Discreet Ways to Answer Difficult Questions

If your children are anything like mine, they ask a lot of questions. Questions that require factual answers are pretty easy, but questions about relationships and reproduction can be tricky. As parents, it is our role to guard our children’s hearts and to teach them a godly perspective in every area of life. Here are some suggestions for how to approach some tricky subjects until your child is ready for more details.

Answer only the question that is asked.

The story goes that a boy asked his mom, “Where did I come from?” His mother got very quiet, took a deep breath, and started into “the talk.” The boy listened patiently and his mother sighed deeply as she finished her last sentence. The boy quickly spoke up. “That’s not what I meant. Joshua said he came from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I just wondered where I came from.”

Sometimes we give our children more information than they need or they are ready for. Our family philosophy has been to answer the question asked. Sometimes the answer leads to more questions, but other times it satisfies the curious child until another day.

Keep discussions in a biblical context.

Please Note: I have substituted “socks”  for a similar sounding word, not because I am embarrassed to use the real word, but because I don’t want the article to be blocked by internet filtering software. 

Yes, it’s important to give your children the facts about “socks,” but it also important to put the information in the context of how God created it. Don’t just explain the details about the act, but give the context that when a man and woman are married, God created a way for them to have a baby that also gives the couple pleasure and causes them to grow closer emotionally. It’s also important for them to know that certain behaviors are 

Keep it simple.

Before you ever get to “the talk” you’ll probably get a lot of questions, especially if mom or someone close to your family is pregnant.  Here are some answers we’ve given to challenging questions. Yes, they are simplistic, but we had future discussions to expound upon the nuances of these topics. You can use anatomical terms, if you prefer.

Q. Where do babies come from? OR  How does the baby get in there?
A.  There is a seed inside the mommy that grows into a baby when God says it’s time.

Q. How do you get pregnant? (or some form of the question)
A. Several options: 
When a woman treats a man like her husband, there is a tiny seed in the mommy that begins to grow into a baby. 
Before I was ready to have “the talk”: Right now, your body can’t have a baby but when you can I will be sure to tell you.
Close to having “the talk”: That’s a great question. I’m not ready to have this conversation today, but let’s set up a time where we can talk about it real soon.  (And then schedule something, like a Lady Day, Purity Weekend for girls or Passport2Purity for boys or girls, and follow through.)

Q. How did she get pregnant if she isn’t married?
A. She treated a man like her husband.

Q. Is the baby in your stomach with all your food?
A. No, God made a special place like a bubble (or use anatomical term) where the baby can grow, and eat special food, and be protected.

Q. How do babies eat when they are in your tummy?
A. God made a special tube (called an umbilical cord) that connects from mommy’s tummy to the baby so the baby will have food to eat and grow.

Q. How does the baby get out?
A. God was so smart and made a special hole just for the baby to come out when it’s time. (Depending on the child and the specific situation, I may go on.) That works for most mommies, but sometimes it isn’t safe for the baby to come out of the hole so the doctor has to cut the mommy’s tummy and help the baby come out.  

Q. Where is the hole?
A.  The hole is close to the hole in the mommy where the urine comes out.

Q. What’s circumcision?
A. God asked the Israelite men to mark themselves in a way that mean that they belonged to God.

Q. Where is the mark?
A. On the man’s private parts.

Q. What is adultery? 
A. When a married woman treats another man like her husband, even though she isn’t married to him or when a married man treats another woman like his wife. The Bible says that the people who do that won’t go to heaven. 

Q. What is fornication?
A. When a woman who isn’t married treats a man like she would if he was her husband or a man who isn’t married treats a woman like he would if she were his wife. The Bible says that the people who do that won’t go to heaven.

Wait for the right time.

Obviously, the answers above are simplistic responses most suitable for the younger set. In time, there was “full disclosure” and complete explanations, including any scriptural references that applied. 

Our girls were all pretty curious, but one was exceptionally so. At the age of nine, she asked me directly, “What is ‘socks’?” I must admit that it caught me off guard. I’m sure I took a long pause, made a plan and then responded, “Oh, you mean on the standardized tests where it says, ‘“Socks”: Male or Female’?”  She told me, no, that wasn’t what she meant.  I told her that I didn’t think she was ready to have this conversation. (I was sure I wasn’t ready either!) I also promised that we would have the conversation in the future but that if she couldn’t wait, she should come back and ask me again instead of asking someone else. We went through this scenario twice before we finally had our Purity Weekend and I was able to answer all of her questions.

Later, I asked my sweet daughter what had caused her to ask about “socks.” She said that when someone mentioned the word, everyone seemed to react in a panic and she wondered why. I thought I had acted nonchalantly when the word unexpectedly popped up, but evidently my concern and fear were greater than my acting ability. It certainly made me more aware of my own responses to unexpected situations.

Remember, you are the parent. Don’t let anyone else’s time frame or fear that your child will find out from another source become the determining factor for your family. God can protect your children from hearing things they aren’t ready for and He will stir your heart when it is just the perfect time to tell them about the birds and the bees. I know, because that’s what He did with every one of mine. Trust God to direct you. He is faithful.  

Leading from Legacy

The Gift of Music
Musical ability runs deep in our family.  Family history on my mother’s side says that around the turn of the century my great-grandfather, a music teacher by trade, courted my great grandmother with an autoharp.  I vividly remember my maternal grandmother using that same instrument to play hymns, though she could’ve also played on the piano, the organ and the guitar.  She and her husband passed on that love of music to their eight children, of which my mother was one.  Each of them learned to play an instrument for the family radio program which included hymns and gospel music followed by a sermon by my grandfather.  Six of the eight grew up to use their talents regularly for Sunday morning worship and one even graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.  Many of the 28 grandchildren, including myself, studied music and still play.  Our family reunions seemed more like mini-recitals for the grandchildren followed by a hymn sing for the adults.

Whether it was practicing piano, singing with my mom, or studying music education in college, music was a big part of my life.  The day I met Harold, he was leading worship at my grandmother’s church.  Even before our children were born, we envisioned music to be important to our family.  It was only natural that we pass on our passion and heritage to our four daughters.  While we gave them opportunities, we did not force their participation.  Their musical gifts and talent led them to include music as a part of their lives.  All four play piano, three play a second instrument, two have sung on the worship team at church, and one has recorded a CD (Read more…) and is now studying worship full time.  Music still continues to play a major role in my life.

A Family Call
I believe that family lines often have a common destiny and that God gives gifts to achieve that call.  In the Old Testament, God set the precedent and called the family of Levi to a common destiny—to care for and serve in the tabernacle.   Throughout history, businesses and trades have been (and continue to be) passed down to the next generation in the family.  History is replete with examples of families who governed—dynasties in China, monarchies throughout Europe and Russia.  Although we in the United States have the privilege of voting for our leaders, there is often a pattern of generations of families who serve in governmental leadership.  Generation influence is also strong in the area of acting, Olympic participation, professional sports, military service, missionary work, and even pastoral ministry.

Both my maternal grandfather and my father were ordained ministers; Harold’s maternal grandmother was an ordained minister and evangelist.  The day Harold was ordained, his mother came into his office and began to pray fervently for him with tears streaming down her face. She later explained to us that she felt compelled to pass on the anointing of her mother.  It was an incredibly powerful moment.

Leading from Legacy
At some point, every child struggles to find their place.  What am I good at?  Where can I excel?  What should I major in?  What job should I get?  What is God’s plan for my life and my future?  Here are some ways to lead from the legacy God has given your family:

Consider your family tree.  When guiding children of any age, study past generations.  Do you see a common passion or gift throughout the generations?  Is there something that God has called your family to accomplish?  Ask God if your child is part of that legacy and listen to your child’s areas of interest.  Our girls are inspired when they hear of how God has used their grandparents and honored when they think about following in their footsteps.

Broaden your focus. For instance, though our family has a legacy of music, the gift of teaching has also been passed down from my great-grandfather.  Two of my aunts and several of my cousins are professional teachers.  I combined the two and became a music teacher.

Think outside the box. God doesn't always follow the same path; sometimes he does something new.  In our family, two of our four are passionately pursuing music as part of their daily life.  One daughter is pursuing education and another is pursing medicine.  To my knowledge there is no gift of medicine in our family, that doesn't mean she can’t or shouldn't pursue medicine.  God sometimes skips a generation or even establishes a new stream.

Be intentional. Before filling the schedule with more activities, be intentional.  Strengthen the strengths of your child and help him or her choose activities that grow skills or talents.  At twelve Victoria gave up ballet so that she could spend more time on the music she loved.  Her time was well spent.  Ask questions and help your child focus on what is important for today and for the future.

Redeem the gift. Maybe your family isn’t full of great examples of Christian life or ministry.  God’s gives gifts, but it’s up to us how we use them.  You can still discover hidden treasures in your family line, but God may call you to use them differently.  For instance your may be from a family of successful but unethical businessmen, but God is calling you to use that same business acumen to multiply wealth for missions or ministries.  Redeem the gift.

Search out the legacy of your family and walk in the blessing that God intended it to be.

A Secure Investment: Investing in Your Children

(Note:  This article is by no means intended to criticize working moms or moms who don’t homeschool.  God calls families to different ways to raise their children:  there is certainly more than one way to raise a godly child.  My heart is to encourage moms who have chosen motherhood as a career.  It is a wise investment.)

After investing diligently for twenty years, my retirement account still stands at zero.  It has nothing to do with my broker or with the economy, but it is a direct result of how I invested.  For more than 20 years I have been a full-time, stay-at-home mom for our four daughters.  I have invested money, time, and energy into teaching, training, and mentoring these young women and it is an investment that has paid high dividends.  (Of course my husband has also played a significant role in their development, but this article is not for the Daddies.)

Before our children were born, I was a public school music teacher who also taught several classes of hearing-impaired students.  Most of the 750 students I saw each week knew my name and some even regularly visited my classroom for extra time together.  I had a decent income, a retirement account, and summers off.  My career afforded me the opportunity to make great dinner conversation as I described how I taught music to hearing-impaired children.  I taught for two years and loved my job.  In the eyes of our culture, I was successful.

God blessed my husband and I and three days after the last day of school, I found myself at home with a newborn baby girl who wasn’t interested in my teaching success!  My ultimate career choice was to be a wife and mother, but somehow this wasn’t what I thought I had signed up for.  Everything was new to both of us and it took some time for us to learn.  Even more disappointing was the reaction of friends and acquaintances when I told them I was a stay-at-home mom.  Some of them questioned what I did all day and others politely smiled and found someone else to talk to.  It was painfully clear that society did not approve of my

No matter what the view of others, I stayed true to God’s call for me and our family.  There were joyful days and there were difficult days (when wanted to quit or resign!).  Most every day was full—full of laundry, cooking, cleaning, straightening, counseling, teaching, repeating, training, undoing, redoing, correcting, repeating, disciplining, discipling, and did I mention repeating?  We read the Bible together, prayed together, talked together, dreamed together, and cried together.  Sometimes the progress was infinitesimal and my dream of God-fearing daughters seemed elusive, but still my husband and I prayed and stayed the course.

As with any investment, there was risk.  Would it be better if we had a second income so we could provide better?  Would a one-income household limit what they could do?  Should we send them to school so they can be taught by the “experts” instead of an inexperienced mom?  What if I ruin them?  The enemy of my soul tried to discourage me and cause me to doubt our choices and my value, but I held to the truth that I am a precious daughter of the Most High God.

Today, our investment continues to yield a high rate of return.  We have four daughters who are lovely, inside and out.  They aren’t perfect, but they know the Savior who is and they’ve been saved by grace.  They know the Word, and they obey the Word.  They are carriers of His presence who sow seeds of Jesus’ love everywhere they go.  My time as a stay-at-home mom has been the best investment I’ve ever made.

The Family Orchestra

More than twenty years ago, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education.  Today my musical teaching is limited to helping my daughters with their private lessons, but my mind still thinks in musical terms.  Recently I’ve been thinking about the similarities between a parent and a music teacher or an orchestra conductor. Music teachers, the first instructors for beginning instrumentalists, teach the basics and endure hours of repetitious and often out-of-tune practice.  Parenting young children is often like being a beginning music teacher—you build the foundation and repeat the same instructions though the process is sometimes tiring and you may see little progress.

On the other hand, orchestra conductors direct instrumentalists who have mastered the basics and are ready to perform with other accomplished musicians.  It is quite similar to the role of parenting during the teen years.  If we parents do our job in the early years, our children won’t need the same level of instruction during their teen years.  Instead of being music teachers, we become more like an orchestra conductors.

