Lessons for Life Through Games

“LIFE” may be the name of a game, but real life is certainly more than a game. The game itself has a limited number of options and is somewhat predictable. It’s not a favorite of mine for that reason.

However, there are games that do teach life lessons which have a wide application. Lessons are learned surreptitiously, easily and naturally. Children welcome valuable skills and strategies to win at a game, with no resistance to instruction.

Let’s keep this secret between us as parents and grandparents.

Competitive sports and games that move quickly, with multiple players cooperating for a goal, have a special advantage. Not only is each player having to exercise their own skill and knowledge, but they have to have a “big-picture” of what everyone else around them is doing. They learn to make good decisions “on the fly” in order to achieve the goal. If they take too much time bemoaning a mistake, another good opportunity may pass them by. You learn more by failing, than by succeeding. Words are not needed for this lesson to sink in.

Taking care of yourself so you can take care of your team mate is another life skill. Cheering for another who excels and comforting someone who is struggling are character strengths that can be developed through sports and team play. If you have found a wise coach, these character qualities will be exemplified to the team on a regular basis.

It is a wonderful thing to win against another team. It is an even better thing to overcome your own perceived limitations! Even middle-schoolers can set goals for self improvement and conquer themselves, before conquering another team. We must not protect children from this struggle. That is what builds character.

Encouragement helps in competition, but children often learn best when there isn’t too much criticism by adults. If they are left to figure out the best strategies for teamwork on their own and find solutions, they will stick. This skill will benefit them not only in sports, but in friendships, cooperation in community, academics and future employment.

As in competitive team games, Chess, Risk, Baduk, and other board or card games where strategies are involved, help children to anticipate their competitor’s moves. However, there is more time to analyze possible scenarios than in a sport or team game. Children also learn to read people, increasing their skills of perception. They learn the benefit of thoughtful play and become less impulsive. As they develop a greater understanding of the game, they can record their moves and evaluate what to do differently if that situation arises again.

Games that teach creativity and involve humor also have an important role. Games such as Pictionary, Guesstures, or the free version of Charades develop presentation skills, besides fostering closer trust relationships.

There are plenty of games that are clearly educational. Those can be fun too. However, those making the biggest claim to educational profit tend to be the least appealing to kids. Those resistant to school learn best when they don’t know they’re learning.

How to Help Your Kids Love Learning Again

Are your kids tired of “school?” Does learning seem like a chore to them? It’s probably not their fault. We’ve been trained to rely on textbooks as authorities of what our children must know, and persevere through them faithfully.

Oh, the tyranny of the textbook! Each subject is presented as separate and distinct, stripped of its vitality and laden with seemingly irrelevant facts. Why do we do this to ourselves? Or, to them? How can we teach the love of learning when it isn’t exciting to us?

Textbooks are useful as a resource. But if you want to teach without quenching curiosity, I think it’s best to keep it as one of several resources.  How about bringing subject matter into a real-life application? Instead of merely stuffing your memory with isolated facts,  you can refocus and create a living lesson!

It is true that advancement in understanding needs a foundation of basic information. Children enjoy memorizing lists and basic fact families from a very early age. This can be done through songs, games and challenges. The grammar stage is when they are hungry to know and identify items in categories. But if these facts do not become connected to a deeper meaning, by the time they hit 9 or 10 years old, their interest will evaporate. There is no reason to wait until they are on the verge of losing interest, either. Knowledge should be applied to bring understanding. They need to move from “the what” to “the how” and “the why.”

Several curricula make use of the library, experiments, and field trips. Even an occasional interview with an expert (or a video clip of one) may be included to add interest. These are a great help! But we still lose something when we strive to separate subjects from each other. Real life isn’t like that. It doesn’t seem natural. Meaning and significance are lost.

How can the four core subjects of math, reading, history/geography, and science come together in one lesson? What about Bible, spelling, handwriting, and literature? If you are following a distinct sequence for each subject, it wouldn’t be easy. But not all subjects need to be taught in a particular order. So, question the table of contents!

This week in history, we have been studying the Pilgrims meeting with Squanto. Here are a few associated topics that could be melded together fairly easily: in science –  germs and infectious disease, hygiene and food preparation, weather, horticulture, and physics (buildings and ships).

Science crosses into math when discussing navigation tools and means from the age of discovery, compared to today. Geography also plays a part both in routes taken and cultural differences. Bible lessons flow from the desire of the pilgrims to worship freely, their treatment of the natives they encountered, and their determination and work ethic in persevering.

Besides matters of faith, the Mayflower Compact touches on sociology, economics, and law. Vocabulary can be taken from this document and sections can be copied. Discussions of the moral rightness or wrongness of settling there against the king’s wishes can be discussed and even debated, with evidence brought for each position.

