Hooked on Phonics

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This is the latest great offer from Educents that I thought some of you might be interested in. I have heard lots of great things about Hooked on Phonics. My two are too little for learning to read, but I’m definitely looking at this curriculum for the future.

Oh, and I love the quote below – it is an absolute gem. Leaders are readers!

Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Program

From Gladie, at Educents:

COMPLETE 4 – Level Learn to Read Kit for $109 (Usually $299)

There are not many products out there that are worth spending a ton of money on. But if there is ONE piece of advice I have to parents: invest in your child’s ability to read and write. {<<< Yes!} It’ll be worth every penny, and more. That’s why I’m excited to share this deal with you.

Why? Communication is key to success, and learning to confidently read and write is its foundation. The Hooked on Phonics Program is a tried and true program that’s helped multiple generations of learners in my family master reading and phonics. It’s so easy to use and follow along that children can even teach themselves to read with Hooked on Phonics.

You may know the well known quote from Harry S. Truman,

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

The world of literature also helps children build upon their imagination, become more empathetic, and improve emotional intelligence.

So, if anyone were to ask me what the best reading/phonics program is, not only as a mom but as a learner, I would (and have many times) recommended the Hooked On Phonics Learn To Read program. This set is the absolute best deal I’ve found for beginners. It includes five levels from PreK-2nd grade.

Other great programs by Hooked on Phonics are available for older children here on Educents, where I found this deal. Right now you can get free shipping with code CANDYCORN.



Growing up with a father in Children’s Literature and having our own personal library, I can attest to the magic and wonder of reading. Reading really does make us smarter. When I used to teach English as a second language, lots of mother’s of students would ask me what they should do. Every single time I replied, “Get them reading!” ~ Sarah

Have you used Hooked on Phonics? What success did you have with it?

A Simple & Sweet Preschool Curriculum

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Before anyone gets excited that this is going to be some amazing, hard-out homeschooling post – it isn’t. Though we’re heading in that direction, our kids are only 3.5 and 2. We’re not pushing formal education on them until they’re a little bit older. These are their foundation years with us, growing as little children.
That being said, when they show interest in something “educational” I try and take the bull by the horns for that little moment. Specifically with Josiah being a little older, I am gently encouraging him to learn the basics: counting to ten, reading and sounding the alphabet {and knowing words that begin with a certain letter}, and motor skills.
He has picked up many things organically as we’ve played and read and talked. One thing that he has struggled with right from the start is how to hold a pencil and the concentration to start the process of drawing {and later, writing}. I wanted something that we could do in a relaxed way over time {ie. pick it up when the moment arised}, that was simple, and that wouldn’t seem boring to an active, boisterous boy.
When I saw the Rod & Staff curriculum for preschoolers, I knew it was the right thing for us.



I had heard about Rod & Staff through the homeschooling web-world. HomeSchool Review has a whole page dedicated to the different curriculum that they publish which I greatly appreciate. Most reviews I saw were really positive, especially for the preschool bundle that I was looking at. So I looked a little more into them.

Who Are They?

Rod & Staff are published by Mennonite families in the USA who, in the 50’s, were concerned about the degrading textbooks used {can they imagine what it’s like now?!}. They have curriculum for all grades, starting with Preschool and Kindergarten {Preschool and Year 0 for NZ readers}.
In their Little Jewel storybook series, their mission statement says:

“The goal of the publishers is to publish books that have high ideals, teach good morals, are Biblically sound, build strong Christian character, and provide wholesome, interesting reading for your children.”

I love that, and that is exactly what I want for our little ones and their learning.

Preschool Curriculum

In the Preschool four-book bundle, each book progresses on to a slightly higher level. You begin with the yellow book, About Three, which starts the child off on practicing following lines with their pencil. Most of the book is this activity, with a little “story” to follow.
The characters are Samuel and Sarah and they like to blow bubbles {trace the bubble’s direction til it pops <— Josiah loved this}, help their mother and father sweep the floor {trace the direction they sweep}, or fly kites {follow the kite as it flies}. This element makes it fun and interesting for the repetitive nature of tracing {which children need}.
Then there is Bigger Steps which follows on just ever so slightly harder than the first book. There is still a lot of basic tracing, circling different objects that don’t match, and very beginner number tracing.



Next is Doing My Best. This has more tracing but significantly harder, with starting to trace numbers etc as well as more detailed instructions {ie. “Draw lines to show which pictures go with the desk”} There is also colouring {ie. “Colour the balloons” or “Colour 2 hats black”}, identifying similar objects {and therefore, what’s different}, and pages with multiple skills required. {<–This book is far too advanced for my lovely boy, I cannot imagine him doing this for quite awhile yet}.
Last is Colour, Count and Cut which I believe could be used alongside Doing My Best and before Bigger Steps. I’m not sure if that is how it is meant to go, but from the looks of it, it would suit the skill level {like a supplement book}.

