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)

The Gift of Dyslexia

the gift of dyslexia

If you have read this post about my own homeschooling journey, you know that I am dyslexic. It was very difficult for me in 1st, 2nd & 3rd grades in public school. I failed 3rd grade, but over the summer my mom used the Narnia books to teach me to read.  Once I could envision the words as I sounded them out, I began to read. I felt like the words would swim on the page if I couldn’t visualize a picture in my mind.  At first I tried to think a picture for each word, but with Narnia I was able to visualize the whole story as a movie. My mom read the first part to me, and when I was really absorbed she told me I had to read it myself to find out what would happen next. 

I began homeschooling at age 13, and we did Library Based – Delight Directed Learning for the first year.  It was wonderful.  Then my parents got a tax return and bought a bunch of Abeka, Saxon and Bob Jones University Curriculum.  I lost the joy because it wasn’t fun and it brought back the challenges of dyslexia.  Later we started mostly un-schooling, but with a little more structure.

In high school, I had a grammar curriculum, a government and economics curriculum, and Spanish videos. Everything else was my choice, and I loved it. I majored in art, nutrition, architecture, and brain development all through high school. I always struggled with writing, but my mom encouraged exposure to a lot of poetry, copying poetry and scriptures, and reading biographies. I did a lot of creative writing in my homeschooling journals that I didn’t share. I was ashamed of my spelling.  Later we got a computer and spell check helped a lot.

When I was in 12th grade I accepted a job as a newspaper reporter and photographer. It really helped my confidence. I never wanted that job, but I wrote a story and took some photos about something interesting that happened in my neighborhood and gave it to the local paper. They published my story and offered me a job. All the Ds and Fs that I got in elementary school made me believe I would never have what it take to be a writer, so I thought I would be an artist. Secretly I was filling my journals with stories and poems, but I would have died if anyone would have found them and read them…I knew I couldn’t spell, but I loved writing. It helped me process my thoughts and feelings and ideas. Having the job as a reporter gave me confidence to speak up with my writing and open myself up to share with others.

Don’t feel like dyslexia is a limiting factor for your child. Do what you can to help them overcome the problems, but don’t think that dyslexia will keep them from being anything they want to be.  I am a good writer because of dyslexia. Dyslexics are storytellers. When they tell stories and create stories and reflect on memories they create whole worlds in their minds and think 1000 times faster than people who think with words.

I created Dyslexia Games for my daughter Anna.  She was a lot like me. BUT she was homeschooled, from a young age, so I could customize her education. I allowed her to major in the arts, and let her enjoy and direct her own education.  She couldn’t read or write before she was nine.  I was determined to use art and logic (her gifts) to teach her reading, writing, and spelling. But I waited until she was motivated. What motivated her to want to read? Yes, she was embarrassed at church, and constantly humiliated by relatives. That wasn’t her main motivation. She wanted to communicate and research and read a comic book, but she couldn’t. It was really sad because for a long time she tried so hard. We used 100 Easy Lessons and had a private tutor, she went to a Kumon learning center. Nothing worked.

That’s when I began trying the pattern games and the “what’s missing” art games that you see in Dyslexia Games.  I created about 100 little games with hidden letters and symbols.  Within 3 months she could read. She still had trouble with spelling.  But she would fill countless journals with her secret stories, songs and poems.  Now she is a singer and songwriter.

When I realized that she had a gift and desire in the area of songwriting I didn’t discourage her because of her dyslexia.  I got the best teacher I could find – Christine Dente from the band Out of the Grey. Anna’s lessons eventually inspired our “Singer and the Songwriter” Idea Book.   Anna has set the “Book of Matthew” to music and has produced a 30-song musical.  She still gets tired of writing so we uses a voice to text app. And that works for her. 

I shared this just to encourage you who feel like dyslexia can hold your child back, it is such a gift–it’s just that kids with dyslexia have a different timeline for developing skills.  Dyslexia Games can speed up the process of helping a child to read, write and spell… without frustration and without compromising creativity.  We focus on the gifting of the dyslexic mind, not the weak areas.  Trying to teach a dyslexic child phonics is like trying to force a left handed child to write with the right hand just because 80% of people are right handed. Dyslexic people learn differently and have talents that will amaze you. Just don’t expect them to be able to excel in reading, writing and spelling before ages 10 -13. In the teen years, with self motivation they take off and surpass others if given the right tools. (click here to continue reading)

Let Them Be Bored

(excerpted from advice offered via a Facebook post in 2016)

let your child be bored

Mom Tip: Boredom is not a bad thing.  When a child is bored don’t look for a way to entertain them. They need a little time everyday when they don’t feel like doing all the normal things they usually do. They need time to think, ponder, reflect, tinker, wander, and think some more.   Modern parents don’t realize that boredom is essential to childhood development and parents are quick to feed the child’s first desire: To be ENTERTAINED. 

What is your child’s DEFAULT MODE when they have a moment of boredom?  Some kids turn to a device, a game, TV, a book, a coloring book, go climb trees, start drawing, or of course they start whining, picking fights and complaining.

I will take a little time now to think of every person in my family and see if I can answer that question: What is the first thing they want to do when they have a moment of boredom or free-time?

Me:  I default to cleaning… or nit-picking everyone else for leaving messes.

