Category: Littles

Straddle Parenting Episode 5

Homeschooling Fathers pt. 4: The Big Picture

So seriously, why would any sane man— with a full-time job, and a lawn to mow, and a house payment— why would he even consider homeschooling?In this episode, Christopher and Heather discuss the overarching reason behind pursuing homeschooling, and why it matters so very much.

Links may direct to affiliate sites. Purchases made through these links support our family’s work in spreading the Gospel to unreached areas.

Resources mentioned in this podcast:

Straddle Parenting Episode 4

Homeschooling Fathers pt. 3: Using what you know, learning what you don’t

One objection dads in homeschooling families often have to getting more involved is finding something they feel qualified to teach. In this episode, Christopher and Heather talk about God’s plan for your skills and passions (hint: He wants you to pass them on!) and how it’s never too late to learn a foreign language.

Links may direct to affiliate sites. Purchases made through these links support our family’s work in spreading the Gospel to unreached areas.

Resources mentioned in this podcast:

Sonlight Curriculum A complete, literature-based curriculum.

Ana White, a great site for finding simple woodworking projects, or more involved pieces.

Straddle Parenting episode 2

Homeschooling Fathers pt. 1

Common Reservations

Is your wife staging homeschool catalogs on the coffee table? Has she suddenly started pointing out the homeschooling families at church? Or have you given a reluctant go-ahead to a trial year of homeschooling, but are still wondering if this is a good idea? Christopher and Heather Schwarzen share the beginnings of their own homeschool adventures as well as defusing some of the common reservations fathers have in pursuing this radically different, radically Biblical method of education.

Little kids at big doings

Let’s face it: Straddle Parenting brings some pretty unique challenges to bear. Things that stretch families with three or four children all in one relative season of childhood can feel like brewing storms when you’re trying to multitask by filling out your high school senior’s FAFSA paperwork in your OB’s waiting room. Ask the Straddle Parents is a forum for readers to get our personal perspective on how we’ve navigated some of the terrain— sometimes with success, sometimes with spectacular failure, and always with a whole lot of grace.

I am at a loss. My older kids have events like musical performances and graduations coming up. I (obviously) really want to be there, but my littles are pretty much guaranteed to steal the show—and not in a good way. How do you fully embrace these milestone moments when half of you is trying to keep a toddler from causing a scene?

First of all, I fully feel your pain. I have gazed into the not-so-distant future and realized that there’s a very real chance I might be nursing a baby while one of my older daughters is trying on wedding gowns! There’s not very much out there in society that prepares you for this level of straddle parenting— which is why this site exists in the first place!

And while we haven’t given a daughter in marriage just yet, we have crossed a couple of those “once in a lifetime moments” for our older children with a little one in tow. Is it easy? Not always. But is it doable? With a little forethought, yes!

First, I urge you to honestly assess your situation. Chances are good if you’re like me you have a soft-focus image in your mind of how amazing and memorable that group shot is going to be when you and your whole brood cheer your big kid on. And maybe that’s true. But if it’s not— and it sounds like you’re pretty sure that’s the case— then reality is your friend. Don’t add stress and chaos to the event by forcing a little one to behave in a way that has never been possible in a situation with far less riding on it. You are only going to be disappointed and frustrated. If you don’t think you and your spouse can be fully present for the big doings, and you’re not wanting to trade off duty walking the littles outside, then it’s time to call in back up.

When our now-19 year-old daughter graduated from our homeschool in 2014, our youngest two were 3 years and 17 months old, respectively. On the practical side, both my husband and I had to be present on stage to hand her the diploma. On the heart side, neither of us wanted to miss a second of the ceremony celebrating the culmination of so much hard work. We could have left our teenage sons in charge and hoped for the best, but that still left us with the potential of needing to step in if the wheels fell off. Instead, we talked to my in-laws, who agreed to be in charge, leaving our hands (and minds) free to enjoy the graduation fully. They knew it might mean stepping out with a little one, but were willing to be the fully on duty kid keeper for the evening anyhow.

But what if you don’t have a relative on hand to run interference? First, check and see if any childcare is provided. Chances are good it isn’t, but you don’t know if you don’t ask. If nothing has been arranged, but there is a good location available for use and other families in need, see if you can arrange childcare for the group. It’s a long shot, but not unheard of at big events.

