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?

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Home and Family

I don’t do drama! (Rant warning)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

When did our society decide that every annoyance was to be addressed?  Or every disagreement aired and discussed? I realize that I am a grandmother, and so older than many, but I remember my father looking at me and telling me, “Life isn’t fair. Get over it.” (And he was right. Life isn’t fair.) Or, “So? Your point?”  (Lest you think he was uncaring, please note that those comments often came as we discussed the problem over ice cream from the local ice cream parlor.) At the time, it annoyed me to no end.  Now I confess, “Daddy, I GET IT!”  We are able to grow more, learn more, have more joy, and teach more effectively when we are able to “get over it.”

So many times in the recent past someone has asked for my help…for themselves, for a friend or loved one. Don’t get me wrong. If I can help, I am more than willing. The problem? The “help” these folks are seeking comes tightly wrapped up in drama! Layers and layers of it!

Come to my home, and we can discuss religion, academics, child care, organization, running a household, or any other number of topics and have a great time. I will teach you make bread, save money, or write your own curriculum…happily. But please check the whining at the door! I can’t change how your mother-in-law, neighbor, congregation member, or other obnoxious person responds to you or what they say. And neither can you. “Get over it.”  Move on, and prove them wrong. It becomes much harder to argue with what someone is doing when everyone can see that the outcome was a good one!

Besides that, your children are learning to whine, complain, and become victims the more you model that behavior. If you desire them to be strong, motivated, and able to persevere, you must do the same. No one has a perfect life. Anywhere. Stop insisting that life is unfair because you have problems. (If you think there are people who don’t have them, you need to pay better attention to others around you!)  I don’t remember Christ being a complainer.  The Reformers and later Church leaders just got on with the job. We must do the same!

I’m not apathetic to the plight of others; I just have no power to change someone else’s life.  If things need to change, make a different choice.  Do something you haven’t tried.  Or just stop thinking about all the negative. It is amazing how much a positive outlook helps, but drama is exhausting. It can literally make you ill. You miss the joy and beauty of life. And the Lord can’t guide you if you are focused on wallowing in the mire.

So if you want to know how to cook a meal from scratch, plan your literature study, or get a garden planted, let me know. The rest is for you and the Lord to unravel!

(This post is in no way meant to point the finger at those who truly suffer from clinical depression.  But if you do, get professional help.  That is also out of my league!)

Homeschooling, Parenting

No child is broken (rant warning)

The past few weeks have been a flurry of doctor and therapy appointments for a number of my grandchildren.  There has been so much information disseminated, I will be processing it for weeks!  One lesson stands out above the rest though.  No child is broken!  There are adjustments we as adults need to make when working with children, but that is for us to do.  It isn’t their job make our lives easier.  It is our job to find what they need to help them.

Learning styles differ.  (Did you know that dyslexia is a learning style?  More on that in an up-coming post.)  Abilities and perceptions vary from person to person.  Approaches to learning need to be adjusted to meet the needs of different children.  All of that is do-able.  The problems come when we as parents or care-takers want to be “in charge” of things.  NEWS FLASH- we aren’t “in charge” at all! The Lord sent all His children here with a plan…His plan.  Our job is to find out what it is for each of them and follow it.

Children need to use all they were sent here to use.  Muscles need exercise-expect climbing, running, jumping, throwing, and a ton of other movement.  It is not only normal; it is necessary!

They need your time-as much as you are willing to give them.  They need time to talk, cry, share, learn.  Self-discipline is only developed as the adults around them help them with consistency and follow-through.  If they don’t learn it, it is on us.

Messes follow young ones like day follows night.  That’s okay.  It will give us a chance to experience all those things we wanted to do as children but were stopped because it was “too messy.”  Spend time creating and cleaning together.

Children ask questions-lots of questions.  They aren’t blank slates waiting for someone to write on them; they have opinions, preferences, and interests they came here to express and explore.  Let them pepper you with everything they can come up with through their life.  The joy of discovery is not to be missed!

When we ask them to sit still for long periods of time, be quiet for hours on end, spend hours with a screen (because it is easier than interacting with them ourselves), or do it our way-no questions asked-we are not helping them grow or learn or develop into who they were sent here to become.  Growing up is hard work, and helping it happen can be inconvenient and frustrating, but there is no greater reward than spending time with them and their children…and their children…

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!

