Reformation in the Home: A Joyful Journey

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My mission is to find joy this year in all the challenges we face in our home. I made a commitment to NOT let Satan steal our joy while we wrestle with how to discipline and how to reward from a young age in the lives of our children. This post is a post about right rewards, and, because today is Reformation Day, I thought, “Oh! Discipline is really just reform in our home.” Reform in our home has been about finding what needs to change, and working out the blessings of right living. So, come hear how we’ve been reforming and how God is blessing!

Our children are ages seven, five, and three. About six months ago, I read to them a chapter in Adventist Home titled, Mothers Helpers. I’d encourage all mamas to reread this chapter periodically, even out loud to the whole family! As I was reading, I was inspired to start a reform in our home. I want to help our children be better helpers in the home because this skill is something they will take with them when they leave the home, and it also teaches them in a practical way how to honor their parents, a commandment for which training and daily practice is required. Out of this realization, I have been slowly developing what we call “Blessing Cards” in our home. This system is still a work in progress, just like reform often opens the door for further reform, like in the case of our walk with Jesus.

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:5-8. 

Over the summer our routine loosened a bit while we spent more time enjoying the sunshine and in our garden. That being said, I found myself often repeating myself to remind the children of their little chores or obligations within the home. So, although I forsook the chore chart long ago because it was one more thing to keep track of, we decided to implement a reminder system to help the children with a tangible reminder. I posted their reforms in their bedrooms; we call them the “Morning High Fives” — five things they must do in the morning,and preferably before breakfast, so when they come to sit down they can give Mama or Daddy a high five of completion. I know, totally dorky, but we all think it’s fun.

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I have added to their reform cards, including a stop sign for their ongoing expectations like picking up toys when they’re finished and putting away their own clothes (with help if necessary). We also have a star on the list for their one extra household chore for the year, and that way they learn efficiency with this one chore throughout the year, and at the same time I am not assigning weekly or daily who is doing what.

Now for the rewards, right?! I wrestled with the idea of allowance because it doesn’t fit with our family’s ideals, BUT I also wanted to be able to give my children some kind of tangible blessing as they had now come to understand that sinning in our home leads to consequences and choosing right living through practicing self-control leads to blessings. I do believe that blessing our children looks like a variety of things, including encouraging words from Mom or Dad, one-on-one time, and little privileges not normally expected, as well as those privileges expected and often overlooked. So, we made a stack of blessing cards which the children helped me decorate and laminate. I made up a list of what the blessing cards could be used for or saved up to use for. The children were so enthusiastic, and it did work wonders for me not having to remind them for the first few weeks… And then, as others may have experienced, reform started to lose its luster in our home. I wondered if the blessing cards where even the great idea I thought they’d be, or if I should just not even bother…

Last week, as we were studying the end of Moses’ life, I read a quote that gave me courage to continue our Reformation in the home. It came from Patriarchs and Prophets, page 470: “God speaks to His people in blessings bestowed; and when these are not appreciated, He speaks to them in blessings removed, that they may be led to see their sins, and return to Him with all the heart.” Our memory verse that week was Joshua 1:9, and the sentiment “Be strong and of a good courage” was repeated multiple times throughout our reading. I decided it would take true Christian courage from both the children and this mama in the Reformation of our home life to be filled with blessings!

So my prayer is that whatever Reformation you have going on in the home of your heart, homeschool, and family, you might find the courage to continue and find joy in the journey!

Many Blessings,

Allison

Where do I start?

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The minute I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to homeschool. I attended my first homeschool convention when I was 5 months pregnant with my first daughter and have been hooked ever since. My fascination with alternative education began with my own experience with the standard educational system and the transition by exceptional educators into a different universe in education. The difference that a passionate and resourceful educator can make in a child’s overall educational experience is immeasurable. No one loves and cares about the outcome of my child’s life more than me. I do not believe everyone must homeschool, I believe a family should do what is best for their children. Every step of our homeschooling experience has been led by some fear, a dash of anxiety, and a lot of prayer. Every parent wants their child to succeed.

I was a special needs child based on the criteria shared by my fellow blogger when describing children on the other side of the educational spectrum. Reading was my coping mechanism and I grew to love the written word and cherish literature and the language arts.

