Monday, March 31, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Captivated DVD (MediaTalk101)

My latest review has been one of the most challenging I have ever done.  God in His infinite wisdom brought this product to us at just the right time and I am so grateful for having seen it.  I am also very eager to share it with all of you!  The Captivated DVD by MediaTalk101 addresses the dangers of living in a media saturated society.  

Now before you start to think this is going to be some legalistic challenge to throw out your computer or TV, bear with me.  It is not about that at all.  It is about heeding the call of Scripture to take every thought captive, including those thoughts that come to us through some source of media outlet.  We are indeed saturated by media and whether we admit it or not it does affect our every day life and it is impacting our culture as never before.  They are very careful to point out that media can be used for good, but it can also be used for evil.  It can either make us deeper or more shallow.  It can bring us nearer to God or become our own man-made Tower of Babel. That is why we need to be cautious.

Do you realize we live in a time when there are more TVs than persons per household?   Our youth today are getting 53 hours per week of screen time and by the the time they are 18 they will have had 18-22,000 hours which is more time then they spend in the classroom!  When we factor in not only the time spent in media, but also the content of what they are absorbing there is great cause for alarm.

The Captivated DVD is almost 2 hours long and full of information with many facts, statistics and data that shows how media is out of control both in quantity and quality.  They break it down into a few segments.  It begins with an introduction of how widespread media is in our culture.  They then explore the following categories: Consumption, Content, Captivity, Battleground, and Freedom.

During the video they share several testimonies of people who had some sort of media addiction in their lives and how their life was transformed when they finally got rid of it.  The addictions covered every type of media out there - Social Networking, Gaming, Television, Sports, and Music.  These testimonies were very compelling because they all seemed to have the same result.  No matter what type of media they were getting rid of, they all did the exact same thing: robbed them of their time away from God and their family.  In each of these cases the families started to have real quality time together.  They were amazed at how wonderful it was to have so much time to do the things they always thought they never had time to do before.  So even if the media in their lives was not in itself "bad" it was an issue because it took all of their time and resources away from the things that really mattered.

That is the part that impacted me the most.  How much of a waste of time media is and how Satan uses it to distract the world from better things.  If you are wrapped up in any form of media, whether its on the internet, television, cell phone or gaming, you are not using that time to be near to God or with your family.  We think it isn't affecting our families but that is so far from the truth.  Count the hours you spend with your family that does not involve media and you might be surprised to find how little that number is in comparison to the astonishing amount of time we are saturating our minds with media alone.

I began by saying how the Captivated DVD arrived at just the perfect time for me so I will share a little more about that.  My husband is a computer programmer and I am a blogger.  We also both love video games.  We have had times in our past where our computer usage consumed us and interfered with our relationships.  Because of that we have learned to be careful with it and really do try to limit our screen time.

I have a daughter who has special needs and so we really try to watch her screen time too.  However, with winter time forcing us indoors and the new XBox we got for Christmas, she was getting more than usual.  It was an especially cold winter, and since some of the games on the Kinect were active, we let is slide.  In fact, I don't even think we realized how bad it was getting.

Then Gesserine's behavior started to get out of control.  We figured it was part of adolescence but regardless her rebellion showed up with a vengeance.  As we started to step back and look at what was going on we noticed some trends related to her media intake.  When Gess was not playing on her computer or XBox she was listening to her music, which was contemporary Christian music or children's Bible songs.  There is nothing secular in her collection, so the content didn't worry us but she had to have it with her all the time.  Her behavior was not only out of control, she was also hardly doing anything she used to love to do like read, build with Lego's, or color.  The week before the Captivated DVD arrived she had an outburst that was just heartbreaking so we took all of her media away.  ALL of it.  I was not sure for how long, but I knew this movie was on its way so I was willing to wait and see if it had any suggestions before giving it back.  I am so glad that I waited.

