Great Homeschool Parent

Success Habits: The Most Important Part of Your Curriculum- Part 1

As homeschool teachers, we spend tons of time teaching our kids subjects like English, math, science, etc. And while these subjects are important, many studies show that there isn’t as big a correlation as we have all been lead to believe between “straight A’s” in these subjects and having a successful and happy life.


For some of you, this doesn’t come as a surprise and you may even homeschool because of this. There are a bunch of skills, though, that you can add to your curriculum that are common among successful, happy adults.  Adding these into the way you are “doing school” could be just the key to making all of this hard work even more worthwhile. Here are the first five of 15 habits and developed skills that successful people have in common.

1. Read every day.

This is obvious, but worth mentioning. Successful adults read, listen to audio books, or have some other daily input that continues their lifelong learning. 88% of successful adults read 30 minutes or more every day. This is a huge habit that is easy to create when your kids are young.

The key for you as a homeschooling teacher is to make that daily reading time enjoyable for your kids. Personally, one of our main homeschooling goals is to raise kids who love to read. This means really encouraging them to choose things they love and are interested in as daily readers on top of the books you choose for other areas in your homeschool.  

Here is a great teaching tip when it comes to reading. For books you use in everyday teaching, or for any textbooks you are using, pick books that are at your child’s reading level. This means that they occasionally ask about a new word, but comprehension is not stalled by overly struggling to sound things out. To stretch your child’s reading skills, choose books that are a grade level ahead of their comfort level. Have them read these books sparingly. For their daily reading, have them choose books just under or even a grade or two under their comfortable reading level. The goal here, besides enjoyment, is to allow them to get lost in the books in order to build skills in the process and experience the joy of reading. If they are struggling during their 30-minute daily reading, they aren’t practicing what they know, nor are they picking up the information or story line in the books.

2.    Spend less time on the TV, Internet, cell phones, or playing video games.

Our country is seeing a decrease in attention span due to the technology crisis. Our work force is having issues with productivity and focus due to cell phone and social media use, as well as all of the other technological distractions. I could get into tons of studies and trends here, but the most telling thing I can tell you are the stats on successful vs. struggling adults and their time on devices. Two thirds of successful adults watch less than an hour of TV and spend less than an hour on the Internet unless it is work related. The people who are in charge of their lives and making a difference just don’t spend a lot of time getting lost in technology.  

You have the ability to remove those influences from your kids’ lives right now. This will be setting them up to be light years more prepared for a productive and happy life than the rest of our country. Caution: be careful not to withhold it too much or they will be drawn to it. It is best not to introduce things like smart phones when getting your kids their first phones. And don’t model heavy TV watching! I have found that the attitude of “why would you want to do that when you could do all of this” works so much better than a flat “no, because I said so.”

One statistic I found particularly interesting: 77% of those who are struggling financially in this country have the habit of spending more than 1 hour watching TV per day and 74% spend more than an hour surfing the internet.

3.    Talk less and listen more.

This is one of Covey’s seven habits, from Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This habit is a total game changer. The ratio of 5 to 1 is a great way to explain how long someone should listen in relation to the time they spend talking. Successful people are excellent listeners and communicators. They know that the best way for them to learn as well as influence others is to truly listen. Great communicators start by being great listeners first. Watch leaders you admire with the kids and notice how intently they listen to those around them.

This is a great skill to teach your kids and you can start by modeling it yourself. Up your listening time a little everyday. You will notice after a couple weeks, as you listen to them more, that they will begin to listen to you more. The best life long benefit from this skill is that the more you listen to people, the more you can ultimately help them.

4.    Don’t give up.

Successful people don’t give up. They stick to things for the long haul and use each set back as a way learn and improve. Things don’t need to be evaluated by winning or losing, success or failure.  Successful people see things as winning or learning.  

There are three common traits successful people have- focus, persistence, and patience. They do not quit going after their big goals.  Those who struggle in life as well as financially have a habit of giving up, and usually it is right before things get better.

5.    Set goals, don’t make wishes.

Kids are full of dreams and wishes. As parents, we can show them how to set goals, take those most important wishes and dreams, and teach them how to make them come true.  

70% of successful adults have at least one major goal each year they are actively pursuing. And get this: only 3% of those who struggle to make ends meet do this. To me, that says it all. Goal setting is key. It is important to mention here that these are kids. They spend their childhood dreaming of becoming a ballerina, going to the moon, or becoming president. Start small when it comes to goal setting. You are just teaching the process and how to be successful when aiming for a goal. When they find the one big thing they really want to pursue, they will have the tools to successfully go about achieving that goal.

When I first started studying all of this, I would look around and observe people who were where I wanted to be or who were where my kids wanted to be. We would point out these traits in people like Mother Teresa, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and so many more. Enjoy exploring these traits with your family.

Tune in next week for five more habits and traits of successful and happy adults! 


We would love to hear your observations below or in the Facebook group.
The stats included in this article come from Success Magazine.

