Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Raising a Christian child in public school

Nurturing your child’s faith amidst everyday challenges

When my husband and I discussed plans for our children long before they existed, our conversation included school. We knew the options available and decided public school was the best choice for us. Both of us were raised as Christian children in public schools, and we knew it was possible to do just that.

Each family has to make their own education choices based on beliefs and practicality. But, for us and many other Christian families like ours, public school is the right and best choice. We had about a year and a half of virtual schooling during the height of COVID, because that was right for our family. At the end of that period, I knew public school continued to be the correct choice for our family.

However, raising a Christian child in public school does take some thought and intentions. I want my children to get a great education — and they are. I also want them to be grounded in their beliefs — which they also are. Together, my husband and I work to make sure their education at school and at home are the best they can be.

Cultivating a strong foundation of faith at home

As Christian moms and dads, teaching our children about God is our most important task. This is even more important for children going to public school. I know my children’s school isn’t going to teach them about faith. In fact, I’m glad for that! My husband and I along with our church have that responsibility.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (ESV)

From the beginning of the Bible, God instructs us to teach our children about Him as we are doing everything. Raising a Christian child in public school starts with nurturing their faith at home.

Free family devotion book Pinterest image 2

Working these things into your daily routines helps you instill them in your children even more. Family devotionals are a great way to spark conversation about God. Listening to Christian music shifts everyone’s thoughts to God. I especially love to hear my kids going around singing about Jesus because those are the songs in their heads!

We also make God a normal part of conversation. We encourage our children to ask questions, and we share with them how we experience God at work in our own lives.

Equipping your child for the challenges

My husband and I know our kids will face challenges as Christians in a public school. In fact, their school is not only a public school but is tied into a university and has more liberal leanings as a result. So, we use these things for open conversations and have ever since they were in kindergarten.

Educational material

While some parts of their education is completely fact based, like math and grammar, other parts are more up for debate. One great example of this is creationism versus evolution. Our family has had multiple discussions about this. We’ve spent time truly delving into what the Bible says and how science really does back it up.

As my children head into 5th and 8th grades this coming school year, they may continue to have educational topics arise that don’t align with what we believe. We will continue to talk about those things with them. I always want my children to feel comfortable questioning things. They challenge my husband and me to find answers sometimes!

One thing I’ve learned in all my decades as a Christian is that God stands up to questions. No matter what school is teaching my children, if we are exploring it from a faith-based perspective at home and examining the topic deeply, I know all answers lead back to God. If they didn’t, then He wouldn’t be worthy of my worship and devotion!

This all results in our children learning to ask questions and stand in their faith from an early age. We’ve found that they understand more then we expected so many times. As Christian moms and dads we need to do our best to listen to our children and really answer their questions. It will nurture our children’s faith and our own!


Another issue that definitely comes up when raising a Christian child in public school is their classmates. Not everyone is going to come from a Christian home. In fact, I’d say my children are in a minority at their school. The majority of families don’t have strong religious beliefs. They’ve encountered issues as a result.

For example, this past school year, my son came home upset because he heard a classmate declare he hates Christians. So we talked about it. We talked about how his classmate was certainly entitled to his opinions, but saying those things out loud are hurtful. We used it as an example for how important the words we use are. In dealing with classmates and friends, we want to show love and be an example of kindness — not hurt feelings.

Having classmates from different backgrounds have brought up secular topics as well that we have discussed as a family. We share our beliefs and why we believe how we do. But, we always come back to the message of love. I want my children to love others. No strings attached. No judgment or condemnation. Love like Jesus is our message. I tell my kiddos that they have never looked into the face of someone Jesus doesn’t love.

These encounters also give us an opportunity to nurture our kids’ resilience. They are going to be met with adversity throughout life whether for their faith or something else. Learning to let go of that barb and move forward is a life skill they need.

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And then there are classmates that our kids grow close to. Friends can be both a blessing and a challenge. Not all of our children’s friends are Christians. We are OK with that. We continue with our conversations about different beliefs. Then we also talk about the usual parent things of making the right choices when they are at a friend’s house. For example, if the friend wants to watch something our kids know wouldn’t be allowed at home, then they say no and suggest something else.

All of my children’s friends know they are Christians. My kids have talked about God and their relationship with Him to their friends, in fact. While not all of them believe the same way, they have all respected my children’s beliefs.

Just like with anything else, talking about peer pressure and the challenges of friendship with others come into play. But, I think that would happen whether you are raising a Christian child in public school or raising a Christian child at a private school.

Partnering with the school

I may not be teaching my children myself, but I can still be involved in their education. We talk about curriculum. And we maintain an attitude of partnering with the school. Both my husband and I have volunteered for a variety of activities. In fact, I almost always go along as a field trip chaperone and volunteered at class parties when they were younger.

My children’s teachers know us. We maintain communication. Since my youngest is dyslexic, we have even more communication. We respect our children’s teachers, and they respect us in return. Having an attitude of partnership rather than adversaries only benefits our children.

And our school has been open to faith-based things. For example, my daughter has always been passionate about food banks. When she was in 4th grade, she held a food drive to benefit the food pantry at a local church. We were clear with the school where the food was going, and everyone was on board with it.

Embracing the mission field of the school community

When you’re raising a Christian child in public school, you really can think of it as a mission field. Honestly, anywhere we are is a mission field, right? But, this doesn’t mean going around preaching all the time or encouraging our children to do that. Nobody wants to be preached at!

Instead, we live our lives with integrity and an attitude of Christ that others may see — or they may not. One of my favorite things has been to send lunchbox notes to my children. I have themes for each day of the week, because otherwise I’d run out of things to say! Every Tuesday is what I call “Truth Tuesday,” and I put a Bible verse in their lunchbox note. I do this for my own kiddos to help them remember God’s Word.

However, it also has had an impact outside of my children. From at least 1st grade on, my daughter’s entire lunch table has read her notes. I didn’t learn about that until 2nd or 3rd grade. I knew they read the note sometimes, but I didn’t know it was daily. They continue to do that even now going into 8th grade. So at least every Tuesday, these kids are encountering a Bible verse as a result. Does that make a big difference in their lives? Maybe. I know God is powerful and can move in ways we don’t even know about.

Celebrating faith victories

Just like we talk with our kids about mistakes they’ve made, we also need to acknowledge the positive things they’ve done and celebrate with them. Take the time to point out when you see them acting in a Christian manner toward a classmate. Give them a big hug when they share about how they included a classmate everyone else was being mean to.

Of course you also want to celebrate any of their friends or classmates coming to know Jesus as personal Savior or having an interest in faith. We’ve experienced this with both of our children. And in maintaining open conversation with our kids about faith, we’ve been able to answer their questions as they are navigating talking about their faith.

Sharing our faith and living a life for Christ can be challenging even for adults. Celebrating the good things with our kids encourages and nurtures their faith. It reinforces lessons they will hopefully carry with them into adulthood.

Final thoughts

Raising a Christian child in a public school can be challenging, but with the right mindset and intentional actions, we can nurture their faith amidst the everyday challenges. By cultivating a strong foundation at home, equipping our children for the challenges they may face, partnering with the school, embracing the school community as a mission field and celebrating faith victories, we can make a lasting impact in their lives and the lives of those around them.

So, let’s continue to pour God’s love into our children, equip them to shine their light and trust that He will guide them each step of the way. Together, we can navigate the public school journey with confidence, knowing that our faith and love will make a difference in the lives of our children and the world they inhabit.

Find more Christian parenting articles:

5 Characteristics of good mothering for Christian moms

Being a grace-filled parent

How Christian mothers can teach their children about God

Prayers for your children

10 Ways to have a family live filled with grace, love and faith

Grace-filled sibling relationships

Connect with other Christian moms just like you

20 Spring break activities and ideas for at home

You don’t have to leave home for spring break fun!

Though spring break can be a time to travel, it can also be fun at home. Whether you’re staying home by choice or for budgetary reasons this year, these spring break activities will keep your family entertained and making memories. No need to pack a suitcase!

