Tag Archives: faith teaching

Twelve Tips for Homeschoolers–I of XII: Get Teaching Training and Support

                          Twelve Tips for the Best School Year Ever for Homeschoolers
                                                             Tip I of XII
This fall marks the beginning of our twenty-ninth year of homeschooling! Twenty-nine years ago, with an almost-one-year-old in tow, my husband and I began our homeschooling journey by homeschooling my then-junior-high little sister. At that same time, we began helping those who wanted to homeschool in Ohio but needed a “covering” to report to according to state law during the early eighties.  I did not know much about homeschooling in general and teaching specifically at the age of twenty-one years old (despite an elementary education degree followed by master’s work in reading education), but I dug in as best I could. Little did we know that this adventure would become a way of life for us—a parenting and educational method that has brought us countless joys, challenges, and fulfillment.

Here we are nearly three decades later—still homeschooling and still helping others in their homeschool endeavors. Today I bring you tips that we have discovered on our journey—tips to make this “the best school year ever”!

1.     Get Teacher Training and Support

I could go on and on about how little support, scarce materials, and few homeschoolers there were nearly thirty years ago—but I don’t want to be accused of describing how we homeschooled “walking uphill five miles in waist deep snow without shoes,” so suffice it to say that we are immensely blessed to have the support, training, and freedoms that we have today. (For instance, we had “home visits” from the local superintendent, principal, and social workers during our first year of teaching my sister!)

Take advantage of the opportunities available for training! If you are unable to attend physical conventions, learn all you can online, in webcasts, virtual conventions, and more. Read websites and books. However, do not get overwhelmed! Stop reading and researching when that reading and research becomes burdensome rather than helpful.

Additionally, get support! We have enjoyed support groups, networking, and small parenting groups throughout our tenure of homeschooling. One of the best things to happen to me concerning support is the formation, nearly twenty years ago, of a little four-mom parenting/homeschooling support group. We met with our “littles” at McDonalds—and since I like to have a purpose for everything I do, I labeled our group the “MAC” group—Mother’s Advisory Committee, who met at McDonalds. We have taken parenting classes, done marriage videos with our spouses, gone through Bible studies, completed video teaching with our entire families/kids, field tripped, played, prayed, planned, and more.

I can’t stress enough the importance of finding like-minded parents to take this journey with. When one of us wondered why in the world we were doing what we were doing (in parenting, homeschooling, or life in general), the others were there to remind us. It wasn’t uncommon at all for one of us to call another and say, “Okay, Josiah is still in the high chair from breakfast, and he is still screaming and throwing his spoon. Remind me again why I shouldn’t just give him his own way and go on with my day!”

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk—ALL Twelve in One Post!

And now…the entire “Twelve Terrific Times to Talk” in one place!

TWELVE TERRIFIC TIMES TO TALK

In keeping with our blog’s themes of TWELVE this year for 2012, we are starting a series called “Twelve Terrific Times to Talk.”  There are so many great times to talk to our kids that it is hard to narrow it down to only twelve! We are so adamant and passionate about talking to and communicating with our kids that we write about it and speak about it frequently. For this series, we will go in a somewhat chronological order—so invite your friends with olders to join us—we’ll get to that age group soon!

#1: BABY TALK

We are the most balanced baby people I know! No extremes here of nursing a child on demand until age three —or of putting a baby on a four hour eating schedule while he’s still in the hospital at two days old! Somewhere between those extremes is an amazing way to parent babies and toddlers in which everybody (baby, parents, and siblings) enjoy each other and fall into a comfortable family rhythm that does not over-emphasize one child’s “wants” over another. And one in which wants and needs are differentiated and met as is appropriate. This is certainly not an article about baby and toddler training (check out our blog for more on that!); however, our parenting of our babies really did have something to do with the deep, communicative relationships that we developed with our children.

Yes, we talked to our babies! Once our children were four to six months old, they were seldom rocked completely to sleep. They learned to go to sleep just like the rest of us—after all of their needs for cleanliness, food, warmth, and comfort were met. However, when we got our babies and toddlers up in the morning, we spent even more time with them. I would get our babies and toddlers up, rock them, read to them, sing to them, walk around their rooms and read their posters and plaques to them, etc.

We began talking baby talk early! Talking to babies and toddlers via books, songs, rhymes, etc., then eventually discussing these things, was the beginning of communicating with our kids. So….go for the baby talk! Start communicating early with your kids.

#2: MALACHI TIME

In addition to talking to our babies and toddlers in the mornings, Dad also communicated with our toddlers and preschoolers at night through what we called “Malachi Time.” Based on the verse in Malachi about “turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers,” Ray would tuck each child (age two or so and above) in their beds and talk to them. Sometimes he might read to them; sometimes it might be a quick prayer time. Other times, depending on the kids’ needs, Malachi Time would be a thirty to sixty minute event. (We often alternated who got short “Malachis” and who got long ones, making exceptions or changes to the schedule based on kids’ needs [and kids’ behavior—i.e. bad behavior sometimes needed even more talk time– that day!].)