The 5 Stages of Learning

With the beginning of the new school year rapidly approaching, it’s time to start imparting the wisdom of the world on our kids again. So how exactly are we planning on doing that? There are so many different answers to that question. I have found that this 5 stage process will help you teach just about any skill.

For many years, modeling has been a great way for kids, and adults, to learn. You know what I’m talking about. Think back to your own childhood, watching a parent cook or work on projects around the house.  I have fond memories of watching my mom and my grandmother sew just about anything from scratch. At 6, I remember pulling out my fabric scrap collection, drawing out patterns, and creating a doll bed with bedding, doll clothing, and eventually a doll. I was able to do this because I spent hours watching my family sew.

There are 5 distinct phases to this process of modeling:

1.    You do and they watch you.
2.    You do and they help you.
3.    They do and you help them.
4.    They do and you watch (and answer questions).
5.    They do alone and you come and check the finished product.

I have found the basis of this structure in most everything I teach these days, whether it's to my kids, my employees, or even my dog.

The variations I need to apply to this process depend on how often I need to repeat each of the steps. Often with older kids (or adults I work with) I can merge or even skip a step, but when working with a 5 or 6 year old, I often find myself repeating the first three steps multiple times.  

What’s great about this process is that, while it works great when teaching a new math concept or a science procedure, it also works very well when teaching your kids to do chores around the house, for example, making their bed or cleaning their room. Remembering to keep these steps fun and drawing them out over several sessions or days will help to keep their interest and curiosity piqued.

If this tip is helpful, you might be interested in our signature course, Homeschool with Confidence, The Ultimate Homeschool Teachers Training! This course is full of concepts and strategies like this that help you teach your kids, in your unique way, the things that you want them to know. You can join the waitlist here for early access and special early bird pricing! This is the perfect compliment to starting the school year with the kids!

Here’s to a wonderful new school year!

4th of July Fun with the Kids!

I love the 4th of July!  Family, summer weather, cook-outs, fireworks, everything!!  And while many of our favorite traditions are those we repeat year after year, sometimes adding in a new project for those curious and active kids is the perfect way to make the holiday feel extra-special.

Here are some of my favorite ways to mix things up with the kids on the 4th of July.
 
1. STEM activities including 4th of July slime, ice activities, the science behind fireworks (in video form), and much more!

2.  Food, crafting, and kids’ games (including a Patriotic Trivia Game).

3. Parents magazine always has a wide range of ideas for holidays with kids.  Here is their contribution this year.

4. This blog includes a fun discussion about festive July 4th clothing and an easy Star Spangled Ice Cream Sandwich idea.

5. A Patriotic Playlist to add atmosphere to your family celebration!

6. A list of things to talk about with kids about being patriotic. 

7. And last but not least, School House Rock’s 4th of July Cartoon.

Have a fun and fabulous Independence Day from everyone here at Homeschool with Confidence!

101 Fun Summer Activities to Do With Your Kids

Summer is just about here! For many of us who don’t do school all year long, this means wonderfully long summer days full of potential (or potential boredom). Often, though, by the time August comes, it can feel like the summer just disappeared. After many years feeling like we missed out somehow, we decided to put a little more planning into our summer fun.

As some of you know, our family has a planning tradition that gets each person involved early in the summer to make sure we plan some of those special summer days in advance. You can go more in depth about the family friendly process here during the 4 Day Summer Fun Homeschool Challenge. To help give everyone in your family ideas for what would make their summer a ton of fun, I’ve put together the following list of fun summer activities!

