Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Piercing Sentimentality

Lets try this again! I had it typed and lost it :-( But it is a must-share!

My oldest daughter turned 11 today. I took her to get her ears pierced! We had told her a few years ago when she was in public school that she could get her ears pierced on the birthday before she started middle school (which would have been this fall if she were not homeschooled).

So there I stood, in the middle of Claire's Boutique, growing misty eyed as my "little" girl looked more like a young lady sitting there in the piercing chair, clinging to bravery (in the form of a black fuzzy teddy bear the store keeps for weary customers) and realizing what a momentous step this was... for both of us!

I have a 15 year old son, but girls are somewhat different then boys. I have had my misty eyed moments with him (and I am sure still more to come) but with my daughter those moments come at different times: Introducing training bras, dressing for a night at the playhouse, ear piercing!

You see, her ADHD and stubborn personality have made things somewhat difficult in our household. She doesn't mature developmentally at the same rate as most of her peers. She wants to, but her hyper-active tendencies make it difficult for her to achieve what her peers are able to do with ease. This includes acting "mature" when the situation calls for it.

For all her efforts she has hit that in-between age. Am I a "kid" or am I a "teen". I feel so sorry for her. I do not wish her to mature before her time, but it is also difficult to watch her body mature when her mind is still struggling and often left within child like concepts. I have prayed that God would bring her to the next steps in His time and in His way so that it might be a gentle change.

Today I felt that prayer was answered. For as she sat in that chair, child turning young lady, I realized a big step had been taken in this process we reluctantly refer to as "growing up". My throat chokes with pride and sentimental thoughts and, as we crossed the threshold from that store, I realized, with each stride and the proud posture of my daughter, we were stepping into a new phase. A pair of rainbow colored flower earrings and a day out, just mom and daughter, had ushered in the blossoming of maturity.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Having some motherly fun...

I have been trying to figure out how to post a YouTube video on here with no success. My reason? For all you moms out there: I just had to share Betty Hutton singing "His Rocking Horse Ran Away"!! It is GREAT! I use to think of it when my (now 11 year old) daughter was little... it was soooooooooo her! Although, having multiple children combines to give the same sentiment!

While you are at YouTube check out "Anything You Can Do". My kids know most the words to this one and it makes the whole "I can do that too" lamentations of the younger ones into something much more fun! I do recommend you preview the video without small ones around. It is an excerpt from the 1950 musical, "Annie Get Your Gun", with Betty Hutton and Howard Keel. She kicks him towards the end of the song and one line says, "I can drink more liquor and get even sicker..." I understand some parents may not want their children exposed to that type of behavior. But do watch it for yourself and enjoy... decide on exposing to your children after...

Lastly... there is always to good-'ole stand-by "Mom Song"!! In praise of moms everywhere!

I hope you enjoy these grins today :-)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Should parents have a degree to homeschool?

The following is an article I wrote at Helium last July in response to a debate on whether homeschooling parents should posses a degree in order to educate their children. I felt it would be helpful to others on this platform as well:

Should parents have a degree to home school their children? They didn't require one prior to the early 1900s even in public schools. Ironically, statistics show that children were better educated prior to legislation requiring credentials. Not only were children more literate and intelligent, they were also better behaved. All this guidance came from parents who often had no formal education of their own.

Current surveys of home schooled students tested using the same standardized formats administered to publicly educated students project results that can't be denied. Home school students outscore public schooled students by 30 to 37 points in EVERY subject area! (HSLDA).

Furthermore, test scores for states where there are governmental regulations on home school requirements versus states where there are little to no regulations showed no differences. According to the HSLDA's website, all home schooled students, regardless of regulations (such as requiring parents to have a degree) obtained average scores in the 86th percentile considerably above national standards for publicly educated students.

The Future of Freedom Foundation's website states the following: "Even the Secretary of Education has admitted in the frankest terms that the government education system is failing the American people so miserably that it threatens our very future as a nation."

With that said, how can anyone confidently claim that to have a college degree from a university influenced by these government regulations makes a parent a better educator? The Future of Freedom Foundation further addresses the issues by saying: "Technology has now made compulsory attendance obsolete. One can now learn much more at home than in any public classroom at less cost to everyone. Education has become a racket, not a profession. The organized educators now have the political clout in Washington and the state capitals to get virtually anything they want from a bewildered public which have been told over and over again that the cause of educational failure is not bad teaching and a flawed educational philosophy but lack of financial support. And so, those who are truly interested in education have the double task of exposing the education racket for what it is, and informing the public and their fearless elected representatives of what is actually going on in public education."

