Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

We have all heard the saying, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” However, in this last couple of weeks, God has been bringing me into a new understanding of this saying. First of all, does this saying have a negative connotation or is this saying indeed implying a blessing? I am beginning to switch my paradigm from the first to the latter, and I’m so grateful God is still working on my heart and mind.

My kids (six and three) were playing in the living room while I was packing one morning last week. My son, being older, was not happy with the way his sister was playing and started to “recite” the Ten Commandments. Now to be completely honest with you, up to this point in our lives, I have had to struggle to spend time with the kids and speak of Christ in every situation. My husband has had to work long hours just to make ends meet, and I have often had to take on side work just to be able to feed everyone. My kids do not know the Ten Commandments, but we listen to them as often as I remember to play them. I couldn’t help but chuckle in this instance. I don’t remember what Elijah was unhappy about; however, I do remember him saying, “The commandments say, you shouldn’t lie, so you need to stop doing [whatever it was she was doing].

I had to laugh (to myself of course), because what she was doing had nothing to do with lying, but to him, he felt like saying that would pack more punch to solving her behavior than if he didn’t. (I saw the “I’m better than you” attitude of pride come out and that is a struggle for me, but at that moment, Christ came in and whispered in my ear. “You know ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’? Let me teach you about the Rod.”

“He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently,” Proverbs 13:24.

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him,” Proverbs 22:15.

“For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatsoever passes under the Rod, the tenth one shall be holy unto the Lord,” Leviticus 27:32.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” Psalm 23:4.

So we see the rod being both comfort and also correction. Can we correct and discipline our kids in a way that they will feel comforted and yet still change their ways?

I have to study it more; however, I want to pose to you this question and this challenge.

“This know also, that in the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient, to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more then lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, ed away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs was. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, affiliations, which came unto me at Antioch, at lconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things, which thou hast learned; and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works,” 2 Timothy 3.

May I make the suggestion that the Rod in scripture can be replaced with the Word of Scripture. When we see the areas in which our children are struggling with sin, and we teach them how to claim promises, stand on scripture, and memorize scriptures having to do with the specific area that they are struggling in, not only do we give them the tools for dealing with and overcoming sin, but we give them a foundation for what they believe in that can never be shaken.

My prayer in this next month is that Christ will give all of us the strength, time, and wisdom to discern the faults in our children, and that He will lead us to the verses that will allow our children to overcome.

 

Outdoor Activities You Can Fall For

My boys are outdoor country boys through-and-through! They wake up and beg to go outside before breakfast is warm and table is set. We coax them into waiting until their bellies are full (and mom and dad are dressed), and in the summer we have to debate about the usefulness of clothes on a young boy as well. When fall swings around, there is no damper on the boys’ excitement for the outdoors, but we do have to change the experience slightly.

Less Sun, Still Fun?

The sunny, warm summers meant the boys could run free morning, noon, and night. They’d come in the house with crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, roly-polies, caterpillars, lady bugs, frogs, lizards, and handfuls of other cringe-worthy organisms. They knew just where to look to find the best critters.

When fall comes around the leaves die, the tiny bugs and reptiles seem to hide, the wind is cold, and the boys grow…bored. Where we used to coax them into staying inside during the hottest parts of the day, now we have to convince them there is something worth finding outside after the first run of the morning. We don’t get much snow in even the deepest months of winter, but in October? Nothing but gusty, brown cold. Mom and Dad have to put on their thinking caps when the seasons change.

Routine, Routine, Routine

The R-word is one I hate, and I’m not fond of that word either. The only thing routine about our family is the places we go through the week at the same time every week: church, taekwando, Celebrate Recovery, my mom’s, repeat. During the winter, if we don’t slip outdoor play into our daily routine, it just won’t happen.

This year I’ll be talking a lot about practical life schooling, which is my focus in my homeschooling with my boys. They’re using an online curriculum for their main academics, which means Mom’s role is practical life application. Part of the challenge will be to include outdoor activities during cold months!

