Category Archives: Education

Writing in the Midst of Parenting

the gift of children

There is an element of writing about parenting, in the midst of parenting, that is extremely difficult. Impossible, sometimes. At least for me. You have to take a step back. In order to write something, you need perspective. But then, at the same time, writing (at least for me) is what often brings perspective. Out of the sludge of words and thoughts and conflicting emotions, something rises to the foreground of the mind and is, in itself, some sort of answer. Or at least it is the right question. Or a step in that direction.

I took a sabbatical from writing in this blog for about a year. In 2014. I couldn’t write about parenting. I felt engulfed in the very thing I was writing about. How can I give perspective if I feel I have none? What’s the purpose? But it always comes back. Not the obligation to write, but the desire to do so. My very own therapeutic process, for all the world to see. Okay, not exactly. There is more of a purpose for this blog, I would hope.

To connect with parents who, like me, are often in the thick of parenting and feel they can’t step back enough to get perspective. It happens to us all. We all need some outside help at times.

Like today, when I was teaching at my kids’ school in the morning. They were playing at recess and one of the younger girls came up to the table where I sat. She was near tears, saying that Aiden looked angry at her and didn’t want to play with her. Aiden is my son. He’s nearly seven. I wanted to get to the bottom of the issue, so waved him over.

He was upset. He said that he didn’t want to play with kindergarten students because they always want to play their game and even if they play what he wants to play, they change it to make it their game. I understood where he was coming from, the youngest in our family, often expected to join in what the older two are playing. He’s the “older” kid on the playground, at least compared to the kindergarten students; shouldn’t he be able to control the game? I understood, but I didn’t agree.

I explained to him that it wasn’t nice to make someone feel that you didn’t want to play with them. I didn’t delve into the deeper issues that might have been going on in his head. I simply asked him to let his friend know he wasn’t mad at her.

He didn’t. And his face grew angrier. I didn’t know what to do.

His main teacher was sitting at the table, and she called him over. She shared a story about having to choose anger or forgiveness in a personal situation she had faced. I think he got it. Whether he took it to heart or not, I appreciate her effort. Stepping in and trying to help my son understand, not only the effects of behavior, but the importance of choosing to have a happy heart.

It’s not that everything was solved that instant. Another issue rose later that day at school, and I heard about it when the kids got home. My husband and I talked with Aiden together. We prayed with him.

We don’t have the answers to every situation that arises. Sometimes we feel a little stuck in the middle of things, when all we can do is pray and trust God to work in the hearts and lives of our children.

But in all of it, we are blessed to have friends and teachers and family who care about our kids, who want to see them grow up to make a positive difference in the world, who tell them that God has a plan for their lives. Because it’s so true, and who knows? Maybe hearing that one story, or listening to that one song, or sermon, will be that thing they remember years later. The things that reminds them, and helps them believe they have a unique purpose. That they can change the world. That God loves them no matter where they go or what they choose in life.

Writing in the midst of parenting is something like parenting in the midst of parenting. You don’t really have much of a choice. You take it one day at a time. And you’re grateful that you’re not alone.

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Recommend Virtue to Your Children

Recommend Virtues

What Kids Wish the Bible Would Say

kindergarten placement testingKindergarten placement testing. That moment of truth where you know whether your efforts in early learning, flash cards, and countless stories made a difference. Whether those moments counting everything in sight, sorting, categorizing, and teaching your toddler (then preschooler, then child) to follow directions were effective.

I had been both anticipating and dreading the moment. He is my youngest, and since our middle child began attending school in fall of 2011, it had been just the two of us during school hours.

But it was also a time of change for our family. I started school again, and began working from home as an editor and ghostwriter. Amidst all that, I knew I did not give him as much time and focus – scholastically speaking – as our first two children.

Hence the mingling of anticipation and trepidation. The defining moment arrived. Our van was in the shop so my dad dropped us off at the school he would be attending in the fall. I waited in the office while he took the test.

Finally, the door opened. The kindergarten teacher walked up the hallway, approaching us. My son followed her. She stopped by the principal’s office and he ran up to me. “Mommy, I did very, very, well.”

Well, that was a good sign, especially since he doesn’t normally use the words “very,” especially twice in a sentence. Maybe he heard it straight from his prospective teacher.

She called me into the office and showed me how he did. She turned the pages of the test, explaining briefly what he had been asked to do on each one. He aced following directions, did well in problem solving, and thinking skills (probably talked a blue streak while working out certain problems). He struggled with the page on phonics. Overall, besides the phonics page, the teacher said that he did “very, very well.”

I was happy. My teaching had been at least relatively successful. Even though I hadn’t given him all the attention and focus that I had wanted to, he was definitely ready for kindergarten. It was all good.

