Talking to a Child About Babies, Abortion, Puppies and Adoption

This is a painting I created when my first child was about a year old, showing his journey from the womb to his first birthday.

This post is a montage consisting of thoughts from Sarah’s Facebook posts (some of which are as old as a decade and yet as timely today as ever), as well as this first portion, moved over from Sarah’s old blog, dated 11/1/20. Having ten biological children and 5 adopted children, this issue is very close to Sarah’s heart, and she is a courageous advocate for the sanctity of life.

Yesterday I was volunteering at the S.P.A.C.E. Fun-Schooling Zone with kids whose parents can’t care for them because they are working and schools are closed. We were building an animal shelter out of Legos.
A little girl about age 8 asked me how I adopted my kids. I told her they were in an orphanage.

She then asked… “If their mother didn’t want them why didn’t she just kill them before they were born instead of putting them in an orphanage? That’s legal you know. Did you get them for free?”

The little girl has a puppy she adores. So, I asked her a question.

“If you had to move to a new home where you couldn’t keep your puppy would you find it a new home or would you kill it?”

She answered, “I would never move to a home where I can’t have my puppy!”

“So, you would change your plans and do what it takes to keep your puppy?”

“Of course!!!!”

“Do you think babies are as special as puppies?” I asked.

She answered, “Of course babies are much more special! But what can you do if you find out you are pregnant and can’t take care of a kid?”

I answered, “I would do one of two things. Contact an adoption agency to find a new home for the baby, or do what it takes to change your life so you can take care of a baby. There are many families that can’t have children that would love to give a baby a good home.”

“OH! Did you adopt because you couldn’t get pregnant?”

“No, I adopted because I volunteered at their orphanage, just like I volunteer here. They needed a family.”

“SO THEY ACTUALLY LIKED YOU?”

Go ahead and laugh. Yes, they actually liked me.

(click here to continue reading)

Just one more story?

Dyslexia-Games

One more story, one more song, one more page

I hear the whispers in the late night silence
I hear the giggles in the cool spring air
It’s been an hour since we said good night
It’s been an hour since the kiss and prayer

The day is over
It’s not coming back again.
Tonight’s a night
that has never been.
So let them laugh and stay up late
One more story, one more song, one more page

It wasn’t perfect, it was barely good
They were just doing what they could
They were helping in their childish way
And in a moment they were lost in play

They’ll learn to help
It just takes time
Little ones
have so much on their minds
Watch them laugh and run and play
they’ll need a bath later today.
One more story, one more song, one more page

Never silence, not a quiet moment
Always questions bouncing off the walls
If I had answers I would be a genius
Somehow they think I must know it all

Just a moment and I’ll finish sweeping
Just a moment and I’ll find that shoe
another pancake, turning, burning smoking
Another inch, another question, maybe two

The day is new
Smiling at me again
This is a moment
that has never been
So let them laugh and run and play
One more story, one more song, one more page

“How can I get my kids to help around the house?”

(post originally dated 11/19/14–migrated from Sarah’s old blog)

A homeschooling mom of four just wrote to me to ask how to get kids to do chores with a cheerful attitude. (I am a homeschooling mom of ten, ages 2 to 15, and one due in Feb.) I have had a lot of success in raising my kids to be happy helpers with a strong work ethic. So here is my advice.

The best way to get children to do chores with a happy and willing heart is to model for them the behavior you want to see. Sing and smile and dance and be cheerful when doing the housework, turn on the happy music, make it look fun. They will copy you. The most important thing is being a model of the smiles and work ethic you want them to have.

See your own work as a privilege and invite them to be part of doing things that you do. With my young ones I will say “I’m not sure if you are big enough to wash dishes.” And the reply will be “I’m big enough!” And they will set out to prove it, with pride. 

