of our Spring Break, we jumped at the chance and although we could have gone just my husband and I, traveling as a family is something we are really passionate about. (Check out the blog posts from our month living in Mexico here here and here)

I’ll probably write a few posts about our trip and some revelations and lessons and such, but we’ve had so many questions asking about tips, and things to do and recommendations, that I thought I’d get that done first – while it’s all still fresh in my mind.

I’m breaking this list up into different categories so you can just scroll down to the one that interests you most.

Just a little overview of the purpose of this trip. We did not take this trip as our “One and only trip of a lifetime” trip to Paris. Our goal and intention is to travel the world regularly with our kids and return several times. This was helpful because we could tailor the trip to THIS season, with the kids at THIS age and not feel bad if we had to skip things that wouldn’t serve us at this time. We wanted to be compassionate towards our kids and not force them to go to hours upon hours of museums, but at the same time push them a little outside their comfort zone and trust that they are people and capable of appreciating and enjoying the good, the true and the beautiful even if it’s not wrapped in bright, primary, cartoon colors.

Children are amazing and more capable than we often give them credit for, they can eat at fancy restaurants, and enjoy modern art. Balancing this with compassion for their attention spans and need to run and wiggle is not easy – I won’t say we did it perfectly, but this is how we try to travel – stretch them and then give them a rest and break to be kids. Our four kids were 8, 7, 5 and 2 years old on this trip.

Ok – on to the tips and recommendations!

Tourist Attractions:

Big Red Bus Tour:
Being that we are from a “tourist” city ourselves (Miami, FL) we often scoff and roll our eyes at all the tourists sitting atop those gaudy big red busses rolling through the streets. However, going to a new city and exploring it through “wandering” as we like to do, we thought it would be fun to get a bird’s eye view and get our bearings as to how the city is laid out. This ended up being a great idea. We got to sit (hooray!) and listen to a tour guide give some awesome facts and history about the city that made the experience so much better! Ideally, we would have been studying Parisian history before going on this trip, so that we had background info and all sorts of interesting stories to reference, but life is busy, and that didn’t happen. This was a nice short cut for that – and also, fun to learn all the stories while being RIGHT UNDER the very monuments we were learning about.

The kids loved the bus as well and were fascinated by the stories the tour guide told us. It really did add to the experience the rest of the week when we got to explore some of the museums and monuments in greater detail, we all already had some history and background to go off.

Eiffel Tower
Yes, yes and yes – obviously.
It’s breathtaking and just walking around it was amazing for us and the kids.
The park right in front of the tower is a perfect spot for a picnic (more on how to source picnic food in the food section)
We decided not to go up the tower this trip – although I kind of regret it and if (or rather, when) we go back I would love to do it (if we only had our older three kids and not the two year old we probably would, we were nervous the baby would freak out in such a long elevator ride and neither of us wanted to cary her up 1,000+ steps.

One of the things we learned on the big red bus, was how many scientists and mathematicians it took to make sure the Eiffel Tower was constructed perfectly – and they engraved the names of all these math nerds on the tower to spite all of the artists of the city. Finding the names and marveling and having discussions on the necessity for both art & beauty and order and precision was fun to have with our kids because we have one who wants to be an engineer and another who wants to be an artist.

We HIGHLY recommend seeing it at night. It gets all SPARKLY every hour on the hour for about 5 to 10 minutes. The kids lost their minds when this happened and it was a really special moment.

—> Aside: at every monument, museum, restaurant and park we tried (maybe not so much when we were just exhausted) to engage the kids in conversation. Not talking TO them (which we tend to do a lot in the day to day) but talking WITH them. We do this thing called “The Question of the Day” and whoever has a question to discuss can bring it up. It’s fun to ask good questions, and it’s fun to hear what questions our kids have. It’s not always easy to draw thoughts and ideas out of your kids. Sometimes their thoughts and ideas are lazy and silly. Sometimes their thoughts and questions are hard to answer and uncomfortable, but it was one of the most fun parts of the trip for me, to not only SEE and TASTE and LEARN about things, but observe and draw out from the kids how they were processing everything.

Arc de Triomphe
This is just absolutely breathtaking to be up close to (and far away). Again, one of those monuments that we skipped going up to the top of. We tried to reserve standing in long lines for those things we we felt were absolutely worth it, out of compassion for the kids. Once again, I will say, I would probably like to go up next time, but at night!!

Once again, the big red bus gave us some amazing facts about this monument – commissioned by Napoleon but he never saw it completed, they carried his body through it when it was brought to Paris to rest. The “tomb of the unknown soldier” is here and at 4:30pm there is a ceremony for that (much like the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown solider in Arlington National Cemetery)

Museums
We only went to three, again, trying to keep things manageable for the kids. We went back and forth over whether to go to the Louvre or skip it, in the end we skipped it (I know, the sacrilege!!) and I am SO glad we did!!! We saw the outside, walked through the gardens (which were just BEAUTIFUL in the spring – the statues are amazing) and headed for the Musee de l’Orangerie – a PERFECT size museum for our kid’s ages. The pieces it contained were AMAZING – Monet, Matisse, Picasso and others – the audio guide was super fun for the kids, the could pick which pieces of art THEY were interested in and could choose to learn more about it. This gave them autonomy and independence over their learning experience.

The next museum we went to was the Army Museum, located in Les Invalides building. This was great ESPECIALLY for our boys. Lots of armor, giant cannons, tanks, guns, swords and other weapons. It was also beautiful (because, go figure, even the weapons were works of art!!). We didn’t see the entire museum – it’s pretty big – but we did get to see a good amount and the tomb of Napoleon (which we heard about on the big red bus, so the kids were already curious and interested to see it!)

