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Small Goals and Baby Steps

small goals and baby steps
small goals and baby steps

I remember years ago when I still had four kids at home how we dreaded the time change every year (well, twice a year)! When the time changed, a regular question for the next few weeks was, “Are you guys back on schedule after the time change?” And my typical reply was, “Yes!” Because I began preparing for the time change a week or so ahead of time. I slowly altered my kids’ bedtime and wake-up time by about 10 or 15 minutes each day so they’d be adjusted when the time change happened. It worked like a charm.

Just kidding! I was like nearly everyone else. The time change was horrible! It threw us off for days (or weeks)!

In reality, I usually forgot about the time change until the night it happened. My kids and I were usually exhausted and cranky for at least a week afterward. It’s amazing how much one little hour can change our whole reality, isn’t it?

small goals and baby steps

Small Goals and Baby Steps 

So here is the conclusion I came to as I gave some thought to the time change and how it affected us:

If one little hour can alter our schedules and our attitudes, why do we (at least I) tend to downplay the significance of “baby steps” in our own attempts to make improvements in our lives?  

I would love to say that I have always embraced the importance of the baby steps I’ve taken toward having a better attitude daily, eating more healthfully, encouraging my husband, kids, and friends more often, exercising…and the list goes on!  Instead, I tended to dismiss small changes as unimportant and focus only on the final goal.

Silas

Why do we dismiss small goals and baby steps and try to go straight to our goal? (Even when we know it’s harder and doesn’t usually work very well?) 

I have come to believe that much of this type of thinking comes from our misconceptions about not only those around us but also of ourselves.  How many times have you seen the mom in the grocery store with four well-behaved kids in tow, calmly shopping, reading ingredient labels, comparing prices?  Ok, maybe never, but many of us have the notion that WE should be that woman!

I, for example, am fairly often “accused” of being organized!  I try to dress neatly (My closet is a disaster, but I happen to be a master at “hide and seek.”), I never forget my earrings (Only because I never take them off!), and I remember to bring my organizer and a pen wherever I go. (I think I actually have an organizer addiction!) My appearance tends to lead folks into thinking that I am well organized, and apparently I don’t outwardly appear to be flustered or frustrated often.  Both of these things are occasionally true of me, however, they are not the norm!

So how do I move toward actually being organized instead of just appearing to be organized to others? How do I make changes that will help make my home and my homeschool run more smoothly each day? 

Set a goal to make smaller goals!

Yep. My first goal was to make it my goal to set smaller goals!  I know that I need to have something to work toward, but I want that work to be positive and enriching in my life and NOT make me feel like a constant failure!  My goals (and your goals, too) need to be small, do-able goals.

I’m also keeping in mind that, as a homeschooling mom, I believe I am the main role model my kids are likely to follow. I want to model for my children a positive approach to setting and accomplishing goals. In addition to that, my desire is to emphasize having a positive attitude along the way!

SilasKissyFace

But wait! First, give yourself credit for what you’re already doing well!

A good example of setting a small (do-able) goal was years ago when I decided to help my son, who was then two years old, to walk.  He has Down Syndrome and, although I suspect he would have learned to walk eventually on his own, was showing no indication of interest in walking. When he reached his second birthday and was still crawling or being carried everywhere he went, I felt like a failure!  I was so disappointed in myself for not taking the time or making enough effort to teach him how to walk.

After beating myself up a little bit, I realized that his verbal skills and sign language skills were pretty amazing. He absolutely loved to help his brother empty the dishwasher, and he enjoyed helping his sister and me load wet clothes into the dryer and unload them once dry.  These things that I worked hard to help him accomplish did not erase the fact that I had carried him around rather than working with him to learn to walk. However, they did encourage me that I was NOT a total failure.

I had put time and effort into teaching him age-appropriate communication skills.  I had encouraged him to be a contributing family member. (I believe all kids, no matter how young, feel special and have a positive kind of pride that comes with completing chores and playing a role in caring for the whole family.) It made me feel better about what I’d already done and gave me confidence that I could move forward when I first gave myself credit for what I had already done well.

Next, think about your big goal and write down some baby steps for accomplishing it.

So, how did I “solve” the walking problem?  I sat down and wrote myself some goals.  They started very, very small.

  • At first, I pulled him to a standing position when he wanted to be picked up.
  • Then I picked him up as usual.
  • Next, I encouraged him to stand up on his own and reach for me before I would pick him up.

We took tiny, tiny steps toward the goal, and in about 6 months, he was walking on his own!  Yes, that seemed like a long, long time, but it was not nearly as stressful a process as it could have been if I had pushed too hard and caused anger or rebellion to develop in him or more frustration and anger in myself! Or if I had simply set a larger goal to teach him to walk without breaking down the steps along the way.

Once you reach your goal, set new goals and write down baby steps to accomplish them.

Yes, we still had to practice walking on uneven surfaces, balancing, running, jumping…so many other related activities.  But the great part was that, by that time, I had complete confidence that we would be able to meet those new goals. Our success with the baby steps we had accomplished and the goal we had attained gave me that confidence!

The best part, in fact, was that I knew as he grew he would understand that I was (and still am) his ally in the process of learning and not the enemy!  My hope was to bond and foster positive give-and-take rather than causing him to feel hopeless or rushed.

How This Affected My Attitude

How did this tie in with my attitude?  I stopped letting myself feel guilty for waiting until he was two to focus on walking. I stopped rejecting the praise that came when others saw the work we had put into walking for the past six months. I gave myself and my son credit for our hard work and was proud of what we had done!

I found that the “winning combination” for me was to allow myself to achieve just a little at a time and then make sure that I cheered myself on when each goal was accomplished instead of sliding back into old habits of self-criticism or guilt!  It seems to me that keeping this focus actually empowers me to continue to achieve and to smile as I do so! It makes my focus a positive one rather than a defeating journey in which I beat myself up a lot and teach my kids that scowling is a normal way of life.

What do you want to accomplish?

What are the goals you hope to accomplish?

  • Do you want to keep your house cleaner?
  • Want to find time to exercise?
  • Do you have a goal to study your Bible each day?
  • Maybe you are having difficulty keeping your kids current on their school assignments and want to change that.

Try setting small goals and baby steps!

1. Choose ONE change to make.

Set a goal to make ONE change to make the situation a little better. For example, if you find that the kids are sleeping later, dragging around in the mornings once they finally get up, and that school is beginning later and later and you feel frazzled, stop feeling frustrated and guilty!

Don’t try to completely change your entire morning routine all at once. You’ll just end up even more frustrated and defeated. Resist that temptation! Instead, choose one change to make. 

The first change I made was…breakfast!  I made a breakfast plan and got organized first thing in the morning.  For example, if we were to have muffins, I set out the ingredients the night before, mixed them up and baked them in the morning, and set out steaming muffins and glasses of cold water or milk at each child’s place before I woke them up.

My kids enjoyed the peace that came with me not rushing around all morning. I enjoyed the peace of knowing I had breakfast under control before morning even arrived!

2. Then make one more change.

After you’ve made your first change and given everyone time to adjust, choose one more change. For my family, my second step was teaching my kids to go straight from breakfast to doing morning chores. Once they adjusted to that, I chose one more change and so on until, finally, we accomplished our ultimate goal of staying current on school assignments.

Does it always work? Nope. Does it usually work? Yes!

Yes, it is true that I still forgot the time change.  It is also true, however, that I recovered from my oversight pretty quickly with no permanent damage done!  I still have a messy closet, but I don’t let it make me feel like a failure, and I don’t worry that I am doomed to a life of disorganization and clutter.

