Growing Roots, Bearing Fruit

This year we are homeschooling a kindergartener. In typical classrooms we would be teaching our son, at five-almost-six years old, how to read. In reality, from a sensorimotor perspective we started to teach him to read a long time ago.

We read books together.

We visit the library together so he gets an idea of the reading opportunities available.

We bought him a balance bike when he was two-and-a-half years old.  

My son mastered how to ride his balance bike by four years old. In fact he was so good at riding it, he wore it out before he turned five. This spring his cousin took 30 minutes sharing her bike with him, and I received a video of my son riding a bike with pedals, no training wheels. There are specific neurological areas of development that need to occur, and skills that need to be mastered before a child is ready to read. Learning how to ride a bike with pedals, no training wheels, is one of those neurological skills which points to readiness. These are areas as parent-teachers we can and have supported.

There is one thing that we are waiting on. My son hasn’t expressed the desire to read yet.

There are many things that I want to try to see if they help him learn to read. I have sensory ideas. I have ideas for learning to read outside. I have ideas for including grandparents, cousins, siblings in learning to read. Until my son is interested in reading, though, I keep finding ways to make reading interesting, and to focus on his sensorimotor development. We are also taking steps to help our younger son start to learn how to read. This spring he started riding his first balance bike. 

From a developmental point of view, these are foundational neurological pieces that are stepping stones to advanced academic skill. The end goal of course is for the student to experience the “fruit” of their academic labor, demonstrated by sustained attention, cognitive reflection, and the ability to memorize and recall information. There are sensorimotor skills that are needed first to strongly root a child through practice, experience, and relationship that the child will need to understand abstract academic skills. An article I read in The Atlantic, “An Unfinished Quest in Education,” discussed how children going into school, but lacking sensorimotor experiences, has made it more challenging for them to learn. As parents in a homeschool setting, we have the opportunity to provide sensorimotor experiences as part of their learning, and introduce specific learning skills as a child needs them.

In younger years children benefit from shared experiences — which can really be as simple as reading or cooking together, to build the relationship between parent who is also teacher, and child who is also student — and lots of time to play. In older childhood and especially adolescence, when a student is stuck, having the experience working through challenges together will be helpful in working through abstract academic skills.

Things to watch out for are signs of a behavior, relational, or emotional imbalance (mental health problems or concerns). There are often interventions a parent can put in place at home. Sometimes the family may benefit from guidance of a mental health professional who can provide support for the parents, the child, and the whole family.

Throughout this school year, I’ll provide ideas on how to help a child’s neurological “roots” to flourish, because this is the hard work, the work that leaves me wondering if I’m preparing my child appropriately. This is the work I need support on, and where I want to provide the support to other parents. The very activities we choose could influence our children for a lifetime. We are shaping our son’s interest in reading, interest in exercise, and his relationship with us and learning. There is a lot going on right now that isn’t evident, but is just as important — or maybe more important — as the “fruit” of academic learning.

Reference: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/06/an-unfinished-quest-in-education/486074/

Maturing the Parent, Teaching the Child

Here we are at the beginning of our homeschooling journey. Our oldest is starting kindergarten. We have a lot of ideas about homeschooling, what we want our children to experience during this journey, and how we will get there. However, to borrow from Stephen Covey, we are going to “begin with the end in mind.”

Our curriculum for this year is Destinations. My husband and I went through the process of identifying our goals for educating our children. We identified 28 goals that are important to us, and seven overall goals that will be the focus of the work we do. The other 21 goals will secondary, or tertiary, and we will document on them when we notice them, but they aren’t the priority goals. I look at our goals, and think this will be harder than I thought. We aren’t simply focusing on the tasks of learning, like reading, mathematics, and writing. We want our children to live these goals, with our ultimate success knowing that our children have a personal walk with God.  As parents we also have to learn how to model the actions we want our children to imitate, because they do imitate us already.

When it comes to being parent-teachers, we get to work together on the expectations we have, our parents have, and others in our support system might have for the education experience of our children. The education process has reinforced the notion of teamwork. At the same time, my husband taking a primary role in educating our children challenges societal norms. Sometimes these challenges are easily overcome. Other times the challenges take some time to work through. Educating a child becomes as much about the maturing of the parent, refining routines, learning or relearning skills, and being or becoming the type of person we want our children to imitate…as it is about teaching a child. Having education goals keeps us from being pulled in too many directions, and allows us as parents to intentionally model what we want our children to imitate — even as they imitate many other actions that we aren’t intending to model.

