Make play a priority

Life and a sick child have gotten the better of me, so I only have the energy to leave you with this one thought. It’s an important one, though, so pay attention. As you think about what activities to sign your kids up for this fall, and as you look ahead to school starting (if it hasn’t started already), think about play. Yes, homework needs to be done, and music classes can be very enriching. But please stop yourself before you sign up for much more than that. Take a look at this amazing graphic.

I agree with every single word. Let your kids be kids. Let them play outside and inside every day. Make play a priority!

Homeschooled vs. homeschoolers

I came across this amazing YouTube video about homeschooling. This brilliantly witty woman makes the distinction between those who are homeschooled and those who are homeschoolers. It’s worth a few good laughs, but she also makes a good point. Take a look!

Click on the image to watch!

Don’t rush your child to grow up


On Wednesday, I talked about a NY Times article that discusses the idea of “overparenting.” The article talks about parents doing too much for their kids. Rushing our children like this, the authors say, has harmful effects on the child’s developing sense of self.

I flipped open my Growing Kids God’s Way book tonight and discovered a passage that discusses this idea directly. (I love it when I flip open a book and it gives me exactly the message I need at that moment.)

“All too often, parents rush the process of growing up. Too soon, Dad and Grandpa are signing R.J. up for junior hockey, simply because he was mesmerized by the latest ESPN commercial. … Never mind the fact that R.J. is only four years old and hates the cold. Dad is left coercing, correcting, pleading, and dealing with tears, while R.J. is clearly out of his league,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 178).

It is fantastic when children develop a true passion for a sport or any other extracurricular activity, but when the primary motivation comes from the outside, the child’s sense of self is hindered. The book goes on:

“Maybe you have not rushed your child to the hockey rink lately, but have you rushed him in other behavior activities that are way beyond his intellectual and social readiness or interest? … Think about their readiness to learn. While it is true that the brain grows best when challenged, it is also true that such challenges must be developmentally and age appropriate. Too often, parents push their children into higher learning activities only to discover that their children’s abilities are impaired because they were rushed. … Children in our society are rushed morally, behaviorally, sexually, intellectually, and physically,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 178).

It’s a curious thing, this need of parents to rush their children. We always want the best for them, and we get caught up in this trap that our child has to be better and smarter than every other child. What are some ways to speed the process along? Teach them to read at a year old! Sign them up for competitive chess at age 2! Fill their summers with camps that promise unparalleled enrichment!

Can you detect my sarcasm? Let your child be a child. I remember when my oldest was little. It was easy to get caught up in this competition. He knew all of his letters before he was 2 and he was reading at age 4. But I have since learned that there’s really no point in it at all. Who’s to say that a child who learns his letters at age 2 is going to be smarter than the child who learns them at age 3 or 4? The only thing it tells you for sure is that the parents are motivated to push the child. It really doesn’t say much about the child.

And back when William was little, I heard other parents (parents of children older than mine) say, “What’s the rush?” In my ignorance (or arrogance), I thought, Well, they just don’t understand or care that their child be the best he can be. I have learned so much in my (almost) 8 years as a parent! I’m now the one saying, “What’s the rush?” It’s true, what meaningful advantage will your child have by learning everything a little bit sooner? And do you want to run the risk of burnout by age 6?

Perhaps more to the point, what will your child miss out on by learning academics or being pushed into sports before he is developmentally ready? Most kids are developmentally ready for academics around the age of 5. (There’s a reason schools don’t take them before they’re 5.) When they are 2, they are still figuring out the world. When they are 3, they are learning to play imaginatively (and think critically). Let him develop naturally, and you’ll be sure he doesn’t skip over any critical developmental phases.

In fact, academics will come more easily and naturally when the child is ready. Start early and you’re in for months or years of heartache. Equate it to potty training. If you start before they’re ready, you’ll deal with months and months of accidents and a discouraged mom and child. If you wait until the child shows signs of readiness, you can potty train him in a week. I did!

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. But before I do, I have one request. When you think about starting a new activity (physical, academic, whatever), give some thought as to whether he’s really ready and what might be the harm in waiting a little while longer. Before long, I bet you’ll be the one saying, “What’s the rush?!”

Sustained silent reading

Image by Candid Memories

By Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 

I am a huge proponent of reading. One of my main goals as a parent has always been to teach my children to not only be capable of reading, but love reading. I come from a line of readers, and I believe the person who can and does read opens a whole world of possibilities to himself.

When I came across the idea of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) in The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, I was very excited. It has come to be my number one favorite piece of advice from the book. It is something I do with my children consistently and have seen many great benefits from it.


SSR is essentially reading for pleasure each day. When it comes time for SSR, you choose your reading material–whether it be magazines, a book, the newspaper…whatever it is you feel like reading, you read. You read together so that the children can see you modeling reading, but everyone is silent.