What I Love

There are two things I really love about this curriculum:
1. It’s simple. It’s all in black and white. The pictures are all handrawn. It covers all the necessary skills young children need in early education before formal learning begins. There is no fluff. No noise. Nothing gimicky. Just simple learning.
2. It’s really sweet. In our world of high-tech must-have-the-best-and-latest, I really appreciate this enduring curriculum that is still selling strong. I love the little story of Samuel and Sarah, and how everyday home life is the focal point of their learning {which is mostly helping and playing}.
If these two aspects really appeal to you as a homeschooling mother, then I would definitely recommend Rod & Staff Preschool curriculum. The extra bonus point is that they are cheap – around $20USD.

Plus, Little Jewel Storybooks

We love reading books here at home. I know it is one of the primary ways all children learn. We go to the library each week and pick up loads of books. We love it!
But I was starting to feel frustrated that, even though lots of the stories were great, they weren’t…deep. Their stories are beautiful and their illustrations gorgeous. But I felt like we were missing out on books that were showing the kids how God wants little children to be living.
I had heard about Rod & Staff’s Miller Family books {an example}but knew they were too old for our children. Then, I discovered their Little Jewel Storybooks. They aren’t a series, just many different little books of simple stories about children, their daily life, their relationships, their feelings, their behaviour. I fell in love – character building books, just what we needed.



I chose five books {all around $4.50NZD each} and I am so happy with them. And, best thing of all, the kids enjoy them. The pictures are all very simple and done in pencil, but are very engaging and relatable to a young mind. Most of the stories rhyme and the sentences short. But, best of all, the messages are clear:
It’s good to help your mother and father.
Sometimes we make mistakes and we learn from them.
Being kind is something God wants us to be.
God made everything, and your family.
Listen and obey.
These messages are values I’m seeking to instill in our children each and everyday. To me, at this age, they are more important than learning the alphabet or how many balls I am holding. This is why they are home with me: to learn they are loved by God and their family; to learn to love God, their family and friends; to learn that life is not about them, but about caring for others.

So there you have it, my little review and recommendation of the Rod & Staff Preschool curriculum and their Little Jewel Storybooks. Like I said, we’re not going crazy over here. But that is what I love about these books: they suit us, they reflect our goal for our family, they’re wholesome, and they are producing fruit in our family life.


Have you ever used this curriculum or another from Rod & Staff? Do you have a preschooler? Are you using something different?

The NEW Homeschool Planner For Mother’s Who Struggle to Plan.

I have something SO exciting to share you homeschooling mothers today! This is a genuine item I’m endorsing and have spent lots of time getting this post ready for you. Are you ready? Me, too!

If you’ve been following my blog for a little while, you will know that we are pretty much set on homeschooling our two little children. Neither of us have ever experienced homeschooling nor have ever considered it before, so we really believe God is leading our little family into something new and uncharted in our extended family.
I have loosely been doing preschool with Josiah for a little while. We have had no schedule or plans; it’s been very relaxed. Rigid and full plans just don’t work for me – I need flexibility and a sense of relaxtion. We are only in preschool after all! The Relaxed Homeschool Planner is perfect for me, a Type B planner, and all similar mothers out there.

This is what Tauna had in mind when she designed The Relaxed Homeschool Planner. In the first video as part of the e-course that comes with the planner {yes, you get HELP form Tauna herself!}, Tauna vision is:

“The Relaxed Homeschool Planner is a Christ-centred homeschool system that cuts out the fluff and focuses on routines instead of detailed planning…It’s set up to suit YOU and your family’s needs.”

Um, amen! I’m all about routines! Detailed planning just causes me to give up, but routines offer grace and breathing room for the reality that LIFE HAPPENS. Thank you, Tauna!

So, what exactly is in the planner?

Relaxed Mom Homeschool Planner & eCourse - A planning system for the type B homeschooler!
Click Me

From above you can see that the planner holds:

  • pages to fill out regarding your homeschool vision
  • weekly planners
  • quarterly pages that you can print per child
  • detailed page plans for each child
  • curriculum record pages {including what you want to buy}
  • calendars
  • scripture cards to help you pray over your homeschool
  • lined-pages for notes
  • and more
When you download this planner with the E-Course, Tauna goes through how to plan out each page and section. I loved this. It was helpful having an extra hand as I looked over the pages and thought about how to plan for my unique family.

My Favourite Part

And this is what I LOVE about this relaxed planner: it is adaptable, different-stage-of-homeschooling friendly. We are only in the homeschooling preschool season of life so many of the pages are not necessary for me at the moment. But that doesn’t matter! The most important part of this planner, and which has blessed me so much, is the Big Picture and Homeschooling Vision section.
One afternoon, I took the kids to my mother’s and I locked myself in her bedroom, sat down with a cup of tea and my planner, prayed and set out our vision for our preschool at home. I hadn’t done this before and I didn’t have the resources to help me. But listening to Tauna and reading the sections in the E-Course help regarding planning our vision, I felt inspired and ready to actually articulate why we are doing this and for what purpose. The how doesn’t matter as much at the moment, but it will and I know this planner will be my best friend.