Math, Science and Reading can also be implemented as your children use original recipes and prepare Johnny Cakes (corn bread) or meat pies from early colonial days. If you double or triple the recipe you not only practice liquid and dry measurement but also add and multiply fractions. The nutritional value of the food available to the Pilgrims is another interesting topic.

Unit Studies make an effort to bring all the disciplines together and many of them do a good job. But again, a curriculum that someone else wrote can be limiting.

I encourage you to be spontaneous from time to time and talk with your children as you help them develop life skills. Let the questions that rise from real work inspire some research and reflection.

One other benefit of this type of learning is that your children see wonder in the world around them. Knowledge does not seem so difficult to attain. Ideas in isolation are soon forgotten. When the creative mind and the senses become engaged, they gain understanding of subject matter and transition into wisdom as knowledge is applied to their lives. There are plenty of mysteries to be discovered. Be free of the tyranny of the textbook. Let learning be a joyful adventure for you and your children!


Reasoning vs Quarreling

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Proverbs 18:13
“He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.”

 Ephesians 4:15
… “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

 Proverbs 18:17
“The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

  What kinds of arguments are quarreling? “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient… in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” 1 Timothy 2: 23-25

 When my children were young, their arguments would end up with: “Yes, it is!” – “No, it isn’t” – “Yes, it is” – “No, it isn’t”. Adults don’t do this, do they? Actually, when we argue a position without bringing evidence and new information to the table, we are doing exactly the same thing. This would be called an “ignorant dispute”. Truth brings light, and that should be our endeavor. We are not trying to “win” as much as educate and learn. As we listen to our opponent, we may find that they have good information that we were lacking. It is important to be humble enough to gratefully accept new evidence that has been well proven, and adjust our thinking to the truth. You do not “lose” a debate when you learn and grow! Even the one who concedes the debate has won something. A new perspective!

 “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching.” 1 Timothy 4:2

 If you are discussing an issue that is addressed in Scripture, it is crucial to know what God says about it. Be sure you are taking evidence in context and not manipulating verses by withholding parts of the text (if they would change the perspective of the argument). While it usually isn’t necessary to post entire Bible chapters, read through the surrounding verses to understand context before using them in an argument so they are not misused. Reference your sources as you quote them. As your opponent uses Scripture to address their arguments, check the context of their references to verify their points. Do this with other evidence as well. Be sure to ask for the source and context, if it isn’t obvious.

 “…holding fast to the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” Titus 1:9

 When debating a topic with those of like faith, we should not need to use a sharp rebuke. There are times for it though. John the Baptist sharply rebuked King Herod for his incest and adultery. Jesus sharply rebuked the Pharisees. I can only think of one rebuke of a believer to another faithful believer: Paul rebuked Peter in front of the whole crowd, because he was being a hypocrite and leading so many into error. Galatians 2:11-14.

Also: But toward the Cretans (lazy gluttons and liars) “Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” Titus 1:13

 The purpose of rebuke is to “save the hearers” and for the wandering believer – repentance and restoration; not alienation. If the issue is serious, be firm, but kind. If you feel your opponent is being too harsh, you may be misreading them. Unfortunately, with the written word, you cannot see the person’s face or hear their tone.

 “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed.” Titus 2:7-8

 As you go out “into the world” you will have many opponents. This is the time of preparation. Gather a storehouse of wisdom and knowledge. Become skilled in researching and expressing your faith as it applies to the issues of the day and you will become an effective worker in God’s field! I recommend reading Proverbs to have a solid foundation of wisdom, but all of Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuke, exhortation, correction and instruction in righteousness.

 I encourage you to pray over your posts and replies on social media as well. Ask God for wisdom. He promises to give it!  James 1:5.

 When your opponent makes an assertion, it is their job to defend their position. You do not have to convince them with your own arguments to agree with your point of view, though you may do so. It is often quite effective to challenge their viewpoint with the following tactical questions, shared by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason; “What do you mean by that?” and “How did you come to that conclusion?” If they must define their terms and give their evidence, they may actually see the flaws in their own thinking before you ever have to present your own arguments or defend your view! The one making the claim has the burden of proof. For more information on this topic, I recommend “Tactics for Defending the Faith” by Greg Koukl.

 When in an official debate and asked a direct question by your opponent, you can still use these two tactical questions but it is fine (for the sake of the audience present) to proceed with presenting your own evidence. If you have made a claim of any sort, it is your obligation to:

1. Answer the opponent’s questions without deviation or distraction from the point. Make sure you understand what they are asking. “He who answers before listening, it is his folly and his shame.” Prov. 18:13.

