Sheltering With Purpose

I hear it all the time when I talk about growing up in the country: “Your parents must’ve sheltered you!” It’s as common as “The S Word” when someone hears that I homeschool my kids. The truth is, I might have been “sheltered,” but I don’t think my parents did it by accident. I think it was purposeful. I think they had a determination to teach me things, prepare me for things, keep me safe. That’s different than sheltering.

At risk of sounding like a crazy chicken lady, I will stop beating around the bush. We protect our chickens from predators by keeping them in a pen. We build them a coop with a door, maybe a heater. We feed and water them. Would they be happier as free range all the time? Yes. They would be happier, maybe fatter, and might lay more eggs — but they would have a shorter life. Because we live in the country, many predators have access to our chickens. We have lost so many due to opossums, raccoons, owls, and illness. We wanted so much for them to be free, to run in the whole yard, but now we have to start over with a new flock, and we need to build the fences higher.

It is easy for us to teach our boys these types of lessons because we have animals as examples. These animals they see every day serve a purpose as well. “No, I’m sorry. We can’t let the dog run around when we go to Nanna’s. He can get run over. He can freeze to death (mini pinscher). He’s an inside dog for a reason.” We aren’t sheltering the dog, but we care for him. The kids understand this. People don’t.

People don’t understand why I won’t put my son in public school. Aren’t I doing them a disservice by not letting them learn how the other kids are learning? Aren’t I spoiling them with my love, my attention? What’s so wrong with public school anyway?

My decision to homeschool has little to do with public school. It has to do with protecting them, raising them, and teaching them. It’s not a slight against public school any more than my staying home with them is a slight against working moms.

My purpose as a parent and teacher is to prepare my boys before all else — prepare them for the world, the workforce, spiritual warfare, matters of life and death, politics, love, anger, and more. I cannot do this while sheltering them.

What’s your purpose? Ponder your purpose while you’re planning the coming year of school, the upcoming curriculum, family devotionals, and activities. If all I’m doing is sheltering these kids, and not purposefully teaching them, I’ve failed.

Early Childhood Stages of Development – Trust Vs. Mistrust

What is attachment and how important is it to the developmental stages of early childhood? Attachment is a lasting emotional relationship that begins with infants and ties the infant to one or more persons in their lives. Attachment is important to social development and the relationships a child forms in their early years.

Erik Erikson’s theory of attachment began in his first stage of development, called psychosocial theory — the stage of attachment he labeled as Trust versus Mistrust. This stage of development not only is linked to the child’s heart, but also other processes including the engagement of the brain. A healthy attachment early on in a child’s life will provide a good foundation for intelligence later on in their development.  Positive attachment experiences give an infant a sense of well-being and security.

Research has shown that signs of infancy attachment exist from birth, though babies take longer to show their attachment then adults do. Some signs of attachment may be that a baby will recognize their mother’s smell and voice. When they are going through the attachment phase they may be less fussy, more interested, and alert. Some babies will go through a stage where they show distress with someone they don’t know. Usually, babies who don’t show stranger anxiety have had a secure and trusting attachment with multiple caregivers. Another milestone babies may experience is separation anxiety at being separated from their primary caregiver.

Some issues or challenges that may arise with attachment may be temperament. When a parent and child have a good match in temperament, it promotes a closer attachment. When there is a mismatch in temperament, it can hinder the attachment. Counseling the adult to adjust to the baby may help them in their attachment. Some examples of attachment mismatch include an active parent with a calm baby or the opposite. A serious mismatch occurs when the parent keeps pushing the baby to respond to them when the child truly is not interested or comfortable. Parents have to adjust their expectations of the baby when their temperaments to match. Caregivers can help parents understand that there is nothing wrong, and that it’s the parents’ job to understand the baby and respond accordingly rather than trying to make the baby change.

Another mismatch may be when a baby is born with a developmental issue.  Some of these issues don’t foster attachment, like when a baby has a neurological issue that makes them not want to cuddle, have pain when being touched or held, or be unable to control their facial muscles to smile. In these cases it’s important for a parent to be understanding and find other behaviors that signal attachment.

Parents who encourage independence or individualism will teach their children early self-help skills. They teach their babies to sleep alone in their cribs or to feed themselves. Their goals are self-assertion and self-expression, with the end result being self-esteem. Parents who are more focused on collectivism or interdependence will encourage their children to have stronger connections or mutual dependence. They are not as concerned with independent skills. They may hold off on teaching skills like self feeding or sleeping on their own to foster the attachment and closeness of doing it for them.

I personally am a parent who focuses more on independence, but with a loving and nurturing attitude. I love to cuddle and love on my babies, but I’m not about to coddle them. With all of my children, I had them helping with chores at an early age. I was flexible with their abilities and development when teaching these things. I am of the mindset that I’m not about to cater to everything the child wants when they want it. While I understand that is not necessarily what the other side is thinking, I am just more of that mindset.

How does this all play into your interactions with your children? I believe it is important to connect to our children’s hearts, not just when they are little, but all throughout their lives!