This was such a blessing and, even though this section will be the main section I will be using until the kids reach school-age, I would recommend this planner solely on that. Yes, I’m sure all homeschool planners have a section for that – but do they have the author hold your hand and encourage you from her own experience? I felt like I had had a coffee catch-up with Tauna, gone home and fleshed out in words my heart for my children and home.

Other Things I Love

It is beautiful. I’m very creative and inspired by something that is attractive, so having a pretty planner is really important to me {probably part of the Type B in me!}. It helps me treat not only the planner with respect, but also the whole process of seeking to be intentional about our homeschooling life. This is an important aspect of the planner I endorse.
It is Christ-centred. You cannot escape that this planner is for Christian homeschooling mothers because it is full of Scriptures. They are carefully selected Scriptures too, ones to direct our hearts to God and the fact that He is soveriegn over our homes and to help us be focused on the time He has given our children to us.
It’s well-thought out. I am such a newbie it isn’t funny, so I am very mindful of how much I need mother’s who have gone before me and the wisdom they have. I wouldn’t know how to plan a homeschool for the schooling years if you paid me a million dollars – but, when I need to, I will be able to because of Tauna.


The launch day is August 2nd and there will be a two week introductory price of $9USD. After the offer, the regular price will be $13USD.

During this introductory period, you can also purchase Tauna’s Proverbial Homemaker Planner &eCourse for $13USD
Proverbial Homemaker Planner - A beautiful and efficient homemaking planner and ecourse for the domestically challenged!
or for $22USD you can purchase the Homemaker Planner with the Relaxed Homeschool Planner as a bundle.

Organize your home and homeschool with this planner and eCourse bundle
Click Me

So many choices! Head straight over to The Proverbial Homemaker and see the amazing deals she has going on in her shop, and purchase The Relaxed Homeschool Planner – it is so worth every penny.

Relaxed Mom Homeschool Planner & eCourse - A planning system for the type B homeschooler!
Click Me

Preschool-at-Home Planning: August 2016

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Josiah has been home for a few months and I have taken this time to have him settle down, rest back into daily home life, and re-establish playing well on his own and with his little sister. Quite a few things needed to be reversed and gotten out of his system so that I didn’t plan any preschool things for him. 
It’s been a really good and edifying time for our family. We have read lots of books, played lots of games, gone on lots of nature walks, had some play dates and – to be honest – spent a lot of time at home, just quietly going about our day. It’s been delicious.
It’s time though to add just a little something for this preschool boy of mine. He’s definitely ready for some intentional time learning. But, I am a big believer in not pushing school on children when they are young. Research just shows that if a child isn’t ready, they shut their brain down, which has lasting effects in later schooling years {I’ve just started reading Why Boys Fail and it makes so much sense}. 
This is why we are doing nothing intensive or vigorous. We are embarking on a very relaxed and gentle preschool time. And this isn’t just for Josiah, it’s for me too! Homeschooling is a very daunting adventure and taking small steps makes it seem slightly doable for me.
I have three goals for Josiah at the moment:
-lots of outdoor play {despite it being mid-winter}
-lots of literature
-learning hand co-ordination skills
He already knows most of his ABC’s and can count to ten. I am happy with that at the moment and don’t want to push him beyond that. He has learnt this all through play and watching educational shows. We play games every morning after breakfast and before bed time {usually a letter bingo game I found for $2 and a numbers game called Turtle Recall that I bought off a NZ version of ebay}.
So with that in mind, here is my plan for August.
– We have two commitments during the weekdays which are doing the grocery shop and my mother’s bible study at church {which has a creche for the kids where they get to play with their friends}. 
– I want more outdoor play than “academics” so I put this in for three times a week. This works for me because a) I get my exercise in at the same time and, b) the dog gets his walk!
– I’m alternating weeks based on a book and Josiah’s work on his “writing”.
– This all ties in very loosely with a Charlotte Mason based-preschool.
Nature Walk
I am a big believer in getting children out of doors as much as possible. Josiah was crawling outside in winter at six months old and we have never looked back. He is very much an outdoors boy and needs that freedom to run around and go a bit cray-cray! 
One of my most popular posts on the blog as been The Importance of Wild and Free Outdoor Play for Boys. I believe it’s so good for both genders, but boys learn really well by hand as they move about and experiment with the movement of their body, as they push the boundaries of gravity and all the other imagining they do with sticks, hills, trees and water. I really believe this outdoor play will be the foundation of Josiah’s learning experience and as he gets older, will flow into his desire to learn more harder things academically.
We love books. I grew up with a father who is a professor in children’s literature with our own home library. And I mean, a library. So, with my very fond memories of the worlds I lived in as a child {and as an adult} and my own passion for English and literature {I have a degree in it}, our homeschooling will always heavily involve books. 
We have started with some favourites:
I have picked one book on three separate weeks. To enhance their experience of the book and their love for the storyline/characters, I have come up with some super easy activities like: using play dough to shape the foods that the caterpillar eats, having a tea party like the tiger, and making Scarface Claw masks {they LOVE Scarface Claw}.
About Three
This is the first book in the Rod and Staff preschool-aged curriculum {there are only four}. The first book is full of lines for practicing holding a pencil and learning to follow straight lines and all the signals the brain sends to the hand. I have heard of great reviews for this series and I’m so excited to get into it. 
That is it. Seriously. So easy. I think each “lesson” will go from two minutes {the About Three pages are so quick} to maybe half an hour with crafts involved. And that is all I want. Light, simple and boy-friendly.
Some homeschooling mothers will have more planned and more future goals for their preschooler. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried but in the end, when it doesn’t work out the way I want it to, I feel defeated and stop trying. This way I feel no pressure and it will be okay if we skip a day or a week. It doesn’t matter in the long run. This stage is about fun, slow and doing real life.
Do you do preschool-at-home? What are you doing? How do you plan?

