Category: Parenting

The Value of the Egg Timer in Parenting and Homeschooling

One of the most simplistic, most used and easiest training tools I used with my kids was the simple egg timer. I bought each of my kids an egg timer and let them color it and decorate it to their hearts content.  To get kids to buy in, a little personalization works beautifully.  My kids each had an egg timer by the time they were two or three.  Egg timers were used in several ways in our home.

Blanket Time, Rest Time and Reading Time

When I wanted my littles to stay put on a blanket, I would put toys, activities and books on the blanket and set their timer.  To start this training, I started with 3 min for a toddler. “Stay on this blanket and play until the timer goes off and you will get a treat.” If they stayed on, they got to pick something from a treasure box. If they didn’t, I put them back on and started the time again.  My boys learned this in one try, my darling little girl learned this in about 30 tries, but eventually the fact that her brothers got a treat irritated her enough to stay.  We gradually increased this time to about 15 min.  You can take a shower, drink some tea or teach a math lesson in 15 minutes.  I know this from experience.

Okay, not the blanket time picture I was looking for, but they were so little and adorable.

My kids had rest time each and every day until they were teenagers.  As a matter of fact, my teenagers still have a tendency to go to their rooms and make themselves scarce during the mid afternoon.  It helps us all.  Again, my introverted boys were more than happy to go to their rooms and play by themselves but my daughter needed extra encouragement. She also needed less sleep so she gave up naps by about 2.5.  I would place the egg timer in her room and she was allowed out after an hour.  Sometimes, she stayed in because she was engrossed in her play and once she learned how to read, she loved to sit and read “her books”, meaning books not mandated and chose specifically by Mom.

We had mandated reading of Classics each day, particularly in the summer, and the egg timer allowed them to set their 30 min and read without any help from me.

15 Minute CleanUp

My kids have cleaned with me since they were little.  Before they were allowed to have screen time (after school, chores, piano, outside time and quiet time), we did a 15 minute cleanup.  Generally, this was right before I had to make dinner and prepare for my husband to come home.  As anyone who has spent more than 10 min with a small child knows, children are messy.  Learning and playing are serious business which apparently requires every toy, book, Lego, doll, tupperware etc to be pulled out and strewn across the house.  I never worried about this too much during the day until 15 min cleanup.  I would set the timer and everyone would quickly put everything away.  I gave each child a zone, Connor pick up all the books, Collin pick up the Legos, Caileigh put the shoes and tupperware away and we would move as quickly as possible to cleanup.  When the timer was up, and if we had finished, the kids got a fun snack and watched something while I made dinner.  Daddy came home to a mostly straightened up house, dinner was on it way, and kids were happy.  It was a win, win, win.  This worked a good 75% of the time.  The other 25%, I met Scott at the door where I took the car keys, left him the kids and told him to text me when they were fed and in bed.


The egg timer was a life saver during school.  We did most of our subjects together but math and LA were done independently.  Each child had an independent folder each day filled with math facts, copywork, handwriting and Bible and poetry memorization. While I worked with one of the kids teaching math and grammar, the other two were to work on their notebooks.  I set a timer for 15 min in which they were to work independently without distracting me while I taught their sibling.  If they worked diligently and well, they received a marble for their jar, at a certain marble number, they received a prize or a date. If they did not, I gave them double the work.  This allowed me to have one on one time with each child.  I always started with the younger children first.  Since I had twins, I traded off who went with Mom first.  Caileigh found the timer harder at first but she quickly got used to it.

Once I had taught them their math or grammar for the day, I would write how much time I thought a certain assignment should take them (I always added a 5 minute bumper), and they would get to work.  Some kids find the timer hard to work with, but as many tests are timed, I felt like this was a good time to train this skill.  Obviously, certain learning challenges might find this impossible, but I think its worth a try.  I think it’s better to train this with younger kids than try to wait until high school tests that really matter.

Here’s the type of Egg Timer I used.  However, look at all the amazing ones they have now! My daughter would have loved this Kitty Timer.  This Star Wars one would have thrilled Collin, and Connor liked anything Streamlined.

Keeping My Cool During Discipline

Sometimes we all need to just take a time out
I often speak about requiring your kids to respond with first time obedience (first time means you say it, they do it the very first time  Posts on first time Obedience ) I did and still do expect my kids to respond not only to their Dad and I with first time obedience,  but also to the authorities in their life.  When they don’t, we have a problem and we try to take care of that right away.