Finally we went to the Museum of Modern Art in the Pompidou Center. This was supposed to have a children’s exhibit that is interactive, one of the main reasons why we went, but it was closed. Thankfully, modern art – with all it’s strangeness, was super interesting to the kids. We spent much more time there than I thought we would. It sparked a lot of conversations about what art is, what it’s supposed to do, and the difference between art that beautifies and art that provokes.

Basilica Sacre Coeur 
This beautiful church on a hilltop was one of the absolute highlights for me. We were hoping to be there to watch the sun set over the city, but with little kids, we didn’t force ourselves to stick to a strict schedule. Thankfully it all worked out and we found ourselves at this beautiful Parisian landmark at just the right time. There is also a little spot to sit with room for the kids to play and let out some steam.

The entire neighborhood of Montmartre is lovely. In future trips, this is likely where we would like to stay.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame
We absolutely watched as many Paris located movies with the kids before coming, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame was one of them, so the kids could instantly recognize this landmark. It is such a beautifully imposing building! We were able to go in for one of the Sunday masses, which was lovely (although we didn’t get to actually SIT through it because of a wiggly two year old, we caught most of it and walked around the cathedral and both of us took a moment to reflect and take in the spiritual beauty of the cathedral)

The cathedral sparked great discussions about the role religion played in the middle ages and a brief overview of Catholicism, the pope, lighting candles and the saints and Mary. We also took in the beauty of the architecture and stained glass windows.

Versallies
This iconic palace is MASSIVE. Once again, we opted for the smaller exhibits this time around and skipped the main palace. There is no food allowed inside the palace, so we left a little later in the day and arrived to Versallies (about an hour and a half by train) around 11:30am. We walked the gardens a bit and found a place for a picnic. Then we headed to a little restaurant over by the boats and the sun came out and we simply rested on the lawn there. The kids ran around and played, it was magic.

After that we made our way to Marie Antoinette’s village and King Louie’s retreat homes. The village was ENCHANTING, and mostly enjoyed from the outdoors. There were animals and bridges, really fun and great for the kids. Then we went the retreat homes (palaces) and this gave the kids a little taste of the riches of the king – the chandeliers, paintings, couches, rugs and furniture, with out the crowds in the main palace. It really worked out perfectly for us and the kids – I think this might have been the highlight of the entire trip for us all.

The town of Versallies was also really nice, outside of the actual palace. We ate at a great little pizza place – wonderful service (which we didn’t always have in Paris) and DELICIOUS pizza. I highly recommend eating and walking around the town of Versallies a little bit if you have time.

Food:

Picnics
We picnicked a LOT. Great weather in the spring, beautiful parks and grocery stores all over the place made it an ideal choice. We mostly shopped at Franprix, a local grocery store, and we got cold cuts, sliced cheese, some fruit and some wine (for us) to go. You can also get croissants or baguettes at the Franprix, but usually we stopped into a Boulangerie (bakery) for the bread. Most stores don’t give you bags for things, but we always had our backpack with us and fit everything inside of that. We were going to bring a picnic blanket, but never got around to it. Thankfully the week we went was a dry week (no rain) which is unusual in the spring, but that worked in our favor because the ground was dry, so we didn’t end up needing the blanket after all.

We also enjoyed (for dinner) the rotisserie chickens from Franprix. It was easy to eat and very cheap (about 3,90 euro for the whole thing!)

Picnics are the way to go! And if you are traveling without kids and want to get a little fancier with your picnics (think figs, french cheese, nuts, etc.) we saw plenty of up scale grocery stores that looked just LOVELY – but we stuck with the basics for ease on this trip.

Restaurants
We didn’t eat at a TON of great restaurants. This was one of the hardest things for me to “skip” out on with the kids, but we still ate WELL so I can’t complain. One tip with small children, prepare them ahead of time on how to behave in a fancier restaurant. We don’t eat out a TON back at home either, and if we do it’s some place casual – so we took a few nights at home, before our trip, and prepared a “fancy” meal, with wine glasses for our water cups and our best dishes and cloth napkins and we practiced for our Paris trip. I taught the kids how to put the napkin on their lap and corrected them when they started to slip into crazy “normal” dinner behavior. We talked about how to be courteous to those around us and it was REALLY helpful when we ate at a finer dining place, to have a standard of behavior already instructed to them and set up for them before hand.

We still had spills and I had to remind them SEVERAL times to return to our “good table manners” but I am really glad we did that ahead of time.

The best restaurant we ate at was one of the oldest restaurants in that neighborhood Montmartre called Le Bon Bock. The kids tried escargot (and it was AMAZING!!) and duck confit, we had creme brûlée and it was just delightful. I highly recommend this place!

The other great restaurant we went to was more casual, a little on the healthier side (which was kind of a welcome change, but the kids were not fans of the gluten free desserts) it is located in the Marche St. German. Very seasonal food, incredibly fresh. Mostly soups and sandwiches, but was obsessed with this one open faced sandwich we had with french cheese and roasted endive.

We also snacked, a LOT. We had plenty of crepes and macaroons and ice cream and croissants whenever we felt like it, there’s literally a cafe a stones throw from you wherever you are in the city.

Ok, this is getting a little long – I think I’ll cut it here and pick back up a little later in the week with Part 2. I’ll be sharing all about transportation, park and setting realistic expectations.

If you are a traveling family (or aspire to be) I’d love to connect!
You can follow me on Instagram @van_fernan and I hope you do introduce yourself, tell me about your travels and say hi!

Vacations with Kids

Last night was Happy New Year – and my two year old decided to stay up for it.

Where she got all this energy, I have no idea. We’ve been hiking and ice skating and playing non-stop. But, she did it, and then proceeded to ride the adrenaline high all the way to 2am.

