Does School Inhibit Healthy Sleep?


Is your child in school yet? If so, you know how easily our lives change when they start school. Starting school typically means waking early, rushed mornings, a little playtime after school, and then homework that can potentially run late into the night. The older they are, the faster the pace becomes.

This is the way of the world. The issue is further compounded by all of the activities that our children participate in. I know of a couple families who have an activity every day of the week. Just the idea of it exhausts me!

One concern with this fast-paced world is that our kids simply don’t get enough sleep. More than this, their lack of sleep affects their ability to learn.

“More and more studies are confirming what our grandmothers knew intuitively just a generation ago. Preschool and school-aged children who suffer from a deficiency of healthy sleep have a pervasive fatigue that affects alertness. Such a child becomes inattentive, unable to concentrate, easily distracted, and physically hyperactive,” (On Becoming Childwise).

It’s no wonder kids are being diagnosed with ADHD in record numbers! They are simply being run ragged and aren’t getting the healthy sleep they need to stay alert and attentive.

The Ezzos go on to discuss this idea of healthy sleep:

“Researchers have found a clear relationship between poor sleep habits and misbehavior. One significant report found that children who sleep less than ten hours in a twenty-four hour period may be more likely to throw temper tantrums than those who get more sleep,” (On Becoming Childwise).

Then we parents become the lucky ones to deal with this misbehavior in the late afternoons and evenings!

So what can we do about it? Well, everyone can homeschool! I’m kidding, but in all seriousness, homeschooling has alleviated this problem for us. We get our schoolwork done in a few hours in the morning and early afternoon, so homework isn’t an issue (unless we’re having a focus and attention issue in the morning). And except for co-op day, my boys can sleep as late as they need to in the morning.

But if homeschooling isn’t for you, I think it’s wise to limit their extracurricular activities. Don’t get guilted into signing them up for every sport and musical instrument offered to you.

Another good way to ensure healthy sleep for our kids is to do our best to cut out device/TV time during the week. I know it offers us a break, but when we consider that our kids’ time is so limited, there are many other things that they can do with their time. And if it seems like they need time to zone out in front of the TV, it’s entirely possible that they’re not getting enough sleep. Let them relax for a few minutes with a book, then get homework and playtime done so you don’t run the risk of putting the kids to bed late. Better yet, put them to bed early if they “need” time to zone out.

Consider this:

“Children whose parents help them develop healthy sleep habits are optimally awake and optimally alert to interact with their environment. They are more self-assured, happier, and demonstrate longer attention spans. As a result, they are better learners,” (On Becoming Childwise).

So if you want to make sure your child learns well in school, do your best to make sleep a priority!

Why We Homeschool

Here's Lucas reading

Here’s Lucas reading

I’ve mentioned in a few of my posts that we are homeschooling this year, but I never explained why. And I know a few of you are wondering. So here it is, my “why we homeschool” post.

As you might imagine, I’ve never been one to take my kids’ school decisions very lightly. Every January or February, when schools have their enrollment periods, I fret over this decision. It started back in William’s preschool years. Before pre-K, I never stuck with a preschool for longer than a year. None of them ever seemed perfect enough. When he turned 4, though, he started at a local private school. I enrolled him in their half-day pre-K program, and he did okay, but the emails and conferences with the teacher clued me into the fact that something wasn’t quite right. This was when I began all of my research into his food intolerances and blood sugar instability. Then it became clear that even after these diet changes, William was still a little young for the class. His birthday is just two weeks before the cutoff, so he was the very youngest in the class. Couple that with all of the diet changes and sensory issues (we we discovered that summer), I knew that being the youngest wasn’t going to be the best for him. So we repeated pre-K. He did amazingly well that year.

His Kindergarten year went really well also. He had an amazing teacher who challenged him but who was still super patient with all of his idiosyncrasies. That year, when January rolled around, I hadn’t yet decided where to put him for first grade. I had never thought that we would send him to private school the whole way, so we considered public (for a short time). By the time I got around to enrolling him, there were no spots left in the class! They had way too many Kindergartners going into first grade. It wasn’t managed very well, and I’m still upset by the whole situation.