Malachi time was such a special time for our olders that they all recall it fondly. They remember that Dad never had to hurry them to bed in order to go watch sports or play his computer game. He never had to rush through their bedtime in order to do his own thing. They knew he always had time for them. (And yes, he worked a lot—had a demanding job working sixty hours a week minimum at that time.)

I have fond memories of our little Cami when she was two years old, chasing Ray around the living room crying out, “Ky ky time! Ky Ky time!”—her way of saying “Malachi time”!  (How many two year olds do we know who beg to go to bed?? Smile…) Truly, Malachi time was the beginning of a long (fifty to seventy year?) tradition of availability for our children.

#3: BIBLE TALKS

Bible Talks with Dad were another time to not only talk, but also to teach. They were just as the name suggests—times in which the kids and Dad talked about the Bible.

While Malachi Time was usually one-on-one, Bible Talks with Dad were often two or three kids at a time with Dad. Malachi Time was often picture books or heart talks. Family devotions and family worship were usually the entire family together studying something or reading aloud from a devotional. Bible Talks, on the other hand, were just that—talks about the Bible.

The reason Bible Talks were often two or three kids at a time is because we began Bible Talks with Dad with the boys when there was a big age/learning level difference between the “olders” and the “littles.” Thus, Ray could talk to the kids at their levels.

Another benefit of Bible Talks is that they did not require any books. As a matter of fact, Bible Talks often took place on the road or all stretched out across the bed. Very informal. Read a verse (or bring a verse on a card) and talk about it. No fancy handbooks or concordances—just what do you think this verse means or how can we apply this to our lives?

Bible Talks are a good way to show kids that the Bible is relevant to our entire lives. That it is something we want to talk about, learn about, and live. That we should discuss applications in our lives all the time. Plus, it’s just another “terrific time to talk” to our kids!

  

#4: WHO’S GOT THEIR SHOES ON?

A good piece of advice that we received early in our parenting of many littles was to always take at least one child with us where ever we went, if possible. The thinking was that if we always took a child with us, we could talk and train “on the road.” Thus, we made it a point to always grab a kid if one of us left the house to run an errand—or plan to take one child with us if we knew ahead of time that we were going to be driving somewhere.

Out of this theory came our mantra: “Who’s got your shoes on? Dad’s running an errand!” Or “Who’s got your shoes on? Mom’s got to take a quick trip to town.” The kids would scramble and look for shoes and socks to be the first one ready to head out with Mom or Dad. Of course, who went with us wasn’t always based on who had their shoes on, but it was a little saying that we used to emphasize the fact that we wanted to be with them—and know what was going on in their hearts.

This has taken on different looks throughout our lives, As the kids grew up, if we ever had to take two vehicles someplace (like if Dad was joining us from work or coming later to something), on the way home, one child would ride with Dad alone and the others would ride with Mom.(I had more time with the kids automatically by homeschooling them during the day, so one-on-one time with Dad was one of the things we used this time for.)

 “Whoever has their shoes on” became “whoever was working on learning to drive” starting about twelve years ago as Ray taught each child to drive and took them out on the road a couple of nights a week for a few months. While driving and learning the ways of the road, conversations about so many other things just happened.

And today, it isn’t “who has their shoes on” as much as who might be available to call on their cell phone as I’m driving (talking—NOT texting!).  I always look at the clock when I get in the vehicle alone to see which grown son or daughter is doing what—and who I should try to call to check in with. Ray’s drive time home from work is usually spent talking to an adult child.

“Who has their shoes on”; “Who’s learning to drive”; “Who’s available to call”—all avenues leading to the same goal: for our kids to know, think, feel, and say, Mom and Dad want to be with me and talk to me enough to take me with them when they go somewhere, spend time with me as I’m learning to drive, or call me when we are apart.

#5: TERRIFIC TUESDAY OR WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY

With the addition of another child every other year or so, we knew it was important to spend time with the older children. (We were taught by our early mentors to put as much time and energy into our first two kids as we possibly could, knowing that the “trickle down effect” of teaching would come into play.)

Note: This is another reason we have felt so strongly about not letting an eight month old, eighteen month old, or twenty-eight month old determine the entire family’s schedule [i.e. have a “toddler run home”]—it never felt right to let a toddler’s “wants” override a teen’s needs. Anyway, because of the advice we received to invest significantly in our older kids for the “trickle down effect” (which majorly works, I might add), we always looked for ways to spend more time with Joshua (now 29) and Kayla (now 26). One of the ways I did this was to implement “Terrific Tuesday” or “Wonderful Wednesday.”

One afternoon a week (either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on our schedule) a different “older” child got to have Mom to himself or herself for a few hours. We tweaked our daily schedule (which usually involved Mom teaching/story time/lesson planning,

etc. In the afternoons) so that right after lunch, somebody else did story time with the litttles and got them to bed for their naps (one of the olders not having her “Terrific Tuesday” that day), and I gave my undivided attention to one of the other olders.

The child got to choose what we did for our afternoon together (though it couldn’t be expensive—just a few dollars at the most). I spent many a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon at the public library, reading a chapter book aloud at Dairy Queen, playing ping pong in the basement, or challenging a tween to a Scrabble or Rummikub match. And then, of course, as the title of this series suggests, in addition to being a “terrific Tuesday,” it also became another ‘terrific time to talk.”