However, requiring first time obedience doesn’t mean that we raise our voice, stop using polite words, like please, with our requests or respond with short tempers.  Our out of control behavior, harsh tones or shouting should not be excused just because our kids are not being obedient.  We need to be modeling how to handle conflict even when we are completely exasperated, tired or have dealt with our children on this very issue for the 453rd time.  Our response is just as important of a training tool as the discipline itself.  Our kids are watching and learning from us all the time. 

Here are some tools I have used to help me keep my cool during times of conflict.

1.  This is not about me. Knowing and sometimes repeating this mantra, “This is not about me.”  When my kids were young, I had a tendency to think every misbehavior was a direct reflection of my abilities.  A wise older friend reminded me that we all are fallen and fall short of the glory of God and we need to understand that our children are sinners and have a sin nature and that our job, as parents, is to give them the same grace and gentle correction that God gives us.  It is not about me but about training my children in the same manner that God trains me. The Bible is clear that a good parent disciplines a child He loves and since I know how gently, but consistently, God disciplines me then I need to afford my kids the same grace.

2. Don’t discipline if you are angry.  I have a time out chair, not only for the kids, but for me.  If I was angry, I had my kids sit on the couch in self control hands while I went to my chair with self-control hands.  My hands were generally clasped in prayer as I knew I needed to seriously calm down before I said or did something I would regret later.  My parents disciplined in anger and as I was a very strong willed child, that parenting crossed lines it should have never crossed and it was damaging to me.  Taking the time to gain self control and pray allowed me to show and train my kids in anger management and appropriate conflict resolution.  A parent yelling at a child, using hurtful words or tones is never good parenting.  Taking the time to calm down and pray is wise and is setting a great example for your children.

3. Set rules, expectations and consequences ahead of time. I found it infinitely helpful in my kid’s younger years to have talked through our rules and consequences of those rules ahead of time with my husband.  We used the Doorpost poster and filled all of it out with the rules, the appropriate Bible verses (the Biblical reason why) and the consequences for each and posted them in several areas in our home.  This allowed my husband and I to be on the same page and the rules and consequences be consistent no matter who was at home.  We shared these with grandparents and babysitters so that the rules never changed.

4. Give Grace. We all have bad days.  We all have days that we just can’t seem to get it together.  We might be tired or in pain or just having a hard day and as I appreciate it when I get grace on days like that, I want to give my kids that as well.  If your children are characterized by first obedience (they are first time obedient 80% of the time), and within the first hour of the day are in trouble for the third time, pull them aside and get eye to eye and just ask them what is going on.  Remind them of the rules and then maybe just snuggle and watch a cartoon together for a bit.  

5. Be willing to ask for forgiveness. Sometimes, I lose it. Sometimes, I yell. Sometimes, I say things I don’t mean. I am a sinner and fallible.  Sometimes, I need to say, “I am so sorry that I handled that so badly. Please forgive me for yelling. I was wrong.”  Whenever I have blown it and have needed to apologize and ask my children’s forgiveness, they have responded with such grace and love.  They humble me and have taught me how to accept other’s apologies. 

Parenting is hard. Training children is hard. However, we are doing more than just disciplining our children, we are training them to appropriately handle conflict with their spouses and children. One way I use to check myself is to ask whether I would be okay with my someday grandchildren be spoken to, disciplined and trained in the same manner I am speaking, disciplining or training my kids.  There have been times that the answer to this was a resounding no and then I had some work to do.  Funny, I have become a much better wife, friend and daughter because of the heart training I have had to do since becoming a Mom.  It’s hard, but worth it. 

A Reason for Obedience

I love to read! Reading takes me away from everyday trials and tribulations as well as frequently giving me new things to think about. This weekend I read, “At the Back of the North Wind” by George MacDonald. George MacDonald was a preacher and writer who lived in the 1800’s. He was mentor to such writers as Lewis Carroll and ultimately C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis said about MacDonald,”I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.” MacDonald was a master storyteller of fantasy (as in Phantastes, Lillith and The Princess and Curdie) as well as many moral stories set in England and Scotland where he lived. My favorites are by far  the fantasies, as I know that somewhere in the fantasy are greater truths to be found. I found one such tidbit this weekend on obedience. The main character in “At the Back of the North Wind” is a boy by the name of Diamond who was learning to drive his father’s cab. MacDonald says this about Diamond.

