I don't know about you, but I am definitely ready for spring. Our weather has fluctuated between really cold (single digits for us in the South), cold rain, and ice. I'm trying to pretend it's spring by making some spring themed resources for our homeschool. If you follow the link below, you can subscribe to my weekly homeschool and support newsletter and receive ten free spring themed copywork pages! On these ten pages, you'll find quotes all about spring with manuscript print. And if you're a newsletter subscriber, I often send freebies and share links and resources.
Bickering, jealousy, deliberate annoying- any parent of more than one child has probably experienced some of these from their children. Although I long for my children to get along, to live together in harmony, some days it feels as if I am playing referee instead of coaching a unified team. It's really frustrating for me as a parent to feel as if I am constantly telling my kids to just get along.
Although my kids are far from perfect in this area, there are some things that we have learned over the years that can help us get our kids on the same team. And while siblings are still going to have their moments of bickering, it sure is more peaceful when we can help them to get along.
Make family time a priority.
In many families now, family members are constantly going their separate ways. Every child is involved in multiple activities while mom and dad each have their own peer groups to have Bible study or social time with. The norm in our culture is for families to be apart. But this can really contribute to bickering and arguing. While it seems as if being together too much would cause family members to get on each other's last nerve, I've sometimes found the opposite to be true. When we are involved in too many outside activities, the kids seem to have less tolerance for each other and more general grumpiness.
Make sure that the family has enough time to just be together. It might mean cutting other activities- your own or the kids'. But there should be some times when you can just hang out- eat supper together, play board games, have a family movie night. If you're taking time to build good memories and experiences as a family, kids are going to feel closer to each other and enjoy each other more. (Trust me. It's hard for the kids to be bickering with each other when they're too busy laughing together.)
Give them responsibility for each other...but not too much responsibility.
From the time they were little, we've tried to teach our kids to take responsibility for their siblings. By asking older ones to "help" watch the baby or bring mom supplies or by asking a much older sibling to help a younger one at bath time, we've tried to communicate the idea that in a family we're all responsible to help each other. As a result, our kids are typically protective of each other. They are quick to comfort if a sibling is sad or to express anger when someone has hurt a sibling.
One drawback can be giving a naturally mothering older child too much responsibility. This can result in a "bossy" sibling that irritates the others. We've learned to make clear delineations about what responsibility the older siblings have. And we try not to constantly put responsibility only on the shoulders of older siblings because I think this can result in some bitterness about having too much responsibility.
Bring the family along.
Anyone who has been a part of an activity that one of our children is doing soon realizes that when you get one of us, you usually get us all. We've always tried to make a point of bringing the family along to each child's "thing." When Charles played soccer, we all went and watched games. If Daddy helps coach, chances are another kid or two is often around as well. The whole family watched football when Charles played and Kathryne cheered this fall. We've all been around when Kathryne and Rachel practice praise and worship dance. Ashlyne is heavily involved in gymnastics. And the folks at the gym know our other kids as well because we try to bring the family along to meets or when we volunteer for things. We try to make a point to the kids that we support each other because we are a family.
This doesn't necessarily mean that we drag everybody to every event. We don't want to burn them out. Sometimes a gymnastic meet is long. Football games are long. Swim meets- when Rachel was on swim team- were really long. For the kids not involved it can seem to take forever. So we try to balance being there and being supportive with being reasonable and not making every kid come to every event.
Don't tolerate unkindness.
We tend to be a teasing, sometimes sarcastic family. Teasing can be fine if everyone is laughing. But as soon as someone doesn't think it's funny, it needs to stop. We don't ever want to tolerate unkindness. Although it might be easy to let things slip sometimes, calling names or saying deliberately unkind things shouldn't be tolerated.
Of course the way we talk to each other as parents and to our kids is the model for how they talk to each other. So when the kids get snappy with each other, I have to stop and think about how I've been sounding lately.
Physical work brings a family together. When there is a job that a few siblings can work on together or that mom or dad can work on with a group of kids, the family comes together. Kids will realize that working in agreement will get much more done than arguing and bickering. Having a shared responsibility can make family members feel like part of a team.
Another way to work together is to serve together. Get the whole family involved in a service project to help others. Bake cookies for a homeless shelter. Pack shoeboxes for Christmas gifts for Operation Christmas Child. Have a yard sale to raise money for a mission you want to support. When the whole family is involved in serving together, it's hard to be snapping and grouching at each other.
