Bees love our sunflowers!

Systems are Key to Increased Productivity

I got my Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia.  People often think that the ‘systems’ refers to computer systems, but in fact it refers to large-scale systems.  I put my degree to good use working in Corporate America for 3 years before Brett was born.  When I left the work force to be a stay at home mom, several people told me I was wasting my education.

Systems Engineering Degree

I have to laugh at that.

My life is one huge large-scale system.  From the farm to the business to the garden to the house to the children to my husband, all aspects of my life have so many moving and changing parts, that it is all very interwoven.  A change in any piece of that framework has implications for all the other pieces.

One of the main reasons I am able to accomplish as much as I do is because I’ve set systems in place for how everything should work.  That doesn’t always mean that all the people in my life always follow all the systems I’ve set in place, but for the most part it’s easier to follow the system than it is to do something else.  Especially because I strive to make the systems as efficient as possible.

People often ask me if I have a lot of documentation for my systems.  I should, but I don’t.  (This drives Jim crazy – he spent three years as a trainer in Corporate America and he hates the fact that we don’t have written documentation for our systems.)

In my ideal world, I would write down all my systems and put together an entire manual.  And I may do that at some point in the future and turn it into a book.  But the reality is that I simply don’t have the time right now.  While written system documentation would be helpful because it would all be written down in one place for anybody to follow, the reality is, my systems are always changing.

And my systems are always changing because life is always changing.  I have to constantly revisit my systems to see what needs to be modified and improved.  And taking the time to improve my systems is more important than taking the time to document those systems.  Especially because I am interacting with my children and employees when I make those changes.

I think that everyone should have systems in place in their life.  Is it time consuming to set up the systems?  It can be.  But the time spent developing those systems will bring huge time savings down the line.

Let’s talk about some practical systems for the house.

Washing Dishes. In our home, all the dirty dishes go to the left of the sink and all the clean dishes go to the right.  All the silverware, plates, bowls, and glasses go directly into the dishwasher without being rinsed off (I’d rather hand wash a few afterwards that didn’t get clean than to rinse all of them beforehand).  All of our big knives* go closest to the sink to be cleaned first. The wooden cutting boards get stacked.  Pots get filled with water to soak if they are not being washed right away.  Big glass and stainless bowls also get stacked.  Cast iron* gets placed on the stove so it can be washed and oiled after everything else has been done.

I’d love to say that everything gets washed right away.  But it doesn’t.  We do a lot of harvesting, processing, and preserving from our huge garden.  This not only uses tons of pots and bowls, but it can also lead to quite a mess.  Having a system for where everything goes helps us to save counter space and keep the washing dishes system functioning really well.  It also gives me a way to divide the washing if there is a ton of it. (e.g. Indigo you wash the cutting board stack, Fletcher you wash the pots, Greyden you wash the cast iron, and Jade you wash the bowls).  And don’t forget the fact that you know where to look for that dirty knife you can’t find!

Systematic Dirty Dishes

Laundry.  We have two laundry rooms in our home (I’m blessed, I know!).  The children mostly use the upstairs washer and dryer*.  There was a lot of bickering going on because people would start their laundry and then abandon it.  The system I created now has every child having 2 laundry baskets.  I took a permanent marker* and wrote their names all over their laundry baskets.  When a child starts a load of laundry, they have to leave their laundry basket in the laundry room in front of the machine their laundry is in.  The rule goes that if you want to start a load of laundry, you have to “advance” everyone else’s laundry in the system.

So it would look like this:

  • Jade starts a load of laundry (using our laundry soap, of course) in the washing machine and puts her “Jade” laundry basket in front of the washer.  Then she goes to the soap room.
  • Hewitt finishes feeding the baby goats and wants to start his laundry.  Jade’s wash cycle is finished, so he puts her laundry into the dryer, starts it, and moves the Jade laundry basket in front of the dryer.  He then puts his laundry in the washing machine and puts his “Hewitt” laundry basket in front of the washer. He goes back to the barn and starts cleaning out a stall.
  • Emery finishes making all the morning bagels and breads.  He comes back to the house and wants to start his laundry.  Both the washer and dryer are full but finished.  He takes Jade’s laundry out of the dryer and puts it in her basket.  He then puts the basket on top of her bed (on top of the bed means it is clean).  He moves Hewitt’s laundry from the washer to the dryer and moves the Hewitt basket to in front of the dryer.  Then he starts his laundry and puts his “Emery” basket in front of the washer.