Our Shakespeare unit

Our Shakespeare unit

Nonetheless, we found another private school for William to attend for first grade. It was a Montessori school and it enabled William’s creativity to flourish. But it was way too lax, wasn’t very structured, and didn’t challenge him enough. All of the intensity and drive that William learned in Kindergarten was gone. Lucas went to this same school for preschool. By the end of the year, I had had enough. And I wasn’t willing to pay thousands of dollars (times two kids) for a school that was just mediocre, to put it kindly.

But after volunteering at this school, I realized that I could do exactly what they were doing, and I could probably do a better job at it. Public school was pretty much off the table at this point. I had no faith that the public school would be able to accommodate William’s needs. Not only did he have dietary and sensory issues (which don’t qualify for any special treatment), but William was proving to be pretty advanced academically. I knew that even if William had an amazing teacher, it wouldn’t be a good fit academically, and he would likely become a behavior problem because of it. In any situation, even now, William refuses to be bored.

If I had to narrow down our reasons for homeschooling, I would say that giving my kids a good education is at the top of my list. Of course, it allows me to accommodate all of William’s other issues, but academics are my primary concern. Among the other homeschoolers I’ve met, I’ve found that we are a little different in this way. It’s a little frustrating, honestly.

William's dictation (spelling)

William’s dictation (spelling)

Among the many reasons that people homeschool, I’ve found that there are two that are most common: 1) escaping public school and 2) sheltering a child from the rest of the world. Many homeschooling parents have had their kids in public school, and for one reason or another, realized that it wasn’t a good fit. Since my boys have never been to public school, this wasn’t ever a concern for us, so I have a hard time relating to these parents. I’ve also found that many of these parents don’t challenge their kids enough. They seem to think that if their child has a hard time with handwriting, they aren’t going to require it of the child. I don’t know about you, but I have the opposite viewpoint. If my child has a hard time in a certain subject, I’m going to require more work in that subject, not less.

I can relate a little better with the parents who homeschool to shelter their kids. And I’m not sure that shelter is the right word. Many of these parents want themselves, not the child’s peers, to be the primary influence in the child’s life. I get it. There’s a bit of a “Lord of the Flies” thing that goes on in public school. Kids are sort of left to their own devices on the playground, and they are much more influenced by their peers than any adult that may be nearby. This brings me to my other concern with our local public school: there are over 500 kids! That makes about 4 classes per grade. And ours is even one of the smallest schools in the district. When I think about the sheer number of kids and the peer influence, I think of the two neighborhood kids who’ve lived here since they were babies. I have to say that I’ve seen a change in them since they started school. Neither one seems completely comfortable in their own skin.

So here we are homeschooling. Both boys are doing amazingly well. William is now in second grade and reading at a seventh-grade level. He’s working a year or two ahead in math, doing double-digit multiplication and division. And I’m able to challenge that little photographic memory of his with spelling words like “calculating,” “powerful,” and “ridiculous.” (All three of these words were in his dictation lesson last week.)

William's daily journal

William’s daily journal

Lucas is also doing far better than I expected. I had considered sending Lucas to preschool (the same pre-K William attended) even after I decided to homeschool William, but I’m so glad I didn’t. William had started to read in pre-K, but Lucas is well beyond where William was at this age. We’re using “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons,” and apparently by the end of the 100th lesson, Lucas will be reading at a second-grade level. We’re on lesson 87 right now. :)

Lucas is also doing well in math. We’re just playing math games with cards and Cuisenaire Rods, but it’s coming very naturally to him. Just today, on our way home from flag football, Lucas was doing math problems. He started it, asking me what 5 + 5 was. I had him tell me. Then we did all of the doubles (2+2, 3+3, 4+4) and he felt like such a big kid because he knew all the answers.

Lucas is finding handwriting to be a challenge, and we work on it every day, but I’m also being patient. He’s only 5. We’ll keep working on it over the summer. My goal is to have him writing most letters and numbers before the beginning of next school year.

I’m finding that my kids are getting a much more enriching curriculum than they had even while in private school. William is turning into a bit of a history buff, and both boys loved our Shakespeare unit. I build all of their Language Arts curriculum around our literature, so it makes it interesting. William is also learning Spanish.