Some of the people in the video gave up their media addiction forever and some only went on fasts for 30 days at a time.  I like the idea of occasional fasts as a way to keep you from letting it get out of control.  So we chose that number to be how long Gess will be without media.  She went for an entire month and now we have a system to better monitor how much media she gets, and it won't be much. There will also be days each week that are totally media free.  She has had her media privileges back for 2 days now and it has simply floored me how she didn't try to jump back into it.  She has yet to log on to her computer or play a video game!  The only thing she has chosen to do is listen to 20 minutes of music.  It's amazing how a person begins to truly enjoy life without media once they have been without it!

I am happy to say that it has truly made a difference. Not only has her behavior improved but she is reading again and building with those Lego's!  She is able to go outside to play without the headphones and is enjoying more time with family.  Of course, this hasn't been a complete fast as we have curriculum on both the computer and video, but other than letting her do school and listen a little bit of music each week, she hasn't played a game or done anything else media related.

While my husband and I have not totally fasted, we have limited our media intake and made it a point to spend more time with our daughter.  We also love the freedom that comes from walking away from Facebook, that video game, or television show and instead sit and talk, read, play a board game, work on a project, or get some extra chores done.

Of course it is not just the time that it robs from us.  The content of much of our media is simply garbage.  Another statistic that they mentioned was how we had more TVs than we do toilets per household.  That usually means we have more sewage coming in than going out!  That is really the truth and we can't simply blame Hollywood for it since we choose to watch the garbage they put out.  Did you realize that there was a study once that showed there were 12 times as many R movies as there are G movies and yet that G movies bring in 11 times more profit?  If we only watched what was good, we could make such an impact on their pocketbooks!  Yet, even Christians have a problem denying ourselves from seeing that latest greatest hit, even if it does have some things that dishonor God.  Its no wonder only 9% of Americans have a Biblical worldview!  We are being influenced by the world's definition of what is right or wrong, rather than God's Word alone. 

They remind us in the video that before these were movies, songs, or television shows they were some man or woman's thought and idea.  Are we taking their thoughts captive and keeping them accountable to the standards of Christ before we let them in our home?  I know that I am not as good at that as I should be. We need to take Scripture to heart and not allow ourselves to be taken captive by anything other than Christ. 

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Col 2:8) 

Media is not neutral and we should try to stop acting as if it is.  They pointed out that our kids are not growing up in the United States of America, but rather they are living in the United States of Entertainment.  How true that is!  Their quote from A. W. Tozer was so perfect.
"Men think of the world not as a battleground, but as a playground... We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic." (A. W. Tozer)
Oh brother and sister, we are in a battle.  Our battle is not with flesh and blood, and it is not with video games or Hollywood or musicians.  It is with the forces of darkness and we need to put on the full armor of God to be able to do battle!

They end with the good news, that there is freedom.  They offer real solutions and practical steps to help make sure you and your family are not captivated by the world's philosophy through the realm of media.  I hope to share this video with my church and homeschool group.  I know many homeschoolers feel free from this mentality as many of us already don't have cable television and limit what comes into the home.  But there are still dangers.  Even if you do have a grip on media in your family know that this DVD is a way to reach others on the subject.  The greatest part of freedom from media addiction is the discovery that reality is way more exciting!

While the Captivated DVD has a ton of information it is really engaging.  It is not in any way a boring documentary.  I was literally captivated by the content.  I watched it more than once.  I soaked it in the first time, took notes the second time, and then delved into the additional content and interviews. I learned so much and am willing to watch it again as I share it with others.  You can view the trailer below to get a glimpse of what you can expect from the video.

Captivated - Trailer from Media Talk 101 on Vimeo.

While the Captivated DVD is intended for adults it is approved for all audiences and I can see it being beneficial to watch together as a family, at least with older kids.  My husband and I watched it together.  It sells for $16.95 which includes free shipping.  They are also offering a special that allows you to get a second video for $5 more to give away to a friend. It is definitely worth the money and something you will want to see and share with others.  I highly recommend it for any Christian.  They also have a study guide to go with it that I am considering getting to use with a bible study group at my church.

To learn more visit the Captivated The Movie website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Building the Machine - FREE Movie About Common Core

OK, so it's not out yet, but it will be in just a few days.  Starting on Monday March 31st the movie Building the Machine will be available to view online for FREE. 