 2. Present your views simply and clearly. Define your terms and give evidence to back up any assertions you make. Two or three are sufficient. “By the testimony of two or three witnesses let every fact be established.” 2 Cor. 13:1.

 3. Avoid logical fallacies! (For a study on those, see http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/616394/posts)

 In brief: don’t attack the person, attack the argument. Also, deal with the argument given, not merely responding with points you want to make. Answer your opponent’s point with a proper counter-point.

 4. Be respectful in tone, considering your opponent’s views, not purposefully offending or taking offense. Even if the subject matter is dear to your heart, keep your arguments objective. Anger puts up walls. For purposes of street-debate, acknowledge wherever they have made a valid point or argument. The purpose is for both parties to come to truth, not merely to convince each other of their bias.

 5. Avoid use of or acronyms for profanity. Lewdness, irreverence (about God) or degrading conversation is not fitting for a believer.

 Rules for debating on social media include the points made above, but additionally:

 – When referring to your opponents post, quote them specifically, using quotes, and separate their quote from yours with a line space.

 – Use line space between each of your points. Bullets or numbering are helpful.

 – Do not use all caps. It is the same as shouting.

 – When dealing with personal matters, take it to a private e-mail or private message. Don’t air anyone’s dirty laundry or angst on social media.

 – If you are arguing with a fool who only rages and laughs and there is no peace you have two choices. You can leave them alone in their ignorance – as they don’t have any interest in gaining wisdom (Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.” Prov. 23:9), or you can continue to make your points winsomely, for the sake of the audience who may have been otherwise misled by false teaching. In Scripture, they are called the “simple.” This includes children who stand by, listening. It’s up to you. Decide if there is value in continuing. Both speaking to a fool and not speaking are defensible, Bibilically. (Prov. 1:4-7 and 26:4-5)

 In summary, keep in mind that the person you are debating with may have very strong feelings about their subject. Do not belittle them but respectfully, present your evidence to the contrary for their consideration. Sometimes asking a question instead of voicing an opinion will go farther to convince someone of your view. The evidence may be strong, but do not use name calling (ad hominem) when referring to your opponent. Speak the truth in love. Be objective. This is important. Don’t let yourself nurse hurt feelings. “Love is not easily offended”  1 Corinthians 13. Assume the best intentions on the part of your opponent. Remember to listen before answering. If you don’t know exactly what they mean, you can ask for clarification.

 So, let us encourage one another and build each other up, spurring one another on to love and good deeds. And most of all, in humility, seek the truth, together.

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10 Ways to Inspire Young Learners

How can we inspire young learners? Here are 10 ways parents can develop a passion in their children for life-long learning.

 

 

1. Love learning, yourself. Be an example by spending time reading and studying what interests you. Explore things you don’t know yet and nurture your own curiosity! Your kids will see this and be curious about what excites you. When you explain it to them, use analogies or explanations they can understand at their level. If you use complicated vocabulary they will feel this knowledge is beyond their reach and become discouraged. The basic concepts of the new learning come first. As they seek to know more, you may introduce the vocabulary before delving into more complicated principles. Whenever possible, create a link from the new knowledge to something they already know. This will help them remember, understand, and be able to apply their knowledge.

 

2. Be interested in what interests them. Step into their world. If we want our children to care about our interests, we need to also care about theirs. As we step into their world of play, we gain understanding of their own learning styles and of how they process the world around them.

 

3. Take time for the rabbit trails. Sometimes the rabbit trail turns out to be the main thing. Following interests once in a while, off the preplanned lesson, may open their eyes to their own calling and gifts. Most people follow a textbook and echo back what someone else’s thoughts are on a subject, on test day. But thinking new thoughts, examining new finds, this is what creators and innovators do. Go ahead and follow the rabbit trail sometimes, and see where it leads. To never do so is to kill curiosity.

 

4. Show the integration of subjects in real life. History does not stand alone as a subject. It is dependent on geography, religion, sociology (cultures) and philosophy. Art, music, literature and culinary differences are also part of history. It’s not all about battles and conquered lands. The same can be said for other subjects as well. They are intertwined in life, so it’s a good thing to show how the subject matter you are studying crosses into other disciplines. Taste the food! Listen to the music. Create the artwork. It will make learning a richer experience.

 

5. Invite them into your world. Kids want to be like us. They want to do adult things from an early age. So let them! As you do the budget for shopping, let them see how you do it. Take them to the bank and explain the process there. When you change the oil, they can assist – measuring the levels to see how many quarts are needed and learning how to pour it in without spilling. They can learn (while you are gardening) which are weeds and which are flowers. They can learn order and structure as you clean and sort, putting things away by category. Doing real life things together is far more inspiring to a child than being sent off to do chores, alone. It also can become an opportunity for the important talks you would otherwise miss.