Cooking, Finances, Gardening, Home and Family, Homemaking, Organization, Parenting

Learning life’s grammar

(Just a note- this post is awfully close to a rant.)

I looked up the word “grammar” in the dictionary recently, and one of the definitions is the “basic or beginning principles of a subject.”  It is generally paired with language, but everything in life has a grammar to learn.  With that definition in mind, I started thinking about the following:

  • Life is based on eternal, unchanging rules. We will be happier when we serve, smile, and learn to love people.  There are absolutes.  Dishonesty is wrong.  End of story.  Giving of yourself brings blessings to you ten-fold.  Family is the basic unit of society and deserves the best we can give it.  God is good.  Talk to Him.  He will help!
  • Parenting is a challenge.  Your children are NOT simply blank slates to write on at your will. Take time and read about how children grow, and what is reasonable to expect.  Personalities differ.  Learn about them.  Everyone has their own set of gifts and challenges.  Go to those who seem to know what they are doing, and learn from them.  Being a parent is so much more fun when you aren’t trying to “reinvent the wheel” and you can relax a bit!
  • Learn how to get organized.  Read books.  Search online.  Talk with people.  Chaos is unnecessary and makes everything harder.  Things don’t have to be in cute, designer, matching containers where everything color-co-ordinates!  Just learn how to put things together, and have a system that makes sense to you.  When you learn the basics of how to organize your space, time, and resources, you can move through life more smoothly.
  • Everyone needs to learn how to cook.  Not just how to read a recipe (although that is a good thing too), but why what happens in the kitchen happens.  Most whole grains cook up similarly.  Which are exchangeable?  A white sauce, gravies, and many other pan sauces start with a roux. What about a “skeleton recipe” for muffins, bread, soups, or casseroles?  When you know the basics of what is involved, you can mix-and-match what you have to make something new.  Which foods can you freeze and want to eat again when they are thawed?  We won’t all be gourmet chefs but we can all learn how to feed ourselves and our families without poisoning someone, or depending on pre-made, processed food.
  • Cleaning can be much simpler and cheaper if you understand which cleaners can be used for multiple applications, and which cannot.  We use an all-purpose organic cleaner, vinegar, citrus, shampoo, baking/washing soda, and peppermint oil to clean.  Just a few things will leave my house looking great and smelling fresh.
  • You get one body in this life.  What are the basic rules of health and nutrition to keep it running smoothly?  How much sleep does your body need?  How are your eating habits?  Is exercise a foreign concept?  Health challenges come to everyone but we can choose to make the best of whatever comes our way.
  • Keep a budget.  Know the basic rules of finances and make them your friends.  We have to learn to live with them.  Remember: $3 income – $2 expenses= happiness; $5 income -$6 expenses= misery.
  • Growing your own food is a boon to your health and your budget…unless you buy all the newest gadgets, pay for premium seed in the tiny packets, and haven’t learned when, where, and how to put things in the ground.  You can grow your own starts but if you plant them outside too soon, you’ll need to grow your own starts twice.  Some plants don’t handle the cold well.  Others need to go in before the threat of frost is past.  Peas and spinach prefer cool weather, and will bolt or die off in the heat.  You don’t need the latest and greatest of everything to begin; just borrow a couple of books from the library, find out how things work best in your area, and start digging!
  • Don’t try to teach your children advanced skills without building a foundation.  If they don’t know their times tables, algebra will be frustrating!  In that same light, they need to learn how to compromise and problem-solve before you send them out into the workplace to get a job, or go to college.

There is so much “grammar” we never learned at school.  Today is a great day to start!

Homeschooling

Curriculum planning rant

It is that time of year again.  Now is often when homeschool moms get into the books for the coming year, and put an academic plan together.  If you use a programmed curriculum, it is fairly straight-forward.  You buy their books, and use what works with the learning level for your child.  It may require a tweak or two, but nothing too crazy.  Then again, if you are trying to assemble curriculum on your own (as we did), it can get confusing.  Let me explain.

Obviously you need math, language arts, history, science, and some fun stuff for the year.  Add in critical thinking, cultural arts, religious studies, life skills, and a bit of this and that and it can look undecipherable.  Let’s try making sense of it.

