Tea Therapy

My kids used to do anything to get my attention–often naughty and annoying things. We have a big family and it takes a little extra effort to be noticed. The kids that get the most one-on-one are often the ones needing the most discipline and training. I often stop everything to focus on helping the children who are making trouble. But I’ve noticed that they often create drama and trouble just to be the center of attention.

I’ve stumbled upon a new and more positive outlet for my attention seekers.

I used to be really into tea, and had bought lots of different boxes of tea bags. You could read the box and know exactly what that blend was for. The pre-packaged teas were getting expensive, and I knew that the tea bags were not as fresh and strong as loose leaf.

At the end of last summer I harvested lots of herbs and began making delicious infusions from the garden. I began to get books about creating my own tea blends, and began to create teas far superior and more unique than anything in the stores.

How does this relate to the issue with my kids seeking negative attention?

Well, when I would make myself a cup of loose leaf tea I would offer every child within ear shot of s cup too. And I would ask them what kind of mood they are in.

Do you need a calming tea? Something to give you more energy? A brain booster? Something for your cough? Something for those teen girl hormones?

They would begin to open up to me. “I need something for stress and cramps!” Or “I stayed up too late last night…” or “Do you have anything to help with bad dreams?”

As I would make their special blend we would also start talking about their issues and struggles and how different plants can help our bodies feel their best.

Now when they want attention they just say “Mom, can you make me a cup of tea, I’m feeling kinda…” and as I make a fragrant blend, add local honey, and let it steep for at least 3 minutes, we talk, and then sometimes we sit down and have tea together.

The more tea they seek, the less behavior issues they throw at me… and I don’t think it’s just the chamomile, lemon balm and mint.

It’s the life that is poured out each time I give a child or teen a cup of tea.

Watch me create three different blends in this new video: Morning Spice Blend, an ImmuniTEA Blend, and a Woman’s Good Night & Good Moods Blend. All of these blends use fresh white pine needles that grow right on our acreage at Olive Branch Farm! Recipes in the comments at the link.

A Mother’s Calling

I’m at a cafe today

Flipping through the pages

Of a journal I filled

When Anna was seven

I read the prayers

Of a discouraged mother

Who had hope

That someday

This little girl would read and write

But most of all,

I poured out my heart

That I could be devoted

to preparing Anna

To serve and follow God

In the calling He had for her

Not my plan

But His.

March 2, 2008 (Anna age seven)

Oh Lord I come to you and pray that Anna’s heart would be so fervent for you. Open her eyes to see you, give her ears to hear. Let her be hungry for your word and thirsty for more of your presence.

Help me to be full of wisdom to show her your path. Help me to teach her what YOU want her to know.

Help her to read very well soon.

I will trust you to show me how to help her. Give her a strong desire to learn. Let her mind be strong to grasp the things that will help her to be fluent in her reading. Let her develop a great love for reading even now.

Help me to devote myself to prepare her to serve and follow you in the calling that you have for her.

In Jesus name, Amen.

————-

As I read my prayer from 15 years ago I remember feeling God impressing upon me to NOT raise her to reflect the teaching of the current culture or the standardized path that so many were pressuring me to take. I saw an anointing upon her, and I felt so strongly not to try to conform to the ways of the world in raising her, to block out the well-meaning voices of concerned relatives and friends because this child was chosen to do things in this world that a person with a standardized education could never have the time or creativity to do. “Let her be an artist,” God spoke to my heart. “Let her major in the Arts now”, my heart demanded.

If there were two things I knew about my call to raise Anna, they were: Empower her in creativity and plant the most beautiful seeds of Art and God’s word into the garden of her heart. It was obvious that she was an artist and a storyteller and she assured me that she didn’t need to learn to read to become an artist. I assured her that God would not have put the Bible in written form if He wasn’t going to give her the power to read it.

The Arts, Travel, History of Fashion, and the Bible became her entire curriculum throughout her homeschooling years from age 6 to 15. At 15 she wanted to add singing and songwriting to the plan and I hired Christine Dente to be her coach. At age 17 she completed the writing of an audio musical about the life of Jesus. It was her senior project, bringing forth all of her learning from her childhood. That year I didn’t require any other schoolwork — “Just write your musical” — and she did!

