Posted in faith, general education, homeschool, more seeds, parents, social-emotional, special education, spirit

Living a Life of Gratitude

Ungratefulness: The Price of a Hectic Life

The world we live in can be a real doozie…

Right now, my desk is littered with planning materials for summer school and the fall, a pile of mail to sort (most of it junk), bills to pay, to-do lists, my partially completed journal for the day, a coffee cup that wants more coffee, and several cans with markers and colored pencils for my Bible journaling that never seems to get done…

It is easy to become overwhelmed with the busy-ness of life. Sometimes, the brain can be so full of things to do, worries and anxieties, appointments, and past conversations that there is no quiet, not even on the inside. The availability of information on a myriad of electronic devices only makes this worse.

Our kids feel the same pressure. And, in a paradox that hurts the hearts of people in my generation, they eschew the very things that ease the heart of a small child: sunshine, unstructured play, face-to-face time with friends, family outings.

It is not surprising that, in all that busy-ness, people of all ages become bitter and negative about things. We miss the good things that we have, because we are so focused on what we need to do and what we don’t have.

Building Gratitude

Fortunately, it is never too late to teach ourselves and our kids how to be grateful. Building gratitude starts with small steps, just like learning to read. These small steps cause us to pause in a hectic life, and consider the goodness that we already have. By simply changing the way we think about events, we can learn to be content in all things, as the Apostle Paul taught us.

Ten Ways to Practice Gratitude

Learning to be grateful is a process. Here are ten simple things anyone can do to begin a lifetime practice of gratitude.

  1. Say “thank you,” and say it often. Saying “thank you” isn’t just good manners. It lets the other person know that you appreciate him and what he’s done for you. My husband and children always says thank you to me after a meal, and we always say thank you to my husband when he cooks – we give thanks to God, and then honor the cook! Thank the postal carrier, thank the cashier at Stop and Shop… just say, “Thank you!”
  2. Recognize “stinking thinking” – and eliminate it. I once worked with an excellent teacher at a correctional facility.She had a poster in the front of the room entitled, “Accountable Speech.” On one side, she wrote negative self-statements her students made: “I’m so stupid” – “We’ll never get jobs” – “I can’t do that” – “That’s just how it is.” Next to each statement, she re-wrote it with a positive mindset: “I don’t understand that – can you explain it to me?” – “I need help finding a good job” – “I can’t do that YET” – “That’s how it was – but things can change.” Re-think the words you speak over yourself. Build yourself up with your own words.
  3. Share 3 good things that happen to you each day. When my kids were little, it was like pulling teeth to find out how their days were. So, during our afterschool snack, I asked them to tell me three good things and one not-so-good thing. This helped them focus on the good (even if it was “Jacob’s mom brought in cupcakes for his birthday”) and still honors thThee bumps in the road – in a balanced way. Try it with your kids.
  4. Make a “100 list.” I had a class once that included quite a few teens with depression and anxiety. I started this task when one of them was going through a rough patch. They grew to like it so much that they asked to be able to do it on days that weren’t going so well for the class – instead of the scheduled task. Simply start a list of things that you are thankful for. The idea is that the first 25 are rather concrete and often materialistic (new jewelry, a vacation, payday…). As you get to 75 and above, however, you get to the real things to be thankful for: still being alive, being clean and sober, being reunited with family…
  5. Start a gratitude journal. It can be devoting one day a week (maybe Sunday) to a gratitude entry in the journal or planner you already use. Or you can challenge yourself, for 30 days, to write down one thing you’re grateful for, each day. Just write it down!
  6. Complete a Gratitude Challenge. There are so many 30-day challenges online these days. Pick one and dedicate yourself to it for a month. If you’re really dedicated and committed, try working through Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy for an entire year.
  7. Think of the upside of things. My pastor used to say, “Don’t complain about the light bill. Thank God you have electricity. Some don’t.” For almost any trouble you have, you can take the “glass half full” viewpoint. When you catch yourself (or your kids) looking at a half-empty glass, rephrase the statement.
  8. Give up something you love for a week. A friend of mine used to have her kids each pick out 2-3 toys to keep in their rooms. The rest would be lovingly packed and put in the attic. Every month or so, they’d “shop” in the attic, swapping out their toys for ones they stored. They grew to better appreciate the ones they kept in their rooms, as well as the ones in storage. Try doing without something for a time – you’ll be more grateful for it when you return to it!
  9. Start and end your day with gratitude. My journal has space for me to write down 3 things that I am grateful for upon awaking, and 3 things I am grateful for before retiring for the evening. I made a word cloud of June’s entries – the bigger the word, the more times I mentioned it. This was a good reminder for me about what really matters.
  10. Read one prayer of thanksgiving from the Bible, each day. King David wrote many songs of thanksgiving in the book of Psalms. If you’re not sure what a prayer of thanksgiving is, All About Prayer has a good article to read.
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gratitude word cloud
My June gratitude word cloud… The bigger the word, the more times I mentioned it in the month.

