Making Your Valentine's Day Traditions More Meaningful
Sunday, 10 February 2019

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During this time of year, it is difficult to overlook the aisles of shelves displaying assorted candy and themed novelties at local retailers and supermarkets. This is a season where many anticipate confectionaries, cards, or flowers from loved ones while others make special reservations at restaurants or resorts.

In celebration of Valentine's Day, like many, I have enjoyed presenting my loved ones with traditional cards, chocolates, or stuffed animals.

Your children, like mine, may enjoy an artistic presentation of Valentine-themed food as well. Our favorite Valentine's Day breakfast consists of heart-shaped pancakes covered with strawberries and whipped cream. For added interest at lunch, use cookie cutters to create heart-shaped sandwiches and cucumber slices. When the time comes to prepare supper, invite your children to help. Shape pizza dough into a heart and present it along with bowls of their favorite pizza toppings. Guide them as they spread the pizza sauce on top of the dough. Then sprinkle it with mozzarella cheese and instruct them to add their toppings of choice before placing it in the oven to bake. For added appeal, pair your meals with cranberry juice or other red-colored drinks. Incorporate snacks such as raspberries, strawberries, dried cherries, or dried cranberries throughout the day.

Your children may also find great enjoyment in decorating your home with Valentine-related decor. Provide pink, red, and white streamers, helium-filled balloons, homemade cutouts, and other Valentine-themed embellishments for an afternoon of entertainment. Extending beyond one special day of celebration, plan a customary outing for your children to look forward to during the month of February. Enjoy a special dessert at your local ice cream shop, share a meal at your favorite restaurant, visit a museum, or schedule a tour at your local confectionery factory. (Due to the business of the holiday, you may need to schedule such a tour after Valentine's Day).

Each year, I also clear off my kitchen table and spend an afternoon assisting my children by cutting red, white, and pink paper hearts and presenting them with themed stickers while I watch them squeeze glue over a Pinterest-inspired box. Those creations join us for a gathering with multiple homeschool families where we play games, exchange Valentine's Day greetings, and answer Valentine 's-related trivia questions. This anticipated tradition is treasured because it brings the added benefits of socializing and cultivating friendships.

Another yearly tradition in my family is to fill my mixer with ingredients such as flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, and baking powder. My children love to cut sugar cookie dough into assorted-sized hearts. As I harvest their creations, place them on a cookie sheet, and slide them into the oven, my family appreciates the sweet aroma that permeates the air. Frosting covers each heart-shaped masterpiece, and sprinkles abound as wonder and excitement flood the room. Finally, everyone's taste buds can savor these heart-shaped gems. At this time of year, no dessert quite equates to these homemade cookies!

While these are all enjoyable traditions, I felt like something was missing.

Over ten years ago, when God called me to homeschool my children, I never anticipated how this endeavor would change me. As my children and I learned and studied together utilizing a curriculum with a Biblical worldview woven throughout each subject, my craving for God's word increased. I entered a time of deeper thought during which God filled me with a conviction to harmonize my celebrations with my goals in teaching and raising my children. I became reminiscent of a specific passage in my Bible '"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31, NIV). This passage became powerful in my life, helping me prioritize what I teach my children.

This project is from one of my daughter's classes.

Valentine's Day was one of those holidays that caused me to question my intentions and my teachings. While I enjoyed incorporating togetherness and fun, relationship building with other homeschool families, sharing freshly baked Valentine cookies with friends, and giving gifts that bring smiles to my loved one's faces, I also wanted to help my children gain a deeper understanding of the depth of God's love as well as His intentions for them. One year, as the month of February grew near, I began to wonder what else I could do to purposely cultivate the love inside my children's hearts and encourage them to show compassion, love, and care for others.

I came up with several ideas that I would like to share with you.

One of the greatest and most treasured benefits of homeschooling is time together as a family. As such, I wanted to cultivate love in my home by encouraging family members to show that they care for each other. Remember those heart-shaped paper cutouts that many of us have grown so fond of? Spend an hour or two cutting those heart shapes out of colored paper and challenge your children to script notes of love and encouragement on them. Every evening, starting February 1st, have your children tape one paper heart on each family member's bedroom door. Messages you find may include: "I like how you styled my hair," "I love spending time with you," "I love your smile," or "I enjoyed building a snowman with you." Another idea is to place mailboxes in each bedroom where family members can "mail" notes of encouragement, thank you notes, and coupons for shared experiences. Here are a few examples of coupons my children enjoy: "Join me for a movie and snack of choice” or “Join me for one game of catch." My children have enjoyed the mailboxes so much that they have become a permanent addition to our home.

As February nears, decorate a jar, cut a slit in the lid, and complement it with a stack of pink stationery. Encourage each family member to write about an act of kindness passed onto them by another member of the family as they experience it. Each act of kindness should be written on a separate piece of stationery. Have them sign each note they script and drop it into the jar. As days pass, you will find each child purposely thinking about their actions and their words before they are performed. You will notice countless acts of thankfulness, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, and other expressions of love being accounted for. Discuss your found observations with your children and help them realize that even simple actions and words make a world of difference.

After incorporating this idea during the whole month of February, I am always pleased to find a jar stuffed full of “expressions of love." I intentionally set aside time for an afternoon of coffee while I delight in reading sweet notes such as "My brother poured milk in my cereal this morning" and "My sister vacuumed the main level without prompting.”

You can also cultivate love in your family by joining efforts to carry out acts of kindness for others. Cultivate your children's thoughtfulness by filling your table with art supplies and challenging them to craft several cards. Pair those cards with a basket filled with freshly baked heart-shaped cookies. Deliver them to a neighbor who doesn't have family nearby or give them to nursing home residents during a planned visit. You may even ask the food pantry staff if you can hand out cookies and cards while volunteering your assistance for an afternoon. By incorporating these ideas into your home, you will help your children understand the importance of showing how much they care for others, even those they do not know.

One year, I was thinking about the symbol most thought of in February: the heart. I sat in pursuit of an idea that my whole family could carry out from the depths of our hearts. A slideshow of experiences played in my mind. After reminiscing about my husband's heart surgeries, facing the potential loss of a child, my daughter's heart surgery, her eye surgery, and a personal back injury, God showed me ways in which we, as a family, could help others who experience medically related hardships.

This raindrop of heartfelt love met our ocean of life, creating ripples that would help many families. My children, filled with inspiration, started implementing ideas of ways they could show love for others. One example that comes to mind is my daughter's desire to thank firefighters and police officers for their service by putting her confectionary skills to use and presenting them with specially designed and decorated cookies. Throughout the years, many different inspiring ideas, hopes, and goals have grown inside my children's hearts. When my children share their hearts, we put forth our best family effort to meet those callings, no matter the time of year. These callings are met in various ways: prayers, cards, texts, a hug, a meal, or a helping hand.

No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12, NIV) Maybe you have been affected by an event in your own life that, in turn, has increased your compassion for others who experience something similar. As a family, reminisce about your shared experiences, embrace your shared emotions, and seek the Lord's guidance for a way in which your family can transform those experiences into something special you can do for someone else. Let your compassion towards others become one of your greatest virtues, fulfilling His commandment to "love your neighbor."

Meet the Author

Yvonne Strachan - Homeschool Mom - Blogger - Author - Podcast/Radio Show Host
Author of Inspirational Homeschooling: