Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Blessings of Lice

Our family had been off the radar for a good week and a half because of a dreadful head lice infestation.  It had been going around the schools in our area for months now and I just thought we were lucky we homeschooled so that we could dodge the little critters (talking about the lice.)  I spotted it on my eldest Sofia first, but sure enough my middle daughter and I had it as well.  The baby and my husband with a shaved head were the only two to make it out "nit-free."

I'll tell you that this nearly made me lose my mind.  Three girls with long hair getting lice at the same time was overwhelming to me.  But alas, we got through it and we are lice free!  It was funny timing that this happened because I was all set to write my 5 day series on teaching virtues.  What a lesson in virtue training this was!

I also failed miserably on my challenge to quit complaining for 21 days.  I was lucky to have lasted 21 minutes without complaining!  But, I'm back on track again and looking at the bright side of things.  Looking back I can see that, in fact, there were some hidden blessings that came with our bout of lice.
Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

My Top Ten Blessings of Having Lice

#10  I learned how to do a wicked head check for lice
       Whenever I used to hear that someone's child I knew had lice I would give a quick glance at my child's hair to check if it had passed to us.  I'd part their hair midway down their head, flip the hair to the left, to the right and done.  What a joke!  Doing a head check means using a proper comb and checking every single section of hair.  The technician at a local lice-center in our area recommends doing an overall head check once every 7-10 days.

#9  I got opportunity after opportunity to practice my virtue of perseverance
      Perseverance is one of those virtues you only get to practice when you are faced with a difficult challenge.  We Choose Virtues, the virtue curriculum we use has the catch phrase "I can do it even if it's tough."  Each one of my girls initially took me two hours to comb out.  By the end of 4 hours of combing, my arms and back ached.  But, I did it.

#8  My children got to see how their parents act under stress
     I won't say that I didn't cry over this.  I did.  A lot.  But I cried at night to my husband.  Mostly because I was so tired and frustrated and sad that I did not have family to help me out.  To my children I held a brave face.  I reminded myself over and over that they were watching me and I tried hard to guard my tongue from harsh words or complaining.  I tried to make the tedious task of combing out bugs from their hair a joyful one.  Combing out each bug has allowed me to perfect the art of forcing a smile when I really wanted to vomit.

#7  Lots and lots of one on one time with the girls
     Before our little lice episode I rarely had time to spend completely one on one with the older girls.  We tuck each girl into bed and they get books but it had been a long time that I had spent HOURS with each one at a time.  Cue 2 hour nit-combing sessions.  When we did a comb out I did it in our bathroom with the door closed so that the other kids would not barge in and make me lose my place.  I turned on a movie (which is a real treat in our home) and we went to work!  The girls actually loved getting their hair brushed out because they got this "royal treatment."  Eventually, we went to a professional place to get our heads checked because I wanted someone else to check our heads to be certain we were clear.  The salon was like a spa with big screen TVs and sparkling water and juice boxes for the kids.  After one treatment the girls actually said "Mom, lets get lice again."  After nearly swerving off the road I made them promise to never say this again.

#6  My daughter doesn't hate brushing her hair anymore
     My eldest daughter used to cry every single time I had to brush her hair.  I have used conditioners, wide tooth combs, combing when wet, combing when dry...nothing seemed to make it better.  Until lice combing with the special lice tool.  You see, when you comb for nits you need to scrape the head and pull up in small sections.  Then, you have to do it in all four directions of the hair shaft.  After doing this on Sofia every day (sometimes twice a day) for a whole week and a half...she thinks getting her hair brushed with a regular comb is like a massage.  Voila, cured!

#5  I saw first hand how close my girls are (literally)
     Between treatments the last thing I wanted was for my girls to have their heads touch each other.  All it would take was one bug to crawl from one girl to the next before the whole mini-nightmare started again.  So, I set out to keep the three of them apart.  I soon found out it was IMPOSSIBLE.  I can't believe how often the three of them have their heads glued together.  They read together, they play house, they hug, they make sister sandwiches...all with their heads together.  This raised my blood pressure at the height of the lice disaster, but now I can look at it as something so sweet.