101 Summer Fun Activities

1.    Bake cupcakes in ice cream cones and decorate them
2.    Run through sprinklers
3.    Go on a family bike ride
4.    Have a tricycle race
5.    Themed movie nights (perhaps everyone gets to choose a movie or maybe just have them pre-planned with a menu up on the wall to build excitement.)
6.    Go canoeing at a local pond, lake, or river
7.     Find and go to a bunch of summer concerts
8.    Volunteer at an animal adoption organization
9.    Go to your closest National Park and become a Junior Ranger
10.   Go horseback riding
11.    Visit grandma
12.    Bake a pie with berries the kids picked
13.    Hunt for fossils near a lake or gravel pit
14.    Have a luau in the backyard
15.    Create leis with wildflowers
16.    Get a wading pool
17.    Create an at-home art camp
18.    Go apple picking
19.    Set up a net and play badminton and volleyball
20.    Start geocaching
21.    Hold a Bigger or Better scavenger hunt for charity
22.    Play mini golf
23.    String beads into jewelry
24.    Have weekly game nights/afternoons
25.    Go camping
26.    Wade through a stream and search for minnows or tadpoles
27.    Make a giant slip-n-slide with a painter's tarp and shaving cream
28.    Make a bunch of greeting cards or birthday cards
29.    Visit a local museum or attraction you keep meaning to go to
30.    Throw a party just because
31.    Put on a play
32.    Invite friends to visit
33.    Read or listen to a book together
34.    Have your own Summer Olympics in your back yard
35.    Visit a museum you've never been to
36.    Learn how to juggle using handkerchiefs
37.    Go on a hike
38.    Learn how to knit or crochet
39.    Create a time capsule
40.    Start a garden
41.    Make paper airplanes
42.    Have a water fight
43.    Surprise Dad when he gets home from work with a Nerf gun, a note, and a house of full of hidden challenges
44.    Build a giant blanket fort
45.    Have a campout in your fort
46.    Create a family cookbook with all your favorite recipes
47.    Play flashlight tag
48.    Finger paint
49.    Get a bunch of chalk and draw on the patio, sidewalks, or driveway
50.    Play Frisbee
51.     Visit a retirement home and read stories to residents
52.    Build a tree house
53.    Have a yard sale
54.    Learn a foreign language
55.    Paint some canvas shoes with acrylic paints
56.    Get a pen pal and write real letters
57.    Go play laser tag
58.    Research your family tree
59.    Take naps on a super hot afternoon
60.    Catch fireflies
61.     Do a puzzle
62.    Have a pirate day with an “x” marks the spot treasure hunt
63.    Start a collection
64.    Go garage sale-ing
65.    Do an A-Z scavenger hunt or another type of scavenger hunt (There are tons of ideas on Pinterest.)
66.    Turn the backyard into a carnival -- set up a face painting area and games like ring toss
67.     Build a fort out of appliance boxes
68.    Decorate bikes and have a neighborhood Fourth of July parade
69.    Make popsicles with plastic cups and fruit juice
70.    Have a bonfire
71.     Fly kites
72.    Plan a massive water balloon fight
73.    Go fishing
74.    Make S’mores
75.    Go on a scenic drive and have sing-a-longs in the car
76.    Go to an airport and watch the planes take off
77.     Visit a farm
78.    Go roller skating
79.    Sketch, paint, or draw outside
80.    Make bird feeders by covering pine cones with peanut butter and rolling in birdseed
81.     Tie-dye some t-shirts or pillow cases
82.    Find a free outdoor movie or local drive-in
83.    Learn some magic tricks and have a show
84.    Clean up trash at a local park
85.    Learn a dance as a group like Thriller or even square dancing
86.    Have a fancy tea party
87.    Visit a cave
88.    Use face paints to transform each other into magical summer creatures
89.    Make Mexican paper flowers using different colored tissue paper
90.    Make a piñata by covering a balloon with newspaper strips and tissue paper
91.    Have a surprise birthday party for someone NOT on their birthday
92.    Set up a bike wash and raise money for a local charity
93.    Go zip-lining
94.    Make paper boats and have a race in a nearby stream
95.    Go fishing
96.    Practice making interesting shadow puppets and then put on a show with your characters
97.    Interview an older relative about what life was like when they were young
98.    Set up a lemonade stand
99.    Plan a picnic with food, friends, and games
100.  Surprise the kids and forget cooking -- set up an ice cream sundae buffet for dinner
101.   Record your family summer adventures in a scrapbook or photo album

Here is a link to a printable 101 Summer Fun Activities list to hang on your fridge or wall. Use this to inspire your family during the 4 Day Summer Fun Homeschool Challenge and/or to have around to inspire the kids all summer long. Now is the time to make the most of your summer!

From my family to yours, I hope you have an amazing fun filled summer!  Please share your adventures in our Facebook Group or in the comments below.

5 Books to Help your HS Grad Make Money AND Love Life

Those of you who read my blog know that we have been exploring options that do not necessarily include 4 years in college and the debt that can go with it. Yes, I have children that have gone the college route. Yes, for the most part, it was a good move for both of them (except the mortgage sized loan and the year and a half-long job hunt that lead to a career whose monthly salary before taxes is less than is needed to pay half of that loan. Sigh.)   

Our son will likely not thrive in the college scene. Check out the Unschooling College Ideas section for more blog posts on this subject.  That being said, he has big ideas and big dreams, but isn’t sure how to get there. He knows that when his friends graduate from college in 4 years and are ready to look for a job and start paying off their loans, he plans to be in the middle of an amazing career. But the thing is, he is not quite sure how to get there yet. He has been exploring internships, but most importantly we have been looking for ways to help him think differently.  What are the ideas he needs to be thinking about to start this next leg of the journey?  I know for sure that he should NOT continue to compare himself to the college-track kids.

Here is a list of books we have put together that will help any teen get ready to choose the path to making money in their adult lives while also loving life.

1.    Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill 
This is an oldie but goodie and an absolute must read for anyone entering the work force. It was written in 1937 by a reporter who was challenged by Andrew Carnegie to study the top 100 people of their time and see what traits these successful people all have in common. I have read it myself 5 times over the years and it continues to give me new insights.  The best part is that it’s $.99 on Kindle and I have seen it for free floating around the internet.

2.    What Wakes You Up? by Justin Lafazan
This is the perfect book to help a teen or young adult get excited about the next step in their life. It is filled with ideas and exercises that will help them create a life and future path they are excited about traveling on every day.