When kids get their parents’ undivided attention, something happens within their hearts. There is a softening that takes place that doesn’t just happen when you are gathered around the game table or watching a movie as a family. Kids (especially tweens and teens) are very astute when it comes to their parents’ priorities. Showing our kids that they are truly our priorities causes a special bond that doesn’t just happen when we only make time for their sporting events, debates, or concerts.

And yes, it was a sacrifice for me. I used to (and continue to do so today with my writing work) have to work later in the evenings and often after the kids were in bed in order to get all of the work done that is required in raising a large family and homeschooling several children. Our special times with our kids were not just “extra” time that we had waiting to be used. They took conscious efforts and sacrifices to make them happen. But now that our seven children are nearly fourteen to thirty, I can tell you unequivocally—it is worth it all to find as many “terrific times to talk” as you can.

#6: PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS, A NICKEL FOR A HUG, AND A DIME IF YOU TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME


“A penny for your thoughts; a nickel for a hug; and a dime if you tell me that you love me.”

We have talked at length over the past three years of this blog about communicating with our kids. And how communication is a strong form of “teaching when…” The ditty above is a little chant that we used to say to our kids to remind them that we want to talk to them, that they are valuable to us, that we love them “ten million times infinity and beyond.” From this saying, a valuable “object lesson” developed and tied the heartstrings of my son and me in a special way some ten to twenty years ago.

The rest of that jingle (after the infamous “penny for your thoughts”) goes on to offer not only a penny for what the person is thinking, but also a nickel for a hug and ten cents if he or she says “I love you.”

Sixteen cents… a meager amount of change that elicits warm feelings (and, I admit, a few tears of longing) as I write this. Our oldest son and I used to take the “penny for your thoughts” a little further when he was a little boy—and repeat the rest of the jingle to each other, complete with a big hug and special “I love you.”

As Joshua grew up, we would occasionally remind each other of how much we love to talk—and how much we care for each other by giving each other sixteen cents. When he was in high school and worked part time, I would wake up in the morning to find him off to work—with a penny, a nickel, and a dime lying on my desk. When he would open his lunch box, he would sometimes find sixteen cents taped to the inside of his pail. Not enough money to buy lunch, for sure, but enough money to know that Mom will be waiting on him ready to talk when he gets home from work.

What objects might have special meaning to you and your child? Is there a special item that you can attach unique meaning to for one or more of your children? Is there a trinket, heart, words to a song, picture of the two of you, favorite picture book, etc. that can be utilized as an object “just for the two of you”?

#7: “MY DAY”

When I had several young children, I assigned each child “a day” each week. I first got this idea when I was in teacher’s college, and it was suggested that we teachers pick a different student each day to focus on. It was recommended that we write that child’s name on the calendar for that day (to keep record of who got which day and to ensure that each child got a day) and that we try to praise, help, make more contact with, etc. that particular student on that day. This approach would keep the “non-sqeaky wheels” from getting overlooked.

I applied that to my family, assigning each child a day (Monday was Cami’s day; Tuesday was Kayla’s; Wednesday was Joshua’s; etc.). On that day, that particular child got many advantages and privileges, as well as some extra jobs. Here are some of the perks that I instituted for the child on his day throughout the years:

(1) Special focus—I tried to praise, affirm, spend more time with, tie heart strings more, etc. for that child on that day—without the child actually knowing it!

(2) Sitting in the front seat if we went anywhere (Because we only went places one or two days a week during the day during the week when my older children were little, we had to alternate whose day it was each week because otherwise, for example, the Monday or Tuesday child would seldom get to sit in the front seat since we seldom went anywhere early in the week.)

(3) Sitting closest to Mom during morning read aloud and afternoon story time

(4) Saying the prayer during breakfast and lunch

(5) Getting to choose two stories instead of one at story time (and getting their stories read first and last)

(6) Getting to have a longer talk time (Malachi time) with Dad that night before bed

(7) Helping Mom cook dinner that day (before they could cook meals entirely by themselves)

(8) Doing an extra job from the job jar

(9) Taking a morning or afternoon “twalk” (talk and walk) with Mom

My kids loved having their special day. It meant more responsibility and work, but it also meant more heart-affecting time—and they were keenly aware of that.

#8: DADDY TALKS

When our “little boys” were tweens, we wanted them to learn about/hear about sensitive things from their daddy—not from Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, movies, television, or peers! It was about that time that we instituted “daddy talks”—times in which the boys (one at a time or in pairs since they were close in age) would sit down and talk with Ray about these types of things. We called it “daddy talks”—and they knew that if they ever had questions or heard things, etc., they could call a “daddy talk” and Ray would be available. (Have I mentioned here or in our blog how crucial our availability for our kids really is??)

 I can remember that we started going to a different church about the time one of our boys was eleven and going into sixth grade. At this particular church, there was a special class that took place for that age kids—boys went into one and girls went into another for a couple of weeks to learn about “the birds and the bees” and purity. A boy at church told Josiah that he had to go to the “sixth grade” class—that all kids at church had to if they wanted to go to Royal Rangers. Josiah puffed his chest up, marched right up to that boy, and said, “I don’t have to go to that class. I have “daddy talks”! Too cute!