Can you just see the lice spreading????

#4  The girls' rooms are completely uncluttered
      When you find lice, you have to bag up every stuffed animal in the child's room.  I took this one step further and bagged EVERY stuffed animal, doll, toy, dress up clothes and any odds and ends.  I did this in every room.  I have to say that my girls' rooms are the cleanest they have ever been.  The girls love it too, it takes them seconds to clean their rooms every evening.  Dusting is also a breeze now.

#3  I know my husband loves me...reeeeallly loves me!
      Before I found a local lice center in WNY, I thought that it was going to be up to my husband to comb my hair out for bugs.  Can you see why I cried?  My husband agreed to do it and he did not complain once.  Not once.  It turned out to be a disaster with lice shampoo goop everywhere and the nit comb being stuck in my hair multiple times.  I think I even have a bald spot from him taking the advice to scrape the scalp a little too harshly.  Nevertheless, he tried.  He also took a day off of work to help me with the initial laundry, vacuuming and bagging of toys.

#2  I conquered the chore I despised the most.
     Every Friday I used to cringe at the fact that it was linen laundry day.  I dragged my feet, I stripped the beds while complaining and I worked so slowly at changing loads of laundry that it took me all day.  Now that we have done the whole "wash your bed linen every day" when you have lice routine, I can strip ALL the beds in the house, wash, dry and put them back on the beds by 12:00 PM!  I am so fast at it now that I can do it without even thinking.  The girls even strip their OWN beds now and dump it downstairs over the railing (which they find so fun!)

#1 The lice diet
      For a few weeks I have been battling a few stubborn pounds that I had put on.  One week of stress, multiple loads of laundry a day, anxiety and non stop cleaning melted those pounds away!  Woo hoo!  Note to readers: this was not long lasting, I put it back on while celebrating "We Conquered Lice!"

So, have I got you itching your head yet?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Day 5: Books and media that inspire virtue

Welcome to the final day of the 5 Days of Virtue Training series! If you didn't catch the earlier posts here they are:

Day 1: Speaking the Language of Virtues

Day 2: How we teach Virtues

Day 3: Training to be a Virtuous Mother

Day 4: Virtue based activities 

I was going to focus today's blog post on specific children's books that demonstrate virtue.  I had a nice little list ready to post and then I changed my mind.

When I really thought about it, there are virtues to be found in almost every story.  The key point that I had mentioned before is that you need to be able to identify them by name.  This way when reading a story to your child you can mention specific things like "Did you notice how perseverant Laura was when she surprised Ma by doing the spring cleaning?"  This is an excellent way for children to learn the names of virtues as well as examples of what they mean.

There are certain books which are filled with children and adults demonstrating their virtues.  One of our favorite series is the Little House series.  Our family listens to them on audiobook and everyone including the 3 year old gets into the stories.  One of many things I love about the series is that the children are so obedient and excited to please their parents.  I really appreciate children's literature where the children speak so nicely to their parents and where parents talk so nicely to each other.  Books like that are not always easy to find.

This brings me to my next point.

Just as important as introducing virtue filled literature to your children is, it is equally important to filter out the junk books and media.  In our home we do not let our children read any "cool" books where kids think their parents are lame or where they are allowed to talk bad about their family. We are also selective on what movies our children can watch.  How can we instill virtues such as "gentleness" when our children are glued to the TV watching people beat each other up?  How can we encourage our children to be "content" when product ads are rampant between every segment of television?

Garbage In, Garbage Out.

I challenge mothers as well to be selective in what we choose to view ourselves!  My husband always jokes that when I lose my patience I should watch re-runs of The Duggars because every time I get to watch Michelle Duggar in action I tend to mimic her gentle demeanor. It is so funny but watching her interact with her children helps me interact with my own.  I come from a family that yelled for everything...this, I know, is not the way I want my own family to act.  I use shows like the Duggars and Little House on the Prairie to give me examples of virtuous behavior.  Behavior I want, but have not grown up with.

The Bible is a wonderful resource we have to teach our children (and ourselves) about virtues in stories.  The Catholic Toolbox has a great list of Bible stories organized by virtues.

