Summer or Not

Do you think children should do school work/homework during their summer break?   That was the survey question Parents Magazine, , recently asked. The results were reported in their June 2016 issue.  The answer was 59% to 41%.  Which side do you think was the majority?

The majority is not necessarily the best answer for your family.  Furthermore the answer may vary from year to year and even from child to child.

We were a homeschooling family.  Our five children were born over a span of 17 years.   Counting from when the eldest entered home school pre- kindergarten until the youngest finished high school was thirty

We generally followed a traditional school year calendar.  Year after year I noticed that my children were squirrely by May 1st.  The entire month of May was a challenge for me and for them.  Focus and concentration were elusive. We were weary of the hard work and eager for a break.  We usually ended the school year  June 1st, which was almost always 5- 10 days earlier than our community public schools.  We did comply with our state standard of required number of school days.

During June I would wrap up the record keeping for the year.  I also would research curricula, make decisions, and purchases for the next school year.  In July I refused to think about or do anything regarding school. My brain was fried and my endurance exhausted.  July was my one month free from school.   As soon as August rolled around it was time to preview curricula, begin lesson plans and prepare for the new school year.   This is not meant to be a rant or a complaint.  It is just a reality.   I loved homeschooling and was committed to it (for 30 years), but I needed a break just as much as the children did. Summer was also the time when I tried to get caught up with big household cleaning and projects that I had neglected through the previous school year.


But, there were a few exceptions.  Two of our sons required additional and specialized assistance with reading.  Both of them had a couple of summers where the daily reading work continued.  If a child is struggling in a particular subject, I would encourage the use of great creativity in addressing that area during the summer.


In general, I believe children need to play freely.  A less structured summer schedule is a refreshing change.  Our children also enjoyed participating in numerous park district classes, sports and programs.  A few of those classes could be classified as both fun and educational.


We continued to frequently visit the library during the summer.  Keeping a supply of reading materials available will encourage reading.  Children who love to read will find time and material to read.  Non-readers can be read to and may expend great effort to avoid reading themselves.

Back to the survey.  The survey said: 59% NO and 41% YES to homework in the summer.  Which side are you on?


Parental Doubts or Troubled Waters

Do you sometimes doubt your own parenting methods?  Ever wonder if you are following the wisest parenting ideology?  When our 4th child was in college, she and I had more arguments, disagreements, and difficult conversations than in all the previous years combined.  perfect parent

I was a college student myself, while she was a student.  One day while I was writing a paper about parenting she looked over my shoulder and sarcastically remarked, “so, you think you have this parenting thing all figured out, huh?”  To which I snarkily replied,   “Actually, you have caused me to doubt everything I ever did or thought about parenting.”

To evaluate or re-evaluate our parenting methods and motives is healthy and productive. It might be painful to realize that they could be self-serving and not rooted in what is best for the child or the family.  An examination could also be encouraging as maturity, development and progress are discovered.  Maturity, development or progress could be found in your child or in your parenting skills.

You will make mistakes along the parenting path.  Sadly, sometimes we allow our emotions to reign instead of wisdom.  Though it is important for husband and wife to be in agreement and support each other, I also suggest we give each other permission to interrupt and privately discuss a situation when either one seems unreasonable.

I encourage you to pray for your children individually.  They have individual needs and God will guide and direct you regarding their needs.  Pray for your spouse and your teamwork in parenting.

Children need consistency in parenting.  They need to understand what the rules are and how they will be enforced.   Consistency provides stability and security.

Fairness in a family does not always mean equality.  Age, ability, and maturity need to also be considered when measuring fairness.  Only one of our five children had a curfew.  He was the only one who needed it.

I once read a short story written by Marlo Thomas titled, Ralph.  In this story a couple named their first child Ralph.  They were determined to be fair to their children so when the second child was born, she was also named Ralph.  To be fair the older Ralph was not allowed to go anywhere or do anything that the younger Ralph could not do.  The situation became only more ridiculous when the third Ralph was born.  One can imagine the struggles.  The first two Ralphs never wanted to be limited by the youngest Ralph, but fair was fair.  Fair is not equal.  And even young children can understand this story’s premise.

I told this story many times to my children when a younger sibling wished to have a privilege which was limited to an older sibling. It is hard being the younger and watching an older sibling be allowed to do special things.  I know.  I am a middle child.

In my young parenting days I found encouragement, wisdom and insight from many sources.  Here are some of them.

  1. My parents and in-laws wisely gave counsel when it was requested.
  2. Friends shared their successes and failures, of which I tried many.
  3. Focus on the Family radio program and resources helped me. Today I would also include Family Talk.                                                                                        
  1. I read Parents Magazine and parenting books. I was also influenced through biographies of great people. 
  2. The Bible and prayer were critical for me.
  3. Family size makes a big difference. Consult with other families, who are the same size as yours, regarding day to day organization and management.


Parenting is a big, big job.  It requires much practice. Because our children are continually growing and changing, our tasks continually change, too.  It is ironic.  As we get better and better at parenting, we need to do less and less of it.

I am happy to report we all survived and safely navigated to the other side of parental waters where we can float along life together as friends.  In fact, my daughter is my blog editor and I trust her. She still loves sarcasm, but is much gentler in her usage of it.