We make sure everyone is on the same page.  You can imagine the cacophony of sound that would emerge from a symphony if only one  player was reading music from the wrong page.  Similarly, the beautiful melody of a family can only be achieved if we are on the same page.  When the girls were very young, we tried hard to communicate what was important and why.  We talked about what it means to follow God.  We explained why we chose certain activities and didn’t choose others.  Today, Harold and I try hard to communicate our goals and expectations not only for the girls personally, but also in regard to our schedule—what family commitments we have (We keep a master calendar.) and how each person can best serve our family during a certain period of time.  Our children can’t read our minds.  If I don’t communicate, I can’t expect that we’ll be on the same page.

We set the tempo of our home. As the girls have grown, so have the number of activities and opportunities they have opportunity to be involved in.  When the girls were young, Harold and I discussed which activities were beneficial for the girls and for our family.  Today, the girls come to us with requests and together we discuss the commitment and all of the ramifications to our family life and to our schedule.  As a pastor, my husband has many responsibilities and commitments so we try to look at the calendar and set a reasonable pace for our schedule.  We live in a fast-paced world that seems only to speed up with each passing year.  We try to set a reasonable family pace, balancing busy days and busy weeks with times of Sabbath and refreshing.  Some Saturdays we declare a family day—we disconnect our home phone and Harold turns off his cell phone.   The world has much to offer to fill our days, but it’s our job as parents to set the tempo.

We direct entrances and exits. With two drivers who are very committed to church and attending college, I sometimes feel like we have a revolving front door.  Our culture tends to accept the division of children and their families—children of all ages are involved in sports, music lessons, school activities, church activities, youth group, part time jobs, etc.  None of these activities are bad in and of themselves; however when activities become a “drop and shop”—drop the kids off so you can do what you want—it can divide families.  Give thought to the “entrances and exits” in your home.  All too soon your precious ones will be exiting the front door to start their own home.

We control the volume. In a house of four girls, this one is pretty tough.  Those who know our family well know that there is a certain level of excited chit-chat that accompanies our daughters.  (Some call it noise; I call it happy sounds.)  It is sometimes easier to live a life full of noise and activity than to take time to be silent and alone.  It is important that we teach our children to choose moments of solitude so they can think, process, create, and most importantly, hear the voice of God.  If the volume is turned up too loud, we may miss the still small voice of our Father.

We encourage each one to listen to the other. In an orchestra no one instrument should stand out louder than another, unless they are playing a solo.  Each player needs to carefully listen to those around them.  Listening can be a challenge in our home.  It seems there is never a lack of response to any comment made by one member of our family.  Most certainly at least one other member has an opinion or suggestion about the topic at hand.  More often than not, I hear overlapping layers of conversation interspersed with laughter.  I believe that all individuals, no matter their age, have a desire to be heard and understood.  I sometimes feel that my job is to be the “conversation traffic police”—stopping conversations that don’t build each other up, encouraging one speaker at a time, and reminding speakers to slow down so I can understand.  Monologues are like solos, but dialogues allow the beauty of each individual to shine through so that each one feels heard and understood.

If you are a parent, you are like a music teacher or orchestra conductor.  You may not be capable of teaching piano lessons or conducting a large group, but God has given you, and your family, the ability to create beautiful music that will bring honor and glory to Him.  Soli Deo Gloria.

The Blessing of Teen Daughters

Our parenting goal has always been to raise children who love God with all their heart, mind, and soul; however, each phase of a child’s life is unique and requires different parenting skills to achieve that goal.  Whether or not you choose to use the label of “teenager,” the ages with the word “teen” are years of enormous change, growth and development.  In our home, it has been a joyous time of great blessing and precious memories.  Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past seven years, but most apply to any age: Parenting Daughters Find joy in who she is. Focus on her good traits. Pray for her weaknesses. Make memories. Mentally record her laugh. Do it her way, sometimes. Ask if she wants help. Declare your love. Always respond with kindness. Spend quality time together. Compliment her often. Expect the best. Drink in her smile. Kiss her goodnight. Listen. Gently guide her. Share her excitement. Try something new. Be silly. Hug her tightly. Value her opinions. Enjoy her company. Tackle a challenge together. Encourage her attempts. Listen more. Take lots of pictures. Correct her privately. Think outside of the box. Speak respectfully. Dream together. Treasure the beauty of today. Trust God with the future.

By:  Joy Moore, Copyright 2011

Modest Swimsuits: 2011 Edition

The spring swim wear search is on and I can tell that I’m not alone.  The stats on my website show that there is a lot of interest in the article on modest swim wear that I posted in May of 2010.  Here is an update on what is available for the summer of 2011: There are many more modest swimwear choices available online than there were just two years ago.  In fact, some sites offer suits that cover everything but your face—a little too modest for my taste.  My search is for suits that match our standards for daily living in regards to neckline, tightness and length; though I admit some swim skirts are slightly shorter than than I would allow for a daily wardrobe.

Stitchin’ Times This is still my first choice for modest swim wear.  Last May I posted our experience with suits we’ve purchased over the years.   Last spring we ordered two of the new two piece design—tank dress over swim panties.  The dress sizes ran pretty true, but the swim panties ran about a size larger.  Next time I’ll order a size smaller than the dress I order.  The dress was fully lined, as I requested, and the quality of the sewing was even better than previous years.  Of the two swim dresses, one was made of fabric that seemed to have more nylon in it and it has certainly worn well.  The other dress seemed to be made of lighter-weight fabric and only made it through the end of last season.  I really wish there was some way to gauge the durability of the fabric before ordering.  Overall, the dress is the most practical pattern for fun swimming or a day at the beach; however it is not practical for serious swimming.

Land’s End I’ve purchased suits from Land’s End for more than 15 years.  Unfortunately, Land’s End quality is not what it used to be.  This year you’ll find some new swim dresses which give more coverage on the bottom, but not nearly enough on top, in my opinion.  I did notice a high waist swim mini, a swim skort and low-cut board shorts as options for bottoms, but there were no tops that I felt offered enough coverage.  I suppose you could purchase a one-piece tank and then put the bottoms over top—while you swim or even after you swim.  This may be the best modest suit option for the active swimmer.

Swim Modest I mentioned last year that we had enjoyed the Swim Modest suits we’ve ordered in the past.  Although the suits are available in girls’ or women’s sizes, I think these suits are best suited to younger girls who are frequently in and out of the pool or ocean or young women who aren’t self-conscious about their thighs.  I was able to use most suits for two years.

Here are some other off-the-beaten-path websites that I discovered this year.  I haven’t ordered from these sites, but they offer alternative styles and a variety of fabrics for reasonable prices.

CL Swim Designs (Christian Living Swim Designs) Some very cute designs for girls!  I particularly like the tank top and cap sleeve options with the swim bikini with the skirt cover up.  (I think I would request the skirt be made slightly longer.)  Unfortunately, they do not offer adult sizes.

Hydrochic Stylish women’s swim wear–for a price.  Their swim shirts—short sleeves or ¾ sleeves  only—are all quite unique.  For bottoms, they offer both long and short skirts as well as swim pants.  Sizes range from XS adult to 3X adult.

Sewn By Di For a more economical option, try these custom suits for girls, teens, and women up to 5X, including nursing and maternity suits.  Customers can choose the type of sleeves and length of both skirt and leggings as well as fabric.  Though there is no online store for purchase, you can place an order by email.

Dressing for His Glory These patterns are a little more traditional than the other sites I mentioned.  Separates include jumpers, shirts, t-shirts, culottes and swim skorts for girls and women (petite, tall, and women’s sizes).  All available fabrics are solid colors.

Meant to be Modest Another choice for a modest swim dress!  They only have one pattern, but so many choices of fabrics.  Seller will adjust skirt and legging length by request but requires that knees be covered by either skirt or leggings.  Sizes range from 2T to women’s XL.

Some of the suppliers above have ready-made inventory, but most custom make suits to your specifications.  Be sure to order soon so your suit will be ready when the pool opens!

NOTE: The companies listed above are not relationally or financially connected in any way to Daughters4God.

Help Your Child Develop a Prayer Life

Many Christian parents want to pass on their faith to their children. We are no different; we want our girls to have a vibrant relationship with the God who loves them so much.  That relationship is built through spending quiet time in God's presence, reading His love letter the Bible, and communicating with Him through prayer. Like any goal, it doesn’t happen by accident; it requires a plan of action. In our home, we have used different strategies for different ages.

PRESCHOOL 

It’s never too early to introduce your daughter to the power of prayer. Preschoolers are capable of praying more than “God is great; God is good.”  When my youngest was only two, we visited a 99-year-old saint who attended my church when I was a young girl. During our visit, we had a time of prayer. Each of us placed our hand on this precious prayer warrior and offered a prayer of blessing. The last to pray was the 2-year-old who babbled something incomprehensible. The woman was moved to tears that such a young child would pray for her. Here are some to introduce your preschooler to prayer:

  1. Explain that prayer, talking to Jesus, is like talking to their friends.
  2. Remind them that God hears every prayer they pray.
  3. Give them opportunity to pray from their heart. If they have trouble thinking of anything, start off with “Thank you, God, for...” and let them fill in the blank.
  4. Pray before each meal--even at restaurants.  This lets them know that God is important no matter who is watching.
  5. Make a prayer book. Place pictures of your family, friends, pastors, missionaries, etc. in an inexpensive photo album. As you flip through the book, your daughter can pray with you or repeat after you: “God bless____________.” Unfortunately, I didn’t think of this while my girls were preschoolers.

ELEMENTARY 

When our girls were old enough to read on their own, I made them a prayer card that doubled as a bookmark in their Bible. This simple tool helped our daughters develop their own prayer life. You can make this card on a computer, but these directions are for doing it the old-fashioned way, by hand. Be sure to write clearly and print unless your daughter can read cursive. Here’s how to make a prayer card for your daughter:

  1.  Choose a 3×5 card, with or without lines. Look for one in your daughter’s favorite color or use a white card and make it colorful with markers or stickers.
  2. Begin on a side with no lines. Hold the card in a vertical position with the longest side going from top to bottom. Begin by listing names of your family, one name per line: Ex. Dad, Mom, brothers, sisters, grandparents, other close family members.
  3. Next, (on the same side) list pastors, missionaries, teachers, or others in authority.
  4. Lastly, include things on the heart of your child like a friend who is ill. My oldest daughter included the country of China because she felt called to missions at a very young age.
  5. The opposite side is for your daughter. Choose one or two character traits that your daughter needs to work on. (ex. honesty, diligence, contentment) List the positive trait and a Bible verse about that trait. For example, if you need to work on truthfulness, then you may want to copy Psalm 34:13. If you’re struggling with diligence, you could copy Proverbs 10:4. Each day your daughter can read the verse and pray that God would change her heart. If your daughter reads the scripture each day for several weeks, she’ll memorize it without any trouble.

Of course, the card will not be accurate forever and will have to be updated every 3-6 months. Involve your daughter as you make changes. Pray together about which trait(s) your daughter needs to develop and encourage her as you see growth in her character.

UPPER ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE SCHOOL 

Encourage your daughter to begin a prayer journal. Many Christian and non-Christian bookstores carry bound books with lined or unlined blank pages or create your own with a 3-ring binder and dividers. Here are some suggestions to help your daughter prepare her journal:

  1.   Use a prayer plan like ACTS: Adoration – telling God how great He is Confession – repenting for what you’ve done wrong Thanksgiving – thanking God for His blessings Supplication – bringing your requests to God Prayer isn’t a laundry list of requests; it’s about building a relationship.
  2. Make a list of daily prayer requests, similar to the list above or help your daughter divide the requests: Monday for Missionaries, Tuesday for neighbors and those who are sick,  Wednesdays for Pastors, Thursday for family, Friday for Friends, Saturday for School.
  3. Make a chart for prayer requests, include a space for the date you begin to pray for the request, the date it was answered, and the answer. Seeing so many answers to prayer will grow your daughter’s faith.
  4. Record the scripture you read each day. Write one sentence summarizing the scripture in your own words and one sentence about how it applies to your life.
  5. Write your prayers to God. Encourage your daughter to write her feelings, reminding her that written words should be respectful and represent only what she would speak to others.
  6. Listen to God. In my own journal, I record my thoughts and prayers in cursive writing and what God is impressing on my heart in all caps.  Later, I can easily look back and focus on God's encouragement to me.  Prayer is a conversation, not a monologue.

Prayer is such a key part of a relationship with our God. The earlier we teach our children about prayer, the earlier they establish that vital spiritual discipline.  Earlier is better, but it's never too late to start.  If your child is older, model to them the importance of prayer by praying before meals, talking about how God has answered prayer, and offering to pray with them about challenging situations in their life.  My dear mother prayed blessings over us each day just before we walked out the door to get on the bus.  And of course, pray for your child and ask God to give them a desire to be in relationship with Him.

These are just a few ideas God showed us to teach our daughters about prayer.  Ask the Creator of creativity to show you how to best reach the heart of your daughter and help her develop a vibrant and powerful prayer life.  I'd love to hear ideas from your family about how you have taught your children about prayer!

Technology: Guarding Hearts and Minds

The speed of changing technology is mind boggling.  In the 80’s, my first computer experience included a boot up disc.  In the 90’s our girls played with an outdated Apple computer (Yes, I mean Apple.) and we bought our first family computer with 5 gigabytes of memory for Harold’s start up business.  In the 2000’s, internet and cell phones became necessities for doing business.  Today, I am typing this post on a laptop and some of you will be reading it on your smartphone that is significantly smaller and holds 10 times the memory of my first computer.  What an incredible evolution!  What an incredible responsibility… Though technology has changed at nearly the speed of light, I believe that it’s difficult for us parents to follow at the same pace.  Yes, I own a laptop, I communicate to friends through email (but that’s not my only form of communication), I navigate the web with little difficulty (especially when it comes to shopping =D) and I do text my daughters--but somehow I’m still not as skilled as my girls.  I once read an article that explained my lack, suggesting that the language of technology is a primary language for our children.  They’ve grown up with it.  Most parents have had to learn along the way and some of us are better than others at learning languages.  It totally made sense to me and explained why my then 6-year-old knew how to change my desktop and screen saver and I hadn’t a clue and why my 19-year-old had to help me learn how to subscribe to itunes podcasts and import my digital pictures.  I’m learning and progressing, mind you, but no matter how much I know about my computer it is certain that one of the girls knows more.

Computers can do some amazing things.  In the past month, the girls and I have used our computers to shop for gifts, research fibromyalia and identify blue delphinium, create a powerpoint presentation,email missionary friends in Spain, listen to a podcast from a church in California, Skype a friend in China, listen to music, get directions, design advertising pieces that will be printed in a local woman’s magazine, and of course, type and send this newsletter to hundreds of subscribers.

However, computers are a tool that can be used for good or for evil.  There are a lot of sites on the internet that are dangerous to my children’s lives and souls.  A few years back, one grieving mother came to me at a homeschool convention asked for prayer for her then 11-year-old who had inadvertently accessed pornography while visiting grandma. (She gave me permission to share her story.)  With the click of a mouse, not only can you access pornography, but I’m told you can find out how to build a bomb, how to commit suicide, why the Bible isn’t true, and so many more facts and opinions that fly in the face of our faith.  As parents, it is our responsibility to protect our children as they learn to use technology responsibly.  Sure, we can choose not to incorporate technology into our lives because it’s too dangerous, but using an oven or stove is dangerous, too.  Instead of relegating our cooking to the microwave, we teach our children about safety, supervise them, and give them opportunities to use the oven or stove within safe boundaries.  The same process works for the internet.

As parents, it is our responsibility to set boundaries and protect our children as they learn how to use technology so that they will learn to make wise choices when given that opportunity.  When our girls were very young, they had very limited access to computer games and no access to internet unless they were watching me or their dad.  Toward the end of elementary school, we still used computer games but we also began to incorporate the computer and typing skills into school assignments.  They still had no access to internet, email or Facebook.  Somewhere around middle school, we began to make use of computers as a research tool.  Instead of purchasing some security suite, I used the Windows program to change security

settings that limited their internet sites to only those that I had unlocked with a password.  (How to change internet security settings in Windows )  It can be annoying to repeatedly enter your password on certain sites, but the alternative of having my child wander the web alone is just not an option.

When Harold and I agree that a daughter has moral character, is responsible, obedient and is making wise choices more than foolish ones, we consider expanding the boundaries.  For instance, she may get an email address if there is a need.  (Anna got one last year when she was fourteen so she could communicate about her ministry, Blessing Wells.  Abigail still doesn’t have one, but has 5 or 6 penpals that she communicates with by snail mail.)  Our computers have a high security filter and are subscribed to Covenant Eyes, which doesn’t block sites but compiles all web usage and sends a bi-weekly report to accountability partners you choose.  A daughter must always ask permission to use the family computer.  If she needs to do research for school, I may allow her to use my laptop alone while I’m in the room occasionally walking behind her.  She and I both know that all of her activity will be logged and the report will be sent to our very good friend and to one of our pastors.  When she has proven herself faithful, I may extend her time on the internet—for destinations, not just for wandering.  If at any time we see a negative change in character and behavior, the privilege of using the computer is revoked.

What if a child owns their own computer?  Two of our daughters have made such an investment when they were about sixteen.  They may own their own laptops, but they must still abide by the boundaries we’ve set.  I still have permission to hold them accountable to the amount of time they spend on the computer.  I know all passwords for their computers.  Their computers are subscribed to Covenant Eyes. If they aren’t sure about the name of the website, they don’t enter it in the address line; they Google search it instead.  The girls give out their email only to good friends and don’t email or instant message or Skype guys without permission.  At any time, Harold and I have the right to read any of their email—not because we’re nosey or distrust our daughters but this would be necessary if we observed them making choices that cause us concern.

Today we continue to protect our family by setting boundaries, using the security suite that comes with our internet provider and by subscribing to Covenant Eyes.  My husband also has an app for his phone that reports web usage.  We are doing our best to set an example of being responsible and accountable in our use of technology, because you’re never too old to be responsible or accountable.  Let this be the year you make a plan, set some boundaries, and choose to guard the hearts and minds of your family.

Four Ways to Help Daughters Dream Big Dreams

Anna isn’t afraid to dream big dreams; dreams that will only become reality through the supernatural power of our magnificent God.  What seems to be impossible is a challenge she readily accepts; her faith is keeping me on my toes. D4G:  Tell me about Blessing Wells International.

Anna:  It is an organization I started to raise money to provide clean water for the people of Africa.  I first thought of Blessing Wells about two months before my thirteenth birthday.  I didn’t want to be selfish so I decided that I didn’t want to receive any birthday presents.  I wanted to give back to the people of Africa.  I wanted to make a difference and help the people of Africa survive and live without diseases and to have clean water.

I also wanted to give other people the opportunity to help build a well on a more personal level.  Even though they give in a small way, it makes a big difference.  Without other people I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.

D4G:  What was your first goal?

Anna:  My first goal was to build a family well in one year.  I achieved that goal and raised $750 in about 11 months.  I partnered with Samaritan’s Purse to be a part of a well project in the mountains of Sudan.

D4G:  How do you raise money?

Anna:  I take donations, I’ve sold candy, but mostly I design and make sterling silver and gold-filled jewelry.  I started with simple earrings and now I’m doing single strand necklaces and bracelets.  At first my mom helped me, but now I do all the work myself.  I’m learning wirework and hoping to make rings in the near future.

D4G:  How do you choose your designs?

Anna:  God.  I go to the bead shop and God shows me.  God definitely helps me choose the beads and things.

D4G:  Where do you sell your jewelry?

Anna:  I sell my jewelry at flea markets and personally to people at my church.  I’m hoping to set up an online store soon.

D4G:  What message do you have for other girls your age?

Anna:  Do hard things and make difference.  You’re never too young to do something important.  You don’t have to wait until you’re a certain age to do something important.  After I started Blessing Wells, I read the book, Do Hard Things (by:  Alex and Brett and Harris) and it really encouraged me that I’m not the only one who is working hard to make a difference.

D4G:  What is your current goal and how long do you think it will take to achieve it?

Anna:  My current goal is to raise $6,000 to fund a community well by the time I graduate from high school in June, 2014.  I am still in the process of looking at different organizations to partner with, but my goal is to find one where I remain anonymous.  I would love to help build the well, but I don’t want my name on it or any other special treatment.  It’s God working through me and not just me.  We’re just God’s vessels anyway.

A Note to Parents:

If your daughter has a dream that seems bigger than life:

  1. Resist the temptation to shoot it down. It may seem completely illogical and impossible, but pray about whether it is a dream from God.  If it is something on His heart, look for opportunities to partner with her.
  2. Be creative and look for connections.  The flea market at our church has been a great way for Anna to market her products.  Consider partnering with people or organizations that are already doing what your daughter wants to do.  It’s a safe way to find out how invested she is in the dream.
  3. Use the network you have. You don’t have to do everything; find some friends who are experts in what she needs to know or to do.  One of my friends designed a brochure, a business card, and a website for Blessing Wells so Anna could advertise.
  4. Look for teachable moments. I allowed her to host a jewelry party in our home so that she could start launch her collection.  It was a great opportunity for her to practice her public speaking skills. Helping make the jewelry was one way I could support her, but as soon as she was old enough, we took a jewelry class together so she could improve her skills and work independently.

While Blessing Wells International has required thought, planning, time, and investment on Anna’s part and some encouragement and work on my part, I am certain that the blessings for God’s children in Africa far exceed the little we have given.  I am grateful to have the privilege to partner with God and with my daughter to dream big dreams and to bless His Kingdom.

 

Homeschool Time Management

If you’re a homeschooling pro you probably have your own system for planning.  (A good system is anything that works well for you and your family.)  When I work with moms in my area, I find many who are homeschooling newbies who wonder how to make a schedule or others who label themselves as “organizationally challenged” who are looking for some ideas.  I’m not an expert, but over the past 14 years I’ve learned a lot about how to plan a homeschool schedule I can live with.  I don’t expect that the Moore family schedule will work perfectly for any other family, but I do hope that some of these ideas will help you better plan for the needs of your homeschool and your family.

PLANNING A CALENDAR FOR THE YEAR

Before I make a plan, I spend some time contemplating our current needs and our future needs.  After I’ve collected the information I can better put it onto a calendar and into a useable form.    When I am planning, I use 2 year-long calendar I’ve printed from the internet so I can see the whole year at a glance. (One calendar year from Sept. to Christmas and the next calendar year from Jan. to the end of school.)  When I’m recording the information and marking on the calendar, I find it easiest to plan using a block-style calendar so I have enough space to write.  Block-style calendar are available at discount dollar stores or you can print individual calendar pages from the internet.  Remember you’ll need a calendar page for every month of the school year which means 2 calendar years.  I make all my marks in pencil, since I often need to make adjustments or changes during the planning process.  Take a deep breath, grab a pencil and here we go…

Choosing Days Off

We seem to be able to focus best when we have regular breaks, short or long.  However, I find that I personally must have a regularly scheduled long break to do some deep cleaning and put the house back together.  (One week off every six weeks is ideal.)  We also take days off around holidays or when my children have scheduled breaks from activities such as piano lessons, dance or sports.  With that in mind, here are some questions to help you plan which days you plan not to do school.  As you make decisions about each area below, put an x over the date (on the block-style calendar) you’ve decided not to have school.

  1. Holidays—Which holidays will we take off?  How much time will I need for preparation (including cleaning, meal prep, laundry, shopping, etc.)  Our standard:  Labor Day, Wednesday before and Friday after Thanksgiving, 2 ½ to 3 weeks off at Christmas, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day
  2. Vacation—What time of the year is best for our family to take a vacation?  How much time will I need to prepare for the vacation (including shopping, laundry, packing, planning, etc.)  For years we vacationed during the first week of October—cooler weather, fewer tourists, and a more convenient time for our family and my husband’s work situation.  Since we started school in August, a vacation in October was a welcomed break.  Our standard:  One day off before we leave, one day off after we return (This is critical!  After many trips, I realize that I need a day to recover, unpack, and gear up for “normal” life.)
  3. Spring Break—Are my children involved in activities that are affected by the public school spring break schedule?  I found that when I scheduled a different week for our spring break and still had to take the children to activities, it didn’t feel like a break.  There is no right or wrong.  Choose whatever works best for your family.  Our standard:  Spring break based on activity schedules or children enrolled at the community college
  4. Field Trips—Field trip days count as school days in our school.  They aren’t days off, but they are certainly days that are a welcomed break in our normal routine.  I look at the curriculum and try to find activities that coordinate with what we’re learning, but our excursions don’t always line up with our curriculum.  A trip to Williamsburg or the science museum is always educational, no matter what we’re studying.  I generally schedule field trips between our longer breaks.  Our standard:  Between 5 and 10 field trip days a year
  5. Other breaks—When am I or my children less motivated to do school?  I find that January is almost always a tough school month for us—we’ve just had a long break, we’re inside, we’re halfway through school, but still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I increased our productivity by adding a winter break week or long weekend around President’s Day.  It gives us something to look forward to when we’re in the January doldrums.  You may also want to take days off when family comes to visit or if you have a special event for your family.  Our standard:  Winter break the week of President’s Day, spring break usually the week before or after Easter

Planning the First Semester and Determining the First Day of School

I begin with the end in mind.  Here’s my plan.  It may seem a little confusing, but stay with me.

  1. If you haven’t already, put an x on all the days you are not doing school, including the day you want to begin Christmas break.
  2. Determine how many weeks of school you want to finish before Christmas.
  3. Begin with the last day before Christmas break and count backwards, labeling each day you plan have school (ex. 5,4,3,2,1 Week 16; 5,4,3,2,1 Week 15, etc.) until you arrive at Week 1.  The first block of the school week will be labeled with both the week number and the day number.  Week 1 Day 1 is your first day of school.

Planning the Second Semester

Christmas is a real high point in our family so January seems like a bit of a downer, especially since we have to get back to school after a nice long break.  I find that my children are motivated to work when they know there’s a vacation day in the near future.  We finally found a rhythm that works best for our second semester—6 weeks on, one week off, 6 weeks on, one week off, 6 weeks on.  School’s finished!  Sometimes we have to flex a little based on Easter or spring break, but overall this plan works best.

  1. Determine the first day you’ll do school after Christmas break.  Label that day “Week (whatever you stopped at before break.) Day 1.
  2. Label each day you plan to have school with one number in each block (ex. Week __ 1,2,3,4,5; Week__ 1,2,3,4,5; etc.) until you have completed the number of weeks in your school year.  The last day you label is your last day of school.  We usually have 34 weeks of book work and 2 weeks (10 school days) of field trips.  I schedule 34 weeks of school and record the dates of the field trips to equal 36 weeks or 180 instructional days.

Schedule At-A-Glance

Now that my schedule is planned, I take all the information and transfer it into a form that shows me the plan at-a-glance.  Here is a sample of our school calendar.

PLANNING A DAILY SCHEDULE

When homeschooling several children who can read, it is helpful to have a list or schedule to follow and to record what work has been completed.  June is traditionally my planning month when I make weekly sheets with daily assignment grids for each child.  Sounds like a lot of work?  Not really when you consider that once my school year starts, it is turn-key since both they and I are aware of the daily expectations, my students stay on task much better, and I can reuse the schedule with the younger girls.

Daily Schedule for Elementary

Since I am a list person, I naturally love the grid system of planning and scheduling assignments.  When the girls were old enough to work independently, I made each of them an assignment book—a 3-prong folder with weekly grid pages that detailed their assignments.  Sometimes grids are left empty the student isn't able to do the assignment alone.  When each assignment is completed, the block is checked off, providing an easy way to keep track of completed work.   Here is a sample elementary school schedule.

Daily Schedule for Middle and High School

I continued the grid system for my oldest, but then realized that my second daughter was working at a different pace in some subjects.  With some changes and adjustments, I created a syllabus for each subject that included expectations and a grid of daily assignments and assignment due dates.  This way I can mix and match subject levels based on the student’s ability.  Here is a sample of a schedule for an upper level class.

Making Adjustments

When our oldest entered the community college as a dually-enrolled junior *(earning high school and college credit simultaneously), our schedule drastically changed.  Up until that point, my schedule was my own to plan and control.  About four weeks into the first semester I was planning our regular October vacation.  Victoria innocently looked at me and said, “I have class.  I guess I won’t be able to come with you.”  Needless to say, we rescheduled the vacation and I adjusted my schedule to mirror her breaks so that we could be together as a family.  I have no control over the college schedule, but I still have the flexibility to make a schedule that maximizes our family time.

The goal of any daily or yearly schedule is to make the best plan that best suits the needs of your family.  Over the years, that plan will change (after all, how many high school students still have nap time?!).  Our job as parents is to make adjustments and adaptations in the midst of a dynamic situation.

Maybe this is more organization that your world can handle.  That’s ok.  You don’t need to do it our way.  This is only one way to have a plan and keep your students accountable.  The truth is there are many days I could talk us all out of doing any school!  With a schedule, we are much more productive and I know that we’re staying on track and that we won’t be doing school in July.  May God bless you and direct you as you make a schedule for your family.

*Please note that I am not encouraging that every high school student be enrolled at the community college.  Each family must make decisions based on God’s plan for their family and its members.

Back-to-School Memories

Planning for school is quite a task—choosing curriculum, ordering books, purchasing supplies.  It takes a lot of time and thought.  My mother never homeschooled her five children, but her job to prepare us for school was just as challenging.  She had an incredibly organized system to accomplish that goal, but the process never took precedence over making each of us children feel special.
 
A TRADITION IS BORN

In early August we took inventory of our clothing.  Mom sat on the edge of my bed with notepad in hand, recording my needs with the most beautiful cursive writing.  Ours was an extremely frugal family and often my list was short since I had an older sister whose hand-me-downs supplied most of my wardrobe.  My sister was much taller than I and the clothes never fit perfectly, but Mom altered them often by ripping out the seams and remaking the garment using the worn material.  There was one exception and that was the outfit for the first day of school.  Mom always made sure that we had something new to wear.

Our first stop was the upstairs sewing room where we’d pour over boxes of patterns and stacks of fabric my mother had bought inexpensively at a local warehouse.  I’d choose a pattern and fabric for my new shirt, skirt, gauchos, or pants.  If the fabric inventory was low or mom didn’t have a pattern in my size, we went to the fabric store, sat side-by-side paging through pattern books, and searched the remnant table for the perfect piece of fabric.

A few weeks later, with list in hand, Mom and I went school shopping for the things she could not sew.  This was a highlight of my year!  With four siblings, I recognized the treasure of having Mom all to myself for a few hours.  We generally started at Kmart (before the Wal-Mart years) and purchased the “foundational garments” mom couldn’t make.  Sometimes we bought shoes but our family most often went to a friend’s store to purchase everyone’s shoes at the same time.  We bought new notebooks, folders, notebook paper, a new box of 64 Crayola crayons complete with sharpener (I still love the smell of those crayons!), and whatever else we needed that year—a lock for a locker, an assignment book, or a book bag (pre-backpack years).  When every item on the list had been crossed off, Mom let us pick out something special that we wanted.  Once I chose a set of watercolors.  Another time we got a treat from the Kmart food counter—cherry red Icees with pictures of polar bears on the cup.  When I came home with my bags of treasures, I presented them to my siblings and later to my dad when he got home from work.

Our shopping days changed a bit over the years.  When I was in eighth grade, we went to the outlets in Redding, PA.  The following year when I was in high school, there were only three children at home and money wasn’t quite as tight.  We began to buy jeans and a few other things at the mall, but Mom still sewed whatever she could.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but she managed to make stylish clothes by combining several patterns for one garment or allowing us to help design our own pattern.  On our last school shopping trip, for college, she helped me find a rug remnant and coordinating comforters for my dorm room.  I remember little of the items we purchased over the years, but I still feel the warmth of uninterrupted time with Mom.

EMBRACING THE TRADITION

Now I am making precious back-to-school memories with our four daughters.  The first year I began to homeschool, I had a five-year-old, a two-year-old, and a six-week-old.  I wasn’t really thinking about shopping.  I was just glad to have my curriculum!  School days were short and we had many opportunities to shop for new clothes or school supplies we needed.  As the girls got older, I recognized the need to spend one-on-one time with them and my heart remembered those special shopping days with Mom.

We adopted the tradition of back-to-school shopping days, but with a Moore family twist.  We still take inventory of clothing, pass along the hand-me-downs (a rare thing since all the girls are now nearly the same size!) and I make a list of what each one needs.  We also take inventory of what school supplies each daughter has and will need in the coming school year.  I schedule a day for each daughter and together we “conquer the list.”  There is no sewing room or fabric or patterns.  I high-tail it to Wal-Mart!  We collect our school supplies first, and then we pick up any “foundational garments” and hit the sales racks.  Depending on what’s on the list, we may end up at our favorite thrift shop.  In our area of Virginia, it’s not always easy to find winter clothes in August, so we often finish our shopping later in the season.

Like my mom, I let the girls choose something they’d like—something that isn’t a necessity.  Over the years, Abigail chose a bendable pink ruler, Anna chose a collapsible ruler, Elisabeth chose a paint-by-number picture of a horse, and Victoria chose a beautifully decorated journal notebook.  If it fits in the budget, we may get some ice cream or even have lunch at a fast food restaurant.  Most of all I make opportunity laugh and to listen.  I don’t want it to be a totally serious time, but if it seems appropriate I’ll ask what they liked or disliked about the school year before, what they’re looking forward to, and what they’re thinking about for the future.  And like days gone by, when we return home one sister joyfully shares her newly-purchased treasures with the other sisters.

This year I thought we’d try something different.  Since time was limited because of our Guatemala missions trip, I thought we’d do a joint shopping day at an outlet center sometime in the fall.  It seemed like a good idea at the time since two are at the community college and didn’t really need much in the way of supplies or clothing.  But here I am, three weeks into school, feeling the loss of those special moments with my girls.  I don’t miss the shopping, but it’s not really about shopping.  I miss the one-on-one time with my daughters, one way I can communicate to them how precious and valuable they are to me.  It doesn't matter that we’ve already started school.  I’ll squeeze in some time with my girls between Chemistry and Algebra 2, and thank my mom for taking time to make back-to-school memories with me.

Making Memories with Family Adventures

Many of our friends know that we love to go on adventures.  Adventures are fun any time of the year, but summer is particularly great because we aren’t in school and the weather is good.The time together on our adventures has bonded our family and brought joy and refreshment to our souls.  We seldom spend money beyond the cost of gas and a picnic, but the memories are invaluable.

Making a Plan When the girls were young there was little money for entertainment, so we looked for ways to be creative.  We would tell the girls that on Saturday (or whatever day worked) we were going on an adventure.  We didn’t tell them what we were doing or where we were going.  (That way if things didn’t work out, we could choose an alternative plan without disappointing them!)  Our adventures today aren’t always a surprise, but they’re always full of fun. We usually pack a picnic lunch to eat along the way.  The same food we eat in our kitchen seems much more exciting when we’re sitting on a blanket under a tree.  Our traditional and simple picnic lunch: chicken salad, loaf of bread, bag of carrots, bag of grapes.  We usually have those items on hand, they’re easy to pack, and the sandwiches are easy to assemble at our picnic.  (Sometimes I throw in an unexpected sweet treat!)  Because we pack the same things each time, everyone knows the drill and can help.

Choose a Destination Most of our adventures are free (or very cheap!) and close to home (an hour or less drive).  We chose the simple pleasures of life and things that our special to our area—a walk on the beach, a ride on a car ferry, a hike at the arboretum, a climb up a lighthouse, or a walk in Williamsburg.  The goal is not to “wow” the kids but just to enjoy life together.  Here are some other resources to help you choose adventure destinations:

Summer Fun Jar I asked the girls to dictate to me the activities they wanted to do and I recorded them on slips of paper.  (Ex.  Go rollerskating, go to the park, paint, have a hair salon, play a marathon Phase 10 game with all 10 phases…)  Many activities were just fun things to do around the house and others were more like adventures.  We put these slips of paper in an old tin and named it the “Summer Fun Jar,” though it wasn’t a jar at all!  We continued to add activities until summer break arrived. During the free days of our summer, we took turns choosing a slip of paper from the “Summer Fun Jar.”  The paper chosen revealed the adventure of the day.  Some days it was just us girls, but Dad joined us for the adventures away from home. If you don’t feel that you have enough time to create your own “Summer Fun Jar,” you can purchase Summer Fun, our collection of family-friendly boredom busters for fun-filled adventures. Nearly every card in this book represents a slip of paper that was in our “Fun Jar” or an activity that we’ve done as a family. Ideas are divided into categories by color of paper: sunny day (yellow), rainy day (gray), requires money (green), ministry opportunities (white), and girlie activities (pink).  Other activities are listed by regions in PA, MD, VA and NC (purple).  We’ve also included some blank cards for you to add your own activities.  Since the online store is temporarily under construction, you can order Summer Fun by calling Daughters 4 God at 757.472.1897.