There will still be times the kids bicker and argue. And there will still be unkindness between siblings on occasion. But putting some of these things into practice can at least get the whole family on the same team...most of the time.
I'm very glad to be a part of the Poppins Book Nook again this year. This is a free monthly book club group cohosted by many bloggers. Jill at Enchanted Homeschooling Mom is our host, and she has come up with some great topics for this year's Poppins Book Nook. Keep reading to find out more about this great book club group and what you can expect this year.
On the last Monday of the month, we'll all be linking up our posts filled with book and activity suggestions for that month's topic. Jill often has some great printables, and sometimes there is an awesome giveaway for you to enter as well.
I'm really looking forward to more book club fun this year. I love finding great books to share with my kids, and I love seeing what great books and activities the other members share. I hope you'll join us for the Poppins Book Nook book club this year. We'll begin on the last Monday in March with...Weather!
This week has been a moderately busy one. We had ice/snow two days this week. I am really ready for all of that to be done with. Here in the South, when there is any threat of ice or snow things shut down. So we spent the whole week playing the "What will be open? Will Daddy go to work like normal?" game. I am really done.
We began the week with a gymnastics meet on Sunday. I was the nominated parent because Sunday is a work day for Jason. The meet was in Columbia, so it wasn't a far trip. My dad went with me, and we took all of the girls. Ashlyne is consistently doing well in vault this season, and she placed 3rd again this week.
Here is my cute puppy picture for the week. Look at that baby snuggled with Rachel's ducky. (Of course right after the girls snapped the picture, she tried to eat that ducky! She loves stuffed animals.)
On Tuesday morning, we had a brief snow storm. The temperatures didn't stay below freezing, so it was all gone by the afternoon, but the kids went out on it for a while, and Blondie loved the snow. Because it started after school started and didn't stick around, it didn't really affect many openings/closings, but it did keep me home from working in the nursery at church for ladies Bible study.
One of the fun things the girls and I have been doing for science is Visual Learning Systems. A full review is coming next week, but we've been enjoying it. This week we've been learning about ecology. One of the fun projects they did was this food web where they placed the animals and plants around the page and connected them with string.
On Wednesday evening we had reports of heavy snow coming, possibly 4-8 inches (which for us is a blizzard, folks!). Sure enough sleet started while we were at Wednesday night choir, and I took the kids and left early. By the time we got home, the sleet had turned in to beautiful fluffy snow flakes and was beginning to stick.
These Southern kids were thrilled and ran around catching flakes on their tongues and making big plans for sledding in all that snow on Thursday.
However, this was about the sum of it when all was said and done- just enough to be cold and wet and yuck. We had some disappointed kids. But, at least Daddy had the day off because schools had closed the night before, and the church office closed.
This week I've heard we have the prediction of warmer weather coming. I'm super glad, and I'll be very ready for it. In fact, let's just get rid of all the snow and have some spring!
I can't believe it, but not only did I complete the challenge to clean the living room this week, I am remembering to post it on time too! I should get extra points. Really, I liked having the opportunity of being forced motivated to clean my living room because I probably don't deep clean it often enough. My homemaking schedule works by having various jobs/areas that I try to get to each day. The good side of that is that, overall, my house stays decently clean- at least livable. The down side is that often I don't stop to deep clean areas because they are "clean enough" to overlook. So I'm really glad for this 34 weeks of clean challenge. And I'm thinking I probably just need to "rinse and repeat" when this is over and go back over each area again and again each 34 weeks!
Disclaimer: The beautiful living room in this photo is NOT mine. But I sure do love all that white!
So, anyway, on to the living room. My plan was to do it over the course of a few days. But I didn't start until Thursday afternoon which was the largest block of time I'd had all week. So I ended up doing it all over a couple of hours. I did have some helpers who joined in- without coercion!- as I was cleaning.
First let me give you a little visual tour of what I had to work with.
1. The recycled dresser: I use this dresser to store extras of things like batteries, toothbrushes, soap. I use the top as a staging area for my purse and things I take with me all the time.
2. The entertainment stand: As you can see, we have way to many video game systems. This is the cabinet that holds them all. Unfortunately there isn't too much to do with this area except dust. I'm highly outnumbered by the video game lovers in my family.
3. The awards cabinet: We have this built in bookshelf that's in a sort of odd place for books because it's almost behind the couch. We used to keep all our board games there until our board game collection outgrew that area. After that I transformed it into the awards cabinet. Every kid has a shelf for trophies and medals.
4. Some of my many (many) bookshelves: We have over 1000 books in our house. I cataloged them one summer a few years ago. At that point we had about 1500. Since that was at least two years ago, I can't begin to guess what we have now. These are shelves of adult fiction and nonfiction. There is also a shelf where I keep my "business" stuff including current review items because my computer set up is just out of view there at a table in the kitchen. That's my "office."
1. Our rug in the living room: It is a sort of odd material, and it traps dirt. Typically I sweep it every day and vacuum it once a week.
2. Chandeliers: Whoever made fancy lights wasn't me. I'm a practical down to earth person, and I'm not into fancy. But the lights have always been here since we moved in, and they are pretty, so there you go. They are a little hard to clean, so they always seem to be dusty.
3. The pile: This, my friends is the sign of a happy marriage. I do NOT like piles. I don't let things collect. I clean out and throw away. I don't like clutter. (I know that doesn't seem true as I've shown pics of the house, but we live in a small house with six people. There's clutter.) I married a man who likes clutter. He likes to have the stuff he uses sitting close by. He doesn't like to put things away. He doesn't like to throw out. At first this was quite a bone of contention in our marriage. But as God changed my heart and I came to see what was truly important, I gave up fighting "the pile." Jason also learned to contain piles to just a few delineated spaces. This is one. It's near where he sits on the couch. I did NOT clean it in my living room clean up.
4-5 Shoe storage: We take off our shoes as we walk in the door. Even friends who come over regularly do it. So shoe storage for shoes for six people is always an issue. We can usually keep it fairly picked up. We have two shelves that store our shoes. They were particularly bad in these pictures because it snowed (slightly) Thursday, and people had been in and out and changing shoes.
6. Wood floors: I love the floors in my living room, but they are very hard to keep clean. They are old, wooden planks with deep, deep grooves. Sweeping doesn't get in to the grooves well. Vacuuming doesn't do it. Really only putting on the vacuum attachment and crawling all over the floor is the only way to get it really good. I do it every few months.
So, my typical living room clean up involves picking up everywhere, sweeping daily (We have LOTS of dog hair.), and some light dusting. But for my big clean up, here are a few things we did.
1. I pulled out some shoes and some books that I could put in giveaway. We had a good many too little shoes hanging around, and I always need to cull books because I'm constantly getting books to review. Some are great, and I want to keep them to share later, but some I don't care about.
2. I dusted everything well. I took down things on shelves and dusted and put them back. When I went to dust the shelves over "the pile" where we keep scrapbooks, Charles feared for my safety on the rickety chair, so he jumped in and dusted. (If that's all it takes, maybe I should look in danger every time I clean up?)
3. I cleaned the globes of all the chandeliers. They were very dusty! I'm not sure if you can see the ceiling well, but, in addition to the wide wooden flooring, this room has wooden beams on the ceiling. I love it, but they do attract cobwebs. So I also made sure to clean each beam.
4. I used the vacuum attachment to clean all the grooves and all of the area around the shoe shelves.
Blondie hates the vacuum, and she ended up crawling all the way into Kathryne's lap when I headed near the couch with it.
And so, the living room is clean. Whew! Next week's challenge is Books, and I'm already trembling. Did you see how many books I have?!
Most of the reviews I have the opportunity to do for the TOS Review Crew are all about curriculum and resources to use for the kids. But in this review I had the opportunity to try some things that were (mostly) for me. I had the opportunity to try out health and beauty products from Koru Naturals, a New Zealand based company that has some great all natural products to try.
We received the Emu Oil and the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm. When I first had the opportunity to look at some of the products from Koru Naturals, I was interested in the use of emu oil in so many of them. I did a little research and found out about the many health benefits of emu oil. It can be good for cuts and scrapes, for scars, for eczema and psoriasis, for muscle inflammation. There were many uses for it. I had no idea.
Koru Naturals is a company originally based in New Zealand. They use all natural products found in that area to develop their products. Their symbol is the koru, the Maori name for a young, just unfurling fern.
When I learned what two products I was receiving, I had some specific areas in mind for which to try them. The Emu Oil according to the site can be used on hair and nails as well as skin and is a good moisturizer. I have particularly dry fingers in the cold weather, and my fingers tend to split. I used the Emu Oil on my fingertips that were dry and cracking. I also used it on Ashlyne's leg that had a dry spot.
The oil is thick, and it doesn't take much for an application. In fact, information on the site indicates that if it feels greasy after the application, you've used too much. I rubbed the oil in to cracked places on my fingertips, using just a drop at a time.