No on-site options? Time to hire a babysitter— to either tag along and sit in the stands with your family, ducking out if a meltdown begins, or to keep things under control at home, clear of the location altogether. While it doesn’t sound ideal (who wants to have to pay for someone to watch their kids while they’re standing right there? or to leave behind a child while another family member enjoys their moment in the sun?) the peace of mind will be well worth the cost. It’ll also preserve the memories for both you and your older child, who no doubt wants to see you smiling in background, not ducking out the door with a screaming toddler in tow.

If it’s just not possible to have your littles in the fray, try to include them in other ways. If the event will culminate with a celebratory dinner, swing back home to pick them (and the sitter) up for the meal. Arrange for some portion of the party to make it back to your house, so he or she can get a taste of the joy and be doted on by the gathered friends and family. Or just arrange a special time for your little one to be able to fete the older: maybe being in charge of making a card, popping a candle on some special breakfast cinnamon rolls, or decorating the older child’s bedroom door.

In the end, the idea is keeping your sanity and continuing to knit together your family’s fabric of togetherness. There are no cookie cutter ways to do that, so get creative and relax into what works for your specific circumstances.


Experiencing Advent | To Sow a Seed


Our family celebrates Advent. Not out of a command, but out of a need. We need to prepare our hearts for the awe, the wonder, and the majesty of Christmas. Advent is the tool that makes our celebration of Christ’s arrival deeper than a simple desire to say, “Jesus came! Hooray!”

Maybe you need Advent this year, too. Maybe you’ve never celebrated it, but the idea of actually longing for Christmas rather than counting down the days is something that pulls on your soul. Maybe you’ve had the kind of year that has left you more than a little weary, and the thought of throwing yourself into a holiday sounds like one more thing on your already too-long list of one more things. Maybe you find yourself, every year, with four days left until Christmas morning and wondering where the time has gone and how it always evaporates in a sea of cookie exchanges and ornament-making parties.

If so, I invite you to consider purchasing Experiencing Advent. Pulled from years of material I produced for my own family’s celebration, Experiencing Advent is designed to be flexible. Use it with Daddy around the breakfast table before he leaves for work. Set aside time during homeschooling to devote to the study. Make it part of your family Bible study. Use it in a way that best fits your family right now, in this season of life.

This isn’t a craft-heavy unit study that leaves your older kids drumming the table, waiting to be set loose. Neither is it a purely academic exercise that flies right over the heads of your littles.  Activities are included, but optional. And the learning? While it’s not light stuff, it’s designed to be accessible to young ones while still offering plenty of room for the kind of rabbit trails that allow for real ownership of the knowledge.

Experiencing Advent offers:

  • More than 50 pages of study.
  • A look at the historical period into which Jesus was born.
  • Scripture memorization for younger and older children.
  • An introduction to the symbols of the season.
  • The history behind some of the season’s most God-honoring caroles.
  • Bible scavenger hunts.
  • Plans for Saturday Advent celebrations.
  • Craft, recipe, and activity options.
  • Four full weeks of lessons planned by day.
  • Open-and-go learning.

Experiencing Advent is in an ebook format for just $8.99. Start your journey towards a more meaningful season today. Prepare your heart for Jesus, and experience Advent!

Read-alouds for straddle families

Let’s face it: Straddle Parenting brings some pretty unique challenges to bear. Things that stretch families with three or four children all in one relative season of childhood can feel like brewing storms when you’re trying to multitask by filling out your high school senior’s FAFSA paperwork in your OB’s waiting room. Ask the Straddle Parents is a forum for readers to get our personal perspective on how we’ve navigated some of the terrain— sometimes with success, sometimes with spectacular failure, and always with a whole lot of grace.

How do you choose read-alouds that engage your older kids, are appropriate for all ages, yet don’t leave your youngest listeners behind?

We are a reading family. More than that, we are a read-aloud family. Some of the best memories of our times together center around a book, a pot of tea, and our coziest pjs. Over the years, we’ve read a good many tales out loud; our children will forever remember Pa Ingalls as sounding exactly like their own father, or Smaug the dragon hissing in their mother’s voice. As parents, we’ll never forget the look of heartbreak in the eyes of our kids as they’ve mourned Aslan or their giddy laughter as Milo makes his way through Dictionopolis.

But literature is a powerful, sometimes provocative thing. The adventures that ensnare the imaginations of our adolescents are often too tame for our teens; the social commentaries that wrest the deepest heart talks from our young adults are simply too mature for the minds of our young ones. How is a Straddle Parent to cross the divide and come to the other side a winner?