I have been very skeptical of Common Core for quite some time.  As more and more states have signed on and began its implementation it has become apparent that it is a nightmare, at least for the public school student.  While I am a homeschooler I am also concerned about how they will eventually want to impose these standards on us.

While there is much I still don't know, I do know that I trust the people behind making this film and I am eager to hear what they have to say.  Here is a trailer that might peak your interest.  If it does, be sure to go to the Building the Machine website on March 31st and see it for yourself! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Math Facts Addition - Looking for Ten

Gess has been really slow about memorizing her math facts.  She does fine if she memorizes one set at a time but when she starts to mix them up she seems to forget the ones that I know she knows.  She seems to do much better if she has a visual tool to help her out.  We used the book Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome to make visual Math Fact Doubles cards.  They were really great and now she has those down by heart, even if they are all mixed up.

Now we are trying to memorize all the facts that add up to 10.  Well using flash cards for this doesn't make much sense because the answer is always going to be 10.  So how do we get her to see which numbers we need?   I came up with a couple of activities to help her out.

The first one we used for completing a worksheet or computer activity to practice the facts.  Since they weren't yet memorized she had this tool to help her find the answer.

I had a pack of colored Unifix Cubes that I picked up a several years ago.  I also got this 1-10 bar with it to set them in so you could visually see each number.  The blocks came in stacks of 10 so what I did was put the number in each slot, but kept rest of the stack and placed it above the number.  Now all Gess had to do was count how many were left to know what equaled 10.

As we used it I tried to point out the patterns, like how 9 and 1 were the farthest apart so if we went from 9 to 8 we would go from 1 to 2.  I do not think she quite understood but I think our next activity helped to expand on that idea.

For this activity I used number tiles to make hands on addition problems with the assistance of a number line to help her work them out.

She had to visually choose which numbers added up to 10.  To help her figure it out she was allowed to use the number line at the top.  I have a number line that goes up to 20 so I folded it at the 10 since that is our focus. 

Now she could choose any number and then put her finger on it and see how far it was from 10. To get the answer for "what plus two equals ten" we would move our finger from 10 two places to the left.  8 is two places from 10 so the answer was 8.  I then showed her how you could move the same amount of spaces from zero to get to the number 2, trying to help her see visually what the answer is without having to actually move the fingers.  I don't know if she gets that but it seems to make sense to me.  Moving the same amount of steps from both 10 and 0 at the same time always gets us the pairs of numbers that equal 10.

Gess picked it up pretty quickly.  As she began she could choose whatever number she wanted to start with and then used the number line to find the pair.  She always starts with 5 because she already knows her doubles!  Here she is working out 3 plus what equals 10.

It seems to me this hands on work is really helping it stick.  The visual of the time line, unifix cubes, and holding the numbers in her hands makes a memorable experience and cements it in the brain. She already seems to be getting 8 plus 2 without the helps.

She still gets stuck with 6 plus 4 and 7 plus 3 but I think after awhile of doing these activities she will have them for good. She knows her 1 facts so she should technically know that 9 plus 1 equals 10 but in this context she doesn't automatically make that connection.  That is the trouble with math for her.  Those connections don't come naturally to her like they do the rest of us all. 

So I will keep trying to find ways to help her make those connections.  I guess next we go back to simply memorizing the facts unless I can find other fun ways to visualize them.  I think working them out with the tiles will still be helpful.  Grabbing the number rather than simply saying them is not only helpful for memorization but sometimes its just more fun.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Oil Painting

We have a lady at church that teaches oil painting.  Over the course of her life she has taught many students to paint.  Most of her work was with children who had been through troubled homes and environments.  It is a wonderful way to help heal some of the hurt and to get the children to express themselves in a positive way.  Now she is teaching Gess to paint and she is very pleased with how quickly Gess took to it.  She thinks that Gess will become really great at it.  That excites me.  Here are pictures of Gess going to one of her recent lessons in which she got to bring home her very first oil painting!

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Down Syndrome Day

Today is March 21st and we are using that day, 3/21, to educate people about Down syndrome.  Trisomy 21 is the technical name for most cases of Down syndrome because there are 3 copies of the 21st chromosome instead of two.  That anomaly is what we refer to as Down syndrome. 

