Home and Family, Homeschooling

Just keep going!

It’s official.  Cold season is upon us.  One daughter’s family had just kicked their coughs and sniffles, and now at our house the 5 month-old has been coughing for a few days, and it is spreading to the other kids. We went into the doc to verify it wasn’t anything more concerning than a normal cold, and he told us not to worry….but to be aware that everyone seems to be catching it.  (Translation-if you’re lucky enough to still be healthy, don’t go anywhere, meet with anyone, or leave your house.  Goody.)  Time to make sure each family has what they need from the store, and revamp school plans (slightly).

The plan:

Mom has been up for a few nights with the baby who isn’t sleeping, but the other five children are awake at their normal time to begin the day.  Hmmmm. Time to simplify. What does school look like with one eye open in between yawns?  Group time will involve less reading aloud (Mom is getting a sore throat), but more art and hands-on activity.  Individual work will utilize more learning/tutoring DVDs and less individualized verbal instruction.  Snacks now include spiced cider (for everyone’s sore throats), less dairy, and more fruits/veggies.  Breaks may happen at unusual times; if the baby goes to sleep, so does Mom.  Naps are allowed for whomever needs one.  But the basics get covered.  Outside time is still fun.  And we press onward.

Even if things turn for the worst (flu, bronchitis, etc.), we can continue to do something.  Charts of who had which med when, graphs tracking hours of sleep or fluid intake, learning about the science of the human body and infection fighting, and history/science/art/Schoolhouse Rock videos are waiting in the wings.

Life is a school, and when life changes, we may need to adjust.  We keep going as best we can.  And we do it with a smile and as a family.  If our children can learn that, everything else may be simply icing on the cake!

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Home and Family, Parenting

The importance of home

Spent another afternoon at a follow-up evaluation for one of the grandkids.  One comment made by the therapist continues to ring in my head.  “Often, I will recommend therapy here in clinic, but what really helps is making changes at home, and utilizing strategies there. It’s the little changes and strategies that make the difference.  You’re already doing those.  He doesn’t need therapy; you’ve got this.”

Yes.  The compliment was appreciated by my daughter and I.  But more importantly, it was yet another reminder that what happens in our homes outweighs so many other things.  Whatever challenges, frustrations, set-backs, and bad days come our way, home is the place to tackle them.  Our children need our input and our support more than all the therapy, specialists, and office visits in the world.  I understand that those things are needed, but they cannot take the place of a loving home, parents who take the time to arm themselves with tools for helping each child, and trusting the powers of heaven to help.  Special needs children are just that-special, and their needs can be met by us.  That’s why they were sent to our family.

Nothing will ever take the place of a loving home.  Ever.

Home and Family, Parenting

Mom is ALWAYS paramount! (rant warning!)

A wise and godly man I revere, Ezra Taft Benson, once counseled mothers, “Be at the crossroads… take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going—when they leave and return from school, when they leave and return from dates, when they bring friends home. Be there at the crossroads whether your children are six or sixteen. In Proverbs we read, “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”   This quote has been on my mind due to a number of frustrating conversations and events in the past few weeks.  It seems we’ve stopped caring about certain family basics in the name of “me time” and “fulfillment” in our society! What has happened to ensuring the care of our minor children?  All of them.  They are minors until they turn 18!  So many moms who seem able to understand that 5 or 6 year-olds need time, attention, and encouragement from mom somehow struggle with the idea that as they grow all those things need to continue!  The attention and encouragement you give a 15 year-old is different than that you give a smaller child, but they need them none-the-less!  And if you are never home, it isn’t going to happen!  It doesn’t really matter if you’re gone due to a blossoming career, or community service, or retail therapy.  If you’re not there, you’re not there.  (I realize some moms need to work to put food on the table.  That decision is between you and He whose children these are.  I’m talking about two-incomes for sake of the “fun stuff.”)

I am not advocating helicopter parenting.  Children need to experience life, try things, fail sometimes, learn from it, and keep going.  I’m talking about being there when help is needed. You simply can’t schedule those times when they will need you to be there for them!  The frustrations of a 7 year-old need to be addressed; that reality doesn’t change when they are 17.  In some ways, it only becomes more vital that we be there!  (The challenges a 17 year-old faces can be much more life-altering than those of a younger child!)

