Friday, April 8, 2016

Service, Giving, Gratitude

There was SO much good stuff to learn in this unit, but the thing I wanted to teach the children most of all was how to be grateful for and generous with what they have! I'm always wanting to look for things we can do to serve others, but we get so busy and I often don't really know where to start. Sometimes we do service projects with our church, but we haven't found that many things to do as a family yet! So I was happy to have a reason and a reminder to look for some opportunities to serve in our community.

This United Way site is a great place to start looking for current volunteer opportunities. You can search by time period or age or a variety of other limitations, which was good because many of the organizations need volunteers that are older. But there were quite a few youth and family volunteer opportunities as well. We chose a couple that we could all do together, and found a day we could devote entirely to volunteering. I was really excited about doing this, and it turned out great. The children were, of course, not perfect angels and there was the usual arguing and grumbling over this and that, but on the whole they were great and we all had a lot of fun serving together. They all talked very fondly about it when the day was over, and agreed that we'd love to do it again soon, so I think they were able to feel the happiness that comes from service. 

In the morning we made breakfast (it's called "adopting a meal") for the families at the Ronald McDonald house. You have to prepare all the food there, but you get to use their awesomely huge kitchen. We looooved that, and it was something even the little ones could help with! We had had some experience preparing meals for a large group at our Family Reunion last year, so we knew we could do it. :) When I worked with the Young Women group at church, we always talked about doing this as a service project with the girls, but we never got around to it. But it would be a great one. The dinner time slots fill up several months in advance, but breakfasts and lunches are a lot harder for them to fill, I guess. And for breakfast you only have to make a meal for 35-40 people instead of the 65-70 they need served at dinnertime.
The kitchen has pretty much all the tools you'd need, though it took us a long time to find some things among all the cupboards and drawers. But having so much counter space and places for people to work was the best! It really allowed everyone to help without getting (as much) in each others' way. It made me wish this was my own kitchen! Except that then I'd probably just have three huge counters gathering piles of clutter instead of one. :)
LOVED this stove.
And the children were MOST impressed with this industrial dishwasher, which did a whole tray full of dishes in ONE MINUTE. We need one! :)
Anyway, it was so much fun, and I realize that by talking about it here we have our reward, but I'm just sharing the information because it can be so daunting to find chances to serve with little ones, and I thought this might help someone else who is looking for those chances. :)

Later that day, after we took Theodore home for his nap, we went out again to wash toys at The Children's Center. This is a good volunteer opportunity for families because there are always toys to be done, and any age can help do it! We got through about 7 huge bins of toys but there were many, many more, so I think they just rotate through washing them on an ongoing basis. And it was quite fun. We had an assembly line going with bringers and washers and soapers and dryers and put-away-ers, and everyone got VERY wet and had a very good time. We were there for about an hour and a half.

Here are a few more resources related to gratitude and giving:

Have you heard of Kiva microloans? It's a cool concept. You help fund small loans for small home-based and family businesses in third-world countries where traditional loans might be unavailable or out of reach. And it's fun because you read about what the loan will be used for, see pictures of the people applying for loans, and kind of feel like you are involved a little bit with their efforts. You can search by different categories too, like loans for women or loans for people raising pigs (my children were all really drawn to the people needing agricultural loans, for some reason) or whatever you want. We read the profiles and watched some videos and then the children helped me choose a loan to donate $25 to. They loved doing this! When our money is repaid we will choose another loan to donate to.

We also went on a field trip to Welfare Square. It's a great place to learn about some of the things the LDS church does to serve others, and the Humanitarian Center is another. Both of these places have great ideas for service and it's inspiring to see how other families and individuals are finding ways to serve! (And at Welfare Square, you get to taste the bread and honey and chocolate milk they make! :)) With the recent refugee initiative, we'd like to find more things we can do for local refugees, as well.

We read and talked about Elder Dale G. Renlund's talk on how the closer giver and receiver are to each other, the more love can be felt through service. I love this concept so much! So many applications to family life and how we can best love and serve others (and how we can feel gratitude for those who love and serve us!).

Dennis Prager has a good video on what he calls "the missing tile syndrome." He talks about focusing on what we DO have instead of what we DON'T have, which is something I am always trying to emphasize with my children!

This article is fascinating. It relates to the free market, but also gives a good perspective on how grateful we should be for what we have. We are so abundantly rich compared to any other people on earth before!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Family Money

For various reasons, we don't do allowance in our family, and I didn't want to start now, but it seemed like it might be nice to have a monetary system of some kind in place during this unit so we could use it to teach various economic principles. I know some people use this sort of system all the time, but to me it has always seemed like way too much work to be worth it—however, if it was only going to last for a month or so, it seemed doable.

All the time we were talking about currency, the children were designing assorted monies of their own. They LOVED doing this. They used symbols that were meaningful to the family in various ways, and they even used their currencies among themselves in exchange for goods and services.
For the family money, though, we wanted something more official, so Sam and the children worked together until we had a currency we all liked.
As you can see, it has many important symbols in it, most important being the bunny, which is joined by a donut and a tiny BB-8. We also used a phrase from the Family Proclamation ("the family is ordained of God") and the very apt Latin phrase "E duo, pluribus" ("Out of two, many.") :)

I made a list of wages and rewards, and I wasn't really sure how to price everything. I wanted the bigger rewards to be kind of hard to get, but not out of reach. And I wanted the things for which the children got paid to be kind of, I don't know, out-of-the-ordinary? And not only chore-like in nature? So, I mean, I didn't want to reward the children for doing the normal everyday things I expect them to do ANYWAY. And I wanted them to be doing things, kindnesses, for each other so it wasn't all about who could amass the most wealth. :) I really liked the things I finally came up with, and I loved watching the children doing those things. They read to each other and said sorry and gave compliments. Sure, they were doing it to get gain. But I liked it anyway! :) It was almost enough to make me want to institute Family Money permanently. But not quite. :) Especially since I think any reward system relies heavily on novelty and freshness for its effectiveness. But I DID tell them that we may do it again…someday.
The tasks in red were for things the children could do during General Conference weekend. I don't know why someone felt the need to cross them out in red afterwards. :)
I derived great enjoyment from referring to Sam and myself as "The Fed," by the way.
I was surprised that the "lunch date" reward was so popular. All three of the boys worked like crazy and saved enough to do it multiple times! I hadn't anticipated that, but I was happy to do it with them. I love having one-on-one time with the children, and logistically it's so much easier now that the older ones can help with babysitting!

No one ever chose to have "1 dinner off of kitchen cleanup." I wonder why? I thought that one would be going like hotcakes. The other stuff was just more attractive, I guess!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Debt: national, personal, and spiritual

Debt is such a relevant subject. There's a temporal and a spiritual component to it. And since it's our children who are saddled with most of the burden of the national debt, it seems only fair to teach them about it!

Here's a good video about the debt limit.

And this is a good one on the national debt and the deficit.

This video introduces the Laffer Curve and how lower taxes leads to higher revenue.

Related: social security.

Very interesting question: is consumption actually good for the economy?

I love this video about the broken window fallacy.

(I posted this on the Inflation post too.) It seems like everyone asks this question at some point or other: "why can't we just print more money?" And it's surprisingly hard (for me) to explain! This video does it pretty well.

On the more spiritual side, there's this good article on getting out of debt and its spiritual implications

Here is President Hinckley's great talk about putting our houses in order. I think everyone should read this before getting married!

I also love Joseph B. Wirthlin's talk about earthly and heavenly debts.

And here's another good video illustrating the great debt we owe to Jesus Christ.

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