For educational learning specifically, we follow a Montessori approach right now, a hands-on method where the children are able to interact with their environment without specific direction. We provide different opportunities for learning. We know which learning tasks that are necessary such as reading, writing, and mathematics. How a child accomplishes the learning tasks will likely vary. A Montessori approach gives us the opportunity to observe our children, notice learning preferences, and let our children teach us about their own interests. The children create, problem solve, and share with us their experiences and successes. We are able to develop a relationship with our children, without focusing specifically on behavior management like sitting still, focusing, and staying on a task for a predetermined amount of time. While important skills, we can get to them at a later time. For now, it’s about modeling, observing and enjoying each other.

References:

Covey, S. R. (2013). The 7 habits of highly effective people: powerful lessons in personal change. London: Simon & Schuster.

Dickerson, E. (n.d.). Check These Out:. Retrieved September 04, 2017, from http://showcase.netins.net/web/nurture/

Tools that Work

happychildren

Over the course of the last several months, I have started a journey that in the middle may seem uncertain; however, the destination is certainly worth the struggle. It’s leading my family to the gates of Heaven. Each day is a struggle and I get frustrated, discouraged, and sometimes even depressed, but I also understand it is growing me, fitting me, and moulding me into His character, and that is the greatest gift I can ever wish to have. Not only is it moulding me, but it’s molding my children and husband as well.

This last weekend I attended a parenting class with Cinda Osterman. If any of you ever get a chance, I totally recommend it. It was so helpful. I’m hoping to give you a quick overview of the things I have been learning that have made a difference in my interaction with my children.

I have always been excited about having kids. I was always stealing people’s babies or kids in church, and couldn’t wait until I had kids of my own. I used to think of the fun things I was going to do, and of being the fun mom I wanted to be who was always doing awesome projects, etc., with the kids, always had a clean house, and always was able to do anything and everything fun and loving for my husband. And then…reality hit. It’s been such a challenge just to keep the house walk-through-able, let alone have time for the fun arts and crafts, etc., that I had pictured we would do together.

The stuff I am sharing in this last blog is kind of a compilation of what I have compiled over the years. If you have questions or need further information, please let me know. I will be happy to share what I am learning, and although I may not have the answers, I know someone who does. 😉

I am learning first and foremost that order is a huge key to my stress level. Having less stuff is so much easier to manage and really helps with stress levels in all of us, due to my having to constantly clean a messy house. Not that it stays clean all the time now. It just isn’t that hard to clean it all up. If you struggle with getting order in your house, then please pick up the book, Oh No, It’s Sabbath Again. And I’m Not Ready, by Yara Cerna Young. Empowered Living Ministries just republished it. (If you buy it on Amazon, it will cost over $100, so I recommend the $10 from ELM.)

I also have been watching Cinda Osterman’s parenting videos. There are two different programs online. If you type her name into Vimeo it brings up four sermons. They are all very good. Also, Amazing Facts does a two-part series with her at this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuQ31Y1mjqM&t=1s The second one should come up at the side of Youtube under the “play next” tab. They are titled and subtitled in Spanish (or Portuguese — not sure which exactly), but they are spoken in English.

I have learned so much stuff from those DVDs, and God has been blessing in so many ways. I have found the last couple of weeks that the Spirit of God is moving upon His people in a mighty way, in ways I never expected Him to work.

I have been reading the chapter, “The Victory,” in the Desire of Ages for my devotions the last couple of days. I encourage you to read it yourself. It has been amazing!!! By inspiration God lines out how we ourselves are to have victory in our lives and to be able to overcome the devil. Here are some keys I have been learning.

1. We need faith. Faith is something that we have to have. For years I have struggled with the difference between faith and presumption. I have never known the difference, but God made it so clear for me in that chapter. “But faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption. For presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith. Faith claims God’s promises, and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God, and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequence of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has it’s foundation in the promises and provisions of the scriptures.” It wasn’t until I believed that God would answer my prayers and followed what He told me to do that I started seeing a difference in my children. And, to be honest, the first two weeks I determined to follow because He said He would bless, the devil really tested me to see if I was serious. I struggled for two and a half weeks with my kids. I was in tears almost every day and totally overwhelmed. But, I kept persisting and I prayed earnestly, and patiently endured the trials while looking for ways to encourage my kids to obey. I had no clue what I was doing on that path, but I knew I had to follow.