I attempt to remind myself, when necessary, that the closet just hasn’t made itself a high enough priority yet in my list of important goals (and baby steps toward accomplishing them), and I smile when people make comments about how organized I am!

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“Free Falling Freedom Towers” 4th of July Game

free falling freedom towers 4th of july game
hands holdi

“Free Falling Freedom Towers” 4th of July Game

Freedom is precious. It’s important. And it’s often taken for granted. Most of us enjoy freedom without having to sacrifice for it. There are many individuals and families who have made sacrifices to maintain our freedom, though, and there are those who continue to sacrifice for the rest of us. This 4th of July game was created for that reason–to help us illustrate to our children the importance of appreciating and valuing the freedoms we have and to understand that freedom really isn’t free. (Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s absolutely true! And our children need to know it.)

This 4th of July game gives adults a way to illustrate to our children how precious our freedom is and how easily it can be toppled without faith, care, and appreciation. 

hands holding American flag

Materials:

• ten plastic cups
• eight index cards

Object:

Children will compete in teams to see who has enough patience and strength to collapse all of the cups as smoothly as possible.

Preparation:

Have each child (or each team) build a tower out of index cards and plastic cups. They’ll need to build their towers at least five feet apart to prevent accidentally knocking over the opposing child’s/team’s tower. The following illustrations show how to build the tower.

pic1

Start by placing a plastic cup rim-side down onto a sturdy table. Place an index card on the cup after the cup is in place.

pic2w

Repeat that step until you have two towers. Each tower should consist of five cups and four index cards.

pic3

You can see in the picture above that there is not an index card on the top of the stack. Index cards should only be placed between cups.

Introduction:

Explain to your children that we are celebrating another year of America’s independence and that we want to remember how, many years ago, we had to earn our independence through hard battles and sacrifices. You might want to explain that we still have people who give their lives to make sure America remains free.

Today we’re going to play a game that will show us how important it is to value our freedom and treat it with care because, if we don’t, it is possible for our freedom to topple just like our towers of cups and cards.

Instructions:

1. If possible, divide the children into two even teams (or have two children serve as opposing teams).
2. Have teams form a line behind each stack of cups and index cards.
3. When you say, “Go!” the first child will have to remove the top index card in the stack.
4. If the whole stack tumbles down, he or she must rebuild it and go to the end of the line.
5. If he or she is able to remove the card without toppling the tower (The top cup should collapse onto the next cup in the stack.), the child moves to the end of the line.
6. The game continues until one team has successfully collapsed its stack.

pic4

pic 4 bpic 5

Closing:

Discuss the fact that, as they played the game, the children had to be very careful when they pulled the index cards out from between the cups. Ask them questions prompting them to explain what happened when they weren’t careful. (The tower toppled.) What happened if they didn’t take their responsibility seriously and tried to work too fast or without paying careful attention? (The tower toppled.)

Talk about the fact that each tower represented our freedoms both as a country and as Christians. If we aren’t careful and don’t treat our freedoms with dignity and defend them with care, the whole thing could topple.

What does it mean to treat our freedoms with care and dignity? (Let your children answer and give guidance as needed.) We should value our freedom and take it seriously. We should stand up for our rights and freedoms and support others who do the same. We should be willing to make sacrifices to remain free because freedom is important!

What does it mean to treat other people with care and dignity? (Again, let them answer and give guidance as needed.) We need to follow the laws of love. We should not hurt each other. We should treat each other with love and care. You may even want to discuss that bad health habits can lead to health problems that impede our freedom of movement and personal independence.

If we don’t value our independence, fail to recognize its worth, and treat it with carelessness, our freedom can topple just like our towers toppled. Leave your children with a sense of hope, though, by explaining that we each have the choice to value our freedom and to value others. If we make the right choice, our freedoms can remain strong and we can stand like tall towers or beacons of hope for others and for our country.

For more 4th of July information and activities, check out these articles!

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25 Educational and Outdoor Summer Boredom Busters

25 educational and outdoor summer boredom busters
If you're looking for Educational and Outdoor Summer Boredom Busters for kids of all ages, you'll find lots of great ideas here!
If you're looking for Educational and Outdoor Summer Boredom Busters for kids of all ages, you'll find lots of great ideas here!
If you're looking for Educational and Outdoor Summer Boredom Busters for kids of all ages, you'll find lots of great ideas here!
If you're looking for Educational and Outdoor Summer Boredom Busters for kids of all ages, you'll find lots of great ideas here!
If you're looking for Educational and Outdoor Summer Boredom Busters for kids of all ages, you'll find lots of great ideas here!
Summer Boredom Busters Hip Homeschool Moms

It never takes long for summer boredom to set in.  Most years it seems we barely close the books for the school year, and I’m already hearing things like, “I’m so bored,” and, “There’s nothing to do!”  If I turn off the videos and say no to the gaming, it’s even worse!

HHM 25 Outdoor Educational and Outdoor Summer Boredom Busters wide 1

Sometimes I want to respond to my children with something like, “Oh, you don’t have anything to do?  Here!  Fold this laundry!  Scrub this toilet!  Sweep this garage!” To be honest, there’s nothing wrong with having our kids help out around the house or in the yard. I like to try to make those positive experiences, though, and I avoid assigning house and yard work as punishment if I can.

Other times I start talking like my mother:  “When I was your age, we didn’t have video games and tablets and all these other digital gizmos!  We actually spent our summers playing outside!”

And about then I usually stop and roll my eyes at myself because I realize I just used the word gizmo to my children.  Sigh.  😉

But we do want our kids to spend time outside, right?  They need the sunshine and the exercise, and sometimes a little good ol’ boredom is just the inspiration a child needs for some fun and creative play to start happening!

But it also doesn’t hurt to give kids a little direction – to slip them an idea or two for an outdoor activity — and then allow them to take off with it!  Granted, my suggestions won’t necessarily work for every child in every family in every neighborhood, but consider these 25 ideas your basic starting points for some fun learning and summer boredom busting! (Bonus: I recently added even more ideas to this article, so you can find more than the 25 original ideas I started with!)

Please note that the main suggestions (the numbered suggestions in the list below) are outdoor activities. Underneath those are other related ideas that may be indoor or outdoor activities and are related to each suggested topic.

1. Complete a scavenger hunt or nature walk.

There are all kinds of scavenger hunts you can do with your children! Many of them will work perfectly outside. Some may better for indoors (when the weather is bad or when it’s too hot to go out, etc.) We have several scavenger hunt-related ideas to share with you!

2. Learn about trees and plants.  

  • Grab a sketchbook and some great field guides and have fun finding, sketching, and identifying all kinds of plants and animals in your yard, neighborhood, park, etc. (You’ll find more specific ideas in the following suggestions.)
  • Use these Tree Notebooking Pages and Unit Study Ideas to help you focus more on trees. In the article (which you’ll find when you click the bold print title in the previous sentence) and on the notebooking pages, you’ll find vocabulary words, notebooking pages for recording new information, suggestions for using the extra pages that are included in the notebooking pages, and even suggestions for related unit studies you might want to do.
  • Or you might enjoy this Apple Tree Art Project. (I know apple-picking is a fall activity, but you can do the art project any time!)
  • Do a book of leaf rubbings.
  • For older students, try Learning About Plan Cells.

3. Grow a garden.

  • Keep a garden.This article tells you some basics about how to get started. But we have lots more gardening-related articles you might enjoy and benefit from this summer!