Yes, you read that right. My two year old stayed up until 2am.

I wish I could say this was the most challenging night of the vacation, but it wasn’t. The first night there was no heat in the cabin, so the kids slept in our bed while we slept on the couch.
The second night one of the kids fell off the top bunk, and the baby was up at 5am.
The third night the baby woke up at 3:30am and refused to go back to bed.

In addition to this we’ve had tantrums, sugar crashes, missed naps, sibling fights, kids refusing to have “fun” after we’ve already driven to and paid for said “fun activity” and a 13 hour drive that was supposed to only take 10.

I’m not sharing all this to receive your sympathy. If you are a parent and have ever tried to take a family vacation – none of this sounds unfamiliar to you. It’s just the reality of this season with littles.

Having said all of that – this has been the MOST FUN, rewarding and beautiful vacation we’ve ever taken as a family. (Oh, did I mention, we are also sharing a cabin with extended family as well??)

How? How is this vacation so fun -even- with all these crazy (but actually normal) kid-issues??

It me.
I’m changing.
I’m more connected to myself, I have a deeper understanding of my triggers and my kids (and how the two interact).

I’ve been fascinated with this idea that parenthood is more enjoyable when I become more self-aware, and have greater self governance (aka – I actually become a grown-up) and I wanted to see if this would be true for this vacation – a time where I have typically not been my best self and have often exploded or just been grumpy and not a fun person to be with.

This trip I wanted to implement all I’ve learned. I arrived more prepared, both practically and mentally and because of this and no joke, I am really LOVING our vacation, and almost don’t want it to end. (who even AM I?)

Here’s what I’ve implemented that I hope can help you as well:

1) Expectations

I no longer see these trips as “vacations” – because, it’s not going to be a restful time. Instead my expectation is that we will make amazing memories and explore new places and enjoy new experiences together as a family. Nothing about it will be easy or peaceful or in any way catered to me and my ease. If anything, vacations are MORE work than regular life. The schedule is off, the diet is different, the atmosphere is not our normal comfort zone, there’s packing and travel and lots of moving parts.

Having this mindset shift has been KEY to enjoying these trips with my kids. My husband and I get on the same page about it – we know what the objective of this “mission” is and we are prepared for the combat we have to encounter to achieve our mission.

It’s actually way more fun this way. Leaning INTO the hard and embracing it.

2) Schedule Breaks

Because vacations (or should we just call them missions?) are actually MORE work with kids, we need to schedule breaks. I will arrange with my spouse or another family member, to get a morning off, or an afternoon nap. I will BURN OUT if I am always on high alert because the hotel or condo or cabin is not baby-proof or kid-proof or my kids are extra cranky because more sugar + less sleep. It’s a recipe for disaster if I fail to schedule breaks.

Continuing on with the combat theme – soldiers need to be pulled off the front line every so often to keep them fresh and battle ready. Stand up for yourself, ask for a break – IN ADVANCE – make it clearly known that you need this – you aren’t being selfish, just smart.

I actually had to do this, after being up since 3:30 am with the baby, I NEEDED a nap around 4pm…and I took it, and no one said ANYTHING negative, but I still felt incredibly guilty for doing so. I needed to talk myself out of some shame for a minute. I know it’s hard, but when I woke up I was a DIFFERENT mama, and had a blast with my family – no nap Vanessa would have been a VERY different story!

3) Be Proactive with activities and outings

If my mindset is “vacation mode” I don’t want to plan a THING. I want to sit in front of the fire, go shopping in the cute little downtown whenever I feel like it, and drink a few glasses of wine with dinner (which will be served whenever I start feeling hungry).

Taking THIS mindset on a vacation with kids is DISASTROUS. Do not – I repeat – do not try this on your family vacation (I may or may not be speaking from experience and I may or may not still be traumatized from the chaos which followed that course of action)

What has been more helpful for our family is to be proactive. Once again, seeing it as a “mission” to create wonderful memories with our kids. We look up things to do, we get groceries with specific (easy to make) meals for us and the kids, we bring toys that the kids can play quietly with when we need some down time. We give them clear directives for when things are happening and when it’s resting time, so they aren’t anxious and constantly asking to do things when it’s not the right time.

Yes, it’s work, but remember the objective for this mission is a wonderful family memory, connecting with our kids and each other and exploring a new place we don’t normally get to see.

4) Have an arsenal of Gospel Truth when ish gets REAL

No matter how much I prepared my mindset ahead of time, or planned out activities and brought along toys and crafts and scheduled times of rest – there were STILL moments when I felt frustrated and discouraged. An afternoon I thought I would get off to go to a winery, kid-free, turned into me staying home with the kids and getting peed on by my *mostly* potty trained, two year old.

Here are a few of the gospel truths I have, ready to go, because sleep-deprived, stressed out, stuck in a mountain cabin on a rainy day with hyper, kids Vanessa doesn’t always have the best scripture or truth at the ready.

“His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in weakness.”

When I come to the end of myself, He fills up what I lack. When I’m beyond tired, feeling frustrated or disappointed and there is no relief or escape, I have full access to his grace and power.

“To everything there is a season.”

This is a season. A SEASON. This is the season for SOWING. For INVESTING in my children. I cannot expect to reap a harvest of a beautiful and strong relationship with my children if I am not willing to invest in that relationship now. Not that I have to be perfect, but I do need to be in the game. Engaged. Trying. Willing to show up, even if I fail.

“My life is not my own, I have been bought with a price.”