My son played outside while we waited for my dad to pick us up. After a few minutes, he came to sit beside me. “Mommy, I wish sometimes that the Bible would tell us that we don’t have to be nice to each other. I wish it would say that we can be selfish and think about ourselves.”

I blinked, taken aback at his statement, but thankful for his honesty. My other two kids had never said anything like that, especially not at five years old. I tried not to overreact. After all, he wasn’t angry. He was just expressing how he felt. About something rather important, in my point of view.

I said, “Well, let’s think about how life would be if the Bible told us that we could do whatever we wanted. What would the world look like if people did anything they wanted to?”

His eyes glazed over. It was clearly too nebulous of a question. I realized I’d have to bring it home a little closer.

“What if the farmers didn’t feel like doing their work and decided to do something else instead? Or the truck drivers who bring food from the farms chose to stop bringing things like milk, fruits, and vegetables to the stores? Then we wouldn’t have anything to buy. What if the people who keep the streets safe or keep the traffic lights working decided they didn’t want to help people and went home?”

He was quiet, but I could tell he was thinking about it.

“What if Mommy decided I didn’t want to take care of you for a little while? What if I felt like going to a trip to the mountains so I could read and write?”

He looked at me and laughed. It was a small laugh, as if he wasn’t sure whether I was joking or not.

“I would never do something like that, and I’m happy to take care of you because I love you.”

He seemed satisfied with my answer. Usually, if he didn’t agree with something, he would either continue the discussion or stalk off in a huff (and then I’d have to reason with him a little more).

So my youngest son entered kindergarten. I no longer have him with me for the majority of the day. Does that mean my job is ended? Not by a long shot. That single conversation showed me just how important and vital my role as a mother is. And I’m in it for the long haul.

Only God knows what kinds of questions he will come up with on his own, much less what kinds of attitudes and perspective he will face when he enters school. He will likely bring home or store up in his mind many new thoughts and questions, things he will need to weigh up against the foundations that my husband and I have taught him and are teaching him.

I am tempted to get overwhelmed by the responsibility, rearing a child – not scholastically, but spiritually and morally. Teaching Him about God and truth and love. What threatens to alarm me most is that I can give this little man all the information in the world, but only God can do the work in his heart.

But I can help. I can help by praying. By “raising him up in the way he should go,” by loving him and reasoning with him and keeping an open dialogue with him, and with his brother and sister, as they learn and grow. By giving them solid input and informing them of all sides of deep, foundational issues. By having the courage to let them come to their conclusions. Then I can pray some more, that the conclusions will be good one, and that they will grow into courageous and compassionate grownups.

At the end, that’s the very best I can hope and pray for … for any of the upcoming generation.

I Know God Has a Plan for Me – A Child’s Essay

a girl in the sunshineBy Jessica, 10 years old

 

I know that God knows me because he says it in his Word. God knows that my name is Jessica and that I like to read. He knows it is important for me to have Godly character. It will help me obey him like King David did. He knows that I mostly have the character traits of faith, and gentleness. God even knows I would like to have the character trait of patience with others.

God helps me just like he helped David. When it comes to temptation just like David did, I can ask God to help me. God will always help me resist temptations. He helped me once when I was tempted because I saw two Hershey kisses on a shelf. I wanted to eat one, but instead I asked God to help me not to be tempted, and he did.

God had a plan for David, and he has a plan for me. God chose David to be king, because David did not think about riches. Instead he thought about God and how to please him. God also has a plan for my life. I think God’s plan for my life is for me to be a missionary, or to write children’s stories about his love.

The Goal of True Education

Education plus Character - Martin Luther King Jr Quote

Accomplish Any Goal

They Can Accomplish Any Goal

A Living Example

Today my kids made me proud … and they put me to shame.

I posted this on my Facebook wall today, as I’m trying to post something I’m thankful for each day leading up to Christmas:

I’m thankful for my kids’ generosity. It actually astounds me. They have been saving up coins for over a year. Nearly two years, actually. Faithfully dropping pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into their blue piggy bank.
Then, when the typhoon tore through the Philippines, I suggested sending something to them. Since then, they have been trying even harder to save up, putting every coin in the piggy bank. Even Aiden kept talking about how full it was getting and how we would need to send it to the Philippines soon.
Today we went to a store to get the money counted. The kids saved up $44.40 and not a single one asked to keep any of it for themselves.

I was at first feeling good about my kids … and myself. Raising them to be aware of people in need. About time to pat myself on the back.

But then I thought, “Hold on. They’re not following my example.” I don’t know that I’ve ever given up a year’s worth of savings for the cause of missions.