“Diamond learned to drive all the sooner that he had been accustomed to do what he was told, and could obey the smallest hint in a moment. Nothing helps one to get on like that. Some people don’t know how to do what they are told; they have not been used to it and they neither understand quickly nor are able to turn what they do understand into action quickly. With an obedient mind one learns the rights of things fast enough; for it is the law of the universe, and to obey is to understand.”

What a thought! Obedience leads to understanding and then to action! It’s our job as parents to not only train our children to obey but to expect obedience from them.

We love this Radio Drama version from Focus on the Family,  At the Back of the North Wind.

Other blogs on training obedience in our kids –

“10 Practical Things” Extended – Child and Parent Training Pt 1

“10 Practical Things” Extended Pt 2 – Child Training

I obey right away! 



Shining like a Star!

An oldie but goodie….

Every parent would love to have their children do everything they are told without complaining and arguing …and whining. Not only is this a skill that would change our days into wonderful sunshine filled hours, God commands us to. In Philippians 2:14 Paul writes, “ Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you might become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you will shine like the stars in the universe.” I know that if I did everything without complaining or arguing, the people in my life would be more pleased to be around me (especially my husband) as will the people in your children’s life.

Idea one: Read this verse with your children. Explain that complaining and arguing also means whining. Demonstrate how much nicer it is to be around someone who doesn’t complain or whine, As odd as it may sound, I do this by talking in a whiny voice to my children and then talk to them in a nice tone of voice. Have them try it a time or two so that they can hear the difference.

Idea two: Have your children memorize Phil. 2:14 I write memory verses on a poster board and work on memory verses for several days in a row. I also make up motions to help kids remember. I abbreviate this verse for my younger two so that it says, “ Do everything without whining and complaining so that you shine like a stars in the heavens.” For a quick motto we say, “I don’t whine, I shine!” Say it over several times, louder is always more fun!

Idea three: Spend an evening looking at the stars with your children and talk to them about how the stars light up the sky. Read about stars and tell your children that stars are millions of miles away ( the sun is a star and is approx. 93 million miles away) and yet even being so far away they can brighten the entire sky. When we do everything without complaining, arguing and whining we brighten up everyone around us and shine so that everyone can see the difference that Jesus make in our lives.


The Joy of Read Alouds


Lately I have been reading much of C.S. Lewis. I just finished “Surprised by Joy” which is an account of Lewis’ early life and his conversion to Christianity. One paragraph particularly caught my attention:

“In reading Chesterton, as in reading Mac Donald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere- ” Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as Herbert says, ” fine nets and stratagems.” God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

As parents we must also be unscrupulous in managing what goes into our children . We need to make sure and provide them with books and thoughts that lead them to God. We never know what will grab our children’s attention and may be used later for God’s pleasure. In Psalms it says “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” We must be sure to help our children hide the word of God in their heart but also provide them with other materials that peak their interest towards God.

I personally think we should be reading a great book or a fun book to our kids all the time.  Even in summer, holidays or vacations, having a good book to read aloud or a good audio book to listen to encourages our children to have a love of reading but also to teach them think bigger thoughts, to have a bigger worldview and to teach them important life lessons.  The great thing about read alouds is that you can read chapter books to kids who can’t even read yet.  We started all of ours with shorter chapter books by age 3.

Links to some of my favorite books to read aloud –

Jeremy: The Tale of an Honest Bunny – for a younger crowd.  We read and loved this book.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Treasury – Great summer reading.  A chapter is a full story so it keeps littles attention.  We found this a great, funny intro into talking to our kids about behavior and consequences of behavior.  The consequences of bad behavior are a little magical and very far fetched but great fun.


Chronicles of Narnia – If you haven’t read these book outloud ( even if kids have read them themselves), then you have missed out on some really meaningful discussion.  We went through them one summer with this family discussion guide,  Roar, and really had some amazing family talks.

The Princess and the Goblin and Princess and Curdie – George MacDonald is one of my favorite authors.  I don’t always understand his books and have to reread but these books are written for children.  They are a little intense, but so full of wisdom that we have read, and reread them.