Teaching language arts to my children was so exciting to me that sometimes I lost sight of the fact that my children did not have the same relationship with reading or writing that I had experienced. It is important to clearly establish short-term and long-term goals when teaching any subject. When it comes to language arts and literature, I wanted my children to have a strong grasp of grammar, syntax, reading, and writing. I wanted them to be well-versed in writing essays, short stories, poems, research papers, and resumes, to mention a few. I want my children to read all types of genres and understand what they were reading and to expose them to the world of the language and the fine arts. The connection between literature, music, and painting, sculpting, and other right brain joys that make life so bright and shiny.

I firmly believe that by beholding we become changed. I do not believe in exposing my children to just any type of books, programs, or activities.

What About Socialization?

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Scenario #1: Imagine standing in front of someone, with a smile on your face, extending your right hand to shake that person’s hand, and after 10 seconds or after 10 minutes or after 10 crickets died, that person does not extend his/her hand to meet your hand mid-air to shake it, and just gives you a blank stare or a weird smile. Cringe!

Imagine if that person is your child…at his or her current age…or 20 years in the future. Often times homeschooled kids have been labeled as socially awkward or simply weirdos in the eyes of “normal kids.” At least, that’s the stereotype. That’s also often the main question that we, as parents who choose to homeschool, receive — “What about socialization? Don’t you worry your kids will have trouble dealing with other kids or peers?”

I grew up attending public school K­-8, an Adventist boarding school for academy, and then an Adventist college for undergrad. My wife went to public schools K-12, and then attended a small Christian college. We definitely do not know what it’s like to grow up homeschooled. We have, however, had the privilege of working with and caring for hundreds of homeschooled children in our clinic in central Kentucky; and, for the past several years, we also have been homeschooling our two children, ages eight and four.

It is interesting to observe in our clinic that there is a clear distinction between homeschooled children and public-schooled children in regards to behavior, and the homeschooled children, bar none, are always the best behaved children we daily observed in our clinic. Ironically, families with four or 10 (yes, 10!) homeschooled children often sit and communicate in their best manners to our staff and doctors, while public-schooled children, very often, though not always, are some of the rowdiest kids, lacking in manners and discipline, according to our staff.

I also enjoy carrying on a conversation with most of these homeschooled children. Most are able to display critical social skills that many public-schooled kids rarely display these days: being actively engaging in two-way communication with involved responses, being able to maintain full eye contact, being able to shake hands and smile, having self-­awareness, having empathy, being able to manage emotions, etc. This is obviously a generalization, very subjective, and mostly from my own personal observation, my clinic team’s observation, and our team’s coping strategies while working with these children.

My staff often have trouble getting sufficient information from public-schooled children (and their parents) during consult, evaluation, or treatments, as most of them would typically reply with short answers like, “Yes,” “No,” “Kinda,” “I don’t know,” or in many cases silence or blank stares.  There is a good chance that many were on behavior-modifying prescription drugs.

The New York Times best-selling author and internationally known psychologist whose books were translated into 40 different languages, Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., made popular the term emotional intelligence (EI): “the capacity of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s).”

Another psychologist, Dr. John Mayer, developed the Mayer­-Salovey­-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), and found that high-EI people have better social relations; are perceived more positively by their peers; have better family and intimate relationships, better academic achievements, better work performance and negotiation skills; and have higher life satisfaction and self-esteem.

So, how does having better EI relate to homeschooling and the Great Commission, which is to “go and make followers of all people in the world,” Matthew 28:19? This is the question that repeatedly stops me in my tracks many mornings when I spend those precious times homeschooling our kiddos. How shall I, as a parent and as a teacher, shape the minds of my children to be stewards of Christ in reaching out to the world?

Scenario #2: Imagine attending a church service at a location you’ve never been to before — perhaps one you found on a phone book or your phone’s Google map during your road trip. You notice that even though everyone is smiling, chatting with each other, dressed up nice and fancy, with cool music playing, none of these people actually come to you, shake your hand, ask how you are doing, ask your name and where you are from, or pretend to show some interests.

Has this happened to you? Here’s a sad fact. This has happened to us quite a few times. Strangely, we felt so embarrassed for the church. Did we show up like beggars? No, we were dressed up nice and appropriately. Did we smile at all? Yes, we did. Did we try to greet people? Yes, we did, but there was no further communication than a brief smile, a brief handshake, and a “Hi.”  Thankfully, there were many more churches and members in other places who went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. Not surprisingly, almost always they are the ones who attract new members and grow as a church in quality and in quantity.