Sweet stories aside, there was (and continues to be) something powerful in a young  boy’s life when he has “daddy talks.” Something about those talks and that availability keep that boy from straying too far—keep his heart in check and his activities and motives pure.

#9: CALENDAR MEETINGS

The scene was the same for our three girls and Mom and Dad—time to gather in the living room with calendars in hand, ready to go over the upcoming weeks and months to be sure we have everything down on the schedule—and to be sure that we have plenty of time set aside for each other and our family. What wasn’t the same was the addition of our future son-in-law—a sweet, amazing young man who has no need for meetings, sitting for long periods of time listening to three teenage/young adult girls and their parents gab. His response to our “calendar meeting” was hilarious as he put a pillow over his head and kept coming up periodically to ask if it was almost over!

As our kids turned sixteen to eighteen (depending on gender, maturity, and where they were in their education), their involvement in outside activities increased exponentially—from doing school at home with Mom and Dad full time and spending most free time with family and close friends to college, more ministry activities, etc. It was extremely important to me and Ray that we stay close to our young adults. Calendar meetings helped make that happen.

If you have kids who are not yet teens, do not believe the falsehoods about how older teens and young adults do not need their parents. It has been our experience that they still need us greatly—but the roles change drastically. They still need our continual input in their lives—but in the role of counselor, mentor, help, and sounding board. But they still need us! And calendar meetings helped make all of that talking, time together, and counseling more of a reality in our young adults’ lives.

#10: HALF BIRTHDAYS AND OTHER “DATES”

When our older kids turned twelve (girls) or thirteen (boys), they began to have a special privilege known as “half birthday dates.” At the 12 ½ (or 13 ½) year old mark, that child got taken out to dinner with Mom and Dad for a unique dinner date. The first date was a time for the son or daughter to re-committ to purity (and for the girls, included a purity/promise ring)— and included a long conversation affirming all of the teaching that they had received up to this point about our relationship standards. (For our family, this has included a commitment not to “date around” but to only begin seeing someone when he or she is ready to get married and thinks the person might be “the one.” Of course, there are many more details that go into this (i.e. getting parents’ approval on both sides, establishing a relationship (that we called “courtsthip,” etc.).)

Beyond that first half birthday date, our kids’ “half dates” have included the child choosing a restaurant and a night out with Mom and Dad to talk about goals, friends, siblings, academics, ministry, and more. It was a novel idea that we carried out for many, many years.

This tradition has gone by the way for us today—as it served its purpose in establishing times away for one child and Mom and Dad during the child’s teen and young adults years. However, it is no longer needed in a formal manner since we have “dates” with our teens and young adults much more regularly than at the half birthday mark today. As a matter of fact, as I type this, we are driving home from South Carolina to bring our son home from his internship with the Academy of Arts. We just did a “dinner date” with our daughter and son-in-law the night before we left to come to SC. The night before that found us eating dinner alone with our seventeen year old after his first day of college classes. As we drive home today, we will sit down with our son at one of his favorite spots. In a few days, one of our daughters will be home with her “court friend,” and the four of us will sit down alone one evening. A few days after that, another daughter will be home for a short visit, and Mom, Dad, and daughter will go to her favorite spot. (Yes, it costs money and calories—both of which we save just for these occasions—time with our kids is more of a priority to us than a beautifully decorated house or expensive vehicles.)

When our olders were younger, we would sometimes do “dates” one on one with the little kids, too. These could be as simple as getting an ice cream cone at McDonalds and going to the park to walk and see the buffalo or taking a bike ride. Time with our kids one-on-one doesn’t always have to cost a lot. Once again, the point is that each child knows that Mom and Dad want to spend time alone with that child—and we will go to great lengths to be sure that happens.

#11: WHEN YOU “SIT” IN YOUR HOUSE—PREFERABLY IN A TECHNO-FREE ZONE

Out of all of the times/places that we are told to teach our children diligently in Deuteronomy, “when you sit in your house” has got to be the most challenging. Over twenty years ago, Gregg Harris gave us the greatest advice in his parenting seminar (that we have used weekly and teach others to do the same): Whatever is important to you to do with your children should be attached to something that is already in the schedule. Thus, we attach reading together to rising/going to bed; we attach family prayer to meals; etc. However, finding time to “sit in your house” is another matter—and one that I would like to address as a talk time in this blog post.

How many of us “sit in our houses”? That is, we sit—not to watch television, pay bills, surf the web; play computer games; read the paper, etc., but just SIT. With my AOADD (Adult-Onset ADD—self diagnosed!!!), sitting is not one of my favorite things to do—unless I am doing something else at the same time (i.e. working!). However, this is an often-overlooked period of time that we truly need to tap into in order to talk with our children.

We have to force ourselves to “sit” with our children. We need to make it a habit to just take a seat next to one or more of them each day—no electronics, no work on our laps—and just “be.” These moments are when great communication times as we are “sitting in our house” will occur.