Before you start

The first rule is you have to treat spring break at home like a vacation. That means no chores! OK. You are going to have to do some basic chores like dealing with dirty dishes and preparing food. You may even have to do some laundry. But do your best to treat the time like you would if you weren’t home.

You also can designate your staycation days if you aren’t able to take the entire week off. Just plan for your spring break activities on Monday through Wednesday or whatever works best for your family. Whatever you pick, communicate about it so you, your spouse and your kids are on the same pages and know what to expect.

Another neat idea that we’ve done in the past and are doing again this year is a combination vacation and staycation. We’ll spend a couple of nights away on a family trip and then a few days at home for spring break. It’s the best of both worlds and, quite literally, what my children opted to do this year when we gave them choices.

Our family does like to have a meeting ahead of time to talk about what we’d most like to do. This helps us to prioritize our time and our budget for spring break activities. You can give your kids a list to pick from or just ask them for their ideas or both.

Finally, remember simple activities can be just as fun as more complicated ones. My kids’ biggest requests for the staycation part of our spring break this year were going to eat hibachi for lunch and playing games together.

1. Go see a movie.

We love movies in my family. Whether you go to the theater or watch something at home, a good movie is a great spring break activity. Find a movie you’ll all enjoy, have snacks at the ready and enjoy!

2. Check out local exhibits.

My family lives in a mid-sized Midwestern city. We’re not overwhelmed with choices of exhibits to visit, but there are always a few things going on. In fact, we have one art exhibit we’ve been talking about checking out and haven’t found time for. Spring break is a great time to make that happen.

3. Explore other nearby cities.

Because we do live in a city that’s not so big, exploring nearby bigger cities is a good option. We can drive an hour north or south and be in bigger cities that have more activities and things to do. Then, we come back home and sleep in our own cozy beds. Where you go will depend on what you do, but think about children’s museums, zoos, aquariums and any other family friendly venue.

4. Eat out.

Thanks to meal planning, preference and time constraints, my family only eats out on Sundays after church. Some weeks we have another meal out as well, but we don’t eat out very much these days. When we travel, though, we definitely eat out more often. So, another great spring break idea for at home is going out to eat. Go somewhere special or different. Or try a new restaurant.

5. Have a board game day, afternoon or evening.

We love playing games in our family. They can be a great way to pass the time and make some great family memories. Use games you already have, buy a new one or make one up.

6. Try out a new recipe.

Spring break can be a great time to try out a new recipe together as a family. Even better, find a recipe your whole family can prepare together like pizza subs, peanut butter honey nut cereal clusters or puppy chow. For even more awesome family recipes, be sure to get the “Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace” cookbook for free!

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If you’re staying home this year, these spring break activities will keep your family entertained and making memories. No suitcase needed! #springbreak #staycation #familyactivities #familyfun

7. Set up an obstacle course.

During remote learning, we had a gym assignment to set up an obstacle course at home. It was easier than I’d expected and we had way more fun with it than anticipated. Since then, we’ve done this a couple of other times. Use your chairs, pillows and whatever you have around to make a simple obstacle course. If you want, time each other to see who can do it fastest.

8. Have an indoor campout.

If you live somewhere warm, you can have an outdoor campout if you want. But for those of us in colder weather, an indoor campout is a much better spring break activity. Pull out sleeping bags, air mattresses or whatever works and sleep in the same room together. We used to campout in our living room, but now we campout in our bedroom.

9. Buy some “souvenirs.”

Our kids love buying souvenirs when we travel. They don’t have to be big purchases, but just something. Make souvenirs a part of spring break at home. Hit up the Dollar Tree and let them pick something. Or budget a set amount of money for souvenirs and head to their favorite store(s). Don’t forget a little something for yourself and your spouse, too!

10. Go to the playground.

Going to the playground can be a great spring break activity to help burn off some energy. Keep a check on the weather and pick a good time to go. Let your kids pick which playground they want to go to and plan to spend an hour letting them have fun. Be sure to get involved with them. (Personally, I love swinging with my kids!)

11. Play video games together.

If you’re a video gaming family, play together. Recently, my son was so excited to play Minecraft with both my husband and me. It was a treat for him to share that with us, and we all had fun with it.

Another great video game option is to have one person be in charge of the controller and everyone helps decide what he or she does. For example, we once had a blast playing Monopoly on the Xbox. My husband had the controller and we played against computer players. Our whole family talked strategies and made decisions for what to do in the game. It was incredibly fun!

12. Go to the library.

Libraries are awesome resources and can be great fun, even over spring break. If your town or city is small enough, chances are the library probably has some spring break activities of their own planned with extra story times and crafts. Check out those events or even just go and get some books to read together or individually (or both!) over break.

My kids always liked to play at the library when they were smaller. Our libraries offer a variety of toys and imaginative play items that are a hit. Explore the toys the library as well.

13. Try geocaching.

Geocaching was super popular a few years ago, but it still around now. We’ve had some fun with geocaching as a family. (It can also be a great date idea for parents!) Download a geocaching app and find locations around you. We’ve been surprised at the places we’ve found items. Our kids really enjoy it.

14. Get crafty.

Crafts aren’t really my jam, but small art projects together as a family can be fun. Color together at the kitchen table, use some of the craft kits you inevitably have stockpiled in your house, make cards or sweet crafts to send to grandparents or whatever you enjoy.

15. Volunteer.

Spending time together helping others is a great spring break activity. Not only do you get a chance to impact your community, but you show your kids the importance of helping others and get that warm. fuzzy feeling as a result.

16. Have a family yes day.

Having a family yes day can be great fun for kids and adults alike. Pick a day where you say yes to whatever your kids ask to do. We’ve done this a few times and do have some rules. For example, the kids can’t ask us to travel out of town or spend more than a set amount of money on something. We’ve been pleasantly surprised, though, at how well they work together and the fun activities they come up with. (Read more about how to have a family yes day.)

17. Make videos.

Speaking of family yes days, during our most recent one, we made movies together. My daughter and I paired up and my husband and son paired up. Each pair picked a song for the other to lip sync and make a video to. We had so much fun making the videos and then watching them together!

18. Have a cake decorating contest.

Our family enjoys watching baking shows on television. (Well, my son doesn’t so much if I’m being honest!) Seeing contestants bake and decorate cakes is especially fun. So we tried our hand at it. I baked a cake in two pans like it would be two layers. Each pair got a cake and a bowl of homemade buttercream icing. We picked a design to copy (a cartoon bear) and got to work. Without telling them who decorated which cake, we sent photos of the final versions to my parents and my husband’s parents to pick the winner. But, you don’t have to pick a winner.

And you can use store-bought cake, cupcakes or cookies along with canned icing to make it even easier. No matter what, it’s a great spring break activity that results in having some sweet treats!

19. Plan intentional one-on-one time.

When our two children were really young, we started having what we called “one-on-one playtime.” We’d set a timer for 30 minutes and separate so each child got one parent for a half hour. Then we’d switch kids and parents. During their 30 minutes with each parent, our children got to pick what we played. It’s a bit different now that they’re 10 and 13, but they both still enjoy having us to themselves. Spend the time talking, playing, reading or whatever you like to do to connect with each other.

20. Be lazy.

We all need downtime. Some of my favorite memories with my kids come when we are being lazy together. Put down electronic devices and see what you come up with wanting to do. Maybe you talk or make silly jokes. Maybe you put on a talent show or have a dance party. Unstructured time with our kids can result in the most awesome moments!

First day of school traditions to start this year

7 Simple first day of school traditions to kick off the school year

Back-to-school season can be exciting, stressful and downright overwhelming — all at once! In fact, I recently shared a short video about how overwhelmed I felt with the back-to-school to-do list for my kiddos! There are so many things for us moms to do to get ready for the first day of school. But one of the things I don’t want to miss each year is making it a good day for my kiddos. So, we have a few simple first day of school traditions we do each year.

