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.”

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.