Monday, October 20, 2014

Homeschooling Helps: Teaching Character

(Artwork by the talented Greg Olsen)

And now, for a happy, mundane post about some of the things we're using for homeschool this year! This is part one of a "Homeschooling Helps" series I will be doing about the subjects we are studying in our homeschool for the 2014-2015 school year.

Searching for the right resource


For years, I have been looking for an LDS based program for teaching Good Character. I know there are many out there for other Christians, but I have wanted one that specifically used LDS scriptures and quotes from our church leaders.

I also needed something that is fluid-- something that I can change and adjust at the last minute. Because I love to make plans, but I don't always love to follow those plans.

Tricky, I know.

And then one day, while I was trying to put together a devotional for our homeschool on Obedience, I discovered an amazing online resource that has been right in front of me for years.

The website


I went to the LDS Church's website under the "Resources" tab at the right-hand top of the page, and then...

1) I followed on the link that said "Children".  
2) Then I clicked the link in the left-hand sidebar that says "Resources for Teaching Children."
3) I next clicked on the link that said "Resources by Topic."

And voila! I suddenly had before me a long list of topics to choose from! And when I clicked on the topic I was looking for, I found an enormous amount of songs, stories, and activities I could use, all on that subject!

Quick and easy preparation, lots of topics available, and all the components needed for a short and sweet character lesson. Just the thing I was looking for!

Making a plan


After finding the list of topics above, making a plan for our character studies then became really easy to do! After some praying and pondering, I wrote down the months of the year, and assigned each month a topic that I want to focus on with my kids. 

For September, I decided to focus on the character trait of "Obedience." I found just the songs and stories I needed for our particular circumstances, and used a few of the activities available.

I decided to sing one song and read one story about obedience each day as part of our homeschool devotional. I can go right to my computer that morning, and choose the things I want to use for that day's lesson. (Which works great with my spontaneous nature!)

Choose, print out, teach, discuss.

That's it!

How is it going?


Despite October's craziness, we still have been holding our morning devotionals. (Though we did take off the week of "Fall Break" so the kids could spend some time with their public schooled friends, who were out of school for the week.)

For October, I chose the subject of Integrity. But when I looked at the list of topics on the website, they didn't have anything for that. So I decided to look at the other topics again, and see if anything else was similar. I decided to use the resources for "Honesty," but then added my own insights to look at honesty with an eye toward having integrity.

It's been great! I love that every day is different, and that I can choose a story that morning that can speak to what is going on in our family right then.

I hope this idea can help another mom who is struggling to find the right resources for teaching lesson on good character!

Love, Mama Rachel


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Trials and Tribulations



The past week has been a real "adventure"-- and definitely not one I would have asked for. Yet, at the same time, I have felt the Lord's protection and love so strongly this past week. I know He is watching over our family.

We've had money problems, MAJOR teen troubles, car issues, toddler craziness, and even bodily injury. Needless to say, I'm EXHAUSTED.

{Just as a warning, some of what has happened might not be something you want to read, and the corresponding pictures might be too much for some people to handle. So, read on at your own discretion!!!}

A Battle for the Soul

First of all, we have a child who is struggling spiritually. I am a very transparent person-- I don't like secrets, and I can't stand ambiguity. However, this child's story is not mine to tell to the general public, so I will refrain from going into details here on my blog.

I can say that it has been the most difficult year of my life, and I am learning some very challenging, though amazing, lessons from it all. I have discovered things about myself that I never wanted to know, but I have also experienced some phenomenal changes in my own heart.

I am in awe of how God can can make the painful and devastating into goodness and light. He truly IS a God of miracles!!!

An Accident

And now, on to the latest drama at our house. It involves this little sweetheart:

Our smiley MacKenna, age 8

My girls like to keep their hair long. And I mean LONG. A trim around here is a big event. With two teenage girls, and five-- yes, FIVE-- little girls at our house, it's all about the hair.

So, right before the sun began setting last evening, we were buried in the usual evening craziness. I was furiously making dinner while talking to my mom on the phone, the big kids were watching an economics video, and the other kids were all playing in the basement-- or so I thought.

As I was talking to my mom, my twelve year old daughter, Dierdre, came running up to me with strong urgency telling me that our MacKenna had her hair caught in the AC unit outside. I ran outside with her, followed by a couple of other kids. Over my shoulder, I asked Dierdre to go grab my sewing scissors, and, while still on the phone with my mom, explaining that something bad was going on (I think I was too shocked to hang up), I made my way to the north side of our house, where our AC units sit on the ground. 