 

6. Make it multi-sensory. Not everyone learns well by listening, though much childhood learning is structured that way. Lifestyle learning involves all the physical senses as well as internal questions to wrestle down. When knowledge touches their emotions – reaches their heart – it will stick.

 

7. Let learning be its own reward. Stickers are fun, but should never become the motivation for learning. Neither should money. This reward system has been found to be a disincentive to learning. Eventually the child becomes trained not to care unless money is involved. Not good.

 

8. Welcome friends into the experience. Let friends of your children participate in real-life lessons too. Your own children will enjoy the lessons more and you have widened your circle of influence for good outside your own home. Often, when I wanted to teach my children something extra, I knew I probably wouldn’t get around to it or stick with it to the end. My solution? Invite other friends to learn with us. It created an accountability to finish what I started, and my kids got the extra electives they would have otherwise missed.

 

9. Let your children teach you too. Ask your child to teach you a skill they’ve learned elsewhere, tell you about a story they’ve read, explain how to construct a Minecraft world…

Teaching solidifies knowledge in their own mind and develops communication skills that will serve them all their lives. They can now teach their own friends new things!

 

10. Let them shine. When they have completed a project, post it for all to see. You can create a web page for them to display their work. You can include video recordings of their explanations and demonstrations of projects and accomplishments. If they write a story and illustrate it, you may be able to create a book of their very own to donate to the local library! Whatever they do, when they have done well – let the work speak for itself. They will be motivated to try and to excel in their work.

 

As you look through your curriculum this year, see it through your child’s eyes. What would intrigue them? What would help them understand the more difficult concepts? How can you incorporate the fun in learning and hands-on activities? Jot down the ideas you come up with, in your planner. If it will help, invite others to join you.

At a Classical Conversations practicum I heard this quote, “Children are not only minds to be taught, but souls to be nourished.” That is quite true. We want to teach and train the whole child, not merely the intellect. We don’t teach the textbook, we teach the child. It comes down to the golden rule. Do for your children what you would want done for you. Perhaps your own parents did give you this kind of opportunity and support! Pass on the blessing. As they grow up with this kind of affirmation, it will not only benefit their lives, but future generations as well.

 

10 Commandments for Childhood Friendships

My granddaughter is in 5th grade now.

I remember 5th grade was hard. Every day on the playground, girls who were friends the day before had “unfriended” their bestie and had a new BFF. It was a minefield of competition and uncertainty!

While middle school was hard, and junior high was miserable, I had figured out how to get along with most people by high school, and let go of those who just weren’t interested. I learned to be okay with myself. Confidence over the years helped me become a better friend and also make wiser choices when selecting friends. I’m in the process of teaching what I’ve learned to my granddaughter as she navigates the rough terrain of emotions, dealing with conflict between friends.

The following are 10 Commandments for Childhood Friendships. Though these are not in order of importance, they make a good standard for relationships at any age.

1. Do not assume your friend is unhappy with you, just because they want to spend time with someone else. When they call again, don’t even bring it up! Holding on too tightly to people can become uncomfortable, and giving your friend the freedom to be alone or spend time with another friend will make you all the more welcome, later.

2. Be a caring listener, not just a talker. Friends that last are those who show interest in others, and don’t only want to talk about themselves.

3. When you disagree or feel hurt, don’t make it personal. Present your concern as an objective thing you can work on together. Assume your friend didn’t mean to be hateful. The Bible says,  “love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails,” and “a friend loves at all times.” Words like, “You never…” or “You always” are both harmful and untrue. It is fine to say, “I felt sad when you said/did that.”

4. It’s probably best not to borrow things that are special to your friend. But if you lose or ruin it, replace it or make amends. Don’t make excuses, just apologize.

5. Never talk about a friend’s weaknesses or tell their secrets to someone else. When you are away from your friend, talk about their strengths and things you enjoy about them.

6. Work out problems before they become too big. Don’t let lies complicate matters, either.

7. Be the kind of friend you would want to have.

8. When they visit your house, they are your guest. Find out what your friend wants to do and spend at least part of the time doing that!

9. Respect other people’s things. Treat them with value and don’t use anything without asking.

Economic Life Lessons For Kids

10. Be encouraging! Tell your friend what they mean to you, and what you appreciate about them.

I’m finding I need to be patient in training and not assume one correction will be sufficient! Our human nature can be so petty, but we have to overcome it. Kindness becomes a habit over time, with practice. The effort taken now will pay off in the end.