And just what is going on in public education and the idea that all parents who home school should have those credentials? Systematic repression of free ideas, immoral education, and a philosophy that fits every human being to a single mold which is threatening our freedoms as a nation.

A degree is not required to be a good home schooling parent. Only a desire to learn with your children and ability to research and retain information about anything you don't understand. The thirst for knowledge combined with the endless resources available in modern society, especially the Internet, makes degrees a non-issue. Loving parents nurturing their children and providing accountable, upstanding, better mannered citizens to our society is irrefutable!

Hot days and cold splashes... of curriculum!

As I sit back and enjoy the end of our first full week of summer "vacation" I find myself catching up on reading I put off in the busyness of the school year. Today I was absorbing an article from the Summer 2009 issue of Teach Magazine entitled, "The Perfect Curriculum" by Amy Olthouse. Her sentiments rang true to certain ideals I have recently decided to adopt in our homeschool.

This spring I realized that one of the reasons we homeschool is so that our children can experience true religious freedom. God has put on my heart the need to make the Bible an integral part of our daily curriculum.

It is easy to take some days and diminish the value of that time in the Word in lieu of "academics" in the sense of math, language arts, and reading. But the fact is, all homeschooling days are more fulfilling if they have begun with prayer and devotion.

Mrs. Othouse quotes scripture that reminds us of this important prescription to any spiritually successful homeschooling house:

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

She references the story of Jesus in the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha, and encourages us to think of the importance we place on our to-do list and obligations vs. God's to-do list and needs:

"Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me.... Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42

We have been told, and know within ourselves, that time with our Heavenly Father each day is critical to our faith walk. But what are we teaching our children if we do not lead them in this same discipline?

It is ironic... or rather a blessing... that ever since I began our morning Bible sessions, our day seems to correlate to those lessons. Just like the "learning moments" homeschoolers are encouraged to cease for those academic necessities and life skills, biblical learning moments abound when we take that time each morning to seek His guidance and learn of His will through His Word! Science lessons suddenly become filled with the glory of God and the wonder of His power. History is brought to life through the Truth of His word and the proof of His almighty existence. All of our day's experiences are sweeter when we have been filled with His words and carry them throughout the day.

It is important that we don't bog down our (or our children's) days/schedules with so much that they can not move in Faith. We must first charge our Faith battery [Mrs. Olthouse's article gives a great analogy to this] if we are to keep running all day long, fighting the battles of impurity all around. Without that Heavenly charge we are run down/bogged down, and open to trampling by the world around. Are we doing all we can for our children when we freely allow family worship to wain to the curb day-in-and-day-out.

Not every day is a perfect day. Even with a morning study and devotion, some days just won't click on. But we take those days, search for the heavenly lesson within, remain prayerful, and look forward to a new day tomorrow.

Mrs. Olthouse gives 6 questions to ask yourself to be sure you are seeking God first. I offer a few suggestions in making it happen:
1. I heard once that it takes 30 days to form a habit. It may be hard to circle the wagons of a large family on one topic, but it must be done persistently... even on unsuccessful days... and continued. After 30 days you will find your life empty without it!
2. Do your Bible study at the same time every day. (this also helps with forming the habit)
3. You decide what works best for your family.
- There are many devotionals on the market that can appeal to an array of ages.
- You could also choose to start at the beginning of the Book and read a chapter a day.
- Most Bibles have a section that takes you through, step by step, to read the Bible in a year
- Clubs like AWANA will encourage memory verses. You can do these as a family and/or read the chapter each verse is in to understand its context.
4. Relax and enjoy this time. Make it a time everyone looks forward to each day.
5. Use this time to talk about God. Look up words in a concordance and research their intent and understanding (great language arts and foreign language lessons can come out of this). We need to encourage our children to KNOW God personally.
6. On the note of #5, realize that Bible study IS curriculum. You can gleam history, math, language arts, reading, and even science from the pages of Scripture. Don't undervalue the quality of these lessons because they might not live up to some district standard! After all, one of the perks of homeschool is not having to keep to a district standard. (I know some states have mandates for testing, but you can still use the Bible to obtain those concepts and provide a deeper understanding of the standards your state requires you to keep)
7. Ahhhh, heavenly #7! "Apart from me, you can do nothing" John 15:5 Absorb that phrase, make it part of your being. Know that all of your day begins with submersion in His Holy Spirit and submission to His will. Like washing up for dinner or taking a shower to feel fresh and ready for some chore or experience, we must cleanse ourselves through the Holy Spirit each morning, be one with our Heavenly Father if we are to accomplish great things, even if only in small ways, within each day.