Do you have a favorite book for your children that does a great job of teaching virtues?  Leave your answer in the comment section, I'd love some new book recommendations!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Day 4: Virtue based activities

Welcome to Day 4 of the 5 days of virtue training series!  If you missed the previous posts, here are their links:

Day 1: Speaking the Language of Virtues

Day 2: How we teach Virtues

Day 3: Training to be a Virtuous Mother

If you have read my previous posts, you know that we are huge fans of the We Choose Virtues program.  We use their virtue cards daily during our homeschool.  In addition to using these cards, here are some other fun ideas we have used to compliment our virtue training.

"Cootie-Catcher" Virtue Chooser
Ok, this definitely needs a better name, but I'm not sure exactly what it's called!  We used to make these all the time in elementary school with silly fortunes or yes/no questions inside.  Well, they are still a hit and my girls LOVE using this.  On the outside of the catcher are just numbers and the inside are colors.  Check out this website to see how to fold one of these and how to play the games (if you were not in elementary school in the 1980s!)

Our virtue Cootie Catcher!
We use this to choose what virtues the girls will work on for a certain day.  First they choose a number, then a color and then you open the color to the corresponding virtue.

Go on a Virtue Hunt (from Raising Children with the virtues, A. Wiersma)
Make a grab bag with questions like the ones below.  Each person picks a question and answers it:

  • Name three virtues you want to develop
  • Name a virtue you saw at home this week
  • Name a virtue you notice in your mother, father, neighbor...
  • Name a virtue you needed this morning when getting up.
  • Name a virtue you see in your best friend
  • Name a virtue you need when you go to work.
  • Name a virtue you need when you're doing schoolwork
  • Name a virtue you need when you travel.
  • Name three virtues you like in your friend.
  • Name a virtue you can call on when doing chores.
  • Name a virtue you need when you see something unfair.
  • Name a virtue you can call on when you try out something new.
  • Name a virtue you don't know a lot about.
  • Name a virtue you know a lot about.
  • Name a virtue you would like everybody to use.
  • Name three of your favorite virtues.
  • Name a virtue that can turn a bad day into a good one.
When we have used this activity, we keep our virtue cards out so that the girls can use those to answer questions.  It is pretty funny some of the things they come up with!  

Chore Jar/Helpful Jar
One of the girls favorite virtue to practice is being Helpful.  The problem is, when they choose this virtue they constantly ask me what they can do to help.  To help them become more independent with finding things that need to be done and doing it without being asked (which is also part of the challenge of being helpful), we came up with the Religioso Chore Jar!

Inside the jar are easy chores that the kids can do with minimal supervision.  They include things such as:
  • mom's dinner helper
  • organize shoes in mudroom
  • empty dishwasher
  • dust family room with a wet wipe
  • put books away
  • feed the dogs 
  • put water in the dogs bowl 
The girls get a kick out of picking chores this way.  These are things that I need done anyways, they are not just busy work so everyone wins!  

Making a Virtue Shield
This is a fun craft to work on with your children.  Make a "Virtue Shield" and divide the shield into four quadrants.  In one quadrant write down and illustrate the virtue your child demonstrates well.  In another quadrant write down the virtue that they are working hard on.  In the last two quadrants they can illustrate how they are using their newly acquired in their lives. For parents of younger children, a nice idea would be to make a Family Virtue Shield displaying a section for each member of the family.

100 Days of Virtue Chart

This chart comes from We Choose Virtues and is a GREAT way to get your children motivated to learn and practice their virtues.  As the children demonstrate a certain virtue, they get to put a sticker on the chart.  The company uses the analogy of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly as the transformation your child goes through when learning their virtues.  The stickers they include are butterfly stickers that you cover the caterpillars with.  Once your child has achieved 100 days of Virtue then you can celebrate!  If your kids are anything like mine, stickers are a fine motivation!

Come visit tomorrow when I'll be blogging about the way to use children's literature and media to teach virtues!

Don't forget to visit the other 20 bloggers in the 5 days of Motherhood and Homemaking Series!  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Day 3: Training to be a Virtuous Mother

Welcome to Day 3 of the 5 days of teaching virtue series.  If you are new to the series you can start with these links:

Day 1: Speak the Language of Virtues

Day 2: How we teach Virtues

It didn't take long after I started teaching my children virtues that my daughter called me out:

"Mom, you need to work on your gentle virtue"

I stopped in my tracks.  She was completely right.  In all my excitement teaching my children their virtues I had forgotten (conveniently) that all my efforts would be in vain if I was not modeling virtuous behavior to my children.

I honestly thought that the virtue cards were really only for the kids but as my daughter so boldly pointed out...I needed to learn my virtues just as importantly as my children did.

Here is my step-by-step list for how I am currently training myself in virtues:

1.  Make a list of who you would like to model
There are certain people that I have met throughout the years that truly inspire me to be the mother I want to be.  These are women that may not be perfect but each one exemplifies certain virtues that I would like to learn.  At this point in my life, I look for mothers who love being with their children, who talk highly of their spouses and who speak gently (most of the time!)  It's just like admiring an athlete.  If you want to excel at your sport, you study the form of those who are performing at the top of their game.

2.  Write down the virtues you see them demonstrating
It's not enough to say , for instance, that Jane Doe is such a good mother.  Be specific.  What is it about that person that you want to model?

3.  Start working down the list one virtue at a time
Once I finished step #2, my list was so long.  It felt overwhelming to me to try to work on all those virtues.  I would fail daily by 9:30am most days!  Instead, chose one virtue to really challenge yourself with.  Work on it until it comes easier to you.  Gradually add more virtues.  No biggie if you have to go back and repeat one over and over again (speaking from experience!)

4.  Challenge yourself to perform the virtue with CONSISTENCY
While it's easy to perform a virtue every once in a while, it is really something when you can do it during all conditions especially difficult ones.  Virtues such as patience, diligence and obedience are easy when things are going your way, but take practice to demonstrate when kids are acting up and you haven't slept in 2 days!

5.  Challenge yourself to perform the virtue with EASE
The ease in which the virtue is demonstrated will give you a pretty good idea of how you are doing with it.  Aim for implementing the virtue without giving it much thought.  I've mentioned in previous posts that my children are already implementing the virtues without me directing them every single time.  I am aiming for this myself.  Using the athlete analogy, the seasoned athlete performs their sport as if it were second nature.  Movements are fluid and seem effortless.  So should our virtuous behavior be.

6.  Practice the virtues with JOY
When training yourself in virtues, it is important to do so with joy!  Practicing virtuous behavior should be delightful even if it is difficult or seemingly impossible.  Avoid complaining and feeling sorry for yourself when you are using your virtues when others aren't or when you constantly  have to bite your tongue to keep yourself from losing your temper.  Being virtuous is reward enough.  The more you practice joy, they more it will become second nature as well.

Recently, I got to put my virtue training to the test.  My family with girls with long hair got....lice.  Are you itchy yet?  I wanted to cry (ok, I did cry) and the problem seemed insurmountable.  Each child took  2 hours to comb out, not to mention all the laundry, the vacuuming, the husband out of town and no family in the area to help me out.  The girls almost saw their mom lose it.

But I remembered that throughout the difficult moments, my children are WATCHING ME.  My behavior during this trial is the behavior my children will learn to model.  Working on my own virtue training magnifies what my children are learning with their own virtue lessons.  While I hope we never have to go through another lice fiasco, I can see why the trial was given to me only weeks before my series on teaching virtue.  Funny how those things work out  huh?

Come visit tomorrow where I will share some fun games and activities we use to teach virtues!

Don't forget to visit the 20 other bloggers in the 5 days of Mothering and Homemaking Series!  The posts are filled with words of encouragement and wonderful ideas, work on your virtue of prudence and head over right now! ;)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day 2: How we teach virtues

Welcome to Day 2 of the 5 days of virtue training!  If you are new to this series, start HERE.  Don't forget to check out the 20 other bloggers who are part of this 5 days of Mothering and Homemaking series.

