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Blog, Life Skills, Special Needs, Uncategorized

How ‘Georgisms’ Can Help our Kids Succeed|The Importance of Executive Functioning #historyrocks #adulting

Have you ever witnessed a living miracle unfold before your very eyes?

To me, my middle school aged son on the autism spectrum, giving his very first speech in his Classical Conversations class a few weeks ago was miracle enough. His speech was short and he had trouble looking at the audience, but I didn’t care. He overcame his social anxiety, and I beamed at this huge step in his development.

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In class yesterday, he did something that made my jaw drop.

The opening to his speech went like this:

“Do you know how my mom is like our first president? (three second pause) Because she’s always washing a ton!”

His whole class—the kids, the teacher, the other mothers—all laughed.

He had his audience in the palm of his hand.

Then he turned serious and shared how as a boy, Washington accidentally killed his mother’s favorite colt.

All eyes were on my son as he projected his voice, stood confidently, and shared for a minute and a half about the trials and triumphs of our first president.

I sat mesmerized, in awe at my son’s transformation.

My only regret is that I forgot to get out my phone and take a video!

He’s learning. He’s growing. I think he’s going to do all right in life. He may not be president of the United States when he grows up, but I believe by the grace of God, he’ll do something to make a difference in our world.

Have you ever wondered how George Washington became our first president, trusted by the colonists who shed their blood, sweat and tears to create a whole new country set apart from the rule of the King of England?

From historical accounts of his life, we can know that George Washington was a man in control of his words, his body, and his actions.

When he was fourteen years old, Washington wrote out 110 rules to live by.

These rules laid a foundation or framework for him to advance to the highest position in the United States of America. They helped him to be dignifieddiplomatic and wise beyond his years.

Nowadays, we call this executive functioning.

Washington was singled out for a job that men much older than himself usually did. In 1749, at the age seventeen, he became a surveyor and mapped out land for his employers.

From there, in 1755, Washington had moved up the ranks in the military and was awarded the position of Colonel of the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War (also called the Seven Years War, 1754-1758).

From years serving in the military, Washington gained leadership skills. He understood British military strategies which would help him later when he became the General of the Continental Army.

America had had enough of England’s “taxation without representation” and the colonial patriots were gaining more support to rebel against English rule and become their own independent country, The United States of America.

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Continental Army formed. George Washington was appointed General of the Continental Army and Commander-in-Chief.

As General of the Continental Army, Washington’s first great victory was against the Hessian army (German soldiers hired by the British). Washington chose to execute a sneak attack on the night of Christmas 1776. He crossed the Delaware River to Trenton, New Jersey and captured nearly 1,000 Hessians.

By 1777, The Continental Army had grown to 11,000 men. During the winter at Valley Forge, north of Philidelphia, Pennsylvania, about 2,000-3,000 men died from the harsh winter and lack of supplies. Washington stayed with his men, suffering along with them and used this time to train them with the help of Inspector General von Steuben.

With the help of French troops, supplies and naval forces, in 1781, British General Cornwallis was trapped and surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, ending any further hostilities from England.

When choosing the first leader of the United States, our founding fathers knew that Washington was the best man for the job.


On April 30, 1789, George Washington was voted by 100% of the electoral college to be the first president of the United States of America. He did not desire to be called “your majesty,” like King George III of England. He wanted The United States of America to be a democracy through and through and to be simply called, Mr. President.

Throughout his life, Washington relied on the rules of leadership that he learned at a young age. As he gained knowledge from both victory and failure, he matured and became the kind of leader our country needed, one who was both strong and reasonable.

In order to be successful adults, children need to learn the same skills that our first President learned. Attaining life skills, including proper etiquette, improve their executive function, which is a crucial element in allowing a person to mature and become a productive member of society. Even George Washington did not possess these skills on his own. He studied them, copied them and lived them out.

What We Can Learn from George Washington:

 

Developing a well-trained mind is crucial for making the best life decisions.

Focusing on the things that are important and organizing them in a step-by-step, systematic way to be used again later is the foundation of having good executive function. Washington did this with learning his 110 rules so well, he knew them by memory and was able to use this knowledge at the proper time. Learning the general rules of manners can be useful in understanding how to act in any given situation. And, then we must make the choice to follow those rules.