I also reward the kids for excellent work, even a smile from mom, or a handful of berries can be a reward. I want to teach them that quality work is rewarded. I don’t have extra money to pay them every time they do an extra job, so instead of buying them everything they need and want, I give them a chance to earn these things. Maybe you plan to buy new bikes for the kids in the future – don’t just buy them the bikes, let them help earn the money you are going to spend on the bikes so they will see the results of their labor. Maybe you are going to yard sales this weekend and expect to spend 3 or 4 dollars on toys, let them earn their garage sale money, even 25 cents can go pretty far at a yard sale! (click here to continue reading)

11 Simple Games for Mixed Groups of Children, Ages 2 and Up

QUESTION: “We have 14 children in our small group and we try to come up with different games or activities for them when we get together at parks or at homes. You have worked with a lot of children throughout your life. Are there any fun games you can share with us? 

ANSWER: I love games that can be played anytime you need a fun and spontaneous activity for little ones. I also love games that build skills, character, and relationships.  Here are 11 of our favorite “Anywhere Games” that children Ages 2.5 and up really love. None of these games require much planning, reading, or small game pieces, so you can play them anywhere and anytime you need to entertain children of all ages.  The most you will need is a pencil, paper, and stuffed animal or toys that you already have.  A few of these games can be played with no props at all, just imagination and conversation.

1.     What do you like best?
Little Children love to ask questions, and they love to answer questions too.  So we made up a game where we take turns asking questions that help us get to know each child better, and we laugh a lot! 

To Play:  I ask the first question: “Joseph, what do you like best: Bubbles or Squirt Guns?” 

He will give his answer, and then it is his turn, and he will ask someone else in the group his question: “Anna, what do you like best planets or watermelons?”  Then Anna will ask another child “What do you like best lunch or breakfast?”  Then that child will ask another child a question: “What do you like best cookies or cake?”   “Green or Blue?”  “Trees of Flowers?”  “Snow or Sand?”  This game is endless. You may need to tell the kids the rules, we only have on: No Potty Talk.

2.     Should We?
 I made up this game for Joseph to help him to learn right and wrong, and to make good choices in a variety of unexpected situations. This game can also bring lots of laughs! Once again it is a game of questions. My kids love to come up to me and say “Let’s play Should We!”

To Play: Just ask questions to make your child think about the right thing to do in an interesting or everyday situation. Sometimes the kids will enjoy making up their own questions.

“Joseph should eat someone else’s cookie?”

“Should we play in the road?”

“Should we eat dirt?”

“Should we eat carrots?”

“Should we put the cat in the bathtub?”

“Should we hit little babies?”

“Should we help mommy sweep the floor?”

“Should we make cookies with grandma?”

“Should we put cookie dough on grandma’s windows?”

3.     Family Questions (You can play this with any group, the kids love hearing the answers that the adults give too!)

We usually play this conversational game at the dinner table.  With a family of 11 this one can take a lot of time.  It also helps everyone to get to know each other.  Once again it is a Questions Games. 

To Play: Mom or dad usually asks the first question, and everyone takes turns giving their answer.  We usually only get through 3 questions at a meal.  One Rule: No “Yes or No” questions.

We ask questions like these:

“What would you buy if you had $20?”

“What country would you go to if you could go anywhere?”

“What is the most beautiful animal?”

“What do you think we should have for dinner tomorrow?”

“Name one important thing you should think about before you marry someone?”

“If you could have any super power what would it be?”

“What is something you like about the person to your right?”

4.     Drawing on the Ceiling
My husband plays this game when he tucks in the kids at night.  He points to the ceiling with his finger and draws a picture or writes a letter.  The kids try to guess what he is drawing.  They all take turns drawing a picture.  They can give clues like “This is an animal.”

5.     What Animal is It?
My kids love learning about animals, and happen to know the sounds of many interesting and exotic creatures.  All we do is take turns making an animal’s sound and the first one to guess the animal correctly gets to go next.

6.     What Comes Next?
Like most parents, we read the same stories, sing the same songs, and repeat the same rhymes and Bible verses over and over with each child.  Once the words of the story or verse are familiar to the child I will  give the child a chance to finish each line. Children ages 2 to 5 love this. When you are teaching or entertaining a group of children use this activity when telling a story or memorizing a verse.  With older children you can increase the number of words for them to fill in until the child can recite the entire verse alone. This works well for groups, because the children can all shout out the missing words together. 