Letterboxing If you like searching for hidden treasure, letterboxing is for you!  People around the world hide plastic boxes (think: Glad disposable).  Your job is to find the hidden box using the clues posted online. Getting started is simple.  At letterboxing.org you’ll find several options on the home page.  There’s a “getting started” article as well as a “search for boxes” option that sends you to a page where you’ll enter your geographic information.  Choosing by region narrows your choices more specifically to your geographic area.  Click on the name of the box to link to the clues.  Use the “Print View” option on their website for a printable version of the clues.  Before you begin your hunt, bring your printed clues, a small notebook and a stamp you would use to make a craft—not the US mail type! When you locate the box, you’ll find a treasure inside.  Each box usually has a stamp (many hand-carved), a stamp pad and a small notebook.  Your job is to use their stamp to stamp your notebook.  Then use your stamp to make an entry in their notebook.  Sometimes we remember to bring our stamp and sometimes we don’t.  Instead of a stamp, we always sign our names and where we’re from. If you enjoy letterboxing, you may also enjoy hiding a box and creating the clues.  We also thought it would be cool to have a specific “family stamp” to use for our letterboxing adventures.  Maybe someone in your family could carve a stamp with symbols that reflect your family. While doing some research for this article, I also discovered another letterboxing website: www.atlasquest.com.  We’ve never used this website, but I found that some clues from the letterboxing site are linked to the Atlas Quest site.  Same basic idea with basic information to get started and a way to search boxes, though there are more specific descriptions about your location including the length of the hike, whether it is bike friendly or pet friendly, and whether it is in a fee area. Our family has been on several letterboxing adventures in our hometown as well as in a neighboring state.  We were unable to find a few of the boxes, but the directions led us to discover some beauty of God’s creation that we would’ve otherwise missed if we hadn’t been searching for a plastic box!

Summer 2010… As the girls grow older, our summer has quickly filled with jobs and other commitments. There are fewer days available for adventures.  It is with fondness that I look back on those special family times.  I anxiously look forward to the few unplanned days of our summer when we can pick a card from the “Summer Fun Jar” and go on yet another Moore Family Adventure.

Post a comment to this article and tell us about your letterboxing experiences or your fun family adventures.

Under Construction: Our New Online Store

Some of you may have noticed that our online store is temporarily under construction while we make some adjustments.  When our new store opens, you’ll find some changes.  After much prayer, Harold and I believe that God is leading us to make some adjustments to our ministry. First, we are discontinuing all products that aren’t exclusive to Daughters 4 God.  We will continue to carry our self-published titles such as Lady Day, The Gift of Purity, the audio products, and our sterling silver jewelry.  It is impossible for us to offer the other products at prices to compete with Amazon or CBD.  At this point, I’m planning to review new products for raising daughters, but we will not be offering them for sale.  Fewer products mean less time managing inventory and more time for writing and for ministry at our local church.

Second, we anticipate that our new store will have audio and pdf downloads priced less than a hard-copy product.  Some of you have asked for a “Cleaning Game” download so you don’t have to pay shipping.  We think that’s a great idea and we’re working to make that a reality.  We’re also hoping to add more audio teachings as well as some other books that are in development.

Third, we will not be traveling to homeschool conventions as we have in the past.  (We still haven’t decided about MACHE for 2011…)  It has become more difficult for us to travel together.  Harold took on a new role as Associate Pastor last October which means he can miss fewer Sundays, and the oldest two will be in college in the fall but still living at home.  Yes, we could leave Harold and our two college students behind, but that’s not what the Moore family does.  We’re a team and we minister together.

We believe that this is God’s plan for this season.  We will still look for opportunities to share our heart and our experiences, but just a little closer to home.  That’s a tough one, since we’ve made so many friends over the years.  Thank you for all of your encouragement and support.

Ruth Bell Graham once saw a sign along the road and asked that it be epitaph.  Her tombstone reads:  “End of Construction.  Thank you for your patience.”  I suppose I feel the same way, like I’m always under construction.  There’s another flaw, another weakness, another insecurity that my Creator lovingly reveals to me.  But I’m so grateful that He also shows me His complete sufficiency for every area of my lack.  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 1:6)  His construction process is not always easy or pleasant, but always necessary and beneficial.   Our construction, both personally and for D4G, continues but thank you for your patience.

Modest Swimsuit Options

It’s hard to believe that swimsuit season is nearly upon us.  Our family used to dread this season, but now we look forward to the summer.  Several years ago the girls came to me wanting to find more modest swim suits.  Even though they were wearing very modest one-piece suits, the suits showed more skin than the girls were comfortable with.  So began the quest to find a modest suit.  I recognize that every family has different standards regarding modesty, but if you’re looking for other options for swimsuits, here are a few suggestions that have worked for our family. PLEASE NOTE:  We are not endorsing any of these products, but merely relaying our experiences in hopes that your family will be able to locate modest swimwear that suits your needs.

Swim Modest I really liked the style of the one-piece suits (short sleeves, shorts and attached sarong), especially for very active girls.  We’ve ordered three child-sized suits from Swim Modest.  The girls especially liked that they could pick out the fabric, but they found that the sarong sometimes got in the way of serious swimming.  It was especially modest for playing on the beach.  The lining in the panty was not attached well, but could easily be attached more securely.   The material is not as thick as Land’s End suits we’ve owned, but they did make it through two years of frequent pool use.

Stitchin’ Times Owned by a woman in Lancaster County, PA, Stitchin Times specializes in custom-made suits with several options, including choice of fabrics.  Styles include a one piece swim dress with attached swim panty or shorts and newly added swim separates—a dress with a swim panty or swim shorts.  The first suit we ordered was a girls-sized cotton blend fabric which took a long time to dry.  Also, a seam under the arm of the tank was slightly bunched and made a red mark after a long day of swimming.  We really liked the quality and the mid-thigh length of the skirt.  The second suit we ordered was a lycra spandex blend and it worked better for us.  Because the material was lighter weight, there was no problem with the seam under the arm. We ordered a sleeveless adult suit and found the skirt was a great length, about mid thigh.  The top of the suit had an attached soft cup bra, but we didn’t like that the outline of the cups were noticeable.  The company gives you the option to special order a suit without a bra so you can wear your own.  We’re trying that option this year for the two younger girls.

Land’s End I’ve ordered various products from Land’s End for more than fifteen years.  The quality and service have never disappointed me.  While the quality has declined slightly over the years, the quality still remains far above the average suit you purchase at a department store.  They usually have several modest suits even for serious swimmers, depending on the styles offered for the year.  We’ve ordered several children’s suits and especially liked the full lining and the full coverage in the seat area.  We prefer the traditional tank design because the “racer back” design makes the arm holes a little low.  We’ve ordered several adult suits.  I love the options for torso, leg opening, bra type and style.  Again, the seat coverage is good and many suits have coordinating cover up skirts available to purchase separately.

If you aren’t able to afford these options but still want to instill modesty in your daughters, consider using my mom’s guidelines.  She asked that when her children were not swimming in the pool or the ocean, we had to be sufficiently covered—boys with a shirt on, girls with a cover up that covered our bottom.  She didn’t want us lounging around wearing so little.  I believe she was on to something.  I hope that these suggestions will bless your family and encourage your daughters as you make swimsuit choices for your family this summer.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: A Lesson Plan to Teach Respect

Here is a lesson plan I used to teach my young children respect using an acrostic of the word “respect.”  This is certainly not the only instruction I gave the girls, but I was able to link my future reminders and correction to these expectations.  It could be easily adapted for older children.  Each day, we studied one letter but also reviewed the main concept of the previous letters.    I have included the scriptures, not just the references.  You could use these as handwriting practice.  The very short lessons are directed to the child and are meant as a springboard to further discussion.  I also had a basket of items to symbolize the lessons so that we could look at the item, remember the lesson and review the concept.  The symbols are listed in parentheses.)
 
 
Requests (piece of clothing—The most frequent request I made was regarding the care of clothing.)

Elders  (toy chair—This represented giving our chair to the elderly.)

Service  (thank you note—This represents what our attitude should be to those who serve us.)

Property (any precious possession—This represents the preciousness of something to those we love.)

Ears (earphones—This represents what some people do to avoid a gush of words!)

Comfort (deodorant—Some of the girls were just coming into that stage of needing to wear it!)

Time (watch—This represents being accountable with our time.)

Requests

What does the Bible say?

Read I Peter 2:17.  (“Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”)

It is important that we obey the requests of those who are in authority over us.  Parents are an authority in your life.  God doesn’t live on this earth, so He gave us, your mom and dad, the authority to raise you.  Babysitters are also an authority in your life.  When dad and mom are on a date, we transfer our authority to the babysitter, just while we’re away.  Pastors and presidents and policemen are authorities in your life.  God placed them there as protection for us, whether they’re Christians or not. (Romans 13) (You may want to talk about how they don’t have to obey friends.)  It’s important to learn to obey these people that we can see because it is practice for obeying God that we can’t see.

How can my child show respect?

  1. Respond with a “Yes, Dad/Mom/Sir/Ma’m.”
  2. Obey right away.  Delayed obedience is disobedience.
  3. Obey without complaining.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. Take turns being the parent and the child.  The parent asks the child to do something and the child responds with “Yes, ____,” and pretends to walk away (representing immediate obedience.)
  2. The parent takes the role of a complaining child.  The child takes the role of the requesting parent.  If you complain a lot, your child may see how difficult it is to work with a complaining child.

Reinforcement:

  1. Remind your child to respond to your requests with a “Yes, ___.”
  2. If your child is not obeying right away, physically help them move toward obedience.

Elders

What does the Bible say?

Read Leviticus 19:26.  (“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.”)

God’s Word asks us to show respect for the elderly, those who are older than we are.  No matter how much we know and how smart we are, older people are wiser because they have lived longer and have life experiences that we haven’t had yet.  (I realize there are exceptions, but be careful not to open that door unless your child is older and you’re prepared for a discussion about wisdom and foolishness!) God wants us to show respect to older people not only because they’re wise, but because their body gets tired easier. 

How can my child show respect?

  1. Rise when an adult enters for the first time.
  2. When an adult enters the room, offer the adult his or her seat.
  3. Give up his/her seat to adults in public waiting rooms or on public transportation.
  4. Always allow adults to pass through doorways first.  Hold the door for them.
  5. If an adult drops something, quickly pick it up for him/her.
  6. Listen carefully when adults are speaking.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. One child can pretend to be “elderly” and another can be a child.  Both approach the door at the same time, and remember the child goes last.
  2. One child can pretend to be “elderly” and enter a room full of seated people and no empty seats.  (You can use stuffed animals to represent seated guests if you don’t have enough people.)  Another child can stand up and offer his/her seat to the elderly guest.

Reinforcement:

  1. When guests come to visit, be sure to remind your child to offer the best seat to the elderly guests and that he/she may sit in a seat only after all the adults are seated.
  2. When guests come to visit, have your child help serve snacks or drinks to the elderly.

Note:  Many of these guidelines for showing respect to the elderly also apply to pregnant women.

Service

What does the Bible say?

Read Mark 9:35. (Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.")

There are many people who serve us each day—the cashier at the grocery store, the bank teller at the drive through window, the mechanic who fixes our van.  Often, our culture values people who are in charge, not the ones who serve.  In God’s Kingdom, those who want to be first must be the servant of all.  God wants us to show respect to everyone we meet, even if they aren’t as important as a king or a president.  We should speak quietly and respectfully, and we should say, “please” and “thank you.”  We should be grateful for the service they are providing for us.  God has placed many people in our lives to serve and bless us.

How can my child show respect?

  1. Say “please” when he/she asks something of someone.
  2. Say “thank you” when someone does something for him/her.
  3. Send thank you notes promptly.
  4. When he/she visits someone, do not go empty-handed.  Bring a small token of thanks.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. Pretend your family is at a store.  One parent or child is the cashier and another is the customer.  Role-play respectful and disrespectful behavior and conversation.
  2. During lunch, pretend you are at a restaurant.  One child can be the “server.”  Role-play how customers should treat the server, especially if the server makes a mistake.