What Happened When We Brought Our Son Home From Preschool.

I could write so much on this, but let me just summarise it in one word:
That is the most succinct word I can think of to describe what has happened to our little boy since we brought him home from preschool. It’s been two months and they have flown by. Why? Life is just easier with him at home.
Now, I’m not saying my days are breezy. Ha! Two children under three? No day is going to be breezy! I’m teaching, correcting, encouraging, disciplining, playing, chasing, imagining, cleaning, cooking, and living with them both all day, everyday. I don’t get the few hours of space like I did when he went three mornings a week. And I don’t get time alone with Rosalie now, either.
But – and it is such a big but! – we just have a totally different boy in the house. The boy who was always there, underneath, but who got confused and influenced and tired and overstimulated and put in the world before he was ready. Therefore, the boy who was more aggressive, rebellious, hurtful, less kind to his family, bored all the time, unable to play with himself or others has gone.
Instead, we have a boy who is more kind, more loving, more open, willing to be corrected, less rebellious, more imaginative, more able to play by himself, enjoying more self-directed learning. So, like I said, transformed. We have our little boy back. 
Do I regret sending him to preschool? Yes and no. 
Yes, because I have changed my stance on early education and the only reason I have is because of the negative effect it has had on our son.
But no, because I believe God has had His hand on it all.

It’s helped me know my son more {he’s an INTROVERT, people!}.
It’s helped me know my convictions more.
It’s helped me trust God’s guidance more.
It’s helped me be more confident as a mother
It’s helped me be more confident in my husband’ judgement {why don’t I learn this quicker??}.
And it’s helped me see that homeschooling is probably going to be the best thing for our family.

God always knows what He’s doing and, when we make mistakes, if we bring them back to Him, He redeems them and glorfies Himself. I love it because mistakes then, are not ever mistakes at all. Just experiences that push us more into God’s will, and nothing can go wrong with Him.
Today, as I was contemplating it all and looking at planning some activities at home, I spent some time in my number one favourite book on motherhood: The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson {affiliate}. Whenever I’m feeling in need of some motherly advice for a mother, I turn to her. These words just lifted me up today:

“Simply throwing children into a cultural tornado and hoping for the best gives them little chance of living up to their potential or coming out unharmed. Someone needs to take responsibility for their nurture, protection, nourishment, intellectual development, manners, recreation, personal needs, and spiritual development. Someone needs to commit time and energy into staying close to them as they grow, encouragung and correcting and teaching…

Best of all, when a mother chooses to stay home, she has the time and opportunity to craft the kind of relationship with her young children that only extended time together can foster. And from such a relationship she has a much better chance of building a strong moral and spiritual foundation in the heart of her young children, teaching a system of truth and values without the constant challenge of authorities and peers whose lives are totally different.” p.43,48

This is me. Just me. From my heart for motherhood to our own experience. If you have a little one in preschool or school, and you just have something in your spirit telling you pulling them out might be a good idea – don’t ignore it. Seek the Lord, talk with your husband, pray and read His Word. There is great wisdom in keeping children home for as long as possible to prepare them to be with the “authorities and peers whose lives are totally different”. 

Have you experienced something similar with your own children? What do you think about Sally’s words?

You Can Slow Your Life {and your family will thank you for it.}

It’s Saturday night and we put our son to be at 5:55pm. I don’t think he has ever been to bed that early. But he was tired and burning up. His eyes were puffy with tiredness and when we said, ‘Early night tonight, buddy’, all he said was, ‘Yeth’. {Yes, he has a cute lisp.}

This week, despite ever being conscious of how we spend our days, has overtaxed our children. Compared to other families, it may have been a fairly normal week, but for us, it was busy. My kids don’t do well with busy. They tend to get a bit crazy and, at worst, come down sick with temperatures. Hence, a toastie of a little boy, in bed an hour before his normal bedtime.

And me? I don’t do well with busy either. Introverts with a tendency to be anxious go better with a slow life. So, when I make sure our life is stable and peaceful, it’s not just for the children – it’s for me, too. Happy mummy, happy campers.

Living a quiet and slow life is a passion of mine. But I’m not perfect at it. There are still weeks where we get out too much or there isn’t enough downtime at home. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but for the most part, it is possible to live a slow life.