4. Learn about birds. 

  • Identify 7 species of birds in your yard or neighborhood.
  • Do this Seabird Unit Study! Take your reading outside (or do it inside on a rainy day).
  • Do your own Backyard Bird Study. The article (which you’ll find when you click the bold print title in the previous sentence) gives information about the Great Backyard Bird Count and how to participate but, depending on when you’re reading this article, that may have already happened. No worries if it’s already past for this year! You can still use many of the ideas in the article to do your own backyard bird study!
  • If you’d like even more ideas for doing your own Bird Nature Study, you’ll find them here! You’ll find packing list ideas, activity ideas, suggested resources, and more.
  • Try to construct a real-looking bird nest from straw, sticks, mud, and other natural materials.

5. Learn about bugs and insects. 

6. Learn about animals. 

7. Build/construct something.

8. Learn more about the weather.

9. Do arts & crafts and painting.

  • Make a painting using only natural “brushes,” like leaves, sticks, grass, and pine sprigs.
  • Have younger children use a bucket of water and a paintbrush to “paint” the house or the sidewalk and watch it evaporate away so they can do it again!
  • Paint pet rocks.
  • Make these beautiful Etched Glass Lanterns!

Try some crafts using toilet paper rolls! They’re fun to make and can be used as toys, puppets for a puppet show, gifts for a grandparent or elderly neighbor, or just to display for a while.

10. Learn about rocks.

  • Start a rock collection, classifying them as either igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.
  • Celebrate Collect Rocks Day! (Okay, this “holiday” actually occurs in September, but we homeschoolers tend to do things in whatever ways work best for our families, right? So you have permission to celebrate Collect Rocks Day as part of your summer fun instead of waiting for fall!)

11. Play with bubbles.

12. Play with sidewalk chalk.

  • With sidewalk chalk, design a city and road system for Hot Wheels.
  • Draw a self-portrait.
  • Write vocabulary or spelling words on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk.
  • Use sidewalk chalk to decorate your sidewalk and make passers-by smile.
  • Draw a tic-tac-toe board and play a game or two.
  • Draw a fun background (like a spaceship, castle, scene at the beach, etc.) and use it for a background for fun photos!

13. Cook/bake/make yummy stuff.

Try some of these recipes for delicious things to make and eat or drink! Your children might want to make some of these things for the family or make some to share with friends and neighbors.

There are also lots of recipes for things to make that you won’t want to eat! Try a few of these:

14. Go camping.

15. Go to the beach.

  • Go to the beach and play Beach Bingo.
  • Play beach volleyball.
  • Build a sandcastle.
  • Collect seashells or use them to decorate your sandcastle.
  • Create sand sculptures.

16. Complete a challenge.

  • Choose and complete one (or more!) of these 30-Day Challenges! (Some are outdoor activities and others are indoors, but they all encourage you and your kids to get busy doing new things.)
  • Want to create a new healthy habit? Decide what healthy habit you want to practice, print one of our habit trackers (from the 30-Day Challenges article listed above), and get started! You might want to:
    • Exercise every day (even if you simply take a walk or ride your bike).
    • Do more active play and less sitting/screen time.
    • Eat a healthy breakfast each day.
    • Say something nice about somebody or to somebody.
    • Read a book to a younger sibling.
    • Help Mom or Dad with cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc.
    • Drink water every day.

17. Read!

  • Summer reading can be done indoors or outdoors! This article, A Huge Collection of Summer Reading Ideas and Information, is updated yearly. This article includes summer reading information through various companies, and it also includes book lists for all ages! (If it hasn’t yet been updated for the coming summer, please be patient. Depending on when you’re reading the article, the updated summer reading info may not yet be available.)
  • Try some of these Creative Ways to Read Aloud This Summer.

18. Play in the yard or at the park.

  • Turn on the sprinklers and let your kids run through them!
  • Climb a tree.
  • At night, try to spot the International Space Station. Click here to see when it will be visible from your area. 
  • Play hopscotch.
  • Play kickball.
  • Have a water balloon fight.
  • Go stargazing one night.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Play Capture the Flag.
  • Play jacks.
  • Play Red Light, Green Light.
  • Play Simon Says.
  • Play Mother, May I.
  • Play tag or freeze tag.

19. Do something nice for somebody.

20. Learn a new skill.

You might want to learn to:

  • knit or crochet
  • juggle
  • make soap
  • make candles
  • do CPR
  • hula hoop
  • do origami
  • play the guitar
  • play the piano
  • play the harmonica
  • draw or paint
  • sew
  • yoyo
  • do card tricks
  • build a house of cards

21. Get a head start making DIY Christmas gifts and decorations.

There are all kinds of things you can make ahead of time and save to give as Christmas gifts. You can also make gift tags and decorations to have ready ahead of time.

22. Play something/do something outside that your grandparents played as kids.

  • Play Red Rover.
  • Play dodge ball.
  • Jump rope.
  • Play string games.
  • Go fishing.
  • Play marbles.

23. Do something in your neighborhood.

  • Go geocaching.
  • Attend a concert.
  • Attend an art show.
  • Go to a museum you’ve never visited.
  • Go to a restaurant you’ve never been to.
  • Take a walk downtown and peek into all the stores to say hello.

24. Study the stars, planets, moon, and outer space.

25. If you’re going on vacation, think up or print some games/activities for your kids to do on the way.

  • Printable Road Trip Activities for Kids 
  • Print out some unit studies, ebooks, or other information about the place(s) you’ll go on vacation. Read and learn together as you drive or fly to your destination.
  • Play the ABC game. As you drive, look for signs or objects (Decide on the rules ahead of time.) that begin with the letter a. Then move on to the letter b, c, etc.

Summer will be gone before we know it!  Arm yourself now with a few summer boredom busters, and the days of, “I’m so bored!” and, “There’s nothing to do!” should be fewer and further between!

Do your kids suffer from summer boredom?  What do you do to encourage your kids to get outside?

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A Collection of Easter Ideas and Activities

a collection of easter ideas and activities
HHM Collection of Easter Ideas and Activities PIN

Don’t you love finding new ways to celebrate holidays? We thought you would because we love it too! Here you’ll find a collection of ideas and activities we’ve gathered from our own sites and from some of our blogging friends. We truly do hope you are inspired to try one (or several!) of these activities and ideas!

HHM Collection of Easter Ideas and Activities

Whether you want to keep things simple, use what you already have on hand, or go all out and have a big celebration, we think you’ll find just what you’re looking for!

Games and Hands-on Activities

Printable-Easter-Story-Trivia-Game

Printable Easter Story Trivia Game

We hope this free printable Easter Story Trivia Game will help you keep the focus on Christ this Easter season!

LEGO Tomb Sample 2 6 768x512 1

LEGO Tomb Activity for Easter

This LEGO Tomb Easter Activity will help you share the story of Christ’s resurrection with your kids in a hands-on way this Easter!

HHM Easter-egg-parachute-game

Easter Egg Parachute Game

If you’re having an Easter party (or if you just have a lot of kids!), this is a fun game for young children.

HHM Easter-Story-LEGO-Challenge

Easter Story LEGO Challenge

This Lego challenge is perfect for helping children illustrate (and remember) the Easter story.

bunny-craft

Paper Roll Bunny Craft for Kids

Looking for a simple, just-for-fun Easter craft for your family or a party? This is it!

frederickscross9

Make A Frederick’s Cross Using Blacksmith Secrets

These crosses are beautiful and are easier to make than you might think!

Dyeing Eggs and Easter Egg Activities

HHM Easter finished eggs wide 2

Using shaving cream and food coloring to dye Easter eggs is fun and simple, and your eggs will be pastel beauties!

fizzing-rainbow-easter-eggs-label-51

Fizzing Rainbow Easter Eggs!!