I’m emphasizing the word “simple” here, because not only are simple traditions easier to keep, but the first day of school is exhausting. Nobody wants added stress and pressure — kids or parents! Plus the first day of school tends to bring along a lot of emotions as well, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Honestly, I get back-to-school blues each year as my kids return to school.1. Interview your kids.

OK. I know this sounds a bit weird. But, listen, I’m a journalist by trade and I love interviewing my kids each year a day or two before they start school. I ask them about their favorites (food, books, movies, etc.), what they want to be when they grow up and what they’re most excited about for the new school year. Later on, it’s so fun to go back and see their answers. I video these interviews as well. I also do a little something else with them that you’ll find in tip number four!

And you can make the interview a keepsake as well with a decorative interview page like these I have in the Families with Grace Etsy store.

2. Prayer together for the new year.

Another first day of school tradition just before the first day is praying together about the school year. Our family has prayer time each evening as part of our bedtime routine. So, on the night before the first day of school I pray for the kids and their new school year. I also start praying weeks before on my own that God is with them throughout the school year and for specific concerns I have about the upcoming year for each of them.

3. Let them wear something new.

I always felt special getting to wear new clothes on the first day of school when I was a kid, so I’ve continued the tradition with my own kiddos. It doesn’t have to be an entirely new outfit, but just something new. For example, our school year starts mid-August which is still hot here in the Midwest. So my kids usually wear the shorts or pants they’ve been wearing all summer, but we pair it with a new shirt and new sneakers. (By the time their sneakers have survived summer, they are worn out and need to be replaced anyway!)

4. Turn first day of school photos into a cool “magazine” cover.

Every year I love making a “magazine” cover for my kiddos. I have done this since the year my daughter first started nursery school and have one for each of them for each year. It’s our version of a first day of school sign. I usually share the cover digitally with friends on social media and then print out a copy of it to go in their folder for the school year that I use to organize their school papers.

Along with a photo of the kids that I take in the morning before we leave, I include a lot of the information from their interview in tip one as well as other things like their shoe size and teacher’s name. (Seasoned mom tip: Get everyone up 10 minutes earlier than necessary on the first day of school so you aren’t super rushed through photos!)

I’ve got a template for sale in the Families with Grace store on Etsy if you want to make magazine covers part of your family’s first day of school traditions. Check it out:

5. Send a sweet lunchbox note.

If your kids take their lunch to school, send along a sweet lunchbox note. Honestly, I send notes daily because I really enjoy it. But I know that’s not everyone’s thing. However, I encourage you to send one on the first day to help your kids feel special and have a sweet token from home on their first day back to school.

(Check out these printable Bible verse lunchbox notes for kids and these Scripture cards that would work well for tweens and teens.)

6. Have a special dinner or treat.

When it comes to first day of school traditions, this is not too hard to pull off. Our tradition has been to pick the kids up from school and take them for an early dinner at Fazoli’s, because it is their favorite restaurant. Fazoli’s is pretty quick, which is what we’re looking for. If you’d rather, though, plan to make their favorite dinner at home. Or have a special treat to commemorate the day. I have a cousin whose first day of school tradition involved a cookie cake each year. Go with what your kids will like, but keep it low-key. They’ll be hungry and tired. The biggest goal is to have time together to hear all about their days. For our family, letting someone else do the cooking means we get to have those conversations all together easier. And going out for dinner on a school night is a treat!

(Looking for a super simple homemade treat? Try this easy hack to make a boxed brownie mix so fudgy good or these easy baked sopapillas using flour tortillas!)

7. Plan for a quiet evening.

Everyone is tired on the first day of school, no matter how much you’ve been preparing for it. When my kids were little and just getting into the school groove, we’d start a week ahead of the first day and practice getting up earlier each day and making sure we were ready on time. Now they are older, and we’ve been at this longer. So, we have our school morning system down pretty well. (It also helps that they go to a K-12 school and always have the same start time!)

But no matter what, the first day back is exciting and exhausting. Planning some big celebration that night is just not going to go well. Let them be low-key on their first day back to school. Maybe even plan to watch a movie together!

What are your family’s first day of school traditions?

Summer planning tips you can use

8 Easy ideas to plan a fun and organized summer for your family

Plus a free printable summer bucket list!

Summer break can be such a high-pressure and stressful time. We know we have limited summers with our kids, but life doesn’t stop just because it’s summer. Balancing mom guilt and summer break is a very real struggle! Through the years I’ve learned that a bit of summer planning helps my family be intentional about spending time together so I don’t feel quite as guilty when I have to spend time at work.

I’ve shared before about how to make summer break easier and how to make summer plans during a pandemic. This year, I’m sharing my best summer planning tips that my family really uses!

1. Make a list of summer family goals.

I tend to like my downtime to include a mix of relaxing and productivity. My husband and kiddos are pretty similar, so part of our summer planning is writing down summer family goals. For example, this year some of our family goals include redecorating the loft in our house, trying new restaurants in our city and hanging some artwork we’ve been needing to hang forever.

Our list of family summer goals

2. Make a list of summer individual goals.

Along those same lines, we also like to come up with individual goals for the summer. We each come up with things we’d like to personally accomplish over the summer and write them down. Last year my daughter had a goal to learn to cook more, and she did. This year, both kids have a goal to learn how to type better and organize their bookcases. My son has set a goal of reading three graphic novels on his own this summer. And my daughter has set a goal for writing a novel. My husband and I set goals as well like organizing our bathroom closet. He also has some books to sort out, and I need to organize my office space. These are just a few of our individual goals. Writing them down helps us remember them and doing it as a family helps keep us accountable.

Our list of individual summer goals

3. Make a summer bucket list for your family.

But summer isn’t all about being productive. Summer planning also has to include some fun. Our favorite way to organize fun is with a summer bucket list. I love this for a couple of reasons. First, sitting down with our kids at the beginning of summer to come up with ideas of what they want to do helps my husband and I prioritize those things. Second, when my kids invariably start bemoaning that we haven’t done anything fun all break, we can show them the list with all the items we’ve done so far marked off!

Sometimes coming up with ideas can be a challenge, so I’ve put together a free summer bucket list printable full of ideas to get you started. They are all low or no-cost ideas that are great for making family memories together. Keep your summer bucket list simple!

Our summer bucket list took two pages this year!

4. Organize your kids’ summer activities.

Part of summer planning means figuring out the activities your kids are going to be doing and when. I have a monthly overview I use along with printouts of calendars for June, July and August that help me organize my kids’ activities to make sure that we aren’t overscheduled. My in-laws like to have each of my kiddos over individually for about a week each summer. Seeing their schedule organized helps me best plan those times as well as when it would be good for us to take a family vacation, whether that’s for a week or just a weekend. It also keeps me from overlapping activities and making our schedule too busy.

Our monthly overview for June, July and August
Our June, July and August activity calendars
Using the monthly planning page and calendars makes trip planning easier.

5. Plan for downtime.

Remember that you don’t have to fill every minute of your kids’ summer break with activities. Right along with no overscheduling, you want to build in time for your kids to just have downtime. It’s OK to let them figure out what to do on their own (within reason, of course). One of our requirements this summer is that our kids spend at least three to four hours each week intentionally doing things together just the two of them.

So we made a list of boredom busters to give them ideas of what to do together from reading a book to doing a craft to playing with the dog and so much more. In fact, they were so on board with the boredom busters’ list that they immediately started an activity together after we finished working on it.

Our page of boredom busters, including outdoor and indoor scavenger hunts

6. Have a daily routine, even if it’s a loose one.

I’m a fan of regular routines and schedules. In fact, routines really do make my family happier. Routines give kids a sense of stability. They know what to expect, and that’s less stressful for them. While I do loosen up a bit during the summer (bedtime usually moves back a half hour), we do stick with many routines for bedtime and mealtimes. Of course there are times that shifts around for special activities. However, maintaining our general daily routine helps us all.

7. Remember lots of fun activities are free!

Part of my summer planning includes figuring out a budget for summer activities. I try to be as fair as possible between my two kiddos and how much money we spend on their activities. And sometimes we have to choose between a couple of activities not only for time constraints but also for budget reasons.