Think of your family as a ripple in a pond.  The ripple may be small when your children are young, but it needs to grow as they do.  As their circle of friends and number of activities increases, so should the circle we embrace.  Having your teen’s friends in your home for game nights, or attending their games or concerts used to be the norm.  Why did that change?  Teen’s are NOT mini-adults!  They have questions, and quandaries, and knowing that their mom (and dad) will be there to listen, advise if necessary, and cheer is soooo important.  No job, club, activity, or personal pursuit is worth more than the bonds that can be established when you spend time with your teens as you drive car-pool, make dinner together, help with schoolwork, or talk after a night out with friends. Include those who are important to them in your life. One of the most cherished memories I have of raising my teenagers is the day a friend of one of our boys showed up unannounced and asked to hang out.  Home was a bit of a battleground at the moment, and our home was a trusted refuge.  We had a wonderful day filled with good food, work, talking, a video, and time to just be still.

If you chose be a parent, be there.  Help Your children AND your teens see how important they are.  Encourage them in all they do.  Laugh with them.  Cry together when needed.  Set them free when they have been taught, fed, nurtured, and given all they need to be successful as adults.  Isn’t that the way you want them to parent your future grandchildren?

Home and Family

Turn it off and pay attention to your child! (Warning-rant ahead!)

Warning: this post is a rant that has been brewing for some months.

Last spring, my attention was called to an article written by Neal Halfon, M.D., M.P.H entitled “Parental Benign Neglect.”  You can read the article at  http://www.childup.com/blog/childup-bestof-parental-benign-neglect-could-texting-while-parenting-harm-babys-development.  It has provided me with months of food for thought, and a number of conclusions of my own.

The first conclusion is TURN IT OFF!  There is no reason to respond to every text, email, and notification you receive!  As I observe parents throughout my community, I am disturbed by the need they seem to have to pay attention to the little screen in their hands and miss the wonders of childhood right in front of them.  Story time at the library is to interact and engage your children as you SHARE the experience.  The librarian is NOT a free babysitter so that you can address more pressing matters.  Take time in the grocery store to talk with your children about food, meal planning, even prices (depending on their age).  Nothing on your phone is more important than teaching your children the importance of the people in your life, and how to treat them.  They learn that by example…good and bad.

Second conclusion- they are learning from us!  As a society, we bemoan the addiction our youth seem to have to video games and screen time.  Where did they learn it?  When you take them to the park or playground, do you run and play with them, or sit and become absorbed in a game which excludes them?  When you are home as a family, are you reading, laughing, working, and playing together?  Or are you all so busy with a little (or big) screen that conversation is an inconvenience?  How much are you missing?  What message are you sending them?  What is really more important to you?

My third conclusion is that our attention span and ability to retain is sorely lacking!  If there are no bells and whistles, no flashing lights to hold our interest, we don’t bother to remember.  As short as thirty years ago, we learned to read, do math, interact with others, and play without the aid of batteries or electricity.  It can be done, and we need to teach our children how to do it.  There is a need in everyone to have time to think, ponder, meditate, and be still.  Focus can never happen when there is always a blinking screen obscuring our vision.

Conclusion four- People become less and less important as we spend the bulk of our time with programming.  So many people around us need us to notice them, help them, love them.  We were put here to be the Lord’s Hands.  How can the Lord speak to our souls unless we make a quiet space for Him?  How can hear and remember the needs of those around us if we never purposely take the time to listen- really listen?  Do we think the two-dimensional people we see on the screen are more vital, or more real (or more convenient) than the three-dimensional ones around us?

So…are smart phones, tablets, or other technologies inherently bad.  Nope.  Just our habits sometimes as we use them.  They are wonderful gifts; just not as wonderful as the people around us!  So take a few hours, turn them off, and tune into real life.  Enjoy!

Homeschooling, Parenting

Why would anyone decide to home school?