2. We need to ask. “We should not present our petitions to God to prove whether He will fulfill His word, but because He will fulfill it; not to prove that He loves us but because He loves us. Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him,” Desire of Ages, pg. 126. I am learning how to ask because He will give it to us, instead of asking to prove that He loves us. I also am learning to ask what I need because it helps me to know my vulnerability and where I need God.

3. We need to submit. What does it really mean to submit to Christ? I have always struggled as I have never known how to submit to Christ, even though I have always had an intense desire to submit to Him. Through Cinda’s meetings, I have learned some good methods to help me understand, and He is giving me the victories through these methods. Plus, it’s awesome as it totally works with kids too. There is a book called Those Juniors, by Eric B. Hare. I want a copy as I haven’t read it myself, but there is a game that He wrote that helps kids to make good decisions and to put their higher powers back into control over their minds. (I am learning even at my age how to make choices, and this game is really helping me.) There are three judges: 1) Reason (who decides good or bad); 2) Conscience (who decides right or wrong); 3) Heart’s Desire (who agrees, disagrees, or isn’t sure if he agrees with Reason and Conscience).  And then, there is King Will. King Will follows Heart’s Desire. So, if Heart’s Desire is happy with the decisions that Reason and Conscience are making, then he will go along with that. If he’s not, he won’t. If he isn’t sure, then King Will isn’t sure. So, lets say we have a situation with smoking. Reason would say smoking is bad, Conscience would decide it was wrong, Heart’s Desire (HD) would consider it wrong, and therefore King Will would go along with the decision. If we say, however, that HD disagrees with Conscience and Reason, then King Will will make the decision to smoke. When we start feeling upset or threatened and we work through this in our own lives, then we are able to recognize when we need to submit to Christ.

Submission is started by recognizing we want something different then we know God wants for us. Then we pray, and ask Him to take our heart. As we ask Him for the heart change, we believe He will preform a miracle in our lives (even if we don’t always see the results quickly, just keep believing), and we ask Him to give us His heart. Then He places grace in our hearts and gives our hearts back with the power to overcome. Sometimes it takes a while of praying before my feelings and desires change, but if I sing, pray, and claim promises, the feeling I’m struggling with will go away. At first it takes quite a bit of time. To be honest, it was 2-2 1/2 hours for me. Then, as my faith grew and I learned how to use it (I am still really new and am growing so we have good times and bad), it’s starting to take quite a bit less time. This morning when my son and I were battling, it was only a 15-minute battle, and that really helps encourage me to keep going. Each battle makes the next one a little easier and so on.

4. Submission is needed for all in the home. On this process it takes patience and loving kindness with each other. A direct yet loving approach to issues that come up is greatly needed. I have started letting my kids tell me when I am struggling to be like Christ. Yesterday my husband was at home. He didn’t realize he was struggling, and I told him very lovingly that in a matter of two hours he had undone everything I was working for that week in regard to the kids. I asked him to go and battle, and I prayed while he took some time for the Lord. He came out with a different attitude, and it helped change our family atmosphere back to where it had been earlier that morning. In order to have a family that runs the way Christ wants it to, we must each first have Christ on the throne in our hearts. You see, each time that someone has an “I” problem, that instantly brings division into the home. When everyone is submitted to Christ on a daily basis, and the I’s don’t come up, there is peace in the home. When we are free to let each other know when “I” problems surface, then the person struggling can deal with it and know that the rest of the family is praying for them. This gives the sense of being a team as everyone is moving toward the same goal of Heaven, and the family is all helping each other on their walk to the Kingdom. God works miracles and the atmosphere in our home is becoming sweeter each day.

5. We must require obedience. As Christians there is no other alternative. However in the previous generations we have lost the skill to do this in a loving Christlike manner. Narcissism is on the rise no matter where you are, and it will only continue to get worse. There is a hierarchy that God has designed in our families; it’s a law that if we unknowingly break, ignore, or disobey, we can not have the power of a Christian family witness. However, that doesn’t mean that we are to intimidate, shame, challenge, or demean our children. He must be first, parents next, kids are to submit to the parents, and the parents are not to anger their children. In fact, I go so far as to say that if we do not require obedience, our children can not be happy. Happiness only comes from obedience, whether it’s us to God or our children to us. I used to think they would willingly submit if they were shown enough love. But, that isn’t the case. We must demand their obedience. How do we do this in a loving way?