My Husband: He defaults to… me… He wants to have time with me, if I am busy he thinks of some errand to run.

Isaac (16): Music.  He wants to go do something related to music.

Anna (15): Hmmmmm… 1st she wants to talk or play with her sisters. If they are busy she goes to her room and dumps out her creative stuff, or bakes or asks for the password for the computer, or bickers with her sister. She always finds something to do, and there is a lot of variety in her choices.  She is the child who is NEVER bored.

Esther (14): Guitar practice and reading.

Rachel (13): Piano and Journaling.

Naomi (11): She wants to play Minecraft, but usually she takes the dog for a walk. If the weather is bad she rearranges all her stuff in her room.

Susie (9): She asks to use the computer, but usually ends up getting out an animal encyclopedia and makes tiny animals out of paper, then she cuts them out and gives them as gifts.  She made a zillion little paper birds recently, I showed her how to create a book with them.

Laura (7): Wants to watch Dogs 101, over and over and over. If I say no, she finds someone to play with or fight with.

Joseph(6): Just started playing Minecraft a month ago.  So first he asks to do that. When I say no he plays with Legos or draws Minecraft pictures.

Ember(3): Dumps her clothing drawer and puts on something that is her “favorite color” of the day. Once she changes her clothes she joins in on whatever Laura or Joe are doing. (click here to continue reading)

How Your Child Thinks (Part 1)

how your child thinks

You may have heard me, and some other moms of teens, joke about the “Brain Dead” Stage. Let me tell you what happens sometime between age 11 and 15…

YES, at our house we joke about the “Brain Dead” stage. It’s very real and happens even to the best behaved kids.

Of course they are not brain dead, but they sure act like it. There is a phase where kids CAN NOT follow instructions, CAN NOT make plans, CAN NOT think logically, CAN NOT answer normal questions in a normal way, CAN NOT see how what they do now will impact the future. They can not manage time. They can not have a reasonable conversation. They can not answer the question, “WHY did you do that?” They can not answer “What do you want to do?” Sometimes they are like “Whatever!” and show some disrespect out of nowhere.

The may lose interest in the things they once loved, and seem aimless. They tend to really love music at this stage. It’s like the only thing that makes sense. They might just want to crawl in a hole with piles of novels, or get lost in Minecraft like they are never coming out.

There is usually one thing that they hang onto. They tend to get really good at one thing in this time. Sometimes they find their life passion or discover God in this time. It’s a time of disconnection and refocus. It lasts 2 months to 2 years. If they get addicted to anything during this time, they may just stay in the “Brain Dead” stage for much too long, and not come out of it until they have their own kids. My kids usually stay in this stage for about 4 months. I try to help them make use of the gift of time to find their passion in it.

There is science to all of this.  It’s a pruning process the brain goes through when kids lose the childhood brain connections and develop the grown-up ones.  The transition from childish thinking to adult thinking is not a process that happens slowly over time. It is rapid–but to get there they have to go through an intense period of brain pruning and the death of all the childish brain connections that are not needed for adulthood, and then all those adult thinking connections start to form. Tools like our newest journal, Lost & Found: Art & Logic Therapy Brain Games can help especially during this time.

Take heart! Pay attention to the process, provide support and guidance, tie a knot, and hang on! It’s going to be okay.

Continue to How Your Child Thinks: Visual Thinkers (Part 2).

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)

Giving Your Children the Gift of Time

T

These paintings are by my daughter Rachel, age 16. How did she get so good? How can you help your children develop their talents at a young age?

Give your children the gift of TIME, and invest in their passions.

One beautiful thing about being home with our families is the chance we have to let our children totally immerse in their passions. Embrace the unique opportunity of TODAY. Because of Covid-19 we are all living more home-centered lives. Let this extra time at home be a time in your family when talents bloom and grow.

1. Chill. Stop pushing them in the direction you want them to go in.  Let go of anything, including irrelevant schoolwork, that stresses your children, or brings contention between you and your children. Stop focusing on the child’s weaknesses and total invest in their gifts instead. Let your child focus on becoming who they want to become. Take your child’s hobbies and interests seriously.

2. Allow Boredom. We don’t need to entertain our children. We need to empower them. What an incredible opportunity we have to set aside all the clutter, business, non-essentials and immerse in our talents. Let your children become bored without immediately feeding their boredom with a screen, an activity, a plan, a game, or worksheets. Let them learn to muse, have ideas, become thinkers, inventors, artists, dreamers and creators.

3. Give. When your child shows interest in something, give them the time they need to explore that interest. If possible provide books, tutorials and supplies to help them learn more. Let them go beyond learning about it to actually DOING it themselves.

4. Leave them alone. When you see that your child is truly immerses in their passion, don’t interrupt them. To become great at anything a person needs to get into the FLOW. They need to lose themselves in their passion while they work on their project. It’s like they are in another world. They can focus deeply and pour their mind and imagination into learning and creating. When your child is in the FLOW and totally losing track of time, really focused, that’s when talent is taking over. Respect your child’s focus.

5. Celebrate their work. Don’t expect perfection to develop quickly. Praise progress, creativity, and focus. Display their work in the home and on social media. Show others how proud you are of your child’s efforts and talents.

In our normal rushed and busy life children are burdened with so many things they must do. Let it all fall away, and let them become who the were meant to be.

“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.