Math.  Pretty clear.  You have a text-book, flashcards, and maybe some math songs for learning basic skills.  Done.  But what about games and activities like tangrams, pattern blocks, or other math-related critical thinking options?  Is that math?  Is that critical thinking?  Is it just for fun, and not recorded at all?  Is cooking math, science or life skills?  Hmmm…

Let’s try it with language arts.  This generally includes reading and literature, spelling, vocabulary, penmanship, grammar, and writing.  Oh, boy.  Do you do spelling and vocabulary together?  One list for each?  Isn’t that a lot of writing?  If so, does it also count for writing?  Not really.  Oh.  Okay.  Grammar could be done in your best hand, and then it may also count for penmanship…or not.  Reading.  Simple enough.  Pick a book and read.  Literature means find a well-written, classic work.  Read and talk about it.  Okay.  If we are reading The Door in the Wall, is that literature?  Do we count it as history?  It does provide a great jumping off point for a discussion about life in medieval Europe. If we are reading Bible stories is that literature, history or religious studies, or something else?  If you teach them to outline on the computer, is that writing or computer skills?

Enough of that.  Let’s look at history and social studies.  History- the story of what has gone before us.  Social studies- the lives of people throughout the world.  Sounds pretty basic.  Where do you add geography?  Or is that a subject on its own which deals with different cultures and covers also orientation and map-reading skills?  If you study specific countries around the globe, and include commonly used phrases and a titch of their grammar, has that just become a study of foreign language or language arts?  What about political studies and law?  If you include a study of your nation’s founders, and the creation of your government is that history?  Law?  Or does it get a more specific title such as Government Studies?  Then there is economics.  It generally falls under the social studies umbrella, but does it count for math if you are working on interest rates, checking and savings accounts, and such?  Or do we call those things life skills instead?  Perhaps some of each?  And is the study of art and/music history part of history or cultural arts?

Is science any easier?  Are we simply working on a specific branch of science such as physics, or biology using reference materials and experiments?  What if we begin studying about Newton, and Darwin?  Is that still science?  Has it just become history?  Or if it is a classical work they have written, are we now doing literature (which is language arts)?  Do we teach evolution or creation science as science or do we create a comparitive study of them as a critical thinking exercise?  Is growing a garden and preserving the surplus considered botany and chemistry, or should you call it life skills?

You get the idea.  In all seriousness, Mom, don’t over-think this!  The answer to these questions if YES;  you can place this material where ever you see fit.  Set your goals.  Choose your materials.  Put your plan together, and get to the exciting business of learning as a family!  If you have high-school age youth who will need a transcript, you may find it helpful to use more diverse labeling for their studies in order to include what they will need for college admissions.  (Just ensure that you cover enough information to be able to claim completion of that subject!)  What matters most is that your children receive a broad, well thought out, and challenging education that provides them with the knowledge base, discipline and study habits to serve them throughout their lifetime.  However things were categorized when they were children, they will remember it as part of their education.  Isn’t that what really matters?

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Elitism rant

n. pl. elitea. A group or class of persons or a member of such a group or class, enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status: “In addition to notions of social equality there was much emphasis on the role of elites and of heroes within them” (Times Literary Supplement).

b. The best or most skilled members of a group: the football team’s elite.

This word is one I hear associated with home education generally, and classical education specifically.  It never fails to create uneasiness in my heart when I hear it.  Home schooling is not for, nor does it create, an elite society.  We are all God’s children.  Opportunities for learning, native intelligence, superior talents, and “the management of the creature” are all explanations given for the different levels in any society.  I strongly disagree.

I recently read the counsel to “Never look down on the [less fortunate].  Serve them…Lose your life in service and you will become great.”  Excuse me?  Come again?  What about allowing them to serve you?  No one is so blessed that they cannot benefit from the service of others!  Everyone has something to give, and each of us needs to recognize the worth in our fellow beings.  We are not here to judge them.  (Behaviors require we make judgment calls.  People do not.  That is God’s job.)  We are not here to “enlighten” them.  We are here to love them.

If, in the course of teaching yourself and your children, you ever find yourself turning away from your fellow travelers on this planet because you “just don’t have time” for them, might I suggest you make time.  Spend a few hours with them.  Talk to them.  Learn more about them.  And then allow yourself to learn from them.

If we are not helping create connections, we are destroying them.  Teach your family to reach out, share, and accept people for who they are.  Let them in.  You may just be surprised to find what you didn’t know you were lacking.  And you have opened the door for Christ to step in and teach you something.