Systematic Laundry

Make sense?

The system works really well.  And you may have figured out (as my children did quite quickly) that the person who gets their laundry started first does the least amount of work!

The hard part is for the last person to remember to go back and switch their laundry to the dryer on the same day.  That’s the weakest link in this system.

Those are two of our household systems.  I also blogged about our packing system and podcasted (in detail) about my pantry and food shopping systems if you’re looking for other examples.

Sometimes setting up the system takes money if you have to purchase items like extra laundry baskets*.  But quite often it doesn’t cost any money at all.

The important thing to remember is that setting up systems does always take time – time to create the system, time to train others on the system, time to review the system, and time to improve the system.  But don’t underestimate the amount of time (and money) you will save once the system is in place and everyone has been trained on using it.

With good systems in place, you will find that your productivity soars!

So those are just a few of my systems.  Do you have any systems in place that work really well for you?





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You Don’t Have to Know It All to Homeschool

When people find out that I homeschool my eight children, I get a lot of different responses.  One of the more common ones is, “Wow, you must be smart.  I could never homeschool my child in x.”

Insert “science”, “math”, “grammar” or whatever “weakness” the person perceives in themself for that x.

But that’s part of the beauty of homeschooling.  You don’t have to teach your child at all, you just need to enable your child to learn.  And most of the time, you are learning with your child.

If you have a curiosity and a desire to learn, you have (in my opinion) the main prerequisite for homeschooling.

Let me give you an example.  This upcoming Monday (8/21/17) there is a solar eclipse in America.  As a “good homeschooling mom”, I’m using this as a teaching exercise.

What do I know about solar eclipses?  Not much.  I know that the moon is traveling in front of the sun and blocks it out.  That’s about it.

So what does a homeschooling mom who is unable to answer her children’s questions do? A few things.

Turn to Google.  The first thing I usually do is google “homeschool [topic of choice]”.  So in this instance “homeschool solar eclipse” returned this NASA website, that had a lot of interesting ideas.

Turn it over to the children. Once I find a few ideas, I hand it over to the children and let them pick the ideas that they are excited about.  If you’ve trained your children to explore their natural curiosity, they usually have no problem running amok with the ideas you’ve presented them.

Homeschool Learning

Enable your children.  At this point, it’s your job to enable them to do whatever they’d like to do.  In this instance it required ordering solar viewing glasses.  I put Brett on this job and she found the list of NASA approved sunglass providers and ordered glasses for the whole family (a 2 minute eclipse doesn’t give much time for sharing glasses).

Have the children explain it to you.  As the old saying goes, “the best way to master a subject is to teach it to somebody else”.   If the children are able to answer my questions, I know they understand the subject, and I’ve done my job correctly.

While we were studying the solar eclipse, we learned that the eclipse is viewable from West to East across the United States, not East to West.  We were all surprised by this.  We all thought that those on the East coast would be the first to see the eclipse.

We couldn’t seem to grasp how this worked, so we decided to make a human model.  Jim represented the sun.  He stood in the center of the room with a flashlight.  Greyden represented the earth and walked around the sun, while spinning.  The children had to make sure that Greyden was walking in the correct direction (clockwise vs counterclockwise – thanks google).

Then they had to figure out how Jade (the moon) should circle Greyden – again did she go clockwise or counter clockwise?  Once we had this figured out, we were able to show how the eclipse first appeared in the west and moved to the east.

It took us quite a while to get it right because it was very counter-intuitive to us.  But after awhile, we were all on board.

Did I plan this science lesson in advance?  Nope.

Did I have to spend any money on curriculum? Nope.