As the public school year draws to a close, many parents are considering their options for the up-coming year.  If they are homeschoolers, they may be looking for curriculum resources, or possibly investigating a local charter or public school.  Those whose children are in the public school system may be revisiting that option.  Many wonder why homeschooling is so popular.  Others are curious, but intimidated.  Here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of taking the leap into homeschooling.  (Obviously I am biased in favor of homeschooling, but it is important to understand both sides of the story!)

Reasons you may want to think hard about homeschooling before your pull your children out of the public school system

This may well be the hardest thing you will ever do!

Your life is not your own.  You will need make teaching your children your first priority.  Your time, as well as your nerves, are stretched tighter than ever.  Schooling is vital, but the house still needs to be cleaned, meals still need to be cooked, and your spouse needs a spouse.  The community will ask for your time, and your church family will still hope for your involvement.   And time for you needs to happen as well.  (Prayer helps when deciding what to focus on when!)

Your house only stays clean for five minutes at any given time.  (Unless they are all at the park or the library.)

Money that could be spent on household fix-up and decorating may now be needed for books, science kits, and other supplies.

Your neighbors think you’re weird and your family is now sure of it.

Reasons to homeschool

You love your children more than a school teacher can, or ought to, really.

You will be sowing seeds that will sprout abundantly in the future.

You didn’t have children to make your life easier anyway.

You can learn with them and grow together.  Our family is so close, and have weathered a myriad of storms because we learned how to be together and love it!

You can choose what they study and when they study it.  If you want to ensure your children learn about patriotism, Christ, and how to think, you can.  What they receive is up to you.  (That can also be a bit of a stress- knowing it is all on your plate, but what a fantastic opportunity!)

You have always wanted to learn how to get clay, mud, paint and flour paste out of your carpet.

Home decorating is so much simpler!  You don’t need pictures or knick-knacks for your shelves or walls.  You just need to buy more book shelves as your library increases!

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You don’t have to send them off so that someone else raises, teaches, influences, and nurtures them.   You get more than the “crumbs” of their time!

You want to be there when they learn to read, find Europe on a map, write their first poem, ask questions about the latest news story, and have their first crush.

In summary- they are your children and you are their mom. Homeschooling is the adventure of a lifetime, and I would do it again in a heart beat!

Parenting

Toddlers and obedience…really.

Aren’t toddlers great? Little people developing right before our eyes; and personalities learning to express their uniqueness in so many different ways!  Often conversations at the cottage move in the direction of teaching good habits, and obedience.  When contemplating ways to help our children learn to obey quickly, here are some basics to keep in mind.
Children learn what they live. If we are consistent, they will recognize that consistency and come to depend on it. If we are not, they will learn how to “play” on our varying moods to their advantage. With my own children (and now with my grandchildren), I find it most effective to only say something once. If I have to repeat myself, I am on my feet moving towards them. Not to use corporal punishment; I am not an advocate of spanking. Just to physically assist them in following through with my instructions. Example: You see your child heading for an outlet or the garbage can and call for her to “stop” or “come to Mom” or “turn around” and she doesn’t. Okay. As you call her name again you are already on your way to her. Turn her around, perhaps give her a toy or book as a distraction and as she changes direction, tell her how great it is that she is obedient. She needs you to be engaged and with her. She is not old enough to follow multiple step instructions on her own. Do tasks with her. Reinforce positive behavior-prompted by you or, better still, self-directed. Yes, this takes energy and focus on your part but the pay-off is great. As she gets older, she will better understand expectations and proper habits will be ingrained. It is wonderful-eventually. Give it time and limit poor options as much as you can. Impulse control takes time and learning it is a process, one that a lot of adults haven’t mastered. Keep at it. (The bonus here is that any younger siblings watch and learn.)
It helps if you will pray to see what you need to recognize to help redirect them. Are they easily bored and needs multiple good options to keep them busy? Are they working to get your attention?
Remember, Mom, their self image and understanding of what a parent is will come from you. If you act with kindness, patience and clarity you will give them the opportunity to feel secure in their world and to know they can be successful in he best ways.