Not necessarily formal teaching, though there are definite times and places for that. But just “being.” Just saying, “Tell me about your day.” And truly listening. Times to listen to their hearts sing the “talking song” that our family adopted as a parenting cue many years ago: “Talk to me; show me that you care. Talk to me; listen to the words I say. Talk to me; there’s so much we can share. I know you love me when you talk to me.” Times to really look into their faces and observe their countenance—to read the signs that show that deep within that son or daughter is an ache, a question, an apprehension, an issue that needs Mom or Dad time.

Recent statistics indicate that teenagers spend an average of less than thirty minutes a week in a “meaningful relationship” with their mothers and fifteen minutes per week with their fathers. Fifteen to thirty minutes a week with Mom or Dad during some of the most critical years of a person’s life! (We have said for years that ages sixteen to twenty are the highest need years for our kids in terms of parental time and support.)

Another recent study of parents and children by an insurance company said that children WANT their parents to spend time with them. Eight out of ten said they resented being put in front of a television (instead of spending time with Mom or Dad); sixty percent said they wished their parents spent more time with them and worked less.

Parents who bring work home (instead of being available for their kids), put their own hobbies and interests before the kids; and are consumed with their home and possessions more than their kids are being coined as “Maybe later” parents. As a mom of six grown kids (ages seventeen through twenty-nine) and one younger (almost fourteen year old), I can tell you for sure that “later” never comes.

So…the first piece of advice we have for establishing talk time when you sit in your home” is to “sit in your home”! Set aside other things and make the time. Fire pits; bonfires; electronic-free rooms; porch swing moments; Mom & Dad’s bedroom for midnight meetings; family meals—all of these give opportunities to sit with our kids. Let’s make it happen!

#12: DRIVE TIME

Besides the “techno free” zones and “sitting in your house” that I described in Talk Time #11, drive time has come to be a meaningful talk time for our family. (See Tip #4: Who’s Got Their Shoes On? for more one-on-one vehicle talking tips.) In this final post of this talk series, I just want to encourage families in general to reduce the “independent” times in the vehicle and make drive time more “community” time.

We could never afford newer vehicles, complete with game systems or televisions (we don’t even have game systems or televisions in our home either, come to think of it). Thus, our drive time for many years included reading aloud, listening to audios, playing road games, and, of course, talking. (Now with computers, the kids sometimes write papers, watch movies, or play games while we drive.) As is the case with most things that families cannot afford, not being able to afford newer vehicles with electronics built in has had an immensely positive result: community time in the vehicle vs alone time.

We have had literally hundreds of hours of teaching and talking time with our kids in our van through the years. We talk one-on-one if it is just Dad and child or Mom and child, but the majority of our times in the van have been community—times to read aloud and discuss what we are reading; listen to an audio and share in stories and teachings together; and talk about family history, our beliefs, current events, church sermons, family standards, personal goals, ministry goals, relationship issues, and much more.

If your family drive times are more like “islands in the stream” than “group hugs,” we would encourage you to declare certain drive times as family times. Just announce that on Sundays, for example, no games or independent activities will be allowed but instead family time will be instituted. Buy some new audio series’ that will interest everybody. Get some “Ungame” cards out of an old “Ungame” in your closet or from Goodwill and read these allowed and discuss them. Do whatever it takes to make drive time more family time—and more talk time.

It has been a joy to share with you our Twelve Terrific Times to Talk. There are so many other opportunities that we need to take advantage of in order to get into our children’s hearts. We just encourage you to do it! Talk. Listen. Share. Teach. Our kids will not be here at home with us forever. Let’s make use of the times that we have to share with them—and see if we can increase that “fifteen minutes of meaningful time with a parent” per week statistic to hours each week instead!

Thanks for joining us int his Twelve Terrific Times to Talk series! Watch this blog for Twelve Back to School Tips for Those Attending School AND another series of Twelve Back to School Tips for Homeschoolers! Coming up starting in a week or so!

Juggling the Glass Ball of Family–for Fathers (Reprint)

“I do the things that I don’t want to do…and I do not do the things I want to do…” Paul (paraphrased!)

We have all heard the analogy of managing life as juggling balls. We parents especially juggle and juggle, taking care not to drop the balls too often—and taking extra care not to drop the most important balls at all, if possible. Juggling balls is certainly an accurate picture of playing all of the roles that Christian moms and dads must play.

However, for many of us—and especially for fathers—our view of these juggling balls is not fully correct. You see, we have a tendency to see some of these spheres as less important than others: we often think of our kids/family as the rubber ball—the one that we can safely drop and it will quickly bounce right back up to us with no damage. At the same time, we often view the “work” ball as one that is made of glass—one that will shatter if it is dropped.

The Reishes know this all too well, for we have experienced this first hand. Like many other parents, twelve years ago, we were juggling furiously with no relief in sight. And while we were extra careful with the family ball and the work ball, we had an incorrect view of the work ball, too. It seemed so…fragile while the family ball, though we took extra care with it, seemed so resilient.

We had seven kids ages one through fourteen and an eighth little one on the way. Ray’s work was so demanding and had been our entire marriage. Up until that time, we had managed his sixty to seventy hour work weeks by my staying home most of the time and tending to the home and kids. When Ray was home, he was fully home—after all, we didn’t want to drop the family ball any more than necessary. Once our oldest became a teen and our second child was following close behind, we just didn’t see how we could keep juggling with such a demanding “work” ball that was in grave danger of shattering into a million pieces if not handled with kid gloves.

