Top 3 Free Resources to Prevent the Dreaded Summer Slide

It is summer! Praise the Lord. No more crazy in-depth curriculum, no more tests, no more school! If your kids are anything like mine, they are super excited to be free from school for a while.

But what about their progress from the school year? Have you ever heard the term “Summer Slide”? It is coined a slide due to the fact that children lose about 2 months worth of skill levels during the summer. It may not sounds like much, but it adds up. Especially when the kids go back to school and the teachers have to focus on reviewing skills instead of building on the skills they learned the year prior.

In an article by published by John Hopkins School of Education the author stated this about summer education loss “Early summer learning losses have later life consequences, including high school curriculum placement, whether kids drop out of high school, and whether they attend college.” (You can read the full article here: Why Summer Learning Deserves a Front-Row Seat in the Education Reform Arena).

With all that said, while it is important to have summer vacation, it is just as vital to continue building the skills your children learn through the summer. So, I have some free (or cheap) resources for you to check out!

  1. Abcmouse.com

Abcmouse.com is an online learning resource (also an app!) for children ranging from pre-K to 2nd grade. My kids absolutely adore it! It is a very entertaining way to help your kids retain skills and learn even more on top of that.

They offer different tracks that teach reading, math, listening skills, science and art skills. Your child can venture through the various levels at their own pace. There are a ton of fun “prizes” for the kiddos to earn along the way.

At the end of their learning track, the kids earn a “graduation certificate”. My daughter was so happy she “graduated” that we had to put the certificate up on our living room wall!

Abcmouse.com offers one free month and then is fairly cheap after that! So, if you’re interested click the link below and check it out:


 

2. Your Local Library

Being a home school family, our library is such an amazing resource for us. Do you get to your library often? You should! Our library offers an incredible summer reading program. This year’s theme is “Building a Better Community”. The kids participate by reading books and marking them down in a book tracker.

Every time the kiddos finish a section, they receive a prize! The prizes range from a sticker to a free pass to a museum. Then, at the end of the summer, the kids that finish the program get to go to a pool party just for them! Not to mention the fun, educational shows the library puts on every week during the summer.

Our kids love doing this program every year and it has been pretty cool to see their love for reading continue to blossom! I highly suggest checking out your public library to see what they have to offer!

3. PBS

PBS is another great free resource for parents to aid in their child’s education. They offer television programming to free apps for devices. They have an entire website dedicated to the kiddos!

The website shares many ways to get involved, including the PBS app, PBS television and printable activities. Here is the link: PBS Kids Summer Adventures.

P.S. if you have a little one that likes to use a tablet (let’s be honest, they all do!) the PBS app is great for educational games that allow your kids to play with their favorite characters and learn skills like math, science and reading.

Those are the three resources we use most during the summer! What other resources do you use? Happy Summer!!

Where is Your Medicine?

Proverbs 28:26,“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool but he who walks wisely will be delivered.”

Can you remember the last time your heart got you in trouble? I can! In fact, just last night my husband and I got into an argument. The argument ended with him telling me to leave him alone and me letting him fall asleep on the couch and literally leaving him alone there.

I was alone in bed half the night.

That may not seem like a big deal to you, but we NEVER do that. We always go to bed together. The next morning, we both felt terrible.  It seems that when I follow the desires of my heart in the moment, I am hurting myself and those around me.

It’s incredible, really, what we can fool ourselves into thinking when we follow the foolish desires of our hearts. Especially when we are fearful of the discomfort that comes from looking in the mirror.

I wanted so badly to blame someone else for my sins. I felt unloved, unwanted, ashamed and guilty. But, surely, none of that could be my fault, because let’s be honest here, no one truly wants to take blame.

We are all victims, right?

That is what I thought until a couple of years ago. I blamed my self-disgust completely on my husband’s struggle with pornography. Hear me, his sin DID do a number on us. On our marriage, him, me and numerous other areas. But, THAT sin did not CAUSE my sin.