And simply because it’s so often an objection, being social with other kids is also part of our curriculum. (Really, this socialization thing is a huge myth.) We go to our local homeschool co-op once a week and another homeschool social group once a week. Personally debunking the homeschool socialization myth, the kids made 200 Valentine cards this year! My kids have no problem socializing with other people, kids or adults. I also love that my kids have time to play and just be kids. We get our school work done before 1:00 on most days, which leaves time for music, sports, and just play. Oh, and Lucas can still nap!

How To Praise Smart Kids


On Monday, I discussed the idea that parenting influences a child’s brain development and that potentially, Babywise parents have an easier time at this because we naturally tend toward establishing structure, self-control, and sleep. But just because we set our kids up for success doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing. In fact, parents of smarter kids often have a more difficult go at parenting.

But if there’s one thing you need to learn when parenting a smart child, it’s how to offer praise. Praise is important. It encourages our children. It motivates them. It builds their self-esteem. But there’s a right way to praise and a wrong way to praise.

It comes down to this: don’t praise a child for qualities that are beyond his control. Even when you’re amazed by your child’s memory or his early abilities in math or reading, bite your tongue whenever you’re tempted to say, “You’re so smart,” or “You have an amazing memory.”

For praise to hold any weight, it must speak to the child’s effort. Better than praising characteristics, praise his actions. It should sound like this:

• You worked so hard on that puzzle.
• I like how you persevered on that task. Sticking with something when it gets hard is so important.
• I see you chose a more difficult book to read. Nice!
• Your homework tonight was tough. I like that you never got discouraged.
The reason this type of praise is important for smart kids in particular is that life typically comes easy for these kids. They can very easily skate through life. They often don’t have to try hard or learn the meaning of the word perseverance. It’s nice that life will be easy for them, but no child (or adult) will get very far if they never learn the value of hard work.
This idea has been studied and tested. In 2007, Po Bronson wrote an article in New York Magazine about how not to talk to our kids. The article’s subtitle is “the inverse power of praise.” In the article, he discusses the importance of praising a child’s hard work over his innate intelligence:

For the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia (she’s now at Stanford) studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work—a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders—paints the picture most clearly.

Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”

Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”

Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.

So you can see how praise plays a pivotal role in a child’s determination to succeed. No matter how smart, a child can still fail in school if he refuses to do his homework or push himself with the work gets tough. The ability to persevere and work diligently is very possibly more important than innate intelligence.

Are Babywise Kids Smarter?


It’s been a long-held belief that IQ is a static thing. A person tests at a certain IQ level and maintains that level for the rest of their lives. Many say IQ is genetic, and there’s not much we can do to influence it.

I’ve been reading a bit about brain training lately, and I’m convinced that IQ is not a static measure of intelligence. Our brains are living, breathing organs that grow over time. Our brains have the ability to adapt and reorganize neural pathways and even build brand new ones. These neural pathways form the basis of our cognitive skills. And our cognitive abilities, quantified by IQ tests, measure our ability to not only hold knowledge, but also to process information. So because the brain is always adapting and building, our cognitive skills, and our IQ, never stay the same. The brain’s ability to adapt and grow is called neuroplasticity. When our brains are characterized by plasticity, they are by definition malleable, elastic, flexible, and pliable.

I can personally attest to this idea of neuroplasticity. In college, I could almost feel my brain growing. I learned so much in such a short period of time. I was surrounded by people who were educating themselves and professors who were experts in their fields. I was challenged intellectually like never before (or since). And not only was I taking in and storing information, I was learning the skills to study and process information.

So if our brains are so malleable, it seems entirely possible that parenting plays a huge role in the development of a child’s brain. And if that’s the case, is it possible that Babywise kids are smarter?

Babywise Moms are Typically Type A

We Babywise moms are typically type A personalities. We like things to be in their place, and we think nothing of making the effort to actively teach our children. From what I see on message boards and in my “real life” Babywise friends, we actively engage with our children, read to them religiously, think critically about what we should be reading to them, engage their imaginations, teach them basic academics before they enter school, and supplement school if we see that it’s lacking. I know of no Babywise mom who thinks it’s okay to plop her child in front of the TV and think nothing of the child’s cognitive development.