At the Back of the North Wind Audio Drama – I love the Audio Drama from Focus on the Family.  We have listened to this on several road trips and it has led to wonderful talks with my kids.

The Hobbit – JRR Tolkein wrote this as a read aloud for his kids and it is so much better read aloud or listened to on an Audio Book.  For my 5th grade and up kids, we read this and used the Progeny Press Lit Guide for an added level of understanding.

The Lord of the Rings – We read this outloud the first time and it completely had my kids engaged.  These are also great to use a Literature Guide.

Honey for a Child’s Heart – This is a book of book lists.  One of my favorite things ever.  I will caution you not to just hand a child any book without pre-reading.  The great things about read alouds is that you can stop and have a discussion of anything you need to with a read aloud.  You can also change words, soften a sentence or skip anything you feel is inappropriate.  I did this a lot.  This allowed me to read great books to my kids without some of the downsides.

Honey for a Teen’s Heart – While we don’t do read alouds as often now, I try to do several a year just as a connection point with my teenagers.  Again, this often provides a great opportunity for discussion.










Breaking the Pattern

There are times in parenting that I wonder about the feasibility of a certain child still being around by the time they are 18.  Sometimes I wonder if I will survive.  We can have weeks of great behavior and then, bam!, we are in a horrible pattern and every day is painful and horrific.  Nothing they say or I say or do is right.  At times like these, homeschooling seems like more of a liability as there is no way we can get away from each other and have a little distance.  Everything becomes a challenge, school, chores, meals – everything.  What’s a Mom to do other than join a traveling circus?

When I hit one of these patches with my kids, there are a couple of things I have learned to do to break the pattern.

1. Pick your battle!  Keep the most important thing the most important thing.  Pick the battle that you are going to go down on and then let everything else go.  I generally pick first time obedience or respect, in deed and tone, to be the battles I am willing to go down on.  The fact that they are wearing holey jeans to church or that they left their piano bag in the car or haven’t done their hair today, may not be the most important thing  and I may need to let it go so that we can focus on the bigger battle.  Let your child know what your main expectation for them is, and then clearly outline positive consequences for meeting these expectations are, as well as what discipline will be used when they fail to meet these expectations.  Make them clear so that there is no question about what will be done, then be consistent on both positive and negative consequences.

2.  Remind them that you love them, unconditionally!  Say it, say it, and say it again.  Know their love language and show them in no uncertain terms that your love never wavers no matter what conflict you are in.  Little notes telling them of your love, a special treat or just a long snuggle on the couch depending on your child’s love language are effective ways of showing your love.

3.  Say something positive!  When I was a teenager, my Stepmom made a concerted effort to say something positive each and every day no matter how big the conflict was and trust me, they were plenty huge.  She might only say, “I like the outfit you picked today, you look beautiful” as I left to go to school but it made a huge difference.  Don’t let your child leave the house or go to bed without something positive along with an, “I love you no matter what!”.

4.  Spend more time with your child, not less. I have often found that by spending more time with the child I am in conflict with, the battle fizzles out pretty quickly.  I may take this child with me to the grocery store, out to lunch or just hang out in their room.  After the tension has let up, which may take three or four outings, I can then ask them what is really going on and I may find out that someone is teasing them at church or they are embarrassed to ask a question or they reveal they are really struggling with something in their faith. Then we can really get to the heart of the matter and start fixing things.  To get to this point though, I really need to give them a quantity of my undivided time before I get to quality time.  Sometimes I realize that they just need me to be available and as my kids get older, this becomes so much more important.  I find that hang out time in their rooms before bed has become really important to do once or twice a week.  It’s amazing what confidences they give me in hang out time in their room.

5. Be honest.  At times, I have had to say that their behavior is hurting my feelings or that I am really not feeling well so I may not react in the best way right now.  This kind of honesty usually softens all of our hearts and the tension level drops.

6.  Be willing to say sorry.  There have been times that I haven’t handled a situation well and I need to say, “I am sorry for yelling, please forgive me” or “I am taking this personally, and I shouldn’t, I am sorry.”  When I take respinsibility for my part in the conflict, they are more willing to take responsibility for theirs.

We all have times of conflict but a family is the best place to learn how to deal with them.