Ouch.

His sin was from HIS heart and my sin, well, that was from MY heart. My sins were in place before I even met my husband. We were both following our foolish hearts.

My feelings of insecurity stem from not connecting with God fully in my heart. My feelings of guilt stem from not allowing myself to be forgiven fully in my heart. My feelings of shame stem from not letting God shine his light in some areas of my heart. My feelings of being unloved stem from not fully realizing the price God ALREADY paid.

MY SIN. Not my husband’s. Not anybody else’s. Mine.

I know that all of you are struggling in life somewhere right now. I am here to encourage you, that you are not alone in those struggles. EVERYONE struggles. Look around. Our entire culture brings about struggle.

The standards of the world put insane expectations on us. I mean, women especially. (Not that men don’t have expectations!) We are expected to look like Barbie, cook and clean like Susie homemaker, perform like porn stars, be successful in our careers and be Pinterest-worthy mothers! That is ludicrous. No one can measure up to all of that AND not sin somewhere along the way.

The standards that the world puts on us begin to define who we are if we let them. Trust me, don’t let this world define you.

Colossians 3:1-2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set you minds on things above, not earthly things.”

When you set your mind on earthly things, your thought life never ceases to tell you how you have horribly failed in this life!

Guess what? A sinful thought life leads to a sinful way of life.

Your thought life is the first step. The initial sin.

When you continually allow yourself to think sinful thoughts, eventually you are going to act on them. Or medicate them.

I know so many people who go through life medicating all the sadness, guilt, shame, inadequacy that they allow to brew in their thought life.

What thoughts are you allowing to hang around?

Are you medicating? with Alcohol? Sex? Shopping? Gossip? Anger? Resentment? Jealousy? Food?

BUT LISTEN: There is GREAT news! Your sin is not the end of your story. Jesus can be your medicine.

The truth is, God didn’t create you to be so stuck in your mud that you can’t move. You are not destined to sin! Romans 6:14 says “…sin shall not have dominion over you.”

God’s standards, unlike the world’s standards will set you free! God created you to live life to absolute fullest that is possible.

But here’s the thing, you simply cannot live in darkness and stand up in your full potential from God.

I was reading an article the other day called 7 Truths to Help You Triumph Over Sin by Michael L. Jacobson and he brought about this simple but life altering question about sin. Do you believe that sin is inevitable or do you believe that sin conquerable?

God says that, with him, we are more than conquerors. MORE than CONQUERORS. We have the choice.

Do you want to continue down the path of self-destruction or do you want to begin to walk wisely and be delivered?

Are you ready to look in the mirror and face YOUR sins? That is the first step. You no longer need to play a victim. Listen, God already gave us what we need to conquer sin. We have his AUTHORITY. He keeps us upright. We just need to step in the ring.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For the spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Pray. Step up.

I encourage you to this week to sit down and dig deep into your thought life. Where are you sinning? WRITE down those sins. All of them. Pray and ask God to forgive every single one of them. Let me be clear here: in asking for forgiveness of these sins, you are not creating your salvation. Jesus already did that. He died on the cross for our sins. Asking for forgiveness of these sins allows you to find closure there. It allows you to find freedom there.

Lastly, start to recognize the triggers that cause you to stumble in your thought life. Recognizing these triggers allows you to take back your thoughts. Once you can recognize and capture the sinful thoughts (guilt, shame, jealousy, etc.) replace them with Biblical truths.

Stop the lies and build the truths.

1 Peter 3:3-4 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

It takes time. There is no overnight fix. Work at it. Work at it because you are worth it. Work at it because you do not have to play a victim. Work at it because you are worthy. Not only in my eyes, but in our Creator’s.

He loves you. He cares about how you are living. He wants you to listen to his word, not YOUR heart.

Let him help you break free from these chains.

Let him be your medicine.