Did I have to force my children to pay attention? Nope.

Did I have to know anything? Nope.

This learning happened as a natural consequence of living.  As a homeschooling Mom, I didn’t have to know all about solar eclipses.  I simply had to encourage my children’s (and my own) natural curiosity.

The eclipse discussions all happened during and after dinner over a few nights.  The only money we spent was purchasing the glasses.  The children are all excited to view the eclipse and are praying for no clouds.  It’s renewed their interest in astronomy, which they have always loved studying (especially when we got this glow in the dark constellations book*!)

So if you’ve ever thought about homeschooling but felt that you don’t know enough to be a good homeschooling parent, I’m hoping that I’ve helped put a tiny piece of your fears to rest. If you’re willing to learn alongside your children and to enable their learning, you’re very qualified to be a great homeschooling parent!

If you want to learn more about homeschooling, I did a podcast series on it, and you can always search the blog for our other homeschooling posts. If you have a specific question, just leave a comment, and I’ll either answer it in the comments or write a blog post about it!

If you’re a homeschooling parent, how do your children learn without your direct teaching?




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Parenting is Not Black and White

Some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever received came from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People* by Steven Covey.  I’m not sure he wrote the book with parents in mind, but habit number one (Be proactive) and habit number two (Begin with the end in mind) are highly effective habits of good parenting.

When it comes to parenting intentionally, I’ve always said that I am raising future adults.  I am not raising future children. As a result, I always filter my children’s behavior through the lens of “will this behavior be acceptable as an adult?”

When you ask it that way, it usually becomes very clear.  That doesn’t mean that you don’t make allowances for the fact that they are children.  Of course you do.  But I’m always training the children toward proper adult behaviors.

The problem, of course, is that sometimes there can be some adult behaviors that are completely unacceptable. Such is the case with the issue of prejudice.  Prejudice has no place in adult (or child) behavior.

It is very important to me that the children recognize that skin color plays no role in how people should be valued or treated.  And so I am intentional in teaching the children not to judge people based on the color of their skin.

This was very easy to instill in my children when we were living in New Jersey (1997 – 2004).  Jim was teaching at an inner-city school in Trenton, New Jersey.  We lived in Trenton and were surrounded by people of all skin colors. The church that we attended was also very diverse.

My children played with our neighbors and friends at the church.  It didn’t matter whether their families were from Liberia, Ireland, Cuba, Haiti, or Italy. Being surrounded by such diversity, it was simple to teach the children that people are people and you don’t judge people based on their skin color.

In 2004 we moved to Indiana.  We love it here.  We love the people and the culture. But it is not a diverse culture.  In fact, it is overwhelmingly Caucasian.

As a result, I’ve had to be more intentional about teaching my children not to notice skin color and certainly not to judge people by it.

There are many ways we make this happen.

Our attitudes.  Jim and I do not model prejudice to our children.  We treat all those we come in contact with as equal in value before God.

Our words.  We talk about skin color and culture.  We don’t pretend that everyone looks the same or has the same traditions.  We talk about the differences and what it means and more importantly what it doesn’t mean.

Science. We teach the children what causes the different skin tones.  They understand that skin tone is affected primarily by the amount of melanin in the skin and has nothing to do with how worthy or unworthy a person is.

History.  We talk about how African Americans and Native Americans have been treated in our country. We talk about the good and bad aspects of our history concerning different races.  We talk about European history and how the Jews were treated during the Holocaust.

Bible. We teach the children that the Bible states that all mankind shares one blood* and God does not prefer one race over any other.  “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” Acts 17:26

Bad guys.  Because our children interact with the public, we are careful to keep them physically and emotionally safe.  Our children know that bad guys often don’t look like bad guys.  A bad guy doesn’t have a certain skin color or dress a certain way.

Intentional interactions.  While living in Indiana (before we started Goat Milk Stuff), the children didn’t have a lot of opportunities to talk to people of different ethnicities.  So I always made sure that if there were people of different skin tones that the children had an opportunity to interact.