8 Ways to show your homeschooler love. Valentine's Day and Beyond

8 Ways to Show Your Homeschooler Love – Valentine’s Day and Beyond!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a perfect time to focus on LOVE (I want you all to know that I’m writing this article just as much for myself as for you).  Genuine, caring, heart-felt love for our children can be a game-changer in their lives..and in ours as well.

In God’s word He is always calling us to “love one another”…this includes loving our children!

Most homeschooling parents I know deeply care about their kids and want the best for them. However it’s easy to get caught up in the routine and hustle of the everyday, that we sometimes miss displaying that affection to our children.

Here are 8 easy tips you can try today to communicate to your children that they are safe, adored and all is well:

1. Give eye contact with a smile. Connections most definitely come through eye contact and what follows. It sends the message of acceptance and love, or disapproval and rejection. Think about the random smiles you receive from those you love. They definitely create that warm and safe feeling inside. The same will happen for your child(ren). Make a point to look your child(ren) in the eyes and smile.

2. Speak kind words. As parents you most definitely know the difference between your child saying “Yes, Mama” with a loving tone, or “Yes, Mama” with a grunt and eye roll. Speak love into your children’s lives. Be mindful of the way you speak your words and the tone you choose to use.  Even a simple “Good Morning Lexi, How are you today? Did you sleep well?” in the right tone can create the atmosphere of kindness and love you are looking for in your home.

3. Be interested and ask questions. Think about a time when someone has met you several times, yet the questions they ask certainly confirm “You don’t know me”. Get to know your children. Ask them questions about their hobbies, favorite foods, books…them! If you need to, keep a journal with answers they have given you so you can reflect on them later. Throughout the year, ask them questions about the topics earlier discussed (How is your dog’s foot after he stepped on that spur? Did you and your brother ever make up that funny skit you talked about?) Showing a genuine interest in their lives will go extremely far in showing that you truly care.

4. Be present. I feel that as homeschooling parents it can be one of the most difficult challenges to be present with each child (especially if we have multiple children). We are amazing at multi-tasking and are usually thinking of 100 other things while we are teaching each child during the day(Uh oh, Johnny’s out of his seat again…Did I print off Bible for today?… Do we have swim lessons today?…Did I start the crockpot this morning?) It is so important that our children see and know we are present with them.  This means focusing in and staying in the moment when possible.  Everyone knows what it is like to be with someone that seems to want to be somewhere else.  Give your children the gift of being in the moment. Be Present.

5. Have a special routine. Connections are really amplified through three main areas: eye contact, physical touch and fun. Of course we can bestow huge hugs and kisses on our children each morning, and there are other ways to connect through physical touch. There’s nothing like a good ole high-five or the sweet old-fashioned “secret handshakes” of our childhood (we seriously rocked the “Say Say My Playmate” chant in 3rd Grade). Why not come up with a fun “Good Morning Handshake” when your child begins class time or right before you leave. You could really jazz this up with serious knee clapping, finger snapping, spinning around and the whole shebang. Even older children would love to participate in coming up with their own celebration “handshake”.

Check out “I Love You Rituals” by Becky Bailey for more great connection ideas.

6. Find out your child’s “Love Language”. The five love languages of children are: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service; as laid out in Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children. Check out the book “The Five Love Languages of Kids” by Gary Chapman for an in-depth look at each love language.  You can even group your children into each category for a quick and easy love check list.  Once you have a list you can check it daily.  Then go through your list and speak words of affirmation to those that need it, spend one-on-one extra time etc. with each child according to their specific need. Intentionality doesn’t equal fake, it means that you are wanting to meet those needs and show love to your kids.

7. Seek the Lord Daily. We absolutely need God’s love in our hearts, to be able to truly love others. Fill yourself up with God’s word every day and seek out specific counsels on love. Post them on sticky notes by your mirror to remind yourself of His perfect example of love.  Some of my favorite verses about how to love like Jesus did are: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31 “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Luke 12:31 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

8. Love them. Ha! This one is a little bit of a tricky play on words. On a serious note though, sometimes it’s hard to love and care about some children that at times can be…well…a little difficult to love and care about. Can you find one thing today that you like or appreciate about each child? I would suggest making a list to help bring some of those positive things to the front of your mind.  Even if you are struggling with what to write for a particular child, keep in mind that in reality you don’t need a reason.  Each child deserves to be loved, regardless of whether they act like it or not, simply because they are a child of the King!

Looking back I can distinctly remember special moments with my parents when they were kind and showed me genuine love. That love and kindness made more of an impact on me then all of the Math, Language, Science etc. ever could.

P.S. Don’t be surprised if your children start doing some of these same things with each other. When a culture of love and acceptance in cultivated, there’s no telling where it’s impact will end.

Taking Care of Us

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There comes a time when we start questioning ourselves, when the challenge of parenting, educating, therapy, work, and all the other things we deal with in our lives becomes overwhelming and we wonder if we are doing the right thing, or if we need to let something drop off our list. These are often signs of burnout and fatigue.