Laundry and Dishes

Hubby and I had the week off from our kids last week. Before they left , I thought that I would be doing all sorts of things from household honey-do lists to shopping for fun. Then the real kid vacation began and I honestly didn’t do much of anything. It was pretty anticlimactic. And, honestly, eye-opening.

Let’s back up a bit. I have been struggling hard with who I am at this point in my life. I keep asking myself what on earth do I have to offer other people; how can I help. I thought maybe going back to school to finish my masters would be the best thing to do, but it just doesn’t work at the moment for numerous reasons. I have been at a loss. Am I really here to do laundry and make dinner? That just seems too quintessential.

With all that on my mind, I thought for sure that I would have a great time catching up on all sorts of things and maybe have some epiphany of who I am supposed to be or what I am supposed to do with this life while the kids were gone. You know, come to see the bigger picture of what God was wanting in my life. (Which is a whole different post to discuss at a later time, lol!)

Guess what? I did have an epiphany. I realized that, my most important work right now is my family. I am meant to lead those children to become disciples. That is a hard realization. That is an answer which requires me to die to myself daily; to die to my own glory for the sake of God’s glory in them. Ouch.

After being punched in the face with that reality, I felt ashamed of not thinking that I was doing any work worthwhile. I felt guilty for thinking of only me and my life. And then I was brought to my knees with the weight of the task at hand. Hubby and I are our kids examples and leaders to Christ. That is INSANE! That takes my breath away.

So, here we are on the first day of the school year (we home school, yes, we are that family) and I feel more fulfilled than I have felt in a very long time. It has astonished me that serving other people, like my husband and children, actually makes me feel better. All I have to do is give it up to God. Every. Day. Give my life up to God. I wish I would have learned that sooner.

Ode to Laundry

Hello there load of laundry that I have washed three times in a row,

I keep forgetting about you, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to make you feel unwanted or forgotten. I swear that I want to dry and fold you. Here’s the deal, there is just too much to do every day and unfortunately you are my least favorite chore.

My kids must think that you get washed and folded by some glamorous glittering flying laundry fairies because I obviously can only have time for them. It seems that if I pay attention to anything or anyone else, meltdowns are eminent and the world is ending. They wake up yelling for milk, then breakfast. Before I know it it’s lunch time, then, poof, dinner! As if making all the meals wasn’t enough, we need to do school work (homeschooling is a tad bit time consuming), clean house, play, brush teeth, wipe butts, break up ridiculous fights, attend to the hubby and find time to write.

Amidst all the chaos, there you are load of laundry, just waiting to get some attention. I promise that my intentions are good, I mean to get you clean and put back in your place, but somehow still I am always searching for clean underwear. I really do enjoy clean underwear.

Then, there’s the hubby. He loves you too. Well, at least the clean version of you that has already been put in his drawer. He once tried to attend to you, but alas, you gave him such trouble that he hasn’t dared to venture in the laundry room ever again.

I know, I know, his side of the story is not very likely. You must have told him that you would shrink down from a woman’s size large to a tiny toddler size. Surely, you told him not to put you in the dryer at all. I bet you even kicked and screamed as he pulled you from the washer to the dryer. Yet, here we are. And there he is not.

Again, I apologize, lonely load of laundry that has to be stripped of all your color by now and probably smells a bit musty. But, I am your sole provider and the pressure is just too much. Sometimes it is just easier to pour in a little more detergent and run the wash cycle one more time. So, please forgive me as I ensure that while you may not be dried and put away the first time around, you will be super clean!

Signed,

Not the laundry fairy

3 Ways Not to Become a Mommy Monster

I have recently discovered something about myself. I reach a certain point in the day and totally lose all my cool when anything goes wrong. I HATE that about myself and want to change it. So, I am working towards that goal. Here are three ways that seem to help me not be a mommy monster:

  1. Set a Schedule

There needs to be a schedule. I am learning this the hard way. Our family is the type of family that mostly flys by the seam of our pants. We like to be spontaneous and that is ok for some things, but not all things every day.