Learn what has become of her talents, her hunger for God’s word, her thirst for His presence and her devotion to serve Jesus and follow His calling to reveal His heart to this world… see how He answered the prayers of a discouraged mother who sought God’s will and not the world’s for one little girl. Anna’s faith is beautiful, free, passionate, and alive. She is a bright light in the darkness and brings me so much joy.

HisStoryTheMusical.com

Anna today.

Become a Facilitator!

Taken from a 2018 Facebook post…almost exactly 4 years ago…still so much here to encourage parents!

I have found that with Fun-Schooling, or Delight Directed Learning, and intentional unschooling, many children rise to a much higher level of focused learning and accomplishment… sooner than kids in school, and seem to be ready to start their careers at much younger ages. I notice that by about age 14, once they get through the “brain dead stage” the young adult is ready to start trying out their careers in the real world from the safety and support of home. It’s no longer about LEARNING, but DOING!

Let me explain:

When my oldest son was 16 he scared me. He said, “Mom I want to study music, film and create documentaries, be a sound engineer, do voice acting and a little bit of publishing. I don’t want to do any math that is not related to my goals…”

He was sort of asking permission, and sort of letting me know he was ready to take charge of his life, mind, learning and goals.

So, I did all I could to equip him to reach HIS goals and I let go of mine. He spent two years (at home) focused on the things he needed to become great in HIS field, not some random set of educational goals drawn out in 1955 (or whatever) by people who wanted more obedient citizens and good employees in the workforce.

Once a young man or woman has their heart and mind set on what he or she wants to become, get everything out of the way that could be a distraction. Empower him or her with every tool they need to become the best at what they want to do. If what they want to do requires college, they will be motivated to study for that track and build a portfolio. If they want to start a business or trade, they can just do it.

What if he had the option of dropping everything else and focusing entirely on being an expert in Social Media Marketing and Travel Vlogging? Just think of all the debt he can avoid if he builds a business now, rather than paying for a degree.

I set my son free and told him that if he decided later that he needed college he would be entirely responsible for all the entrance requirements, and I washed my hands of it. He is no longer one bit my responsibility. I put his education into his hands at 16. He was able to start doing everything he wanted to do with his life. And he did it well. He did it without distraction. He did it without me forcing him to take calculus and biology. He had two full years of living at home and starting his career before needing to have an income to support himself… and future family.

He’s enjoyed his life on his own, and now with his wife, and is just fine at generating income, he has no debt. He is a traveler and volunteer, does music, film making, and makes stupid Jazz Memes. He and his wife are happy, and when they needed more income they did what they needed to do, and fell back on the skills that make money.

Parented, directed education ends when the child knows that they want to become and is willing to start doing it. At that point we become facilitators.

I have older children now that are no longer “schooling” and have already embraced their own futures and are living them out. They are not just preparing to “someday” become something. They have all started their careers and are actively working at becoming great, while still at home. I know that my teens need time to perfect their skills, and now they may be only earning a few hundred dollars a week at their trades, but it is something, and they can learn to reinvest it. At this time they don’t need to put that money into rent and food, so a little becomes a lot. Imagine having $300 a week, no expenses and no debt! How would you use or invest that money? Mine put it back into their trades and invested in their own businesses. At times some of my kids have made hundreds of dollars per day. They are not bogged down by education, they are DOING their dreams now, and doing it from home.

I respond to their needs so that nothing will hold them back. My daughter seemed to have one or two big clients coming to the island every week to do photography with her because she was so good. She made her work affordable and was attracting many new clients, and she’s nice and showed up on time, even without a car.

My other two spent time in many different parts of the world doing music professionally, and were overseeing a recording project that about 30 – 40 music artists were working on. It was so good that some very well known musicians got involved and contributed to the work. My daughter Rachel taught harmony parts to people who have graduated from theater and music school. My kids are confident and don’t feel limited.

I really believe that when a child is ready to become who they want to be, they are willing to pour their hearts, minds, energy and effort into that passion. I am becoming more and more fearless as I trust the way my children were designed, as all children, to thrive. Every one of them works hard to learn everything they need to do their meaningful work very very well, and I am not going to fight it, I’m going to encourage it, and get all the nonsense out of the way.

If any one my kids decided that they do want to go to college and need high school credits, I’ll work with them to get it done, I’ll buy the books and sign them up for online courses, send them to a tutor… but the motivation, responsibility, results, and work is THEIRS.

