“Aha” Moments

When our children are tiny, we wait with bated breath for every first…the first time they roll over, their first step, first words, first meal…the list is endless.

I’m still seeing firsts. When my oldest son, TLC, was three, he asked me to teach him to write his name, and I started teaching him the rules of reading and writing. He could never seem to translate that knowledge into action though. When he turned eight years old, however, a door seemed to swung open in his mind and he went from not reading one day, to reading at grade-level the next day. It was an amazing moment!

When he was two years old, we were frequently amazed at his mathematical propensities! He could do basic math, including simple multiplication. In the last few years, he has struggled with the concept of multiplication and division. On the advice of our facilitator, we have simply accommodated this challenge by providing him a times table chart to use. I’ll confess to many moments of frustration, especially when it takes him a significant amount of time to calculate equations on the two’s times table! Just recently, however, while we were working on calculating areas and volumes, he had to calculate 3×2… I got frustrated with him and went into a bit of a lecture mode — nothing I hadn’t said to him previously, but he suddenly grasped the concept, and I once again saw the door of his mind swing open. In the days following, he has retained and continued to gain confidence in his mathematical ability and multiplication prowess.

What did I say to him? I told him that math is always the same. That the equation for a triangle will ALWAYS be bh/2. His response? “That’s logical, I should be good at this.” I laughed and told him he was good at this. That’s been the most frustrating thing. I know he’s good at math. I know he has a natural affinity for it. It was not until he was aware of his natural ability in math that he was able to begin excelling at it. The key for TLC was discovering math is always the same, that it is logical, constant, and reliable. Once he realized that key point, the world of math opened up for him.

 
I love the “AHA” moments. I love still being able to experience those with my children. It makes all the frustration, the challenges and the struggles worthwhile.

Sometimes we get caught up in trying to make our children keep up with their peers, and forget that they learn at their own pace. We change the way we teach because we fear they aren’t grasping the concept, when our children simply need only one more piece of the puzzle to believe in themselves. Once we empower them to believe in themselves, they can quickly and easily grasp the most challenging concept. I have to be aware, to watch and carefully identify the messages I, and others, give my children. I need to purposefully build up their esteem.

When they believe they can learn, learning becomes easy.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

It’s that time of year. I’m rather new to this whole homeschooling thing, but from what I understand, frustrations run high in May. Some parents choose a more relaxed approach and homeschool year-round, but for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who choose nine-months-on-three-months-off, May can get interesting. (When is it for the Southern Hemisphere? November?) Tensions mount, and excitement runs dry. New homeschooling parents are prone to panic attacks when they realize little Johnny may not master a certain criteria by the end of the year. And, little Johnny is equally frustrated when the skill he has practiced a thousand times is still challenging for him.

Don’t be afraid to lay some of those battles aside for a time. There is no stop-watch in homeschooling! Remind your child (and yourself) that millions of April-shower raindrops precede the beautiful blooms of May. Tell them their practice, their trials, their repeated efforts are like the little raindrops. The raindrops are not bad. They are not a problem. The frequent efforts, though not as fun as sunshine, will all add up in time to beautiful flowers of skill.

My child’s raindrops, those lessons unmastered and often frustrating, might be that one piano song he’s tried so long to learn; writing the letter E, or S, or K; or maybe mastering the sound of the letter Q. And, here’s what I will do:

An Encouraging Project

I will record the rain and celebrate the flowers whenever they come. Here’s how. Cut out paper raindrops and write on them the unmastered skills (little ones, as well). When the skill finally blossoms, make a flower together with your child, and write their new accomplishment on it. These can be mounted on a wall, or you could even put their raindrops in a jar and make 3D tissue paper flowers to celebrate. The bigger the success, the bigger the flower! Their growing garden or bouquet will be an encouragement to them as they continually face new challenges, a way to look back and remember that practice really does make a difference.