3.    Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki
I think the tag line- What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money--that the Poor & the Middle Class Do Not! – says it all.  It is the top personal finance book of all time and an enjoyable read as well. This will open their eyes to the money making patterns around them. The book is about two real-life dads.  The author’s “poor dad” was a hard working educated man who spent his life working for others and just making ends meet. The “rich dad” was his childhood friend’s father who became the author’s mentor. His knowledge came from street smarts and experience and lead him to become the wealthiest man in Hawaii. This book explores the extreme differences between how each father views money, employment, and investing.

4.    4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
I just love Tim Ferris and the way he thinks! He is constantly thinking outside the box and creating new options for handling any kind of growth and learning. The ideas in this book will help the reader explore options that allow for so much more than just a 9 to 5 for 35+ years.  

5.    The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
Chris takes the reader through a bunch of ideas on how to start creating money and an awesome life on $100. He wants to help the reader “reinvent” how they make a living. This is just the book to help your young adult start their journey of entrepreneurship.  

These are such great reads! Just looking at the covers inspires me. They are perfect for the young adult looking for a different option. They are also perfect for the college bound, the career type, and even homeschooling moms.  

These books will not only help your kid (and you!) think differently about what it takes to make money, but it will set them up to be ready to enter this new and changing economy where we can’t count on “getting the great job right out of college” for financial security.  

I’d love to hear about which books you love in the comments below or in the Facebook group, Homeschool With Confidence.

Teach a Great Money Mindset to Your Kids

One of our major jobs as parents is to teach our kids about money.  We teach them how to think about it, where it should come from, if it is good or bad or neutral, how to save it, and how to spend it.  Often most of these are taught without us even thinking about it!  More than that, much of what they learn comes from outside influences without forethought or our consent.  I know I have several stray beliefs about money from my grandmother whose family struggled during the Great Depression, for example.  How about you?

Here is the great news!!!  Now that we’ve mentioned it, we can actively decide what we are going to teach our kids about how to handle money.  

Here are 5 wonderful places to start.  

Results leave clues.  I am always looking for common habits that create the results I want in my life.  Here are common attitudes of people who have a healthy and wealthy relationship with money.  Some are great for all ages and a few are better suited for your teens, but it is never too late to start leading by example!

1. First, many people have a rule to not talk about money.  It is a taboo subject.  Even with their kids!  Wealthy people and healthy money people talk about money without a ton of emotion to 3 to 5 close people often and openly.  They share what works and what isn’t working and tap into the power of group knowledge and referrals.   

Start talking to your kids about how much things cost.  Give them an idea of what it costs to live.  Teens really need to know the costs of driving a car (insurance, gas, repairs, payments, etc.) as well as things like utilities and groceries.  Remember, your attitude is everything. Show them what you love about money.

2. People with a healthy and wealthy mindset don’t often focus on saving and cutting back.  They don’t think in terms of limits.  Instead, when there is something they want or need, they think about how they can earn more money.  This is actually one of the biggest mindset differences between people with a good relationship with money and those who are stressed by it.  Being open to creating more money is the key.  

Here is a great activity to do with your kids to get their minds (and maybe yours too) thinking in this direction.  Take some time to brainstorm 50 different ways to earn some money.  It may take a little bit to get it rolling, but as soon as you do, tons of ideas will come pouring out!  To start things off, suggest the classics: babysitting, yard work, lawn mowing, and lemonade stands.

3. Here is another great activity to get a healthy money mindset flowing.  Every time one of you parts with money, send out a little blessing and/or a bit of gratitude and say, ”There is always more where that came from.”  That frees up your kids, and you too, from the worry of the money going away and instead opens the mind to ideas and ways for more money to come back into your lives, as well as being grateful for what you do have to spend.

4. I bet that as you’re reading this, some of your family quotes have popped into your head.  “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”  “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  “Money causes a lot of problems.”  “Money is the root of all evil.”  

Guess what.  You didn’t put those sayings into your head and they are not likely doing you any good.  So why say them in front of your kids? You get to choose what you want your kids to hear.  Choose wisely!  Here are a few suggestions, but feel free to Google positive money mindset phrases and choose ones you really want them to carry with them for the rest of their lives!  

Try these:  “I love money. Money loves me.”  “I have more than enough money.”  “I am sensible with money and manage it wisely.”  “I allow my income to constantly expand and I always live in comfort and joy.”   

You get to instill in them a way of thinking about money that allows them to be open to opportunity.  Think about it.  Don’t you always get more money even when things are tight?  Focus on what will be coming in and not what is going out.  It takes the same amount of energy but one fills life with a negative money mindset and the other opens the mind to potential and the future.

5. Have your kids track their money.  People with a healthy money mindset are always aware and grateful for the money they are bringing in.  It is a great habit to start early and will create a healthy relationship with money at an early age.