Responsible Words

****throwback post*****

Since I have had several ask for this post, here you go!  I also highly recommend Everyday Talk, I found it to be really helpful in helping me train myself in how I speak to those around me.  The more I am responsible with my words and tones, the more responsible my kids are.  My tongue is an area I struggle with, so this book helped me to tame my tongue even further.  As always, I find I have to effectively discipline myself before I can teach it to my kids. 

This week at church our family learned that we need to be responsible with our words. We have a “family church” experience called Rush Hour, “Where kids bring their parents to learn”, which introduces the topic that the elementary kids are going to delve into deeper during their Sunday School classes. What Rush Hour does is to involve the parents in what the kids are learning and gives both parents and kids a common Biblical lesson to work on through out the week. We, as parents, have the responsiblity to teach our children about God as clearly stated in Duet 6:6-7 ,

” These commandments that I give you to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and you get up.”

Rush Hour often gives us a starting place, which we love and often reinforces what they have heard at home.  This week’s message was that we are to be responsible with our words which reminded me of a lesson I did when my kids were younger.

When my kids were younger I had them memorize this verse from Proverbs 16:24,

” Pleasant words are like honey comb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

I talked to them about what pleasant words were and how they also talk about how we say things, with respect and kindness. I then had them try a honey stick and we talked about how sweet those words are and how when we use pleasant words it leaves a sweet taste in their mouth as well as how healing they are to others. I promised that I would be paying attention to their words (including no whining and complaining) and would give them a honey stick ( or m&ms or whatever sweet thing you choose) when I caught them using sweet words.

On the other hand, the Bible says in Ephesians 4:29,

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth.”

I equated unwholesome talk with the the taste of apple cider vinegar (or molasses or bitter herbs – whatever the child dislikes) and had them taste it. Unwholesome talk being whatever is mean or unkind, disrepectful, whining or complaining and doesn’t build up or heal. I also promised them that I would be listening for any unwholesome talk and that they would get the vinegar if I caught them speaking vinegar words.

I paid extra special attention to the kids talk for the next week or so, leaving the honey and vinegar in plain sight as a reminder that they could choose what kind of words ( and food) they used. I ask my kids if they are using honey words or vinegar words and if they are healing or hurting others with their tones or their words.

It’s important that we, as parents, also are very careful with the words and tones we are using in our everyday lives. We will be held accountable just as we hold our kids accountable.

I wrote this a couple of years ago but as my kids are heading into the teen years, I am realizing how important this training is in the early years. Now, I can just ask them, “Are those honey words or tones or are they vineagar tones and words?” It is a quick reminder for my kids to get a hold of their tongue quickly. 

Called by God

***Throwback Post *** this post is even more meaningful now, 10 years later.  The decision that I made then, to make those faces my calling, has impacted our lives in such a meaningful way.  I am so glad that I did, it has been the best thing for our family and has allowed us a lot of success.  God did call me to being their Mom and what’s more, their teacher.  The confidence in that calling allowed me to fully step in and not doubt what I was doing or why I was doing it.  Previous to that deliberate decision, I did doubt and I did struggle with being enough or doing enough or whether others were better suited to being my kids’ teachers. After that, I just stepped in and trusted God.  I imagined myself being one of the priests stepping into the raging Jericho River at His command.  I know He will catch me or part the raging river and I try to fully step into His plan for me and thus far, He has and has incredibly blessed us. (On a completely side note, aren’t they so very cute? I can hardly see those little faces in their teen faces anymore.  I miss those little faces sometimes)

These faces are my calling, what’s your calling?

“Your career is something you do to get paid, your calling is how you were made.” our pastor said this last Sunday. He then referred us to Romans 1:1, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus , called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.”

I was listening but I wasn’t really thinking hard on it until Scott elbowed me and said, “He’s talking about you, honey”. I sat and thought about that for awhile. “Am I called? What am I called to?” Instantly, the answer came to me. I am called to be my kids Mom and their teacher. It may not be others’ calling, but it is mine. I think that’s what Scott was me elbowing for ( I could just ask him but ….). I think I feel so passionate about what I do and so confident that this is what I am to do that it’s a good indication of calling.

All of my devotions this week have been on calling and I started each day with the thought that God has called me to being a Mom and home schooler. It’s made me think of what I do in a different way, if God has called me to this then I better work at it with all of my heart. Col 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” It also gives me an extra incentive to be an excellent Mom and home schooler as I am working for the Lord. It gives me confidence and a sense of purpose to be called and to be doing the will of God.