Scissor skills, spelling, riding a bike, fractions, tying shoes… What are your child’s raindrops? What do they struggle with? When will their skill bloom? Different flowers bloom at different times, and so it is with skills. Some come early, some come late, but each is beautiful and well worth the rain.

Connecting Emotionally

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This last week has been an extremely challenging week. My son and I tend to have good days and bad days, but for some reason we have been having several bad days in a row. If you want in on the secret of why, I’m glad to tell you. Someone had sent me some links for a seminar done by Cinda Osterman. I have been struggling for quite some time trying to figure out how to be a parent that truly reflects Christ to my children, while at the same time being a firm and loving mom, and being in charge of my home. My son really struggles with needing to be in control of my home. Even though he is five, he is very determined to control the house and to parent us.

A few weeks ago after watching Cinda’s series on Vimeo, my husband and I decided to rededicate our lives and family to Christ. I decided to start getting up at 5 a.m. and doing my worship in spite of the obstacles to do so. Of course, the devil didn’t want to lose us so easily, so he is fighting us in any way that he can. My son and I are the biggest area he can attack in my life. At first he tried the kids waking up at 5 a.m. Seeing me persisting in my worship, he wasn’t happy with that and stepped it up a notch. The following Sabbath there was an announcement at church that the pastor was holding a class that was meant to improve your intimacy with God. I was not prepared to stay, but I decided to stay anyway, as I needed to take the class.

During the class I tried hard to listen and keep under control my two very energetic kids. But, I ended up leaving halfway through as it just wasn’t working. (Of course the devil wanted me to be discouraged.) I asked God what He wanted me to do, and after talking to Pastor, he said that he would find a way to make it work because he knows how much I not only want the class but need the class. (Of course the devil wasn’t happy once again.) I was learning to persist… The following Thursday my daughter got “the runs.” Not only did she get them, but it was dripping out of the side of the diaper and going through three pairs of pants from diaper leaks in two hours! I cancelled everything on my plate and gave lots of baths that day. Friday, it was just as bad. To be honest, I have no idea where it all kept coming from as she wasn’t really eating.

Sabbath morning I woke up and was planning on not going to church. As I was doing my worship (the kids were finally sleeping through my morning worship), the Cradle Roll teacher texted and asked if I was going to be there. I texted her back and said that I was thinking I didn’t want to go because of the issues with Abby for the two days before. As I wrote the text, I don’t know how to describe it — God spoke to me.

“Bitsy, You believe that I am God, right?” I was kind of surprised by the question.

“Uh, yes, Lord!”

He replied, “So you believe that I can do anything, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well you say you believe it, but you won’t act on your faith.”

I was a little confused for a minute. “But Lord, I can’t go to church; there is no shower there, and what if it’s contagious?” (Half of our congregation is older; they don’t recover so well from things like this.) “And, how am I going to sanitize a mess that is dripping down her legs and running onto the carpet, especially in the middle of church.”

So he responds. “Bitsy, you need to make a decision. You either believe I am God, and I can handle this, not to mention do anything you need — and you go to church; or, you don’t believe Me, and you sit there all day and miss out on Me showing you my power. Not to mention not allowing Me to build your faith in Me, which you are always asking me to do. So, what are you going to do?”

Talk about a slap in my face! But, He made it clear the way that I have always wanted Him to. So, I decided to go. When I did, Abby woke up and came out. “Mommy, I’m poopy!” I, in my still lacking faith, looked in her diaper. He had already answered my request! So, we went to church.

It’s hard to be like a little child, but each day I am reminded of the trust that we are supposed to have in our relationships with Christ. The trust that my children model to me helps me to understand more of what I am supposed to be like toward Christ. The issue I see is that I need to be emotionally connected to Christ in order for my children to be emotionally connected to me. How do we achieve that? I am still learning that myself. However, here are a few tips that I have found, both for becoming emotionally connected to my children and to my Heavenly Father.

