As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Following the lead of my three favorite bloggers (Rachel at Testosterhome, Sarah at Clover Lane, and Kelly at In the Sheepfold), I decided to make a list of our favorite unplugged activities.  Truth be told it is quite ironic, because while almost every day around our house is unplugged (electronics are not a given on any day, and quite often we go entire days without any screen time. When we do allow screens, it is usually in controlled doses of no more than an hour, once a day).  As I am writing, our kids are all parked in front of the TV with a friend having a games day.  I don't mind that once in a while, particularly given our general lifestyle without screens.  This is a rare treat to be enjoyed, something to keep little (and not-so-little) boys occupied on a dreary and rainy day, and to foster community within our neighboorhood.  We're all present in the same room, and everyone can enjoy the fun even if only a few are playing at a time.  It's all good fun!

Nevertheless as this is a treat and not the norm, here's our list of favorite things to do when the screens are turned off.  Be sure to check out the other ladies' posts for more great ideas!

#1 - Drawing and Coloring
One of my favorite things about a screen-limited household is that it encourages creativity.  Our kids love to color and draw, so much so that I made them individual coloring books for Christmas.  I downloaded coloring pages of their favorite characters, and threw in a few pictures of them, their siblings, grandparents and cousin, and other things that are important to them, like the churches we go to and our house (which you can turn coloring pages on the Crayola website - super fun!).  The boys even keep their favorite pictures in their room, on the back of their door which they refer to as their Art Gallery.

#2 - Reading
When I started homeschooling, the biggest piece of advice I got from a friend and homeschool mother of ten was to make sure they love to read.  "They will learn everything they need to learn if they love reading," she encouraged me.  When kids read, they learn how to use language to put ideas together in a way that is concise and interesting.  At the little school my son attended reading was also a way of mentoring, and kids from older grades were paired with kids from younger grades to help them out.  We even encourage non-readers to "read" to the baby simply by explaining the pictures on the page.  I think it's also important for parents to read to kids as well, and to read books with few (or no) pictures.  So much of what entertains our children today feeds images into their head, and completely undercuts their little imaginations and ability to bring a scene to life on their own, using their own creativity.  Our favorite read-alouds as a family are the Little House on the Prairie series and Chronicles of Narnia.  Favorite solo reads include The Hardy Boys, Captain Underpants, The Father Brown Reader, and Lives of the Saints.

#3 - Games
We've only recently discovered the joy of board games.  With a household full of so many little ones, anything with small pieces and children not yet old enough to be counted on to put them away were always off limits.  But this year for Christmas we invested in some new and classic board games, and given our boys free reign to play them after the little ones go to bed in the evening. We pass many happy hours in friendly competition with each other, and I love that it challenges their minds and engages their senses when they play.

#4 - Music
Musical instruments are another one of those things we've always had around, but never allowed them to use because I was worried the little ones would break them.  My mother-in-law bought guitars and ukeleles for the older boys, and drums, shakers, and other fun percussion instruments one Christmas, most of which (except the most indestructable) have sat in my bedroom closet for far too long. We bought violins for the older boys with the ambition of teaching them to play this school year (it hasn't happened yet, but I have high hopes!) and my parents bought me a banjo for my birthday two months later, and with a few shiny-new instruments in our repertoire (and honestly, one of them being for me) it really reignited a drive within me to make music a part of our daily family life.  There are still rules of course, but the older boys are more than capable of working within them (playing in our bedroom with the door locked, so the little ones can't get in). The boys have also been taking piano lessons for three years now, and our piano is in our living room.  I love hearing them sit and play little random compositions they make up, but enforcing practice of the pieces they have for their lessons is always something I've been bad at. Until recently when Jeff and I decided to fill a candy jar, and reward the kids with a piece of candy for every fifteen minutes of practice time they spend on their lesson pieces.  They can do it as often as they want, the only rules are that they have to notify us first so that we can set the timer.  They all practice at least three times a day now at their own discretion, and they are improving dramatically.  Music was always a big part of my life growing up, and I love seeing that come to life in my own young family.

#5 - Baking
I'll be honest, I try to bake in secret because I HATE having five pairs of hands reaching into my bowl and snapping up anything (good, like chocolate chips, or not-so-good, like baking soda) that happens to splash out of the bowl.  I bake once a week, and they know it, so they always flock to the counter.  And as much as it drives me nuts, they love it.  A friend of mine who works in a home-based daycare said that when they bake with the kids, they pre-measure the ingredients to small bowls and set everything out in little bowls on the counter before they call the kids over, which makes things run much more smoothly.  Every child has a specific job, and there's no waiting around for Mom (or sitter) to measure, no opportunity for little hands to get into things they shouldn't.  I keep meaning to try this, it sounds so much smarter than the way I'm doing it now!  I also recently allowed my oldest son to make a recipe on his own from start to finish, and was completely wowed with the results.  I love that the kids are getting old enough to have basic reponsibilities, it really opens up a whole new world for them (and me).

#6 - Independant Play
I ended the list with this, but really this is the most common thing they do.  It's one of my favorite things about homeschooling, because the older kids are so integrated with their younger siblings.  It's fun to have scheduled, Mom-directed activities, but really I don't think I should be responsible for entertaining my kids all the time.  I regularly send them downstairs or outside to play, and even when they put up a bit of fuss I think it's good for them to use their little brains to figure out ways to have fun on their own.  Of course they need to have space and freedom to play, so our basement (which was once considered to be our cozy "grown-up" space, has been converted to a kids play area.  I brought the toy boxes out of the boys' room because it was just impossible to keep their bedroom clean, and it's made all the difference.  We see the mess in the family room so we clean it, and the boys have a much easier time keeping their room clean now that it's not jammed full of toys.

Life can get pretty crazy sometimes, and it's so tempting to just throw on a show and have them all sit still.  But I can tell  you that there is so much more peace in our home now than when the TV was a constant backround presence (which was really the way things were until about three years ago).  The kids and I were all more anxious.  These are much happier days, days I know will pass in the blink of an eye, and days that fill me with gratitude.  I am so happy to share my life with each of them, and there is no way that I would go back to the time when a screen comes between us and fun.  Like any good thing I believe it's good in moderation, but I know we are much better when the scales are tipped in favor of creative play and presence with each other.

1 comment :

  1. Great ideas. We moved most toys into our family room as well. Our small bedrooms are slightly easier to keep clean. I found that the kids like to play near everyone else, so they were hauling everything out of their rooms anyway.

    Thanks for the link!