To make a long story short, our eighth child was stillborn and after my week in the hospital, a ruptured uterus, blood transfusions, and some extremely scary moments, we realized that the work ball was truly not as priceless and fragile as we had thought it to be. And we realized that the truly breakable, non-shatter-proof ball was the family one. Work was shown to be the bounce-able ball that it was—and our family was the priceless, non-replaceable one.

So we turned in the glassy, sparkling work ball for a rubber work ball. Yes, it cost more—everything truly good costs. But a forty percent pay cut, going from a 4500 square feet home to a 1400 square foot home, and the loss of a company car and other perks seemed like a small price to pay in order to keep the most important—non-rubber—family ball up in the air. It wasn’t an easy adjustment for any of us. I was used to a huge, newer house with a large schoolroom, three bathrooms, and more storage than I’ve ever seen in a home. Ray was used to being “somebody” in the company, a plant manager in an automotive plant (and prior to that, its controller). Moving into a forty-hour-per week job without all of the pressures (and accolades) of his former job was a difficult transition for him.

But we got better than ever at juggling! The career ball wasn’t so fragile anymore; the family ball was. If the work ball hit the floor, it bounced back. We became even more careful with the precious gem-like ball known as family.

Obviously, every Christian parent is not asked to give up his or her career to raise seven teens. But if you find yourself thinking of careers as the glass balls and family as the rubber one. Or you find yourself juggling furiously and continually chasing the work ball for fear that it will shatter while the family ball falls and bounces back then falls again and bounces back, you might need to examine those balls more carefully like we had to. You do get better at juggling with practice, but who wants to take a chance with such a precious juggling ball as our kids?

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#12: Drive Time

#12: Drive Time

Besides the “techno free” zones and “sitting in your house” that I described in Talk Time #11, drive time has come to be a meaningful talk time for our family. (See Tip #4: Who’s Got Their Shoes On? for more one-on-one vehicle talking tips.) In this final post of this talk series, I just want to encourage families in general to reduce the “independent” times in the vehicle and make drive time more “community” time.

We could never afford newer vehicles, complete with game systems or televisions (we don’t even have game systems or televisions in our home either, come to think of it). Thus, our drive time for many years included reading aloud, listening to audios, playing road games, and, of course, talking. (Now with computers, the kids sometimes write papers, watch movies, or play games while we drive.) As is the case with most things that families cannot afford, not being able to afford newer vehicles with electronics built in has had an immensely positive result: community time vs alone time in the vehicle.

We have had literally hundreds of hours of teaching and talking time with our kids in our van through the years. We talk one-on-one if it is just Dad and child or Mom and child, but the majority of our times in the van have been community—times to read aloud and discuss what we are reading; listen to an audio and share in stories and teachings together; and talk about family history, our beliefs, current events, church sermons, family standards, personal goals, ministry goals, relationship issues, and much more.

If your family drive times are more like “islands in the stream” than “group hugs,” we would encourage you to declare certain drive times as family times. Just announce that on Sundays, for example, no games or independent activities will be allowed but instead family time will be instituted. Buy some new audio series’ that will interest everybody. Get some “Ungame” cards out of an old “Ungame” in your closet or from Goodwill and read these allowed and discuss them. Do whatever it takes to make drive time more family time—and more talk time.

It has been a joy to share with you our Twelve Terrific Times to Talk. There are so many other opportunities that we need to take advantage of in order to get into our children’s hearts. We just encourage you to do it! Talk. Listen. Share. Teach. Our kids will not be here at home with us forever. Let’s make use of the times that we have to share with them—and see if we can increase that “fifteen minutes of meaningful time with a parent” per week statistic to hours each week instead!

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#11: When You “Sit” in Your House

#11: When You “Sit” in Your House—Preferably in a “Techno-Free” Zone

Out of all of the times/places that we are told to teach our children diligently in Deuteronomy, “when you sit in your house” has got to be the most challenging. Over twenty years ago, Gregg Harris gave us the greatest advice in his parenting seminar (that we have used weekly and teach others to do the same): Whatever is important to you to do with your children should be attached to something that is already in the schedule. Thus, we attach reading together to rising/going to bed; we attach family prayer to meals; etc. However, finding time to “sit in your house” is another matter—and one that I would like to address as a talk time in this blog post.

How many of us “sit in our houses”? That is, we sit—not to watch television, pay bills, surf the web; play computer games; read the paper, etc., but just SIT. With my AOADD (Adult-Onset ADD—self diagnosed!!!), sitting is not one of my favorite things to do—unless I am doing something else at the same time (i.e. working!). However, this is an often-overlooked period of time that we truly need to tap into in order to talk with our children.

We have to force ourselves to “sit” with our children. We need to make it a habit to just take a seat next to one or more of them each day—no electronics, no work on our laps—and just “be.” These moments are when great communication times as we are “sitting in our house” will occur.