Reinforcement:

  1. Remind your children to say, “please” and “thank you”, especially to family.
  2. Speak respectfully to anyone in the community who is serving you.
  3. Purchase or make thank you notes and have them available.  (One of my friends helps her children make their own address “book” with 3x5 cards in a recipe box.)
  4. When you visit friends, bring a loaf of homemade bread or some flowers from your backyard.

Property

What does the Bible say?

Read I Timothy 6:18. (Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.)

Everything we have is a gift from God.  We should treat our possessions with respect.  If we take care of them, we won’t have to replace them and that will give our family more money to spend on our needs or to give to people in need.  Since everything we have belongs to God, we should not be selfish with what we have.  People are more important to God that things.  We should be willing to share with others.  When we borrow something from someone, we should always ask permission before we take it.  If we take something without permission, that is stealing.  We should also ask how long we can keep the borrowed object and be sure to return it on time or even a little early.  It’s important to respect your own possessions a

How can my child show respect?

  1. Take care of all property, especially property that belongs to someone else.
  2. Be generous to lend.
  3. Ask permission before borrowing something.
  4. If he/she damages something that doesn’t belong to him/her, offer to replace the damaged item.
  5. Return items in a timely manner.  (Set an acceptable amount of time.  Ex. Less than 1 month.)

Discussion Ideas:

  1. Talk with your child about how it feels when someone “borrows” something without asking.
  2. Talk with your child about how the family can better respect and care for your home.
  3. Talk with your child about how to respect church property. (ex.  Play carefully with toys at church.  Don’t write on offering envelopes if you don’t have an offering.)

Reinforcement:

  1. Borrow books from the library and be sure to return them on time.
  2. Encourage your children to borrow from each other.  That means asking permission first.  If a sibling does not care for another’s property, then they lose the privilege of borrowing for a season.
  3. If your child damages something that belongs to someone else, go with them as he/she admits her fault and offers to make restitution.  If necessary, find jobs for your child to earn money so they can pay for the replacement.

Ears

What does the Bible say?

Read Proverbs 18:21a (The tongue has the power of life and death…)

Read Proverbs 10:19 (When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.)

What a strange thought to respect someone’s ears!  Really, it’s about showing respect by carefully guarding our words that go into other people’s ears.  Words have great power.  With our words, we can bless, encourage, inspire, and make someone laugh.  We can also criticize, judge, and make someone cry.  It is our choice.  Spending words is like spending money:  you need to choose wisely when to spend, whom to spend on, and how much to spend.  Sometimes conversation is appropriate (dialogue, not monologue!) but other times it’s better to just listen.  We also need to guard how many words we use.  Some people are overwhelmed when they hear lots of words.  After awhile they stop listening and “tune it out.”  The more you talk, the easier it is to say something you shouldn’t!  No matter what you say, your words and tone of voice should show respect and bring life to whomever you’re talking to.

What can my child do to show respect?

  1. Use words to bring life and not death.
  2. Look for opportunities to speak or write words of encouragement.
  3. Guard his/her words.  Use only what is necessary—no more, no less.
  4. Speak slowly—it is difficult to understand someone when their words gush out!
  5. Speak in a respectful tone.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. Use a ball to teach your children how to have a conversation.  When you ask them a question, throw them the ball.  They should respond with a comment and then ask you a question—then they can throw the ball.  It helps children be aware of dead end comments.
  2. Demonstrate to your children by talking to them with a respectful tone of voice and with a disrespectful tone of voice.  Talk about how it makes others feel when you yell at them.

Reinforcement:

  1. Use a secret family signal in public that alerts family members when they are monopolizing the conversation.
  2. Practice good conversation skills at the dinner table.
  3. Remind your children that conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.
  4. Be sure to give plenty of time for your children to talk with you.  They won’t be as likely to “download” so much on your guests!  When you set a precedent of being an interested listener when they’re young, there’s a greater chance they’ll be willing to communicate through the teen years.

Comfort

What does the Bible say?

Read Luke 6:31.  (Do to others as you would have them do to you.)

Showing respect to others means making them feel comfortable.  Standing too closely to someone or raising your voice can make others feel uncomfortable.  Wisely choose what to talk about and keep it positive.  It can also make people feel uncomfortable if you have food in your teeth or bad breath.  If you have dirt on your face or under your fingernails it can be distracting when someone talks with you.    Another way to show people respect and make people feel comfortable is to be modest—that means you don’t draw attention to yourself.  It is important to dress modestly and not bring attention to your body.  If we do all the talking or our voice is especially loud, the attention is focused on us.  When we talk with others, we should do what we can to make them comfortable and bring attention to our Lord, not to ourselves.

What can my child show respect?

  1. Be clean and neat.
  2. Be modest—dress modestly, behave modestly.
  3. Know which topics of conversation are just off-limits.

Discussion Ideas:

  1. Talk to your child about how it makes other people uncomfortable when you have bad breath or
  2. Demonstrate and discuss with your child appropriate “personal space” when talking with someone.

Reinforcement:

  1. Make a chart for your child to keep track of daily hygiene.  You can include brushing, flossing, washing face, wearing deodorant, trimming fingernails and cleaning a retainer.
  2. Set specific guidelines for modesty in your family.  Review them before you go shopping.
  3. For daughters, purchase several camis to go under clothing that is either too thin or too low.

Time

What does the Bible say?

Read Ephesians 5:15-15.  (Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.)

God has given each of us 24 hours in a day.  Once we spend our time, we can never get it back.  Spending money is like spending time—we must choose wisely and make the most of what we have. Sometimes our choices affect other people.  When you make plans to meet a friend, your friend says that you are important by choosing to spend time with you instead of doing something else.  If you are late or you take longer than you said, your actions say that your friend’s time is not valuable to you.  You are taking your friend’s time without their permission—which is stealing.  Honor others by respecting their time.

How can my child do to show respect?

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Leave on time.  Don’t overstay an invitation.

Discussion Ideas:

  1. Talk about how it makes you feel when someone is late when they come to your house.
  2. Talk about how it makes you feel when your parents’ friends come to your house (without any children J) and they stay really late.
  3. Talk about what you can do as a family that will help you to be on time.  (ex.  Lay out clothes/shoes/Bible etc. on Saturday night so you’ll be on time on Sunday morning.)

Reinforcement:

  1. Help your family make a habit of arriving on time for events and appointments.
  2. Give your child a watch and hold them accountable for completing tasks by a designated time.
  3. Coach your child on how to plan in advance so that they will be ready when you need to go somewhere.  (ex.  When you have music lessons, put your instrument by the door in the morning.)

Resurrection Cookies

You will need:1c. whole pecans 1 tsp. vinegar 3 egg whitespinch salt 1 c. sugar zipper baggie wooden spoon mixing bowl waxed paper cookie sheet tape Bible

Preheat oven to 300 F.   Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat.    Then with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces.

Explain that after Jesus was arrested the Roman soldiers beat him. Read John 19:1-3.

Let each child smell the vinegar. Put the 1 tsp of vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.

Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.

Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 c. sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the white color represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet.    Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid.    Read Matthew 27:57-60.

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF.    Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. Read Matt. 27:65-66.

Go to bed.  Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight.

Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed.    Read John 16:20 and 22.

On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.           Read Matt. 28:1-9.

HE HAS RISEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My Favorite Things: Homeschool Elementary Curricula

Introducing “My Favorite Things”

For those of you who know me, you know I’m a connector.  I love to connect people with people or people with resources.  That’s why we started Daughters 4 God.  If I was blessed with the opportunity to chat with you over a cup of mint hot chocolate at Starbucks, you’d hear about my new favorite book I’m reading, or about a website I came across, or about someone I know who might be able to help you accomplish the project you’re working on.  I’m really not out to sell anything (which is why I’m such a poor business woman! J), I merely want to support others as they walk out what God has called them to do.

This month, we are launching a series entitled, “My Favorite Things.”  I can’t say that I’ll include an article in the series every month, but my goal is to share the things that have blessed our family.   Most all of my favorite things came by recommendation of a friend.  I can also say that some of my friends have steered me away from what could’ve been a bad choice.  I hope that some of my favorite things will bless your family and maybe even become your favorites, too!

My Favorite Things:  Elementary Homeschool Curricula

Sing, Spell, Read & Write My friend Christine recommended this wonderful curriculum to me as I was planning for Kindergarten.  There are actually two kits—preschool and first grade.  I used the first grade set with all four of the girls when they were in Kindergarten, even though they represent several different learning styles.  Since I was a first year homeschooling parent, I appreciated that the kit was so complete.  My box included:  a teacher’s manual, two consumable student workbooks which included phonics and handwriting practice, 17 paperback student readers, cassette tapes, WORD-O (Bingo) game, two Go Fish Phonics card games (one for solo sounds and another for blends), vowel flash cards, a colorful Raceway chart to track progress, and a cardboard treasure chest full of prizes.  It was (and still is) a little pricey, but was very cost effective for a larger family since I could reuse everything but the workbooks--and the prizes.  The girls enjoyed it so much; they insist that they will be buying it to teach their own children. Why I like it: We had so much fun learning to read; I believe it gave the girls a love for reading that continues to this day.  I loved that their reading books corresponded directly with the sounds they were learning, setting them up for success.  It was a simple yet comprehensive system to integrate phonics, reading, spelling, and handwriting.

Winston Grammar Some homeschool moms dread teaching grammar, but not this mom.  Having used this program with all four girls, I found that it suited any learning style, but was particularly effective with a child who needed  a “hands on” approach.  The Basic program comes with a student workbook, a teacher’s manual and a pack of cards.  There is a pre-test to diagnose current skill, 30 weekly lessons of about 12-13 problems, four quizzes interspersed throughout the lessons, and a final test.   Each lesson includes the introduction and explanation of a part of speech using a specially designed card.  Students choose one card to represent each word of the sentence, making a line of cards on their desk.   For example, lesson 1 introduces articles.  An article card is red, so each of the “a’s,” “an’s,” and “the’s” in the sentence would have a red card.  All the other words would have black cards, indicating they haven’t been learned yet.  Students then mark their workbooks according to the markings on the card.  (An article has a check above it)  Most every week a new card is added until students can identify every part of speech and what they modify.  The last quarter of the book teaches noun functions using another set of cards.  Not only did the girls enjoy the program, they quickly learned the material and retained it. Why I like it: Most students don’t enjoy learning grammar, but each one of my girls looked forward to Winston Grammar.  It required little involvement form me and gave the girls tools to be successful as they studied independently.  As their understanding of grammar improved, I also saw a marked improvement in their writing skills.

The Learnables Elementary foreign language study just didn’t fit in our budget for the first few girls, but I rethought my decision when we began language studies in high school with our oldest.  When the youngest was in fifth grade, we wanted to begin a language but didn’t want to invest in Rosetta Stone.  Instead, we purchased the Learnables Level 1 CD-Rom  for French.  The concept is similar but not nearly as comprehensive.  No writing is required and no written words are shown.  Students look at pictures while the native speaker says either a word or phrase to describe the picture.  There is a 10 question quiz at the end of each of the 10 units.  I found that Abigail looked forward to her French lesson on the computer and began to apply her new vocabulary in her daily life.  At $50, it was a fairly inexpensive way to launch our foreign language study. Why I like it: I want my children to have the experience of communicating with someone who is not speaking English. The Learnables allows children to understand sentences spoken by a native speaker of a foreign language.  It fuels the interest for further language study which can be a benefit in sharing the gospel with those who haven’t heard.

Mystery of History 1 (MOH 1) My friend Allison called me for some homeschool advice and just happened to mention a new  history curriculum that had  just been released.  With girls ages 12, 10, 7 and 5  years, I was looking for a history curriculum we could all do together.  Frankly, that’s all I had time for.  Blending traditional ancient history and biblical history to create one seamless timeline of study from creation to Christ, MOH 1 was a perfect fit for our family.  There were three, short read-aloud lessons per week with a follow-up activity for elementary students, middle students, and older students.  I appreciated lesson plans that built on what they had learned in the lesson, giving them an assignment that was interesting and age-appropriate.  Map work, weekly quizzes or reviews, and other various activities required reproducible pages included in the teacher’s guide.  (These are now available separately on CD Rom.)  A helpful appendix references the lesson number and recommended literature, media, or other resources that we were able to find at our public library.  I used the literature recommendations for scheduling literature to supplement our language arts. One unique activity from MOH 1 that we did together was to keep a timeline in a 3-ring, 3x5-card notebook.  We created a 3x5 card for each person or event we studied.  On one side, we wrote the date(s); on the other side, the older girls wrote a description in their own words and the younger girls drew a picture with colored pencils.  Sometimes I used the cards as flash cards (around what date did this happen?) or I shuffled the cards and asked the girls to put them in the order in which they happened.  I can still see them crawling around on the floor with 20-plus 3x5 cards framing the perimeter of our family room! The following year  we used MOH 2--same basic set-up with slightly longer lessons, but the Dark Ages were not nearly as appealing and it was hard to maintain motivation.  Since MOH 3 had not yet been released, we had no choice but to change to another program.  MOH3, covering the Renaissance, has since been released.  When last I heard, future plans were to release a MOH 4 and 5 to complete the series. Why I like it: It saved me a ton of work!  My lessons, activity sheets, map work, timeline and lesson plans were all in one place.  The lesson was short enough for the younger ones, and the older ones developed skills in research and writing.  I felt that we learned how to integrate biblical people and events and the traditional secular history that is taught in public schools.