For our girls, we teach virtues using a program called We Choose Virtues.  I met the developer Heather McMillan at the 2:1 conference and she introduced me to her company and the virtue cards she created.  She spoke with such passion about her product that as soon as our conversation ended I quickly looked up We Choose Virtues online and ordered myself a package of her family virtue cards.

Since our cards arrived we have been using them daily as part of our homeschool.  We start the morning with our Bible lesson and then each child gets to pick a virtue that they will work on that day.  We read through everyone's virtue because the challenge is not only to learn your own virtue, but to encourage siblings to achieve theirs as well!  We make it a big deal around the table and everyone gets very excited about it.

A:     Each virtue card card has the name of the virtue printed colorfully on top, this makes it nice for my 3 year old who can't read and just chooses the virtue based on the color of the font and the picture on the front!

B:     Under the name is the description of the virtue in the first person.  The challenge of accomplishing the virtue in our home also includes memorizing the description.  We have used the description as our Kindergartners hand writing assignment for the day.

Learning the language of virtues is so important that we spend a lot of time on this part. In slightly over a month my 5 year old can describe almost every virtue!  Throughout the day I may ask one of them: What does it mean to have the virtue of Forgiving?  They would answer " I choose to love when others hurt me."

C:     On the front of every card is also a "character" whose story is told on the back of the card.  Each character demonstrates their virtue in a story and their picture on front has elements from their story.  This is how Maya, my 3 year old, has been learning her virtues.  When I ask her "What does it mean to be Diligent?" She answers that it is when Chuck cleans up after his duck!

D:     On the front of each card is also a Bible verse which refers to the specific virtue.  We have enjoyed looking up the verses in our own Bible and highlighting them.  In the future, I will use those verses as the children's memorization challenges!  We Choose Virtues also has a secular program without the Bible verses.

The back of each card has various features such as family challenge ideas, the character stories, what to say if  you are unable to use the virtue in a situation and teachable moments for families.

Phew, that's a lot of information on one card right?

Usually I let the kids pick which ever card they want to work on for the day (if someone has trouble with one and can't complete the challenge then we let them choose it again if they want.)  We really try to rotate through them so each child gets to practice all the virtues included.

If someone is going to have a particular challenge for the day I may choose one for them.  For instance, my daughter Sofia gets frustrated sometimes during her violin lesson.  When she doesn't know the notes of a new song, or can't play fast enough I used to hear her say "Ugh, I can't do it."  Now, every Monday she gets the Perseverance card which states: "I can do it even when it's tough" I have her repeat that too before the teacher arrives and it has worked like a charm!  I can see it happening right away.  As soon as she is about to say "I can't do it", she stops and takes a deep breath and keeps on going.  Usually she'll give me a wink because she knows she accomplished her virtue challenge for the day!

Sofia and her violin teacher Miss Sandy 
The children are SO PROUD when they have accomplished a virtue challenge.  The more they practice these virtues, the more I can see their fruits on a more consistent basis.  Since they know what the virtues mean I can ask them to try to use them in different situations.  Instead of yelling to my kids to be quiet when I get on the phone, I tell them that they will need to use their virtue of patience and self-control.

A perfect time to interrupt my 3 year old's temper tantrum with a virtue lesson ;)

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out why my kids weren't the only ones who benefited from learning their virtues.  Have you checked out the 20 other bloggers who are participating in the 5 days of Mothering and Homemaking series?  If not, click on the banner below to read awesome posts on topics near and dear to the bloggers hearts.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Day 1: Speak the language of virtues

Welcome to the 5 Days of Mothering and Homemaking Series! Click on the picture at the top or bottom of this blog post to visit the 20 other bloggers participating in this encouraging series! To read why I chose this topic click HERE!

Before I actively started teaching my children specific virtues, I had the idea that just encouraging my children's good behavior was enough to set them on the right path.  It's not a difficult concept to imagine that teaching your children to say thank you, not to interrupt and to attend to their work would result in a child with courtesy, patience, and diligence.

This can work.

But it can be better!

Learning the specific virtues and deliberately choosing ones to work on with your children (and yourself) can be so rewarding.  By focusing on a specific virtue, you can teach your child exactly how to use it, why it's important and even the biblical reasoning behind it.  It's not enough to just tell your children: be good and behave.  Children need to learn what character traits they want to have in life and how they go around getting them.