Principles for Slowing Your Life Down
Keep family your main priority. When your family come first, it is much easier stripping the unnecessary away. Perhaps you’re like me {in Myers-Briggs, I’m an INFJ} and you love helping. If someone needs help, I will put my hand up. Or, when we commit to something, we really commit {and so go to the group even if it is the last thing we should be doing}. As a wife and mother now, I say no to everything that does not add to our family life. Even if it would add to my life but would cost someone else in the family, I say ‘no’. This may seem extreme, but this full-on motherhood thing is only for a season. I won’t always have this amazing opportunity to pour everything into my family. Oneday, I can do things for ‘me’. But right now, they are my priority.
Accept the different seasons. As mentioned above, there are many seasons in life, and each will mean saying ‘yes’ to some things and ‘no’ to others. We don’t need to feel guilty about this – it really is a fact of life. Limitations during different seasons are not meant to be constricting; they are perimetres for keeping the ebb and flow of daily life in check. Within those boundaries is great freedom and peace. Just like seasons of life, there are also the seasons of the year: we slow down in winter, and become more active in the warmer months. This is a natural timeline that God has made for our lives, but we have forgotten it in our modern life.

Do what makes life a joy. ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ Reading books on the couch, cuddles close, kisses buried in golden curls, tickles with boisterous boy-giggles. This is pure joy and it is enjoying Him in the moment because His hand is all over it. Stuffing kids in cars, rushing here, stuck in traffic there, tempers rising, irritation. There is no joy there. And it isn’t what life is about. Walks in the park, make towers with blocks, reading good books, painting pictures, planting bulbs in winter soil for the spring. Glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever.
Keep your eyes wide open. Don’t just accept the status quo because that’s what everyone does. Just because busy is what our culture endorses doesn’t mean it’s good. Read our culture, read history, put everything into perspective. Don’t be afraid to be a little bit kooky. In the end, what other people think of us doesn’t matter – it’s Him we’re wanting to honour. Let us submit ourselves under His way of living for each of our own lives.

There are other things to keep in mind, too:
  • re-evaluate when needed
  • keep Scriptures hidden in your heart to keep you focused on what is important for your family
  • be bold even when you feel nervous to be different
  • keep communicating with your husband and his dreams for your family
  • accept the busier moments in life {ie. Christmas} then return to slow as soon as possible
  • watch and listen to your child’s cues {they may not be able to articulate their need for more or less}

The blessings of a slow life are just enormous. And I don’t believe it is something you can regret. As mother’s, if we were constantly busy, we would look back and think: ‘I wish we had taken things more slowly; enjoyed the little years more; read more together; had more home days…’ But I don’t think, in living a slow life, we’ll look back and think, ‘I wish we had been busier.’
It’s never too late to start. It’s okay to quit clubs and extra life fluff to scale back. It may take awhile to adjust – your bodies will be used to going, driving, spending, hurrying. There will be urges you need to master. But a morning will dawn and your heart will think of the slow day ahead and be content. 
And, I promise, you will be a more patient, more enjoyable, more joy-filled wife and mother for it.

The Importance of Wild and Free Outdoor Play for Boys.

During my childhood, I had the best of both worlds: I grew up in the city until I was nine, then my parents decided it was time to make a life in the country, so we shifted to the seaside on a peninsula. And you know what? The countryside and I are like, the best of buds. I am so thankful my parents made that radical decision.
My brother {who was five} and I grew up with: the bush {though we thought it was a jungle}, sand to make castles on, streams to fortify and walk up, rocks to search for sea animals, shells to collect, horses to ride, sheep to chase, wharves to jump and fish off, small country schools to blossom in, and – in my opinion, just the best thing – the freedom to be children.
Now, as a mother living in the city, I see how much lack there is for children to just roam nature and climb trees and explore bushy areas. Plus, with a very active, rumbunctious and high-energy three-year-old boy, I see the vital importance of outdoor play for him. Of course, spending time outdoors is of vital importance for both girls and boys. But recently, in the study of my own little boy, I see a direct correlation between outdoor play and the whole-being of a boy.

Here are some of my current thoughts.

Boyhood Today

I really believe that we are in an era where boys – and much of what makes them boys – is squelched out of them. Their desire for rough and tumble; their need for deep male friendships; the way they learn as opposed to the way they are taught; their need to be heroes and warriors and rescuers; their desires to be leaders; their innate instinct to protect {gasp! yes, protect women}.

Boyhood today is not the boyhood of yesterday. Today, we have domesticated our little boys. And one massive area of boyhood that has been domesticated is the greatly needed realm of wild and free, unstructured outdoor play.

And this lack and decline isn’t just because we live in cities. There are many factors that have contributed:

  • Our children are in educational institutes from a very young age, corralled into areas with tens of other children, confined to playing with man-made play equipment. 
  • When the school day is over, boys are being put into constructive and defined extracurricular activities. 
  • We’re also terrified of them braking arms or hurting others and lawsuits from occurring. 
  • There are school games – like bull-rush in New Zealand – that are deemed too dangerous so are banned.
  • From a young age, we rely more and more on technology to entertain children {especially boys}.
  • We ply them with ready-made toys {and lots of them}.
In the last fifty years, but more from the late eighties, a boy’s childhood has become more and more confined, controlled, timed and planned out. Our culture’s view of boyhood has become more feminine. We have allowed fear to rule our parenting. So altogether, our boys are domesticated.