“For God so loved the _____________.”

“Mary had a little _________.”

“How much is that doggie in the ______________.”

“In the great green room there was a telephone and a red _______________.”

“Jesus Loves ____ This I ________.” (click here to continue reading)

A Fun-Filled Homeschooling Plan for Busy Parents and Active Kids

My Real-Life, Home-Learning Plan that is simple for parents and delightful to kids! Created by me, a mom who is currently Homeschooling 10 of her 15 Kids!

1. Logic Games2. Read Favorite Books
3. YouTube Tutorials
4. Nature Time
5. Online Math Games or Serious Stuff
6. Kitchen Time
7. Spelling Games
8. Complete 5 Workbook Pages or 5 Fun-Schooling Journal Pages
9. Play Outside
10 Art & Drawing
11. Just Dance
12. Chores
13. Online Games (a reward for chores and school)
14. Family Time and Board Games
15. Movie Time
16. Music Practice
17. Games for Dyslexia: DyslexiaGames.com
18. Fun Homeschooling Curriculum: FunSchooling.com
You can do these activities in any order, but Movies and Online Games should be close to last.

Dyslexia

(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)

Anna is the author of “Heroes & Villains of History” and “Writer’s Fun-Schooling Journal”

Isaac started reading at age three. Back then, I thought homeschooling was going to be easy. Anna, our second child, was born dancing, drawing, and dreaming, but at age nine she was still reversing letters and forgetting how to sound out three-letter words. She continued to struggle with pencil and paper, and I didn’t know why. I had started both children with the same reading program, but Anna wasn’t learning to read.

I tried several reading programs over the years, but nothing helped. Nothing interested her. Reading was exhausting and confusing. I really began to feel like there was something wrong with her, and because we were homeschooling, I blamed myself. I was afraid to talk to anyone about Anna’s problem with reading. I never suspected dyslexia. I just thought I was a bad teacher until Estera, our third, taught herself to read and write at age five. She would always play school with the workbooks that Anna couldn’t use. By then, we had dozens of them.

One fall day a couple of years earlier, Anna and I were sitting under the big tree in the backyard working on reading lesson number one for the 30th time. I was still trying to help her see the difference between b and d. We were making a new set of colorful flash cards but seeing no progress.

She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “Mom, there is NO difference! I will never read!” she said. “Can’t I just be an artist and a mommy when I grow up?” I remembered having the same dream when I was a little girl and the same struggles. I had blamed the school system for my problems with reading, but Anna was being homeschooled, how could the same thing be happening to her?

I looked up into the sky and asked God to show me how to help my child. The first thing I realized was that I didn’t have what it takes to help her and needed to seek out a professional. I had to get over my own fear and pride and ask for help. The first reading tutor we hired was mystified by Anna’s problem too, but we eventually found a specialist who understood Anna. The teacher evaluated Anna and revealed that she had dyslexia. (click here to continue reading)

“Ready to Pop!”

(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)

“You look about ready to pop! When are you due?” a stranger asked me one day in the checkout aisle of the supermarket near our home in Fortville.

“Oh, last Saturday,” I said, smiling.

Her eyes got big, her mouth dropped open, and she didn’t know quite what to say. I could tell she was afraid that my water would break any second and the baby would drop out, right in front of her.

“Don’t worry,” I replied. “My last three were over a week late.”

“Uhhh, how many more do you have?” she asked, her eyes still big.

“This will be number six.”

“So . . . and then are you done?” she asked.

I smiled. “On no, we are just getting started!” I joked.

She laughed, but a concerned look remained on her face.

“How many do you want?” she asked, as if I were collecting snakes. It’s funny the things complete strangers want to know right there in the grocery store.

“We’d like to have as many as we can get,” I replied, as if I were collecting treasures.

“Goodness! I have two, and they drive me crazy!” she said. “Two is enough for me!”