I have learned that when I have a schedule laid out for the day, everything goes that much more smoothly. I am at the point now where I have made a daily schedule. When we stick to the schedule, everyone knows what is expected and can anticipate the days activities, leaving less room for melt downs and crazy mommy episodes.

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2. Follow Through

Saying what you mean and meaning what you say has taken on a whole new interpretation now that we have kids. They remember EVERYTHING! When we tell them that we are going to do something, we better mean it. When they do not listen and we say we are going to discipline them, we better mean it.

There have been numerous times when I say that I am going to discipline them in this way or that if they do not listen and then don’t follow through. My behavior has led to them not believing that I will follow through with the discipline. When they don’t believe that there is going to be a consequence to their action, guess what, the action doesn’t stop.

On the other end, there have been a handful of times when I have said that we are going to do this or buy that and then have not been able to follow through. My behavior in that area also causes problems because the children start to not believe what I say. Who is going to listen to someone they don’t believe?

In both cases, I need to always follow through with what I say, whether it be discipline or something fun. I am learning to only say what I mean and always mean what I say. When I am conscious of that, the inner monster doesn’t pop its ugly head as often.

3. Take Mommy Time

I cannot even begin to tell you the importance of taking time for yourself. Taking time to do something that you enjoy, eat food that fuels you, exercise, read, dance, whatever it is that you love, will only benefit every aspect of your life.

When I learned that me time wasn’t selfish and stopped having guilt about it, I was able to fill my cup up. What can you do with a full cup? You can pour it out! Taking time for myself allows me to better pour into my husband and children.

You know those times when you feel like there is not one more thing that you can handle and want to explode? Well, when you have taken time for yourself, there is a way better chance that there won’t be an explosion because you’re not drained. So, fill your cup up!

I am hoping that consistently doing these three things will help me be a better mommy, wife and friend.

How do you avoid Mommy Monster Moments?

 

Fun, Kid Friendly Pancakes!

The littles are hard to feed sometimes. (Can I get an amen!) I have to get creative from time to time so that they’ll eat. I know, I know, “if they are hungry enough they will eat what you make”. Well, I’m too tired for all that! In any case, this little trick is super easy and in all honesty really fun to do!

I used to have a pancake batter dispenser that cost too much and broke too soon. I needed a way to get fancy with the pancakes without that thing. So, Amazon shopping I went! I bought this gem:

KODAK Digital Still Camera
KODAK Digital Still Camera

These squeeze bottles work wonderfully! You simply pour your pancake batter into the squeeze bottle and start designing anything that your little heart desires.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Here are some ideas:

ruff-family-circus-pancakesLittle round dippers, shapes, cars, trains, names, ninja turtles, mickey mouse.etc.

*Tip: In order to get better lines, outline the shape first and then fill it in. Also, if you are going to be doing letters or names, make sure to write them backwards otherwise they end up like this:

KODAK Digital Still Camera
OOPS!!

Here is the recipe that I used:

  • 2 Cup of flour (I use Great River Organic Flour, it’s amazing!)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, optional (I use honey)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted organic butter
  • Organic coconut oil for cooking

(This recipe is one of a million recipes, so please use whatever one fits your dietary needs.)

Needless to say, the kids loved their breakfast and ate pretty much all of it! Plus, any pancake that they didn’t eat, is easily frozen for another day.

 

For more fun and learning, please subscribe to our emailing list and receive a free 10 week summer curriculum for PreK-1st grade!

 

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Second Honeymoon: The Internal Struggle

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Vacation…mmmmmmmm. Just the sound of it is absolutely wonderful. Images of the beach, warm sun, sleeping late, no worries in the world. That is how vacations used to be. Now we have kids.

My husband surprised me this past Christmas with a trip to Myrtle Beach. Not just any trip either; a second honeymoon! He planned out an entire week for us to be together without our children. Now that’s a thought. We have not taken a trip alone since our honeymoon; so that’s 7 years ago! Needless to say we were both very excited to go on this vacation.

