Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Loving Your Kids So They Can Feel It

As  homeschool moms, we are with our kids all the time.  We sacrifice time for ourselves. We scrimp and save.  We lose sleep over choosing the best curriculum or finding the right social outlets.  And sometimes our kids say crazy things like, "You don't love me!"  " You don't even care!"   Could it be that we aren't speaking the same language?

 MANY years ago I read a book by Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages , which was very informative, very insightful. I was able to identify my own love language, as well as apply it to my husband and children.

1. PHYSICAL TOUCH -  "For children who understand this love language, physical touch will communicate love more deeply than will the words, “I love you,” or giving a present, fixing a bicycle, or spending time with them. Of course, they receive love in all the languages, but for them the one with the clearest and loudest voice is physical touch. Without hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and other physical expressions of love, their love tanks will remain less than full."  

2. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION - "In communicating love, words are powerful. Words of affection and endearment, words of praise and encouragement, words that give positive guidance all say, “I care about you.” Such words are like a gentle, warm rain falling on the soul; they nurture the child’s inner sense of worth and security. Even though such words are quickly said, they are not soon forgotten. A child reaps the benefits of affirming words for a lifetime."
3. QUALITY TIME - "Quality time is focused attention. It means giving a child your undivided attention. Quality time is a parent’s gift presence to a child. It conveys this message: “You are important. I like being with you.” It makes the child feel that he is the most important person in the world to the parent. He feels truly loved because he has his parent all to himself. When you spend quality time with children, you need to go to their physical/emotional level of development. The most important factor in quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together."
4. GIFTS - "Most children respond positively to gifts, but for some, receiving gifts is their primary love language. You might be inclined to think that this is so for all children, judging from the way they beg for things. It is true that all children—and adults—want to have more and more. But those whose language of love is receiving gifts will respond differently when they get their gift. Remember, for them this is love’s loudest voice. They see the gift as an extension of you and your love."
5. ACTS OF SERVICE - "If service is your child’s primary love language, your acts of service will communicate most deeply that you love Johnny or Julie. When that child asks you to fix a bicycle or mend a doll’s dress, he or she does not merely want to get a task done; your child is crying for emotional love. If your child’s primary love language is acts of service, this does not mean that you must jump at every request. It does mean that you should be extremely sensitive to those requests and recognize that your response will either help fill the child’s love tank or else puncture the tank. Each request calls for a thoughtful, loving response."

from The 5 Love Languages of Children

All are important, but each person's "love language" is what fills up a his bucket or "love tank".

 "I know my mom loves me because she tells me (bakes me cookies, hugs me, brings me special presents, lets me play with my friends, etc.) all the time. "

"I think my dad loves me but he never says it (hugs me, plays with me, etc ) ."

How do you know which is your child's love language? Ask questions. Give choices. Observe how they act and what they respond to - see what makes the eyes light up, causes the most excitement.... do all 5;, but be sure to include the love language for the child to feel wholly loved. Even if it

isn't your comfort zone!!!  We push ourselves to do things that we aren't totally comfortable with for the sake of those we love!   

Here are ways to love your child so they can really FEEL it!

ALL children need loving touch for emotional development;  but some especially need touch to fill their "love tank",   to feel really loved.  
  • hugs
  • back rubs, back scratch 
  •  "plant a garden" on their back
  • comb/style hair 
  •   hold hands
  •  linking arms when walking;  shoulder bumping
  • snuggle while reading
  • wrestling; thumb wrestling; 
  •   piggy back, horsey rides, airplane on the feet
  • bedtime hugs, stroking hair, kiss goodnight
  • ruffle hair

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION  -  loving words fill the "love bucket". but words of condemnation quickly drain it.  Watch your tongue! 

  • praise when he does something good -  "that's awesome!",  "good job",  " you are awesome!" 
  • notes on the pillow, sticky note on the bathroom mirror or inside his notebook   
  • cheering at games; be the "loud mom"!
  • spoken "I love you";   sign language "I love you"!!

QUALITY TIME  ( one-on-one, or whole family)  child always wants to be WITH you!