A Novel Idea – Genre

What Is Genre?
It’s a category.  In stories, they would be broken down into the type of story. Here are some examples:

1. Mystery – Something is out of place. A crime has been committed. A person is missing. A character or object suspiciously appears. Someone is not who they appear to be! Whatever the source of the mystery, it is a problem requiring detective work. The main character/hero/protagonist will be the detective and look for clues, interview suspects, and search until the answer is discovered.

To keep the sense of mystery, don’t tell the reader what is happening behind the scenes. Let them discover clues along with the main character. To keep your readers wondering and turning pages, use misdirection. Bring in something or someone who seems important but isn’t. Or someone who seems guiltier than they are! Your reader will sometimes guess correctly, sometimes be surprised, but they will be intrigued by the process. These false leads, or misdirection, are called “red herrings.” That term comes from when hunters would train dogs to follow a trail. They dragged herrings (fish) across the fox trail to teach hunting dogs not to be distracted by other interesting scents, but to keep pursuing the fox! Your reader doesn’t know which trail is the right one, so they are kept guessing!

Plot twists are a great tool for mystery writing. You were sure the story was going in a certain direction and suddenly, a new piece of information comes to light. What you suspected is proven to be impossible. Maybe your reader isn’t back to square one, but their curiosity is refueled! In the end, a good explanation of “who done it” finally comes out, and the pieces of the puzzle fall together.

You can go back to your draft and insert little clues that may help the detective, once you have figured out the end. Rewrites are as important as the first writing, and maybe more so! As you write your first draft, you are just thinking it through. Changes and modifications will bring your story together when you have all the pieces of the puzzle in front of you.

Don’t make your clues too obvious, or give too much information early on. To keep a mystery a page-turner, let every chapter bring a new question that must be answered. You will want to “map out” your plot in advance of writing the story. There are way too many details in a good mystery to try to keep them all in your head while you write. Because it’s important that all loose ends are neatly tied up by the conclusion, you’ll need to be able to see what threads you’ve left for the reader. Before your final copy goes to the presses, be sure there are no questions left unanswered.

2. The Narrative may relate a personal story or be told as a biography of a real or fictional character. This can be as simple as what happened on a walk home from the park, afternoon tea with Grandma, or an adventure. It can take place in a police station or courtroom, a living room or a hospital emergency room; anywhere. This genre has many subcategories.

a. One is a “Coming-of-Age” story, where the protagonist goes from childhood to maturity through life experiences and lessons. It often involves overcoming a weakness from within that is reflected in a change in their character. Overcoming may take the form of learning to be compassionate to others, bravery in the face of fear, or finding that through hard work they can achieve what seemed impossible. There may be external victories but the key achievements in a coming-of-age book are the ones that happen in the heart of the main character.

b. Fables often have animals playing the part of humans. These are usually quite short and have a point that is obvious.  Aesop is famous for these! Rudyard Kipling also used this method in his Just-So-Stories.

c. Parables use an illustration from life, even of inanimate objects, to teach a meaningful lesson. Jesus used these story-illustrations frequently, in the Bible. One example is the Prodigal Son. The young son didn’t want to submit to his father but wished to make his own way in the world. He left home with his inheritance and lived a wild life, wasting all his money. He ended up homeless and starving before coming to his senses. When the prodigal returned to his father to beg forgiveness he was welcomed home with open arms! This parable shows how we often make foolish choices, but that God, our Father is always waiting for our return, willing to forgive us.

d. Allegories are stories that can be interpreted to find a hidden meaning. Examples of allegory are: “A Pilgrim’s Progress,” by John Bunyan which is an allegory of the Christian’s journey to salvation, and “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis.

e. Satire is a type of allegory, but according to the dictionary, uses humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity, vices, or show corruption in government. An example of satire in literature is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and Animal Farm by George Orwell.

f.  Parody is another subgroup of the narrative genre that could be allegorical or a fable. Parody takes something that was already written and changes the story around for comedic effect. An example of this would be Shakespeare’s supposed version of The Three Little Pigs, as told by comedian, John Branyan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxoUUbMii7Q

3. Historical Fiction. While it could be argued that this is also a kind of narrative, it requires much more research to do. You will need to understand the times you write about. Your characters will need to act in accordance with the culture and speak as they would have in that time and place. Clothing, speech, and custom need to be consistent unless you have time travelers involved. Until you have familiarized yourself with the time, place of your story, and customs of that era, you probably shouldn’t write a piece of historical fiction.