Through the years, though, we have found there are many free activities we can do together during summer break that are super fun. We really do often make the best memories in the small moments. Our local library offers a great variety of free summer programs and there are so many other free activities if you just look for them. Definitely do so!

Our activity budget helps us plan our costs for summer activities.

8. Don’t forget to enjoy your kids.

No matter what you’re planning this summer, make sure to embrace feeling like a kid again yourself sometimes. Last summer, for example, we had a family yes day and I felt like a kid myself during a water balloon fight we had. I squealed and giggled with the kiddos and we had a blast. Plan some low-key, easy, fun activities that will let you relax and enjoy spending time with your kiddos. Summer perfect for making good family memories!

Make your summer planning even easier

If you’re interested in copies of the lists I’ve mentioned in this post and show in the YouTube video below, you can find my entire Summer Planner Mega Bundle in the Families with Grace Etsy store. Use the coupon code FWGFAN to get an additional 10% off your purchase! The Summer Planner Mega Bundle includes all of the following:

  • Summer family goals
  • Summer individual goals
  • 2 Summer bucket lists (one prefilled and one blank)
  • Summer trip planner
  • 2 reading trackers
  • 1 reading log
  • 3 chore charts
  • Weekly overview
  • Monthly overview
  • June calendar
  • July calendar
  • August calendar
  • Summer activity budget planner
  • Books to read list
  • Indoor scavenger hunt
  • Outdoor scavenger hunt
  • Summer boredom buster list
  • Rewards coupons for kids
  • Journal page
  • Notes page

Allowance for kids

5 Ways to set up allowance for kids to teach money management

Teaching our kids life skills is important to my husband and me. Like all parents, we want to raise our kids to be productive and responsible adults. And that includes money management. We instated an allowance for kids when they were in preschool to help them learn some money management skills.

It’s now been nearly a decade since we’ve been paying allowance for our kids, and we have a system down that works well for them.

Start allowance for kids young

Preschool seems young to start an allowance for kids, but if dealing with money is part of their lives (even in small ways) from early on, then they get comfortable with handling it. My daughter, who is the oldest, was closer to age 5 before we started her allowance, but we started my son at age 3 since we were already in the allowance-for-kids groove by then.

We pay $1 per week, per year of age. Since my son is 8 right now, he gets $8 a week. My daughter is 12 and gets $12 a week. I have their allowances budgeted into our family budget to help me remember and take the expense seriously like we do other bills.

You don’t have to pay $1 a week per year of age. Find whatever works for you and your family. Maybe 50-cents is more feasible for you. That’s fine. No matter how much allowance they’re getting, kids are still learning the principles of managing money.

Set up a money management system

I’m a HUGE fan of simple systems, so our money management system of our kids’ allowance is simple. We divide allowance for kids into three parts: spending, saving and giving. Because kids are very visual and tactile creatures, especially when they are younger, I started out and have continued distributing allowance in cash.

To keep it organized, I have one letter-sized enveloped marked “Kids’ Allowance.” Inside that envelope are three smaller envelopes for each kiddo marked with their name and either spending, saving or giving. We put the biggest emphasis on savings as they get older. For example, my 12-year-old puts $3 in spending, $7 in saving and $2 in giving each week. In order to remember how we distribute their money, I have it written on an index card in the big envelope.


We pay for most of everything for our kiddos, including clothes, food, entertainment and toys. But sometimes they have things they want that we can’t justify paying for. These days it could be expensive face care for my daughter. (Well, my version of expensive being that it costs more than $10 or $15.) Or it could be a toy my son wants but we say no to because he has so many. Those are the types of things they can use their money for. One time, my daughter used some of her spending money to treat herself to an Icee at the movie theater.

If I know that we are going out shopping or doing something they want to use their spending money for, I grab the spending envelopes and put them in my purse. Sometimes they want to make a purchase while we’re out without their money or online. For those times, I pay and then they pay me back from their money. It works either way. (I will admit we’ve done this a few times and I haven’t taken their money afterward.)

Another option we sometimes do is split a cost of something. If there is something a kiddo wants that is more expensive, we can make a deal that we will pay a portion and then they pay the other portion.


Not too long after we started allowance for our kids, we set them up with children’s savings accounts. So when their savings money starts building up in the envelope, I deposit it into their savings accounts. Sometimes, like during 2020 when our buying changed quite a bit, I add some of their spending money into their savings as well if it starts building up.

Our kids are allowed to use their savings, but it has to be for a really compelling reason of something they need and are unable to save up for otherwise. Withdrawing from savings also requires a discussion between the child, my husband and me. We go over options for them and talk about the pros and cons. We’ve only withdrawn from a savings account once or twice so far. As they get older, they’ll need that money more for bigger expenses like cars, books and living expenses in college.


One of the neatest things we’ve seen happen through our system of allowance for kids is how they use their giving money. We have talked with each of them about how they want to use their giving money. They have the option of giving it to church, using it to help others in need or donating it to a good cause. When we started this with my daughter, I figured she’d want to give it to church. But one of the options we shared with her was about food pantries and how some families don’t have enough to eat. She was immediately drawn to that.

As a result, our family has been quite involved in donating to local food pantries and partnering with them. Just last year my daughter did a school project about hunger and how her classmates could help. She’s organized food drives at church and at school. I love how much has grown from this allowance category!

Most recently, my kids asked to use their giving money to donate to Team Seas to help remove trash from the oceans. They have also used it to go toward building wells for areas of Africa that are without access to clean water. Giving has become our favorite part of allowance — and that’s the truth!

Don’t pay for regular chores

My children don’t get paid for their regular chores like cleaning their rooms, cleaning their bathroom, picking up after themselves, doing dishes, folding laundry and doing other tasks we ask them to do. Those are expected in our family and considered to be part of family life. Life is easier when we work together!

We have sometimes (but rarely) paid for extra chores. Both sets of grandparents have done this as well, and I’m OK with that. I have told my kids that I will withhold part or all of their allowance if they don’t do their regular chores like they’re supposed to. But, I’ve only come close to doing that twice and have never had to actually do it.

Another reason I don’t like paying for regular chores is that then my kiddos would think the chore is optional. If they’re not motivated by money (and most younger kids aren’t), then they are happy to not do the chore and not get paid. So, we don’t pay for chores in our family.

Talk about the importance of saving

When it comes to allowance for kids, we have found that we need to talk most about savings. Our kids easily understand spending money and giving money, but savings is a bit more obscure. I have one child who is a natural saver, and one who is more impulsive. Talking about what they are saving money for and why is important so they understand.

Our kids have saved money short-term and long-term. We have short-term savings when they want to save up and purchase something specific. My daughter, for example, went through a phase when she was around 7 or 8 that she wanted to buy lots of furniture and accessories for her dollhouse. She’d save her spending money until she had enough to buy the next item she wanted.

But both kids have long-term savings as well and need a bit more help with understanding why. That’s the money we put in the bank for them and then they have to have a really compelling reason to withdraw right now. We talk about the things they can use the money for later when they are older. Helping them understand that having some money saved back for bigger purchases yet to come is important. Long-term savings doesn’t come naturally to kiddos.

Share money lessons you’ve learned

We don’t talk lots of details about our finances with our kids. But we have shared lessons we’ve learned and lessons we’ve seen others learn as well. Kids understand concepts better when there is a story and person involved. You don’t have to share only lessons learned the hard way. For example, we have explained to the kids that we budget our money to make sure we are covering our expenses for necessities first. And they also know about some times we saved money to purchase something.

Our money lessons have also included the importance of research before making a big purchase or financial decision. Recently they heard us talking about refinancing our mortgage payment for a lower interest rate and such. We explained why we made that decision and the benefit it had to our family. (Seven fewer years of payments for the same monthly amount.)

We don’t include our children in discussions about finances that they don’t need to be part of. I never want my children to draw inaccurate conclusions and worry about whether we have enough money to take care of them or anything else. But I do want them to have a concept of how money works and how to manage it responsibly. An allowance for kids gives them a chance to put those lessons into practice in small ways now that will benefit them in the future.