1. Take time… Take time to pray, even if it doesn’t feel like it works. Believe it will. Take time to have devotions and to have quiet time focusing on God. This is totally exhausting to do as a mom of little ones, but it is a huge blessing in dealing not only with life but with marriage and parenting as well. Try to cut out the nonessentials. Make your number one priority your children. Then, pray for the strength to keep it that way. God has really impressed upon me that their relationship with us and theirs with Christ are the only things we get to take to Heaven with us. We have a huge role to play in the bringing up of our children, and if we ask, He will provide the strength to fulfill that promise.

It is so hard to reprioritize, but over the last several months God has helped me to see the most important priority is my children, and to be quite honest, I have had to pray that He will change my heart and help me to enjoy being with my children. (They have been so challenging that I am ashamed to admit I have wanted to be done with parenting.) As I have prayed daily for the last three weeks, and have been focusing on Him, He is giving me His grace to change; and I, in spite of our challenges, am starting to enjoy the precious moments with my kids. In fact I am taking time daily to spend time with them and emotionally connect. As I spend this time emotionally connecting with them, I am also finding that the problems we are having are getting easier. He truly fixes all things if we are patient and willing to submit to Him.

2. Pray over each of your children… If Daddy can also do this, it is a special blessing. Pray to claim promises for them. Every night before they go to sleep, I go in to tuck the kids into bed. I am so tired when it comes to bedtime, that we do worship and they get into bed. I put my hand on my child, and I pray individually with them. I claim Jer. 29:11, and if there is something they are particularly strugging with, I claim promises that help with that. Since I started that three weeks ago, the kids will not go to sleep without it, and they both have a hard time being patient and waiting their turn. There is comfort in knowing someone is praying for you.

3. Focus on little things… Focus on the little things that are done right, that the kids need encouragement in, or that they might need a little extra help in. There is a reason that God says the little things are important. This is because the big things are built up of little things. Notice the little things that your kids do to try to please you. Take the time to teach them the little things that are so often overlooked. When they see that you are happy with the little things they do, then they will realize that in their work and their play, their desire will be to help us and please us.

4. Be thankful... We have started a blessing book, and each morning and evening with worship we all say three things we’re thankful for. It’s amazing the happiness that it has brought into our house. I read a quote and I wish I had written it down, but I didn’t. Anyway, it says by counting the blessings the Lord has bestowed on us, we are building faith in Him. I want my children to have a firm foundation of faith in the Lord.

5. Take His word at face value and believe what He says… Sometimes it seems so challenging yet way too simple. Being children of God is a real challenge. Each day we have to wake up and truly believe that He has our back. Because of how things may look or how badly things go that day, it’s often hard to understand how He has our back. However, He promises that He does, and we must trust Him in spite of our feelings. If we ask He will show us what we need to learn from each situation, and sometimes He even tells us about the prevention of things we may not have been aware of.

6. Be vulnerable… This is the hardest part for us as humans, each day struggling to go through without having to be vulnerable…without having to reveal the challenges, struggles, and pain we are experiencing…without showing our children what our hearts are actually dealing with and the fact that most of the time we are feeling the same way they are, but we just won’t admit it. As I have started to show them how I handle the struggles I am dealing with, they are learning and open and asking about the struggles they are having. They are asking me how to handle things, and are interested in being led by me. They are beginning to understand that on the outside we look like adults, but sometimes on the inside we really feel the same way we did as little kids. It helps them to see we really do care. Remembering that we are all in this battle together helps a lot. And, I am starting to allow my children to respectfully say, “Mommy, do you need to have some time with Jesus?” That helps me to know that I am not being Christlike and I need to surrender to Him.

As we press forward this next few weeks, my prayer is that God will open our eyes and help us to see the things we need to cut out and the things we need to add, and help us to see things we can implement in faith to connect more emotionally to our Lord and Savior and to our families and all of our relationships.