We planned out the babysitter months in advance, shopped to make sure that the kids were all set while we were gone and packed up the night before we left. That night my husband and I both started to feel anxious about leaving our kiddos behind. Mind you that this was the first time that we were both leaving for more than a weekend. Don’t get me wrong, we were both still very much looking forward to the trip, there was just this small feeling of anxiety settling in.

The next morning, we left very early (16 hours’ worth of driving ahead of us). Getting up that morning was difficult. Getting in the car that morning was worse. I started crying as we left. I know, I know, I am totally that mom. My husband finally calmed me down and we were on our way.

The drive was wildly beautiful! I highly suggest traveling through the mountains. The further we drove, the more and more I relaxed. It took me all the way until we actually arrived in South Carolina to completely be at ease without our children. The resort was breathtaking, the ocean even more so. We enjoyed the beach, the room, the hot tubs, and everything else that Myrtle Beach had to offer. Which was a lot of family friendly activities, go figure!

While we enjoyed being there and reconnecting with each other, we both found ourselves saying how much the kids would love it there and planning out things that we could do with them the next time we go. There was even a moment, okay, a lot of moments when he or I would catch ourselves being those creepy people that stare at the babies and smile at each other. Yup, our second honeymoon was turning out to be super sexy.

In any case, it was an incredible week with each other. We laughed together, we went to dinner every night, we were lazy during the day and completely remembered how much we really enjoy just being together. If we hadn’t had any children, I don’t think that we would have truly appreciated this time together as much as we did. So, in that way, I am grateful for this relaxing re-connection. But, on the flip side, we definitely struggled throughout because of how much we missed our kids.

As the week came to an end, we drove a little quicker home. We wanted to surprise the littles. I think we traveled for 17 hours straight the first day! We pulled into the driveway the next morning and rushed in to hold our babies. It was a fantastic feeling to be home with them again. We told them all about our trip, showed them pictures and gave them their presents. Total contentment. Now, it’s two days later and I miss the beach.

Good Friday Projects for Kids

There are a lot of brilliant kid friendly projects out there, especially on Pinterest land. While I was searching for some fun things to do for Good Friday, I found two great hands-on activities. Both are unique ways of explaining the events of Good Friday!

The first one that we found awe-inspiring is a simple “experiment” to show the littles what happened when Jesus died on the cross. You will need:

  • a glass plate
  • a shiny penny
  • some colored water (we used water tinted with a tad of soy sauce)
  • a candle
  • matches or a lighter
  • a glass cup

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Place the penny on the plate and explain that the penny represents all of us. Then slowly pour the colored water over the penny until there is enough that covers the penny. Explain that the colored water represents sin and that we were all covered in it.

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Next, put the candle on the plate with the water surrounding it and light the candle. Explain that the candle represents Jesus and the lit flame is his life.

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After the candle has warmed the air around enough (about 5 seconds), cover the lit candle with the glass cup explaining that the glass represents the crucifixion. Doing this will cause the flame to go out and create a vacuum sucking up the water around the candle. Explain that once Jesus died, all of our sins were taken away.

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The kids LOVED this one and they kept taking turns putting the glass over the candle to see the water get sucked up!

The second project we did today was a watercolor resistant painting of the cross. You will need:

  • White paper
  • White Crayons
  • Watercolor paint
  • Water
  • Paint brushes

Before the kids get started painting, take each paper and draw a cross with white crayon. Press pretty hard otherwise it doesn’t show up well after painting it.

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After you are done with drawing the crosses, let the kids come to the table. I didn’t tell my kiddos what the mystery drawing was so that they had to uncover it! You should have the paper (with the crosses already drawn), paint, brushes and water set up for them.

Let them sit down and paint their paper to discover the secret message! It is a fun way to discuss Good Friday even further.

Hope you enjoy your day and if you celebrate, Happy Easter! If not, happy weekend!