We Teach Self-Control

Another reason I think Babywise kids might be smarter is that they’ve been taught self-control. If I had to choose between teaching my child early reading skills or teaching self-control before Kindergarten, self-control would be it. If a child has no self-control, he’s not going to be able to sit and learn. His mind and body will be so busy doing other things, things guided by his impulsive brain, that his learning ability will be diminished. So much of early learning is about form and structure. Teaching a child to work diligently is immensely valuable. The habits of learning form the foundation of all future learning. And since Babywise kids are raised on a routine and are taught the benefits of structure, they are much more likely to work diligently than the child who is left to his own devices.

Babywise Kids Get Lots of Sleep

Does anyone disagree that sleep affects the brain’s ability to process information? We all know how we feel when we haven’t had enough sleep. Unless we’re loaded up on coffee, we’re in a fog all day. This very idea is addressed in Growing Kids God’s Way:

“Children who have established healthy sleep habits are optimally awake and optimally alert to interact with their environment. Having observed a generation of these children now, we see some common threads among the school-age population. In classroom settings, I have consistently found these children to be more self-assured, happier, less demanding, more sociable, inspired, and motivated. They have longer attention spans and become faster learners because they are more adaptable. Mediocrity among this population is rare, while excellence is common,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 253).

I love that the Ezzos describe these children as happier and more social. It’s not all about academics, folks. I don’t think the Ezzos would encourage us to give our kids 5 hours of homework every night for the sake of getting ahead. No amount of academic advancement is worth the risk of creating undue stress. In fact, when we push our kids too far too fast, we run the risk of burning them out. A child who’s burned out at age 10 may be academically ahead, but will it serve them well in the future? Will they even want to go to college? This says nothing of the effects on a child’s character when he believes he’s smarter than all of his peers.

It’s all about balance and priorities. And I think the Ezzos have it right in teaching Babywise moms to give our kids the skills and foundation to effectively learn. But they also place a huge priority on developing our kids’ moral foundation. In fact, they may even say that this moral foundation is more important than any skills that enable them to learn. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

If you are a Babywise mom, you can walk away from this post knowing that you’re giving your child the skills he needs to succeed in school. And not only can you trust that you’ve prepared him for school, but you can also trust that you’ve instilled important values that will serve him well in school and beyond.

Babywise Week: An Activity a Day

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Emily Parker, Journey of Parenthood
· Friday: Jessica Cook, The Mommy Teacher

Our surprise blogger this week is Jessica Cook, co-author of The Mommy Teacher. It’s a super-cute blog that is a wonderful resource for activities for moms to do with their kids. The blog’s tagline is “schooling parents to teach their children, one activity at a time.” That pretty much says it all!

Jessica’s post for today is about how real moms in real life can do just one activity a day to make a big impact on our kids. I know that I personally feel somewhat overwhelmed when it comes to creating activities for my kids. I know activities can be so important to their little developing minds, but I’m just not a crafty person. I’m getting better though, now that I’m homeschooling my boys.

I’m always on the lookout for fun activities that will make our schooling a little more fun. As a case in point, we just got home from our local consignment shop where I found a kid’s microscope for $15 (originally $50)! I’m a sucker for a deal, so I was worried it wouldn’t make the impact that I was after, but my kids couldn’t keep their hands off the thing! As I think about our school plans for next week, I’m going to have my boys create their own slides that we can view on the microscope. And I’ll see if I can find a book from the library that talks about magnification or atoms and molecules. It’s this gentle introduction to a complex topic, with a hands-on activity, that is the foundation of our homeschool.

But I digress… Here’s my favorite quote from Jessica’s post:

I give myself lots of grace because I believe there is a huge learning curve when it comes to raising these little impressionable people.

It’s so true. It can be so easy to put so much pressure on ourselves given that they are so impressionable. And really, they’re only little once, so we get one shot. But that’s not the point. The point is that we do our best while giving ourselves grace, knowing that we always do the best that we can.