  • one-on-one dates 
  • play board games or video games with them
  • go on walks
  • take child grocery shopping or out running errands, get a milkshake on way home... 
  • coach child's team 
  •  cook together
  • work on car together
  • play hoops in the driveway
  • share a hobby -  hunting, running, photography, bird watching, gardening, dog training, baking, etc.
  • make special traditions -   stop at  McD's after basketball games,  lunch out after church, 
  • watch TV or DVDs  together  - special shows, movie night ( actually sit and watch it together -  not just walk through the room occasionally!)
  • plan special family activities that involve spending time together-  camping, hiking, day at beach, picnic & frisbee at the park, wiffle ball games,  go to science museum,

GIFTS  - does your child collect  "treasures", things that have been given to him?
  • bring home  donuts -  each kids' special favorites
  • buy something special when out shopping - a hair bow, baseball cards, pack of gum, 
  • hide little gifts ( a quarter,  a new matchbox car, a favorite DVD, etc ) under pillow 
  • make favorite meal or treatmake special pillowcase to take to Grandma's house or on sleep-overs 
  •   older girls -  give special pieces of your jewelry:
  • for teens/ adults -  pass along heirlooms; something that belonged to a grandparent  or great-grandparent  

ACTS OF SERVICE  - makes child feel important

  •  do their chores, make bed, take out trash,  fold and put away their clean clothes occasionally
  • clean their room while they are gone for afternoon!
  •  paint or redecorate their room  ( Amanda painted Jason's room for his birthday one year - he wasn't allowed in to see until it was done; she painted Duke and Red Sox emblems on walls)
  • make favorite meal /pack special lunch
  •  help with a project  or homework ( Scouts, Sunday School, school ) 
  •   let them bring friend along  or invite friends over to your house; be sure to have brownies, hot chocolate, chips....  be THE house where the friends want to be.
  • drive them places;  pick them up on time
  • put gas in their car 

Go fill up those "love tanks"!   

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Inspiring Homeschool Family - The Willis Clan

You can read more of the inspiring story of this homeschool family and how they are sharing their talent and their faith here.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Reasons NOT to Homeschool

There are quite a few lists of reasons for homeschooling. But if you are considering homeschooling, you should also be aware that there are some reasons why you should NOT homeschool as well. Here are four. 

1. You do not like to spend time with your children.  
Seems like a no-brainer, right?  But if you don't like being around your children, then homeschooling will be most difficult for you and probably not good for them either.  Before you attempt homeschooling, spend time in prayer and study, asking the Lord to turn your heart back to your family, from wherever it has been drawn instead. And perhaps seek the help of a counselor. Spending time with your children should make you happy. It should be a source of JOY. At least most of the time. 

2. You don't want to change anything about your present lifestyle. 
This might not seem quite so obvious, but homeschooling is a huge change of lifestyle from what most people are used to.  It requires flexibility, sacrifice, and dedication. It requires time, finances, effort, and prayer.  If you are not willing to give it your all, then you should probably look at other options for educating your children.  However if you are willing to go all in, you will find there are great rewards to living a homeschool lifestyle. (see lists of Reasons to Homeschool here, here,and here

3. You think you should homeschool because your friend, neighbor, sister, pastor is homeschooling. 
If you start homeschooling because you feel guilted into it or pressured into it because people around you are homeschooling, then you are going to struggle. It is not enough just to think it might be a good idea. You must believe in your own heart that this is the BEST choice for your family.  You will face opposition at some point - from extended family, media, the church, friends, strangers. You will doubt yourself and wonder what in the world you were thinking!  How will you respond? 

4. Your husband or wife is strongly opposed to the idea. 
You never want homeschooling to put a wedge into your relationship with your spouse.  Spend time researching, discussing pros and cons, visiting other homeschooling families. Pray for unity. A strong marriage is the foundation for a strong family and is vital for the success of your homeschool.  If you are a single parent, you are in a different situation, and I believe the Lord provides grace to compensate for the missing parent. 

Homeschooling is the easiest, most natural thing in the world. You have been your child's teacher from birth; you can continue to learn right alongside your children throughout their childhood all the way into young adulthood.
Homeschooling is the hardest, most challenging thing you will ever do.  

No one knows and loves your child like you do, or wants more for their future.
No one can drive you crazy like your own child! He knows all the "buttons" to push and will challenge you and push the boundaries. 

Homeschooling provides a flexible schedule, which allows you to work lessons around other activities, take days off when you want to, do volunteer work, etc.
There are not enough hours in the day to fit in everything you and your child would like to do. Be very careful to guard your time at home and be mindful of how much activity your family can handle. Set priorities for this season in your life. Learn to say "No" for now to those things that do not line up with those priorities. 

