Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Keeping Your Teen's Heart

Over the years, I have often been inspired and encouraged by the writing and speaking of Sally Clarkson.    Her book, "Educating the Whole-Hearted Child" resonated with me and had a big influence on how I choose to homeschool my children, and the atmosphere I try to create ( however poorly ) in my home.


I love this post - Keeping Your Child's Heart Through the Teen Years - about creating a family culture that will compete with all the distractions of modern society for the hearts of our children as they grow into the teenage years and beyond. 

http://www.itakejoy.com/keeping-your-childs-heart-through-the-teen-years/





 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Common Sense #2: Older Kids NEED Their Parents Too!

Our society tries to convince parents of young children that they are not necessary except to provide food and shelter, and that experts are much more capable of caring for and educating their children.  While some of us might boldly reject that way of thinking and firmly hold on to our role as nurturer, protector, educator, and guide,  our confidence withers and fades as our children grow older. Ten years old.  Twelve.  Fifteen!  Seventeen!!

Agh!!!

Suddenly we are convinced that we do not know enough, are not smart enough, are not strong enough, can not BE enough to help our children navigate those pre-teen years and young adulthood! We now look to the "experts" - those with specialized degrees that ensure they have the wisdom to keep our children on the path to success. I have seen so many parents who were very involved in their children's lives during the elementary years suddenly back off in middle school and high school, saying things like, "Well, he really doesn't want me around anymore", or  "She will have more fun if I'm not there".

While it is true that parenting changes as children get older, and part of our job is to gradually move them from dependence to independence, I think the "gradually" part has gotten lost in our culture.  Children are being treated as miniature adults at younger and younger ages, and perhaps given choices that they are not yet equipped or mature enough to handle.  I believe that older children NEED their parents just as much as younger ones do.

Again, the parent's role does shift as the child gets older, to more of a facilitator, guide, and trainer.  We need to see our job as preparing them for the adult world by giving them opportunities to learn and grow and experience while still under the watchful eye and protection of someone who loves them and has their best interests at heart.  Their input should be sought and welcomed, but they should know that ultimately, big decisions belong to the parents because we are the ones responsible to God for our children's  well-being until they are old enough to live away from us as adults.


Relationships with our teen-age children should be marked by humor, affection, and caring concern, even when at times we must be tough and stern.  Contrary to the belief of many parents, fueled by the entertainment industry,  it is possible to LIKE your older kids, and for them to like you in return!  Instead of bowing out,  stay involved in your older children's activities, like sports, Scouts, Sunday School, shopping, etc.  Be friendly and a "mom" to their friends - making brownies or ordering pizza when they are at your house, taking them bowling or to the movies, including special friends in family activities .  Play board games, watch movies, go to ballgames, take walks as a family. This is not the same as micromanaging or being a "helicopter" parent. This is being an involved parent and strengthening family bonds already created and nurtured when they were young.

My husband coaches sports teams and was involved in the Boy Scout troop the whole time my sons were involved.  We plan and chaperone the Prom.  I teach my son in our Co-op.  My teens also participate in activities that don't involve us, but my kids know that their parents are likely to be involved in whatever they are doing, and they are fine with that.  When we go on vacation, they all want to come, even though jobs and classes sometimes get in the way.  Family activities take priority over friend activities.  They really have never known anything different.

Enjoy your children - of all ages - and invest yourself in their lives. Too soon, they will be grown and these years of opportunity will be over.  And then we will reap what we have sown during the years of their growing up.



 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

NCHE Homeschool Conference 2012



I just got back from my annual weekend at the NCHE Homeschool Conference and Book Fair in Winston-Salem. I have attended every year since we made the decision to begin homeschooling our children 19 years ago!  Some years the whole family has gone, some years it has been just Mark and me, and some years I have gone solo and hung out with my girlfriends. This was one of those years, and my friend, Becky, and I shared a hotel room and hung out for the weekend, browsing the vendor hall, listening to speakers, eating out, and staying up half the night talking!

We started off the weekend by attending the support group leaders luncheon, and hearing Carol Barnier,  Heidi St. John, and Dr. Chena Flood speak to leaders from across the state. For the rest of the weekend I alternated between attending workshops, browsing the book fair, and chatting with my homeschooling friends.