I didn’t make it obvious and point out the skin color.   But for example, if there was a Caucasian police officer and an African American police officer, I would have the children ask a question of the African American police officer.  I didn’t identify the person by the color of their skin.  Instead I would say, “Hey, go ask that tall police officer how long he has been a police officer.”  Simple things like that.  Now that we have Goat Milk Stuff, the children are exposed to a lot more people and it’s a lot easier to make skin color a non-issue because the children know how to treat customers.

Movies.  Other than modeling appropriate behaviors when it comes to skin color, the most intentional thing I do is to have the children watch movies that provide talking points and positively represent different races and cultures.  This has been easier the older they get because there are more options for them.  Some of the movies that come to mind are:

I would always recommend previewing these movies before watching them with younger children as there may be inappropriate language and themes.  If I think the movie is worth it, I let the younger children watch and just skip the scenes I don’t want them to see.

Often, movies can be great starting points with your children and teenagers about why people should never be judged based on their skin color.

I’ve been working on this blog post in my head for a while.  Sometimes I plan my blog posts days or weeks in advance.  Sometimes I write them a few hours after before they’re scheduled to go live. I was planning to write this blog post yesterday, but I’m on vacation and didn’t get around to it.

When I got up this morning, I posted to my instagram page and the post below it had a saying that said:

“It is not enough to be quietly non-racist, now is the time to be vocally anti-racist.”

I’m not sure who to give credit to for those words (if anybody knows who said them, please let me know.)

But recent news headlines about racially motivated violence in Charlottesville (Charlottesville is dear to our hearts) and that instagram post were confirmation that I needed to get this post written today.

As Nelson Mandela famously said,

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

As parents, we have tremendous influence over how the next generation judges people based on their skin-tone.  It’s important that we do our part in making sure that our children aren’t finding people inferior (or superior) because they happened to be born looking a particular way.

It’s up to each and every one of us.  And it’s important.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have any other suggestions or movie recommendations?




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Helping Your Child Catch Up

We normally take our beach vacation in the beginning of September.  We do this because when kids start back at school, the rental rates for beach houses drop dramatically.

Consequently, most of the children we meet at the beach are either very young or homeschooled. They tend to be respectful and responsible and the families tend to be super friendly and polite.

Since our older children are now taking classes at our local Community College, and these classes start early in September, we’ve had to shift our vacation and move it up earlier.  So instead of going to the beach the first two weeks in September, we are at the beach the first two weeks in August.

You wouldn’t think we’d notice a difference, but the difference in the families at the beach are tremendous.  There are a lot of older children here now because for many parts of the country, school hasn’t started yet.  We also haven’t come across any homeschoolers (who tend to stand out if you know what you’re looking for).

The parents seem to be less engaged with their children.  The children with one exception have been less friendly and polite. There is also a lot more fishing, reading, smoking, and texting going on at the beach this year.

Most of the members of our family have noticed the difference and have remarked that they like the people at the “September beach” better than the people at the “August beach.”

You wouldn’t think that four weeks would make such a difference, but apparently it does.  Timing appears to change a lot.

The evening after several children telling me they prefer “September beach”, I picked up the book I wanted to read – Outliers* by Malcolm Gladwell.

In the first chapter, Gladwell points out the phenomenon that the majority of Canadian professional Hockey players are born in January, February, and March.  This is because the calendar year cutoff date for grouping players makes these children on average a little bit older, bigger, and more capable among their peers.

I found it very ironic that after talking about the change four weeks could make in our vacation, I was reading about the change three months could make. (Don’t you love when God does that?)