Having control over one’s emotions, body, and words is another level of executive function.

It is hard to follow the rules, when we let strong emotions control us.

Washington was remembered as a man of reason. He did not allow strong emotions to take control. He used his words to encourage others and not to hurt or belittle them. He faced battles with bravery and did not allow fear to affect his decisions. Choosing to use coping strategies and keep our feelings under control is another way to develop good executive function.

Learning from our successes and failures is one of the final steps in developing good executive function.

Washington was considered mature at a young age. He used his knowledge of math and skill in drawing to his advantage when he became a surveyor. He learned in his years in the military the strategies that worked to win battles. He was flexible and willing to learn new things and try them in different ways. He chose to do things the best way rather than the easy way.

Children can start young by making choices to develop good executive function. Having a well-trained mind, good self-control and flexiblity is important in gaining the life skills needed to be successful in life.

Books about George Washington:

 

GEORGE-isms: Rules George Washington Lived  by George Washington

George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster

George Washington by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire

Who was George Washington? by Roberta Edwards

George Washington Games and Videos:

 

Apples for the Teacher has George Washington coloring pages, puzzles and games

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery has a mystery game

The History Channel’s website has a short documentary about George Washington here.

*Images of George Washington, flag, and map courtesy of Wikipedia.

Uncategorized

25+ Fun Games for Rainy Days|Stuff to Do During a Hurricane #HurricaneIrma

Hurricane Fun

What to do when a category 5 Hurricane looms off of my beloved state of Florida?

  • Make a hurricane prep kit and gather resources
  • Pray
  • Try not to worry
  • Help our home to be a place of solace for the children

That’s what we can do before a hurricane. What about during? Or after?

Living in Florida my whole, long life, I’ve been through many of these storms. Most of the time, they happen at night, and by the grace of God, we sleep through it. This past hurricane season, we had a big one come our way, Hurricane Matthew. It was a miracle, he didn’t hit landfall as predicted, but skirted by the eastern coast.

With plenty of wind and rain from the outer bands, our family cuddled up in our master bedroom with sleeping bags surrounding our bed. The air purifiers, all running, drowned out most of the howling wind. But I was the only one who didn’t get any sleep.

Because I’m the mom.

Moms are innately vigilant to protect their families. Dads are, too, but my husband’s hearing must not be as good as mine. He slept as soundly as the children!

Even though Orlando is not a coastal city, we are not exempt from getting a direct hit. Hurricane Charlie, a Category 4 Hurricane blasted through our city, blowing off shingles and felling trees. I remember the sea of blue tarps that nearly everyone, including my own family used to cover our leaky roofs.

With no electricity, I got out our Rainy Day Box and we put together puzzles, played with toys, and read books we hadn’t seen in awhile.

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It helps to prepare for the worst, pray for the best and trust in the Almighty to bring us safely through whatever may happen. Worrying never changes anything, except our peace of mind.

In light of prepping, here’s some Rainy Day Fun and Games you can try with your family. My children helped me come up with this list, which brought smiles to their faces and eased their anxiety.

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  •  Make a Rainy Day Box stocked with favorite puzzles, mazes, crossword puzzles, word finds, interactive “I Spy” type picture books, and little toys to play with.

  • List books you love to read aloud, and be dramatic with the dialogue. My husband does an excellent Gandolf!

  • Now is the time to play those board games that take forever, like Monopoly, Life, and Rummikub.

  • Strategy games are way more exciting when played by candlelight, like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and Risk.

  • Have a game relay. Set up four board games. Three minutes per game, then switch.

  • Time to teach the kids to play more card games besides Go Fish, War, and Crazy Eights. Hearts, Spades, Rummy take more time and thought.

  • Chess tournaments. It helps if you have more than one chess set.

  • Cuddle under blankets and make up stories (not too scary) over the flashlight.

  • Play charades with a theme (animals, famous people, movies, songs, etc.)

  • Sing campfire songs over candlelight with everyone attempting to play a musical instrument. We’ll be breaking out our ukuleles. Drums on a turned-over bowl works!

  • Do origami. You can find good instructions here.