This fun science experiment/activity is perfect for the Easter season.

egg-jar

10 Fun Ways to Recycle Plastic Easter Eggs

If you’re like me, you hate throwing things away if they can be recycled or repurposed! This article shares 10 ways to use leftover plastic eggs in fun and educational ways.

ABCs and Math Activities

ABC Eggs 768x697 1

Upper & Lowercase Easter Egg Match

If you like the number match activity above, we think you’ll love this upper and lowercase letter match too!

Easter Egg Number Match 331x500 1

Easter Egg Number Match

This is a super cute preschool math activity for children who are working on counting, matching, and recognizing numbers.

HHM Ducks-and-Mazes-264

Easter Egg Math

Use plastic Easter eggs to do these math activities with your little ones.

Fun with Food

sweet chicks easter snackSweet Chicks Easter Snack

This sweet Easter treat reminds us of new life, so it’s a perfect Easter or Palm Sunday treat for kids to make and eat!

Dissolving Peeps tall 1

Dissolving Peeps Science Experiment

If you have Peeps for Easter (or leftover Peeps after Easter), use them to do this experiment! It’s super easy and inexpensive.

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Fun Jelly Bean Structure Activity

This simple activity will encourage your children to be creative and use critical thinking skills in a fun way.

Coloring and Painting

HHM Just-Color-Easter_thumb

Just Color ~ Easter

This is an Easter-themed coloring pack for kiddos who enjoy coloring or need something quiet to do for a little while.

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Easter Q-Tip Painting Printables

These Q-Tip coloring pages are fun for children, but they’re also great for helping develop eye-hand coordination!

Miscellaneous and Collections of Ideas

EASTTERTRADMockup 500x500 1

Easter Traditions Around the World

Learn more about how other countries and cultures celebrate Easter with this fun printable booklet that all ages will enjoy.

HHM Easter Ideas and Experiments for Your Homeschool 1024x683 1

Easter Ideas and Experiment for Your Homeschool

In this article, we share a collection of ideas and experiments for the Easter season.

Creative Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs Wide

Creative Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs

This is a fun assortment of articles sharing creative ways to dye and decorate Easter eggs!

easter ideas activities and printables wide

Easter Ideas, Activities, and Printables

This article is a collection of all kinds of printables, ideas, and activities for your children or for an Easter party, co-op, etc.

free easter and spring printables

Free Easter and Spring Printables

This collection includes printables for both Easter and spring. (Note: All of the printables were free at the time we created this collection.)

HHM Easter Confessions of a Homeschooler

Fun and Easy Easter Activities for Kids!

This resurrection garden is a wonderful way to remind your family of Jesus this Easter season.

freespringprintablesbig

This is another collection of lots of fun printables and activities for Easter and spring.

Easter-Fun-Submit

Easter Printable, Crafts, and More

Looking for printable craft ideas for Easter? You’ll find a great collection here!

10 Easter ideas and activities | Hip Homeschool Moms

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Big List of 30-Day Challenges to Do with Your Kids

big list of 30 day challenges to do with your kids
30 day challenges

Have you ever done a 30-day challenge? You can do a lot in 30 days! You can change an attitude, develop a new habit, kick an old habit, start down the path to get healthier, and so much more! I personally enjoy doing 30-day challenges because I figure I can do almost anything for 30 days even if it’s difficult.

30 day challenges

When I wanted to give up sugary drinks, I set a goal to give them up for 30 days. I figured I was up to the challenge because the end was in sight from the beginning! (Just being honest!) Once I gave them up for 30 days, I knew it was something I wanted to continue and that I was capable of doing it. (Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I do occasionally have a Sprite or add some caramel syrup to my coffee, but it happens once every couple of months now, and it used to be something I did every day!)

  • No matter the time of year, when you make up your mind to make a change, it’s the right time to get started!
  • It just seems so much more doable to set a goal for 30 days than for a longer period of time. And, to be honest, if 30 days seems like too long, try a week or two. Then try 30 days.
  • It allows you to “try out” a new habit or commitment so you’ll know whether it’s something you want to continue forever or whether it’s something you’d rather let go of for the time being.
  • It can give you a sense of accomplishment and capability to set a short-term goal and reach it.
  • It can be fun to challenge yourself! And it can be even more fun if you and a friend complete the challenge together.
  • You might want to choose one challenge for 30 days and then do a different challenge until you’ve completed multiple challenges! I would like to caution you, though, not to try to complete two or three challenges all at once. If you try to do too much, you’ll end up feeling discouraged and overwhelmed instead of victorious. This should be something that’s doable!
  • Most challenges are more fun with a friend! If you have someone who’s willing to do a challenge with you, take advantage of that! You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable. I know I’m much more likely to stick to my goal when I know someone is going to ask me each day if I stuck with it!
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself! Yes, you need to do your best to stick with your goal. If you slip up, though, you need to remind yourself that, as Scarlett O’Hara would say, “Tomorrow is another day.” Instead of kicking yourself for messing up, just resolve to start over again tomorrow!

There are several 30-day challenge trackers available on our sister site, Only Passionate Curiosity.

There are lots of challenge ideas listed below. You may want to choose from the ones on this list or even come up with your own! (If you come up with your own, be sure to tell us about it in the comments so we can add it to our list in case others want to do it.)

My goal is to complete 30 days of:

  1. no spending – Try not to spend any extra money! Of course you have to pay your regular bills and buy groceries, but this challenge means you don’t spend money eating out, buying clothes or gifts, entertainment, etc.
  2. decluttering – This could mean getting rid of something you don’t need each day, decluttering one space a day, decluttering a larger space over 30 days, etc. This article with 6 Realistic Tips for Tackling Clutter will help you make a plan and get started.
  3. deep cleaning – This could mean deep cleaning a drawer, closet, or room each day or deep cleaning for a set amount of time each day, etc.
  4. photo fun – This could mean lots of things! You might choose to take a photo each day, post a photo on social media, text a photo of your children to a grandparent, etc.
  5. pay it forward – Do something nice for somebody! This might be posting an encouraging comment on social media, texting or calling someone to encourage her/him, paying for fast food or coffee for the person who’s behind you in line, helping someone in your home do a job that is that person’s responsibility, going grocery shopping for an elderly person, cooking a meal for someone who’s sick, mailing a card or letter to someone, etc. You might enjoy reading this article about 10 Reasons to Do Random Acts of Kindness. And you’ll get lots of inspiration and ideas from 50 Random Acts of Kindness and 50 More Random Acts of Kindness That Can Be Done from Home.You may also enjoy 25 Random Acts of Kindness for Your Husband and 30 Random Acts of Kindness for Kids. 
  6. self-care – This could include exercising each day (even if that means simply going for a walk), cutting out junk food, getting in bed on time each night, taking care of your mental health by relaxing or reading a book for a few minutes each day, etc.
  7.  social media limit – Set a limit on the amount of time you’ll spend on social media each day and stick to the limit! Do something fun or productive with the time you would have spent on social media.
  8. drinking only water – This one is self-explanatory! Drink only water for 30 days. (I actually allow myself to drink black coffee too since it’s zero calories.)
  9. no sugar – For me, this means no eating or drinking anything with sugar in it. I also avoid high carb foods and drinks since carbs are essentially sugar. (At least I avoid unhealthy carbs. I still eat fruits and veggies with natural sugars.)
  10. whole 30 eating – If you’re not familiar with whole 30 eating, it includes things such as: eating foods free of artificial sweeteners, soy, dairy, and processed additives (as well as processed foods) etc. Click here to read The Beginner’s Guide to the Whole30 Diet. If you’re looking for Whole30 cookbooks, you might like Cooking Whole30, The Whole30 Slow Cooker, or 30 Whole Foods Instant Pot Cookbook for Beginners. 
  11. gratitude – Spend a few minutes each day being grateful. This might include simply stopping and thinking about things you’re grateful for, or it could include keeping a gratitude journal, spending time in prayer thanking God for your blessings, or some other way to express your gratitude. It’s up to you!
  12. Bible reading/study – If your goal is to read the Bible or do some kind of Bible study each day, starting with a 30-day challenge is a great way to develop the habit! I enjoy reading my Bible and listening to a podcast to go along with each day’s reading. Right now I’m reading and then listening to The Bible Recap podcast by Tara-Leigh Cobble
  13. drawing – You might choose to work on a different drawing project each day, you may want to work on one project for several days before moving on to the next one, or you might want to work on one big project over the entire 30 days!
  14. reading – You might want to read for fun, information, instruction, or some other purpose! You could read a chapter a day, read for a certain amount of time, or read a book from a genre you don’t usually read. Or you might choose to read along with a book club or to read aloud to your children each day. I read aloud with my kids from birth until they were all teens and had jobs and crazy schedules which prevented us from being able to have a regular reading time, so don’t think reading aloud is only for young children! We have lots (and lots!) of articles with great book lists! Here are a few of them. Feel free to look around for more after you take a look at these! (1) Books That Feature Homeschool Children, (2) Books to Read This Summer (but of course you can read them any time!), (3) Big List of Sea Life Books, (4) Zoo Scavenger Hunt Printables and Book Lists, (5) Sunflower Unit Study with Book List and Notebook Pages, (6) A Comprehensive Book List for Kids Who Love Percy Jackson, (7) Books for Littles (Preschool and Lower Elementary Ages), (8) Books for Middles (Upper Elementary Ages), and (9) Books for Teens.  
  15. fitness/exercise – I know many of us make commitments to exercise in January, and those commitments usually only last a few days or a couple of weeks. If you commit to a 30-day challenge, though, I think you’ll find that 30 days is enough time to get in the habit of exercising and start to see (and feel!) the benefits! Five years ago (when I was well into my 40s), I decided I wanted to feel better, so I joined a local gym (with group classes because that keeps me motivated and accountable). I committed to going for one month. It was super hard to make myself go at first, but I kept at it. Once I’d done it for 30 days, though, it was getting easier, and I was beginning to see and feel the improvements. That kept me motivated, and I’m still at it five years later! (I’m not kidding when I say, “If I can do it, you can do it!”) If you can’t afford a gym membership (or just don’t want to have to go to a gym), try a sit-up challenge, push-up challenge, yoga, walking, jogging, etc.
  16. sewing – This could be hand sewing, machine sewing, sewing clothing or dolls or blankets or something else. If you enjoy sewing or think you might enjoy it, now is the time! Work on a different project each day, one project for several days before completing it and moving to the next one, or work on a larger project over an entire month. The details (and even the outcome!) aren’t the important things. The important thing is that you spend some time each day learning or perfecting your skills and enjoying yourself.
  17. crochet – Similar to the sewing challenge, you might decide to work on several smaller projects or one larger project over the 30 days.
  18. board games – Play a board game each day with your kids! There are lots and lots of great board games to choose from. You may already have lots of good ones, or you may want to take this chance to learn about new-to-you games to play. You can also go to our list of great educational board games on Amazon. 
  19. arts and/or crafts – There are so many arts and crafts projects to choose from! You might decide to introduce your children to new artists or techniques, or you may decide to create things to give away or use to decorate your home. You could even take this opportunity to add some fun arts and crafts projects to your homeschool or to simply do some projects with your children just for fun. We shared some fun craft projects using toilet paper tubes on Only Passionate Curiosity. Your kids can make a Pirate Toilet Paper Tube Craft, an Airplane Toilet Paper Tube Craft, a Crab Toilet Paper Tube Craft, and a Butterfly Toilet Paper Tube Craft. (If you do the pirate craft, you might also enjoy this Preschool Pirate Printable Pack or our Roll a Story Pirates activity.)  Here on Hip Homeschool Moms, you’ll find an article about incorporating art with literature. You can use the ideas in our article and even borrow our ideas to create your own art projects to go with other books you’re reading with your kiddos! Teach Homeschool Art with Literature: Activities for Grandpa Green Book is a great place to start! Or you may want to create Scribble Art Monsters or try this Easy Art Class – The Color Wheel with children of all ages.
  20. words of affirmation – In a time when people are often quick to be unkind to others, you might want to make an effort to spend 30 days choosing to share words of affirmation. Whether you decide to affirm your spouse or children, friends or family members in person or on the phone or even by text message, or whether you choose to share words of affirmation on social media, the world needs more kindness right now! Be sure to encourage your children to practice words of affirmation with their siblings too! They could speak words of affirmation to each other or even leave notes for each other. This is a great way to encourage your children to get along well and be kind to each other!
  21. quality time – To me, quality time means me spending time doing whatever is meaningful to the person (or people) I’m spending time with. In other words, if your children love it when you play outside with them, quality time for them would be playing outside together. If your husband loves it when you sit down and watch a movie with him, quality time for him would be watching a movie together. So take a few minutes to think about what quality time means to the people you love and make a plan to do those things! I think, at the end of the 30 days, you’ll be glad you made that commitment!
  22. acts of service – I don’t know what your love language is, but mine is definitely acts of service! (I think this is true of many busy moms!) Acts of service will vary according to the recipient’s age, interests, and responsibilities. Take a few minutes to think about the person or people you want to bless, and come up with some acts of service you can do for them. Some suggestions for children who’d like to perform acts of service for siblings or parents might be helping another sibling read a book or clean his/her room, helping a parent cook dinner, helping a neighbor with yard work, etc. If you’d like to read a great book about love languages, I loved The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. There’s also a version for kids called The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively, and even a version for teens called The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively. 
  23. skincare – I have to admit this is a 30-day challenge I need to take myself! My idea of skincare is washing my face every morning and every evening. Period. I don’t usually wear makeup, I’m not great about moisturizing my skin, and I don’t usually do anything special to take care of my skin. I do, however, go to the dermatologist regularly because I’ve had a couple of small skin cancers, and I want to be sure to keep an eye out for more. (I suggest you visit a dermatologist too if you haven’t gone in a while. It’s better to be safe than sorry.) For this challenge, decide what you want to do for your skin and do it!