Have you experienced this personally when you travel? What would you do differently? What would you tell your children? If you were the pastor of the church, president of the conference, president of the General Conference, what would you do?  Since we are already identify with the church, it is easier to dismiss the fact that as visitors we were being ignored.  But what about real visitors, non-members?  Visitors will be more likely to attend a church when they make connections with members within the first few visits.  How can the church reach the outsiders, the neighbors, the world, if the church does not have the proper communication skills?

Churches who are too busy with itself and not reaching out to the community around them on a regular basis are dying churches.  Families who are too isolated and not spending time interacting with other families and community around them are also unhealthy families.  How can we promise Christ that we will help the Great Commission if we refuse to deal with strangers, if we refuse to go outside of our comfort zone, if we refuse to interact with the world, if we refuse to let God’s light shine through us in this dark world?

I strongly believe that the communication skills and social skills begin at home. Obviously, there are growing numbers of children with autism or genetic or developmental issues that must be handled differently with specialists who are trained to assist them. But, in general, children copy what they see, not what they hear. If their parents are lacking in social skills, they will more than likely end up with similar social skills, and end up socializing with friends or people who are also deficient in social skills.

Many children and even teenagers are not familiar with standard communication manners, which obviously differ from one culture to the next. But, these nonverbal communication manners are critical in determining one’s progress in society. We have interviewed countless of people who have applied for work at our clinic, and often times people, young and old, “shoot themselves in the foot” within the first 60 seconds of interview because they were never taught or never developed and practiced critical communication manners such as proper eye contact, handshake, and posture, as well as managing anxiety, etc.

With these two scenarios in mind, I thought it would be useful to share some EI-­specific exercises that will help parents in developing their children’s social and communication skills:

1. Intentional Communication

a. When was the last time you actually sat down one-on-one with each of your children to talk heart to heart about various issues? Do you set aside time to do this on a regular basis? Does your family do a weekly team huddle to review the previous week’s and upcoming week’s agendas, challenges, and things to improve?

b. Take time to explain and show your children, even as young as age two, how to properly greet people, maintain eye contact, and give a proper handshake. You can practice this at church or when meeting strangers.  If you realize your own social skills are lacking, do not hesitate asking other parents with great social skills for help.

c. Explain and show your children (typically age four and up) the importance of proper body language during communication, and how certain body language or posture can lead people to think of you differently (i.e. “Which person looks like they are interested, and which one looks like they are not interested or not happy?” Person A: sitting with crossed arms and crossed legs. Person B: sitting straight, leaning slightly forward, hands on thighs, legs relaxed.)

2. Self Awareness: Ask your child to evaluate or label his/her current state of emotion throughout the day, while you mirror their facial expression or the state of emotion to convey the true meaning of certain emotion words that may be new to your kids. This will help increase their emotional vocabulary and help them understand the full range of emotions they experience throughout the day. This will also help your kids to express intimate, loving emotions which are essential to maintaining close personal relationships.  Ask questions like these:

  • How are you doing, Shawn?
  • What are you thinking about, Sarah?
  • Are you mad, Jack? (stiff lip, bulging eyes)
  • Are you excited, Lisa? (raised eyebrows, big smile, high tone of voice)
  • Why are you sad, John? (sad face, mirroring kid’s face)
  • Is she sad or happy?
  • What should you do to help you be happy again?
  • You can choose to spend the rest of the day whining and crying in a foul mood, or you can choose to forgive her and choose to be happy for the rest of the day. Which one?
  • Is he being nice or naughty?
  • Did Joseph feel like this when his brothers were mean to him?
  • Was Jesus happy after he shared bread and fish with all those people? How do you feel after sharing your things/food with your friend?

3. Managing Emotions: Emotional maturity, in biblical context, is about being in control of our emotions so that the fruits of our thoughts are in line with the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22,­23…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self­-control). Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But, to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not easy.”

It is ridiculous to observe online drama on Facebook posts, or bloody digital wars among keyboard warriors, let alone in real life. People get upset over silly little things and crave for drama, for gossip, for attention. The bottom line question to always remember is, “Does this attitude, behavior, response, action, bring me and others closer to my God-given purpose or not?”

Check out these ideas:

  • Use the Unfollow button or even Unfriend button, on Facebook friends  whenever they post things that are not in line with the fruits of the Spirit. (This one is for yourself, but it sets a good example of personal boundaries.)
  • Hold your child or sit next to him/her during a tantrum or a stressful situation in silence. “I know you are upset. I will sit here with you until you are done crying. But, you can’t yell, hit, talk, or do anything mean. We will sit here until you are done crying and until you are ready to be nice again.”
  • Walk outside and get some fresh air or do 10 burpees with your child. If your child is depressed or fearful, his cortisol level is typically up and the oxygen level in blood is low. To counter this, do some aerobic movements such as burpees or jumping jacks or simply dance. Many times when my daughter was upset about something, I would just pick her up and dance with her, or we would do burpees together, and most of the time she would crack up or giggle and feel better, and we would be able to continue our day in a better mood.