In my earlier years of homeschooling, I spent a LOT of time in the vendor hall looking at curriculum, talking to vendors, comparing materials, deciding on purchases for the coming year. This year, I was much more casual, looking around for enrichment items for the most part, and purchasing a board game,some story CDs, a grammar workbook, and a book for me. I went to workshops on support group leadership, romance in marriage, homeschooling high schoolers (even though I've done it 4 times, I'm starting high school with the last one this fall) and discovering God's plan for your life.



Why do I still go to the Homeschool Conference? My husband tells me that after homeschooling for 18 years and graduating 4 of our 5 children, I cannot possibly need to buy any more books! (he's so wrong!) Over the years, I have heard dozens of homeschool speakers talk on every topic under the sun and read even more books, blogs, and websites. So what it there left to learn? I go to Conference for the same reason I still am active in our homeschool support group, and that is ENCOURAGEMENT. Homeschool moms, no matter how long they have been doing this or how old their children, need encouragement. We need affirmation and inspiration and motivation. Every child is different, every stage of life is different, every year is different. I always come away from Conference with a "nugget" - some information or exhortation that is just for me where I am right now.  This year, the nuggets mostly had to do with marriage, and the need to purposefully take care of that very important relationship and not let homeschooling or anything else drive a wedge between husband and wife. Heidi St. John is my new favorite homeschool speaker, and her workshops titled "The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance" and "Ten Marriage Myths That Will Steal Your Joy" were funny, informative, and yes, convicting.

Here are Heidi's Top Ten Myths:


#1  My homeschooling wife doesn't care if  I help or not.
#2  Myspouse understands my non-verbal cues.
#3  Being a parent should come first.
#4  We are okay living parallel lives.
#5  If we just "keep love alive", our marriage relationship will take care of itself.
#6  Date night means dinner and a movie.
#7  Joy is a product of my circumstances.
#8  My spouse can/should  make me truly happy.
#9  My marriage is immune to the possibility of divorce.
#10 My  marriage isn't all that important.

I'll expand on this topic more in another post......



For more information about the North Carolina Homeschool Conference and Book Fair, go to www.conference.nche.com



 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cupcakes - Kindergarten Graduation

I had fun playing around with decorations for the cupcakes for our homeschool group's Kindergarten Graduation last weekend. I made 7 1/2 dozen cupcakes - Cookies N Cream, Banana Puddin', Strawberry Cream, and Vanilla White Chocolate.



 These are the Cookies 'n' Cream cupcakes ( white cake studded with chunks of Oreo cookies, topped with vanilla bean buttercream )
To make the topper, I used red, blue, and yellow candy melts.  Each color was placed in a plastic icing bag and microwaved for about 20 seconds, kneaded, then about 20 seconds more and kneaded until smooth..  Snip off tip of bag and squeeze out letters onto a sheet of waxed paper. Do one color, let harden for about 10 minutes, then do next color. 


Vanilla cupcake filled with marshmallow filling, topped with white chocolate buttercream.. The graduation cap topper is made from a mini Reese's peanut butter cup, and chocolate covered saltine cracker, and fruit roll-up for the tassle. I used some melted chocolate chips to "glue" it all together.


Banana cupcake filled with banana pastry cream, topped with banana cream cheese frosting.  For the topper, I used a small star cookie cutter to cut the star out of yellow-tinted fondant.





Strawberry cupcake with strawberry cream cheese frosting.  Diploma scroll topper is white fondant, cut into a small rectangle and rolled. then I cut a thin ribbon of fruit roll-up to tie around it.


I was happy with the way these turned out.








Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Common Sense: Young Children NEED Their Parents

I was recently talking with a young mom whose 3 children were all preschoolers.  Her oldest was approaching "school age", and she was considering homeschooling but had a lot of questions.  I love talking to people about homeschooling and I think questions are GREAT. 
Anyway, this mom was concerned because her child was rather clingy and didn't like being away from her, and people around her were telling her that this child NEEDED to learn to be away from her.  So obviously, homeschooling was a terrible idea because how would her child learn to be independent and to get along  with others, right?

hmmmm.

I looked this mom in the eyes and gently said, "It is perfectly normal for your preschooler to want to be with you.  Young children are SUPPOSED to want to be with their parents. Young children NEED their parents. That is God's design."

It was like the weight of the world fell off of this precious mama's shoulders.  Her whole face lit up as she whispered, "You're right!"