My Vow to Train Up a Child

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As many of you know, we recently relocated to a new town. It is a very rural area; I guess you can say country. Our reason for moving from our former comfort zone had to do with my middle daughter desiring to join the choir at Great Lakes Adventist Academy, which meant she would need to desert the past 11 years of her homeschool life and begin attending Academy, a decision my husband and I prayed heavily about. We made the decision that she would attend as a village student, thus the move. We have been here a little over a month and I am beginning (once more) to sense my race. I hate to have to write about such a subject, but in the past 12 or so years, it has clearly become my reality. As I grapple with the thought that this issue is quite prevalent in the Christian church, it grieves my heart.

While this is a very true reality, not only in the past few churches we’ve attended and now in our new community, I have determined in my heart that my children will not be subject to such an ungodly mentality; the thinking that forces them to believe that because one is of a different color, race, or nationality, that some how they are inferior. I never want my children to think that God is a respecter of persons. If Jesus does not consider us less-than if our pigment shade has added melanin, then why should we? I do not allow my children to refer to people as white or black, Asian or Hispanic. They are allowed to describe people as tall, short, young, older, red hair, blue shirt, thick eyebrows, etc.

I realize that our perception of people begins from the cradle. Babies do not emerge from the womb knowing any difference in skin tone or race. I realize I have a solemn responsibility to train my children right, to make sure they know and understand that God died on that cruel cross for all man; red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight.

And, though I am concluding in my own mind that this may be a thorn I will have to contend with until Christ returns, I will be certain that my children will always treat their fellow man as Christ would have them treat him. They will not see color, but the heart, the character, the soul.

I purpose to have many conversations about what they may experience in this life, and the very real fact that in this world of sin, they may be thought of as different because of their golden tone, but that that is no indication of how Christ thinks of them. They will know that though they may be treated differently because of the extra tight curly texture of their hair, that this in no way lessens Christ’s love for them. They will be confident of their value and worth in God’s eyes, though others may see them as odd, strange, or uncommon.

With God’s grace, I will do my best to relay to my children their infinite significance in the heart of a God who left the royal courts of a perfect Heaven to come to a sin-ladened, pitiful, wicked planet to save — even them.

That Moment When

I remember when my oldest child, Ethan, who is now 17 years old, was a tiny thing and I thought about everything I was going to teach him. I was going to do it right, too, I tell you!

I’d armed myself with all my books by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Books like Better Late Than Early and the annotated version School Can Wait, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, Home Grown Kids, and many more.

I was ready!

To WAIT!

And, wait I would. Because I wasn’t going to force my children to learn to read.

Then, while I was waiting, Ethan did something unexpected.

He taught himself to read.

But, seriously! The only thing I did, quite selfishly, was purchase a LeapPad for him to play with in the car. In fact, I wouldn’t let him play it anywhere else other than in the car because I didn’t want him to a) lose the parts (there were books and cartridges that went together) and thus have nothing to do in the car, or b) get bored with it and thus have nothing to do in the car.

After playing with the books, he would ask me these questions – out of the blue – like, “Mom? Why don’t you pronounce both these letters [referring to vowels]?” Pointing to the A and the E in the word SAVE.

“Oh, that’s because the second vowel is silent so that the first says its name.”

Several days later, he’d challenge, “Mom? This word doesn’t follow the rules,” pointing to the word SIGHT. “The letter I says its name even though there’s only one [vowel].”

“Nope,” I’d answer. “That’s because there’s another rule that says…”

Or, “I guess that one breaks the rules,” in the case of most of the sight words.

We walked our way through the phonics rules in this manner — me explaining one, Ethan identifying either one that followed a new rule or a rule breaker. That’s what he called them, “rule breakers.”

And, just like that he was reading! Before the age of six! By not-quite-eight years old, he was reading chapter books.

Boy, did I think I was good.

Actually, I kind of felt like a fraud at this homeschooling thing. I was supposed to be teaching him, but instead he was managing quite well without me.

In retrospect, I was so glad that he was my first child and not Lowell.

Lowell was a completely different story.