While Down syndrome can be accompanied by many challenges, both medically and intellectually, life for a person with Down syndrome can be quite positive.  People are sometimes surprised to find that persons with Down syndrome have many of the same goals and desires as anyone else.  While the limitations that come with this particular genetic makeup does make it somewhat harder, with help, support, and the right resources many of those obstacles can be over come.

Gesserine loves life.  She is a great reader and has a strong desire to learn about so many things.  She is fascinated by the weather and wants to be a meteorologist some day.  She is thrilled to learn about new things and will often be found reading non-fiction books more than fiction.  She isn't a total book worm though as she also loves to have fun.  You can find her doing cartwheels at gymnastics, swimming in the summer, horseback riding, or heading to camp.  She loves music, dancing, Lego's, stick-ball and riding her new trike.  These are just a few of her favorite things. 

When she grows up she wants to drive, go to college, and get a job.  She wants to live on her own, do her own shopping, and cook her own meals.  My entire goal in educating her is to make her as independent as possible.  It is probable that she will need assistance to do at least some of these things, but even so, she will still have an enjoyable and fulfilling life. 

What the world needs to know and remember is that every life is precious.  Every life is valuable and just because one life doesn't look like another it doesn't make it any more or less good.  Perfection in our world does not exist.  It will not exist.  So lets stop pretending that it does and instead embrace our differences and respect each person for the life God has blessed them with.  If we can do that then maybe, just maybe, our less than perfect world will at least be a little more tolerable.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Great Wolf Lodge World Down Syndrome Day Kickoff Celbration

March 21st (3/21) is World Down Syndrome Day.  This day was chosen because the most common form of Down syndrome is Trisomy 21 which means that the person's 21st chromosome has 3 (tri) rather than the usual pair.  That anomaly is what causes all of the traits and medical issues that are common in persons with DS.  So they chose the 21st day of the 3rd month which makes 3/21 to help bring awareness to Down syndrome.

To welcome in World Down Syndrome Day the International Down Syndrome Coalition hosted meet greets at several Great Wolf Lodges around the country.  We were super blessed that we were able to participate to this year.  Gess had the time of her life and was thrilled to go.  Besides the indoor water park, which is the big draw to the Great Wolf Lodge, they have other activities for the youngsters.

Gess enjoyed the morning Wolf Walk where they learned about three types of animals.  A wolf, of course, was first. They learned that wolves are carnivores.

Reindeer which are herbivores.

And bears which are omnivores.  Here is Gess doing her best bear crawl.

Of course they also had to teach them the Great Wolf Lodge official wolf howl. There is stomping, clapping, and howling all in one so this is a great hit.  I literally heard Gess teaching this to her Sunday School class the very next day!

Then they taught them how to make an origami wolf.  Gess did great with hers!

Later that afternoon they happened to have a mad scientist come in.  They taught about polymers and Gess got to make her own silly putty.

As you can see the Great Wolf Lodge is much more than a water park.  It was fantastic!  Thanks to the IDSC from hosting this great event!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Free Friday: MapMaker from National Geographic

We had a sick day today as Gess is struggling with a sinus infection and bad cough.  The meds have finally started to work and so she woke up feeling better than she has in a few days.  Since it is Friday I decided to do no school and just let her rest.  So, what does a homeschool kid do when there is no school?  Study maps of course!

Well that reminded me about this cool FREE tool I found awhile back.  I have been meaning to mention it on some Free Friday, so here you are!  It's the National Geographic MapMaker.  They have printable 1 page Maps as well as a colorful Interactive MapMaker where you can add your own data, tools, and themes to make your own maps.

We were just studying about salmon so Gess wanted to learn about Alaska. Now she can add her own icons on the map.  Here she has fishing boats and of course fish to represent the salmon in the region we learned about.