Considering God’s Creation

As a high school student, I nearly failed biology and never took chemistry.  I was desperate for a homeschool science program that I could teach—and enjoy.  My friend Susan, previously an elementary school teacher and a homeschooling mom of three daughters, recommended Considering God’s Creation.  I liked the simplicity—one teacher’s book, one student’s book, and one cassette tape (now on CD).  I also liked singing songs about science.  You memorize things so effortlessly.  (Remember Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings?)  I had to take some time to divide the chapters up in specific lessons, but there was very little planning.  The read-aloud lessons were filed with scripture and simple explanations of why evolution isn’t true.   We removed the perforated pages and put them in a 3-ring binder, one for each student.  There was a lot of coloring, cutting and gluing projects in the workbook, which made it fun for the older ones, but challenging for the younger ones (younger than 2nd grade).  With a little extra help and supervision, everyone enjoyed science—even me! Why I like it: We all learned so much about so many areas of science--rocks, the solar system, living organisms and the human body.  The student book included instructions and supplies for games and hands on activities that made science fun.  I wish the kids were younger.  I’d do it again!

Next month, look for my favorite middle/high school homeschool curriculum.

Social Networking 101 (By: Victoria Moore)

By: Victoria Moore Hello dear friends!  I can’t express to you how excited I am to be able to share with you this passion of mine: understanding social networking.  I also have to admit how overwhelmed I feel.  This article (long as it is!) hardly brushes the surface of social networking and the wonderful power behind it.  There’s so much more I wish I could share with you!

As I’m sure you’re aware, you can hardly go anywhere without hearing, "Do you have an email address?" or "Are you on Facebook?”.  What’s the big hype?  Why is the internet getting so much attention and receiving so much time from all the generations?  Through this article I hope to enlighten you on what social networking is, not evaluate whether it’s right or wrong.  And since my draft for this article is already looking long, let’s begin right away, shall we?

What is social networking?

Simply put, social networking includes a broad spectrum of web-based services focused on connecting friends and like-minded people.  These internet-based sites build social relationships among people and are increasingly becoming one of the major ways like-minded people communicate.  If there’s only one thing you remember from this article, I hope it’s the word responsibility.  No matter what our age or what sites we participate in, we must be responsible.

Responsibility with time: The internet is a powerful tool but, like a gun, if it’s not used properly it can cause great harm.  It’s important to use the internet effectively and responsibly.  It’s easy to let your time be eaten away when using the internet or any of these social networking sites.  The key is to use the tool, not let the tool use you.

Responsibility with what we say: No matter what you “delete” from your posts on the internet, everything you post is somehow retrievable.  (Think: huge cyber trash bag that’s never emptied.)  It’s important to be responsible with what is posted on the internet.  Be careful not to post potentially embarrassing stories or pictures of friends without their permission.  Their potential boss may be looking them up one day!  If you’re writing stories about your life it’s good to use first names and the initial of the last name to respect a friend’s privacy on the internet.  If you don’t want your post read by everyone, don’t post it at all.  Also, be careful not to post something on the internet out of haste or anger.  It’s easy to post things you’d never say out loud, so instead of the old adage, “Think before you speak,” it’s helpful to, “Think before you hit ‘share’.”

Responsibility with relationships: This is especially important when it comes to social networking sites.  Although it’s great to stay connected with people online, nothing can replace human interaction.  It’s important to use methods other than the cyber world to connect with people.  Healthy relationships don’t rely solely on communicating online, but use social networking as a sort of “Miracle Grow”, helping a strong relationship grow even stronger.  If you approach the internet with a mind filled with the wisdom of Christ, I believe He will show you how to effectively use that powerful tool!

Popular Social Networking Sites

Although there's a list miles long of "social networking" sites, this article will focus on three major networks that often pop up in everyday conversation.  I've also chosen to focus on the networking sites that require participation and communication rather than one-way reading, writing, or listening.

Facebook

What is it? The largest social networking site to date, Facebook can be used for communication, live chat, photo and video posting, writing, connecting with old friends, updating people about your life, and playing online games.  Facebook is a free service.

How does it work? People can create an account, or profile, on Facebook, where they can then post updates about their life (generally using something called a “status update”), invite people to be their “friends” (called “friending”), post on their friend’s “wall” (a way to communicate), play games, discuss different topics, and upload various forms of media.  If you want to learn more about how Facebook works, here’s a basic introduction video.

What kind of security is there? When you set up your profile, it will be open for everyone to see, unless you choose otherwise.   If you would like to keep your profile private, there are several ways to stay under the radar.  First of all, you can choose to leave out specific information in your profile. (i.e. your location, where you work…)  Secondly, you can change your profile into an “unsearchable” profile where only “friends of friends” can search for you.  On top of this, you can choose to hide your profile information (age, birthday, email, etc.) from everyone, including “friends of friends.”  It’s important to take time to know what people can and cannot see when it comes to your profile.  Facebook has created detailed layers of security that can help you create the perfect personalized settings.  I highly recommend that if you have a Facebook account that you go through ALL of your settings (security or otherwise) about once a month to make sure nothing has changed and that you’re still “hidden” from the search engines or whatever part of the outside world you choose to remove yourself from.  I strongly believe in keeping up to date with cyber security!  If you’re interested in learning more, you can watch this basic introduction video.  It’s a little old, but it will help familiarize you with the security options within Facebook.   If you’re already a part of Facebook, but are still worried about your safety, you can always join the Facebook Security page and receive up-to-date security information that lets you know about scams and other such risks.

Are there ads I should be worried about? There are generally three or four small, subtle side-bar ads based on your Facebook profile.  Facebook utilizes a revolutionary ad program which places ads based on the information you feed the program.  For instance, if you type something about pizza in one of your posts, the ad program will recognize this and generate an ad about pizza.  If you change your relationship status from being “single” to “engaged,” Facebook will generate ads that have to do with wedding cakes, and bridesmaids’ dresses.  Of course, Facebook ads can only feed off of the information you give.  If you don’t identify your relationship status or political views, it will use key words from your conversations.  (Another good reason to be responsible with the personal profile.)  While you shouldn’t have to shield your child’s eyes from inappropriate content, it is easy to click on an ad thinking it’s a part of Facebook.

Why would I want to use Facebook? Facebook can be a powerful tool to both keep in contact with friends and reconnect with old ones.  Many families use Facebook to keep in touch with children in college or children who are married and on their own.  I know missionaries that use Facebook to keep in touch with supporters in their home country and a foreign exchange student who keeps in touch with her friends and family back home by posting pictures, videos, etc of what is going on in her world in the US.  I know two women who are using Facebook to witness to friends they have reconnected with after 25 years.  It’s amazing to think that tools like Facebook have the potential to reach hundreds and thousands of people with the Gospel, simply by people effectively using the tool from their kitchens and living rooms.

Twitter

What is it? “Twitter-ers” (those who have a Twitter account) document their life in 140 characters or less, sometimes called micro-blogging.  People can “follow” other “twitter-ers” by subscribing to other people’s messages (“tweets”).  Twitter is a free service.

How does it work? You can sign up for a profile at Twitter.com and then begin “tweeting” and searching for other people who tweet that you can “follow”.  You can send tweets from your computer, your cell phone, or almost any other mobile device.  If you want to learn more about Twitter, here’s a basic introduction article.

What kind of security is there? A twitter-er often chooses to leave his or her tweets open to the public, although there is an option to keep your updates private until someone “subscribes.”  You have the option to accept or decline their following request.  Whether public or not, your settings page gives you the option to choose if your tweets are visible in public search engines.  (i.e. Google, Yahoo, etc.)

Are there ads I should be worried about? I’ve never seen any ads on Twitter, but if your profile is public, businesses with a Twitter account can conduct keyword searches within Twitter to identify who is using their product or service.  If you have typed one of those key words, they may start “following” you so that they can keep track of their clients and possibly suggest a product or service.

Why would I want to use it? Often well-known figures or businesses use Twitter to help people feel more connected to them, their company, or their product.  Also, people create an account to follow other people rather than to update for themselves and others subscribe to breaking world news and other similar services.  Although it can be convenient to receive breaking news, be careful who you “follow”.  It’s easy to waste a lot of time reading updates like “just went to the grocery store”, or “hit the snooze button four times today!” which honestly shouldn’t matter to you unless perhaps it’s your spouse, child, or best friend.

Blogging

What is it? A blogger is a person who posts on a “blog”, an online journal where authors can post photos and videos along with their posts.  There are many “blog” sites out there where people can set up their online journals.  Wordpress, Blogspot, and LiveJournal are some of the most popular blogging sites.  Basic blogging is generally free.

How does it work? Choose a specific blogging site you’d like to use and set up an account.  Most sites walk you through set up and design of a personal blog.

What kind of security is there? Every blog site is different, but there are generally three different layers of security in the blogging sphere.  As the author you can: A. Password protect your blog so only those you allow can read it, B.  Leave your blog (your writings) open for the public to see, but leave it off of all search engines (meaning people would have to know your web address exactly to get there), or C.  Leave the blog public, as well as listing it on search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Are there ads I should be worried about? I’ve never seen an explicit ad on a blog.  Some blog sites have links to similar blog posts, but the links not endorsed by the person who’s writing the blog.  Often the links are to for-profit blogs that are designed to generate income.

Why would I want to use it? Blogging has become a tool for many people to share their life and opinions with others.  If you love to write or have an adventurous life, perhaps blogging is for you.  If you post personal stories or information, check the settings on your account and be aware of who is able to access this information.

The Ultimate Lesson

When I first started writing this article I expected it to end with something like, "In conclusion: this is the right thing to do and this is the wrong thing to do."  But as I prayed, (for me, for the writing of this article, for you!) God began to reveal to me it just wasn't going to happen that way.  What He has shown me over the past month is what I'd like to share with you as I conclude.

As I was praying about the concept of social networking in a Christian’s life, the Lord told me that I needed to understand the concept of black and white.  I'm sure you know someone like this, but I'm what most people would call "black and white."  I like to say, "This is right.  This is wrong.  We should do this.  We shouldn't do this.  Period.  No exceptions.  No grace."  Sometimes black and white is okay.   The Bible speaks clearly about things like murder, adultery, stealing, and others.  But then we get to something like Facebook.  Ugh.

Now what?  This is what I was struggling with God about.  There has to be an answer, but how do I find it?  I asked, "God?  Why can't there be a definite answer for something like Facebook, or TV, or the length of a dress?"  Then I was reminded of my studies of black and white in a past art class. Between black and white are an incalculable number of shades of gray, composed exclusively from the colors of black and white.  Gray is defined by how much light is shown through the color.

Let the light of God define the boundaries that His Word doesn’t clearly address.  If you don't have a definite answer from God about something in your life, someone or something will try to define it for you and your family.  It's easy to look to authority in the church or to media and culture for answers to things like Facebook or Twitter.  Truly, only the light of Christ can define those grey areas and help you set boundaries for your family.

Debate regarding media and networking will continue in our culture and in the church.  Although we like to categorize everything (this is black, this is white), there's an endless grey scale that exists in the world around us-- an endless number of tools that can be used for good or for evil.  Just as God made each fingerprint unique, in the same way He made each family unique.  What is acceptable for one family may not be acceptable for another, but that doesn't mean one is wrong and the other is right.  When each family is depending on God for the amount of Light shed on their situation, we have no option but to respect others and abstain from any sort of judgment.  When we look at media around us we simply need to ask the Lord, "Should I incorporate this into MY life?" I pray that as your family faces social networking with strength and courage that God will shed His light on each and every one of your situations.  After He reveals His social networking plans for you and your family, run with it.  Don't let the judgments of others stop or hinder you from doing what He has told YOU to do.  Keep steady, and His light will readily shine through you and your family, whether you're using social media or not.