Our family has adopted a variety of methods to keep the tradition of reading aloud alive without leaning too far in one direction or the other. First has been simply having separate reading times when its warranted. Right now, for instance, Christopher is knee-deep in yet another read-through of the classic Little House series during our littles’ bedtime hour. After they’re tucked into bed, the teenagers and I gather to listen to him read again—this time from How to Ruin Your Life by 30, by Steve Farrar.

As you can see, it’s not just fiction we tackle here. We’ll read anything of value, from a field guide to sheep and their fleece to biographies of heroes of the faith. The lesson here? Don’t be boxed in. Look for something that will interest your family and go for it.

But what about keeping everyone together for a read-aloud? Is it even possible? With some work, yes. Our family uses references to choose “best bets.” Favorites include websites like Read-Aloud Revival, the 1000 Good Books List and Jim Trelease’s Read-Alouds Handbook list online. We also love the book lists available in Honey for a Child’s Heart and the companion volume, Honey for a Teen’s Heart, Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families, Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time, and Books Children Love.

Don’t have a list on hand as you’re trolling the library shelves? Stick with the classics if in doubt. We’ve found far fewer instances of objectionable or mature content in literature from days past—and as a bonus, plots and vocabulary are usually engaging enough to keep teens listening. My older kids especially love reliving the tales they remember best; announcing that a beloved title is next on the list is something like saying that a family friend is coming to visit.

Below you’ll find a list of titles mentioned above as well as some of our family’s favorites throughout the years for reading aloud to multiple ages. Share your favorites in the comments!

All links are to affiliates. Purchases made through these links support our family’s work in spreading the Gospel to unreached areas.

Coffee…just what a Straddle Parent needs

Coffee. At our house, its not just a ritual, it’s a necessity. And while it was once enough just to buy that 12-ounce bag of coffee, now we find ourselves purchasing the 3-pound bags at Costco.

No more is it just the parents sipping a cup in the morning. These days of being a “straddle family” means as many as six people in the house are drinking coffee. And the chaos that brings in our small kitchen is just that: chaos.

But these days will pass, and the little inconveniences such as making sure you’ve made enough coffee will disappear.

What’s morning coffee like in your house? Share below with a comment. For more on why the chaos of coffee is a blessing, click here.

Dads and flats

Dads and diapers. The punchline to a million jokes, and the brunt of much angst among mothers.

While quite a few fathers are more than on board with the idea of saving money when it comes to necessary evils like diapers, the intimidation factor is high; many dads seem to feel inept even thinking about cloth diapering a baby, let alone using (gasp!) flats. For some reason, a stereotype exists that says cloth is hard, it’s messy, and folding is for professionals only.

Uh, no.

All cloth is totally doable for anyone otherwise able to change a diaper— and since I’ve led curious 4 year-olds through the process on more than one occasion, I can pretty much assure you that anyone able to parent a child can be lumped into that group.

Anyone who knows my husband knows that he’s Super Dad. (I am not exaggerating! The man was actually honored as Father of the Year by a parenting organization in Washington.) But guess what? It’s not his amazing parenting skills that allow him to morph a sheet of cotton into the perfect airplane fold and wrangle it onto the bum of a baby. It’s just doing it.

In his words:

There’s no question, the flats at first were intimidating. Why would anyone choose to use them when there are so many prefold options?

But price is definitely one reason, and if you’re on a tight budget, like we are, then prefolds often aren’t affordable.

As it turns out, the flats aren’t that difficult to use and they hold more in than you’d actually think. Wash them and hang them to dry, and they definitely are ready to use much faster than any other cloth.

My only advice, especially with squirming babies, is to have lots of pins available (I’m often unprepared and searching for one nearby!). And once a bit dull, toss them. It takes a sharp pin sometimes to get through the layers.

It’s true, I’m still more likely to grab a prefold or fitted if one is available since we’ve used them for years and have them, but there’s no reason not to use flats as a sole source of cloth diapering or as an option among several varieties.

As a dad, it turns out I’m not only capable of using them, I’m also impressed with them.


My tips for getting Dad on board with flats?

  1. Do the math. Show how how much you could spend, then show him how much you will spend. That’s usually pretty much all it takes to sway a guy on the fence.
  2. Make it easy. Fold your flats straight out of the dryer, stack them in the changing area, and keep pins & covers at hand.
  3. Teach him folds. I’ve sat with my husband and demonstrated folds, but if your guy prefers pictures or videos, offer those.
  4. Don’t make it your thing alone. Because it’s not. Real men, after all, change diapers. Doesn’t matter what kind!

Flats Challenge