We are blessed to live in a time and in an area with so many opportunities and resources available for homeschooling families.  There are support groups, classes, co-ops, sports teams, debate teams, choirs, bands, seminars, clubs, camps.  There are online classes and curriculums. There are companies selling every imaginable book, game, program, or tool you might want. 
All these things have a COST in money and time. A homeschool family's budget gets stretched mighty thin.  There are always choices that have to be made.  Guard against DISCONTENTMENT with your financial situation.  The homeschool community is great at sharing resources, and homeschoolers are known for their creativity, cooperation and ingenuity when it comes to seeking out and creating affordable opportunities for their families.  Really consider what are NEEDS versus WANTS.  

Here is another post of reasons not to homeschool, by one of my favorite homeschool bloggers/speakers/authors, Heidi St. John.

Another well-know blogger/author,  Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, has posted her 3 reasons not to homeschool here.

  For a list of 50 Reasons Why Homeschooled Kids Love Being Homeschooled, check out this post by Kris Bales  at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. 



Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why Are You Homeschooling?

For those on a traditional schedule, another school year is about to start. Perhaps you've been struggling with whether or not to continue homeschooling. Are you discouraged because you are always"behind", or  because your child is STILL struggling with multiplication or spelling or attitude or whatever it is?  Are you overwhelmed by the effort it takes to plan for a new school year?  Are you questioning your ability to continue homeschooling, saying something like, "I just don't know if I can do it anymore", or "I think they'd be better off in school where they'd get more structure [ or accountability, or opportunities, etc.]"?

Let me ask this question. "Why are you homeschooling?"

 Did you ever write down the reasons? If not, you should do it right now.  Why did you start down this road in the first place? What did you want for your children or family? What has changed? Here are some of the reasons why I and a lot of the people I know are homeschooling.  Maybe some of them will resonate with you too, and remind you of the many benefits of being a homeschooler.
  • Individualized approach to education, versus cookie-cutter approach; let child learn at their own pace and according to their own learning style; also explore interests and develop talents
  • Flexible schedule to optimize family togetherness and to take advantage of opportunities for academic enrichment, developing talent, community service, work, building relationships, and fun when they arise;  children get more sleep, too, because you decide when to start and end your day; school can be done 4 days a week or 6 days a week; vacations can be taken during "off-season" times when public schools are in session, taking advantage of discounts and smaller crowds
  • Freedom to include faith, character lessons, and values in daily lessons and interaction 
  • Protection from bullying, immoral influences, negative peer pressure, sickness, etc.
  • Strong family relationships form when you spend lots of time together as a family,
  • Positive socialization; interaction with a wide range of ages in everyday situations, where a parent models proper social skills and is present to train and correct when necessary;
  • Choice of curriculum that fits your child's learning style, with the freedom to avoid controversial fads or public school mandates like Common Core Standards
  • No High Stakes Testing - some states, like North Carolina, require homeschoolers to administer an annual standardized test; other states do not;  homeschoolers do not spend huge chunks of time preparing for these tests;  we are focused on learning, at the child's pace, according to the child's needs, not on some irrelevant measure imposed by bureaucrats; 
  • Time to learn life skills;  since your children are with you all day, they can be included in things like housecleaning, cooking, meal planning, shopping, home maintenance and repair, gardening, infant care, car maintenance, budgeting, , etc.
  • Instill a life-long love for learning  - young children have a natural love for learning, but that is almost universally extinguished by the time children have endured a couple of years of traditional schooling;  homeschoolers have the flexibility to choose methods and materials, to create a schedule and environment that inspire instead of extinguish
Here are some other lists of reasons to homeschool that you might like:
100 Reasons Homeschooling is Good for Families
50 Reasons Homeschooled Kids Love Being Homeschooled 
10 Positive Reasons to Homeschool
Why Homeschool Teens?


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

You Are Your Child's First Teacher

Earlier this spring, I was asked to speak to our local MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers)  about being your child's first teacher.  In today's world of "experts" for everything, I think we often forget that we are all teachers in one way or another.