We need to make sure we take time to take care of ourselves. Self-care is something I often neglect. It’s important to take care of the whole family, to remember ourselves while we are doing so much. As parents we often put the children first. There are so many things vying for our attention that it is easy to lose us in the process.

There are things we can do, though. We don’t have to go big to take care of us:

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  • Journal – Writing for some is greatly therapeutic! It gives us a place to vent and express our thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Sometimes all we need to do is express it.
  • Be Alone – Sometimes just doing something by yourself is refreshing. Grocery shop without the kids, get out of the house alone, go for a drive, sit in the driveway, just find some silence where no one is able to interrupt.
  • Exercise – Plan something regularly to get out and move! Find what you enjoy — dance, aerobics, yoga, swimming. There are many classes you can enroll in to bring accountability into your exercise program. I once joined Middle Eastern dancing for the fun of it, and I’ve done rock climbing too. Find something different, try something new!
  • Friends – Just spend time with friends. Go out for dinner or to a movie, have coffee, go window shopping. Do something you enjoy with someone you like.
  • Date – This isn’t (just) for single folks. If you have a spouse, make a plan for date night. Take care of your relationship, add some spice to your relationship. Make room in your life for uninterrupted quality time with your partner.
  • Get Creative – Draw, paint, photograph, write, decorate, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, needlepoint, sew… You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to do it. Express yourself!
  • Play – Be social. Have game nights, spend time with friends as a family. Have family movie nights, family games, family outings. Make time for fun. So often we get so focused on raising and teaching kids that we forget to have fun with them. It’s important to make sure our kids know relationships are important too.
  • Know Yourself – Know what you enjoy and go do it. Make time for yourself. If you don’t fit this list, make your own.

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Burnout happens to everyone. We need to be proactive; if it happens, be honest and gracious with yourself. Be purposeful, make appointments with yourself and keep them! Take care of yourself. Remember we show our children how to take care of themselves, and this is something we must model, not teach.

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The Making of a Longsuffering Parent

In this post, I will attempt to explicate ways to discovering the balance of love and firmness in our homes. My growing desire is for my children and me to share a mutual experience of Christ’s character. Together. Day by day. And, even on those bad days. AND, find joy in the process! 😉

Two Ways and Their End

“There are two ways to deal with children – ways that differ widely in principal and results. Faithfulness and love, united with wisdom and firmness, in accordance with the teachings of God’s word, will bring happiness in this life and in the next. Neglect of duty, injudicious indulgence, failure to restrain or correct the follies of youth, will result in unhappiness and final ruin to the children and disappointment and anguish to the parents,” Child Guidance, p. 258.

Recently the Lord has brought the love chapter, found in 1 Corinthians 13, to my thoughts with increasing regularity. We all know it well or have heard it recited often, but do we cultivate the many synonyms given in our daily experiences and interactions with our families? I know I am found lacking here! So, lets dissect this one:

“If I have… (insert any amazing feat you desire to achieve, any amazing to-do list you desire to conquer, any amazing curriculum or resource you desire to incorporate) …but do not have love, I gain NOTHING.”

This is not to discourage us but to point us to our training manual. If we desire to “gain” in our homeschool, to be victorious over nap time and multiplication tables, and slay those bad attitudes that occasionally rear their ugly heads, we must seek this love Christ offers! Who wants to gain ground for Christ this year in their homes?

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” Phillipians 1:21.

We have to put our feelings aside and pray when our children walk off the path of obedience. Recently I touted to myself, during a challenging day, “I should NOT have to put up with this?! I should NOT!!” Then, the Lord almost immediately gave me a math problem. 🙂 I’m serious. It was clear as day in my mind.

“Then Peter came to him, and said,  ‘Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Til seven times?’ Jesus saith unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until 70×7.'”

Ok, so any other parents hear the rebuke there? It doesn’t mean our children offend and disobey and we forever ignore them along with said inappropriate behavior.

“For whom the Lord loveth, He correcteth,” Proverbs 3:12.

It means we learn to be longsuffering with them. That’s where the extra long training has come in for me: “Love suffers long and is kind…is not puffed up.” My heart hurts at the thought of allowing myself to puff up toward my child. I want to draw them in with the love of Christ, not use the offense mechanism of an animal to discourage its prey.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child.” My children are children, and so they are immature in many aspects of their speech and understanding. I forget that I once was a child too. I too needed a patient guide to teach me, to shine a light on the path that I might go successfully, that I might understand the joy found through service and obedience to Christ. This is the sum of our longsuffering duty.

“If you seek the Lord and be converted every day: if you will of your own spiritual choice be free and joyous and God: if with gladsome consent of heart to his gracious call you come wearing the yoke of Christ — the yoke of obedience and service — all your murmuring will be stilled, all your difficulties will be removed, all the perplexing problems that now confront you will be solved,” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, p. 101.

To be an effective teacher you have to be a doer of things taught, or the lessons you are teaching will be like seeds planted where they could not find deep roots. They will be crowded out or shrivel up in the heat and die. To teach the character of Christ to our children, we must learn to be longsuffering, and that is when the teacher becomes the student and the student a teacher.

Your fellow student-teacher in Christ,

Allison