Why our family believes in Santa Claus

How we prioritize the birth of Jesus and celebrate with Santa Claus

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here. This post is in no way sponsored by or affiliated with Elf on the Shelf or any of its products.

I originally wrote these words in December of 2013. My kids were 4 and almost 1 that Christmas. Now they are 12 and almost 9. We have had a conversation about Santa with our oldest who now enjoys sharing Santa with her little brother. Our Santa holidays are winding down, but I don’t regret them one bit. This post explains why.

Santa Claus. The jolly figure incites a variety of feelings in various folks. Some insist that they won’t let their kids believe in Santa. They contend that they won’t lie to their children or that Santa isn’t the reason for the season. Others insist that Santa is a huge part of their Christmas celebration and even as adults they believe in him to some degree.

What Santa is like at our house

Around my house, my kids believe in Santa Claus. However, they also know the full truth of the Christmas season. Well, at least the 4-year-old does, but the baby will learn about Jesus’ birthday one of these days, too. The Santa that exists around here is one who brings some gifts on Christmas morning. He is one we go to visit at the mall and smile for a photo. He is one for whom we leave out cookies and milk. Our Santa is one who leaves a letter for the kiddos and sometimes sends a video message. And that’s pretty much our extent of celebrating with Santa.  

We don’t threaten that if behavior isn’t good then he won’t bring gifts. We expect good behavior year-round just because that’s what is expected. Our children must learn obedience as simply the right thing to do. We have a trust relationship in that way. We won’t lead them astray if they follow our instructions. (That’s the theory, anyway. The practice is just that — practice!)

My history with Santa

My husband and I both grew up believing in Santa. I very distinctly remember finding out that he wasn’t real. My mom was drying my hair. I asked her if Santa really existed. I think she tried to change the subject, but I was as persistent with my questions then as a child as I am now as a journalist. She told me gently that he was pretend. It didn’t traumatize me at all. I just understood that I was old enough to know and be in on the other side of the fun secret. I understood the tradition of Santa as well. In fact, I continued to leave out milk and cookies for him into my teen years and quite enjoyed doing so.  

One of my family’s traditions of Santa included a letter from him. I do remember noticing that his handwriting looked a lot like my mom’s the year before I found out the truth. (Thank goodness for computers! I now type the letters for my kiddos.) My mom was creative and I looked forward to those letters, even after I knew the truth.

The real meaning of Christmas

So, I will let my children continue to believe in Santa Claus as long as they can. While we didn’t really introduce Santa to my daughter from the start in a very tangible way, she learned about him and fell in love with him. But she also learned about Jesus’ birth and fell in love with Him. That’s the most important part. In our slew of Christmas books, the vast majority focus on the birth of Jesus. My daughter can tell you all about how Jesus was born in a manger because there was no room in the inn and that a bright star lead shepherds to find Him. For example, last week we were outside after dark and she saw a bright star. She thought that was the Star of David.

Even better to me, my child fully understands why the birth of Jesus is so great. We read the story of Jesus’ birth the other day. Then she turned to me and said, “Now let’s read the other story of when Jesus grows up and goes back up into heaven.” She gets it as much as a 4-year-old can get it. Believing in Santa and the fun that comes with that belief hasn’t impeded on her understanding the true meaning of Christmas.

We also very much enjoy the VeggieTales story of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas, in whom Santa is rooted, is a testament to giving to those in need. That gives us a chance to talk about giving gifts as a celebration of Jesus’ birth. We talk about how Santa is good. After all, what I like most about Santa is his spirit. He has a spirit of kindness and generosity. He has a touch of magic with flying reindeer, laying his finger beside his nose and disappearing. And he has a spirit of fun and laughter with his jolly “Ho, ho, hos!” Santa offers a wonderment that enhances a Christmas season with little ones.

The future

One of these days, my children will learn the truth. We’ll talk about it. I’ll answer any questions they have and I will tell them some of these very things. I will tell them that the spirit of Santa is very real in spite of his lack of corporeal form. I’ll tell them that they are now old enough to be in on the secret and help share in the wonderment of the little ones that come after them. And we’ll continue any holiday traditions they enjoy. At the end of the conversation, they will still trust me. I am their mother. A trusting relationship is of the utmost importance to me.

Even by now, my almost 11-month-old knows he can trust me to take care of his needs. If he’s crying in his crib, he stops as soon as I enter the room. He’s learned I’m on it and will take care of him. Believing in Santa and later learning the truth isn’t going to change the innate trust and relationship we’ve built.

And so this year, my kiddos will believe in Santa Claus. I make no apologies for that and am not ashamed of that. I look forward to the excitement that will come in picking cookies to leave out for him and see what he’s brought come Christmas morning.

An update from the present (2021)

In the years since I first wrote this post, some things have changed. My kids have gotten older. When she was 10, my oldest had a few experiences that led her to believe maybe Santa wasn’t real. My husband and I took her out to dinner to her favorite restaurant and we chatted one-on-one.

She wasn’t devastated. Of course she had some questions, but she was fine about it. And she was super excited to help continue the spirit of Santa with her younger brother.

My youngest will be 9 in a couple of months. I know it won’t be much longer until we’ll have a similar conversation with him. We have had some great family memories made over these past few Christmases that I am thankful for.

A few years ago, we also introduced our version of Elf on the Shelf. Much like Santa, the elf isn’t about monitoring behavior in our family. He is about having some clean fun. (Check out “14 Ways we made Elf on the Shelf work for our family” for more info. You can also find some elf pose ideas and a free Santa letter printable.)

How we’ve kept Jesus the focus of Christmas

We have also worked to make sure that from the beginning our kids knew Christmas was more about celebrating the birth of Jesus. One of the first ways we did this was by reading a Bible verse or two a day from Dec. 1 through 25 that led through the birth of Jesus. Each night, we’d review what had happened in the story so far. (Check out “8 Simple Christmas traditions to bring your family closer” for more info on how we did the verses as well as free printable verses your family can use.)

The verse tradition has grown into a devotion time each evening in December. We started with “A Family Christmas, Volume 1” and are now moving on to “A Family Christmas, Volume 2.” Both books have 5-minutes daily devotions for Dec. 1 through 25 to go through the Christmas story.

Plan a Halloween party at home (with recipes and FREE Halloween charades!)

Everything you need for a fun and easy Halloween party at home!

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Last year we knew that trick-or-treating wouldn’t be an option for our kiddos in the midst of COVID-19. This year, things aren’t looking so great either. But we did learn last year how to throw a fun Halloween party at home that our kids enjoyed more than even trick-or-treating. I know. It was hard for me to believe, too. And the party didn’t take lots of planning, time or money.

Because we had all sheltered in, we included grandparents for our Halloween celebration. Everyone wore a costume. We had snacks, games and lots of fun! Most of the decorations were things my family and I made, which is an accomplishment considering I’m craft-challenged. But it all turned out great!

Halloween party DIY decorations

Decorations that are easy to do are my favorites. And all of these are easy. Basically with some construction paper, markers, crayons and scissors you can make most of them! (I did very little shopping for this party. Most stuff I had on hand at home because it was so basic!)

Paper ghosts

One of the biggest hits for our decor was these paper ghosts. When it comes to Halloween, I’m all about fun decorations and not scary ones. So I cut out some ghost shapes out of white construction paper and then my husband, kids and I all decorated them. We had various themes for each of them. They turned out so incredibly cute! We hung them with fishing line and tape.

I used white construction paper folded in half and cut out this shape for the ghosts. (The fold in half was so I could cut two at a time.) You can make it any shape you like! And you can make them different shapes as well.
A few of the finished ghosts that we decorated with markers and crayons. You can tell that we didn’t go super spooky! And, each ghost comes complete with its own back story that we came up with while working on them.