  • Do scratch art. Color all over white cardstock and paint it black. Let the paint dry, then with a needle or sharp object, scratch a drawing.

  • Use calligraphy or fancy lettering to make cards for friends and family.

  • Make maps of the neighborhood and city.

  • Learn to sew on a button or even something more complicated.

  • Dance off using a battery-powered CD player.

  • Make a book with stapled together paper, complete with illustrations.

  • Do “$1.00 jobs” around the house (ask to sweep & mop floors, clean all windows, dust all baseboards).

  • Make a blanket fort. Forget about the mess and let your kids have some fun.

  • Have an indoor relay race (Cotton balls on spoons, jumping with a ball or balloon between legs, etc.)

  • Play library. Kids take turns being “librarian” and reading to siblings.

  • Perform a skit or puppet show.

  • Play with play dough or kinetic sand. My children could play an hour or more with this stuff.

  • Make molds of seashells or other interesting items in the playdough.

  • Play with magazine paper dolls.

  • Act out favorite Bible stories, parables, or Aesop fables.

  • Write, shoot, and edit a mini-movie with your camera or phone.

Don’t forget to prep some fun into your hurricane preparedness. It’ll ease your children’s anxiety and give everyone a little diversion from the storm.

 

 

Blog, Seasons and Holidays, Uncategorized

The Most Important Thing in Your Child’s Education

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With all the options in educating children, it’s got me thinking…what is the most important thing in a child’s education?

What is the one thing that a child needs in any educational setting?

What will help them know they are loved no matter their performance?

What will encourage them when they are struggling academically, socially, and emotionally? Read more here.

Continue reading “The Most Important Thing in Your Child’s Education”

Blog, Cookbooks, Uncategorized

When Life Gives You Lemons…|Turn of the Century Cookbooks and #Recipes

LemonsIn Florida, we have grapefruit-sized citrus fruit called Ponderosa Lemons. When I was young in the boondocks of Palm Bay, my mom came home from work one day with several brown paper bags full to the brim with these yellow wonders. A co-worker had too many in her tree and couldn’t figure out what to do with them all.

Fresh lemonade replaced our favorite Kool-Aid flavors that summer. There’s nothing like a tall glass of ice-cold lemony bitter-sweetness to quench the thirst.

As we grow up and experience more, we find that life has many bitter-sweet moments. We can either become bitter or let the troubles of life make us better. As a person of faith, I believe that our Lord can use the trials of life to sift out the things that have kept us from wholeness and true wellness (Romans 8:28,29). The bitter can become sweet.

This past school year with my children has been quite a lemonade year. Some of our lemons included three surgeries for me (two of them biopsies), over six months of life-altering health challenges for my oldest child, and a broken arm for my youngest.

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Through much prayer and weeping, I’m seeing the sweet results of these difficult times, the ways each of us has grown in faith and love.  I’m enjoying a closer relationship with God and my family. Going through hard things together has made our bond that much stronger.

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When my teen (who, thank the Lord, is feeling much better) came home from summer camp this week, she was in for a surprise! As a metaphor for our life this past school year, I’d taken some lemons and worked with my younger children to bake one of my favorites: Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake. And my teen got to put the icing on the cake!

Being a fan of turn-of-the-century recipes, I sifted through the Internet to find more lemony recipes below. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like to live in the 19th and 20th centuries, going through the Revolutionary, Civil or World Wars, living on rations, without modern medicine, and trying to raise children. I’m sure the people behind the recipes had no shortage of lemons in their lives and had to learn how to turn them into something sweet.

Try this Lemon Cheesecake from colonial times:

Creamy 18th Century Lemon Cheesecake

Lemon Chess Pie may have meant cake with no cheese (sounds like chess). Here’s a colonial recipe:

Martha Washington’s Lemon Chess Pie

Good old fashioned pioneer lemonade:

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Lemonade

Lots of history along with recipes on this site for creating lemon meringue pie:

Food Timeline’s Lemon Meringue Pie

Some of my favorite cookbooks with old-fashioned recipes are:

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The Little House Cookbook (lemonade recipe above) by Barbara M. Walker and pictures by Garth Williams

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Sweet ‘n’ Slow by Patricia B. Mitchell (sold on amazon.com or at The Oconoluftee Visitor Center in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

Treats

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Treats from the Times by Leu House Volunteers (sold only in the Leu House Museum)

This summer, invite your children to help bake some these lemon-infused desserts. And those lemons in life, if by the grace of God we know how to use them, can become something much more sweet.