MacKenna was on top of the big unit, screaming and crying. I hung up with my mom, and was greeted by an unfamiliar young lady standing next to my daughter. Apparently, she had heard MacKenna's cries and screams, and had come through our side gate to help her. She had then knocked on our back door and let Dierdre know what was going on.

I tried to assess how to best help MacKenna. She was lying on top of the unit with her head laying flat against the cage surrounding the huge fan. The fan was stopped, but as I examined more closely, I could see that her hair had stopped the fan, as it was wound around it several times.

I poked the sewing scissors that Dierdre had brought to me through the cage around the fan, and slowly turned the fan to unwind her hair. The sweet young lady that was MacKenna's hero held up MacKenna's body to help ease the pressure on her head. Finally, we got her hair unwound, and were able to release her and put her back on the ground. 

Her hair looked burned in some places, and she said that she felt like her head was burned. On closer examination, we found that she had some hairs that were now hanging down below her regular hair length. Some clumps of hair had been pulled out.

OUCH.

MaKenna's savior excused herself, and I thanked her profusely, telling her that she was a true hero! (Luckily, my girls know our hero by name, and so I'm planning to do something special for her in gratitude.) I took my poor girl in the house to examine her better, and see what we could do to help make her more comfortable. 

MacKenna was very upset, sobbing her heart out, and I was trying to calm her, while not panicking, myself.

As I carefully brushed her hair, more clumps came out, and I found where her hair had come out at the roots. She has a little bald spot that-- thankfully-- is easily covered by her other hair. However, her hair was damaged and broken above her shoulders, and so I knew she would need a haircut. 

This is just some of the clumps of hair that came out.
This funny girl smiled for the pictures!


The new bald patch

I also knew that she would need to give her hair a real rest, in order to prompt her bald spot to grow back, and her head to heal. (There was NO damage to her scalp-- a real tender mercy!!!) So, a short haircut it was to be!

You can see how it's now thinner on the right side of her head.


Before the haircut, we wrapped her in a blanket, to keep her from getting shock, and I laid her on the couch to rest and calm down. The other little girls were so cute, bringing her toys, tucking the blanket around her, trying to make her more comfortable.

At one point, she said, "Mom, you know how you told me that the best way to calm down is to take deep breaths? I'm trying to calm down."

So I helped her regulate her breathing, and she was able to relax considerably. 

At this point, my 18 year old son announced that my missionary had written us an email. (WHAT??? I had been told that P-day was supposed to be tomorrow!!! :-( Crud...)

So, while MacKenna rested, I tried to explain to my missionary why he had not received a letter. :-( (Sometimes we can catch each other online, and almost "chat".) I also gave a quick recap of the drama going on at home. (All this while dinner was still on the stove. I think my son had the clarity of mind to turn the burners down.)

Our missionary had to go, so I promised to send him a "DearElder.com" letter with more details of the craziness, and got back to finishing dinner.

Russell finally got home from work, and we had to tell the whole story to him. He immediately gave MacKenna a blessing of comfort, and she calmed down even more. (She had gotten upset again in the telling of the story. I can't blame her!!!) 

I am so VERY grateful for the Priesthood power that my husband worthily uses to bless our family. It makes even the most scary things become less traumatic. We ALL felt more peaceful after Russell's sweet blessing!

I called my mom back to let her know that MacKenna was okay, and we all sat down to eat dinner.

The Haircut

Her "Before" pose. (With a smile again!)
And "After"-- she looks so grown up!

Life Lessons

All of these "trials and tribulations" have got me thinking. My daughter was just walking by the AC units, enjoying the breeze produced by them blowing in her hair. One second, she was having a quiet, serene moment alone, and the next she was terrified and in pain.

She had not been doing anything she shouldn't be doing, really. But she was close to danger, and had no idea of what was about to happen in an instant of being too close.

Don't these things happen to us all the same way? And sometimes by our own faulty judgment? One inch too close to danger, and we can be devastated by the results.

But even when we have blindly and unintentionally strayed too close to the danger zone, God sends us heroes, and help, and love, and comfort. Our Heavenly Father NEVER leaves us alone.

If we permit ourselves to learn from these difficult times, and allow our hearts to be humbled and changed, there are smiles and good things just around the corner.

Yes, He truly IS a God of miracles, large and small.

Love, Mama Rachel