We talked about the many ways that a mother can teach her child social skills as they are out and about in their community, shopping, going to the library, going to church, going to the post office.

"When you are with mommy,  it is safe to answer a stranger when they say hello.  Look in the person's eyes and say hello. Great job!"

"It's not polite to point at people and say things about them, honey. It might hurt their feelings."

"Don't forget to say 'please' and 'thank you'.



Our society has decided that experts should raise children, and parents must peel those tiny, trusting fingers off of their own and  "separate" themselves from their babies.  Then the parents will be FREE -  free to pursue their own interests, go out and make a buck (so they can send at least half of the paycheck to the government ), go to the gym, volunteer,  or do other very important stuff.  And some "expert" - thoroughly immersed, of course, in the most progressive child development theories - can worry about raising those kids.

To me, that is very sad.  What does your heart tell you? 


Homeschool Prom 3.0

Part of the reason I've been absent from this blog for the past month is that I've been immersed in Prom planning, among other things. The 3rd annual Carolina Capital Homeschool Prom, which my daughter and I founded and which I still head up, was held on Friday, May 4th. 

We returned to the same venue we have held Prom at the past 2 years, and that is the beautiful Sutherland Estate & Gardens in Wake Forest., NC, and we also featured the same awesome caterer, Rocky Top Hospitality, and disc jockey, Brian Pate Entertainment. This has been a winning trio for the three years we have held this event!  New this year was  photography by I Believe Designs.



Our theme this year was "Moonlight in Paris".    Our mother-daughter Decoration Committee, Sweeter Than Tea, did a phenomenal job of creating an elegant, chic, vintage atmosphere with the Check-in table, table decor, mason jar luminarias, and a fantastic Candy Buffet.  They truly have an incredible gift!









We had 166 students in attendance this year, from over 27 different towns/cities across central North Carolina. The age range is 14 -21, and there were 3 girls for every 2 guys because we encourage the students to come with friends, and not just with a date, as this Prom is a celebration of homeschooling and of fun and friendship, and not just for "couples". 

We had beautiful weather for Prom night this year, although there was a threat of rain and one very brief and light shower went through during Check-In.  We changed things up a little this year and had a larger event tent so that dinner and dancing were both under cover, rather that dancing under that stars as we have the past 2 years.  Next year, we'll add some fans, as it got a little warm on the dance floor, since the tent held in the heat.  It didn't seem to bother the kids much, although the drink station was kept very busy all evening, and even ran out of cups by the end of the night.








Our Prom does a benefit each year, to raise awareness and donations for a charity or ministry that is near and dear to some member of the Prom Committee. This year, our benefit was the Faith Food Pantry, located at Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville, NC.   We collected "extravagant" items such as shampoo, sunscreen, laundry detergent, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc, which are items that the Food Pantry doesn't regularly have on their shelves but which clients really appreciate. A couple of the young people on our committee prepared a slide show of a day volunteering at the Food Pantry, and Jacob spoke to the guests about the impact of the ministry and ways to  be involved.

 Mr. and Mrs. Rego preparing to accept donations.


Door prizes this year were donated by Lighthouse Christian Homeschool Association as well as a couple of parents.  We drew names and gave away a number of gift cards for things like iTunes, Chilis, Starbucks, and Champs Sporting Goods, as well as a couple of cool Gift Baskets.  One contained 2 Movie passes to  Marquee Cinemas, as well as a variety of snacks. Another was a French-themed basket containing French cookies, soap, Eiffel Tower notebook and stickers, and a DVD of Les Miserables.  There was also a Summer Fun gift basket containing a beach towel, sunscreen, Dairy Queen gift certificate, beach ball, and other goodies.


Of course, our Prom wouldn't be possible without our wonderful chaperones and Sponsors. We had 22 parent chaperones this year, who also enjoyed the evening very much as they kept an eye on things and made sure everyone stayed safe and behaved themselves. They might not be out there on the dance floor working up a sweat, but they do work hard!  By the end of the night, my legs were shot, my feet were killing me, and I was exhausted.  But we all love seeing the kids have such a great time!


We are also very thankful to the local businesses who supported Prom this year as Sponsors.
Sue Patrick's Workbox System
Rego Automotive
The Wake Weekly
Armstrong Wealth Management
Sweeter Than Tea
Dr. Brian Ransone - Chiropractic Partners
Wake Forest Awards and Engraving


Countdown begins for Prom 2013!