If I was to make a list of nouns to describe myself, some words I would use would be mother, wife, Christian, artist, baker, introvert, optimist, listener, and teacher.  Teacher is on that list even though I don't have a degree in education or a teaching certificate.  I have been a home educator for 21 years, but I have been a mother for longer than that, and a teacher for as long as I can remember.  As a sister, I remember "teaching" my younger siblings  how to play chopsticks on the piano.   As a teenager, I taught swim lessons at the local town beach in the summers. As a college student, I taught preschoolers at the campus child care center, and I taught my boyfriend how to make a meatloaf. ( a skill he promptly forgot once we got married. )

Merriam -Webster defines the word "teach" as  "to cause to know something; to impart knowledge; to instruct by precept;  to make known"; and a "teacher" is someone who does those things. Becoming a parent automatically thrusts you into the role of teacher, as you become responsible for the welfare and training of your precious child.  A young mother first teaches her baby to soothe to the sound of her voice or to her touch, to feel secure and safe in her care. Parents teach their children language, hygiene, manners, social skills, safe habits - how to eat with utensils and tie shoes and ride a bike and put away toys and be gentle with the cat.   The are no lesson plans or instruction manual provided for these things!  Moms quickly learn that it works better to SHOW and INVOLVE children, rather than just TELL them, and that patient REPETITION is important in the learning process as well.  These are important teaching concepts that we learn from experience, from the other parents around us, and also in the child development articles and books that we sometimes read. 

As parents, we are motivated by love to teach our children well.

Think about some of the things you want to teach your children. Hopefully, your list will include things like:
You are LOVED.
You are SMART.
You are NEEDED.
Let's talk about ways we can teach this to our children.

You are LOVED.
The are many, many studies that document the emotional and physical benefits of loving touch - hugging, kissing, snuggling,  holding hands, stroking the hair, rubbing a back.  According to a May 2010 article in "Scientific American", children placed in orphanages, who experienced touch deprivation early in life, had altered levels of oxytocin and vasopressin, two hormones important for social bonding, even three years after being placed with a family.  So physical affection is one important way to show our children that they are loved.

As important as touch is attention! While sometimes our attention is negative, to correct or discipline a child, we want to make sure we are also giving ample good attention!  Making eye contact and smiling, listening to their stories, patiently answering questions, taking the time to play with them, daily read-aloud time while snuggled on the couch or bed - these are all opportunities to shower our children with positive attention. It might mean choosing storytime over mopping the floor, or putting away the phone or iPad  to engage in a tea party.

Finally, words are powerful and can either build up a child or tear them down.  Proverbs 16:24  says "Pleasant words are a honeycomb; sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.", and Proverbs 12:18 says "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." What words do your children hear coming from your mouth?  "You give me a headache."  "What's wrong with you? Are you stupid?"  "You make me crazy.  Get out of my sight."   OR   "Great job. You are so smart."  "You are such a great helper! Thank you."  "I love you soooo much, and God loves you even more than that!".

I heard a story once about legendary NC State Men's Basketball Coach, Jim Valvano. From his very first day on the job in November 1980, he told his team that he was going to win a National Championship. They even spent one whole practice each year cutting down the net, so the players would know what it felt like, and start to SEE themselves as champions.  And in 1983, they did exactly that, winning he NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. Valvano often related how his father was his biggest cheerleader, telling him year after year "You can do it!! My bags are already packed, and when you make it to the Championship game, I will be there!!"  Speak positive things to your children ,believe in them, and be their biggest cheerleader.

This is tied closely to making sure your child feels loved. When you take time away from yourself and give it to them, your children will feel important, like they matter!  It is possible to get out of balance in both directions, either spending all of your time and attention on your kids, or not enough of it.   But since raising your children is the most important job you have right now, more important than any other job or activity because of the generational consequences, then suffice to say the time you spend with your children should be SIGNIFICANT.  And it is not the same if you delegate this task to others, thinking that some "expert" or someone with a "degree"  will do a better job. The love and attention of a parent is unique and irreplaceable in the life of a child.

Declare a "No TV/Electronics" night or weekend or month, when you will go for walks, bake cookies, play games, read stories, go on scavenger hunts, and just be together as a family. Surprise your kids with special gifts or treats from time to time.  Surprise, let's stop for ice cream!  Surprise, I bought you a new hat!  Surprise, we are going to the movies this afternoon!  Make your child's favorite meal on his birthday.  Make a family policy of "No Phones" at the dinner table (adults included), either at home or at a restaurant.  Be careful with teasing!