4. Science Fiction and Fantasy can also be a mystery, coming of age story, romance, or action-adventure tale. Because Science Fiction or Fantasy go beyond reality, into different times and worlds, it is all the more important to create an emotional bond and common ideals with the characters. If the personalities of the main characters are too foreign, the story will not be relatable. If the players in your tale have personalities or issues that your reader can identify with, your audience will be able to suspend their disbelief at the peculiar circumstances and surroundings. Just remember to be consistent. As they say in theater, “keep in character.” The difficulty in these genres is creating a believable alternate world. It may involve studying science and technology or other ancient cultures and languages for inspiration. JRR Tolkien, who created entire worlds and new languages, was an expert in ancient language. In order to prepare for such writing, begin by reading books of the same genre to get a feel for what is needed. It is important not to copy someone else’s world too closely, so take notes of new ideas you come up with while reading. You can practice by writing shorter scenes and illustrating them. As you “see” your world unfold you can add more detail in the rewrite and add chapters.

In each of these, stories that create an impact and resonate with the audience contain universal truths. Hidden in the best stories, these gems are not expressed blatantly. The reader comes to realize these things, as if on their own. Allowing the reader to find the truth for themselves without preaching to them, has a greater impact. Universal truths will be evident in the plot and conclusion of the story. Look for themes that many can identify with. Examples are: Pain of rejection, hope, loss, desire to win and tenacity, overcoming, love returned and love unrequited, curiosity and fear – getting yourself in too deep and wondering how you’ll get yourself out again. Write from what you know and have experienced. It’s okay to weep over your writing or get angry at the characters as they play out. Laugh along with them, too! As Hemingway said, “Write one true thing.”

Economic Life Lessons For Kids

While math concepts may seem obscure, kids have no trouble understanding money; at least the spending part! The more difficult concept is the true value of money. Each dollar spent represents someone’s work and time invested in what was purchased.

So, how can we teach kids to appreciate the value of money? From a very early age, we can begin by not automatically replacing what gets broken through carelessness. The child should work to earn its replacement. Though this is a hard lesson, it is best learned early.  If they break something of someone else’s, they should work to earn the replacement item, without receiving any other compensation. This will teach them respect for personal property.

Private Property 

In order to be consistent with this, children must be allowed to keep treasured items (such as a new birthday present or special toy) only for themselves. If forced to share, the lesson of private property’s value is undermined. Sharing only really counts when it is from the heart anyway. Doing so always brings a risk.

The Scriptural lesson, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” means that we need to honor their things as we hope they will honor ours.  But will children ever learn to share this way?

As they see our example of generosity in giving and of sharing our things with them and with our friends and taking a risk that the item may not be returned or may be broken – we can also teach that a heart of love will share, not expecting anything in return. This is what love does. However, you cannot force love. For our part, we will always either return what was borrowed or replace it, because it is the right thing and the loving thing for us to do. Leading by example is much better than forcing them to share their things and possibly causing the opposite effect than you desire.

Thankfulness for gifts and for opportunities to earn money should be taught very early. Seeing the world through eyes of gratitude can transform the character of a child. Our example of gratitude both to God and to others that bless us can guide them.  “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you.”   1Thessalonians 5:18.

 

Earning Opportunities for “Wants”

Chores do build character, and some should be done without pay. Certainly, those that have to do with the child maintaining their own room and hygiene should be. But if they work for someone else, you have the option of giving them some income from it. If they have a wish list, they can begin a savings account and watch the balance grow toward their short-term goals. It’s best to start with shorter term goals so they can have the satisfaction of seeing them achieved. It will inspire savings again. As they get older, they can handle longer term goals.

Entrepreneurship

Finally, they can start up a small business of their own. Our homeschool group has had “market days,” where the kids bring in crafts and creations and baked goods they make, to sell. Everyone brings their spare change or dollars to take turns seeing what all their friends have made!  Lemonade stands, mowing lawns, pet care, babysitting or housecleaning for a neighbor – are all good early jobs for kids. Encourage them to track their expenses as well as their income, to see what the profits are. How can they improve the profit? Advertise? Cut costs? Improve the quality of their product so more will sell?  All these questions help children to understand the value of money and see how time is exchanged for it.

Allowance or Stewardship?  

I don’t like the idea of allowances. Many people do give them, but to me, it smacks of entitlement. If you do delegate a responsibility that requires funds, that is different. A stewardship is something that will need to be accounted for later and brings good lessons with it. If your child is able to do what has been asked of them with the money provided and has some left over (because of wise choices – not from purchasing low-quality things), they may be allowed to keep it as a reward for a job well done. Handing over some household management in purchasing (as they are getting a bit older) is also a great way to help them develop confidence. Stewardship is a Biblical concept that can be reinforced through this practice. We are given much by our Heavenly Father to manage here. When we do well, He will say “well done,” and reward us. We can be imitators of Him in this way too, as we train our own children.