Babywise Week: Teaching Life Skills

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Emily Parker, Journey of Parenthood
· Friday: Surprise guest blogger

We kick off Babywise Blog Network Week with a wonderful post from Valerie about teaching our children those important life skills. She features a precious picture of her oldest at three years old pushing a vacuum. Valerie’s post offers a detailed explanation as to why it is our responsibility to teach our children important life skills and how to do so. For a time, it does take more work to teach a child to sweep the floor than to simply do it ourselves. But the goal is not having a clean floor. The goal is having a child who knows how to sweep. And as our kids learn these skills, it’s all about practice. Valerie reminds us that our kids need to practice their chores just as they do to learn to play an instrument, a sport, or any other activity that doesn’t come naturally.

“Your child is not going to learn how to cook and clean just because it happens in your home any more than your child will learn to read just because you have books in your home.” ~Valerie Plowman

This is my favorite quote from Valerie’s post. Its a great analogy!

To read her post in its entirety, head on over to Chronicles of a Babywise Mom. And check in here all week to see what the other Babywise bloggers have in store for us!

Cultivate the Imagination

William in character

William in character

How imaginative are your kids? It’s only natural that our kids express themselves through imaginative play, especially beginning around age 3. On Monday, I talked about the benefit of taking our kids outdoors for some play in nature. The same holds true for imaginative play.

Imaginative play is so good for our kids. When they act out their little scenarios, with a toy or simply in their minds, they are expressing a true, developmentally appropriate form of creativity. I discussed the many important benefits of imaginative play about a year ago, and my philosophy remains the same. Given that there are only 24 hours in the day, I would much prefer that my boys have more time for imaginative play than learning their multiplication tables. There is a place for both, but I believe that imaginative play does more for our kids’ ability to create and learn than rote memorization does.

We are not the family that does flashcards for fun. If you came to my house, you’d be much more likely to find my boys raiding their costume bin or setting up a Lego battle than sitting at a table doing school work. The interesting thing about it is that my kids are smart (if I do say so myself). William is a year ahead of grade level in math and reads several grade levels ahead. Lucas is in pre-K and is reading. He will listen to a story, and without skipping a beat, will be able to narrate it back to me (tell me what happened in the story).

As is the case with outdoor time, if we give them the freedom for imaginative play, they’ll be that much better off when it comes to academics. Yes, imaginative play takes time away from school work, but if we did nothing but school work, I doubt we’d be any farther ahead. I believe my boys do well academically because we spend time outdoors and play imaginatively, not despite it.

Children Are Made Readers…


“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ~ Emilie Buchwald

I ran across this little quote recently. I love it! It really is so true. My husband and I read to the kids every night without fail. I majored in English in college and recognize what great literature can do for our minds. So I knew that when I had kids, I always wanted books to be a big part of our lives. I started reading to William when he was 4 months old. My hands were a little full when Lucas came along (with a 3yo with SPD and a deployed husband), so our nightly reading with him didn’t start until he was 6 months old.

I’m seeing the effects of all this reading pay off. William is a fairly advanced reader, speller, and writer. I attribute his success in this area to all the reading we do. I’ll read fairly advanced books to him while lying next to him in his bed, and he’ll follow along with me, reading over my shoulder. I find this to be so much more beneficial than having him read to himself. As he reads along with me, he can hear how words are correctly pronounced and how the inflection of my voice changes with various punctuation marks and as the book flows from one element to the next.

I remember reading along in a book in a high school English class and learning the pronunciation of the word “facade.” A classmate had read the word, and I was following along, so I learned how it was pronounced. Having read the book to myself at home, I never would have guessed that the word is pronounced as it is.

William is also gaining a great vocabulary from all of our reading. He received the Fablehaven books for Christmas, and at first, I wasn’t sure what to think of them. I was worried they would be too violent or mindless twaddle. But we started reading, and we love it! He likes the story line and the fact that a young boy is one of the main characters. I like the story line as well, but what I love most is the rich vocabulary! I read a sentence the other day that had several multi-syllabic words. It took me a minute to read and process the sentence.

Here’s a sentence from the book that gives you an idea: “But if I lose the protections afforded by the treaty, the consequences of my vulnerability would inevitably follow,” (Fablehaven, p. 278). Try saying that five times fast!

William won’t always ask me what the words mean, and that’s fine. Just exposing him to this rich vocabulary is what’s important to me. After he hears and sees a word for the third or fourth time, it will start to register. And again, me reading it to him is different from him reading it to himself. If he were reading it himself, he might stumble on the words. In fact, I wouldn’t even have him read a book at this level. It’s quite advanced. So since I read to him, he’s “reading” a level that is far above his own reading level.