His Story: The Musical

Most people didn’t believe me when I told them my teenage daughter wrote, composed, and professionally produced a full-length musical. Now I tell them that as a young adult, she’s seen her music workshopped and produced in New York City by a Broadway Production Team.

This child was profoundly dyslexic as a little girl- we thought she might never be able to read

Overcoming Dyslexia and Pursuing Her Passions

How does a child with severe Dyslexia go on to write a musical? I need to rewind a bit and tell you about the life of Anna Miriam Brown. She is my second of 15 children. Even before I had children I knew would homeschool. Anna’s older brother started reading with ease at age three. I figured she would follow suit and teaching her to read would be quick and easy. Learning to read was anything but easy for her.

We tried reading program after reading program. Nothing stuck. One day in frustration Anna said she was never going to learn to read and she didn’t need to anyway. She wanted to be an artist and a mommy so she wouldn’t need to read much. We came to realize she had Dyslexia and would not learn in the same way as my oldest. I started to come up with a way to help her learn to read. I created art games for her that incorporated letters and basic reading. You can read more of the story in the article about Dyslexia Games. 

These games worked and my eight-year-old was able to read. My husband and I like to say that Anna was born dancing. She’s always loved music and watching musicals. Her primary focus in school has been music and she began composing songs at a young age. This passion for music has grown as Anna has become a young woman. (click here to read the story of His Story!)

Teen Boys: What’s a Homeschool Mom to Do?

(In this post, we’ll go back in time to a Facebook post from 2015 and look at the model we followed (and still do) for homeschooling our teens. Sometimes it helps to see what it “looks like”!)

People often ask me what I do with my teens for school.  Here is a question that must be answered to start going in the right direction:

If you knew what your child was going to be when he (or she) grows up what kind of education would you provide?

Public educators expect kids to choose a “minor and major” when they go to college.  I expect my kids to study specific “minors and a major” starting in elementary school, and getting very serious at age 13.  For their 13th birthday we have a themed party based on their “career dreams” at the time.  Isaac wanted to be a chef at age 13, Anna wanted to be a baker, Estera wanted to be a photographer.  So you can imagine their parties!

Isaac, age 14

This is what my 16 year old son is studying this year–everything is relevant to his life and goals:

#1 Creative Online Marketing

#2 Publishing

#3 Personal Money Management

#4 Project Management (He is building a Minecraft server for homeschoolers with a history and inventions theme. He has a couple nerds working for him.)

#5 Music & Video Production (click here to see a documentary video he created!)

#6 Cats – He wants to breed and sell show cats, and make coloring books, an online community and a website for cat lovers.

#7 Bible, Missions, Evangelism and Teaching Students

#8 History (This is his passion, he loves Uncle Eric Books)

#9 Family, Relationships – Preparation for being a dad and husband.  He jokes about how taking care of his cats is prep for parenting, and he does want to get married and have a family of his own, and he knows that he will need to provide for that family.

#10 Cooking – in the past he wanted to be a chef, so we spent a couple years to help him train, he had two jobs as a personal chef at age 14 and 15.  Now he isn’t as interested, but could easily get a job as a chef at any point, and has great references. We invested a lot of time and resources in his previous passion for cooking – now he doesn’t want to be a cook.  Was that a waste of investment?  NO!  His family will be thankful, and he has something to fall back on… and he’s only 16.  The boy has skills. 

#11 Voice Acting.. Why not? Someone has to do it!

As you can see he has no time for a typical learning plan. We don’t do any formal math just practical math.  I am not worried about higher education, credits, testing, college.  He isn’t going to need a diploma to get a job.  He will be an entrepreneur; he will be the one hiring.  I have talked to him about higher education and the things he would need to do to take that path in the future. He knows that if he wants to go to college later he can prepare for the testing on his own and do it. He has plenty of time for hobbies and is very good at sports.

I started allowing my children to choose majors and minor when Anna (my 1st dyslexic child) was seven. She couldn’t read and write, so art, gardening and cooking were everything for two years until I invented Dyslexia Games

When people ask me about homeschooling and what the kids are doing I might talk might sound like I am talking about a college student, not a 7 year old.

I am not at all worried about higher education, I start giving them a higher education at age 13.

What would each of your children like to major in this year if they had the choice?