Perhaps you’d like to know more about social networking.   Feel free to email any questions to Victoria at: shop (at) Daughters4God (dot) com.

A Father's Love (By: Harold Moore)

By: Harold Moore February – the month of love.  At least that is what we are told.  Funny how one day of the year, February 14th, can become a reason to buy cards, candy, flowers, etc., to show how much we love those in our lives.  Shouldn’t we have a life-style of showing love throughout the year?  The obvious answer is, “Yes!”  The way we show true love must go way beyond the purchasing and giving of “things” on a special day.

As a father I’m often challenged as to what to give my wife and daughters on Valentine’s Day to express how much I truly love them.  I will again this year give the ladies of my life cards, candy, and maybe a little gift for my wife.  But all of those gifts are meaningless and futile in expressing love if my wife and daughters do not know in their hearts the love I have for them throughout the year.  I believe they know in their hearts how much I do love them, but it didn’t just happen by accident.  I was intentional.

How can a father intentionally express his love to his family in ways that reach the heart?  I asked God that question one morning and I believe He answered my questions with a very simple acrostic of “FATHER.”

F:  Faithful

A father’s love is shown in faithfulness.  Romans 5:8 tells us that God, our Heavenly Father, shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still in our sin, He died for us.  A father is faithful to show love no matter what.  His love is not conditional or provisional, nor is it based on the performance of those whom he is called to love.  A father is faithful to provide for the needs of his family.  He provides security.  He is faithful to provide appropriate affection to his wife and children so that they have no need to search for it from any other source.  A father is faithful to keep the covenants and commitments to his wife and family so that his word is true and dependable.

A:  Accessible

A father’s love is shown in accessibility.  Hebrews 4:15-16 tells of our Heavenly Father who understands us and cares for us, even in our weaknesses and vulnerability to temptation.  He bids us to fearlessly and confidently draw near to Him and find help for every need.  A loving father is accessible to his wife and children.  He makes time for them and gives his time to them.  He creates an atmosphere of accessibility and openness.  He loves them; therefore he is accessible to them.

T:  Tender

A father’s love is show in tenderness.  Isaiah 40:11 and other scriptures give us a picture of how tenderly the Lord cares for his own.  Jesus looked over unfaithful Jerusalem and spoke of a tender desire to “gather her under his wings”.  He wept.  He had compassion over the sick, broken, and hurt.  A father who truly loves his family will be known by his tenderness toward his loved one’s emotions, hearts and spirits.  He will be tender with them physically, particularly his wife and daughters, and not treat them as “one of the boys.”

H:  Honoring

A father’s love is shown in the honor and value he gives to his family.  They are not just his; they are daughters and sons of God.  He treats his family with respect and honors their thoughts and feelings because they are created and valued by God.

E:  Excited

A father’s love is shown in an excitement about the things that are important and exciting to his family.  In Zephaniah 3 there is a wonderful picture of God dancing and singing over you with joy and excitement.  What an awesome picture of God and his delight over His children!  A loving father shows an excitement and enthusiasm over the things that are exciting and valuable to his family.  He celebrates and shows excitement about their life and their destiny.

R:  Relational

A father’s love is shown through an abiding relationship with his family.  We were created by God to be in relationship with Him – to be His sons and daughters – so that He could bestow on us the inheritance of His Kingdom.  God’s greatest desire was to show His love toward us by giving us a relationship with Him, not just gifts and pleasures.  Sin separated us from that relationship but God’s love for us was so great that He gave Jesus to restore that relationship with Him.  A father who truly loves his wife and children loves them through relationship.  It is relationship that wraps it all together.  Love must be given through relationship and not just an event or a check mark on “to do” list.

FATHER

In looking at this acrostic I realize that this doesn’t just apply to fathers but to all who call themselves Christians.  I also realize the many times that I fall short of these ideals.  Only our Heavenly Father fulfills these attributes perfectly and constantly.  Yet even in our weaknesses and shortcomings, He still calls us to show acts of love beyond a card or gift on a special day.

My prayer for you is that in this month, and the months that follow, that you will be filled with both giving and receiving love.  I pray that you reach the hearts of those you love with your faithfulness, accessibility, tenderness, honor, excitement, through genuine relationship with you.  And the card and candy are a nice touch.  =)

Christmas Traditions

Traditions are very important to our family.  We all look forward to events and celebrations, especially during the Christmas season.  I believe traditions are important to God.  God gave the children of Israel specific instructions for annual feasts of celebration.  He asked them to start the New Year with repentance, to celebrate the first fruits of the harvest with thanksgiving, and to remember the Passover and His salvation of the Israelites in Egypt.  Each celebration was designed to remind the Israelites of their identity and the identity of God.
Today, our celebrations aren’t called feasts, we call them holidays.  The word holidays comes from “holy days,” days that are set apart.  The purpose is still the same—to remind our families of our identity in Christ and the identity of our Holy God.  Here are some things that our family does to celebrate Christmas and set this season apart from the rest of our year.

Deck the Halls The day after Thanksgiving our Christmas season begins.  We turn on the local radio station that plays all Christmas music, haul the decorations out of the attic and begin to transform our home.  The first decoration to be put up and the last to be taken down is the baby Jesus in the nativity.  I want our family to always keep in mind why we are celebrating.  Harold puts lights up outside and the girls and I decorate inside. One of my favorite things is hanging the stockings.  Several years ago, the girls sewed their own stocking as a sewing project.  Each stocking is made of different fabric and represents the girls:  Victoria’s is Asian satin with a bead fringe, Elisabeth’s is gold felt with a horse patch, Anna’s royal blue stocking has a curled toe with white snowflake buttons sprinkled throughout, and Abigail’s is red with a snowman complete with a carrot button for a nose.

Away in a Manger In our culture it’s easy for the true meaning of Christmas to be lost amidst all the commercialism. When Victoria was about three years old, I bought a plastic nativity complete with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, shepherds, sheep, wisemen, and an angel.  (Would you believe that fifteen years later we still have all the pieces?!)  As Daddy read a child’s version of the birth of Jesus, little Victoria made the people do whatever the story said.  As the girls grew, the youngest one took the role of moving the people and we graduated to reading from the Bible.

O Christmas Tree The tree is the last thing to be decorated, which brings us to one of my favorite traditions.  Before we decorate the tree, each girl receives her ornament for the year, based on what has happened in the past twelve months.  We have quite a collection:  many musical instruments, ballet dancers, a stuffed tooth, a girl with braces, a girl on roller skates with a cast painted on with nail polish, a license plate, frames with photos, and more unique ones that would take much longer to explain.  Some are homemade and some are from a gift shop.  Often, we purchase ornaments while we’re on vacation. (After all, I have to have something to put on the tree after the girls leave and take all their ornaments!)  Our tree doesn’t look like anything from a magazine, but I love looking at the ornaments each year and reflecting on the memories they hold.  Now that the girls are older, each girl puts her own ornaments on the tree.

Angels We Have Heard on High There are so many special events going on in our area during the month of December.  One family I know always goes to the see the Nutcracker ballet, another goes to a Handel’s Messiah sing-a-long.  Our family enjoys cultural events (and of course the girls love to dress up!) so Harold and I look for a cultural event to celebrate the season.  Through reduced rates for homeschoolers and generous grandparents, we’ve been privileged to attend the Nutcracker, another ballet from a local Christian ballet company, the stage production of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the symphony, just to name a few. One thing we never miss is the Grand Illumination in Williamsburg, VA—about an hour from our home. We love to walk through the restored area any time of the year, but at Christmas time it is especially beautiful with decorations on each house made from God’s creation—dried fruits, flowers, and even oyster shells.  On the first Sunday in December, they light electric candles in the windows of the houses, there are various musicians playing, bonfires burning and the then the finale—grand fireworks in three locations and synchronized perfectly.

Over the River and Through the Woods As a girl, we traveled nearly every Christmas morning so we could be with my grandmother, about five hours south of us.  We did get to celebrate Christmas early, but I missed being home.  When we got married, Harold and I established that we would travel to my family the weekend before Christmas (about 6 hours north) and to his family the weekend after Christmas (about 5 hours west).  We get to see everyone and we get to enjoy Christmas in our own home.  It hasn’t always been easy to pack up the kids and travel, but I know it has been a blessing to our parents.  Someday, I know I’ll be on the waiting end of those grandchildren running in the door just waiting to give hugs.

Here We Come a Caroling Christmas just isn’t Christmas without carols.  For the past ten years, Harold and the girls and I have caroled to our neighbors.  We used to carol on Christmas Eve, but many of them weren’t home.  Now we keep an eye out during the week before Christmas to see when our neighbors are home.  The neighbors really seem to look forward to it.  It’s a great way to keep connected to people that we otherwise rarely see.

O, Holy Night Christmas Eve has always been a family time, but each year has looked a little different.  When the girls were very small, we were part of a church plant that did not have a service on Christmas Eve.  Instead, we baked cookies in the afternoon, had a quiet dinner and took the girls to a live nativity scene.  We put the kids to bed early so Harold and I could wrap and assemble presents. Years later, our little church merged with an established church (that’s a story for another article!).    This new church began a Christmas Eve celebration with music and worship dance that continues to this day.  We traded our quiet Christmas Eve dinner for being a part of celebrating our Savior’s birth with our church family.  Over the years, our family has played handbells, the girls have been angels and dancers, and Harold, Victoria, and I have been narrators—thankfully not all in one year!  Many years we’ve had two different services and left church quite late, but we always take the long way home and admire the lights in the city.

Birthday of a King My mother comes from a family of eight children who continue to get together every Christmas.  Some years there were as many as 80 uncles, aunts, and cousins at the reunion.  Though many of the families were following Christ, my grandmother made sure she made the most of every opportunity to continue to plant seeds in the lives of her family.  Each Christmas baby Jesus was removed from her nativity and put on the cake she had made.  Then all the children would gather round as she lit candles and we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.  My grandmother now celebrates Christmas with her Lord, but my Aunt carries on the tradition for the great and great-great grandchildren. When the girls were younger, we made a special, very symbolic birthday cake for Jesus from information that my friend Lucinda gave me.  I have posted our special “recipe” in a separate document. (click here) I’ve used this cake for our family Christmas celebration, for Sunday School groups and Bible study groups.  This year, one of the girls asked if we could do it again.  You’re never too old to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.

From March of the Toys to Simple Gifts I will never forget the year of the ungrateful Christmas.  God had blessed us immeasurably.  Harold, our two oldest girls and I had moved into a new home and we were excitedly expecting daughter #3.  Money was tight, but Harold and I sacrificed so the girls would have a great Christmas.  (Read:  lots of presents to open)  On Christmas morning, Harold reminded the girls of the baby Jesus we were celebrating, why we were giving them gifts, and then we prayed together.  From that moment on, they were out of control, running from one present to the next, calling out to us, “What’s next?” “Is that all?”  Harold and I were dumbfounded.  Whose kids were these, these ungrateful preschoolers?  We knew something had to change. After much prayer, Harold and I decided to try something new.  We would open one present at a time while everyone watched.  Then the girls had time to thank whoever gave the present.  And the big one…each girl would receive only three presents to open.  It was hard for me because I like to give presents, but it helped the girls to know how many presents they had to open and no one asked, “Is that all?” (Truly, the girls had more than three presents to open, since they bought presents for each other that we also opened on Christmas morning.)  It also helped me to choose carefully and to set a limit instead of picking up just one more thing.  Today, we still carry on the tradition of three presents to open, but now we’ve added one in the stocking so technically that’s four.  (Sometimes we’ve included two closely related items wrapped in one package such as a doll and a doll outfit or a boombox and batteries.)  These aren’t three expensive presents, like ipods or other electronics.   Last year, Anna and Abigail each received a red felt cape that I made.  Elisabeth got a cookbook I made.  Victoria got a scrapbook of pictures from her trip to Asia.  Simple, but the girls loved them.

Click here to read more about the Three Gift Policy…

Now it’s your turn… Our family looks forward to our Christmas traditions with great anticipation.  We love to tell stories of our traditions and we love to hear the stories of other families.  If you have a tradition that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you.  Please post your ideas to this article.  May God bless your family, however  you choose to celebrate the birth of our Savior.