The oil really does work. It moisturizes the cracked places on my fingers and makes them feel smooth. It also helped to moisturize Ashlyne's leg where it was dry. When I used the correct amount, the oil didn't leave any greasy residue.
After reading more about the help with muscle inflammation, I want to try the oil on some of the particularly painful places I have due to fibromyalgia.
The Koolpurrie Balm turned out to be my favorite product. It contains emu oil and lanolin and is supposed to be good for cracked and chapped skin, according to the site. Again, instructions are not to use too much, only a small amount. The balm is thick and creamy.
I started off letting Charles use this one. His hands chap badly in the winter. Sometimes they bleed because they are so chapped. He started using this on his hands at night. The balm actually helped his hands, but his complaint was that it made his hands so greasy.
I began using it on my hands at night to relieve the chapping on my fingertips. While the Emu Oil was good to run into a single finger or two that was splitting, the balm was good to rub around all of my really dry places on my fingers. I didn't have much problem with the greasy feeling. Perhaps Charles used to much or perhaps it was just his sensitivity. It did feel pretty greasy right after applying, but it soothed my dry fingers so much it was worth it. I have also used the balm on dry places on my feet. It is a soothing, creamy feeling there as well.
I've been quite pleased with the results of using both the Emu Oil and the Koolpurrie Balm. It's difficult to find products that help my really dry skin. And I especially like that the products have all natural ingredients and not chemically manufactured ones. I'm looking forward to continuing use of the balm and the oil, and I'd love to try other products from Koru Naturals.
Welcome to this week's Read Aloud Wednesday. I'm glad you've joined us, and I hope you'll also link up your reading related posts below. You can find out all about Read Aloud Wednesdays in this post. On the last Wednesday of each month, I try to do a Book Talk, a look at a book we've read and enjoyed, giving you some talking points; so you can read and discuss the book in your family. Last month (January) our Book Talk featured The 13 Clocks by James Thurber.
The Bronze Bow is the story of Daniel, a Jewish boy who lives during the time of Christ. After watching Roman soldiers kill his family, Daniel was left with his aged grandmother and sister Leah. His sister, Leah, became withdrawn and had difficulty recovering from the event. Daniel's one desire is revenge, and he wants to get back at the Romans for destroying their family. When the opportunity arises, he joins a rebel band hiding out in the mountains. His goal is to join with these people to fight Rome. Meanwhile Daniel is reunited with some childhood friends- Joel and his sister Malthace. When he begins hearing stories of a man named Jesus, his bitterness toward the Romans is challenged; and Daniel has to decide if he's going to live with a desire for revenge or change his goals. We read this with an 8th grader, 4th grader and 3rd grader. Due to the violence described, I wouldn't use it for younger elementary students.
I mentioned in the last Book Talk post that I liked to use materials from Center for Lit to guide our discussions as we read. We follow the story chart that is a free download from Center for Lit when we discuss. I'm going to use those elements as a guideline to discuss The Bronze Bow.
Where does The Bronze Bow take place?
What is happening in history at the time of this story?
Why was there animosity between the Jews and the Romans?
Where did Daniel live with the rebel band?
Who were the main characters in the story?
What shaped Daniel's view of the Roman government?
What was wrong with Daniel's sister? Why?
What was Daniel's goal?
How was working to achieve this goal?
What kind of conflict do you see in the story- there is more than one (man v. man; man v. God; man v. nature; man v. himself)?
Why does Daniel not want to return home?
How does Daniel plan to get revenge on the Roman government?
What kinds of things happen to Daniel as he's trying to carry out his plan?
When the story begins who does Daniel see coming up the mountain and why are they important?
Why does Daniel end up going back to his home even though he doesn't want to?
What do Daniel and the rebel band do to the Romans?
How does Joel get involved with Daniel and his band?
What would you consider the climax of the story, the defining moment?
What things happen to change Daniel's heart throughout the story?
Why is the story called The Bronze Bow?
What are the main themes you see developed throughout the story?
How do those themes affect our main character, Daniel?
Daniel is a character that provides many good opportunities for discussion. Here are two printables that can guide your discussion. In this printable, you can analyze the character of Daniel and consider how he changes throughout the story. This printable character map (which can be used for other stories as well) allows you to list character traits for the main character of any story.
And now it's your turn. Please link below to any reading related post on your blog. I love to read and share links on social media. You can also grab a button below. Next week in our Read Aloud Wednesdays, I'll be sharing thoughts on one of my favorite resources- the library.