Light covers

My original plan was to cut out pumpkin shapes and have us decorate them. Then my son suggested that instead we cut jack-o-lanterns out of construction paper and tape them to our dining room light. It was cute. They didn’t look perfect, but that didn’t matter. They turned out well and were nice and festive.

The pumpkin light cover turned out pretty cute! I put them on with tape and did so just before the party. I didn’t want to worry about the over-heating or anything.
Another look at the pumpkin light. This was the first one I put up. Cute and easy!

Monster door

This monster door isn’t new to us. We did this a couple of times on the front door at our old house. But especially since we were almost never leaving the house, I decided to have the monster door be inside instead on our pantry door. We just used crepe paper (which I had from birthdays), paper plates, 2-inch painters tape and markers.

I flipped over the paper plates. We had two sizes, so we made his eyes different sizes this year, but we have also made them the same size. Then I cut out black circles to glue onto the plates and make the eyes. My son cut a nose out of a paper plate and colored it. You can also make the nose with construction paper. Then painters tape made up the mouth. Easy peasy and adorable! We had the monster door at our house for most of the month of October.


Of course you can’t forget jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. We let each of our kiddos pick out a pumpkin and then decide how they wanted to decorate it. One decided to carve and the other decided to paint. For the carved pumpkin, we used a battery-powered tea light inside of it. We set both of them on the hearth of the fireplace for additional ambiance.

Easy and delicious Halloween-themed food

Every good party has to have food! I didn’t want to order pizza, because Halloween is one of the busiest nights for pizza places. And I also wanted to control when the food was ready so we weren’t waiting around for it. I’m not a master chef, but I found a few recipes that were festive and went well for our party. I served up some grapes, a veggie platter and cheese balls along with the following festive Halloween food.

Jack-o-lantern sandwiches

Of all the food I made for the party, this took the most time simply because I had to cut out the jack-o-lantern faces. But they turned out so cute that I’d totally do it again. And they were so delicious! Refrigerated pie crusts give these a decadence that works well with the salty ham and cheese.

Jack-o-lantern ham and cheese pockets


  • 1 box refrigerated pie crusts
  • 8 oz. thinly sliced Black Forest or Virginia ham
  • 8 oz. thinly sliced Cheddar or Swiss cheese
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 1-2 tbs. honey mustard


  • Heat the oven to 425-degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick foil.
  • Unroll the pie crusts. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter to cut each crust into 24 pumpkin shapes. With a sharp knife, cut out eyes and a nose from 12 of the cutouts. Place the 12 plain pumpkins on your baking sheet.
  • Top each of the plain pumpkin cut-outs with a slice or two of ham, folded to fit. (You could also cut out the ham into circles, but that seemed like too much extra work to me!)
  • Put about 1/2 teaspoon of honey mustard on top of the ham.
  • Layer a slice or two of cheese on top of that and then top with another slice or two of ham. (I say "a slice or two" because it depends on your preference. I did one slice each with mine because my family's preferences.)
  • Brush the beaten egg around edges. Top with the pumpkins faces, then carefully press on the edges to seal.
  • Brush tops with beaten egg.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until light golden.
  • Let them cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Reese’s Pieces cookie bars with eyes

I love Reese’s Pieces. They are so incredibly good. When I came across this recipe from Betty Crocker for Reese’s Pieces cookie bars that included candy eyes, I knew I had to make them for our Halloween party at home. I love that these can be made ahead of time. Cookie bars are also grand because you just mix them, bake them in one pan and then cut them. They’re less work than making actual cookies. This particular recipe uses a pouch cookie mix, so it’s even easier. Look how cute they are! And so yummy!

These Betty Crocker Reese’s Pieces cookie bars use a pouch cookie mix for a base and are easy to put together!

Sweet festive popcorn

I love popcorn. My mom and son love it, too. I was curious when I came across a recipe for sweet popcorn, so I decided I had to try making it. I learned some things from the Halloween batch I made and made it better at Christmas. So, I’m going to show you the Halloween batch, but give you the instructions I learned later to make it better!

2 bags of microwave popcorn, popped
1 12-ounce package of candy melts (I used orange for Halloween)
Halloween sprinkles, optional

1. Pop two bags of white popcorn in the microwave. Spread it out on wax paper or parchment paper.
2. Put the candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl. (I used a large glass bowl.)
3. Heat the candy melts in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until they are fully melted.
4. Carefully pour the melted candy over the popcorn. Move the popcorn around with a spoon if needed to get most of the pieces coated.
5. Sprinkle the sprinkles over the top if desired.
6. Let it sit until cool before placing it in a bowl. Store in an airtight or zip-top container. It lasts for a few days of snacking!

PBJ spider sandwiches

Since my husband and son are more particular eaters who I knew wouldn’t eat the ham and cheese pockets, I looked for something they’d enjoy. These PBJ spider sandwiches were just the thing! I made both PBJ and plain peanut butter sandwiches (as you can see from the smear on one in the photo to denote it is plain). My son doesn’t like jelly.

I used a drinking glass to cut the sandwiches into rounds and then stuck in the pretzel stick legs. Easy-peasy and festive. These would be great to send in your kiddo’s lunchbox on Halloween as well!

Fun, simple Halloween party activities

While decorations set the mood and food makes everyone happier, you still need activities for a party to be successful. We’re a relatively low-key bunch, and we live in the Midwest where it can be 75-degrees on Halloween or 30-degrees. We didn’t want to risk planning anything outside. But we came up with some good options and both kids and adults had fun during our Halloween party at home.

Monster egg hunt

The biggest thing for our kids at Halloween is trick-or-treating. During the pandemic, that wasn’t possible. We debated about how to make it happen. We thought about stationing ourselves and our grandparents in different rooms around the house for the kids to visit and get candy from. But then I came across the idea of monster eggs. And that’s what we went with.

Before the party, I tracked down our plastic Easter eggs that were brightly colored, got out some Halloween stickers and got to work making the eggs look a bit more Halloween-ish. I had some face stickers left from a Halloween craft we’d done the previous year and then other Halloween stickers as well. (I love stickers, so I didn’t have to buy any. But if you aren’t a sticker-loving fiend like I am, you can either purchase Halloween stickers or use a Sharpie to draw on them.)

Once they were decorated, I filled the eggs with candy. During the party, we sent the kids upstairs and some of us adults hid the eggs all over downstairs for the kids to come and find. They had fun doing so, and we had the challenge of trying to remember where we put all the eggs! In the end, everyone ended up with candy and was happy. (I kept a candy bucket sitting out throughout the night as well.)

The monster eggs were a hit. If you need eggs, Amazon has your back. Find them here.

Pumpkin ring toss

When we were shopping for pumpkins to decorate, we also looked for a small pumpkin with a tall stem. (Pie pumpkins are a perfect size for this!) We found one and brought it home. Armed with some glow bracelets, we turned off the living room light during our Halloween party at home and had a ring toss to see who could get the most rings (a.k.a. glow bracelets) on the pumpkin’s stem.

Halloween charades

Charades is one of my kids’ favorite games to play. So, we had to include it for some Halloween party fun. We came up with our own ideas, so I’ve put them together in a free printable for you. There are two versions: one with pictures and one without. If you have an early reader who wants to participate, the one with pictures would work well for triggering their reading. I like the picture version as well to make it easier for my 8-year-old who is dyslexic. Click on either image to download and print the version you prefer.

Halloween Bingo

Our final activity for our Halloween party at home was Halloween Bingo. You can buy adorable Halloween Bingo games online. Or you can find free printable ones to use. Since we had a small group, I went with the free printable route and then we used candy corn for our game markers. Yep, we totally snacked on some along the way. If you don’t like candy corn, you can use another candy, marshmallows or even cereal to mark your game.

My favorite site for free printables for games and activities is DLTK Kids. (I have no affiliation with them whatsoever.) They offer lots of easy-to-customize options. I have used their site many times for Sunday School classes and my own kiddos. DLTK Kids has a page full of a variety of Halloween activities for kids, including Halloween Bingo.