Practical Outdoor Play Made Easy 

First, make sure you know what your kid likes to do outside, how they like to learn, and how they burn their tiny-human energy. If it’s looking for critters (spatial, logical), then maybe they’d also like to look for other forms of wildlife — or proof of wildlife (nests, scratches, tracks, droppings). If your kid likes to dig in the dirt (kinesthetic), maybe he or she would also like to stack firewood, rake leaves — and jump into them — and paint a fence.

Here is my list for this October/November:

  1. Yard Work: Clearing trash, brush, weeds, leaves away so that next year our yard can flourish (and we can enjoy the snow more thoroughly this winter).
  2. Nature Hikes: To find nuts, nests, bones, turtle shells, etc., that point to life in the woods. Also bird-watching is fun this time of year because some leave, and others arrive.
  3. Building and Maintaining a Bird Feeder: Build a bird house or feeder for those winter birds that stick around. Let the kids photograph the birds and make a book that they can add to as seasons change.
  4. Stacking Firewood: Mainly because the kids unstacked our firewood this summer, playing, they can stack it this fall. Discuss fire, responsibility, safety, and gain a little exercise.
  5. Fun Play Ideas: Dodgeball, catch, freeze tag, Olympic competitions, leaf/finger painting, and an internet’s worth of other outdoor activities to choose from.
  6. Star Gazing: I don’t know one kid that doesn’t like a bonfire on a fall night. This is a great time to star gaze with your students. If you have a telescope of your own: BONUS. If you don’t, your local library may have some to check out.
  7. Local Nature Excursions: Our regional Nature Center has fantastic programs, and many specific to homeschoolers. They also have backpacks full of themes activities for two-week check-out. If you live near to a nature center, conservation area, or zoo, there are many similar programs for homeschoolers. Also, many regions have fairs, fall festivals, and orchards with regular programing.
  8. Camping: My family loves to camp, and unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity this summer. So we’re planning one fall campout before the weather turns too cold for our littles. If you are a camping family, plan ahead, and choose a camping area that has some educational programming during you stay.
  9. Have Fun: Your outdoor play may not be part of your specific schooling, but it is part of staying healthy! Set an example by spending time outdoors, and do something you love to do outdoors. Your enthusiasm will show.
  10. Include Others: Activities can be more fun when you include people you enjoy to hang out with. Spend time outside, then come in for some hot cocoa and popcorn by the fire.

Manners in Today’s World


One day at the grocery store, when I was pregnant with our little H, Ollie and I were perusing each aisle, making sure I wasn’t missing anything on my list (swollen feet really don’t like retracing steps). As I walked and he snacked in the cart, we came across two older women who were flipping through their coupon books in the middle of the aisle. I kindly said, “Excuse us, please?” and they smiled and stepped aside. Soon after we came across them again, and before I could say anything, my then two-year-old spoke up: “Excuse us, please?” The looks and praise these women gave my son and me were something I’ll never forget… They began to swoon over my little boy right then and there. They gave him praise for his sweetness and gave me a “You’re a great mom!” compliment. Every time we passed them in an aisle, my son would pipe up again with “Excuse us, please!” just to get the same excited reaction out of these ladies.

I realized soon after, not many kids are polite in this day and age. Not many gestures of please, thank you, excuse me, or even sorry cross kid’s lips — but they don’t cross the parent’s lips either. That’s why these women fawned over him so much, why they praised his little gentleman manners, why they told me I was doing a great job as a mother. It’s the reason why when our son’s friends, who attend school, come home yelling at their parents, swearing like little mini sailors, that our son looks at them with a slight judgment at only the ripe age of (almost) three. I must admit, I do too. Parents barely bat an eye or attempt to correct the behavior; they say, “Oh, they learned it from their friends at school.” It’s why I always need to have a talk with Ollie after playdates on why we don’t say certain things or act a certain way. He simply nods and says something innocent like “That’s a bad word” or “That’s a no-no.”