Not only is this “mission” (aka vacation) something I will enjoy more when I come at it prepared to sacrifice and work hard for the good of us all, but motherhood in GENERAL is always more enjoyable when I realize this life is not MINE to live only for my own purposes, comfort and happiness. Of course, I believe in self-care, making myself a priority and maintaining my own identity, but at the end of the day, sacrifice is a HUGE part of motherhood – I can grumble, moan, complain and roll my eyes at every little thing – or I can believe that there is joy and fulfillment IN the sacrifice.

Unless a seed dies, there can be no fruit.
Unless I am willing to sacrifice, I will not enjoy the fruit of a wonderful season with littles and God-willing, a lifetime of strong connection with my children.

These four things made a WORLD of difference for me this vacation. It’s been absolutely THE most fun vacation we’ve ever had, and this may be COMPLETELY vain of me to say, but I think it has a lot to do with my attitude, planning and reliance on God – the mama sets the tone for the home and the vacation – amiright?

Baking With Kids (Without Losing Your Mind!)

It’s that picture perfect ideal we have in our minds: rolling pin in hand, flour artfully dusted all over our counter tops, our children’s smiling faces, eager to help us cut out adorable little gingerbread men.

The reality however, is not always so picturesque. There are eggs cracked on the floor, I need an ingredient I’ve run out of, two children both want to mix the batter at the same time. It could be easy to simply herd our children out of the kitchen and do it all ourselves, (I have wanted to on MANY an occasion) but there really ARE some amazing lessons and bonding to be had through baking.

Here are a few of my tips for baking (or cooking) with your kids without losing your mind.

** Disclaimer: the author of this blog post in NO way guarantees that you will not lose your mind even if you follow all of her recommendations, children are unpredictable and some days no matter what you try they will TRY YOU. Having said that – these tips can help!

Tip #1) Be Prepared

A little preparation goes a LONG way. Kids (especially very young ones) get impatient. They aren’t interested in tedious things, such as measuring. I always find our baking time 100x better when I have my ingredients pre-measured and ready to dump into a bowl. This also saves me from getting half way through a recipe only to discover a key ingredient missing. Hell hath no fury like a two year old who was promised cookies and has to stop the baking process due to lack of baking powder.

Tip #2) Clearly define each child’s job

Kids actually love rules. Especially when those rules are to ensure fairness. I always start our baking time by clearly defining each child’s job. I let them know who is going to pour the flour, who get’s to dump in the sugar. I tell them the mixing order, first comes older brother then older sister, finally little brother gets a turn. I’ll even go so far as to number out the mixes (“Each person can mix it 10 times and then you have to pass it on”) Might seem extreme, but my children love to know that their turn is coming, it helps them to be patient, it helps them to be respectful – they know the pre-determined amount of times their sibling gets to mix and can have self control because they understand an end is coming.

Tip #3) Create a safe space in the kitchen

Sometimes the chaos in the kitchen is due to the Mother’s anxiety. Our emotions transfer to our children. If we are worried about their safety, it can add to a very stressful activity. I have a designated safe space in my kitchen. Before we start cooking I let the kids know, in my serious voice, that this is the safe space, and when mommy needs to open the oven, or there’s hot oil on the stovetop, If I say “go to your safe space!!” you have to run there and stay until I tell you it’s ok.

I also make sure they know what jobs they CAN do and what jobs they CAN’T – so we aren’t arguing about safety issues. I DO let my kids (especially as they get older) handle knives, showing them the correct way, and teaching them how to be mindful of their fingers, etc. I also let them around hot pans on the stovetop (with supervision) and am constantly instructing them how to be aware of safety issues.

We’ve had a few burns and cuts, but nothing life threatening and the lessons learned have grown their confidence and general awareness in the kitchen. Kids like to know what is safe, what is dangerous and how to take something dangerous and use it in a way that is safe. It makes them feel very grown up and “in the know.” I love encouraging this independence.

Tip #4) Engage in conversation

Kids are most talkative when their hands and bodies are busy. A child who might be tight-lipped in the back seat of the car on the way home from school, can be Chatty Cathy as they mix some batter or cut some cookies out. This isn’t just a time to create food, but memories and connections as well. As long as I can see this time not as the “most efficient way to get food on the table” but a meaningful time with my child, I am able to slow down, not have to correct every thing they are doing wrong, and ask them about themselves.

A few of my favorite cooking conversation starters are:

“What flavors are your favorite?”
“Have you every smelled/tasted this ingredient before?”
“If you were going to make a whole dinner by yourself, what would you make?”
“If you were going to be a chef, what kind of restaurant would you open?”
“How could we make this food even MORE flavorful?”
“Can you find me the (xxxxxx) measuring cup.” (sneak in a little math/ fractions work here!)
“Can you organize these ingredient alphabetically?”
“Can you organize these tools in size order?”

I also try to give a TON of praise to the kids as we are baking. Focusing on affirming their independence, their decision making skills and how much fun I’m having with them.

Tip #5) Keep it Simple

Whether you are a culinary savant or have trouble scrambling eggs, keeping the recipes simple is best for all. The goal is to have fun, learn and create something edible at the end.

I got a Little House on the Prairie Cookbook for the kids when we were reading the books and I love using a lot of these simple recipes. Basic Sugar cookies are also easy and yummy. If you don’t want to have to deal with rolling and cutting (although that is one of the funnest parts!) these snowballs are really fun and rolling them in powder sugar is an great/easy job for little hands.

I’d also highly recommend following @charlottemasonpoetry on instagram for some wonderful kid-friendly recipes throughout the year – for Christmas they have published one for Chocolate Buns that I can’t wait to make with my kids.


Cooking and baking with your kids can be SO much fun.

Yes, it does require some patience and planning, but it’s well worth it.

I hope these tips and conversation starters and resources give you some confidence to get baking with your littles this holiday season.

Smells and Spaces: Christmas Traditions

When you think back to your childhood Christmas, what are your dearest memories?