This is life with dyslexia

A 24-hour look at life with a dyslexic child

Recently, I went into my son’s room to wake him up for school. Being tired, he protested a bit. I told him I understood but it was time to get up and have a good day. He replied that he wouldn’t have a good day. In fact, throughout the entire morning, he talked about not having a good day.

Yes, it sounds dramatic. Kids can be dramatic. But this wasn’t about drama. It wasn’t about my son being difficult. It was because that day meant more assessment testing in reading. And he was trying so hard on the test, yet not being effective at it. This is life with dyslexia.

On the way home from school the previous day, he told me he silently cried in his head while working on his test. His teacher told the class not to guess their answers, but he just couldn’t read the text and was stressed. He describes the letters as looking slanted, shaky or both. This is life with dyslexia.

That same day I reassured him that all we want is for him to do his best. I reminded him that his dad, his teacher, his school and I know the challenges he has with reading. And we all just want him to do his best. Without missing a beat, he replied that his best isn’t good enough. My heart cracked. This is life with dyslexia.

On the same afternoon, I got a call from the special education coordinator at school seeking more information before we have a meeting to discuss how to best help my son. She needed me to scan and send in a 25-page report about him. This is life with dyslexia.

That evening he was working on a project with his dad building rockets. The kit had a small booklet with information in it about outer space. I mentioned my son could read parts of it instead of having my husband read it all. Without even looking at the text, my son declared it was above his level. This is life with dyslexia.

Still the same evening, my daughter asked whether my son had spelling words, yet. I told her not so far. Then I got a pit in my stomach. Spelling tests are so difficult. All last year as we did virtual schooling, I saw my son work so hard on spelling words. He went over and over them. We got creative with how we practiced them. Then he would get to the test and all the spellings flew out of his head. Sometimes spelling tests ended in tears and often they ended with him beating himself up over all the words he had missed. This is life with dyslexia.

After I saw my son off to school the morning that he insisted would be a bad day, I prayed. I prayed for strength for him. I asked God to be with him. Seeing your child struggle is beyond difficult. Knowing that he is in for a tough time as you send him out the door is heart-wrenching. I want to wrap my arms around him and never let him go. But that wouldn’t help him most in the end. This is life with dyslexia.

Not long after he left, I read my devotion book, and two things struck me. One there is a passage where Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as our Advocate (John 16:7). My son needs an advocate right now, so that really stuck out to me. God has him covered. And then in the devotion book was a reminder that when we let loved ones go, we can trust that God is covering and taking care of them even more than we are able to. I thanked God for that reminder I so desperately needed. This is life with dyslexia.

As I headed into my office that day, I started thinking about how to help my son. I want him to fly and not fall. His teacher mentioned earlier in the week that the school is short on aides right now, so she wasn’t sure if someone would even be available read his math test to him if needed. I wondered if I’d be allowed to go into school and read things to him in that situation. I actually looked to see if the school had jobs for aides posted. Because I would apply in a heartbeat if I knew it would help my son. This is life with dyslexia.

For the past year, I’ve been doing research. I’ve been learning all I can about dyslexia. I know more now than I did previously, but I don’t feel like I know enough. Can I ever know enough? Probably not. To me, reading has always been a source of joy. I love reading, writing and words in general. Etymology excites me. Grammar makes me happy. Reading a good book is how I relax. Knowing reading and all that goes with it is a source of stress and frustration for my son breaks my heart. This is life with dyslexia.

I also know resources are available to help my son. Dyslexia fonts are available for ebooks. My son has tried such a font and agreed it was easier to read for him. There are audio books. Technology offers talk-to-text. I am thankful for these resources while at the same time sad that we need them. This is life with dyslexia.

I don’t know what the future will hold. I know this school year holds stress ahead. My son is in third grade, which has two standardized tests along with the three usual math and reading assessment progress tests. My heart sinks thinking of the challenges that are coming for him. This is life with dyslexia.

Thankfully we have a school that I think is going to do well in helping him with his challenges. I am impressed with our school in so many ways. We have a meeting coming up, but I don’t really know what to expect. I’m doing yet more research so I know what to even ask for. Mostly, I just want my son to be able to learn without so much extra stress. I know his challenges will always be there, but I have to believe we can make some accommodations for him so it won’t be as incredibly difficult. This is life with dyslexia.

For now, we will keep pressing on. I won’t stop advocating for my son and what he needs. I will be with him every single step of the way. My husband and I will continue to celebrate with him when he gets excited to read a book to us so proudly. He has grown so much, is working so hard and is reading so much better. But his challenges certainly remain. He is a persistent little dude. I have known from the beginning that once he makes up his mind to do something, it’s as good as done. That’s both a frustrating and awesome trait. Managing dyslexia will be no different. Together, our family will work to encourage him, help him, believe in him and love him through any challenge he faces. Because, this is life with dyslexia.

Jokes for kids

A growing list of jokes for your kids

Every school day, I send along a note in my kids’ lunchboxes. I promise you that I’m far from super mom. Mostly, writing is my love language, and the notes evolved from there. My oldest is now in sixth grade, so just like I have gotten creative with the food I send, I have also gotten more creative with the notes. It started with Wacky Wednesday, which is when I send a joke for the kids or something funny in their note.

Now it includes a theme note for each day (some of which I’ve shared on here before).

Motivation Monday: an encouraging quote
Truth Tuesday: a Bible verse
Think or Thank Thursday: an interesting fact or something I’m thankful for about them
Fun Friday: stickers, fun facts or just something silly

I use paper from the Dollar Tree and a sticker or two on each note per day, because I love stickers! I keep a folder of all the supplies in a drawer in my kitchen to make packing lunches easier. It’s definitely time to share some of our Wacky Wednesday jokes for kids. Who couldn’t use a good laugh at a clean joke?! Fair warning, I LOVE puns!

Food jokes for kids

What is fast, loud and crunchy?
A rocket chip!

Why did the teddy bear say no to dessert?
Because she was stuffed.

What has ears but cannot hear?
A cornfield.

Why did the cookie go to the hospital?
Because he felt crummy.

What did the little corn say to the mama corn?
Where is pop corn?

Why did the banana go to the doctor?
Because it wasn’t peeling well.

Why did the girl put her cake in the freezer?
She wanted to ice it.

What is cheese that doesn’t belong to you called?
Nacho cheese!

Where do hamburgers go to dance?
The meatball.

What kind of keys do kids like to carry?

Space jokes

How do you stop an astronaut’s baby from crying?
You rocket!

What do you think of that new diner on the moon?
Food was good, but there really wasn’t much atmosphere.

What’s the best way to throw a birthday party on Mars?
You planet.

What did Venus say while flirting with Saturn?
“Give me a ring sometime.”

Why did Mickey Mouse decide to become an astronaut?
He wanted to visit Pluto.

Animal jokes for kids

Why does a seagull fly over the sea?
Because if it flew over the bay, it would be a baygull. (This one does well read out loud!)

What animal is always at a baseball game?
A bat.

What do you call two birds in love?

Why couldn’t the pony sing a lullaby?
She was a little horse.

What do you say to a rabbit on its birthday?
Hoppy Birthday.

What do you call a sleeping bull?
A bull-dozer.

Where do cows go on their first date?
To the moooooovies!

Why do fish live in salt water?
Because pepper makes them sneeze.

What do you call a bear with no teeth?
A gummy bear.

What do you get when you put three ducks in a box?
A box of quackers!

Why was the fish excited to go to school?
He heard they had bookworms.

Nature jokes

What is a tornado’s favorite game to play?

What do you call a funny mountain?

What does a cloud wear under his clothes?

Why is grass so dangerous?
It’s full of blades.

What did one volcano say to the other?
I lava you!

What happens when it rains cats and dogs?
You have to been careful not to step in a poodle.

What did the ground say to the earthquake?
You crack me up!

Family read aloud chapter books for kindergarteners through 5th graders

20 of the best read aloud chapter books you and your kids will enjoy!