My husband typically reads picture books to Lucas, and I was just saying to him the other day that I think he’s ready for chapter books. Lucas seems to have caught the reading bug, too. When we read chapter books for school, he has no trouble following along, and sometimes he’s more capable of giving me a narration (describing what happened in our reading) than William. I think I’ll recommend that they start on classic chapter books like Boxcar Children, Indian in the Cupboard, and Cricket in Times SquareMasterpiece by Elizabeth Broach is also a good one.

So if you haven’t started reading to your child on a regular basis, there’s no time like the present! And as you can see, it’s beneficial to read to a child long after he has begun reading to himself. Head to the library and grab a few books that catch your eye and get started. If you’re looking for more great titles, feel free to connect with me on Goodreads. You’ll see all the books that I’ve read and recommend (for myself and the kids).

Discover and Hone Your Child’s Interests


If you’re like me, you’re thinking about the coming year and the many activities that are available to our children. In truth, most kids begin their activities in the fall with the start of the school year, but there’s nothing like the fresh start of a new year to ensure we’re following our child’s interests when it comes to their activities.

First of all, let me be upfront with the fact that I am not a proponent of signing kids up for activities just for the sake of keeping them busy. Kids are so busy these days! Let them rest and play after a long day at school, and make family dinners a priority. These early years at home are so important and will do so much more for your child’s social and emotional development than any soccer club or karate class.

With that in mind, step back a minute and assess your child’s activities. Does he have too many? Too few? Most importantly, are they addressing his interests?

I have seen a few soccer games where the kids don’t seem to be having much fun. It often seems like it’s more about the parents and coaches than it is about the children. The same goes for any tutoring or “educational enrichment” classes. Of course, fun probably isn’t the goal there, but nonetheless, assessing the need is key.

The first priority in assessing your child’s activities is to make sure you are discovering and honing his interests. What is your child most interested in? I feel activities need to center around the child’s interests because this is where the child will truly learn. A child forced to join Cub Scouts when his true passion is playing the piano does the child a real disservice.

I’m reminded of the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. The author says that to reach true success, it takes a bit of timing and good luck, but also lots of practice. Specifically 10,000 hours, he says. So if our hope is that our child will reach success the likes of Bill Gates, then we must first find what will inspire and guide the child toward greatness. Then we give him the opportunity to get their 10,000 hours in.

Realize that choosing the 10,000-hour activity for the child won’t do any good. The child has to have the inner drive to want to put in all those hours. So if you’re dragging a sporty kid to piano practice and violin lessons, I suspect you’ll be met with great resistance.

William, my oldest, inspires me with his inspiration. He is truly gifted in many things. I will say that we are still defining his one or two interests. His top interest at this point is drawing. In his free time, he writes comic strips. They are very detailed and very funny! I haven’t yet felt the need to sign him up for a drawing class because I’d like to see how this interest morphs on its own, without an outside influence. I cultivate this interest by giving him plenty of time to draw, encouraging him by sharing his drawings and comics with others, and by giving him the materials he needs. I bought him a book for Christmas that gives step-by-step directions for drawing cartoon people!

Another interest of William’s is piano. This kid amazes me with his ear. He learned to play “Deck the Halls” by listening to it in a commercial and pounding it out on the keyboard. We’re taking Suzuki piano lessons, and I love that it teaches him to play by ear, but I have to say, I’m not thrilled with the lessons. I feel like we might benefit more by devoting that time at home on the piano. This remains to be seen.

Lucas, my five-year-old, is my sporty one. The child could throw a perfect spiral with his little football at the age of 3. I have him in a sports class at our homeschool co-op. When we have the time, I’ll sign him up for flag football or t-ball. Beyond sports, we’re still waiting to see what other interests emerge. He takes the same piano lessons William does, but he gets less time on the piano. I’m not sure it’s an interest or talent of his. Besides, at his age, I think imaginative play at home is more important than any activity that I could sign him up for.

As you look ahead to a new year, what interests has your child shown? Are you doing your best to hone those skills with the right amount of outside activities?