If you have teens in your home that are just starting their life-long money relationship, here are two classic money books that will start their journey off on the right foot:  Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  

When I first came across some of these ideas, I was surprised.  How is changing my phrasing about money and stopping the search for coupons going to do anything but make things worse?  Things did start to change for the better.  My relationship with money changed and so did my children’s.  I don’t often worry about money anymore.  I also don’t just throw it around and waste it either.  That isn’t what this is about. It is about opening up to the idea that money is a paper symbol of energy exchanged between people.  No emotions.  If you need more, create it.  There are options and be open to the options.  Kids start open to this idea so it should be easy to encourage. Experiment and see where it takes you. Your kids will thank you!

How to be the best Homeschool Mom you can be

What is the real reason you started to or are deciding to homeschool? Social reasons? Religious reasons? Academic reasons? A little of all of these?

While all of these are true for me, none of them are the number one reason we started to homeschool. Let me share our story… and be prepared because you may see a little of yourself in it, too.

When my oldest kids were just starting the schooling journey, we decided that in order to be good parents we needed to send them to excellently rated grade schools. Right?  Isn’t that what we are supposed to do to be good parents? These schools had some of the highest ratings in the country. We signed them up for extracurricular activities like soccer, ballet, and foreign language. We helped with homework and volunteered at the school. But you know what? Even though we were doing what our peers had repeatedly told us to do to be great parents, we both knew something was seriously missing. And so did our kids!  

BOTH of our kids who attended public school asked to be homeschooled before 2nd grade. Even they knew it wasn’t working! Our whole family wanted more. We wanted an extraordinary life. We wanted a life with each other, loving each other, loving life, and learning, We wanted something real. Going through the motions wasn’t it.

After we started on our homeschooling journey, we really started to figure things out. Not only did our whole family experience coming together in an amazing way we never dreamed possible, I also set a goal for myself to truly become a sensitive, tuned-in educator for my kids. I read everything I could get my hands on and became an expert on the various learning and teaching styles. This enabled me to adapt my approach to each of my unique children so that I could give each one exactly what they needed to reach the pinnacle of their learning potential.

Let me share with you what I’ve learned. 

Happy, healthy, successful families/people/homeschoolers tend to have a series of things in common. 

WHAT DOES MY STORY MEAN FOR YOU?

Whatever your reason for homeschooling, I know that if you are searching for more, sharing with you what I’ve learned during my 15 years of homeschooling may help you get clear on what you desire from your own homeschool journey.  If you are still struggling to find the right curriculum or you find that much of the time your kids are not excited to learn, this will give you the answers, direction, and peace of mind you are looking for.  I’m sure it will cut months, if not years, off your journey to finding your family’s sweet spot.

Let me share with you what I’ve learned. 

Now is the time to start having that homeschool experience you always hoped for!

Interviews with Homeschoolers

It's time for another exciting installment of the Interviews with Homeschoolers series! In this series, we share stories of awesome homeschoolers and homeschooled kids out there who have so much to share about their journeys in homeschooling. I was excited to get the opportunity to learn more about Teresa Bondora and her journey as an unschooling parent. Read what Teresa has to say about her children’s adventures in unschooling and how they are applying their childhood passions to their future careers!

My daughter will be 23 this week. She spent her teen years on the computer all the time watching Disney Movies, going to the mall to the Disney Store and concerts, and mostly showing no interest in anything. The time she spent on the computer was spent looking up random useless facts about Disney until she became an encyclopedia of “useless” information. This went on for years and I secretly worried that while she was a good reader and knew a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, she wasn’t really doing anything that resembled anything like working toward any career or skill. I saw visions of her with kids, being left a single mom and not one skill to support herself. Or maybe she was going to live with me until she was 30. Or maybe she’d move out and back in repeatedly. Then she told me, she wanted to work at Disney World. “Great”, I thought. “A part-time, minimum wage job pushing a button on a ride.”

At 16 she got a job at a pizza joint but spent her off time talking about going to Disney. Meanwhile, her brother started playing Minecraft. All. The. Time.

Okay so, she’s working at a pizza place, he’s watching YouTube videos, and she’s saving her money for an annual pass to Disney World when others her age are saving for college. My unschooling experiment was failing right in front of my eyes, but this was their entire life that I was failing. 

I had traditional schooling, taught high school science, wrote books. I had a life because there’s a reason for “school” and I was going to go down as not loving them enough to “care”. I can’t tell you how much I worried and cried and had anxiety.

I didn’t want to discourage her but seriously, an annual pass to Disney World when we didn’t live close to Disney World? She didn’t even have a car. But she was determined. At this point my son wanted to attend Minecon and it was held in Orlando so of course my daughter was coming. She got off work and we left for Orlando. Each day I dropped her off at Disney and my son and I went to Minecon. She was in heaven. While we were there she told me one day she was going to be a concierge at the Grand Floridian.

So one night we took the monorail to the Grand Floridian and I asked her to stand in front of the concierge desk. I took her picture there in that place in case, one day, she really meant it and needed some encouragement. She said I was silly.