You are SMART.
Why? How? Why? Where? Why? What?????  This is the world of a parent with small children. They are innately curious and eager to absorb a world full of information, and how you respond can easily ignite or dampen that spark of learning.  Patience is key.  If you are not by nature a patient person, then work on patience exercises to help develop that in yourself.   Okay, so when your children are full of questions, sometimes you will answer the questions and sometimes you will help them figure out the answers for themselves.  Turn the tables and ask THEM questions.  How many plates do we need to put on the table?  What do you think clouds are made of?  Where is North Carolina on this map? Fill your home with books, educational games and DVDs, art supplies, maps, measuring tools, magnifiers, musical instruments.  Encourage creativity and exploration and curiosity and imagination. Let them know that God gave each of them special talents and abilities, and each of us is different and wonderfully made!  Be an encourager.  "You can do it."  "Wow. You are getting so good at this!" "You are so smart!"

Not only are your children precious to you, but they are even more precious to God.  Teach your children about God by reading Bible stories, singing Bible songs together, memorizing short verses together. Talk about God as you go about your daily activities.  Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons [and daughters] and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."  This tells me that God's Word and instruction should be part of our everyday life, and not just relegated to a couple of hours a week of church and Sunday School.

Don't use God just to scare your children into obedience or compliance, but teach your children about God's love, mercy, faithfulness and compassion. There is time when they are a little older, with more understanding,  to delve into God's justice, righteousness, and judgement.  Look at the night sky. "God's love for you is greater than the stars in the sky."  Look at the ocean.  "God's love for you is bigger than the ocean."  Look at skyscrapers or mountains.  "God's love  for you is bigger than those buildings or those mountains."  Teach your children that God created them, knows them, loves them.  Psalm 139:13-14  "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."


You are NEEDED.
We all want to feel needed.  You can teach your child he is needed by involving him in household chores and letting him help you do things, and also by involving him in community service.  There are many lists online of age-appropriate chores. Some families have their kids do much more, others less, but consider involving your children in household tasks as much as possible, instilling the idea of "all working together to help one another".
For example, 2-3 year olds can
  • put their dirty clothes in a laundry basket
  • pick up toys and put them in a bin or on a shelf
  • load dirty silverware into the dishwasher
  • use a wet rag to wipe off the table
  • carry in the mail or newspaper (with you) and put it in a special spot
  • help carry in the groceries - even if it is one box of cereal or loaf of bread at a time
For 4-5 year olds
  • dress themselves
  • make a bed
  • set the table
  • clear dirty plates and load them in the dishwasher
  • dry pots and pans with a dishtowel
  • feed pets
  • sweep 
Volunteer work is another great way to teach a child that they are needed by others.  For many years, I brought my children to a church food pantry twice a month to bag groceries. Even the toddler could work alongside mom, placing canned goods into the grocery bags.  Many elderly people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities love to have families with small children come to visit. Operation Christmas Child and Meals on Wheels are other great service opportunities that young children can be involved in.

Even young children get lots of messages about looks and beauty from our culture. Combat the media's standard by creating your own. Speak positively about your children and the way they look, not as something to focus on but as part of being a beautiful person, inside and out.  Be careful with your words.  Don't ever call someone ugly because of their looks - especially yourself!   Your child will start to compare their own appearance to others.  Talk about beauty of character as well as of the body.  Kindness, generosity, compassion, honesty, diligence, creativity - these are all beautiful things. We loved reading the The Children's Book of Virtues.    A smile is beautiful, even if the teeth are crooked.   A song is beautiful, even if the voice isn't always on pitch.  A gift is beautiful, even if it is smudged and imperfect.

Recommended Resources.
Maybe you didn't grow up in a home like this. You want to do better with your babies but you don't know where to start. 
  • MOPS, which I mentioned at the beginning of this post, is a great organization which supports mothers of preschoolers, and churches all over the country have MOPS programs as a community outreach.  If you aren't involved in a local church, that is also a way to meet not only other young mothers, but also older women who can be mentors.  
  • If you are interested in homeschooling, some local homeschool support groups, like Lighthouse, encourage families with young children to join and participate in activities like field trips, park days, picnics, and play groups. Support groups are a great source for mentors as well.  
  • There are a multitude of online resources, but that can also be overwhelming, and sometimes the worldview doesn't match your own. So you need to search carefully. I really like the advice given here, by Vicki Bentley, a homeschool mom of many and consultant with HSLDA. 
  • Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready by June Oberlander;  260 weekly activities for Birth thru age 5; takes 10 minutes, using household objects; include developmental checklists.