 

 

 

 

Blog, Life Skills, Teen

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 2: Kitchen Essentials|Things to Do Before You’re 18 #adulting

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Where should one start in learning how to cook? Julia Child might ask, “Does she know how to make an omelet?” True, omelets can be a versatile meal, eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but let’s add more than eggs to our teens’ cooking repertoire.

As shared in my post on 10 Must Have Books for Teen Girls, a good cookbook is essential for independent living. We want our teens to not rely on eating convenience foods that are bad for both the body and the pocketbook. Teens need to learn that they too can make a fantastic meal. Even better than that is building up enough confidence in their cooking skills to give a dinner party and invite friends and family to enjoy their culinary masterpieces.

1. Teach teens to cook healthy, budget-friendly meals.

As a mom of four, I live by a routine of Spaghetti Monday, Taco Tuesday, and a variety of seasoned chicken on Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday. Dad takes over on Saturday and left-overs are for Sunday (weekends are my days off!). This keeps the budget low and stress-level for cooking low for me. All my ingredients are on-hand, and I know the recipes by heart. Inform your teen that cooking can get pricey depending on the ingredients. Give her a turn in cooking dinner once a week until she learns them all.

2. Let her bake.

The kitchen is my domain. I don’t want flour all over the counters, on the flour, or in the cracks beside the oven. By the grace of God, I’ve had to learn to deal with this. When I’ve let go of my desire to dominate the kitchen and have given free rein to my teen, she has flourished in baking biscuits, breads, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and muffins. She’s even made cream puffs! And, because my idea of dessert is in the freezer, I never would have been able to enjoy these scrumptious delights had I barred her from baking because, truthfully, it can get messy. I’ll share tips on teaching teens to clean in a later post!

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3. Start building up her own kitchen supplies.

One day, our teen is going to grow up and move out (that’s the plan anyway!) and she will need some kitchen items to take with her. My teen has asked for baking pans and a mixer for Christmas. With her knack for baking, I was happy to oblige. I’ve since acquired a new set of pots and pans, but I kept the old ones to give to her when she leaves the nest. I remember my mom giving me a great deal of her old dishes and silverware when I went off to college. I hope to do the same for my daughter.

4. Take her grocery shopping.

In our family, Dad is the grocery shopper. Before we had children, we would shop together. With each pregnancy, my husband starting shopping on his own. Now, he does it full-time, and I am more than thrilled with that. He’s known as “Super Dad” at out local supermarket with all the kids with him, holding onto the shopping cart. My stepdad used to do the same thing. He made a grocery list, took his calculator, and me with him. It was my job to add up all his purchases and make sure he stayed within the budget. Whether mom or dad is in charge of the shopping, try taking your teens with you and let them keep track of money spent. It’s eye-opening how easy it is to spend over two hundred dollars a week for a family of six. Maybe we should do once-a-month freezer meals, couponing, or base meal planning on BOGO’s? Encourage our teens to brainstorm ideas on how to save money.

5. Teach about expiration dates and food rotation.

I’ve learned the hard way that you should always check the expiration date on milk before pouring it into your cereal. My husband, (our designated family food shopper) is really good about rotating the food in our refrigerator and pantry to make sure the newer food is placed behind the food that would spoil first. Teens need to learn this when they help put groceries away. Also, they need to learn not to open up another bag of chips or carton of milk before the old one is used up.

With a little extra time and patience, we can teach our teens to take full rein of the kitchen so that one day, they too can make more than an omelet.

Blog, Seasons and Holidays, Uncategorized

School’s Out: {5 Ways to Curb the Summer Slide}

slideWith school out, wouldn’t it be nice to just let our kids have fun this summer?

No more being cooped up in a dusty building and confined to a desk. Let’s open our front doors and allow our kids to run free. Get some summer sun. Check out some cool parks, our city has to offer.