  24. saving money – This is something most of us don’t do that all of us should be doing! If you’re not working on saving money for emergencies, that’s a great place to start. We have a fun printable on our sister site, Only Passionate Curiosity, to help your children get started saving money! We hope you enjoy the article, Encourage Your Kids to Save Money – Printable Savings Tracker, In the article, you’ll find the link to use to download the printable tracker from our store. To get it for free, put 0.00 in where you see the “pay what you can” option.
  25. new recipes – My family members are boring when it comes to food. They like to eat the same things over and over and over… So this is one of the 30-day challenges I’m going to do this year! I got a Ninja Foodie pressure cooker/slow cooker/air fryer for Christmas, so I’m trying out new recipes in it. I’m also making healthy changes to my own diet, so I’m working on incorporating more Whole30 foods/recipes. You might also want to take a look at the recipes on our sister site, Love These Recipes, for some kids-in-the-kitchen recipes and recipes for main courses, side dishes, desserts, holidays, and more. Love These Recipes is a fairly new site, but we’ve got some yummy recipes there, and we think you’ll enjoy them! And we’ll be adding recipes all along, so be sure to keep visiting to find more.
  26. science projects and experiments – When my kids were younger, they absolutely loved doing science projects and experiments! I loved doing them too! You could spend a few days each week researching to find things you want to do and collect supplies. Then, once you have what you need, spend another day or two doing the projects or experiments. Or you might want to do a small, simple activity each day. Some of the most popular science activities on our sites are this Edible Cell Project: Chocolate Chip Cookie Science and this Cool Rubber Egg Science Experiment. Our readers also love Study Science with Dr. Seuss: Bartholomew and the Oobleck and Use Your Garden as an Outdoor Classroom. (If it’s fall or winter, just plan to use these outdoor science activities once it’s spring or summer.) And we have more science activities, printables, and activities than I can even list on Only Passionate Curiosity! When you go to the science section of that site, you’ll find lots to choose from. You can also type “science” into the search bar of that site to find even more ideas.
  27. shelf-cooking/pantry cooking – This simply means using what you already have on your shelves and in your pantry instead of going to the grocery store. You might want to start by noting what you have in the freezer and on your shelves and then making plans for the meals you can make with those ingredients. For example, last year I bought a turkey on sale after Thanksgiving. I put it in my deep freezer and forgot about it. For this challenge, I could easily bake that turkey and use the meat to make baked turkey, turkey spaghetti, turkey sandwiches, etc. The main goal is to use what you already have instead of buying more food.
  28. nature walks – If you live in the South like I do, you can go on nature walks year-round! Even during winter, we regularly have days in the 50s and 60s (and sometimes even the 70s!). If you live farther north, you might want to take shorter walks or perhaps even do this 30-day challenge in the spring or summer when the temperatures are warmer. Nature walks can be a great time not only to observe nature but also to enjoy getting outside with your children and paying more attention to nature and your surroundings. If you have young children, you might enjoy going on an ABC Nature Walk. While you’re on your nature walk, you might want to start a nature journal. Our article, 10 Reasons to Keep a Nature Journal, will give you not only reasons to start one but also information about how and what to do. And if you’re looking for outdoor ideas for your kiddos, you’ll love this Big List of Things for Kids to Do Outside This Summer. If it’s winter when you’re reading this, you may still get some ideas for things to do with your kids to keep them active. Or if it’s summer (or if you live in the South where it’s warm most of the year like I do), you’ll be able to use these ideas right away!
  29. meatless meals – You may want to do a 30-day meatless meals challenge for the health benefits, to save money, or for some other reason. My husband is a meat lover, so this one might be hard for us! But I mentioned earlier that I feel like I can do just about anything for 30 days, so we may try this one at some point this year. There are lots of great meatless meal recipes available now. We may just use this time to find some new meatless favorites!
  30. productivity – Decide for yourself what would make you more productive and do it! Just be sure not to try to make too many changes all at once. Decide for 30 days to make one change. Do you need to get up earlier? Set a goal for what you need to accomplish each day or each week? Set a timer and work uninterrupted for 30 minutes or an hour? (You may need help with the kids to accomplish that one!) Make sure you get enough sleep so you have the energy to do what needs to be done? Eat healthier so you don’t feel sluggish and tired? Exercise so you have the energy you need? Or maybe even see a health-and-wellness doctor to get help figuring out the changes you need to make so you can think more clearly and be more productive?
  31. hairstyles – If you’re one of those folks who loves trying out new hairstyles, this is for you! Look up videos on YouTube, try out new hair-styling gadgets, or even go to the salon to try out a new cut or color! 30 days is enough time to try out lots of new looks!
  32. makeup – I know lots of ladies who love trying out new makeup! I’m a minimalist when it comes to makeup. (In other words, I’m pretty boring and don’t wear much makeup at all!) But I know some ladies who love using new makeup, experimenting with colors and looks, etc. If this is something you enjoy, take 30 days to look at books, read blogs, and watch YouTube videos to get new ideas!
  33. wear what’s in your closet – Do you (like me) have lots of clothes in your closet, yet you wear the same things day after day? If so, make a plan to wear something out of your closet (without buying anything new!) every single day for a month with no repeats! If you find that you can’t wear most of what’s in there, get rid of it! (Yay! You’ll be completing two challenges at once!) Or, if you come across something you love that you’d forgotten about, you’ve just enlarged your rotation. You might even work on taking what you have, combining things in different ways, and creating some new looks with what you already have.
  34. foreign language – I’ve wanted to learn Spanish for a long time! My family and I go to Peru each summer on a mission trip, and we’ve grown to love the people there. I would love to be able to communicate with them in Spanish. I’ve started working on learning Spanish at one time or another over the years, but I need to make Spanish lessons part of what I do every day. Starting with a 30-day challenge is how I plan to get more serious about building up my Spanish vocabulary this year! Whatever language you want to learn, set a goal to work on it for 30 days. Hopefully, that will turn into 30 more days and 30 more days until you’ve gained enough skill to communicate in your new language!
  35. no TV – Some people watch a lot of television, and others hardly watch it at all. I’m not generally tempted to watch TV except in the late evening when my husband I sit down to watch an episode of something together before bedtime. It’s our way of relaxing and taking a break together at the end of the day. But if watching TV takes up too much of your time or is too much of a temptation (or if this is true for your children), you may want to commit to 30 days of no TV. Be sure to plan other things to do during that time, though, so you can trade something that’s not productive for something that is! You might pair your no-TV challenge with 30 days of reading, arts & crafts, cooking together, exercise, learning a foreign language, etc.
  36. family dinner – One thing my family always did when my sisters and I were growing up was sit down to eat dinner each evening as a family. I did the same with my husband and children until my children all got to be teenagers and were working or going to ballet classes in the evenings. I’m thankful we made this a habit, and I hope my children will do the same one day when they have children. If this isn’t something you do with your family, try to make family dinner a priority for 30 days! I think you’ll be glad you did.
  37. studying – If you have middle school or high school students who need to start making it a priority to study each day, set a goal to commit to 30 days of studying. This may not be the most exciting of all the challenges on this list, but I can promise it will be one of the most productive!
  38. new word a day – This could be a really fun challenge for your family! Get a word-a-day calendar or just look up a new word each day. Then use that word as many times as you can that day! And, if you want to add to the challenge, try to use as many of the previous words as you can each day too. My family and I used to do this, and it provided lots of entertaining discussions and new vocabulary!
  39. going to bed on time – If you’re a busy mom–especially a mom of babies or young children–this might be a hard one for you! Many of us spend time scrolling through our social media accounts in the evenings or doing other things that aren’t really important or productive, though, so it might be easier than we think to get in bed a little earlier if we cut out some of those things.
  40. learning a new skill – Years ago, a friend mentioned that she and her children each choose a new skill to work on over the summer each year. For example, one of her children chose to learn to juggle, so he practiced juggling every day all summer until he got good at it. One child wanted to learn to cook, so she cooked or baked something each day. My friend decided to work on learning a foreign language, so she studied each day to learn the new language. I thought this was a fantastic idea! You don’t have to wait until summer, though. Make a list of things you might want to learn and work on developing that new skill by working on it for 30 days no matter what time of year you begin!