These ideas will teach your children the concept of managing their own emotions and not doing or saying something they would regret later.

Dr. Mary Kay Clark wrote, “Homeschooled children benefit the community because they are not shaped by peers but by parents.”

American talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger observed, “…home­schooled students are able to successfully adapt emotionally, interpersonally, and academically to their first, and most challenging, semester in college. That is probably because, having had the consistent teaching and support of a family and a community, they have developed strengths and convictions that provide a bridge over the troubled waters of a multitude of challenges and temptations.”

E.G. White wrote in That I May Know Him, p. 39., “How interestedly the Lord Jesus knocks at the door of families where there are little children to be educated and trained! How gently he watches over the mothers’ interest, and how sad He feels to see children neglected…. In the home characters are formed; human beings are molded and fashioned to be either a blessing or a curse.”

A blessing or a curse!

This is where homeschooling shines! This is why we chose to homeschool. We want our children to have our values and beliefs, not their peers or teachers’ values and beliefs. We must ask ourselves these questions daily:

  • Am I intentionally equipping my children with tools for His services?
  • Am I managing my own emotions well? What are my excuses?
  • How many times a day do I spend time on my knees with my children?
  • Am I reading them stories from the Bible that they may understand how different people deal with different situations, and how they allow God to mold their characters?
  • In front of my children’s eyes, do I interact with my family, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers, showing fruits of the Spirit?
  • Do I post inappropriate un-Christian things on Facebook that I wouldn’t want my pastor or children to see or read?
  • Are the words that come out of my mouth and my spouse’s mouth full of blessings or full of curses? Do they build my children up or tear them down?
  • Am I preparing my children to be able to socialize with confidence, or am I shaping them to avoid strangers, to be remote, and to ignore the Great Commission?

May we all continue to communicate better and be a blessing to others.

Maranatha!

Arthur

A Beautiful Golden Cup

 

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You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows,” Psalm 23:5.

Just as our Heavenly Father fills our cup to overflowing, so should we as parents pour love into our children. Their love cups are fragile and should constantly be replenished. Sometimes children can be so fussy and naughty. At times like this, instead of speaking out in frustration and punishment, maybe it is time to stop and concentrate on how much attention you have been giving them. I’m not speaking of indulgence, but rather purposeful attentiveness to their needs. It’s the need to be hugged or rocked, to be listened to, and the need to fulfill not simply their physical needs but their emotional ones as well.

Old-fashioned wisdom sometimes says that children should be seen and not heard, that they should be kept in their place. This false wisdom pushes children into the background, and expectations are that they have to grow up too soon. In Victorian days children were thought of as miniature adults and were expected to act that way at a young age. Instead, I prefer the theory that you cannot spoil a child with too much love. Pure love seeks to meet the needs of the child so that their love cup is full. What do children see as love? Essentially, to a child love equals attention — and lots of it!

Children who do not receive enough attention tend to seek it in ways that are less than attractive to others around them. They may act up, show off, or get in the way. It’s all a way to say “I need someone to notice me because right now I am feeling insignificant.” If a child cannot get enough attention by being good or doing the right thing, he will automatically swing to the other side of the pendulum and will act out or do naughty things. As far as he is concerned, subconsciously, attention is attention. It doesn’t matter if it is happy attention or negative attention. At least he is receiving it. But, how much more pleasant it is for the family if happy attention is what is sought and received.

If a child’s love cup is filled, a happy child is the result. I remember when our children were toddlers and would start to get fussy. About 99 percent of the time they needed some type of parental love or affirmation. Instead of scolding them for being fussy, we as parents quickly learned that scooping them up in our arms for some cuddle time or just listening to them as they explained something that was important to them usually took care of the problem. Love cups are made to be filled! If actions indicate that love levels are declining quickly, it is time to refill the cup!