I hope that you know what you are called to do and that it gives you confidence.

I obey right away! 

Throwback post! 
Our family went tent camping this weekend which is always an adventure with three children. It’s also one of those areas which can show you if your children have a heart of obedience. There are many times while camping that demand absolute first time obedience. For instance… “Don’t touch the fire, actually don’t go near the fire, no don’t throw anything in the fire. No you may not slide down the giant rock face first. You must stay where Mommy can see you, no, you may not feed the wild animal.” Scott and I are very grateful that this weekend showed that for the most part our children had a heart of obedience. It was a little wet (okay, a lot wet) and we may need to work on doing everything without whining and complaining but nobody’s perfect!

Here’s some ideas to start your obedience training with your little ones- 
Idea one: Read the story of Jonah to your children, or you can also watch a children’s video on Jonah. Ask your children if Jonah obeyed right away. He didn’t, so what happened to him then? He was swallowed by a whale! God put him in time out in a whale! Point out to you children that God gave Jonah time to think about what he did and that Jonah needed to ask for forgiveness for not obeying right away. When we refuse to obey right away, usually bad things happen, things like time out or getting hurt. Perhaps you can remind your children of times that bad things happened when they didn’t obey right away.

Play the obedience game. This is basically hide and go seek where the parent hides and the child seeks you. The rules: You must come right away . Your child must say “Yes, Mommy or Daddy” before they reach you. Oh, and one rule we added after our kids ran over each other, no pushing or shoving. When they reach you can simply give them praise and a hug or reward them with a treat. I think that bad behavior brings bad consequences and good behavior should bring good consequences.

Help your children memorize Eph 6:1 by singing it to the tune of Happy Birthday.
“ Children obey your parents,
Children obey your parents,
children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” 
Ephesians 6:1
(By the way, this song was not my original idea, I got it from a book teaching scripture memorization)

Make a badge that says “I Obey Right Away” to wear. This is both a good reminder for them and something fun to wear!

Once you’ve done these things and your children have the concept make sure and follow up every month or so with one of these as reminders. I also have my children recite our rules before we go into a store or a public place and “I obey right away!” is one we repeat often.

Dealing with Selfishness

Bible Verse – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important command.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:37-40

One of the best ways to combat selfishness is to introduce the idea of service.  When we learn the Golden rule in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them – this is the Law and the Prophets.” we are learning that putting others needs first or serving is what God wants from us.  Even a toddler can pass out a snack , “ Oh, you want a snack?  Can you give your brother and sister these crackers first? Then you can have your snack.” As they pass the snack out make sure you praise the toddler and have their siblings thank the toddler for serving them. Anytime a child wants a drink, a snack or a treat, is a great time to have them serve each other.

Even cleaning up their toys is an act of service.  We can say, “ Okay, let’s all straighten up so that we can serve Daddy by having a nice clean house to come home to.”  I remember handing my little twins their toys to throw into the toy bin one at a time.  Could I have done it faster myself? Sure, but that wasn’t the point.  The point was to train them into straightening up and that we serve each other by cleaning up after ourselves. 

If you bake cookies, make extra and take them to a neighbor before you enjoy the cookies yourselves.  As your kids get older, take note of the elderly neighbors and go out as a family and shovel their driveway as you shovel yours.  In our family, we always said, “ We are the J.O.Y. (Jesus, Others, Yourself) Patrol .  When we put Jesus first, then others and only ourselves last, we not only bring JOY but we get JOY in return.”

To serve others outside our home we may write letters to our Compassion kids, send Operation Christmas Child boxes, make and give Blessing Bags to the homeless, serve in homeless shelters, go on Mission trips, pray around our neighborhood, bring meals to those who need it etc.  By middle school, we expect our kids to be serving  outside our home atleast once a week.  We thought it so important that we made service a requirement of graduating from our homeschool. We serve those inside our home by cleaning, cooking, yard work, taking care of the dog, laundry etc.  It’s important to have both realms of service, inside and outside our home.

When I notice a child struggling with selfishness, I make a concerted effort to give them service opportunities and remind them of our priorities.  We are to put Jesus, others, and then ourselves and when we mix that up, we bring everything but joy with us.