6 Steps to Orderliness

Training children through housework  bring so many benefits! Implementation of these skills can make their lives less stressful (no more lost shoes or game pieces).  Also, the skills they develop will bring greater understanding academically while developing character.  Sound hard to believe?  When the following steps are consistently implemented, the difference will be life changing!

It seems we often don’t “see” our surroundings until company is  coming over. In order to handle such a large load of responsibilities,  we shut out what is right in front of our eyes, in order to focus on the task at hand.  But much study is wearying to the body, for both parents and kids. When you take a break, do something physical. And while you’re at it – create order!

Before Jesus fed the 5,000 the first thing he did was instruct his disciples to create order. He ordered them to have the people sit down in groups and in sections, because he would be passing out food soon. To try to hand out bread and fish in an unorganized crowd would be chaotic and distracting! Our God is a God of order and peace; not of confusion.  As his beloved children, we can imitate our Lord’s example and follow in his steps.

In the same way, with our young disciples, we can “line up our ducks” before we begin to work. It really streamlines the process and gives more of a sense of accomplishment as you see smaller tasks *done* section by section. Each task completed creates its own mental reward! There are a few secrets to efficient cleaning, and as you are teaching your children, give them these gifts of training with the  Steps to Orderliness!

1. Line Up Your Ducks

Before I wash dishes, they are stacked according to type – so I can load the dishwasher more efficiently – seeing how to best use the space available on the rack.

Set aside regular times for maintenance so the job never becomes too overwhelming. You know best when friends are most likely to knock at the door. You may want to post a note on the door saying, “Come back at 3:00,” for instance, if your children are particularly easily distracted!

Create a cleaning caddy to carry from one bathroom to the next so you have all your tools with you, as well as cleaning gloves for everyone.  Make sure it has trashcan liners in it.

Be sure to eat something before you start – so hunger pangs don’t pull you away from the task, half-finished!

Be dressed for the work you will be doing; hair up and out of the way and clothes that can get dirty, will be needed.

2.  Think Categorically

Whether the task is schoolwork such as organizing an essay or doing complex math problems, or you are teaching your children how to sort and fold laundry, put away groceries, or pick up a messy bedroom – the key skill for any organization task begins with categories.  Sort them according to kind, then into sub-categories within that group as needed for the purpose you have.  Not every task requires as much scrutiny (lest we develop OCD characteristics!).

In the refrigerator you would keep uncooked meat separate from fruit or cheese or leftovers (for health reasons). In a bedroom you would want to keep toys separate from clothing and books. For a very young child, you may not want to be more specific than that. But as they get older and lost pieces could bring tears, you will want to keep sets together. Games should be kept with their pieces. LEGOs all in one box, or (if your child is concerned about it) each set in their own box. It becomes a greater task when they get older and for this reason, start as young as possible with this training so it doesn’t become overwhelming later.

When your children learn to help you with household tasks, you are not only training them but providing valuable opportunity for important talks about life. As they become adept at the skills, still work with them when you can so this opportunity isn’t lost. The work will be done more quickly, as “many hands make light work!”  My granddaughter and I sometimes put on the radio and dance while we clean too! It makes for great memories and takes the drudgery out of housework.

If it is still just too much, you may want to think about thinning out and donating some of their stuff. With ownership comes responsibility. They need to care for what they have, in order to gain more. If you can’t bear to give it away, pack away some things for a while, as they learn to be faithful with a little.

When you have many young children, turn picking up toys into a game.  Remember Mary Poppins? Definitely use music, challenges and races to accomplish a task! It may come undone in a minute, but they will still be learning something in the process.

Someday, when the science teacher begins to explain Genus and Species, your kids will have no problem understanding that concept!

2. Top down

Yes, you dust before vacuuming!   When washing or dusting, the rule is begin at the top and work your way down. Ceiling fans or light fixtures first (with an extending duster), tops of window frames and door frames, then pictures on the wall and any cobwebs, before bookshelves and tables. Finally, the baseboards (if you have them). Otherwise the dust or dripping dirty water will cover your finished work! Do it by example and have them follow your lead. When done, be sure to carry your supplies out of the room and put them away (or to the next room to clean). The task isn’t done until the supplies are away.

3. Line upon Line

Working in rows is not only neater, it shows you where you’ve been. Wandering in circles can lead to wasted time. After categories are organized or the room is picked up, vacuum in rows. In the lawn, mow in rows. In the garden, work weeding in rows (from the back to the front). When washing a floor, mop in rows from the back to the front – leaving yourself an exit!  No need to walk back across a clean floor to rinse the mop, bring the bucket with you and work yourself out of the room.