“The first two were a challenge for me, too,” I agreed. “With the first couple, you are getting all your practice. You are learning to be a parent, and every phase is new. But just like anything else, the more experience you have the easier it gets. I think it’s sad that so many people stop at one or two. I’ve been able to enjoy my last three so much. I have all the joy of parenting, and not as much of the stress. And now that my oldest children are big, I’ve got some wonderful helpers. I think that many people imagine that having six kids is like having six two-year-olds all at once.”

“You look too young to have so many,” she said.

“Well they keep me in shape. I don’t have time to sit around eating Twinkies and watching soaps,” I said.

“So how old are they?” she asked.

“My oldest, Isaac, is seven. Anna is six. Estera is five. Rachel is three, and Naomi is one and a half,” I told her, as if rehearsing a poem.

“I bet you are hoping for a boy this time!” she said, keeping a tally of girls versus boys.

“Isaac would love to have a little brother, but I don’t mind having a house full of little girls! So I’ll be happy no matter what I get.”

“Just wait until they are teenagers!” she said.

“I’m really looking forward to that!” I told her. And once again, her eyes got big, her mouth dropped open, and she didn’t know quite what to say.

“I had wonderful teenage years!” I continued. “I think my kids will too. Those were the most fun years of my childhood— camping with my family, learning to sew, starting a business, making Thanksgiving dinner, falling in love with my husband . . .”

“Teens are so troubled and sassy these days!” she said. “I guess there’s not much you can do about that.” (click here to continue reading)

When Children Make Mistakes

(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)

I’m learning to show my older children grace when they make mistakes. It is very natural to look at the older child’s mistake, forgetfulness, immaturity, and failure with a response that says to the child, “How can you be so stupid? How can you be so childish? Failure is NOT an option! I can’t believe you did this again! What’s wrong with you?” But I must ask myself—how do I want to be treated when I mess up? What did it feel like to be a child shamed in the sight of my parents?

Today, when I fail, what do I desire from the ones who love me? Mercy? Yes. Forgiveness? Yes. Restoration? Yes. Kindness? Yes. Help? Yes. Grace is what I long for when I fail. God our Father responds to his children with mercy. Shouldn’t I treat my children the way I would want to be treated? Shouldn’t I ask myself, What is the heart of God for this child who has fallen down, who has messed up, who has defied me? It’s hard to treat a child with grace when they fail. But if it is grace I want when I fail, shouldn’t I give that same grace to others when they fail me? It’s easy to judge, condemn, and ridicule. Do I want judgement, condemnation, and ridicule? No, not me—I hope for mercy.

My children are certain to make a lot of mistakes along their paths in life. They will do things that I think are stupid. They will hurt me with their words, actions, and carelessness. They will ignore my plans, hopes, dreams, and desires for them as they follow their own passions, callings, and desires. What will my response be then? I only hope and pray that I will show them mercy, forgiveness, and grace. I need to give them freedom to grow up, to become adults, to make their own choices, to learn their own lessons, and to find their own way.

I hope and pray they will know that there is hope, grace, restoration, and mercy to meet them in the dark, in the pain, and in the rebellion. I don’t want to reject them when they disappoint me. I need to hold them and teach them mercy and then guide them into the truth. I want to be like Jesus who said to the woman caught even in adultery, “I don’t condemn you; go and sin no more.” If Jesus can have this heart for such a woman, can’t I have a heart of mercy for my child who disappoints me with her actions or words? It’s hard to love with God’s merciful love, but now that I know the grace of God myself, how could I withhold this grace from my own precious children?

May the Lord help me to balance justice with grace as I raise all these beautiful little humans that He has so graciously entrusted to me. May I learn to love them with the compassionate heart of the heavenly Father, who remembers that we are just dust. May I show them mercy starting now while they are still young.

Learning At Home

(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)

Anna at our home on Connecticut Ave, Fortville, Indiana

When Anna turned five, she joined Isaac with homeschooling. I realized quickly she struggled with pencil and paper. She didn’t like workbooks. She just wanted to play, draw, and learn about plants and animals. She was a child who loved to learn from experience. So that year we took many trips to the Children’s Museum, Indianapolis Zoo, and the White River Gardens. We also turned our house into a tiny zoo complete with fish, frogs, and kittens.

