Monday, July 28, 2014

Back to School Teacher Gift - DIY Pencil Holder

My kids looked at me like I was just a little strange when I announced that we were going to make presents to bring  to their teachers on the first day of school.  School doesn't start for another month here, and they don't even know who their teachers are next year!  But, it's not the same in other locations around the country, so I figured we'd get a head start and post about the cute pencil holders we made.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Teaching Screentime: All Media is Not Created Equal

The idea came when my kids started drifting away from shows like SuperWhy and Signing Time to My Little Pony and Super Mario Brothers. We allotted one hour of screen time per day, but I was getting uncomfortable with them watching mind-numbing shows every single day.

We began thinking about what we want the purpose of technology to be in our home, and realized that we wanted technology to be a resource for us in three areas: Education, Creativity, and Entertainment.

Education: By this we mean traditionally "education-ish" things like math skills, reading comprehension, geography, science, etc. Things that would fall in this category for us would be Signing Time, SuperWhy, foreign language DVDs, Stack the States app, etc.

Creativity/Problem-solving: Of course creativity and problem-solving are "educational", but in a different kind of way. So, in this section we're thinking Cut the Rope, Mindcraft, etc.

Entertainment: We understand that part of the fun of screen time is to veg out. So, if it's not educational or doesn't aid in our creative or problem-solving skills, then we put it in this category. So, for us, it's CareBears, My Little Pony, MarioKart, etc.

Obviously this is more complicated than: "You get 60 minutes of total screen time per day." How could we keep track of all of the variables?

We choose colored plastic links. Each link under their name represented 15 minutes.

Education: Blue  (3 hours weekly)
Creativity/Problem-solving: Purple (3 hours weekly)
Orange: Entertainment (1.5 hours weekly)

Our guidelines were:

1. You must ask us to put a timer on before you start playing for a certain amount of minutes of your choosing.
2. After playing, you must immediately put your links in the bucket.

3. When links are gone for the week, they're gone. No bargaining or substituting.
4. You may not have screen time before school.
5. At bedtime on Sunday, the links would be reset. No carrying leftover links to the next week.

Other than that, they got to decide when to play, what to play, and how long to play. Complete freedom.

Can I tell you this? They were rockstars. This system totally worked. 

Upfront we had to do a lot of talking about what TV shows, computer games, wii games, and apps fell under each category. We talked about the point of each game and decided together as a family which category was most appropriate. They did a great job rationing their time throughout the week (I'm not sure that any kid ever used up all of their links), and they became very aware of what the TV show/game/app was about.

All screen time is not created equal, and we really wanted to help our kids develop the ability to see that early on because this tension is never going away. We also wanted them to have a little freedom in when they played, knowing that the days of "this time is screen time" gets fuzzier as the kids get older.

So, what do you think? What are some other ways to decipher between the various uses of screen time? How do you help kids keep track of their usage? Any good tips to share? We're all pioneering the age of kids and screens together, and the more heads we get together on this the better! 

Linked up with Tuesday Tots

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Homemade Oreos

I reviewed this really cool cookbook a few weeks ago and finally got around to trying out one of the recipes- Homemade Oreos. I'm cooking up a meal for a woman at my church who is going through a dark time, and she has little ones so I thought- why not add a few of these in for a treat?

This recipe comes almost right from Treat Yourself: 70 Classic Snacks You Loved as a Kid (and Still Love Today) by Jennifer Steinhauer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DIY Sidewalk Paint

After months of being cooped up inside, we try to spend time outside every day that the weather allows. But sometimes, things can get a little monotonous, even while outside, so every now and then, I like to shake things up with a different variation of a beloved classic.

Today, we did sidewalk chalk paint.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flowers and Faith - A lesson for Children Dealing with Fear

Our children feel scared sometimes.  It's just a fact of life.  If we're honest, it's not something that really changes that much when we grow up.  We are still scared of things, they're just different (please note, I have never heard my kids say they are scared they won't have enough money for their retirement...).  Last week my oldest son had an audition for something and he was feeling nervous about it.  I couldn't blame him!  I was nervous on his behalf. But, I thought it would be helpful to do something that would be a visual reminder for him of the strength and peace that God could give him.

I cut some daisies from my garden and put them in a vase of water.  We talked about how we depend on God just like the daisies need water to stay alive.  God is with us and helping us all the time, even when we don't notice it or think about it.  In order to see a little more clearly how the daisies are depending on the water in the vase, we put some blue food coloring into the water (about 25 drops).  Slowly over the course of the next 24 hours, the daisies sucked up the water and their petals became spotted with blue (I admit I was hoping for something a little more dramatic - it makes me wonder how they turn the daisies blue that they sell at the market).  My son and I talked about how we can depend on God when we feel scared, and we can have peace knowing that God's Holy Spirit is inside of us giving us strength.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Simple Minecraft Math Activity- Perimeter and Area

I'm not sure if Minecraft is still popular at your house, but it definitely is here! The kids just saved up enough money to buy Minecraft computer version, and they have been really excited to play together during their daily allotted screen time. Of course, that time always ends too soon for their liking, so I thought up a Minecraft themed activity to do with afterwards.

First, print out some grid paper. I used .75 inch paper for this particular example (see for a wide variety).

Next, I made a creeper.

Then, I made another.

After the buzzer when off and it was time for them to get off the computer, I invited them to the table for some fun Minecraft drawing.

On the table was a stack of blank grid paper, some crayons and makers. I also put out my two creepers for them to look at ("hey mom, those are cool!"). As the girls got to drawing, I asked Asante a few questions about the creeper.

"Asante, do you remember talking about perimeter in your class? (He did). Can you tell me what the perimeter of this creeper is? What about the area?" We then did the same for the second creeper I drew. Finally, I asked if he could create a creeper with a different perimeter and a different area from the ones I drew, and told him I would find the perimeter and area of his (fun for the momma to be the student and him to be the "teacher").

After our "impromptu" math activity, I continued coloring with all of them and Asante worked on making his own characters. An easy way to "sneak" in some math terms to keep them fresh over these long 3 summer months! :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Are We Blessing or Cursing Our Children?

Some parenting seasons are just…well, hard. The ages and stages of our kids are constantly in flux. Sometimes the seasons are oh so sweet, and sometimes they are more like "grin and bear it" :). I'm currently in a tough season, and while I've been trying to have a positive attitude (I really have!), some days are hard and I allow my attitude to be totally affected by my current parenting circumstances. When that happens, my words become pointy, my eyes lose their shine, and my brows seem to be in a constant state of furrowed. It's at this point that I'm just wishing my kids would be GOOD for 90 seconds-- that no one would cry, scream, or argue with one another. So many needs, but I'm just one mama.

Sometimes unknowingly, and sometimes very consciously, I curse them.