If you need some maps for class or have an aspiring map-o-olgist like my Gess (yes, she made up that word), check out the National Geographic Interactive MapMaker.  Its FREE!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

321 Down Syndrome eConference Coming Up

I just want to remind everyone that the 321 eConference is just a little over a week away!  I will be presenting the session Homeschooling Helps on Friday March 21 at 3:00pm EST.  My desire is that the session will include quite a bit of participation and very little lecturing.  While I will share some ideas, struggles and tips I mostly want us all to feel free to share our experiences, ask questions and network for support.  I know so many families who homeschool and so many families who have a child with Down syndrome, but not enough families that do both!

So considering joining us, not only for my session, but for the many other great topics related to Down syndrome!  I know I plan on attending quite a few!

3 days (March 21, 22 and 23)
21 hours of learning
21 sessions a day
Only $21 per day. 

To learn more about the 321 eConference or to register visit their website by clicking on the image below.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Egglo Entertainment

Easter is upon us and many parents are going to wonder how to get the true meaning of the holiday into the minds of children who are filled with thoughts of eggs and candy.  The latest product I reviewed is trying to address that very issue.  Egglo Entertainment has put a unique twist on hunting eggs.

For the purpose of my review I recieved:
Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Audio Book Download
Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide

The Egglo Egg Experience is designed for kids ages 4-13 to help keep the focus of Easter on Jesus by reminding children that Jesus is the light of the world.  It is based off of John 1:5 which says "The Light shines in the dark and the darkness has not overcome it."  Instead of hunting eggs in the day time, you have a night time hunt and emphasize the importance of Jesus to light our way, not simply in the dark, but through the decisions we make each and every day.

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide helps you incorporate the entire message into your hunt for a church or other large group of children.  It gives examples of how to bring in the message that Jesus is the light throughout the evening.   It has everything you need to advertise your hunt, decorating tips, snack ideas, games, devotions, bible application, story time, and of course the hunt itself.  I have not had the opportunity to do this with a group yet, but this certainly would be helpful for that.  It has everything you need.

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book will help tie the glow in the dark eggs to the lesson.  It is a story about a family who is about to go on their first night egg hunt.  Before they do they get whisked away into an adventure where they learn some lessons from the bible.  They find this mysterious glowing egg in their attic which causes scrolls to appear before them which have bible verses and clues on them.  As they seek to understand the riddles they are transported to various places where they learn a valuable lesson which then leads them on further until they finally find the treasure at the end.

The characters each have behavior issues they must over come.  Hardy always wants to be first, Pascal never wants to listen to anyone or ask for help and Ana is afraid of everything.  Each verse they learn about in the book teaches them to have a better biblical attitude.  By the end of the story the parents are amazed at the changes in their children.

To tie the story into the hunt they offer the Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls that actually fit in the eggs.  These scrolls each have one simple bible verse on them.  Its an excellent way to keep God's Word as part of the focus.  Once you find the "light" you get the message! While they are made of a heavy, glossy paper that is a bit more durable, you still have to be careful with them.  Gess accidentally pulled the end off of one so she learned to handle them more gently after that.

Once you have read the story, charged, and stuffed your eggs it is time to hunt for the Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs.  While my personal pictures didn't reveal it, they glowed rather nicely.  Some were plain, but some had crosses on them.  We had to do our hunt indoors as there has still been snow around here.  I can't wait to try this outdoors for Easter though.  It should be fun.  Here is an image that shows how they look in the dark and light.

While I was stuck indoors I had the opportunity to do this alone with Gess and once with my grandchildren.  They loved the hunt, but since they are preschoolers the story was a bit long for them.  The audio version is just shy of thirty minutes so this probably is best with older children.  Gess also loved listening to the audio and reading along on her own.

While the story was enjoyable and did teach the kids a lesson I personally felt funny about the fact that it was through an egg that seemed to do "magical" things.  It glowed, made things appear, and even transported the children to far away places.  I am not sure it is a good thing to teach children to obey God's Word through this sort of method.  I understand that it ties in the egg, but I fear they will focus more on the powers the egg seemed to have than the lessons it was trying to teach.