For me it’s my grandmother’s Italian cookies, my mom’s vintage white porcelain nativity set with a pearlized glaze. It’s driving down that one street in our neighborhood that got LIT UP. It’s the smell of the Douglas Fir my dad always got the day after Thanksgiving.

Smells and spaces.

I can’t think of one holiday memory that doesn’t include these two things.
There are actually studies that discovered smells are what trigger our most vivid and profound memories.

So what does this mean for us as we are working to build memories with our children? I don’t believe Christmas needs to be FULL of go-go-go or do-do-do BUT a few strategic choices can go a long way to solidifying some amazing memories our children will take with them for years to come.

In the spirit of doing less with MORE intention – here are some of the ways I am incorporating smells and spaces intentionally, in hopes that my children will always be able to look back fondly on our Christmas celebrations.

Smells:

  • Choose ONE candle from your favorite candle store -or- essential oil blend and use it consistently, year after year.
  • Choose a favorite egg nog, apple cider or chocolate milk recipe.
  • Make Cinnamon ornaments to hang on the tree or use as gift tags. (here’s my favorite recipe)
  • Bake the same cookie recipe year after year.
  • Find a place in nature, a hiking trail, park, mountain or ocean/lake and breathe in and breathe deep. Different locations take on a different smell each season and connecting to the fragrance of nature is special and hopefully your children can visit this same location and smell the same smells year after year.
  • Choose a special perfume or essential oil blend that you wear. As mothers, we are our children’s safe space and cuddle spot, and I love the idea of giving them a smell to connect with.

Spaces:

  • Creating vignettes is my favorite way to establish consistent “spaces” in my home during the holidays. A vignette is a grouping of items that tell a story. Things like nativities, candles, picture frames, etc.
  • The tree is a big “space” in the home on Christmas – I like creating traditions in this space with special ornaments.
  • Cuddle spots/reading spots are fun to establish in the home – I have this one corner of the couch I always sit in to drink coffee and when the kids want to talk about their day, or we are going to read a book we all move to that spot – it just creates this feeling and consistency with the kids to help them feel safe and secure.

Being mindful to be consistent with smells and spaces can go a LONG way to creating those memories we long to have with our children. I know for me, I always want to do something new and novel and exciting, but I often have to remind myself that children thrive on consistency and routines and tradition – especially during the holiday season.

I would love to hear what smells and spaces you think of when you remember your childhood Christmases!

The Joy of Giving

It’s that time of year when we give more gifts in a smaller amount of time than any other.

If you are like me, it’s both a wonderful time (especially when the gifts seem effortless to give and the person so well deserving of some love and appreciation) and a stressful time (when the gifts seem expected or pressured and the budget is getting out of hand).

But when it comes to our kids it can be difficult to help them understand that they are not the center of the world and Christmas is more about the joy of giving than getting.

How do we raise kids who love to GIVE in a season when they are tempted to only think about what they can GET??

As with all things, this starts with us. Are we as parents modeling the kind of behavior we’d like to see in our children?? I had to take A MAJOR look in the mirror on this one – as someone who tends to get more than a few things for MYSELF on Black Friday and very few things for anyone else.

Do my actions communicate to my children that I get JOY in my life is from getting all the things I want?? -Or- have I learned the hard lesson, that when I sacrifice, say no to my own material “needs” (and I use the word needs ever so lightly) and create margin in my life to share or spend money on OTHERS there is an even greater joy and satisfaction to be found?

Once we have taken a look in the mirror, I would propose to you that the next best way to ensure our children are generous givers is to present them with opportunities to give that allow them to experience the natural joy we all get when something we have done blesses someone else in a real and tangible way. 

Not all giving is created equal when it comes to our children FEELING the joy. If we are buying toys to drop into a toys for tots bin, for kids they will never see and know nothing about – it’s going to be difficult for them to imagine or experience the joy that child will experience from their generosity. If we are donating to a cause online, it can be extremely difficult for our children to understand the impact we are making.

Here are a few ideas that can allow our children to not only participate in the act of generosity, but EMOTIONALLY experience the satisfaction of their actions – and THIS positive emotion will be embedded into their hearts and minds for the rest of their lives.

  1. Filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child: I love this ministry/activity because your child gets to choose the gender and age of the child who will be receiving the box. They can add handmade cards and notes and gifts. And then you can also track the box and see where it’s going – adding this personal touch helps to create ownership and excitement around the personal nature of what we are doing and who gets blessed by our generosity.
  2. Adopting a Family for Christmas: I love this activity because you get to adopt a LOCAL family. It’s an entire family, and you will get some personal information about the kids in the family. Anything personal that we can share with our kids about who we are serving will help them to make real connections. I also love the website I linked here – they have some great questions to continue the conversation with your kids as you are doing the activity or after.
  3. Picking out gifts for friends and family members: This is the MOST personal gift giving you can encourage your kids to do. Some kids are naturally very generous, while others could use some direction. I have a few of each kind of child and with my children who struggle a little more I like to take some time, one-on-one and ask them questions to help them think generously.

    “What is (Grandma)’s favorite thing to do?”
    “She likes baking”
    “Ok! What is something we could get her that would allow her to enjoy that even more?”

    “What do you love doing with (Uncle Jo-Jo)?”
    “I love playing soccer with him!”
    “Ok! What gift could we give him to thank him for that?”

    Walking them through questions like this helps to teach them how to think of others, how to be grateful for the ways each person in our family adds something unique to our lives AND the coolest part about this kind of gift giving: your child can BE THERE when the gift is received. I think this is 100% NECESSARY that your child sees the actual JOY on someone’s face when they receive a gift from your child. It’s just the BEST and actually can become addictive. Your child will WANT to keep giving after feeling that joy and satisfaction.