When we got back home she hit the computer again, and this time more useless information. The history of Walt himself, his brother Roy, what the numbers on the doors on Main Street meant, the Google earth view, the roads there, Youtube videos on abandoned things, what happened to the parts of the 10,000 Leagues ride. I mean, seriously, deep into details of everything. She learned about the passes you can get, what they cost, how people are hired and paid, what jobs are there, details of the dates places opened, who designed what and how. She watched Disney movies from birth over and over and continued to do so until her brother finally just said no. I think it was after the 10th time Rapunzel played in the den he just said, “Enough!”

But then he couldn’t stop about Minecraft.

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For me, though, I did love Disney. I took her there while pregnant with her. At age one, she picked out a Mickey Mouse shirt. She loved Pocahontas and we sang Colors of The Wind hundreds of times.  Now I found myself looking back at that little girl and I started singing that song again. I was starting to think that if she lived with me until she was 30, that would be okay. And I got happy again about the way I chose to raise my kids.
 
So one day, she bought a bus ticket to visit her best friend in Florida for a few weeks. I drove her to the bus. She was more clingy than normal when we said goodbye. I got a sick feeling as the bus drove away. And then I got the phone call. She decided, if she was going to ever work there, she had to live closer. She told me she was moving in as a roommate with her friend in Pensacola and getting a job. Before the week was out, she had a job in the mall and she wasn’t coming home.

I sank. She was just gone. I cried, I worried, I had to listen to her not have enough money, to hear her complain about work or worry about transportation. And I couldn’t hug her or see her. This was my worst fear coming back to haunt me. Then she bought that annual pass.

No, not a car, an annual pass. And still with the Minecraft, my son, just obsessing over every modpack, every crafting thing you can do, just nothing but Minecraft. And here I am, a shining example of real work, people. I am an author. I have real books. Why did they not DO something? I accepted her new life and struggles, listened, helped where I could and over and over more Disney facts.

So one day she decided living in north Florida wasn’t fun and she didn’t like her job. She and a friend decided to go to Disney World, use her pass and sort of scout out the idea of living there. So she quit her job and went on a road trip. Yes. She QUIT her job. What in the world could she possibly be thinking? Normal people ask for time off, they don’t just quit!  But since I had committed to this way of schooling and life and supporting her completely, all I could do was tell her how happy I was she was going to be in her favorite place and to please send me pictures.

I hung up and cried. I cried so much. I worried so much because now, NOW when the reality of not having any money, no job and can’t pay rent sinks in, she will come home broken and I will have to sit down and apologize for failing her in the most profound way a mother could ever fail her child.

Each day I got these amazing pictures of her, she was just so happy, smiling and happy. And unbeknownst to me, while there, she applied online to work there. And she decided, yes, she was moving there. Within a few hours of her application she got an interview online. Within a few days of that, she was asked to please come to Disney property and interview in person. It was her last day there. When her interview was over they said they were so impressed with her knowledge that they sent her to interview for a position that was harder to get and paid more. When that interview was over, they told her how impressed they were with her vast knowledge and hired her.
 
When the phone rang, I was thinking I would have to hear about how sad she was that her time there was over. And instead she told me she had 2 weeks to report to training in ticketing at Magic Kingdom at Disney World. And in that moment, I burst into tears for all the years of fear and terror and sadness and worry and all the joy any mother could feel. And in that moment I knew that she knew she was always okay.

That was 2 years ago.

Today she has moved into operations training and development, parades, and calls with more happy news about how much she loves her job.

About a month ago she called to tell me that a new position for a concierge opened up and she applied for it. As time went on and we didn’t hear anything we figured, “oh well.” Then last week she got a call. She got an interview. She didn’t know which resort. She was so nervous, she finished the interview and at the end of it they told her how impressed they were with her performance in those 2 years, her knowledge, the kudos from guests that went in her file, the things her superiors had to say about her and that she had the job. She doesn’t know which resort but in 6 months she can apply to any resort concierge desk she wants. And when that day comes and she’s standing behind the desk at the Grand Floridian, I will go there and I will take her picture. I will put the one from years ago beside it and I will cry more than I’m crying now. I worried for most of her childhood about her obsession with "meaningless" trivia and useless information. But it wasn’t meaningless for her. It was life training! To hear her voice on the phone and how happy she is, there are no words...I leave in a few days to celebrate her birthday with her in her magical world! She loves her house, she pays her rent, she has her car, and she loves what she does every day.

And today, my son has learned about chemistry from Minecraft and wants to go into physics. He and I are co-writing a book on the chemistry of Minecraft that I have wanted to write but didn’t have the Minecraft knowledge he had. Together we will forge a future into the unknown, one day at a time. And as one lucky mom, I get to play in the playgrounds of my children’s creation. What more could a mother ask for?
 
Teresa Bondora is the author of the Periodic Table of Elements Coloring Book and lives in Atlanta, Ga. She speaks on education and the sciences. You can find her with a cup of coffee, mostly in her car.
 
The opinions and thoughts expressed here are purely those of the individual, and do not reflect those of The Walt Disney Company.