Our garden proved to be one of the best classrooms of all. We turned the garden into a big science project, and all of the children claimed areas of the garden for their own. It kept them all busy.

Isaac happily shoveled compost, laid mulch, lugged rocks, dug holes, and welcomed his payment of a dollar an hour. He put the professionals to shame with his hardworking spirit. When he finished his own work, he helped me collect all the empty flowerpots and began filling them up with soil and compost. He spent the money he earned from his gardening work on flower seeds, planting them in the pots with hopes of a plant sale later that summer.

Anna loved to water everything: the flowers, the trees, even the cars, cats, and her little sisters. She also loved to make mud. Her section of the garden was obvious—she was growing mud pies. Anna also was our budding artist, and mud offered her a fun way to practice her skills. I had to watch her closely, though, because one day I caught her and the little sisters stripped to their undies and covered with mud from head to toe. All you could see of the girls were shiny white teeth and smiling eyes. It was Anna’s idea of course. They were “painting.” (click here to continue reading)

Get Out of Survival Mode

My husband says we are almost “empty nesters” because five of our adult children have moved out… and we only have TEN left at home!

I was asked a couple of times to share my ideas on how to get out of survival mode and thrive. I quickly wrote down five steps. I hope this helps someone.

First things first:

Number 1: Throw out everyone else’s opinion about what you should be doing with your family, home, body, homeschool, kitchen, job, budget and life style. If they don’t live in your house, their opinion should not drive you, shame you, or be your source of motivation. Sometimes we operate from a place of guilt because we are trying to satisfy someone who can’t be satisfied. This person is usually a family member who is an empty nester, or maybe was a teacher in the past, who knows what’s “best” for your family. Or you could be motivated by an image from Instagram that is totally unrealistic. Who are you following? Who are you trying to please? Are you driven by fear of failure or by a desire to fulfill your purpose and bring joy into your world?

Number 2: What is your purpose? What’s the end goal in raising your children? What’s your vision for your marriage? What are your personal and realistic health goals? Write down your answers and check your life to see if your daily life is in alignment with your goals. Does your husband share these primary goals? Get on the same page. If you are in agreement move on to step 3.

Number 3: Let go of anything you are doing for the wrong reason. Let go of anything that isn’t working. Let go of the unhealthy things that you may have lost control of… like things that waste time, wear you out, and compromise your health.

Number 4: After taking time to clean out your life of anything that keeps you from meeting your goals and living your purpose, you will be ready to add in some good stuff. But you CANNOT ADD until you subtract. So now that you dumped the time wasters and gave up a couple unhealthy habits, and stopped listening to the control freaks who love you… you are ready for your purpose. Start by planning just two hours a week to focus on your purpose: that meaningful something that matters so much to you.

Number 5: Get total control of your daily accomplishments. Start choosing to focus daily on what is important, instead of being in survival mode, where we scramble to do what is absolutely necessary. Once you get control of your daily life you can start making room for bigger dreams, bigger projects, a bigger mission. But remember there is nothing more important than nurturing a family. Nurture your family with a vision for the future and let one of your greatest goals for each member of the family be to help each one discover and pursue their life’s purpose. This includes your purpose along with your husband’s. You are more than parents, you are a team to raise a family and make a difference in this world, in your community or whatever.

When you are in survival mode, it’s impossible to think much about the rest of the world because your own world is barely hanging in there. So why are we in survival mode? Because we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and our children. Because we are being shamed by Instagram and “people who care”? Because we are wasting too much time? Because we have no energy as a result of eating junk food, and we don’t sleep? Because we take on homeschooling methods that sap the life out of us and make our kids miserable? Because we are too tired to bless our husbands? Because we have preschoolers and babies?

I’m just writing what popped into my head. I hope it helped someone.

One last thing–turn off the noise. Turn on peaceful music and light a candle. It only takes a moment but can totally change the mood in your home to help everyone settle down and refocus.