  4. Making gifts for others or providing a service: I love the idea of teaching my kids that sometimes being generous doesn’t require any money at all. Whether it’s making cookies for a neighbor or soup for a friend who is sick. Or maybe helping someone with yard work or doing volunteer work at a local animal shelter – our TIME and TALENTS are gifts along with our material treasures.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure you can find many more ways to cultivate generosity – my challenge to you is to make sure there is a tangible, experiential, component to the activities you choose. The more of this our children encounter and personally feel the impact of their actions, the more we can encourage that our children not only go through the motions of generosity, but REALLY feel the joy of giving.

Salt Dough Ornaments

Last year I went all out and created 25 activities for the month of December and it was AMAZING! (You can read about it HERE)

This year – with the kids being in school and there being less space in our adorable little apartment, I’m toning it down a little. But, come on guys, it’s still me…so here we are, November 24th and I’m already one Christmas Craft in!

This one is so cute and easy and fun: making Salt Dough Ornaments.

The recipe is beyond simple:

1 Cup Salt

2 Cups Flour

1 Cup Water

Mix it all together and roll out like cookie dough. Cut out your ornaments like cookies – this is the most fun part! Lay out on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 2 hours (if you roll your dough thick, it might take 3 hours). Make sure you make a small hole in the ornaments before they dry so you have some place to tie a string or hook.

Once they are dry you can decorate with paint, glitter, etc.

The kids just LOVE these ornaments and we mke them almost every year. Also, this is a great alternative if you love the idea of Christmas cookie making but not the sugary binge that comes after.

The Power of Rhythms

One of my favorite aspects of the Charlotte Mason method of education (the method that I prefer to use and align with the most) is the focus on creating habits and rhythms to the day, week and month. Not just for the children, but for the mother as well (this concept can even serve you if you have no children at all). This is NOT something I do naturally, nor have I found it especially easy to get these rhythms started. If you only knew how many times I tried to create a “chore chart” before giving up.

When I first tried to add new activities or focuses to my day and personal growth I tried to do WAY too many. I wanted to implement all the things all at the same time. All I felt was overwhelmed, frustrated and exhausted.

After learning to pair down, my next mistake was trying to stick all my new desired habits to a schedule. At 10:05am I needed to start my habit of tidying up the playroom – it was ON THE AGENDA. Well, it took me all of a few days to realize that kids and schedules just don’t go together. Heck – forget the kids – ME and schedules just don’t go. The structure was just too rigid for me.

And this is where I lived for a while. Frustrated by my lack of ANY structure, but intimidated and overwhelmed by the ultrastructure that I would see in so many of my highly organized friends and overly detailed planners.

Once I started diving into Charlotte Mason’s writings on how to help children establish habits, the idea of rhythms to the day felt like a great middle ground. There is a plan to the day, we have objectives and a structure, BUT rather than each activity being tied to a specific hour, or being confined to a 20 or 30 or 40 minute time block, it is more about the rhythm of the day and the order to the day.

Now, if you are reading this, you are probably in one of two camps. The first camp is the ultra organized, everything has a place and a time, and you may feel that this is simply not ENOUGH structure for you. I get that, and if your system is working for you, then more power to ya!! However, I have found that life is life. There are things outside of our control and sometimes, being SO strictly tied to a time and a specific slot can cause problems. Activities that are important to you, like reading aloud to your kids, might not happen on a consistent basis if there’s traffic that cuts into the “reading hour”, or a giant mess takes forever to clean up, or any number of things get in the way.

If, however, you have a rhythm established, then you know read aloud time comes after you get home from school, and it can be 3:30pm on Monday or 4:30pm on Tuesday because you needed to stop at the store for some milk before getting home. Having a rhythm keeps the activities happening from day to day, without life needing to go picture perfect -or- making a you feel like a failure because the “schedule is getting thrown off!!!”

The second type of reader may be the one who shudders at the word schedule. Who feels confined or overwhelmed or just bored by the idea of doing the same thing at the same time every day. I get that – 100%, I feel  much the same way, but here is my argument for why it can be really powerful to create some rhythms.

  1. Creating rhythms gives you a plan that you don’t have to re-create every day.

I don’t know about you but it is EXHAUSTING for me to have to figure out what to do each day!! Whether it’s with my business or with my kids. The fewer decisions I have to make, the better. Having said that, I do still have some room for decision making, because I can be flexible within each allotted “activity.” For example, when I was homeschooling, every Thursday was our day out. I would pack lunches the night before, and we would head out of the house. Sometimes to a park to explore nature, sometimes to the science museum, sometimes we’d take the metro downtown and walk around the city to enjoy the energy, architecture and food. I could find flexibility with what we did, but I knew each Thursday we would be explorers. This was intentional to foster a sense of adventure in my children and broaden their horizons and what they were exposed to.

Having this weekly rhythm allowed me to make time for what was important to me, keep me from having to recreate the wheel each week – but also give me some flexibility for my spontaneous nature!

2) Creating rhythms allows you to automatically honor YOUR priorities.

Whether you love or hate planning and scheduling, you have to admit that without SOME sort of structure, to do list or intentionality, your life will drift and usually that drifting does not take us where we want to go. The good news is that creating rhythms is an AMAZING way to be intentional about how you spend your time, without having to be a slave to every second being micro-mangaged.