Not necessarily formal teaching, though there are definite times and places for that. But just “being.” Just saying, “Tell me about your day.” And truly listening. Times to listen to their hearts sing the “talking song” that our family adopted as a parenting cue many years ago: “Talk to me; show me that you care. Talk to me; listen to the words I say. Talk to me; there’s so much we can share. I know you love me when you talk to me.” Times to really look into their faces and observe their countenance—to read the signs that show that deep within that son or daughter is an ache, a question, an apprehension, an issue that needs Mom or Dad time.

Recent statistics indicate that teenagers spend an average of less than thirty minutes a week in a “meaningful relationship” with their mothers and fifteen minutes per week with their fathers. Fifteen to thirty minutes a week with Mom or Dad during some of the most critical years of a person’s life! (We have said for years that ages sixteen to twenty are the highest need years for our kids in terms of parental time and support.)

Another recent study of parents and children by an insurance company said that children WANT their parents to spend time with them. Eight out of ten said they resented being put in front of a television (instead of spending time with Mom or Dad); sixty percent said they wished their parents spent more time with them and worked less.

Parents who bring work home (instead of being available for their kids), put their own hobbies and interests before the kids; and are consumed with their home and possessions more than their kids are being coined as “Maybe later” parents. As a mom of six grown kids (ages seventeen through twenty-nine) and one younger (almost fourteen year old), I can tell you for sure that “later” never comes.

So…the first piece of advice we have for establishing talk time when you sit in your home” is to “sit in your home”! Set aside other things and make the time. Fire pits; bonfires; electronic-free rooms; porch swing moments; Mom & Dad’s bedroom for midnight meetings; family meals—all of these give opportunities to sit with our kids. Let’s make it happen!

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#8: Daddy Talks

(Sorry it has been a while since I posted. I have been busy with my dad who has been sick. The rest of the Twelve Terrific Times to Talk coming soon!)

#8: Daddy Talks

When our “little boys” were tweens, we wanted them to learn about/hear about sensitive things from their daddy—not from Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, movies, television, or peers! It was about that time that we instituted “daddy talks”—times in which the boys (one at a time or in pairs since they were close in age) would sit down and talk with Ray about these types of things. We called it “daddy talks”—and they knew that if they ever had questions or heard things, etc., they could call a “daddy talk” and Ray would be available. (Have I mentioned here how crucial our availability for our kids really is??)

 I can remember that we started going to a different church about the time one of our boys was eleven and going into sixth grade. At this particular church, there was a special class that took place for that age kids—boys went into one and girls went into another for a couple of weeks to learn about “the birds and the bees” and purity. A boy at church told Josiah that he had to go to the “sixth grade” class—that all kids at church had to if they wanted to go to Royal Rangers. Josiah puffed his chest up, marched right up to that boy, and said, “I don’t have to go to that class. I have “daddy talks”! Too cute!

Sweet stories aside, there was (and continues to be) something powerful in a young  boy’s life when he has “daddy talks.” Something about those talks and that availability keep that boy from straying too far—keep his heart in check and his activities and motives pure.

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#7: “My Day”

#7: “My Day”

When I had several young children, I assigned each child “a day” each week. I first got this idea when I was in teacher’s college, and it was suggested that we teachers pick a different student each day to focus on. It was recommended that we write that child’s name on the calendar for that day (to keep record of who got which day and to ensure that each child got a day) and that we try to praise, help, make more contact with, etc. that particular student on that day. This approach would keep the “non-sqeaky wheels” from getting overlooked.

I applied that to my family, assigning each child a day (Monday was Cami’s day; Tuesday was Kayla’s; Wednesday was Joshua’s; etc.). On that day, that particular child got many advantages and privileges, as well as some extra jobs. Here are some of the perks that I instituted for the child on his day throughout the years:

1. Special focus—I tried to praise, affirm, spend more time with, tie heart strings more, etc. for that child on that day

2. Sitting in the front seat if we went anywhere (Because we only went places one or two days a week during the day during the week when my older children were little, we had to alternate whose day it was each week because otherwise, for example, the Monday or Tuesday child would seldom get to sit in the front seat since we seldom went anywhere early in the week.)

3. Sitting closest to Mom during morning read aloud and afternoon story time

4. Saying the prayer during breakfast and lunch

5. Getting to choose two stories instead of one at story time (and getting their stories read first and last)

6. Getting to have a longer talk time (Malachi time) with Dad that night before bed

7. Helping Mom cook dinner that day (before they could cook meals entirely by themselves)

8. Doing an extra job from the job jar

9. Taking a morning or afternoon “twalk” (talk and walk) with Mom

My kids loved having their special day. It meant more responsibility and work, but it also meant more heart-affecting time—and they were keenly aware of that.

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#5: Terrific Tuesday or Wonderful Wednesday

#5: Terrific Tuesday or Wonderful Wednesday

With the addition of another child every other year or so, we knew it was important to spend time with the older children. (We were taught by our early mentors to put as much time and energy into our first two kids as we possibly could, knowing that the “trickle down effect” of teaching would come into play.)