Whether you’re looking for a fun way to challenge yourself and create some good habits or whether you’re working on cutting out old habits, I hope you’ll try a few of these 30-day challenges. I think you’ll find that you’ll enjoy the challenge and come out stronger, healthier, and more encouraged when you’re done. Just keep in mind that these challenges are for fun! If you mess up, who cares?! Let yourself have fun! Let yourself enjoy your successes, leave behind your mistakes, and (as they say in the movie Meet the Robsinsons), “Keep moving forward!”

P.S. – If you and your children haven’t seen that movie, you should!

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10 Ways to Deal with Winter Blues

10 ways to deal with winter blues
HHM 10 Ways to Deal With Winter Blues PIN

Do you feel a little sad during the winter? Maybe you’re not even really sure how you feel. Maybe you just know that something isn’t quite right and you don’t even really know why or exactly what’s wrong. If so, keep reading! I’m going to talk a little bit about why this could be happening and share 10 ways to deal with winter blues.

HHM 10 Ways to Deal with Winter Blues FB

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a form of depression thought to be caused by the shorter days (fewer hours of sunlight) and colder weather (resulting in more time spent indoors) that fall and winter bring. Some people suffer a mild form of it (sometimes called “winter blues”), and others become extremely depressed and have a hard time functioning normally at all. Those who suffer from a more severe case of SAD often sleep for an excessive number of hours and have extreme cravings for carbohydrates–often leading to weight gain. Others have trouble sleeping at all (though they feel exhausted) and don’t have an appetite. Those who have “winter blues” may simply feel uninterested in things they used to enjoy, and they may feel tired and lethargic most of the time.

If you often feel tired and “down” during winter, there are some things you can do to help yourself feel better. It’s not necessary that you feel tired and draggy and disinterested until spring! Below I’ve listed some steps you can take to help combat SAD or the winter blues. They may sound simple, but sometimes even a simple change can bring improvement! NOTE: If you feel severely depressed and hopeless or feel like you might harm yourself or someone else, please see a doctor right away!

1. Get as much light as you can.

If you love candles, try burning candles in the areas where you spend the most time. Not only are they pretty to look at, but they fill the air with lovely scents that can help lift your spirits! Even if you have young children and can’t safely burn candles in your house, you can use electric candles to get the same lovely flickering look, and you can diffuse essential oils to enjoy the fragrance. Himalayan salt lamps can also be a good candle alternative.

2. Get together with friends as often as possible.

When we feel tired and depressed, it’s hard to force ourselves to go to the trouble of getting ourselves and our children up and dressed to leave the house. We just don’t feel like making the effort! But forcing yourself to be social is often a great way to feel better. There are many times I don’t want to keep social commitments when I feel blue, but I’m always glad I did once I arrive. After all, it’s not really sunlight that brings happiness! It’s the people we love.

3. Keep it simple.

When you’re getting together with friends or relatives, keep the planning simple! You probably don’t feel like planning an elaborate party (Unless that’s what makes you happy. In that case, do it!), but it’s fine to meet up somewhere casual, like going for a walk at the park or browsing shops to do some window shopping. Or, if you choose to have someone over or go to someone else’s house to visit, make the meal planning easy by having soup and sandwiches or store-bought food. Many grocery stores now have a deli section or offer hot plates to go. Play some games with the kiddos or sit and drink coffee while you watch the kids play. Encourage yourself and your friends to get together by making it something that’s easy to do!

4. Do something for someone else.

If possible, have your children help you do something to brighten some else’s day. We all know that doing something nice for someone else often makes us feel just as good (or better!) than it makes the other person feel. Help an elderly neighbor or relative clean her house or go grocery shopping. Bake cookies and take them to someone who would enjoy them. Make a freezer meal or two and give them to someone who lives alone and might not take the time to cook for himself. Not only is this teaching our children to love and care for others, but it also gives us something meaningful to do with our children during a time that they might feel bored and need something constructive to do.

5. Go outside as often as possible–even for a short time.

When the days are short and cold, it can be tempting to stay indoors except when it’s absolutely necessary to venture out. Instead of spending time thinking of ways to stay inside, think of ways you can go outside–even for a few minutes at a time–just to get some fresh air and enjoy whatever sunlight there is. If possible, walk around the block or down the road even if you have to bundle up to do it. If you live in an area where it snows, go outside and have a snowball fight with the kids. Go on a hike together (even a short one). Take a nature walk. Or simply play in the back yard together.

6. Take time to do something indoors that you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time.

If the weather truly is too bad or too cold to be outside, spend a few minutes each day working toward a goal you have. If you’ve been wanting to declutter the house, take 15 minutes a day (set a timer if needed) to declutter a small space and make progress toward your goal. Want to write a book? Spend a few minutes each day jotting down some notes or writing a few lines. Want to learn how to paint or sew or cook? Find some great YouTube videos or online classes and do it! This is something you can do with your children too! Think about something you’d all like to learn to do, and learn together.

7. Indulge! (Occasionally)

While you don’t want to get in a habit of eating sweets and desserts all the time, it’s perfectly fine to indulge now and then. Grab the kids, pick your favorite cookie recipe, and spend a day baking and decorating cookies or another favorite treat. Enjoy the time having fun and cooking (and cleaning the kitchen) together.

8. Keep a gratitude journal, and teach your kids to keep one too.

Sometimes we simply forget how blessed we are! One easy way to be happy is to pay attention to the positive things in our lives instead of dwelling so much on the negative things. Keeping a gratitude journal is a way to teach our minds to thing more about the good things. Make it simple. Use a notebook to write down something (or more than one thing) that you’re thankful for each day. Do this as a family or have a separate notebook for each person. Do whatever works for your family. If you have little ones, let them draw pictures of what they’re grateful for. Or you can write for them as they dictate.

9. Get some exercise.

When you feel depressed, you just don’t feel like exercising. But I’ve found that on the days I least want to exercise, I benefit the most from doing it. You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym, lift weights or do some strenuous workout. You certainly can, but it’s not necessary. Just go for a brisk walk, dance with your children, jump on a mini indoor trampoline, or look for some good YouTube videos with simple stretches and strength-building routines. Have your kids exercise along with you! It’s a great habit to instill in them, and you’re more likely to keep at it if you have some accountability.

10. Eat healthy foods.

Yes, it is ok to indulge now and then, but you’ll feel better if you eat healthy foods most of the time. Instead of eating too much sugar and starch, eat as many whole foods as possible. And when you do crave carbs, try to make the smartest choices possible. One way to make this happen is by planning ahead. If you wait until you’re hungry to decide what to eat, you’ll make bad choices since you want whatever is fast in that situation. Think ahead of time about meals and snacks so you’ll be prepared before you get too hungry to make a good choice.

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IMPORTANT NOTE:

If you’ve tried everything you know to do and still feel depressed or hopeless, see a doctor! Your doctor may prescribe supplements, medication, or even some kind of light therapy to help you. It’s important that you seek help if you need it!

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Four Ways a Homeschooling Mom Can Ruin Christmas

four ways a homeschooling mom can ruin christmas
unhappy family at Christmas

If there’s any time of year when moms display their superpowers, surely it’s around the holidays!  I mean, not only are MOMS doing most of the planning, decorating, shopping, wrapping, and baking that we so often associate with a delightful Christmas, but for weeks they are also the ones managing top secret information, regularly speaking in code, and finding covert hiding places for gifts.  (Or else offering enough effective threats to keep nosy kids away from them.)

But with this great power to influence the Christmas season for good, there also comes an ability to impact it negatively.

unhappy family at Christmas

Yep.  Moms, we have the power to ruin Christmas.  Or at least to ruin certain aspects of it…

Now I don’t think we would ever do so intentionally, but you know as well as I do that all the busyness and the obligations of the Christmas season come with a lot of STRESS, and if we don’t handle that stress properly, well, it can get ugly.