When I want to set up a new rhythm in our lives (more on this later, but I highly recommend starting slow and adding one rhythm at a time, because building habits takes focus and work) I start by making a list of all the things that I might possibly want to improve. It can be anything from improving the atmosphere in our home and a more consistent cleaning routine, or it could be a character trait I’d like to see my kids, like servanthood or hard work. Once I’ve made my list (chances are, if you are on Instagram or Pinterest, there will be no end to the list of things you could potentially want to see improvement on, and this is where we fail so often. There are SO MANY things we are constantly wanting to do or learn about, or implement with our kids, and yet we rarely take the time to think: “What makes sense for us TODAY?” and make a decision to work on ONE area at a time and take REAL action so our wishes become reality) I will consider EVERY option I have written down and pick the ONE that I want to see become a reality.

If this is difficult for you, remember, it’s ALL GOOD. There is no “wrong” decision. If you are improving yourself, it almost doesn’t matter what you pick. Everything bleeds into everything else. If you choose to start with your health, you better believe your parenting and marriage are going to improve as well. If you choose to strengthen your friendships, you may find yourself more positive at work. Don’t get so hung up on it being the “perfect” area to begin with, the point here is to decide on SOMETHING so we can place our focus and energy in ONE direction and actually see progress. (One question I do like to ask myself however, is “Which area is causing me the most pain?” -or- “Which area, if I really improve in it, will bring me the most joy and satisfaction?” I always find at least one or two areas rise to the top whenever I ask these questions)

Now that you have your area of growth selected, it’s time to create a rhythm in your day. I strongly believe, if you are starting from scratch and have ZERO rhythms established, the morning should be your first place!

There is something powerful about how we start our day. If you are a natural morning person, like I am, you can get REALLY creative and elaborate with your morning routine.

Mine is about two hours long, if I am able to complete all of it (remember that whole conversation on kids and flexibility?) and includes my skin care routine, listening to podcasts, drinking water, gratitude, planning out my day, setting my top objectives for the day, mediation, reading scripture, praying and a workout.

It doesn’t HAVE to be that elaborate however, If you are not a morning person, you can make your rhythm a slower one. Maybe you start with coffee and listening to classical music. Maybe you do some gentle stretches and affirmations. Maybe your goal is to simply get yourself in a grounded, positive state before the day starts. The important part is the rhythm being INTENTIONAL (meaning, you are doing the things YOU have decided feel good to YOU).

If you do want to focus on creating a morning routine – I have a free e-course for you that will walk you through how to create and establish a life-giving morning routine: CLICK HERE to access.

3) Creating Rhythms can create an atmosphere of safety for your children and family

Time and time again, studies have shown that children thrive on structure and consistency. When I first read this, it was bad news for me, because I LOVE spontaneity and get bored easily! But I have to say, as I have begun to implement rhythms into our day and our lives I have been so pleased with the results I’ve seen in my children.

  • There is less arguing. If I have set a precedence for quiet reading time after dinner instead of watching TV, after just a few days and explaining what we will be doing, the kids aren’t fighting it. They aren’t caught off guard by my every whim, they aren’t shocked or struggling to keep up with what I am asking of them. They almost effortlessly move right into the activity and find joy in knowing exactly what comes next and what is expected of them.
  • I can start giving them more responsibility. Now that the kids are going to school, we have a great little morning routine created and because the kids know what comes next, I’ve been able to give them little “tasks” and responsibility that they are proud to do and can begin without me telling them to. This is WONDERFUL because it’s now become something they do from their OWN sense of responsibility, rather than because I am nagging them to do it over and over again. It creates a beautiful atmosphere in the mornings, with each child being a busy bee, getting all their tasks done.
  • Rhythms can also become a “safety blanket” that can help children when life gets turned upside down. Anyone else feel like when you go on vacation your kids turn into demon children? I mean, of course the later nights and extra sugary treats probably has something to do with it, but it can also be that the children are reacting to a completely different atmosphere. Different bed, different food, different schedule – it is very disorienting. If, however, you have established little rhythms in your day and life, you can continue to start your day the same way, or have the bedtime routine be consistent – you can take these rhythms with you and find your children much more well adjusted, happier and more content. When Hurricane Irma hit Florida, we evacuated and ended up staying for a week with another family in Orlando. It was stressful and crazy, but I brought our school books (we were still homeschooling at the time) and continued doing our morning school time each day, and I found the kids felt much more settled and at ease to have that familiar rhythm in their day.

The hardest part about getting your kids to fall into rhythms is getting YOURSELF to fall into a rhythm. I highly suggest starting with YOU. Start with that early morning, move into the rest of the day, little by little. What feels awkward at first will soon feel like second nature, and instead of reacting we can be living on purpose.

I plan to make this topic a recurring one on this blog and next installment I plan give some very practical tips for how to get a rhythm started (this is the most awkward part!) and how to get your kids and family ready to jump into the new rhythm with you, but for now, remember – rhythms can work for anyone, even if you are not a particularly organized or type-A personality, and they can be powerful tools to provide structure, purpose and security for all.

 

The Heart of a Homeschooler

We recently transitioned from a homeschooling family to putting our kids in school this year. (You can read more about it here).

It was a difficult transition for me, there was so much about homeschooling that I loved and I was sad to give it up. However, I was shocked to find that MANY of the concepts and principals and ideas at the HEART of homeschooling could still find expression even with the kids in school.

I would love to introduce and explore these concepts with you, I feel like they set the tone for any other resources, guides, etc that I may create in the future. My vision is to create seasonal guides, discussion prompts, activity packets and more for homeschoolers AND parents with kids in school to help parents connect with and take full advantage of these young years. Because, lets face it, sometimes it’s a struggle to connect with our kids in a meaningful way and it can be intimidating, but here is my encouragement to you: THESE ARE YOUR KIDS – you are the perfect parent FOR THEM. Most of the time, simply showing up and being present with them (not just physically but mentally and emotionally) is all they want. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen and heard my kids being CRAZY and all I have wanted to do was run away and hide, but when I realized that they were acting out because they NEEDED some direction and attention, I decided to PRESS IN and in those moments I found the most profound connection and amazing memories that I never would have built without the courage to be present, even through the hard. It feels so counterintuitive but the more I do it, the more natural it becomes and I have been able to transform difficult situations into an opportunity for me and my child to grow together.