{v} domesticate: to tame

We have tamed our boys. But so much research is showing the need for children to be free, wild and outdoors. Having plenty of time to play, build, explore, imagine, role-play and just run around crazy outdoors has social, health, educational, and behavioural benefits.

Why Outdoors Is Needed

This study from England delves into the need children have to be outside, and a study by the American Medical Association quoted in a Guardian article showed that:
“Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors.”
If parents are worried that such unstructured play isn’t learning {because our culture is so obsessed with education and being succesful before children even reach puberty}, it is both obvious and proven scientifically that play is learning for the child.

“It is difficult to differentiate play from work in the child, as according to nature play simply is a child’s work – the work or exercise of body and mind required to prepare for coming life.” {source}

And that makes sense, doesn’t it? From birth, babies are continually learning. We don’t put them into classes to learn how to crawl, or walk, or feed themselves. They learn organically by playing, by experimenting, by trial and error. And as older children, that hasn’t changed. 
As a boy climbs a tree, or runs as fast as he can down a slope, or finds as many crab shells as he can to fill a bucket – this is all learning. And many boys learn through activity, building and breaking with their hands, digging trenches, dropping sticks from a tree hut, seeking out rabbit holes. Boys in that kind of environment learn quite differently to a boy in more domestic environments.

 “…it is obvious that outdoor play experiences contribute to children’s physical development, in particular to motor development. Less obvious is the learning that happens as children test their strength, externally and internally: how high can I climb? Why does my heart pound when I run? Am I brave enough to jump from this platform?” {source}

In the homeschooling sphere, the education philosophy of Charlotte Mason encourage nature study and outdoor pursuits, especially in the early years. Charlotte Mason said that children should be outside for many hours each day, in unstructured play, but with a parent observing for necessary help and habit training.

My Own Little Boy

As a mother, I have found all of the above to be true. I think though, more significantly, I have found changes in my son’s behaviour depending on how much time he has to be free outside.
Since bringing him home from kindergarten, Josiah has just blossomed. The attitude and behaviourial issues we were having with him have decreased greatly, and he is more gentle, more loving, more adventurous, more imaginative, and more helpful and kinder to his sister {and everyone!}. Aside from being home with his family more, I do believe this improvement has been because I have taken him out at least three times a week for walks in the buggy to spaces where he can just play.

In both pictures above, he is wearing his favourite costume: a hooded towel {his Batman cape}, his rocket socks and rocket boots. He loves zooming around the house as a superhero and he loves running here, there, and everywhere on our walks. He expends so much energy. He uses so much imagination. His mood elevates. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes are full of joy.

He is wild and free and living.
Though the kindergarten we had him at was great with an amazing outdoor space, there is just something very different about acres of land, park space, pathways in forest walks, creek beds and bushy hideaways. Though our city was devastated by earthquakes a number of years ago, where we live is now blossoming into green space because all the houses are gone. This is where I take the kids to roam free and it has just been the best of blessings.
If your son is struggling, is moody, emotionally up and down, more troublesome with you and siblings – try sending him outdoors. Take him several times a week to a place that is big and wide and green for him to run around in. If he’s absorbed in dropping stones down a drain, just let him. Don’t hurry him a long. Forget about the time, things that need to be done – just let him have space and live.
Your little boy needs to be a boy and it is your job as his mother to understand this and to provide opportunities for him to have that avenue of free exploration in God’s green earth.

How to Trust Your Instincts As A Mother

When we become mothers, we’re given a lot of advice. Momentous amounts of it. Some of it blessedly helpful, and some not so much. From family members, well-meaning grandmas at church to fellow mothers further along the parenting track. Everyone has something to say.

Oh, and the professionals. Did I forget to mention the doctors and teachers and psychologists who know exactly how to solve your parenting dilema?

I remember one of the contributing factors to the postnatal-anxiety I suffered through with my son was from listening to every single person and getting completely overwhelmed. One person said one thing, another said the opposite, and then the books – the books! So much information, but only one baby to implement it on.

In my less than three years experience as a mother, I can offer you the best piece of advice I have been given and which has steered me well:

Dear mother, you can trust your instincts and make good decisions for your family on your own.

Did I mention that you can do this without following the status quo or despite what professionals say?