So how might someone so charming and lovely as a homeschooling mom possibly ruin Christmas?  By doing one of these things…

1. By obsessing over her homeschooling schedule.

Yes, I know you have books to get through.  Yes, I know you wanted to get to a convenient stopping place before taking a break.  Yes, I realize dear Orville won’t graduate this year if he doesn’t complete his work.

But it’s also Christmas.  Never underestimate the distracting effect all the sparkle and the music and the holiday busyness can have upon your children, including your teens.  Don’t make the mistake of bearing down too hard on kids who are already struggling to focus, and don’t sweat the schedule that’s thrown off by holiday events and obligations.  You can make up for the lost time later on.

Remember one of the most important things we homeschoolers tout–that homeschooling is about relationships more than about academics.  That should never be truer than at Christmastime.

2. By obsessing over her house.

Few things can ruin Christmas faster than a woman having a meltdown over the cleanliness of her home.  (Not that I would know anything about this, mind you.  Eh-hmm.)

But you don’t understand, Tanya!  My clean-freak mother-in-law is coming for Christmas and she will be doing the white glove test EVERYWHERE!

So let her test away!  A little dust, (or even a lot of it!) won’t make you any less of a woman or make you any less married to her son.  A clean house is important, but being consumed by a desire to project the image of perfect housekeeper and hostess IS NOT.  Just don’t be so consumed by your clean-house-mania that you make everyone in your immediate family miserable.

3. By obsessing over the gift buying.

(Obsessing.  You’re seeing the theme here, right?)

It’s amazing, isn’t it, the way the season of giving can so easily turn into the season of semi-forced generosity which, in case you didn’t know it, isn’t actually GIVING at all.  Of course we want to give gifts to the people we love, but when the gift buying becomes more about appeasing selfishness or about obligatory gift exchanges than about giving from the heart, then we’re making a huge mistake in the way we’re celebrating Christmas.

Don’t ruin Christmas by plunging the family into financial trouble every December.  Don’t embarrass the family, either, by becoming the Momzilla Christmas shopper, willing to risk life and limb and dignity in pursuit of certain gifts.  And don’t become the grumpy giver – one who grumbles about every gift exchange she’s willingly agreed to be a part of.

Keep it simple:  Give what you can afford to give and give it from the heart, or don’t give at all.  It’s that easy.

4. By obsessing over her to-do list.

So you promised to bake two desserts for the co-op Christmas party and make a tray of those little stuffed jalapenos for your husband’s office party.  You’re in charge of refreshments for the live nativity at church and of course there’s the family Christmas where Uncle Ted will be expecting some of your peanut brittle on top of the other six dishes you’ll be expected to make.

Oh, and you still have those costumes to finish for the church Christmas program!  And your niece’s school play is this Friday.  And you aren’t done shopping.  And you haven’t even thought about the wrapping yet.  And then there’s the…

Sound familiar?  For future reference, learning to say NO can actually be a very useful skill, especially around Christmastime.  Often our over-commitment is born of a heartfelt desire to do good and help others, but then it’s our families who suffer for our stress.  While agreeing to appear at every function or volunteering to help at every event can seem like a good idea in the beginning, it’s only a good thing so far as it isn’t negatively affecting our families. 

And as for the things you’re already obligated to:  Take a deep breath and work through them one by one, trying always to keep in mind the real reason we celebrate Christmas. 

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Just in my own lifetime I’ve seen such a change in the way we celebrate Christmas.  For so many, it’s a time of stress and little else, which I think is so sad.

We can blame it on society, or even on our own families, but having a good Christmas that focuses on the right things, is really about US and the decisions we choose to make.

I’m choosing to make the right decisions.  Or I’m trying to, at least, because the last thing in the world I want to do is ruin Christmas.

Have you ever been guilty of ruining Christmas?  What steps do you take to manage holiday stress?

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3 Ways to Encourage Thankful Hearts in Your Children

3 ways to encourage thankful hearts in your children
Three ways to encourage thankful hearts in your children pin

Amazing, isn’t it?  The way a beautiful holiday that strives to focus on having thankful hearts immediately flows into a season that can tend to nurture everything BUT thankful hearts?  Oh, the irony.

Encourage Thankful Hears in Your Children

I’m not here to bash holiday traditions of any sort, but you know as well as I do what a “gimme” society we have become.  The upcoming holiday season will likely reveal it more glaringly than virtually anything else.  While we want our children to be happy, and even to have many of the things that they want, I think we also struggle sometimes with where to draw the line on discontentment.  None of us want to raise children with a sense of entitlement, either.  We don’t want to see our children consumed by their own selfishness and greed. We don’t want them to go through their lives feeling depressed because of the things that they don’t have and can never seem to obtain.

We want to raise thankful children.

So how do we do it?  Raising grateful kids in a world that seems bent on driving their discontent often feels like an uphill battle.  But there are some steps we can take to help! Though there is no doubt that there are more things you can do to encourage grateful hearts in your children, here are 3 simple things that can be especially helpful:

1. Introduce your kids to the less fortunate.

Often there is nothing that can make a person more aware of their blessings than meeting others who have less or who are facing greater hardships.  No matter who you are, where you are from, or what your current situation is, there is probably someone worse off than you.

Sometimes all it takes is a little volunteer work at a homeless shelter.  A visit to a nursing home, cancer ward, or women’s shelter, too, can open a person’s eyes to the wealth of things he or she has to be thankful for.  A news report from some natural disaster, or a documentary on a third-world country can often have a similar effect, though nothing drives the point home like direct human interaction with someone whose needs are greater than your own.

And let me add that this isn’t often something that makes us comfortable, even as adults.  Sometimes it requires stepping out of our own comfort zones and going into places where we feel awkward or nervous.  Perhaps we’re even left physically or emotionally exhausted!  Still, we can reap the benefit of truly thankful hearts in our children.  (And in ourselves as well!)

2. Emphasize outward displays of gratitude.

It may seem like a small thing (and it is a simple thing), but there is value just in teaching our kids to say thank you.

This most basic of practices makes gratitude a priority and begins to establish it as a habit.  And it should go beyond spoken words of thanks!  Handwritten thank you cards may be old-fashioned, but they teach children to acknowledge the things they are grateful for in a thoughtful and concrete way.  But, of course, never undervalue the impact of a phone call or video chat to say thanks, too!  Again, doing these things teaches your child to acknowledge what he or she has to be thankful for. At the same time, that child is also learning the value of showing others they are appreciated.

3. Encourage gratitude by demonstrating it.

I saved the toughest one for last!  The painful truth is, nothing will teach our children to have a thankful heart like having one ourselves.

If we want thankful kids, we can’t spend our time bemoaning the things we can’t afford or complaining about the life circumstances that aren’t the way we wish they could be.  Every mom, no matter how saintly she is, will sometimes struggle with discontentment.  Life doesn’t always work out the way we hoped it would, and we rarely ever own all the things we would like to own.

To make it worse, there usually seems to be someone else who has everything we wish we could have!  It may be wealth, success, health, happiness, a great family, or the perfect marriage.  We can allow our own less-than-ideal circumstances  to consume our thinking and bleed through in our words and actions, or we can learn to look for the silver linings in our lives and thank God for all the good things we have been given.  I probably don’t have to tell you which of those things leads to a happier, more peaceful home and family!

When MOM is thankful, the gratitude will generally trickle down naturally from there!

How do you encourage thankful hearts in your children?  What do you consider the best way to dispel a sense of entitlement and selfishness where your kids are concerned?