  • SSR provides the opportunity to read for a long enough length of time that reading becomes natural. SSR has been shown to improve reading skills.
  • SSR gives children the opportunity to read for fun. It shows kids that reading can be for pleasure. There are no quizzes and no tests–no pressure. SSR has been shown to improve attitude toward reading.


Here are some tips on implementing SSR in the home:

  1. You can do SSR with a non-reader.
  2. Start with a shorter length of time. 10-15 minutes is a good start. You can then move up from there according to age and ability of child. We do 20-30 minutes a day; however, my seven year old often continues his SSR for another 20-30 minutes.
  3. Allow the child to choose his/her own reading material. Remind the child to gather enough reading material to fill the time. For a child who cannot read independently, she will likely need several picture books (or whatever she chooses) to get through the 10-15 (or more) minutes.
  4. Have a variety of reading material available in the home. Research shows that “the more kinds of reading material in a home the higher the child’s reading scores in school” (page 90), so don’t feel like if your child chooses to read the paper it is worthless time spent reading.
  5. Have SSR at a time of day you can be most consistent with. For my older children (7 and 5), I like to have it after lunch. This is a time of day that is great to relax and take a break.
  6. You read, also. You will come to love this time as much as your children do!
  7. No getting up and changing material once SSR has started. Part of your goal is to have sustained focus on reading, and if the child is getting up and down over and over to change books, it will distract from that goal. That is why you remind them to get enough to last through the time. If they misjudge (and they will at first), tell them to look through their books again.
  8. No talking during SSR.
  9. No reports after SSR is over. This is just for fun. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about what you read, just no formal testing.


Like I said, we love our SSR. We have now been doing it for about a year and a half.

I love it for me. I love reading, and this is a chance for me to get some uninterrupted reading time each day–something that can be very hard to come by as a mom!

I love it for my children. I see that they love it–they never grumble or complain when it is SSR time. It also gives them a physical break in the middle of the day and allows them to just relax and escape into the world of whatever they are reading.

I have also seen reading skills improve greatly, especially in my full-on reader. My recently-turned-seven year old has gotten faster and faster at reading during the last two months. He has gone from finishing a chapter book in a day or two to finishing it in just over an hour (we have added some more difficult books for him because of his speed). When SSR is over, he always wants to read longer.

I see the efforts of SSR paying off in our home. Give it a try! You will see great benefits, also.

Valerie is a mother to four, including a newborn, and blogs at

See my rain gutter bookshelves!

In the past, I’ve talked about creating reading nooks throughout the house to encourage our kids to read. If we surround our children with books and create cozy spots for reading, they’ll be more likely to read. Simple as that!

One fantastic way to encourage reading is to ensure our children can see the covers of their books, not just their spines. Rain gutter bookshelves are the perfect solution! I wish I could claim the idea as my own, but nonetheless, I have them in my house! My husband and I took a trip to Home Depot, and $50 and 2 hours later, we had rain gutter bookshelves.

Here’s how it looks:











The rain gutters are on the far wall. They do rise above my kids’ heads, but it hasn’t been a problem so far. They can either stand on a kid-sized chair or ask a parent to get any book that’s out of reach. Notice that I still have a regular bookshelf there. The rain gutter shelves only hold so many books, so I will regularly rotate out the books that sit on the rain gutters. Any library books will also go on the rain gutters.

These shelves achieved exactly the effect I was looking for. My kids were so excited to see their books! They spend much more time reading than they used to. It even worked with a 7-year-old friend who came over. Despite all the toys she knew were there, she chose to read.

If you’re looking to do this in your home, you might consider making 2 or 3 longer shelves instead of 4 short ones. The wall we put them on extends out only a few inches from what you see here, so we were limited. This would save you some money. Oddly enough, the actual 10-foot gutter was only $5. But at $7-10 each, the end caps and support hooks added up. So if we did two fewer shelves, we would have used fewer end caps and fewer hooks.

And just for fun, I’ll show you the rest of our playroom makeover. Our playroom is actually the formal living room in our house; it got very little use before the kids were born. Over the years, the kids have collected so many toys, and while the bins and bookshelves were great for a while, they just got too overwhelming. I even created little labels with the name of the bin and a picture of the bin category, so anybody who can’t read the label can see the picture. But the toys and books just started overflowing, and I was the only one who put the toys in their appropriate bins.

My solution? Repurpose the armoire that used to hold our old TV (before we got a flat screen). Thanks, Mom, for convincing me not to get rid of it! It’s amazing how many toys fit in that thing! Almost every single toy you see in the “before” picture is in the armoire. The mini-trampoline got relegated to the garage, as did the Lincoln Logs that collected dust. But everything else is there!

As embarrassed as I am, here’s the before picture (in all its messy glory):








And here’s the after!















There’s still a box of trucks on the floor that I need to get another bin for. It turns out that Bed Bath & Beyond no longer sells the bins I use, so I have to decide if I’m okay getting a bin that looks slightly different than all the others. I suppose that now that they’re all in the armoire, it doesn’t matter much.