Yikes, Lice!

Are you a nitpicker?  Are you afraid of cooties?  Does your head itch?  All of these questions provoke the heebie-jeebies for me. Have you ever had head lice? Were you responsible for exterminating lice from your home?

My children contracted lice a few times. Lice are very social and love to visit the heads of all your friends.  They are also quite powerful in two ways. The first is the potent capacity of their eggs (nits) to stick to strands of hair.  The second is the formidable way that the knowledge of their presence takes control of one’s life.  This was hugely stressful to me because I felt both my home and life were invaded.  And they were.  I had to be offensive and eradicate this enemy.  It had to be addressed immediately before it spread further.

The first time we discovered lice I was totally overwhelmed.  There were not over-the-counter shampoo products available.  I had to take my daughter to our family doctor for a diagnosis and a prescription was written for the entire family to be treated.  Another family was living with us at the time so we had to get enough shampoo for four adults and five children.  To obtain enough quantity I had to make purchases at two pharmacies.  All this was very embarrassing to me, but that was the easiest part of the calamity.

Every head was scrubbed with the smelly shampoo to kill all lice and nits.  Then the cleaning commenced.  Every room in the house had to be cleaned. All flooring, upholstered furniture and mattresses were vacuumed.  All bed linens were bagged and taken to the laundromat to be washed and dried.  Hair brushes, combs, and hair accessories were boiled if possible.  Some perished in the process.  All dolls and stuffed animals and unwashable items that could possibly carry lice were bagged and tagged.  The tag was the date 14 days in the future, when the bag could safely be reopened.  A louse’s lifecycle is very short.   Then the vehicles and car seats had to be cleaned.  In cool weather coats, jackets, and hats needed to be washed also.gingersnap

Next there was further humiliation when I had to inform parents of playmates of possible exposure to lice. Did I have to do this? No, but I thought it was the right thing to do and if we had given it to friends, they might return the favor.   It was best for everyone for them to explore and treat if necessary.

I know that lice turned me into a crazy momma.   I immediately wanted to give haircuts to everyone.  The boys were willing to comply but my daughter didn’t want a buzz cut.

If other parents were not as diligent in treating lice and cleaning their entire house, I thought they were lazy or crazy.   Of course, that opinion was not kind, but it seemed reasonable at the time of my stress and misfortune.

I have learned that the only power a louse (cootie) has is the power I allow it to have in my life. That is a huge life-lesson from a tiny bug and applies to all manner of struggles. Problems come in all sizes and at inconvenient times.  Everyone (children and adults) have different levels of what they can handle well and what sends them over the edge.

Just thinking about lice makes my head itch.  I am thankful for easily obtainable louse and nit killing shampoo.sassy

Scary Scars

I am sometimes slow to understand the big picture.  I was focusing on a 4 inch scar on my lower abdomen.  It has distorted the shape of my belly.  Actually it has distorted the way the fat in my belly lies.  The fat is my fault.  I did not choose the scar.  It was chosen for me.  It was the best choice.

I had seizured in my eighth month of pregnancy from toxemia and was transported to the hospital by ambulance.  It was a frightful time for my family but I have only a tiny memory of it.  I was administered a dose of Valium to help calm my body, but I had an adverse reaction to it.  Thankfully a young, on-call physician knew how to medicinally counteract the affects.  Yet, it was several hours before I was stabilized enough to handle an emergency caesarean delivery of our fifth child.

I have not worn  a bikini since I was a teenager.  No one ever sees my belly. The scar still bothered me.

I have other scars on my body.  In fact, I have a scar on my face.  No one notices it now.  When I was 19, I broke a glass window, which I was cleaning.  I bent the metal frame and the glass shattered, falling on my face.  My glasses protected my eyes, but the underside of my lower lip and chin were sliced.  It was ketchup red for at least a year and continued to fade until it is barely visible now.

I bravely endured the face scar.  I said it added character and gave me a great story to tell.   This is true of most scars.  Almost everyone has a scar or two and a story to go along with the scar.  I can tell lots of stories of my children’s scars.  They are stories filled with adrenalin rushes, fear and sometimes adventure or just foolishness.

Many women have scars from caesarean deliveries.  They are very common.   Some of those scars are larger than mine.   It is my scar on my body, but the story is one I was told about me.  I have only two tiny memories from my son’s birth.  I remember being told I was going to have a spinal so that a c-section could be done, and I remember being told I had a son with red hair.  I awoke three days later.


All of this was very scary for my family. It was happening to me, but I was unaware and I was not scared.  Yet I bear the scar.

My son will soon by twenty one years old.  It was just a few years ago that I began to embrace and appreciate my belly scar.  That scar gave me life, my own and my son’s.  The only cure for toxemia is delivery.  My blood pressure was too high. I was not able to endure labor, not even induced labor.  A c-section was my only hope and I was not even conscience to say “yes, I want to live and want my baby to live.”

I am still not showing my belly scar to anyone, but my attitude has changed.  I am thankful for that scar. It is my trophy.   In addition to the scar, my belly is covered in faded stretch marks that came with my previous children.  There is no shame in these things, just a beautiful story of life.