Lowell wasn’t reading by the time he was eight. He showed no aptitude by the time he was 10. At 12, I started second-guessing myself, second-guessing my methods. And then I would look at my son who, had he attended traditional school, would have been diagnosed as having ADD/ADHD, SPD, with Asperger’s and dyslexia.

And, instead of being labeled, instead of believing himself to be “disabled” or stupid or a whole host of other less-formal labels, my son was a little oblivious — blissfully oblivious to what others thought of him. I was the one who fielded questions or looks from those who thought he should have been reading long before then.

My poor mother was almost beside herself. She’s a very in-the-box thinker, and she was not so certain about this whole homeschooling thing, at least not the way I was going about it. Unschooling, indeed!

And then one day…he was reading.

I don’t know how it happened. It wasn’t because I sat him down and worked with a curriculum. It wasn’t any one specific thing I did. Except that I waited.

I waited for him to find a reason to learn to read. And write. They came hand in hand since his motivation to read – and write – resulted from playing games on a server with his friends. The only way they could communicate was by a rudimentary instant messenger program.

My oldest daughter, four years younger than my youngest son, wasn’t reading at the age of six, or eight.

This child! Oh, I have to laugh. THIS child was the one that the other homeschooling mom at our church — one of the leaders — had to corral and explain to her that it made homeschoolers look bad when she went around announcing that she didn’t read because she was homeschooled!

My kids are long on confidence, short on nuance.

And so I waited with her too. Of course, it didn’t help that our youth pastor’s wife is a fifth-grade school teacher…who doesn’t appreciate the fact that my children are late readers…and that I do nothing about it.

Waiting has had a different feel to it this time. It feels a little like a subtle chess game punctuated with awkward silences where conversations aren’t had. Even when it’s just she and I, standing there, pretending that we aren’t not crazy about each other. It’s the silence instead of the “Good morning,” or “Happy Sabbath.” It’s dodging into rooms off hallways and seeing her do the same.

And, I smile. Because fundamentally, I know that she believes strongly in what she does. And, I know that I do too. I guess as long as I avoid the pitched battle, I should be thankful, no?

Until one day, my daughter knew how to read. Just like that. No fuss, no muss.

I used to tease this daughter, “Wait a minute. You can’t be texting. You don’t know how to read!”

Predictably, she would just roll her eyes, smile, and say, “Oh mom…”

I have one last girl child who is almost 10 years old. She’s not reading.

Since we now live in a neighborhood replete with little girls her age and younger who are all reading with ease, she’s made lots of noise about wanting to learn how to read. And so, I do what I’ve done with all my children. I encourage her. I purchase reading programs, just like I did with Ethan all those years ago. And, I’m not above bribery!

I’ve told Laurie that once she learns to read, I’ll start her in voice lessons. She was interested and excited for precisely one day.

I guess I’m just sitting here writing with a firm knowing in my chest that, one day, I’ll look up and this girl child will be holding a baby of her own. She’ll start on a journey where she’ll decide to allow her children to learn at home. Or she’ll homeschool them. Or they’ll head off to school each morning.

But, one thing I know: She’ll be reading long before then.

And, I’ll wait. I’m not in a hurry.

A couple of months ago, I took the kids with my mom up into the mountains to look at the fall colors. We went over a pass called “Guanella Pass” just outside Denver.

As we were driving, Mom and I were chatting about the name, wondering if it were an early explorer to our state.

“Lowell. Google it on your phone.”

Several moments later, he began reading about the history of the area.

In that moment, I had one of those times of clarity. I liken it to the commercials where the action stops. The man or woman has leapt in the air during a rainstorm and everything freezes. The raindrops hang suspended as does the main character in the scene.

Suddenly the camera swings around to a different perspective — from the side and behind to directly in front — and a second later the action continues.

I had one of those moments, with my mom, lately a believer, and my three younger children driving along a pretty mountain pass.

“Mom,” I said quietly as Lowell paused mid-sentence, “Lowell’s reading.”