I have had serious conversations with some of my friends that claim they are embarrassed by their own kids. They hate to go out in public or to another person’s house because of how their kids act. I then hear the words that upset me: “I wish they were more like your kids.” I cringe when I hear this; it pains my heart because no one should wish their child to be like anyone else’s, nor should the child hear those frustrated words of desperation.

At a friend’s graduation party, a professor and I struck up a conversation that soon found its way to the topic of my boys. He was amazed at Ollie’s level of knowledge, and was even more enthusiastic when I mentioned we had chosen to homeschool him. He nodded with a huge smile, “I can always tell the difference when a student enters my class who has been homeschooled rather than meandering through the system. The homeschooled kids are always on top of their work, need little direction, and are so polite!” He claimed that parents with kids in the school system tended to rely on the school to correct their kids’ bad behaviors. They relied on the school to play parent and teacher when education should be their only role, not behavior as well. Kids that were homeschooled tended to have an all around grasp on what’s to be expected, not only in manners but also in school; the parents had combined the two, manners and education, into one and formed a “proper contribution to society.” I listened to this professor discuss how much he admired homeschooled students over the rest, and how many of his colleagues were in agreement.

His words rang true to my ears. I don’t believe homeschooled children are better or worse than the children in the public school systems. Teaching morals and behavior is all up to the parents, not the school. Your own morals and behavior are yours to pass on to your children, and expecting the schools to do it won’t amount to anything. Our kids are growing up in an ever evolving society where bullying is an unfortunate constant. With social media it’s harder and harder for kids to escape a situation they don’t want to be a part of. Do you remember the old saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never break me? I wish it were true… It all comes back to us as parents to bestow the morals and behaviors needed to better our society, one kid at a time. Parenting isn’t easy, and in this day and age, parents rely on the schools more then they should for raising children into well-mannered adults.

And, that is one of the (many) reasons as to why we chose to homeschool our kids. We see it every day with friends and their kids. How rude, immoral, and lost these children are in a world lacking some resemblance of a religion — struggling to grow into good, well-rounded individuals. Some parents have it handled and we praise them, but most…well, we love playdates, but also become exhausted from explaining over and over to our son why we don’t swear, why we don’t throw things or hit. The school isn’t teaching our kids to be good adults; they’re too busy trying to educate them. Good children, religious or not, would become devoured in a system full of kids who aren’t brought up in a household where there is a foundation of principles. These influences would add up, would change our sons, would change their perception of life and morals.

We don’t want to shield them from the world, but would like to prepare them for it; to guard their hearts and their minds, but teach them to respect others and their beliefs; to teach them that respect isn’t given freely, it is earned; to teach them to accept those around them, and understand that no one is like them; and, to not let bullies win at the end of the day in any form. God chose these boys to be ours, just like He chose for you and your kid(s). You’re put in a position now to raise them to be honest, well-mannered individuals. Don’t rely on the schools, don’t rely on anyone else to teach them the things they need to learn from you. Don’t fear the world, but be prepared to help them enter it. 

Satan will do everything he can to devour any child of God. He’ll use their peers, media, and life in general to attack them. It’s absolutely terrifying! But, this is why you have a God who is even more terrifying, who is even more powerful, loving, and grand then anyone you or your kids will face — and He’s on our side. Don’t lose heart with teaching your children in school, life, or religion; don’t let the devil creep in and place doubt. Homeschooling is tough, we have our good days, our bad days, but when that moment comes when your kids say “Excuse us, please?” to some kind ladies, you’ll realize really quickly, you’re doing an amazing job, God is helping you, and His Holy Spirit is putting down roots in your kid’s hearts.

Taking Care of Everyone…But you?

As we begin a new homeschool chapter, I have been chewing on what my first blog post of the year should focus on. I have many ideas for the future, but the one thing that keeps coming back to me is this — how is mom holding up?

Some of us are “seasoned” homeschoolers, whatever that means. Some of us are just starting out. I think I am in the “half-baked” stage — not done yet, and so I still need some more seasoning. So much to learn, and at times I feel like I need to unlearn some things so that I can have more flavor in our school. Life would be pretty boring if every family school consisted of the same ingredients. It’s something to chew on.