I’m actually not a very generous individual. Money, perhaps, is not such a big issue for me. God will always supply in some way.

But I’m selfish with me. With my time. I consider time very important … probably more important than it should be. I hate wasting time. More than once, I’ve gotten on my kids’ cases for “making me waste time.” I’ve also gotten on their cases for wasting their time.

But seeing them today, so freely giving away something that has taken them time to earn and save humbles me. Makes me want to be a little more generous … a lot more, in fact. With my time, with my money, with anything that could make a difference for the better in someone’s life.

To be a living example to my kids. As well as let their living example change my heart and life.

via A Living Example.

Back in the (Parenting) Groove

Toddlers on the shoulders, a camping walkAs much as I’d like to think I’m great at multi-tasking, there are really only a certain number of things that can realistically be done—if they are to be done well, that is.

I wanted to be able to really focus on my children during the summer months of June through August. It started off well. That first month, we did projects; we learned together about interests the children had; we went camping, and even started studying another language. June was, in my mind, a success.

July started off much the same. A week into it, I took on an editing job. Little did I know, the author had high expectations for the speed at which he wanted to see the project complete. A 400-page book edited, ASAP, with daily expectations and progress report. My summer plan with the kids took a back seat. “I’ll finish this quickly,” I thought to myself, yet felt guilty every time my daughter reminded me, “It’s Wednesday. We’re supposed to do a sewing project.” or “It’s Friday, baking day.” The editing project was completed at the end of the month, on schedule. However, July was, in my mind and according to my initial plans with my kids, somewhat of a flop.

I had high hopes for August. “At least we’ll end the summer with a bang.” Three days into the month, I realized that wouldn’t be the case, well, at least not in the exact way I had planned…we were moving. Though this had been on the cards for a while, everything fell into place so quickly and we knew it was now time. My husband and I wanted everything to be settled well before the kids’ school started, so we knew we had to get going: cleaning, sorting, packing, moving, unpacking and cleaning and sorting again.

The apartment had a pool so every day without fail, we spent some time swimming. Besides that, though, the kids knew not to expect much from mommy, as I unpacked a box here, wiped down a shelf there, organized a drawer here and then reorganized it there.

By mid-month, things were looking good, just in time for school—my school, that is. After a 14-year break, I was starting college, with a high learning curve for one of the subjects. Personal studying and homework entered my life for the first time since I was a young teen.

Yet I felt a twinge of guilt every day that passed that I didn’t spend more time with the kids. “They’re only this young once,” I heard over and over in my mind—wise words spoken by women whom I couldn’t help but think they must have had less to do, and more time to just be with their kids.

Finally, my kids’ school began, and with it, my hopes for an exciting, fun-filled summer together went out the window. But did it really? Or was my perception lacking in some way?

We did go camping for the first time as a family.

We moved into a new place together, getting beds and shelves and setting up their own room for the first time.

Three birthdays feel within that time period; we planned a bounce house and skating rink for my son; a tea party, swimming and a movie for my daughter; and a family get-together for the third.

My sister and her boyfriend visited from overseas and my kids had lots of fun bonding with them, exchanging stories, and playing hide and seek in the house—a perpetual favorite.

We went swimming nearly every day for a month. My two older kids are now pretty close to being good swimmers—something I was inwardly hoping to make time for this summer, but had no way of doing so unless we had access to a pool.

Perhaps the things I had on my original plan weren’t accomplished, but that doesn’t mean I was a failure, or that the entire summer was a flop.

One evening, a week into their school beginning, I had managed to get a bit ahead in my studying. I read some stories to the boys, and then played with my youngest while my husband played chess with the older two.

It felt calm; it felt together, just like it should. After they went to bed, I worked on a project for them, something I know they will be excited about when it’s done.

This morning my kids were up early enough to read a story before they left for school. Afterwards, I sat with my youngest and we had fun with his early learning “school.” We then went for a walk together.

I felt like I was back in the groove of being a mom again, not a bad feeling. There are bound to be busy times ahead, but when I’m committed to give my kids the best of what I have—even if there are the inevitable other things to juggle—I know everything will work out great.

Just like what my daughter said about this summer, when someone asked how she enjoyed it:

It was the best summer ever!

The Best Teachers

My three young children had been quite ill for over a week. Allen got an upset tummy from something he had eaten; he was just recovering when the viral fever then came around, putting him back in bed for the next few days.

Over the weekend, their health was picking up, and by the start of the new week, I thought we could start out slowly with some school, just to get back in the groove a bit. Usually school time begins around 10:00am for them; today it was noon before we opened the school books. I tried to keep in mind that it had been over a week since their last lesson and might take a bit of time before a couple young kids would “get into it” again.Father and Son Washing Dishes

Still, it was difficult to keep from becoming frustrated, as Allen spent most of the morning either staring off into space, or crying at absolutely-nothing-in-particular. It was quite a departure from my usually happy little boy.