As I stumble along this parenting path, I am learning to believe firmly that a mother and father know what is best for their family. I believe this because only you, the person God chose to nurture and raise His children,  know the characteristics, habits, weaknesses, strengths, idiosynchrasies of the people in your family.
The times in my mothering so far when I have felt most overwhelmed, stressed and emotional have been when I haven’t been trusting and doing what I know is good for my kids. I listen to everyone and get ridiculously lost. I go along paths of books and blogs and parents and — well, you get the picture. It isn’t helpful.
And many times, during this whole time of “searching” there is a feeling settled in my gut. I tentatively think I know where to go or what decision to make, but I don’t feel confident enough to do it. This is especially so when it is a different path to others and you struggle with being a people pleaser {just so me}.
If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll know that Tim and I have pulled our little boy out of kindergarten. It was a really difficult decision and I really needed some courage to make it. But boy, I am so grateful we did. Hopefully I’ll post an update soon, but let’s just say, being home has transformed our boy. It is a blessed relief.
So how can we trust our instincts and be confident making decisions?
1. Pray and seek the Word.
2. Discuss the in’s and out’s with your husband and seek his thoughts on the matter.
3. If more information/advice is needed, seek out one or two close mother-friends, preferably older and more experienced.
4. Pray more and seek the Word more.
And then, just do it. If everything is pointing one way, step out in faith and do it.

If you’re offered more advice or thoughts from others {or in books etc.}, you take what you hear with humility and a grain of salt; then you look at your children and you think, “What is best for them?”

Another instance in our parenting where we followed our gut was putting our babies on formula. We did it at different times with them both and for different reasons. But both times, it was pretty immediately clear that it was the right choice. Rosalie, for example, had a slight dairy intolerance and I wouldn’t have had a clue if we hadn’t followed our judgement.

This isn’t to say that we can’t be wrong. Oh my, we totally can be. But thankfully, our God is a God of grace and redemption, and, our children are very forgiving!

I do believe, however, that we have all we need for this parenting gig with prayer, our Bibles, wisdom from elders and conversations within marriage. 

So, mother, you can do this. You can make choices for your family even if they’re different, controversial or different between each child. Just trust God to show you the way as you seek Him. He really is listening and He really will direct your steps and give you wisdom.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 

“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:7-8 

Callings and Self-Doubt: Choosing Faith that You Are on the Right Path.

We all struggle with comparing ourselves to others {remember?}. And, as I am growing to see in myself, we all struggle with doubting ourselves next to others. Self-doubt is a massive continuing blip in the radar of my Christian growth.
Before we had children, I wasn’t like any of the wives I knew. I didn’t have a full-time job. I wasn’t helping us save money for when children came. There was great logic in those choices, but they weren’t our choice. I worked part-time {generally ten hours a week} and, for the most part, I considered being a homemaker {ie. Tim’s wife} my full-time job.
Oh, it was such a different path to take. Granted, I never, ever got negative comments or remarks – but I did get lots of people questioning me. 

Why don’t you work more?
Don’t you want more money?
What does Tim think?
Aren’t you bored?
What do you do all day?
The questions always got me. I knew, deep down that this was God’s calling on my life, and I knew people would disagree with me. But all the questions – and often what the questions didn’t say but silently did – were like little arrows of doubt. In those times, I really did have two people on my shoulder; one speaking positively to my calling, the other asking more and more questions, leading to deepening doubt. Even though I knew my own story and Tim’s, even though I knew why dedicating my life to my family was my dream job, I still doubted. I doubted simply because I feared man.

Each day we have a million battles we face. We battle the choice to have faith or reject the Gospel. We battle to believe the truth of God’s Word {and not listen to the hissing whisper, “Did God really say…?”}. We battle to choose obedience to God and not sin. We battle our culture. And sometimes, sadly, we battle our own family, friends and church.
Living a life of faith and conviction is ridiculously hard. Mere questions can be the marsh mellows of it all! Ridicule, persecution, misunderstanding, judgement and rejection are almost expected. And I am not just talking about God’s moral laws here {as opposed to the world’s standards}: I am talking about an individual’s call, their choice of occupation, a family’s way of life, their vision for the upbringing of their children…

I am talking about the personal, quiet, submissive belief one has before God that this way – this choice, this path, this conviction – is uniquely given by the Lord, to them, for their life. Everyone has callings that submit under the law of the Gospel.
We have authors, painters, teachers, leaders, servers, mothers, fathers, missionaries, single individuals, bridge builders, carpenters, evangelists, singers, bloggers. Under the grace of the Gospel, we have individual callings. And they will be different. You, and I, will be different. And amongst the many battles that we face each day will be the battle to believe, to hold on to, to grasp the hem of God that this calling is ours. No matter what questions are asked. No matter who asks those questions.
Self-doubt is one of the ways in which the enemy gets God’s people off track. Indulging, believing and participating in self-doubt causes us to be like the person James speaks of, the one who, when asking for wisdom,

“must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” {1:6}
When we are being tossed about in the waves of self-doubt {which is not faith}, we are ineffective disciples of Christ. We are crippled by our own selves and will not thrive in the calling God has given us. 
Paul, throughout the Epistles, repeatedly began his letters stating his calling, or appointment to service {1 Timothy 1:12}, or apostle by command {1 Timothy 1:1}. He claimed his calling and, despite believing he was the worst of sinners {vs.15}, he knew his calling to be true and that it was a mercy of Christ.
Though we are not Paul, we too are disciples of Christ and have our own callings. I am called to be a wife, mother, homemaker and church member. I have talent-callings I must use for God’s service. And, as a married couple and as parents, Tim and I have decisions we must make in regards to the atmosphere of our family, the upbringing of our children and the way in which we use the blessings God has given us. We will look different. But being different to others doesn’t mean being wrong.
So, dear friends, choose to have faith in your calling. You will be different, but don’t let questions cause you doubt. Hold fast to your appointment, use questions to show God’s mercy in your own life, and be thankful for God’s unique care and concern over the way your life is lived, in practice and purpose. 

Please share your calling and any struggles you have had of self-doubt in it.

Thinking About Homeschooling? Books to Inspire.

Over the last two years, I have read about home education in any form I could find it. Blogs, articles, research papers {yes, even some of a PHD thesis} – anything. Once God lays something on my heart, all I want to do is learn and grow and read as much as I can get my hands on. Because of our awesome libraries in my town {over fifteen of them!}, I have been able to read quite a number of homeschooling books. This has been so helpful and inspiring. From reasons to experiences to philosophies, my passion for educating children at home has just grown.
I’m part way through another book at the moment and, as I have been reading it, I thought: I need to share all the amazing books I have been reading. I am sure there are some mother’s out there who, like me, want to learn but don’t know where to start. This list {though not comprehensive} is for you. 

 This post contains affiliate links.

Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson
This was the first book on homeschooling I read and it definitely opened my eyes to a whole new world. The Clarkson’s are quite famous for homeschooling and have their own ministry. All their children are older now and successful in their own right. But that isn’t what homeschooling is about for the Clarkson’s – it’s about creating a home that brings life and learning naturally, part of the whole child, and not just their minds. It is a Christian-based book and really encouraging {and weighty}.

What is a Family? by Edith Schaffer
I have written about this book so many times because, just, oh. I love it. It isn’t a book on homeschooling specifically, but Edith’s whole message about the importance of family and home and relationships deepened my growing conviction that God really cares about families, how much He wants mother’s to invest in their family’s lives, how much a home atmosphere affects a child’s life. My desire to homeschool deepened after reading this book because my passion for the kind of life I wanted for my children doubled. 

The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
Again, this isn’t a homeschooling book per se, but Sally’s message is clear: children need mother’s and it is vitally important that mother’s invest their all into their children for the season of life when they are directly under our influence and in our homes. Conviction, inspiration, encouragement, soul-warming – this book is for all Christian mothers, even if homeschooling isn’t on your radar. But if it is, this book will inspire you with a new vision for how you want to teach your children {educationally, spiritually, relationally etc}.

This book. It was hilarious and I loved it. It isn’t Christian at all, but that was really nice for a change. There are so many resources out there from a Christian perspective that it was a breath of fresh air to see why a non-Christian would homeschool. It was a one-year experiment for Quinn and her daughter, and each chapter follows Quinn as she researches, meets other homeschoolers, figures out what works for her daughter, goes to a conference. Her sense of humour made me giggle and I just really enjoyed following her along this journey.

Don’t be fooled by the cover – this isn’t a research paper, but a helpful resource for people just beginning to look into homeschooling. Like all of my other recommendations, it is an American source. Which is great, America is the leader of the homeschooling movement; but for people outside of the US, some of the references, concerns etc. are not applicable. But, this book was a great beginning source for someone like me who had NO idea all the in’s and out’s and why’s of this great schooling option.

The Well-Adjusted Child by Rachel Gathercole
I am currently re-reading this book and am enjoying it. It approaches that question all homeschoolers are asked, “What about socialisation?” This was a question for me at the start {because of my own naievity}, but I don’t have any qualms about it anymore. The question is no longer “Are homeschoolers socialised?” but rather, “What actually is socialisation?” The answer is not simple as people assume. A great book.

I was excited to read this book on many levels and I am surprised by my response to it. Being a Sproul, I knew it would be biblically-based and it is – but I wasn’t actually convinced by his arguments that homeschooling is a biblical mandate. I still love this book, but not for the reasons I think he intended. It made some great points, like, why are we surprised when our children turn out like Romans when we sent them to Caesar? This is a top recommendation from me, but with the sidenote that I don’t fully agree with it theologically.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

My father is a Professor in Children’s Literature, so by nurture, I am a reader. He gave me this book since he knows I am looking into homeschooling and, though it isn’t about homeschooling, I think it ought to be a vital resource for all parents – especially homeschoolers. Reading is so, so, so important for a child’s learning and for their well-being. Reading today in schools isn’t reading – it’s about quizes and comprehension. We need to go back to the belief that reading creates a love of learning, for life. One of my favourite schooling memories is when, at ten, our teacher read us aloud Watership Down. 

In my growing knowledge of how children learn, self-directed {or delight-directed} learning has really interested me. Allowing children to direct their learning by parents following their lead and providing outlines and lessons that fit into the child’s interests of the moment. Some call this unschooling, but I feel there is more parental guidance needed. This book studied the lives of famous homeschoolers and how they were educated impacted their pursuit of excellence {like Einstein, Teddy Roosevelt etc.}. Really interesting.

So there you have it. Have you read any of these? Would love your own recommendations!