The Morning Rush


Do you have kids in school? If so, you know all about the morning rush. For many, it’s the most dreaded time of day. Honestly, the morning rush was a factor in my decision to homeschool my boys. When William was in preschool, I deliberately chose to send him to the afternoon session to avoid the morning rush. And then he started full-day kindergarten. So we had a full two years to figure out our morning routine, and I can honestly say we never fell into a good groove.

If I had it to do all over again, here’s what I would do:

Get up and get showered before the kids wake up

This is a tough one since I’m such a night owl and really value my sleep. And waking up in the dark is always difficult. But what’s 30 minutes if it makes for a smooth morning? My shower is the thing that makes me feel like I can face the world. If it’s a cup of coffee or just some peace and quiet with your morning paper, take that time for yourself before the kids get up.

Figure out what wakes your child up

Our kids are like us in many ways. If we need a shower, a cup of coffee, or some alone-time with the newspaper to face the day, our kids likely need their own version of a wake-up activity. Allow your child to do whatever it is that he needs to face the day. Lucas always needs his morning snuggles. William likes to play with Legos or draw. It’s no fun if every morning is rush, rush, rush. Allow them some downtime before you walk out the door.

Get ready the night before

My kids always showered at night, and I usually packed lunches the night before, but I’m sure there’s more I could have done to get ready for the morning rush. I could have laid out their clothes, put their shoes (and socks!) by the door, had extra toothbrushes in the downstairs bathroom, made sure their coats were accessible, and made sure their backpacks were packed and by the door.

Make sure everybody gets enough sleep

Kids in elementary school should get about 10-12 hours of sleep, on average. That means, if you’re up at 6:00am, your child should be in bed no later than 8:00pm. Little kids tend to wake up early, so if you’re having to drag them out of bed, it’s likely they’re not getting enough sleep.

Make a chart

Most kids are visual. You can give them tasks orally until you’re blue in the face, and it still doesn’t get done. But if you give them a visual chart, they’ll be more likely to get all of their morning tasks done…and done quickly. I’ve used task cards for bedtime. I lay them out and they can follow them in whatever order they like. Then as they finish each one, they turn the card over. A checklist works just as well. Here’s a link to some free printable chore cards. For durability, take the file to your local office supply store to have them printed on cardstock and laminated.

Give them motivation

Let’s face it, when kids don’t want to go to school and don’t want to leave the warm, cozy house, it can be difficult to get them moving. The more they dislike school, the harder your mornings will be. There may not be much you can change about school, but you can motivate him to get moving. Put marbles in a jar for every task completed quickly, and go out for ice cream when the jar is full. Or give a penny or two for every task done. Stickers can also work well. It all depends on what excites and motivates your child. We’ve been doing pennies for school tasks, and we all love it! They are motivated to do their work, and it’s a lesson in itself since they have to count their money and understand what they can buy with it. One thing a wise teacher friend told me is that it’s important to switch up your reward system regularly. They always get stale, and a new system will create excitement.

Decide what matters most

Make sure you prioritize your morning activities. If you’re spending 30 minutes making sure your daughter’s hair is perfect but not giving your son his necessary morning snuggles, your priorities are a little off. Nobody’s going to notice if the ponytail is a little off center or if the socks don’t match. But your child will notice if you don’t feed his love language in some way every morning.

Vow not to nag

Nagging, yelling, screaming, and threatening have no place in the morning routine. And trust me, I know how easy it is to nag and yell. I have realized, however, that I can simply choose not to nag and yell. And guess what, it works! Attitude is a choice. You can choose to yell and have grumpy kids as a result. Or you can choose to be happy and have a happy start to your day. It makes a huge difference for everyone. You know the old saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” Well, I think this applies to our kids, too. “Happy mom, happy kids!”

Take a mental health day

If you’re having one of those mornings where it’s cold and blustery outside, and nobody wants to leave the house, take a mental health day! Let the kids stay home from school. Get a fire going in the fireplace, read your favorite books, crawl back into bed, eat soup on TV trays, put some cookies in the oven. Do your favorite things, and cherish that time with the kids. You can always email the teacher and ask her to send in whatever work needs to be completed.

How are your mornings? Do you have any tricks that have saved your sanity?