Clean windows, one pane at a time, in rows (from the top down), ending with the sill from one side to the other.  As you create trash with your cleaning, have a bag handy to catch it so you don’t create more work for yourselves on the floor. Show the kids how thinking ahead like this and working in an orderly fashion saves time. You may want to “do it wrong” once and have them time you, before doing it right.

Washing cars has the same principle. From the top down, in rows. It’s an easy and repeatable concept.

Have small boxes or bags for items that need to be transported to another room. After finishing your present task, drop off the bag/box of items at the door of their proper location. The owner of that room will need to put things where they belong before play-time.

4. Clean, dry, and serviceable

In the Air Force, we were instructed to make sure our area, ourselves, and our clothing were all clean, dry, and serviceable. This is when you know you are “done.”  Years later, as a mom raising four young kids, I had to take smaller victories. It is good to voice your satisfaction as small task is finished and the tools are put away. Taking a moment to revel in the accomplishment will model this for the kids! They will learn to delight in a task well done, too.  This website has some great organizing solutions!

5. Anticipating messes before they happen.

Before taking out the Lego set, put a towel or other cloth underneath for the “play space.” When they have finished, they may display their work on a shelf – but the sundry parts and pieces can be easily swept back up into the cloth and deposited in the LEGO box!

Put an empty laundry basket or box on the inside of the front door, if you don’t have a mud room (or even if you do) for shoes that are just coming in. You may, as the Koreans and Japanese do, have slippers just inside the door to put on. This does keep a lot of dirt from being tracked through the house and lightens your work load, as well as theirs.

Keeping an artificial grass-type mat or other door mat outside will scrape off most of the dirt on visitor’s shoes. You can also have a softer mat on the inside of the door to get finer dust/dirt off.

Put a few extra shopping bags  (a bag in a bag in a bag) attached to a seat handle and centrally located, in your car. These are ready to receive trash after a drive through meal. Once you arrive home, have one of the kids grab the inside bag to throw it away and you have an empty trash bag in your car! It’s a good idea to keep a hand-held mini vacuum in the car stored under a seat (that can plug into a cigarette lighter) for quick clean ups, too. Before entering or exiting, make sure all coats, shoes, and books – etc – come out with the kids and make it to their destination before they are released to play! Your home and your car are places you live in. You don’t have to allow such disrespect of your living spaces and you can instill this situational awareness quite young, without having to yell.

When your child is brushing the dog or cat, have them do it outside if possible. At least on a hard floor that is easy to sweep.

Ask your kids to be detectives and find ways they can “save work”!  Be sure you brag about them to their dad at dinner, when they do.

6. The Big Reward: Projects

Paying your children for doing a task well is surprisingly unmotivating. Nothing gives a return as much as satisfaction of a job well done. Once your children have mastered (or are on the way to mastering) these skills, they are ready for bigger things! Projects.

Painting a room, building a shed, landscaping, bike or car repair, sewing or cake decorating, they have qualified to take the next step into the adult world of quality production!  Celebrate every accomplishment along the way, with gentle reminders of the Steps to Orderliness – so they become second nature.

Now, I’m off to practice what I preach.  Blessings to you and your family, today!

Mastering Simple Math Through Games, Part 1

Very young children may recognize and name digits on paper without understanding the concept of number. Or, they may be able to count aloud but have not associated the spoken number with a written one. You may find a child counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… while looking at three items. This is to be expected as really understanding a number is a process.

A preschool child will associate a quantity with its corresponding numeral. A first grader will begin learning “fact families” to add the numbers or items of things, together. One way to solidify this skill and help a child to internalize the number, understanding it fully, is to play a guessing game with items in a fact family. I put together an easy game when my own children were small, called “Math Beans.” (It works well with M&M’s too.)

Let’s say you want to teach a combination of facts for the number 7. Take 7 beans (or M&M’s or another item of interest to your child that you can easily hide in your hand). Ask them first, to count the beans.

Once counted, put the beans behind your back and take some of them out of one hand, putting them in the other hand. Bring out both hands and show them what is in one, leaving the other hand closed. Ask them to figure out how many “beans” are in the closed hand. This is a fun game, and after playing with the 7 beans, using several combinations – they should begin to answer more quickly or know immediately. Once they have mastered all the facts of 7, show them what these facts look like on paper.

7 + 0 = 7
6 + 1 = 7
5 + 2 = 7
4 + 3 = 7
3 + 4 = 7
2 + 5 = 7
1 + 6 = 7
and 0 + 7 = 7.

This would also be a good time to explain the Commutative Law for Addition (though you don’t need to name it yet). It doesn’t matter what order you add the numbers.
2 + 5 will give you the same number of beans as 5 + 2.

By playing interactive math games with your children, they will not only master the material but enjoy doing it. Learning that is enjoyed is remembered.