The book also lacked the traditional Easter message of the resurrection of Jesus.  I loved that it talked about Jesus being the light, but that isn't what we expect to learn on Easter Sunday.  The program guide does offer suggestions for how to tell the traditional story from the bible and also has some questions and activities for the kids to go along with it, so it is there if that is important to you.

While the book doesn't focus so much on the resurrection it does ends with a salvation message of how Jesus is the greatest treasure we could ever find.  It uses John 3:16 to share how Jesus was sent to take the punishment for our sins on the cross and because of that we can be forgiven.  They express how this is a gift that can not be earned.  I really liked that part of the book.

I also loved the eggs themselves.  They are a solid and durable and glow really well.  Being able to put bible verse scrolls in them makes them even better.  It certainly is a fun way to change things up and I know they will be a big hit with any kid!  They sure were with my crew!

Right now they are offering a sale for Easter! The Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs and the The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book can be purchased for $9.99 each.
If you miss the sale, the regular prices are:
Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs $11.99
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book $12.99 
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Audio Book Download $2.99
Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls $4.29
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide $14.99
To learn more about Egglo Entertainment visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Missions Math

We have been studying money so to put it into practice I decided it was time to see how much money Gess has saved up in her missions jar.  Gess made her jar a few years ago and started saving up money to buy a goat for people who were hungry.  We started with buying a goat because it did more than feed a family for one meal.  It gave them milk for many meals among other means of sustaining them.  We then purchased some ducks and water filters as other ways to help the needy.  Each time she saves up money in her jar she chooses where she wants it to go. 

This time after we counted the money in her jar I asked her what mission she wanted to support. She enthusiastically said "the Sudan!"  I am not sure exactly what she knows about that region since we haven't studied it recently but it doesn't really matter.  If that is where her heart was, that is where we gave.  Well, sort of.  As a Baptist who is familiar with how their charities work, I tend to favor supporting Baptist Global Response to support hunger needs.   While they didn't have a Sudan specific hunger program, they did have an African Famine Relief which included areas of Sudan.  One of the great things about BGR is that because they are smaller than other ministries they try to hit areas that don't seem to get as much attention.  So while it may not be an area that tugs at our heart strings because we hear about it on the news, it will certainly be an area where people are still hungry and in need!

So now for the math.  How much will Gesserine be able to give to African famine relief?  For that answer we had a lot of change to count!

The first thing I had her do was to sort the coins.  Then we started stacking and counting them.  We stacked the pennies in groups of tens then counted by ten.  The stack process was also great physical therapy.  Gess kept saying "I'm not very good at stacking" which I said was all the more reason she should practice!

So after stacking pennies and counting by tens, counting nickels by fives, dimes in stacks of ten, and quarters in stacks of four we came up with our problem.  She then used the calculator to find out that she had $9.38.

We then figured out how much mom and dad would have to pitch in to make it an even $10.00 and logged on to visit the BGR website to make her donation.  She was thrilled to be a part of missions in her own way and I was thrilled to see how good she is getting at counting coins.  She is still a long way from doing it alone as she would have miscounted in several piles but the concept is there and she is learning.  She just gets ahead of herself sometimes.

It's always more fun when you take math and learn it in a way that is practical.  I doubt Gess even realized it was "school."  She was just curious to find out how much she had saved.  She had emptied her jar around Christmas time so for 2 months so having close to ten dollars in was pretty good.  Way to go Gess!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Making Chores Enjoyable

Since I just shared about how I have used Motivated Moms to help me keep my house in order and also recently blogged about how Gesserine does not get allowance for doing her chores, I thought today I would share some tips on how we motivate Gess to actually get her chores done.

First of all we started training her at an early age that she was expected to clean up her own mess.  Singing songs can sometimes make it seem like play.  "Now it's time to clean up, clean up, clean up. Now its time to clean up and put away our toys." Or "Gesserine is a helper. Gesserine is a helper.  Gesserine puts away her toys. Gesserine is a helper."

As Gess has gotten older, she has gotten more responsibility and we have had to come up with new ways to motivate her to do her chores.  While we can't always make chores fun, we can help to make them a positive experience.  Below are a few of the ways we do that.

1. Have a great attitude.  If you hate chores, so will your kids.  But if you choose to have a good attitude and present chore time in a positive way, most of the time the kids will be positive as well.  (This approach will take some time if you and/or your children already have a negative attitude.)  If you concentrate on the fact that you are blessed to have a house to clean and a family who loves you that should certainly help your own attitude as you clean it.

2. Do chores together.  Did you ever have a job where you felt like you did more work than your boss?  It can be so frustrating to think that you are working hard while your boss is sitting at their desk doing nothing.  (Not that your boss is doing nothing, it just feels that way.)  That perception can lead to resentment in the work place.  Well this is also true for kids at home.  Who wants to do dishes while mom sits and goofs off on Facebook?  Sure you have been working ALL day and deserve a break but can't that break come after everyone's chores are done, including yours?  Gess and I often do our chores together.  Sometimes I make my bed and she makes hers but sometimes we help each other do both.  Some days she does dishes and some days I do them but some days we do them together.  Its always more fun doing work with someone, or at least while they are doing it too.  Of course there will be times they have to work alone and get over the fact that you are not working too.  But making it a point to work together at least part of the time can help.

3.  Have moments in the day especially for chores.  Chores are on our school schedule but even in the summer they get done.  I will warn Gess that we will be doing chores at a certain time.  That way if she is in a game, reading a book or building something with her Legos she already knows she will have to stop.  Then we all do our chores at that time.  On Saturday when daddy is home we have what we call a "pick up" where we all go around and straighten up what needs to be done.  This way, even daddy is in on the chores and she sees that we all work together.  It is much more fun for Gess to help daddy make the bed because she doesn't get to do that everyday!  It's also good for kids to see that men can and should do some house work too.

4.  Put on some music.  I really enjoy doing chores listening to something.  While I often listen to the news or talk radio, that really annoys Gess so we listen to music when she is helping.  I have done that so much she often requests it when doing dishes.  Throwing on some praise and worship tunes will also help keep your attitude joyful.

5.  Thank them for their efforts.  While they should not receive a tangible reward for doing something that is just part of life, its always a good thing to praise and thank those who put forth an effort to make your home comfortable.  My husband will often thank me for cooking dinner (even if its just hotdogs) and will sometimes mention how nice the house looks when he comes home.  Knowing he really cares and appreciates it motivates me to make sure it is done before he walks in the door.  While it will make them feel good about their work now it will really benefit your child's future relationships when they build a habit of saying thank you for the little things!

These are just a few things we do at our house to share the load.  The key is to keep your focus on why you are doing something rather than just on what you are doing.  What better way to do that then together as a family? 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Motivated Moms

Motivated is not generally a term I would use to describe myself, especially when it comes to completing those every day tasks like dishes, laundry, and scrubbing toilets.   That is exactly why I asked to review Motivated Moms.  My house, like my life, is often in disarray and I needed some extra incentive to get things done.  When I read about my opportunity to review the Motivated Moms Ebooks I jumped at the chance!  Actually I was a bit less enthusiastic, but I knew I needed it for my own good.

The Motivated Moms Ebook is a printable chore planning system for us mothers to use but of course it is useful for anyone running their own home, even if you are not yet a mom.  It comes in sixteen different formats which covers daily or weekly lists so there is one to suit just about every need.  I chose the 2014 Motivated Moms Chore Planner with Scheduled Bible Reading in Black and White.  You can also get it in color and without the bible reading plan but since I try to follow a plan every year I thought it would be good have it combined.  They also have apps for IPhone/IPad/IPod and Android.  I have a Windows phone so chose the Ebook option instead.  Besides, I think I like having that printed page physically in front of me.

The Motivated Moms chore planning system is an excellent tool to enable you to keep your home clean and organized and still find time for yourself.  I have struggled with keeping a clean house my entire life.  I never really acquired good organizational or housekeeping skills and to me I always dreaded the work.  Over the years I have improved both my attitude and my efforts, but there was always this daunting list of things that needed to be done.  Spring cleaning would be put off until the fall and even then I could never get to it all.  Not once, through all those years did I ever think to organize chores in this way.