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When my oldest kiddo was about 3 months old, we began reading aloud to her before bedtime every night. She’s now 11-1/2 and we still haven’t stopped. Our reading now includes her 8-year-old brother. We have evolved from short, board books to chapter books. Around kindergarten, my kiddos were able to keep up with read aloud chapter books. We’ve found quite a few that we’ve enjoyed together as a family.

While my kids can read on their own, we enjoy reading books together. We make it a priority to spend 15-20 minutes together before bedtime each evening. Our kids get ready for bed, we pray together and then we read together. We’ve read all sorts of things. We’ve navigated through series and gotten enveloped in worlds as well as read stand-alone books. With our youngest being 8, we also read picture books.

Reading together before bedtime helps our kiddos settle down from the day and get ready for bed. Plus, we also enjoy the time together. (And I’m all for snuggling together to read!) Sharing a book together is fun. In fact, we often reference the books long after reading them. As an avid reader myself, I absolutely love that! We also pass time on road trips by reading together.

Both of my kids spoke early and well and have great vocabularies, which I attribute at least in part to our reading time. And, if you need more convincing to read aloud to your kiddos, all sorts of statistics show how beneficial it is to children. Reading with their parents encourages children to love books and exposes them to language they won’t hear elsewhere. Regular reading time is also linked to kids’ academic success.

So, pick a book off the list, order a hard copy or e-edition and get to reading with your kiddos! The majority of them are book series, so you’ll find way more than 20 books represented here. I’ve organized them by age range, but you know your kids best and what they’d like. We have read some of the books for third to fifth graders with our younger son, and he loved them as well!

Kindergarten through 2nd grades

We love “The Jesus Storybook Bible” from Sally Lloyd-Jones so much. Every story points to Jesus. We’ve read it through many times, and I love it just as much as my kiddos do! It’s divided into stories rather than traditional chapters, but it counts as a chapter book to me since you don’t read it all at once.

One of the first chapter books we ever read with our kiddos was the “Mr. Putter and Tabby” series. These books from Cynthia Rylant are divided into short chapters. For younger kiddos, a chapter at a time is just right, but as they get older, you can read then entire book at once if you’d like. This series is also great for emerging readers to try on their own with you and they don’t need to be read in order.

Another Cynthia Rylant series our kids have loved is the “Henry and Mudge” series. My son especially enjoys these books because he loves his dog so much just like the main character, Henry, loves his dog, Mudge. Again, the books have short chapters, are great for emerging readers and can be read by chapter or all at once. While the first book of the series introduces the characters, the books don’t have to be read in order to make sense.

The “Geronimo Stilton” books follow a journalist mouse who goes on all sorts of adventures. We’ve enjoyed quite a few of these books together. The fun part of Geronimo Stilton books is that you can find them for most any setting since sometimes Geronimo travels through time. Each book includes an age-appropriate mystery. This series is OK to be read in a random order.

We love, love, love the Humphrey book series from Betty G. Birney! (Humphrey likes to emphasize words sometimes by using them three times in a row, so I couldn’t resist.) Humphrey is a hamster who is a class pet to a second grade classroom and gets up to all sorts of things. The 12-book series is entertaining with great character development and plot lines. Humphrey books are good to read in order starting with the first one, but they make sense even if you don’t read them in order.

You also can’t go wrong with classics, like E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Webb.” Both of my kiddos read this book with their classes in kindergarten during class story time. And they both enjoyed it. This pair of unlikely friends — a pig and a spider — have a heartwarming story that has been enjoyed for generations.

A newer-to-us series is again from Cynthia Rylant. “The Lighthouse Family” series of eight books follows a mismatch family of animals who come together by the end of the first book to run a lighthouse. There is just the right amount of trouble to keep young readers interested but not so much as to make them anxious or worried. Read this series in order.

Another great series of 26 read-aloud chapter books is Ron Roy’s “A to Z Mystery” series. My daughter read them on her own in second grade, but we’ve read a few of them aloud together. Both of my kids love this series. They both dressed as characters from this series for a dress-like-a-book-character day at school when my son was in kindergarten and my daughter was in third grade. Each story in the series is independent, so they don’t have to be read in order.

My son and I have recently read a few of the “Magic Treehouse” books by Mary Pop Osborne together. This 28-book series follows the adventures of a brother and sister, who travel by treehouse to various locations and time periods. While reading them in order is a good idea, they don’t have to be read in order to make sense.

Based off the characters from the “Fancy Nancy” picture books, the eight “Nancy Clancy” chapter books by Jane O’Connor follow along with an older version of Nancy. My daughter, in particular, enjoyed reading through these books with me. We read them together before my son was old enough to enjoy chapter books. With great story lines and just the right amount of tension, these books are best read in order.

3rd through 5th grades

Two years ago, we planned to take our children to Orlando, Fla., on spring break. Since we wanted to take them to both Disney World and Universal Florida, we started reading J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series with them. To say they fell in love would be an understatement. The 7-book series is definitely one of our family’s favorites. We’ve read all the books and watched the movies afterward. It took us time to get through all of them; we only managed book one before our trip. But we all loved rooting for the boy wizard who had to overcome so many obstacles. I read the series years ago on my own as an adult and enjoyed it even more reading through it again with my children. The story lines continue from one book to the next, so read this series in order.

Because our family also loves Judy Garland movie and because both of my kids were munchkins in a K-12 production at their school, we also have read L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” out loud together. It’s a great read-aloud chapter book that you can then follow up with the movie, especially if you’ve not watched it with your kiddos before. There are additional books as part of this series as well. I’ve only read the first one with my kiddos.

If you’re not looking for a read aloud chapter book series, consider “Because of Winn Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo. My daughter read it for school in third grade and we read it along with her at home. All four of us enjoyed this story that has well developed characters and many touching moments.

Growing up, I loved Judy Blume books so much that I picked her as my career inspiration in fifth grade. So, I was excited to share her books with my kiddos. Neither have enjoyed them as much as I did, but the 5-book “Fudge” series is great for reading out loud and best for reading in order.

L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” 8-book series is another great read aloud chapter book for upper elementary kiddos. My daughter and I read through the first book together a few years ago. It’s one we’ll come back to. Because my daughter has red hair, we enjoyed reading about a main character with red hair! (And note that the Netflix version of Anne isn’t completely in line with the books and has darker content.) As Anne grows up from book-to-book, it’s best to read this series in order.

Another book I loved as a child and have been excited to share with my kids is Madeleine L’Engle’s “Time Quintet.” Just a few years ago, I learned “A Wrinkle in Time,” the first book of the series, was actually the first book of five. So, I read the remaining four and they are just as terrific! I’ve read part of “A Wrinkle in Time” aloud to my daughter, but she was too young to grasp it. I can’t wait to read it with my kiddos again now that they are older. This quintet is on my list for us to read together. I love the characters and lessons woven into these books, which you should read in order.

Our current read aloud chapter books have been “The Mapmaker Chronicles” by A.L. Tait. I bought the first three books for us and we loved following along with 15-year-old Quinn Freeman on his dangerous task of mapping the world. He had all sorts of adventures that kept us all intrigued and interested while also being age-appropriate. I found the fourth book in the British version recently and we just started reading it. Read this series in order.

Another great read aloud chapter book is Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The book is such a fun read (even more so than either of the movies). Charlie is an easy underdog for whom to cheer. A sequel to the books, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator,” continues the story. I read the sequel myself when I was a child, but I haven’t read it with my kiddos.

The 7-book “Chronicles of Narnia” series from C.S. Lewis is great for family reading. We’ve not yet read through the series together, though my daughter is about halfway through the first book. This series is also on my list for us to read together. And the movies made from this series are pretty excellent. Just like with other books I’ve mentioned, we’ll watch the movies together after reading the books, which are best to read in order.

And, finally, I’m rounding out the list with Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” 5-book series. My daughter recently finished this series and fell in love with it. When we were talking about chapter books to recommend for families to read together, she insisted I include this series. We watched the first movie together after she finished reading the book, and I have a feeling we’ll read this series as a family together pretty soon. The story line continues from one book to the next, so you should read them in order.