Find Peace in Gratitude

As a parting thought, I want to share with you a gospel song that gets me in the tear ducts and heart every time I sing it. Blessings to you, and God bless your journey toward a life of gratitude.

Posted in homeschool, more seeds, outdoor education, parents, spirit

Getting Outside with Children

The Benefits of Outdoor Time

It seems like I never quite get my garden in when other folks do. By the time the school year wraps up, it’s almost the 4th of July. I recently spent a rainy day planning a small kitchen garden that I’m going to install this weekend…

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outdoor education
A small garden can afford time to refresh oneself outside… and provides learning opportunities for children, too. {Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2019}

When I get outside, even to sweep the sidewalk, pull a few weeds, or just sit and drink my coffee on the patio, I feel peaceful. My mind and heart empty of all the stresses of the day, and I can hear God talking.

Nature Study and Outdoor Learning

The outdoors is an excellent classroom, not only for “summer school,” but for any time of year. Don’t worry about structuring the time – 15 minutes a day, with an opportunity to talk, write or draw about the time, is all that is needed to spark creativity and connect a child to the world. Of course, once they’re hooked, they will want to be outside for hours (see this post about Charlotte Mason’s view on children and the outdoors).

See my Nature Study and Outdoor Classrooms board for some ideas on how to use your outdoor space as a peaceful learning place.

Summer Outdoor Learning

Whether you’re homeschooling all year, looking for enrichment for kiddos home from a brick-and-mortar school, or just wanting some fun things to do with your children during the summer, check out some of our favorite summer nature activities:

  1. The Mathematics of Nature: Fractals
  2. Beaches, Beaches, Everywhere!
  3. Summer Bird Study: Blue Jays
  4. Nature Study Notebooks and Literacy
  5. A Little Fun with our Feathered Friends
  6. The Nightshade Family (and a Little Surprise)

What are you doing with your kids this summer? Let me know in the comments section! Share a link…


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nature study

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Free Summer Meals in Your Area

For many of my students (and, perhaps, yours, too), the only reliable meals they might get are the free breakfast and lunch served while they are at school. This has been so for as long as I’ve been a teacher.

Currently, the Annie E. Casey Foundation estimated that, in 2018, approximately 14 million children (that’s 19% of the children under age 18 in our country), lived in a food insecure setting. In Louisiana and New Mexico, the numbers were the highest: as many as 28% of the children there lived without reliable meals at least some part of the year.

As a summer school teacher, I always worked in high-need areas, where my summer school site was also a summer feeding site. We served a lot of kids. As a classroom teacher, I always had food in a desk drawer, ready for someone who hadn’t eaten that day. And my schools always sent home extra food with a few students whose living situations merited an extra hand.

Children cannot learn if they do not have enough to eat. {Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2019}

Did you know there are free summer meal programs all over the United States?

Below are links to tools for states that have local summer meal programs. Please click on your state to find where kids in your area can get food for the summer. Most sites offer food to any child under the age of 18 who visits the site. Some states have eligibility requirements.

Alabama : Break for a Plate
Alaska: Summer Food Service Program
Arizona: Summer Food Service Program
Arkansas: Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance 
California: Summer Meal Service Sites 
Colorado: Summer Food Service Program 
Connecticut: End Hunger Connecticut! 
Delaware: Summer Food Service Program
Florida: Summer Breakspot 
Georgia: Bright from the Start 
Hawaii: Summer Food Service Program
Idaho: Summer Food Service Program 
Illinois: Rise and Shine Illinois

Indiana: Summer Food Service Program 
Iowa: Summer Food Service Program
Kansas: Summer Food Service Program 
Kentucky: Summer Food Service Program 
Louisiana: No Kid Hungry 
Maine: Summer Food Service Program 
Maryland; Maryland Summer Meals Sites 
Massachusetts: Summer Food Service Program 
Michigan: Summer Food Service Program 
Minnesota: Summer Food Service 
Mississippi: Summer Food Service Program
Missouri: Summer Food Service Program 
Montana: Find Summer Meals in Your Community

Nebraska: Summer Food Service Program 
Nevada: Three Square 
New Hampshire : Find Summer Meals in Your Community
New Jersey: Summer Food Service Program 
New Mexico: Meal Site Locator 
New York: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
North Carolina: No Kid Hungry NC 
North Dakota: Summer Meal Sites Information 
Ohio: Summer Food Service Program Clickable Map 
Oklahoma: Meals for Kids OK! 
Oregon: Summer Meals Map 
Pennsylvania: Find Summer Meals in Your Community

Rhode Island:   Find Summer Meals in Your Community
South Carolina: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
South Dakota: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Tennessee: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Texas: Summer Feeding Interactive Map 
Utah:   Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Vermont:   Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Virginia: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Washington: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
West Virginia: Find Summer Meals in Your Community  
Wisconsin:   Find Summer Meals in Your Community
Wyoming: Find Summer Meals in Your Community



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