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8 Creative Ways To Keep Your Kids Active Over the Summer

Posted on Jun 27, 2017 11:10:08 AM by Laurel Robinson

How can we keep our kids active over the summer? It’s great to celebrate the end of a school year and let the kids’ brains have a little change of pace, but most parents don’t want their kids to start up a new pattern that involves a lot of sitting in front of a screen.  How can we encourage them to get some physical activity over the summer months without hearing the words “I’m bored?”

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There are the traditional options--bike riding, roller skating, swimming, games that involve running, and passing a ball or hitting a tennis ball against a wall. However, here are some other ideas that might help you stretch into new territory:

Plant a garden.  Your children may take interest and ownership in a few flowers or vegetable seeds planted in their own designated spot.  In addition to watching the growth over the weeks, your young gardeners may find themselves enjoying outdoor time weeding plants, arranging rocks or twigs decoratively, watering, or even composting!


Paint or build.  If you have the space, set your kids free with some paint and let them “decorate” the back of the shed,  large rocks, or some other area on your property. You can also work together with some scrap materials to build something that they have designed. It doesn’t have to be perfect; the process of thinking and creating will strengthen important areas of their brain!


Walk the dog(s).  If you have a dog you may already have your child walk it. However, if your neighbors or friends have dogs your child may be interested in getting some experience with them. This could even lead to a paying job in the future!


Host a neighborhood event. Whatever your child is already interested in, is there a way to turn it into a social event or a fun contest?  Chalk drawings, scooter races, water balloon fights, art shows, or even a litter pick-up -- the possibilities vary widely based on your neighborhood and your family.


Hit the trails.  There are many great hiking trails, some only half a mile and others longer.  Some trails have sights such as a waterfall or old buildings to reward the diligent.  (Here is a list of scenic hikes in Maryland. In the sidebar, current local events8 Ways to Keep Kids Active Over Summer 2.png are listed.) Kids are great at finding “treasures” along the way.  My daughter found a horseshoe and an empty turtle shell one year and they are still treasures in her bedroom. Check the weather ahead of time, pack some snacks, and plan a hike on a day that is going to be pleasant so the kids will want to do it again!  (Remember to check for ticks afterward!)  


Parks and libraries.  There are also several parks which have playgrounds, fields for ball practice, batting cages, paved paths for biking, and perhaps good Pokemon scouting! Check the event listings of parks as well at your local library for activities.


Go Fishing. Liberty Reservoir and Piney Run Park are just two locations where Maryland residents can go fishing. There are smaller ponds in local areas, as well. Be sure to get a fishing license.  It will last a year!


TV trainer. If it’s not a good day to go somewhere, keep an exercise  DVD on hand.  There are plenty at the library (and online) which are geared specifically for kids.  Pilates, yoga, dance - one of these should get your kids moving!  One of my not-so-active kids enjoys learning dance routines from videos on YouTube.


As parents, we can model being active -- not to mention a willingness to  “try new things.” Even if you only do some of these things once and decide they are not for you, you can be proud of yourselves for trying something new -- and it may lead to a new friend, or idea, or a funny story to tell.  


Happy Summer!

Punishment vs. Discipline

Posted on May 23, 2017 12:46:33 PM by Laurel Robinson

What is discipline? What is punishment?  As we parent our children, these terms can overlap and get blended together, but more important is how we live them out.

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The Meaning of Discipline

In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul tells children to obey their parents, “for this is right.” He reminds children that it is a commandment, not a suggestion -- and one with a promise: that it may go well with you, and you will live long in the land. In many places in the Bible the Lord tells parents to discipline their children so that they may learn to live well.  

Parents should heed the verse that follows, as well: “fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Parents are told to keep our kids in line, and it is our job to train them up in the way they should go. However, we should never boss, bully, berate, or belittle our children. We must be careful not to let our selfish desires distract us from the goal:  we are to be teaching what will ultimately manifest as self-discipline in their lives.


The Mandate of Discipline

We have a moral obligation to train our kids in good character.  Along the way we have to make them do things they don’t want to do.  This is discipline. Even if they don’t like it at first we must remain strong in enforcing standards that the Lord commands -- or simply rules that society (or safety) mandates.  