But, as we begin a new year, I am reminded of mom. Most likely, you are the principal teacher in your homeschool. I realize there are exceptions, and I’m not trying to exclude anyone; if this applies to you as dad, grandma, or whomever, then take it to heart. I know it applies to moms.

As teaching moms, we get excited about new projects, new curriculum, methods of teaching, craft supplies, fun field trips, and the list goes on and on, doesn’t it? We drive our troops to music lessons, practices, clubs, counseling sessions, play dates, Bible studies, birthday parties, service opportunities, jobs, and Grandma’s, not to mention the hours at the table, in the garden, reading on the sofa, or in the woods taking nature walks. And then, there’s often a husband who has needs and expectations too! But, what about you, homeschooling mom? How do you meet your needs? How do you avoid burning the midnight oil to get everything done? How do you avoid burning out because you’re so busy doing good for everyone else that you forget about your own needs?

As I sit here on a Friday afternoon, reminding myself to guzzle more water to battle a nagging UTI, I just want to encourage you — not because I have it all together as a home educator, but because I see a genuine need in all mothers who tend to take on too much. My words to you are these: It is not selfish to take care of your own physical needs. Your family needs you, and you are very much aware of that. But, they need you healthy. They need you cheerful, and that’s very difficult to pull off when you’ve stayed up until midnight again. How do I know this? Well, because I’m living it! We are instructed to teach our children cause-effect relationships. But, we have to be real with ourselves and realize that bedtime is not just for babies; our bodies need water; and a little exercise and fresh air will do wonders for our attitudes as moms, just as much as for our children.

Home educating is no joke! It’s not a tea party, and despite what some will think, we do much more than just sit around and do crafts with our children! We have real stresses. We worry about our children’s attitudes and characters — a LOT! We wonder about their futures, and wonder if we are doing it all right, because we don’t have a second chance. Often as we take on all of those unknowns, we find ourselves running around to grab at any perceived learning opportunity, maybe even to the detriment of our peace of mind.

So, what is the answer?

I can only share with you what I am learning myself on this enjoyable, yet, exhausting road. These tips are not in any particular order, except for the first one.

  1. We as home educators absolutely need our time with God! I find that I can get so edgy and driven with my children if I don’t have the softening influence of the Holy Spirit for myself! And, praying for my family particularly helps me to look at them differently. Sometimes I wake up late, in a rush, and find that mid-morning, or sooner, I have to go close myself in my closet with the Lord to regain my perspective, and to just cry out to Him for help. Satan will capitalize on any chink in our armor, so putting on the full armor is so important! This is truly the best gift we can give to our children and husbands — a heart that has met with Jesus and surrendered, so that when we deal with them, we will treat them with grace.
  2. Sleep. I can’t say how much you need, but I know when I need more of it! That’s when I get irritable about little things, feel like weeping over trifles, and start to feel fuzzy in my head the next day. I have gone through times when literally every time I sit down to read with my kiddos, I knock out. A little more sleep is needed! For me, practically, this means putting school away in the evenings; logging off of Facebook, even when I am reading helpful, school-related information; and heading to the bed around a half an hour before I need to be in bed. This is because, inevitably, there will be distractions along the path, such as clothes that I need to put away, something I needed to write down, or catch-up with my husband that needs to happen. This is a real struggle for me, but little by little I am seeing that I gain much more than I lose when I get to bed on time. Even Jesus as our Creator didn’t keep going — He rested after creating our world, and He took time away, even though all of the work was not done while He was on Earth!
  3. Water—don’t forget it! That’s pretty self-explanatory, but overlooked. When our brains get dehydrated, they don’t think well, and irritation also pops out! Consider this article on dehydration and mood swings, and this one too. This is one good reason for us to drink water ourselves, and to strongly encourage our students to drink theirs regularly! We drink water before breakfast, and I have to stop and remind everyone to take drinks throughout the day! One thing that works for us is to fill up a large jar with the minimum ounces that I want them to drink; then they have until bedtime to drink it. This helps them to see how much they’ve had so far, and how much more they need to drink.
  4. Time for You!  I don’t mean time away all of the time, because who really can do that, but just little snatches of time that serve to refresh your tired mind. I have a little shelf in our bathroom that I keep a small Bible and two encouraging books. My refresher often takes place behind that closed door! Even just a few verses or half a page during the midst of a busy day means a lot to me. I try to keep a book there that is specifically for me, such as another homeschooling mom telling her journey. It’s a reminder to me that I am not alone, and that there is help for every emergency!
  5. A walk out in nature can also be a great way to refresh, and this is a great way to break up the school day!  We often just stop mid-morning to jog/walk out to the mailbox or pond, and we come back more energized. Sometimes I or my Type A son resist this intrusion into our “plan” of getting something done, but we both need it and are never sorry that we choose to take a nature break.
  6. Pick and choose! No one can do it all! There is no way we can attend every church function, field trip, play date, birthday party, hobby, or music opportunity — or even, dare I say it, every service opportunity! If we are pursuing that quiet, simple life which will do so much for our children’s characters, we are told me must be much at home! This, frankly, is overwhelming to me, and yet freeing!  Overwhelming, because I want to provide many good things for my children; freeing, because I see that the best thing that they need is my love, attention, and time! A weakness in our family is believing that we can do too many things for others, and forgetting that we need to say no to even good things so that we may do our first task by our own fireside. So, we need to pray that God will show us our first priorities, and then add other things as they do not take away from those.