Jessica, on the other hand, had decided that she needed to do the whole last week’s worth of school in one day because she had been sick, and kept insisting on it, so much so that she was accomplishing absolutely nothing. I assured her that we could go at her pace today.

Needless to say, it was not the most productive school day we had experienced.

As a home-schooling mother, it isn’t always easy to find the right balance between school and life. There are some inspired and wonderful teachers and parents who turn every moment in life into an educational experience for a child, without the child even realizing that they are “learning”. Life is just one great experience after another and the parent manifests that in every moment of the day. They just make learning fun, exciting, and an unforgettable experience on a daily basis.

It is great when a parent, especially a home schooling one, can make education fun for children. Especially when they are young, they need a bit more excitement, interaction and inspiration. I have been blessed to have some of these folks teach my kids classes and songs from time to time. I often feel I can’t measure up to this class of teacher. I have borrowed a few of their ideas and tips to make learning fun. Other than that, I tell myself it takes all kinds, and as long as I am dedicated and manifest patience and love, my children will learn that which is most important.

A few tips, for those of us who need them…

Start each school day with something special. It can be as simple as a bug you found in the garden that morning, or a funny song on youtube, or a sketch of the child.

Have a “star system” of some kind, for good behavior, or great performance, or completing something in school. Be consistent and fair with the reward system and children and students will look forward to it.

Be spontaneous. You do have goals and requirements, but at the same time, a dull and uninspired child will work slowly and perform poorly. If you notice they are slowing down or lacking inspirational, introduce a new idea, or a fun break, a live class, or something to bring new vision into their day.

Most of all, strive to be inspired and happy yourself, as well as calm and patient, and every day can be a wonderful learning experience—not only for your children, but you as well. Kids are often the best teachers we have, and their exuberance and wonder can rub off on anyone, of any age. Pretty fair trade, I’d say.

 

Image by © Tim Pannell/Corbis

Learning Styles, Cars, and “Tantennas”

“Mommy, yesterday I was doing school all day!”

That really wasn’t the case. In fact, he couldn’t have been sitting at the school table for more than a couple hours total (and that was due to focusing issues), but in the mind of a little boy, it has been “all day”.Boy studying

I explained that to him, and assured him that if he set his mind to it, he could accomplish his goals quickly. I also attempted (quite valiantly, I believe) to make his school as fun as possible.

Things went well and he was done before the morning was over, giving us the afternoon for projects and play.

It was Wednesday, and he was looking forward to learning how cars work, with daddy, later that afternoon.

As they played in the yard, my husband opened the hood and called him over. He explained different parts of the engine and their function. After each explanation, Allen would say, “Oh!” enthusiastically.

He finished explaining about the engine, closed the hood, and started doing something else, when Allen bounded up to him.

“Can you teach me more about cars?”

What started as a simple lesson ended up being a long and detailed explanation of every visible or partly visible part of the car.

That evening, I asked him what he had learned about cars. He started naming one part after another.  When he mentioned the “tantenna,” I first helped him with his pronunciation if it, and then asked if he knew what it was for.

“Listening to music,” he replied.

I explained to him that if I played music from my phone hooked up to the car speakers (as I often do), we wouldn’t need the antenna, and that the antenna is used when the music comes through the radio.

His next question was, “How does the music get into the antenna?” This prompted another extensive explanation—conducted in turn by myself and my husband—about radio waves and electromagnetic fields, about energy and discoveries.

Again, a number of wholehearted “Oh!”s showed his interest at the discussion and subject matter.

Every child has a different learning style (or styles). Every parent and teacher also has a different style (or styles) of teaching. Sometimes it is a challenge when you discover something isn’t working. Maybe you are discovering that your teaching styles are not all that similar to the learning styles of your child (or student). When you are the primary educator, that can present a fair challenge, to make times of learning fun and educational for both of you.

It often helps to find others who are available to take up certain aspects of learning, and be open to new methods of education, such as searching online and letting them learning something via youtube (that you have checked over first to make sure it’s okay), or asking a friend or relative if they can teach them some skill over the summer or during weekends. There is almost no limit to new and unique ways that a child can learn something; it just might take a bit of research or thinking outside the box, but it’s worth it.

I realize that my son won’t always ask me, as he did his father, “Can you teach me more?” but I can still do everything I can to help his times of education be interesting and interactive, and make every moment a learning experience.

 

(Image by © S. Seckinger/zefa/Corbis)