Of course I personally would not have thought this list through as thoroughly as they have.  If you keep this routine throughout your week you will never have to spend an entire day deep cleaning again!  My house has never looked this neat and clean for this long.  I would always do good for awhile, but then fall behind.  This system really allows you to stay on top of things! 

So here is how it works.  To save ink and paper I chose a weekly planner so I would only have to print one week at a time instead of get a new list each day.  I also chose black and white to save on my color ink.  A sample planner page looks like this.

As you can see, the bar on the left is a list of daily chores.  Now some of them do not actually have to be done daily but every day you need to at least check on them.  Laundry, for instance is one that while I don't do it every day, I am more mindful of keeping up with it now that I am reminded daily to do so.  I also love that it has things like "feed pets" on there.  We have a fish and after we moved him to my daughter's room there were times I almost forgot him! It also has a place to add your own daily chores.  I pencil in my blog posts, review tasks, and other things I need to work on more than once a week.  At the bottom you will find the daily bible reading for each day.  Since I was already following my own plan, I would check it off but in its place write down what verses I actually did read.

The list on the right hand side was your weekly tasks divided into the days of the week.  One thing I really loved about having this as a weekly planner was that I could look ahead at what needed to be done and adjust the chores to meet my own schedule.  If I knew I had appointments on Thursday and would hardly be home, I would try to do those tasks on another day.  I never physically moved them, I would just check them off when I completed them.  So while I tried to follow it as written, I mostly just made sure at the end of the week most of the tasks were done.  Here is how one of my weeks looked at the end.

I will admit that this was a good week.  I have some lists where more boxes are left unchecked.  That actually is a down side to the plan.  I am a check list person.  I love having guides like that to help me remember tasks, but I am also a perfectionist and it bothers me when boxes are left undone.  While that is a great motivator it can also be a discouragement.  You have to be sure to allow yourself some flexibility.  I figure that even if I have some boxes left undone, I am still getting way more work done than I ever did before. There is only one thing on my list that I have never yet done and that is pamper myself!  I think I need to work on that now that I have more free time!

It is really cool the way they cycle tasks through.  If you miss a chore one week, it is sure to pop again and sooner rather than later.  I love it.  All those spring cleaning tasks are now scattered throughout your year.  Clean that closet one week and another week work on a box of clutter.  Things like ceiling fans and light fixtures get done as well, but not on the same day or even in the same week.  Instead of cleaning them all at once, you do them room by room doing a different room each week.  You even do your refrigerator one shelf at a time! That sure beats spending an entire day doing all those tedious tasks!

I underlined a few that I thought were great to add too.  Planning birthday gifts a month head of time, wash your porch rug, order your credit report and my favorite, clip your child's nails!  So many things that I would not think about, at least until they were long over due, are now at your finger tips just when you need them to be.

Now I know some moms will print the entire book and put it in a binder and maybe that is what you are supposed to do.  I, however, liked having this one page sitting on my desk in front of me so that I would not forget to check it.  There it sat, as a constant reminder that I had things to do.  This way really worked best for me.  So instead of printing the entire book, every Saturday I would print off next week's task list.  I then add any chores that didn't get done the week before as well as my personal weekly tasks. Otherwise I forget about them until they show up again.

Now, while this is called Motivated Moms don't get it in your head that this is only for mom.  While this shows us what needs to be done, there is no rule that says only mom must do them!  I delegated these chores to my daughter and sometimes even my husband. Sharing chores among the family makes them get done more quickly and efficiently.  Sometimes Gess would do one thing and I would do another and sometimes we would tackle them together.  I checked the items off the list no matter who did the work!

The best part is the Motivated Moms Ebooks sell for $8.00 a piece.  That is a small price to pay to help get your house in order!  Granted, you and your family still have to do the physical work but it is well worth the price to help organize it in a way that gets everything done with the least amount of stress possible!  I absolutely love this planner and will be sure to get one year after year!  In fact, since my daughter has special needs I hope to teach her to use this tool when she grows up.  I think it will be a great help to her independence. To learn more about Motivated Moms visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about their other Ebooks and Apps by clicking on the banner below.

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