Gladwell’s next point went on to discuss public education and I found the discussion of cutoff dates in education even more pertinent to this issue. Forgive the long quote, but since Gladwell said it very well, I thought I would just quote him rather than trying to summarize:

But these exact same biases also show up in areas of much more consequence, like education.  Parents with a child born at the end of the calendar year often think about holding their child back before the start of kindergarten: it’s hard for a five-year-old to keep up with a child born many months earlier.  But most parents, one suspects, think that whatever disadvantage a younger child faces in kindergarten  eventually goes away.  But it doesn’t. It’s just like hockey.  The small initial advantage that the child born in the early part of the year has over the child born at the end of the year persists.  It locks children into patterns of achievement and underachievement, encouragement and discouragement, that stretch on and on for years. (page 27-28)

Recently, two economists – Kelly Bedard and Elizabeth Dhuey – looked at the relationship between scores on what is called the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS (math and science tests given every four years to children in many countries around the world), and month of birth.  They found that among fourth graders, the oldest children scored somewhere between four and twelve percentile points better than the youngest children.  That, as Dhuey explains, is a “huge effect.”  It means that if you take two intellectually equivalent fourth graders with birthdays at opposite ends of the cutoff date, the older student could score in the eightieth percentile, while the younger one could score in the sixty-eighth percentile.  That’s the difference between qualifying for a gifted program and not. (page 28)

“It’s just like sports,” Dhuey said.  “We do ability grouping early on in childhood.  We have advanced reading groups and advanced math groups.  So, early on, if we look at young kids, in kindergarten and first grade, the teachers are confusing maturity with ability.  And they put the older kids in the advanced stream, where they learn better skills; and the next year, because they are in the higher groups, they do even better; and the next year,the same thing happens, and they do even better again.” (page 28-29, emphasis mine)

Dhuey and Bedard subsequently did the same analysis, only this time looking at college.  What did they find?  At four-year colleges in the United States – the highest stream of postsecondary education – students belonging to the relatively youngest group in their class are underrepresented by about 11.6 percent.  That initial difference in maturity doesn’t go away with time.  It persists.  (page 29, emphasis mine)

Wow. That is amazing quite honestly, a little bit scary.

And now I need to tell a personal story…

I’ve mentioned before that one of my children didn’t learn to read until he was ten years old.  It didn’t bother me at all that he wasn’t reading yet.  It would have made my life a little more convenient, but it didn’t really matter.  He was learning and growing without reading.

Every six months or so, I would break out the phonics book* we used and try again.  Having already taught children to read, it was obvious that this child simply wasn’t ready.  Shortly after his tenth birthday, I tried again and it “clicked”.  He was reading full sentences and beginner chapter books all by himself within 2 weeks.

After his tenth birthday, quite suddenly, his brain was able to process the mechanics of reading and he learned to read very quickly.  And his delayed start in reading did not have any long-term consequences.  If you now compare the reading skills of all my children, you would not be able to tell which started later than average.

During those years (between 6 and 10), the hardest part for me was managing other people’s expectations for him.  Most people in our lives couldn’t understand why he wasn’t reading yet.

Many people thought there was a problem with him and encouraged me to have testing done.

I wasn’t about to do this. I knew this child was brilliant.  He is super smart, incredibly creative, and a problem solver.  When we played cards, he was a brilliant strategist. He just wasn’t ready to read.

Many others thought there was a problem with me – that I wasn’t being responsible enough about his education.  They thought I should put him in public school so that would “fix” his reading problem.

Fortunately, while their opinions hurt a little, I was confident that I was doing the right thing (as was Jim).  I knew that if I put this child into public school, he would be at a disadvantage and labeled a “slow learner”.  I also knew that because he couldn’t read he would fall further and further behind in every subject.

So I did my best to manage other people’s expectations and make his reading a non-issue.

But mostly I worked really, really, REALLY hard to be aware of this child’s confidence and make him comfortable in his strengths and inate talents.  I did not want anybody (including himself) making him think that he was stupid because he wasn’t reading yet.

It wasn’t too difficult those first few years, but once he had younger siblings that were reading, and he wasn’t, it started to become a bit more of a challenge.  I just focused on his strengths and tailored his education around those.  It took a little effort, but it wasn’t that hard to read out loud to him or put him in a group with an older child who could read.

While writing this post, I just asked him his thoughts and he said:

“It never bothered me that I couldn’t read.  It bothered me that other people knew that I couldn’t read.  I was embarrassed to tell people that I couldn’t read.  But the fact that I couldn’t read never bothered me at all.  I never thought that I wouldn’t be able to read.”