It doesn’t always come easy; we have to train them to control their tempers, their tongues, and their appetites -- things that we all continue to battle even into adulthood. Parents have to be creative in finding what motivates each child to obey. For some children a stern word will suffice. For others, a stronger deterrent is necessary.  One important (and difficult) key is consistency of rules.

When my kids were little I had to strap them into their car seats every time we got into the car.  There was no negotiating, and I did not question whether I should do it.  Because of this consistency the kids knew to expect it, and there was little balking at it. However, there were other issues I was inconsistent with enforcing. Sometimes I made them clean up all their toys when they were done playing; other times I forgot. Kids will pick up on the inconsistency and they will challenge rules that are only enforced some of the time. It’s important for parents to think through which rules and standards they really need to enforce and make a plan for doing so. Of course there is room for adjustment and reconsideration, but if the rules keep changing inexplicably no one will be happy.


The Problem of Punishment

If we were to ask a child, he/she may say that “punishment is when parents don’t like what the kids did, and they inflict pain or take away privileges.” The problem with this is his/her perception.  Try to be sure that your kids know that discipline is more than just punishment, but that it’s for the sake of their character and their future.  We discipline because we love. As the Bible says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) Shortly before that, the author of Hebrews points out that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.

Ultimately, parents will have to know their own motives and remain in constant prayer. Sometimes a parent will need to admit that she lost her temper or served up too much “consequence” for a particular infraction. Though this is a humbling experience, it is also a powerful lesson for our kids when we model apologizing and experience reconciliation in our relationship. If you feel that you have been too harsh, do not hesitate to humbly apologize. It will not detract from your role as the person who must train up your child; in fact, it will teach your child something very powerful about how to live.


The Role of Love languages

You might also take your child’s love language into consideration when deciding on discipline.  For example, if a child’s love language is physical touch, then she will be very sensitive to any corporal punishment or withholding of physical affection. A child who thrives on words of affirmation may wither under a verbal scolding.  What is mildly effective for one child could be devastating for another. Discerning parents who know their children well can modify discipline strategies accordingly. (For more information on love languages, and to take a free online quiz to assess your child’s primary love languages, see http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/)

The Importance of Serving

Posted on Apr 26, 2017 11:30:00 AM by Laurel Robinson

Service hours. Volunteering. Giving back.  Whatever the label it is an important part of growing up into a wonderful human being.

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At Liberty Christian School, 8th graders recently invited and fed homeless men from the Helping Up Mission (HUM) in Baltimore. In February, the 8th graders also traveled to Costa Rica for a week long missions trip. As we think through what that was like for everyone involved, we can easily see the importance of service, whether it is providing food or clothing for those in need, picking up trash, helping to build a house or a playground, or going on a summer missions trip:

Helping others.  In doing some acts of service you may not feel as though you are filling a huge need but simply putting a “drop in the bucket.”  However, every little bit does help--and what would happen if we all declined to help because our individual contribution was not going to make a huge difference?

Inspiring others. The stories that we read in which a young person starts a campaign, reaches out, or gives back are often the most inspiring stories of all.  Sometimes grown-ups can get jaded, or too absorbed in their own responsibilities or troubles. Each young person doing good in the community may inspire several adults to get back into the spirit of giving, or at least regain their trust that kids are capable of kind and selfless acts.

Developing compassion. Many service projects start with a compassionate vision of a person or a group of people; however, some of us may go along because we have to or because others are doing it.  But once we actually show up, we may be stretched outside of our comfort zones; we will see the real needs that prompted the project and our hearts may be touched. We may be moved to greater ways of helping and find more rewards than we knew possible.

Developing humility.  Similarly, when you come face to face with a homeless person you will experience the fact that they are a person. You may realize that any of us could be homeless if only a couple of details in our circumstances were to change.  You will develop a greater awareness of your own neediness and possibly of ways in which your living differently could impact others.  Other forms of service can humble us simply due to the fact that we spent a day scrubbing dirty things instead of entertaining ourselves. However it is developed, humility is a wonderful quality.