“The family circle is the school in which the child receives its first and most enduring lessons. Hence parents should be much at home. By precept and example, they should teach their children the love and the fear of God; teach them to be intelligent, social, affectionate, to cultivate habits of industry, economy, and self-denial. By giving their children love, sympathy, and encouragement at home, parents may provide for them a safe and welcome retreat from many of the world’s temptations,” Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 65.2.

We have a high calling. We yearn for much as we think of our children and their futures! And, we have the promise that God will lead us in every endeavor. With this knowledge, let us as mothers step back a bit and let God do what He has promised He would do!

My favorite Bible text is this one:

“And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children,” Isaiah 54:13.

Be kind to yourselves, mothers, so that you can keep doing the great work that you are called to do!

Exploring a New Year…

 

The most frequent response I get when I tell people I homeschool has been, “Wow, I don’t have the patience for that,” or “You must be a very patient person!” My answer is that it takes a lot of patience to parent. Homeschooling isn’t that different, just extended.

One thing that has really helped me to be patient in our homeschool has been to remember my children are people first. When I remember that they are people, I can be more compassionate. Jesus told us to “let the little children come to Him” in a time when children were thought to be a nuisance and in the way. Things haven’t changed much in that aspect. Adults tend to want children to do what they are told, when they are told to do it, how they are told to do it. In fact, when I was a young girl if I was told to jump, the reaction expected was to ask “how high” as I was starting to jump.

One of the blessings of homeschooling our children is that they are able to develop their own sense of identity…except we don’t always appreciate that independence when it comes against us. It is possible to harness that independence, to use it to enhance their educational experience.

I don’t want a carbon copy of me. It would certainly be easier to predict their desires, interests, and actions, but it would be boring. My sons have different interests, different life goals, and they are still discovering them. My job is to help them discover their path in life, to discover God’s calling on his life. When I remember this, it puts life, and school, into perspective.

Our homeschool journey includes exposing the children to many different options. Sometimes we do weird, crazy things to explore those options. We’re often researching topics of interest, no matter how strange they may seem to be. You can use all of those options to teach all of the subjects needed. We’re stepping into junior high this year, and that makes it a transition year… It’ll be an interesting journey as we move forward.

My advice as we move into a new school year: Don’t be afraid to throw out the books sometimes and explore the weird things in life. Let the kids find their own passions and use those passions to teach what they need to know to succeed in life. Get hands on, and discover what’s available in your community to reach your child’s interests. Forget about the path you had planned, and let them discover their own.