Some examples of virtues include:

Assertiveness, Caring, Cleanliness, Commitment, Compassion, Confidence, Consideration, Cooperation, Courage, Courtesy, Creativity, Determination, Diligence, Enthusiasm, Flexibility, Forgiveness, Friendliness, Generosity, Gentleness, Helpfulness, Honesty, Humility, Integrity, Joyfulness, Justice, Kindness, Love, Loyalty, Moderation, Modesty, Orderliness, Patience, Peacefulness, Perseverance, Purposefulness, Reliability, Respect, Responsibility, Self-Discipline, Service, Tact, Thankfulness, Tolerance, Trust, Trustworthiness, Trustfulness, Understanding, Unity (from The Virtues Projec Educators Guide)

From this list, go ahead and choose a few that you think are important to teach to your child.  Once you teach your children the names of these virtues and what they involve you can begin naming a specific virtues you see in your children.

For instance:

"I noticed your patience when you waited for me to get off the phone before asking me for a snack"

"I appreciate your perseverance when learning that new piece on the violin"

"You showed your kindness when you helped me clean up your sister's spilled milk"

When your child hears about their good qualities this way, it gives them self confidence.  It gives them a concrete example of the behavior you appreciate and the virtue they used to accomplish it.  Furthermore, you can also tell them why that virtue was helpful.   Take the first example of the child being patient while mom was on the phone.  You can add:

"Because you were so patient, I was able to get all the information I needed from that phone call.  Thank you."

While I was at the 2:1 conference this April, I was fortunate enough to meet Heather McMillan of We Choose Virtues.  She is the developer of an entire program of virtue training for children.  As soon as she showed me her virtue cards, I knew that this was the system I wanted to use to train my children in virtues.  Since our virtue cards arrived in the mail, we have used them every single day.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out how we use this program to teach specific virtues in our home!  Check out their webpage for a sneak peek!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The most important subject I want to teach

When my eldest daughter was born, my husband and I got talking one night about what we thought she would be when she was older.  We were joking around about what the up and coming careers would be in twenty years and were trying to predict which jobs would be the most in demand and financially rewarding.  You know, the kind of job that would pay for a nice retirement home and vacations for us parents.  When we were done kidding around, we both said almost in unison that if we raise our children to love the Lord and to be genuinely good people then we would consider our job as parents a success.

Flash forward five years and I was getting ready for our first year of homeschooling.  Like any new homeschooling mom, I browsed through every (and I mean every) curriculum website, every homeschool blog and tried my hardest to go to every vendor at the homeschooling convention.  I was sure that picking the right curriculum would make or break my first homeschooling year.  By September I had the perfect math, history, spelling, phonics, language arts and spelling curriculum for our first year.  Nothing was missing.

And I was right.  Nothing was missing.

Nothing was missing if I wanted to raise a child to excel in academics.

And that was my goal picking the curriculum.  Every mother wants her child to be smart.

But my husband and I wanted more.  We remembered our conversation five years ago when we both agreed that raising children who would be of great character and morals was our primary goal.  When I laid out my new shiny curriculum in front of me, there was nothing there that would get our children to this goal.  

So things changed.

I started with a good catechism program.  I began each day reading the Bible with my children (keep in mind that I had never read the Bible on my own at this point).  I talked about God openly with my children with as much excitement as I possibly could!  I began teaching Sunday school at our church to show my children that my love for God was so great that I just HAD to share it.

Then I learned about teaching virtues and everything I was trying to teach my children came together!  We do virtue training as part of our homeschool daily.  In just over a month of incorporating this into our daily routine I have noticed a huge difference in my children's attitude and behavior.  We learn concrete ways of living out these virtues and we challenge each other to achieve them every day.

Next week I am joining 21 other bloggers in the 5 days of Mothering and Homemaking series.  I will be sharing with you how we teach virtues in our home.  Join me June 4th through June 8th for a week of encouragement and ideas on teaching what I think is one of the most important lessons we can pass down to our children.