Sharing the Gospel with others.  If you meet the physical or material need of a person it may touch their heart more than you know.  It may open up a “door” for you to talk about deeper needs or discuss the Gospel. In her book  Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis describes how she feeds, clothes, and cares for orphans in Uganda. They know the love of Jesus because they see the love that she has for them. In many cases this is a love that no one had shown them before.

Experiencing the power of God. Katie Davis writes, “People are people.  They all need food and water and medicine, but mostly they need love and truth and Jesus. I can do that. We can do that.  We can give people food, water, medicine, love, truth, and Jesus. ...We can’t do it in our own strength or out of our own resources, but as we follow God to wherever He is leading us, He makes the impossible happen.”

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In Matthew 25, Jesus paints us a picture:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. ...Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

When it comes to “giving back,” that is really what it’s all about. We love because He first loved us.  We give generously because we have received generous blessings from God.  It’s never too late to start!

Moderating Screen Time

Posted on Feb 7, 2017 5:00:00 PM by Laurel Robinson

Should I moderate my child’s screen time?  If so, how can I place limits on my child’s screen time?  These are the questions that linger in every parent’s mind as we go through our hectic days.  We see our kids looking at screens, and we may not always have time to look over their shoulders. But we also have the unique role of seeing their hearts and the fruit of what’s going on in their hearts.Screentime 1.png


Why moderate screen time?

 In kids and adults, online activities can affect the way a person’s brain works. If we are constantly getting pop-up notifications, for example, our brains adapt to this norm and it becomes difficult for us to focus on a singular task for very long even when we want to.  We find ourselves interrupting our tasks with unnecessary distractions because that is how we are accustomed to operating. With this in mind, it would be wise for the entire family to set some boundaries on how electronics, email, social media, and games are used--for emotional and spiritual health.  You can even hold one another accountable to the guidelines you set together.

A recent study shows that a reasonable amount of screen time can actually be healthy for teens.  Researchers in the UK analyzed data that measured the screen time and well-being of just over 120,000 15-year-olds. They found that there was no direct link between screen time and well-being, but that those who used electronics more than a certain amount did experience decreased well-being. To be specific, on average, the teens' well-being peaked at “about 1 hours and 40 minutes of video-game play, about 1 hour 57 minutes of smartphone use, about 3 hours and 41 minutes of watching videos, and about 4 hours and 17 minutes of using computers.”  Any more than that, and the numbers trended toward unhappiness.

There are no magic (or even scientific) formulas to use, for your child is unique and wonderfully made by God. Beyond statistics, the bottom line is that as parents, you know your child’s heart and habits. You are in a position to observe whether screen time is making your child happy or sad, fulfilled or frustrated. There are so many factors to consider and ultimately, you want to encourage activities that enrich their life,and steer them away from those things that spawn dissatisfaction.


Avoiding negative screen time

If you identify a form of “screen time” that seems to be detrimental for your child (e.g., social media that leads to feeling left out, or a video game causing frustration), talk to them about it; help your child form their own conclusions about how to avoid it. Try to frame it in a positive, self-care context. This will be good for them now and in the future. If your child doesn’t choose to avoid it, you have the authority to place limits on their interaction with it. Or you can offer substitute forms of social interaction,entertainment, or whatever they are getting out of it.


Moderating positive screen time.

For any form of “screen time” that seems to make your child happy (e.g., chatting with good friends or building in Minecraft), it is still wise to encourage a time limit. Some clear-cut ways to set limits on screen time include the following:

  • Allow “unlimited” screen time, but only after homework and chores are done.
  • Allow screen time only on weekends.
  • Allow only 30 minutes of screen time after school, as a little break before homework.
  • Allow screen time only when you are present to supervise or be involved.
  • Allow as much screen time as your child “earns” by doing specific chores with specific values set for each chore.

During any allotted screen time, you will still want to be sure that your child spends it on something that is edifying for them!


Limiting Websites.

If your child has access to the internet, consider using an app that can help you supervise what your child is doing online. Covenant Eyes and Disney Circle are two examples of products that you can use to filter and/or review what your child sees online. One mother told me recently that her daughter comes to her with questions instead of Googling things because she knows her Mom sees every site she visits. This has led to good conversations and more engagement that they may not have had. Now that’s a win-win!

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