Making Valentine's Day Special

We love Valentine’s Day!  Always have and always will!  It is a fabulous excuse to show all those people you are grateful for how much you care.  Here are 10 fun ideas you can use to make your Valentine's Day a little extra special this year.

1.    Gather all the crafting supplies, add some magazines, lace, ribbon, glitter, stickers, etc. Dump it all on the table for an afternoon of Valentine card-making fun.  
2.    Add a list of sayings and ideas from the Internet or Pinterest to spark creativity.
3.    Give the kids a budget and take them to a crafting store or a dollar store for fun new supplies.
4.    Add a bowl of candy (candy hearts, mini chocolate bars, etc.) to include in those “sweet” themed cards.
5.    Have each kid make their own mailbox out of a shoebox or cereal box and wrapping paper.  These are perfect to set up for a great way to receive some love.
6.    Create a little delivery pouch out of a larger envelope for each kiddo to store their creations. Use ribbon or string for a strap.
7.    If having just a couple kids in the family is not generating enough buzz, be sure to include grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and even favorite neighbors.
8.    Make Valentine’s Day a multi-day occasion.  Build up to the day by delivering little pre-cards.  This is a perfect opportunity for the kids to tell each other what they are grateful for about each other!
9.    Have a special Valentine’s baking time.  Cupcakes, cookies, or homemade chocolates are always a fun way to celebrate. And don’t forget to stock up on red food coloring!
10.    Before they wake up, create a “Heart Attack” on their door!  Make a bunch of cute colorful hearts full of loving words and things you love about them to cover their doors!  Add some balloons for some extra fun.

Here are just 10 easy-to-do ideas to get your Valentine’s Day juices flowing!  I find Pinterest a great resource for inspiration, so don’t stop with just these.

Let’s keep the ideas coming in the comments below.  I can’t wait to hear (and see your photos!) of the fun things you do with your kids for Valentine’s Day!

So Your Child Isn't Reading Yet

So, my child isn’t reading yet...

Wow.  This is such a big topic for some parents right now.  One of my children was a late reader, like an almost-12 late kind of reader.  Anyone related to any school system either told me or diagnosed him as dyslexic.  Ok.  Let’s give it a name and we all feel better.  Nope.  

After a ton of research, here is what I found out. First, I was not a failure and totally letting my kid down.  We as homeschooling parents can go there pretty quickly, can’t we?  The thing is, all kids are different.  They learn at different times and in different ways.  That is part of why we decided to do this, right?  We didn’t want our kids doing exactly what the school wanted them to do when they needed them to do it.  It was about our kids and what they needed most to thrive.  

This is where we need to shift how we are thinking.  We are homeschooling specifically so we can do what is best for our child.  That includes encouraging them to read in their own time.  We get to be grateful we don’t have to push them to go through the frustrating tasks of learning to read at such a young age.  I’m not bashing that at all.   One of my kids read at 3 and that was cool, too.  It is all about how your kid is made.  

Think about this for a moment.  Why do kids need to be reading by first grade, or kindergarten, or second grade, or whatever your school district decides?  So it is easier to teach them later.  How are they going to be able to do their worksheets?  Read their textbooks?  Take their tests?  How is a teacher supposed to function if all of her students aren’t reading what she is giving them to do?  It is not the teacher’s fault.  It is how the system is set up.  The school then sets standards based on their system and if the kids aren’t reading to level it messes with the testing and then everyone is failing.  Now we have a society that believes a child must be reading by a certain age and we all lose sight of what the child needs or is capable of doing at a particular age.  

The science behind this, according to Dr. Raymond Moore, shows that children can learn to read as early as 3 and many as late as 8 or 9, especially boys.  It is not uncommon for some boys to wait until 11-12 when there is a key developmental change in their brain.  Check out the book Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child's Education.  He discusses all of this there as well as in some of his other books.  The key is that there is a huge difference between teaching your child to read and being a lifelong reader.  We can usually force a 5 or 6 year old to functionally read, but is there enjoyment or even comprehension? Our goal is to raise a lifelong learner, not a rushed reader.

What should you do with a child who may be, according to some, a late reader?  That is easy!  DO NOT make them feel bad about it.  It is normal and stress will make it harder and convince them that they will never enjoy being a reader.  
Here are several other tips:

1.    Read to them often and/or turn on audio books.  Hearing and experiencing the process will help them to enjoy it later as well as get there more easily.  

2.    If you are worried about them getting behind, teach them to “write” a paper verbally.  There are so many apps that can turn words into writing these days.  Use them to create a rough draft all while teaching the basics of an Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.  This is a great skill to have anyway.  Your child will end up being a great speaker as well as a reader/writer.  

3.    My son was very adept at memorizing as well.  Build on their strengths!  Maybe you have noticed that kids often develop quickly in one area and while that is happening the other areas can take a back seat.  Think of a baby learning to walk.  Usually their speech stalls for a while until they get all of that gross motor stuff figured out.  This way of development doesn’t stop after they are done being babies.

4.    You can totally find other kids in the same situation.  Let your child know he is not alone.  Check your local homeschool groups or check for other families on Facebook, for example.  Having friends or even knowing about them can be a huge help.