We have chosen to use the rod, rather than spanking in anger. It is something very different then a spanking. In fact may I suggest that spankings are the devil’s counterfeit for the rod? It also, once introduced, rarely needs to be used. The rod is used when rebellion is expressed. If a child refuses to do something you ask, if a child has a haughty spirit, refuses a punishment, or is in open rebellion, the rod is in order, but in a prayerful manner. I follow specific guidelines for when and how to use this method, and am happy to share further if contacted.

Children need to be taught to submit. It is very hard to demand obedience, but God blesses when we do this. It is extremely tiring and unfortunately it can be very spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting, but it is well worth the effort. And if we teach our children to submit at this early age, I believe it will take away most of the struggles that they have in their teens. As we gain control and lovingly demand the obedience of our children, they become more secure, helpful, sweeter, more confident in the skills they acquire, and more patient. Without this obedience they will not learn to submit, and they will not learn to self govern and be able to make wise decisions.

6. We need standards. Standards are very important; as God has standards with us, we need to have standards with them. When setting up standards they need to be clear and easy to understand. They need to have a positive reward for keeping the standard and a negative reward for not doing the standard. For instance, for being obedient, my child gets two marbles to put into his jar. For each six marbles he gets (one for each year of age), he can do two things. He can either choose to do one small thing (examples of ours: Mommy does his chores the next day, special time with Mommy or Daddy, choosing that night’s meal, getting a toy out of toy jail, etc.); or, he can put a sticker on the poster board with the standards we are working on, and each sticker counts for six marbles for bigger tickets like a new toy. So if he isn’t obedient (prompt, perfect, and happy) he gets the rod; if he is obedient, he gets two marbles. We only have at most four standards we are working on at a time. When starting the process I would suggest obedience being your only standard as it’s pretty overwhelming just to practice that, but well worth all of the effort. If at any time in your training you see a lack of obedience coming back in, then you will need to start back at obedience again and work that until they have conquered that again. When implementing a new standard be sure to practice the standard several times, and practice the positive and negative consequences.

7. Don’t start with the same standards every day; start each day out with new choices. If you are always starting the standards out each day, the kids never get to practice character growth. They know the standards, but they have new choices every day to decide to obey or to rebel against them that day. You can make a picture of two roads and one having a picture of heaven at the end and one with the picture of destruction. make magnets of the kid’s faces and move them along the road throughout the day. If they are battling then take them and show them they have a choice to make. Let them see that the consequences of their actions, no matter how small, always have heavier consequences than what we see at the time. Through all of these steps above, our children learn reverence for authority and ultimately reverence for God. They also understand the consequences of sin in a much more powerful way.

8. We need to be thankful. Even before we see the results of what we have asked for and believe He will do for us. We should thank Him for it. Another great chapter in the Desire of Ages is “A Touch of Faith.” It is one of my favorites. Christ wants to richly bless us, but we have to be willing to see and thank Him for what He is and has done. There was a quote stating that, “It is by thanking God for what He has done and is doing is how we build our faith in Him.” That’s amazing! But, it also helps us to have the joy of the Christian experience.

In closing, I am so thankful for you guys letting me share my journey with you and for encouraging me. I pray that I will be able through these to share some helpful tips for you guys as parenting is a challenge and one of the greatest gifts we are able to receive. My prayers go out for all of you and your families. I look forward to Christ’s soon second coming where we will all be able to meet up there on the sea of glass — finally in our Savior’s presence!

 

 

 

Benefits of the Outdoor Classroom

Here in the Netherlands two organizations worked together to promote going outside for learning by organizing an outdoor school day. They challenged schools to do at least one lesson outside on this day. We decided to join this special day with our homeschool, and we spent the whole day outside. In the morning, we went for a walk in the forest with three other homeschooling families. The afternoon we spend working and playing in our garden.

Both my children, but especially my son (three years old), love to play outside. My son often asks me, “Can I play in the garden now?” — even before breakfast or after dinner. I simply can’t say no to this. Being outside has so many benefits.

Today I want to share with you some of the benefits of playing and learning outdoors, particularly for preschoolers.