So, yes, I am excited to, in the near future, bring you some great resources that will hopefully serve you, especially if you have never homeschooled or thought you could or even wanted to, but I really feel like these principals are super important to lay down as a base before we get into all of that.

The first concept I am bringing over from my homeschooling days is the belief that I am the primary educator of my children and I am capable of teaching them. 

This is a concept that every homeschooling parent has to believe and understand. They are personally taking the full weight of educating their child so they must believe they are capable of doing it. However, even if your children are in school and a teacher or administration is handling the curriculum and the implementation of it, doesn’t mean YOU aren’t also capable of educating your children. Don’t let ANYONE tell you that you can’t because you aren’t a “professional”. Don’t ever believe the lie that you are not able to teach your kids – you were their first teacher and will be a teacher for them for the rest of their life, not only with your words, but with your life.

Plus, YOU are the expert on your child AND education is something that is NATURAL to children and not something that HAS to be structured. 

Believing that you CAN teach your children (even if you choose to outsource it) and that you are the primary educator of your child is something that ALL parents, homeschooling or not, should believe. It’s SO empowering and having that mindset will allow you to see and seize teaching moments wherever and whenever they present themselves. 

Speaking of teaching moments, that brings me to my second principal: Children are ALWAYS learning, structured or unstructured.

Homeschoolers don’t think of education as ONLY happening during a certain set of hours or in a certain atmosphere. In school, for sheer necessity, learning must be structured and measured and planned ahead, but one of my FAVORITE things about homeschooling was how much learning took place organically. If you have the eyes and ears to see and hear it, you will be amazed at how often children are learning and how hungry they are for information. 

As parents, it is our job to notice when our children are hungry for information and provide as much of it for them as we can. As soon as you realize the WORLD is the classroom, the more enriched your moments with your kids can be (and not JUST for them, the world is a classroom for us as well!)

The third principal is that education is more fun and effective when done together.

There are many types of homeschooling, so this may not be true of all, but the method of homeschooling that I employed was not to replicate a classroom in my home (at desks, with a strict time table, very structured), instead, I chose to weave schooling in and out of “living”. Yes, we had time for memory work and that was structured, we did follow a curriculum, and  had time for reading and doing math, but it wasn’t always the same time every day, and sometimes memory work was done at a park or in the car. 

Sometimes, we’d take a full day to explore a natural wild reserve because the weather was beautiful. Because of that flexibility in education, and the way that we would weave education in and and out of our lives, I realized that teaching my kids is most fun when we are learning things and doing things that I’m interested in and curious about. This has to be the starting point for those of us wanting to engage with our children and teach them. 

Instead of starting with what you think you SHOULD be teaching your kids, or what other people are teaching THEIR kids – start with what YOU love and bring your kids along.

One of my favorite concepts when I was homeschooling, was to remember that I am the lead learner, not the expert. I don’t have to know it all, but if I am willing to learn and lead the way and expose my kids to the world, it will spark their curiosity and mine as well. 

This is actually a MUCH easier concept to employ with my children in school because I know the basics like reading, written and arithmetic are already being taken care of. I can simply take the time we are together and be learners together. If I am curious about gardening – we can go learn together about soil ph and pollination. If I want to learn an instrument, we can take lessons together. 

If I want my kids to think learning is fun – I have to SHOW them that learning is fun. If I want to connect with my kid, I need to be INTERESTED in the activity we are doing and invite them to join me. 

The last concept to consider is that children are people too.

This might seem basic, but the implications are profound. What this concept means to me is to treat my children the way I would want to be treated. Yes, I am the parent and I need to set structures and guidelines for my children, but I don’t need to DOMINATE or control them. I don’t need to underestimate them or dumb things down for them. 

I respect that they are a person with preferences and I can challenge them to try new things, but I don’t need to force it. If I am modeling the behavior I want to see in them and I am explaining to them WHY this is a good thing, I can trust that over time they will be open to it. I always want to treat them as I would want to be treated. I wouldn’t want someone to force me to do something I am not comfortable with. I would want someone to be patient with me to warm up to something new over time. So this is the attitude I adopt with my children.

Some of the activities that I have included in my guides will be new for you and your child. They might whine or say they don’t want to do it. They might complain and you might feel frustrated to even TRY these activities if all they are going to do is moan and cry. I have BEEN THERE and it can make you want to shut it down and go back to the comfort zone. BUT, as I said at the beginning, sometimes all we need to do in those moments is slow down, PRESS IN, ask questions, listen to our children. I love knowing WHY they don’t want to do something. Maybe their fears are unfounded and I can talk them through what the activity will involve. Maybe they are just tired or hungry and we can grab a snack before heading out to our activity. I also explain to them WHY we are going on a nature walk, or filling out a gratitude journal each night, I try to give them a vision for the purpose behind this activity. I treat them as a person. I respect their individuality. I speak to them as intelligent beings capable of understanding and reasoning with me. 

Parenting does not always come naturally. Parenting is one of the hardest (if not THE hardest) thing I have ever done. It takes a lot of dealing with MY insecurities, my weaknesses and my own shortcomings. To connect with my child requires humility and a willingness to sacrifice. I do think that these basic concepts will serve you as you move into some of the other guides and resources that I am planning to create. 

You CAN teach and connect with your child.
Teaching moments are EVERYWHERE.
Learn together and start with what sparks YOUR creativity.
Children are people and the more we respect them the deeper our relationship will go. 

To me…this is the heart of a homeschooler.