If your child wants to be an artist and mommy – take her seriously! Help her to become the best artist and mommy ever! That’s what I wanted to be my whole life… and that is what I have become.

Today, our son is 23, married, finishing Bible College this May, and is a composer. He’s running a recording studio as well. He has been supporting himself for five years.

Our son Isaac and his beautiful wife, Margarita

Transitioning Toward Adult Life

Here are some books that are very important for my 12 to 15 year-olds.  At this age, we are transitioning them from mainly studying what they love, to requiring some things that we believe they really need to master, to do well in adult life.

They will study their preferred majors and minors most of the time, but at least once a week, they need to spend a couple hours with some of these books.

At ages 12 to 15 I want my children to study leadership, economics and grammar while I expose them to many options for a future calling or career.  If they already have chosen an occupation, we get specific. For example, you can’t just major in horses. You need to choose one or two horse-related career options to train in.  You can’t just focus on general photography. You need a specific market. You can’t just major in the Arts. You need to focus your skill building in one main area, maybe two…like producing a musical. You can’t just keep playing around with lots of different artistic mediums, you need to master the one you love the most.

By age 14, they need to make a serious choice about what calling or career they want to pursue so we can focus on training, gaining experience, skills, providing equipment, volunteering or internships in the area they choose.

From age 14 to 18 we will help them turn their dream into an income source, or help them get involved with others who are living out the calling they want to pursue. They will gain 4 years of practical experience in the field. I will also ONLY require them to learn the math specialized to their future occupation.  If they change careers, they will have something to fall back on. And, they might just have a source of passive income to help them take the next step.

How Your Child Thinks: Visual Thinkers (Part 2)

children who are visual or creative thinkers

My child has a totally different way of seeing the world! He thinks in 3D Pictures.

Stop for a moment and look up from your computer. All around you are things that were designed by someone. Even the webpage in front of you was designed. Your computer was designed. The room you are sitting in, and the clothing you are wearing? Everything was designed, and chances are they were designed by a person with the gift of being able to think visually.

Some people are able to imagine something in their minds that has not yet been created. They are able to envision a better way of doing things. They are able to envision an object and change the size, shape and color using the power of the 3D workstation called the imagination. The people who designed the objects all around you were often called bad students, day-dreamers and doodlers. They are the visual thinkers.

Creativity journal for artists, songwriters, poets, writers, dreamers, thinkers

What if your child is a visual thinker? Only 10% of the population has the power to think visually, rather than to think with words. The people with the most powerful of visual minds often have an imbalance when it comes to standardized learning situations. The visual mind swirls with colors, ideas, music, art, and creativity and drives the visual thinker into a state of constant creativity and movement. Standardized systems of learning try to conform the child and make efforts to normalize him through medication, punishment, and control so he will not be a disruption in the classroom.

The visual thinker learns differently, and if you ask me, I would tell you that they can not be taught, they must discover. They struggle with the lifelessness of flat pages, the discomfort of the desk, the buzz of the fluorescent lights, the dullness of flat words on a page, and concepts void of emotion, dimension and wonder. They will ponder the mysteries of measurement and time, but their minds go blank when sitting at a desk staring at repetitive lists of math facts. They create works of art and new inventions from items rescued from the trash can, but can’t hold a pencil correctly when asked to write down their spelling words. They can tell the most amazing stories and their words will take you to far off lands and fill the air with magic and mystery, but if asked to put a sentence on paper, they might just cry. They are brilliant, they are amazing, they are curious and brave… until they are forced to conform to a way of learning designed for children who have no dancing, no questions, no music and no colors in their minds.

The majority of students will be content to follow the instructions, fill in the blanks, and make their lists on paper, but the visual thinker was not created for desks, for charts, for lists, for textbooks, for flash cards, for teachers, or for chalkboards… they would dance on the desk, and challenge the teacher. They would add color to the chart, they would roll up the chart to make a telescope or a musical instrument, they would stack the text books and build houses for invisible people, they would turn the flashcards in to a magic trick and turn the chalkboard into a work of art that belongs in a museum. They are constantly in search of the third dimension, the music and the movement.

Find Part 1 of this series here: How Your Child Thinks (Part 1). Continue to How Your Child Thinks: Inventors (Part 3)

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).

Giving Your Children the Gift of Time

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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)