There are three ways to fill a child’s love cup. Each is important in helping children establish that they have self-worth (a gift which comes from God and is taught and expressed through the vehicle of parental love and acceptance). They are…

  • Acceptance. We may not always accept a child’s behavior, but we must always make it 100 percent clear that we accept them! Make sure your children know that they have always been wanted and loved. And, affirm that they will continue to be accepted for as long as you live. Respect your children, affirm them, and let them know by word and action that you accept them just as they are. Naughty or nice, your children are your precious gems. Make them feel like their love cup is made from gold!
  • Listening. It’s easy to push children aside when it comes to opinions and thoughts. Because their thoughts are immature, it might be easy to minimize them by hurrying them on and not really listening to what they have say. But, their feelings are valid, and their thoughts are whom they are. Take time to listen with sensitivity and warmth. It’s a wonderful way to fill their love cup to overflowing.
  • Time. Children equate time with value. The more time you give to them, the more their needs will be met. Quality time is important, but quantity time is important too! Don’t accept that fallacy that short periods of quality time a day are enough. Be sure you find lots of quality time in great quantity! Have fun with your children. Laugh, share, play, and create with them. Even if you have to sacrifice expensive things, remember that your time is more important than any material thing you can give your child.

Picture your child as a beautiful gold cup, and strive to keep it filled to the brim! Gems of acceptance, listening, and time adorn the cup.

 


 

A Field Trip Adventure

Just recently the children and I took a summer trip to the East Coast of the United States. My husband was unable to attend as he stayed home to work. We journeyed by car and covered five states on a 2 1/2 week adventure. We tried to see every site we could and visit family and friends, which wasn’t the easiest plan.

We were in town for a wedding, but extended the trip to make a vacation of the excitement the Eastern states offer. Our trip included walking the cobblestone streets in Williamsburg, Virginia; touring the avenues of Washington, D.C.; strolling through downtown Philadelphia; getting a personal peek into the vaulted safe at the Ellen G. White Estate located at our General Conference Office in Maryland; and lastly, attending several high school graduations with family in New Jersey.

Being able to experience so much history was without price. It’s one thing to read about it in books or watch it on a TV, and yet another to see it first-hand, up close and personal. The children were in awe, for instance, being in such close proximity to the White House.

Our time in Washington, D.C., was all done by foot. When we got to the city, we parked and walked for 10 straight hours. The children were exhausted by the end of the day, but were filled to the brim with vivid imagery. The Holocaust Museum was our 16-year-old’s favorite. We were unable to witness all of the exhibits, as our younger children had listened to the Hiding Place too many times, and imagined the worst. They would not enter beyond the lobby. At the Smithsonian Institution we visited the Natural History Museum and American History Museum. I had no idea that the Smithsonian was a cluster of museums, not just one. We were surprised that there was such a smorgasbord, which made it hard to decide where to land. The view of the White House was a little disappointing, as there was so much activity in front of the gate, it posed a bit of a distraction; but, all in all, we loved it.

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In the City of Brotherly Love, my son was intrigued at the Rocky Balboa statue in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Lincoln Memorial was also a real treat. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing was another interesting site. To see the actual money we spend each day being printed from sheets of paper was quite fascinating. Our two younger children had the opportunity to participate in a simulated recruitment of the Continental Army. It was a hoot. Additionally, historic Philadelphia offers a free program called Once Upon a Nation, which provides storytelling benches scattered throughout the Colonial section of town.  A storyteller shares a brief glimpse into Philadelphia’s past with excitement and humor.

At our General Conference Office in Maryland, aside from the beautiful White Estate tour from in the basement, another favorite site was the depiction of the Story of Redemption displayed by a very talented artist. The pictures tell the story along the walls covering the majority of the inside of the building. We had a great tour guide and even ran into Janet Page, whom I had only conversed with by phone. She’s given many talks on prayer which can be heard on Audioverse and YouTube. It was a treat for the kids and me to be able to pray with her and receive many prayer materials to bring back to our local church.

My kids have always loved C.D. Brooks. Though they never met him in person, I would often play his sermons in the background during school time. So, it was no coincidence that his funeral ended up being on the very day we were scheduled to attend the wedding. We stopped by the viewing to pay our respects, then enjoyed a lovely wedding celebration. It still seems strange attending a funeral and wedding within the same day, but the Lord knows…

The children and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On top of all of the touring, we were privileged to stay with an Indian host family where we learned so much. Anitha is not only a wonderful hostess, but an exceptional cook. We joined their family in early morning worship before her husband went off to work. We learned loads about Indian cooking, culture and the church.

We look forward to our next trip to places we’ve only read about in books — to hear, see, touch, smell, and taste all that the Lord has created with and without man’s hands is always a treat.