Note: This is another reason we have felt so strongly about not letting an eight month old, eighteen month old, or twenty-eight month old determine the entire family’s schedule [i.e. have a “toddler run home”]—it never felt right to let a toddler’s “wants” override a teen’s needs.) Anyway, because of the advice we received to invest significantly in our older kids for the “trickle down effect” (which majorly works, I might add), we always looked for ways to spend more time with Joshua (now 29) and Kayla (now 26). One of the ways I did this was to implement “Terrific Tuesday” or “Wonderful Wednesday.”

One afternoon a week (either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on our schedule) a different “older” child got to have Mom to himself or herself for a few hours. We tweaked our daily schedule (which usually involved Mom teaching/story time/lesson planning,
etc. In the afternoons) so that right after lunch, somebody else did story time with the litttles and got them to bed for their naps (one of the olders not having her “Terrific Tuesday” that day), and I gave my undivided attention to one of the other olders.

The child got to choose what we did for our afternoon together (though it couldn’t be expensive—just a few dollars at the most). I spent many a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon at the public library, reading a chapter book aloud at Dairy Queen, playing ping pong in the basement, or challenging a tween to a Scrabble or Rummikub match. And then, of course, as the title of this series suggests, in addition to being a “terrific Tuesday,” it also became another ‘terrific time to talk.”

When kids get their parents’ undivided attention, something happens within their hearts. There is a softening that takes place that doesn’t just happen when you are gathered around the game table or watching a movie as a family. Kids (especially tweens and teens) are very astute when it comes to their parents’ priorities. Showing our kids that they are truly our priorities causes a special bond that doesn’t just happen when we only make time for their sporting events, debates, or concerts.

And yes, it was a sacrifice for me. I used to (and continue to do so today with my writing work) have to work later in the evenings and often after the kids were in bed in order to get all of the work done that is required in raising a large family and homeschooling several children. Our special times with our kids were not just “extra” time that we had waiting to be used. They took conscious efforts and sacrifices to make them happen. But now that our seven children are nearly fourteen to thirty, I can tell you unequivocally—it is worth it all to find as many “terrific times to talk” as you can.

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#4: Who’s Got Their Shoes On?

#4: Who’s Got Their Shoes On?

A good piece of advice that we received early in our parenting of many littles was to always take at least one child with us where ever we went, if possible. The thinking was that if we always took a child with us, we could talk and train “on the road.” Thus, we made it a point to always grab a kid if one of us left the house to run an errand—or plan to take one child with us if we knew ahead of time that we were going to be driving somewhere.

Out of this theory came our mantra: “Who’s got your shoes on? Dad’s running an errand!” Or “Who’s got your shoes on? Mom’s got to take a quick trip to town.” The kids would scramble and look for shoes and socks to be the first one ready to head out with Mom or Dad. Of course, who went with us wasn’t always based on who had their shoes on, but it was a little saying that we used to emphasize the fact that we wanted to be with them—and know what was going on in their hearts.

This has taken on different looks throughout our lives, As the kids grew up, if we ever had to take two vehicles someplace (like if Dad was joining us from work or coming later to something), on the way home, one child would ride with Dad alone and the others would ride with Mom.(I had more time with the kids automatically by homeschooling them during the day, so one-on-one time with Dad was one of the things we used this time for.)

“Whoever has their shoes on” became “whoever was working on learning to drive” starting about twelve years ago as Ray taught each child to drive and took them out on the road a couple of nights a week for a few months. While driving and learning the ways of the road, conversations about so many other things just happened.

And today, it isn’t “who has their shoes on” as much as who might be available to call on their cell phone as I’m driving (talking—NOT texting!).  I always look at the clock when I get in the vehicle alone to see which grown son or daughter is doing what—and who I should try to call to check in with. Ray’s drive time home from work is usually spent talking to an adult child.

“Who has their shoes on”; “Who’s learning to drive”; “Who’s available to call”—all avenues leading to the same goal: for our kids to know, think, feel, and say, Mom and Dad want to be with me and talk to me enough to take me with them when they go somewhere, spend time with me as I’m learning to drive, or call me when we are apart.

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#3: Bible Talks

#3: Bible Talks

Bible Talks with Dad were another time to not only talk, but also to teach. They were just as the name suggests—times in which the kids and Dad talked about the Bible.

 While Malachi Time was usually one-on-one, Bible Talks with Dad were often two or three kids at a time with Dad. Malachi Time was often picture books or heart talks. Family devotions/family worship were usually the entire family together studying something or reading aloud from a devotional. Bible Talks, on the other hand, were just that—talks about the Bible.

The reason Bible Talks were often two or three kids at a time is because we began Bible Talks with Dad with the boys when there was a big age/learning level difference between the “olders” and the “littles.” Thus, Ray could talk to the kids at their levels.

Another benefit of Bible Talks is that they did not require any books. As a matter of fact, Bible Talks often took place on the road or all stretched out across the bed. Very informal. Read a verse (or bring a verse on a card) and talk about it. No fancy handbooks or concordances—just what do you think this verse means or how can we apply this to our lives?

Bible Talks are a good way to show kids that the Bible is relevant to our entire lives. That it is something we want to talk about, learn about, and live. That we should discuss applications in our lives all the time. Plus, it’s just another “terrific time to talk” to our kids!