In the book Child Guidance, sister Ellen White shares with us:

  • “Next to the Bible, nature is to be our great lesson book,” Testimonies For The Church 6:185.
  • “To the little child, not yet capable of learning from the printed page or of being introduced to the routine of the schoolroom, nature presents an unfailing source of instruction and delight. The heart not yet hardened by contact with evil is quick to recognize the Presence that pervades all created things. The ear as yet undulled by the world’s clamor is attentive to the Voice that speaks through nature’s utterances. And for those of older years, needing continually its silent reminders of the spiritual and eternal, nature’s teaching will be no less a source of pleasure and of instruction,” Education, 100.
  • “The fields and hills — nature’s audience chamber — should be the schoolroom for little children. Her treasures should be their textbook. The lessons thus imprinted upon their minds will not be soon forgotten,” The Signs of the Times, December 6, 1877.

So, let’s use the outdoors for learning. The course of SonLight about the ‘ten principles of true education’ also emphasises the importance teaching in nature.

“Homeschooling is meant to be done in a natural surrounding where children learn naturally.… Teaching outside tends to quiet hyper students. At first there may be moments of distraction, but these moments will pass, or can often be turned into lessons.… Teaching outside will improve the five senses. Students will become more sensitive to seeing detail, hearing quiet sounds, smelling fragrances, feeling breezes and changes in temperature, and tasting nature through its smells. This will help develop in them a sensitivity to people, their needs… In their time of trouble to will be the little things that will help them to know how to respond to a friend or an enemy. Teaching outside offers time for personal prayer, thoughts and meditation. It offers opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak gently to students through nature.” https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B1d_dY0vFt8ffm1wVjFNQ25tUWFsWFFnT1RnZ3hCbWhHcDdodkhBZW82akg0dERfcFpDbDg?amp%3Busp=sharing

There are also multiple health benefits from playing and homeschooling outside:

  • Sunlight: the sun supplies us with vitamin D and helps with sleep-wake cycle.
  • Fresh air: indoor air is more toxic than outdoor air.
  • Exercise: it strengthens muscles and bones, and it prevents obesity.
  • Healthy eyes: spending a lot of time outside in natural light protects against nearsightedness.

And, last but not least, the influence of being outside on mental health:

  • Better cognitive performance
  • Improved attention spans
  • Better behavior and mood
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved memory
  • Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Playing together with other children encourages social development like sharing, and how to negotiate and resolve conflicts.

Adult controlled play, such as in organized sports, and free play are not interchangeable, although both are valuable. Children learn better when they regularly spread their attention or can pause.

What is your experience with the outdoor classroom? Please share how you use your outdoor classroom and how it benefits your children.

Charlotte Mason Preschool

Charlotte Mason was a huge supporter for starting formal academics later. She spoke about the benefits of short lessons, rich living books, and lots of time spent outside. I love how her method of teaching supports early childhood development. It is my goal that my early learner is in love with learning! Currently I am working with my three-year-old, and want to share what a Charlotte Mason preschool looks like in our home.

After we have morning time with my middle schoolers, I send them off to their individual studies and work with my three-year-old. We read a short Bible lesson and then do her calendar board. Some days she will play with felts or do other hands-on activities during morning time. After her Bible and calendar time, we move to her “core” work.

I found a wonderful Charlotte Mason based preschool curriculum called The Peaceful Preschool. It is a literature and project based curriculum that is letter themed. I love the rich book suggestions and gentle hands-on projects for each letter of the alphabet. These activities include read alouds, phonics, counting skills, fine and large motor skills, practical life skills, and art skills. There are 26 weeks or 52 weeks of lessons depending on how much time you want to spend on each letter.  All of the lessons are pre-planned and include a weekly grid, book, activity, and field trip suggestions. It makes it really simple and restful for me as a teacher and offers flexibility for my child’s interests.

I chose to spend two weeks per letter so that we could move slowly through her learning. I love that I can add in my own manipulatives, activities, and books as we go along, depending on her interests.

Along with her letter themed activities, we are also learning about nature study. The Charlotte Mason method of education has a strong focus on time spent outside and in nature study. We love to go on walks; play in the dirt; and spot birds, flowers, and plants, and then learn about them. These nature activities can also be tied into the letter themes to round out their learning.

One thing to remember about early learning is that it doesn’t have to be fast-paced with lots of formal learning. Children learn through play, enriching books, simple activities, and lots of nature time. Keep it simple, let them grow within their developmental abilities, and provide a loving environment.