Wait a minute. During the 2-3 months with no school, our kids might forget everything they’ve learned, right? They could experience the “summer slide,” falling back in the reading skills and knowledge they’ve attained. Read more here.

 

Blog, Life Skills, Teen, Young Adult

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 1: Social Graces|Things to Do Before You’re 18 #Adulting

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By the time a teen turns eighteen, what sort of things should she know in the world of #adulting? Making a great score on the SAT’s is all fine and good for getting into college, but what about real life skills? We want to give our teens roots, but also wings that they may fly to new heights in their next stage of life called adulthood.

Interpersonal skills are a gift that some naturally possess and others have to learn or constantly suffer the consequences for committing embarrassing social faux pas. As an adult, this skill will translate into pragmatics, networking, or building relational capital.

Unwritten rules of our society are not easily deciphered, but here’s some tips I’ve learned that I’m passing along to my own teen. And going to parties is a great way to learn to apply social graces.

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18 Things to Share When Teaching Teens Social Graces

  • When you receive an invitation, RSVP by the deadline. If you cannot attend, try to refrain from saying a plain “no,” but politely reply with the other plans you had made.
  • When you go to a party, stay at least 30 minutes. It’s considered rude to show up for snacks and then leave before making any real conversations with other guests.
  • At a larger get-together, try to talk to at least three different groups of people.
  • Whether at a birthday, wedding, or graduation party, it’s important to know how to speak and act as to not offend others. There are many rules when it comes to learning social graces. If you do end up saying the wrong thing, it’s best to simply apologize. Most people are sympathetic and forgiving.
  • A simple rule for introductions is to remember The “Six S’s”:

1. Smile.

2. See their eyes (make eye contact).

3. Say, “Hi.”

4. Shake hands.

5.  Say, “My name is            . What’s your name?”

6. Say, “Nice to meet you, Mr./Mrs.            .”  

  • Try not to look insecure, even you feel like the simple country mouse visiting the extravagant city mouse. Give affirming smiles to others and add to conversations.
  • As a last resort, if it’s difficult to join in other ongoing conversations, try standing in a line of people, like the bathroom line or the buffet line. Strike up a conversation with others who are also waiting and maybe you’ll make a friend.
  • If there are no more chairs available, give up your seat to an elderly person, pregnant woman, or those with disabilities.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not talk about another person’s body or your own. Even if you’re hot, cold, or recovering from some sort of illness. It’s just not the stuff good conversations are made of and will lead to even more awkwardness.
  • It’s better to comment on what a person is, rather than what they do. For instance, “Sally is such a creative person.” sounds more affirming than “Sally likes to draw.”
  • Figure out your talking points. Try brainstorming about things you are good at talking about before a party.
  • Inquiring minds want to know, but please don’t share others’ personal information that you know they wouldn’t want others to know about.
  • Also, don’t gossip. Just avoid saying negative things about others, even if you add, “and we should pray for this person.”
  • In my writer’s group, Word Weavers Int’l., I learned the “sandwich method” of critique. When saying something that could be upsetting to someone, but it still needs to be said, first say something positive, then the hard truth, and follow up with something encouraging. For example when in a conversation with someone who is gossiping try, “You seem like a caring person, but maybe we shouldn’t talk about Kayla’s boyfriend troubles. Hey, she’s sitting on a chair in the corner by herself. Let’s invite her to sit with us.”
  • Nobody likes to listen to a one-sided conversation. Keep the flow going by asking others about what is going on in their lives.
  • Learn the art of wrapping up a conversation. Steer what you are talking about to lighter subjects, like “Wow, this was a fun party.” Then end with something positive like, “It was so nice to meet you, Mrs./Mrs.            . I really enjoyed our conversation.”
  • When you need to leave, simply tell the host/hostess, “I do wish I could stay, but I really have to go.” No need to explain why.
  • Write a thank you card to your host/hostess. A simple message of thanks for a great party let’s them know that their hard work of hospitality paid off.

Whatever the occasion, applying common rules of interpersonal communication can lay the groundwork on which relationships are built. Doors may open in the way of making a new friends, growing in empathy, or a building connections for a future career. So let’s start those conversations with our teens about what it means to have social graces.

* Credit: Portrait of Princess Albert de Broglie, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1853

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