I can’t even begin to tell you how much that thrills me to hear him say those words.

Let’s get back to Gladwell’s words for a moment:

Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.”  The professional hockey player starts out a little bit better than his peers.  And that little difference leads to an opportunity that makes that difference a bit bigger, and that edge in turn leads to another opportunity, which makes the initially small difference bigger still – and on and on until the hockey player is a genuine outlier.  But he didn’t start out an outlier.  He started out just a little bit better. (page 30-31)

I want to speak for a moment to any parent who is concerned that their child is just a little bit (or a lot) behind his peers. As the previous studies stated, your child may not be able to catch up.  But as my story related, your child may.

So what should you do?

Evaluate your child.  You are your child’s parent.  Nobody knows or loves your child better than you do.  Even the best teachers in the world only spend so much time with your child.  What are your child’s strengths?  What are his weaknesses?  Are they not living up to the potential that you see in them? What is the root cause?

Evaluate the system.   What is preventing your child from reaching his full potential?  Himself?  The system he is in?  If he is in public school, the system may be stacked against him.  I prefer homeschooling because you can personalize the education to the individual child.  But while homeschooling may help, it is not a perfect solution either.  Regardless of how you educate, what is your role in influencing the system to improve your child’s chances for success?  What other systems (e.g. sports, activities) are influencing your child’s progress?

Address the situation. As the parent, you are your child’s advocate.  You need to address the situation and not just hope it will improve on its own.  If there is a problem, please work to find a solution instead of assuming the situation will improve as your child gets older.

Put in ongoing effort.  It takes effort (and lots of it) to raise children.  Raising successful children requires even more effort.  Don’t despair if your parenting isn’t currently producing the results you want.  Instead, study to be a better parent!  Read books. Read blogs. Listen to podcasts.  Find mentors.  There are no parenting manuals, and even if there were, you’d need a different one for each of your children since they’re so unique.  Know that you are parenting for the long-term.

As you’re answering some of these questions, you need to determine if the simple passing of time will fix your child’s difficulties.

Because sometimes it is a matter of being patient.

But sometimes, the existing system is causing the problem.  And if the existing system is the cause, you have to decide whether the system can be fixed for your child’s benefit.

And if it can’t be fixed, are you in the position to remove your child from the system? That’s not always easy, but sometimes it is necessary.

I focused during this blog post on children, but please realize that this applies to us as adults as well.  Are you currently in a system that has you at a disadvantage?  If so, what are you going to do about it?





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Pushing Through Sickness

Does it mean anything to you if I say, “I am not throwin’ away my shot!”?

If not, then you clearly aren’t as obsessed with the musical, Hamilton, as my children are.  Brett discovered the music to the Broadway play, Hamilton, over a year ago and fell in love.  That led to purchasing the Hamilton soundtrack* which led to putting together a “safe” playlist that all the children could listen to which led to a trip to New York City to see the show.

Anyway – my children are thoroughly inquisitive (yeah, homeschooling!) and they’ve been asking me questions non-stop about Alexander Hamilton, the Revolutionary War, and the Constitution.

I know most of the answers (yeah, me!), but there are quite a few, I didn’t know.  Since I never want to stop learning, I decided to purchase the book that inspired the Broadway play – Alexander Hamilton* by Rob Chernow.

Hamilton by Chernow

It’s a very long book.  Seriously long. As in 731 pages long.

I wasn’t a bit daunted.  Ok, maybe I was a bit daunted (I usually read and walk around the living room to get my 10,000 daily steps and I can’t even hold this book up for too long).

But I was not going to give up because I love books about history – even if they are 731 pages long.