5.    If your child is feeling down about the whole reading thing, start focusing on what they are awesome at.  Usually they are really good with at least one other thing, if not several.  My son could describe a black hole in way I didn’t even understand two years before he was a regular reader.  Find out what they really know.

6.    The real key to all of this is that the whole reading thing is really not the huge issue we’re all afraid it is.  It really isn’t.  Search for your gratitude and show your child and yourself that you’ve got this and know that this is just part of the reason you chose to homeschool in the first place!

I would love to hear your experiences with teaching your own children to read. Leave a comment below!

You Can Give Your Kid a Super Power in 2 Minutes

Super heroes are quite popular right now.  With that in mind, I thought I would share with you a super power you can give to your kid in just 2 minutes.

There is this thing you can do that will give you more confidence, less stress, clear headed thinking, better leadership skills, and the ability to shine in high pressure situations.

And, yes, you can gain all of those benefits in just 2 minutes.

Think of all of the ways this could benefit your kids!

·       Play tryouts

·       Job interviews

·       Big tests

·       Meeting new people

·       Speeches

·       Singing and instrumental performances

·       Sporting situations

Actually, any situation that could create a little fear!

Convinced the solution is a super power yet?

Here is all they need to do: stand tall, shoulders back, hands on the hips, smile on the face, and imitate Superman or Wonder Woman for 2 minutes.

Yep.  That is it. Really? Yes, really! Hear is the science behind it…

There have been a bunch of studies recently showing that the way you hold your body significantly influences how you feel and even react.  Standing in this pose for those 2 minutes raises the levels of testosterone, the hormone that creates clear, focused thinking and strengthens leadership traits in both males and females, and lowers cortisol, the hormone that triggers the flight reaction, raises stress levels, and causes you to embrace fears.

One way to gain more information about this concept is to watch Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk about the research she has done on the subject. Watch it HERE.  This video is totally worth the 20 minute watch, especially if you are not already convinced that this is a must to share with your kids.

Next, time you are sending your kids, or even yourself, into a stressful situation, whip out your 2 minute super hero pose!  I know it has worked wonders for my family.  Share your experiences below in the comments or in our Facebook group.  We loved to hear and see you using your super powers!

 

The 3 Things Every Parent Should Give Their Kids

I have spent almost 2 decades reading everything I could find on how to be a great parent and then a great homeschooling parent.  Would you like to know what I found?  There are 3 very important things we need to do with our kids.  Every parent needs to do these especially in these changing times!  

First, think about this
The kids in our society are being bombarded with information every day.  They potentially have access to everything the Internet has on it as early as age 7 or so.  Many have this access in their pockets!  Our generation of kids has more information, and at a younger age, with less parental influence and guidance than ever before in history.  What a sobering thought.  For many of us, this is one of the benefits of homeschooling. 

After all of my research I have found that there are 3 things that we can and need to do with our kids that can really make all of the difference regardless of whether your kids are homeschooled, traditionally schooled, unschooled, or anywhere in between.  

Listen deep
The first thing we can do is listen to them. I mean really listen and often.  The magic here is when we suspend any intention of responding.  Be present and open to anything they want to talk about.  Be totally with them in the moment.  Listen to them with that wonder you had when they were babies sleeping.  The younger you start the better.  If they know they can tell you anything at a young age, by the time they hit the real issues in their teen years or older, they know you listen with love.  It is a very special thing you can offer them!  Engaging the gift of listening allows you to really be involved in their thoughts and questions about this crazy world we are in!

Encourage their passions
The second gift we can give them is to encourage their passions!  Whatever it is, remember it is their job to explore the world right now.  The magic in learning comes from really wanting to know.  Help them thrive in the things they are curious about.  If your child suddenly has a passion for horses, give them opportunities to see them, clean stalls, maybe lessons, or even just take a trip to the library to gather books on the subject to have lying around the house.  Don’t be surprised if their passion switches, though.  It is their job to explore everything right now!

Lead by modeling
The third gift is the gift of leadership.  As parents in these fast-paced times, we need to give our kids the tools to manage all of the digital and marketing input that is constantly influencing their world.  Giving our children the ability to make choices early on, combined with common sense talks, and listening to them to help them through the decisions I believe is the key to raising a child who will be able to successfully thrive as an adult.  Leadership is not just about leading others; it is about leading yourself first.  As homeschooling parents, we have already chosen the road less traveled and modeled the ability to choose what we believe in.   If we start early letting our kids really embrace making decisions for themselves and really getting to know what they like and want for themselves, we are giving them muscles to be able to choose what really matters later.  Think about this.  Your kids will make not so great choices at some point.  This is how we as humans learn.  Wouldn’t you rather be there, listening with love, and showing them the problem solving skills to learn and fix whatever is going on with responsibility and integrity?  That is an amazing gift.

If you want to hear more about all of this, recently I was interviewed on Shine radio and I discuss some of these very things.

Click here for the link>>