Hamilton’s life was amazing, and I drew lots of connections to my own life.  One (of the many) traits that impressed me was the fact that even when Hamilton was really sick, he didn’t let that stop him from doing what he felt needed to be done.  On page 84 it says:

“In his waning days as an artillery captain, Hamilton confirmed his reputation for persistence despite recurring health problems.  He lay bedridden at a nearby farm when Washington decided to recross the Delaware on Christmas night and pounce on the besotted Hessians drowsing at Trenton.  Hamilton referred vaguely to the ‘long and severe fit’ of illness, but he somehow gathered up the strength to leave his sickbed and fight.”

It made me question where he gathered that strength from, because if I were really sick, the last thing I’d want to do is go out, cross the freezing Delaware, and attack a bunch of Hessians.

Yet, that’s exactly what Hamilton did.  Alexander Hamilton had a very rough childhood and built a lot of internal strength, character, and fortitude.  He used that to do amazing things even when he was very sick.

As I thought about that, my thoughts drifted to my children who have had a pretty ideal childhood (in my opinion).  Yes, they work hard, but is that enough?

Am I teaching my children to have internal strength?

Am I teaching my children to do the hard things even if they’re not feeling well?

Am I teaching my children how to face adversity and triumph?

Kids Work Hard

I’d like to think the answer to all of those questions is, “Yes.”  And as I thought about it, I decided there were three areas where my parenting could help my children develop inner strength, even without a difficult childhood.

1. Do I make excuses for my children so they can avoid difficulty?  Nope – my children know the score living on a farm with a large family.  If you’re responsible for something, you’re responsible.  There are no excuses made because you don’t feel well or have something you want to do instead.

I can easily recall times when Colter and Emery were sick with a stomach bug and would still need to milk the goats.  That may sound harsh to some people, but I am growing future adults here, not future children.  Animals need to be taken care of (just like babies and children need to be taken care of even if Mom is sick).

And don’t worry about the boys, once they were done milking and feeding the goats, they got plenty of loving and nursing to help them get better.

2. Do I give my children chances to fail?  Yes, sometimes I purposely give them tasks that I don’t think they can handle.  I need them to learn how to push through the failure, learn from their mistakes, and learn how to seek help so they don’t continue to fail.

One example was when Hewitt was little and I asked him to fill the goats’ feeder with oats.  Of course, he couldn’t pick up and carry a 50 pound bag.  I watched him for a while try to carry it or drag it.  He even tried to put it on a dolly (but the bag was not rigid enough to stay on). I didn’t ride into the rescue.  Instead I stood aside, watched him get frustrated, then watched him find Colter to help him.

Colter showed him how since he couldn’t carry the bag, he could open it and carry smaller buckets at a time.  And you can bet that Hewitt can now carry a 50 pound bag, he wasn’t going to let a bag of oats get in his way!

3. Do I challenge my children to accomplish more than they think they can?  Always.  This holds true more for some of the children than others.  Some of them have an “I can do anything” attitude and they were born with it.  But others are a little hesitant to try something new for fear that they won’t succeed.

It’s those children who need to be challenged the most.

I do this with different chores around the house or different school assignments.  But my preferred method is making them speak or interact in public in a way they are not comfortable with.  For the little ones, it starts with praying out loud at church where others can hear them.  As they get older, it’s explaining to a group what their job is on the farm.

I also have them all learn to make phone calls to schedule their own appointments (they hate that!) And the oldest ones are going to networking events where they regularly have to meet and and talk to complete strangers.  This is not something that they are super comfortable with, but I’m always challenging them to just be a little bit out of their comfort zone.

Does this mean they would Rise Up from their sickbed to cross the Delaware River in the middle of the night?

I would like to think that if it was something of importance, every one of my children would sacrifice their own desires and comfort to do what was right.  I am always reminding them that they “can do all things through Christ who strengthens them.”  But in my experience God usually strengthens them and works through them after they’ve actually taken the first step.

I learned a lot of lessons from the life of Alexander Hamilton, but this is one that I definitely want to pass on to my children:

Being sick or not feeling your best is never a good thing and when necessary you need to take care of yourself.  But there are times you can’t let not feeling well stop you.  You need to rise up and do what is right – even if it is a sacrifice.

What about you? What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do when you were sick?




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