So as we sip some ice cold lemonade and revel in the sunshine of warm summer days, consider the homeshool days ahead. Set forth with Holy Scripture and prayer, quiet little faces bowed in meditation, eyes sparkling with the amazing fill of true understanding that God's hand is in all of life around us, learning new vocabulary and accelerating reading skills as small voices speak Scripture the eyes see on thin pages, history comes alive with deep understanding when Moses stands up to the Egyptians, multiple digit math is tackled with tenacity as young fingers count off the years that overlap Adam and his descendants' lives, art takes on new meaning when rainbows are plastered over the fridge and voices declare, "God keeps his promise", children beaming with the love of God, helping a neighbor, sharing testimony with a friend.... what better education would God call us to give?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How do I talk to my teenage daughter about her weight?

This is a touchy subject for many families. When you consider the modern day recreational atmosphere of 24 hour t.v., gaming systems, and computers... today's teens are much more sedentary than many of us adults were at their age. Quick starchy, sugary snacks and sugary beverages compound the growing epidemic of obesity. So what do you do when you notice your child packing on pounds that seem more than the average baby fat or growth spurt?

This is a sensitive issue for me. To be completely honest, I have to first share that I struggled with eating disorders from the time I was about 13 until I was around 30. It took my faith to pull me from the abyss. I had to understand my accountability to my Heavenly Father who knows all and sees all. When you embrace the sheer awesomeness of that alone... man's impression of us is mere nothingness! I also realized at that time that I did NOT want my daughters falling into the same cycle I had.

Because of my experiences with eating disorders and diet crazed moms I have developed a way of thinking, acting, and expressing that I pray will have an end result with my daughters that will turn out better than my own.

Step 1. Realize that diet is a dirty word. No one should ever diet no matter what your weight. Everyone, however, should carefully consider their eating choices. Eating healthy is the key. When you eat healthy you are striving for a life change that will build a bridge to a better future (heath wise!)

Step 2. Make "eating healthy" a family affair. It is hard to loose weight and eat right if the person next to you is chowing down on potato chips and candy bars! Even the skin and bone sorts in your family can benefit from healthier food choices and an active lifestyle.

Step 3. When it is time to declare your intentions with your child(ren) consider any family diseases that can result from obesity or unhealthy eating. Diabetes and heart disease are two well known health risks that can result from unhealthy eating habits and/or obesity. One that many women aren't aware of is Polycystic Ovarian Disease. A condition where the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of cysts that can rupture and be very painful. These cysts can also make it difficult, if not impossible, to conceive when the time comes to have children.

When talking with your child(ren) about the need for the FAMILY to eat healthier and be more active, explain that you want all of you to not have to suffer from diseases that can rob hope from a more enjoyable lifestyle. Never single out one child, particularly the obese one, they may or may not take it so well and it could cause a cycle of eating disorders that are no better than the problem of obesity. This talk would be a good time to call a family meeting and address the issue of healthy eating together.

Step 4. Don't buy junk. If you don't want your child eating starchy foods (which convert to sugar and fat) than don't buy them. Sugary drinks like Kool-aid and Soda Pop are not healthy choices either. 100% juice can be substituted but moderation even in this beverage is best. Water should be a primary part of everyone's daily consumption. Water helps the blood flow, it increases metabolism, and it provides energy. Fresh fruits and veggies are perfect snacks. Whole grain breads and snacks are best as well. And don't be fooled by the "Only 100 Calorie" claims on snack sized packages these days... they are still loaded with carbohydrates, sugars, and fats that are bad for the body.

Be careful not to go the route of sugar-free either. Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are bad for you. They are especially bad for children and teens where they can cause problems with development. Our goal here is to get healthy, not create other problems in the process!

Step 5. Set limits. This can be easier said than done at times, especially if both parents are working and children are home alone. However, if you set limits on consumption such as: "You may have one bowl of pretzels a day. If you are still hungry you must choose from fruits or veggies." Kids are hungry because they are growing. We can't begrudge them that. But we can set limits to the choices they have and provide endless options in choices that are better for them like fresh fruits and vegetables.

If the issue is an obese child, then portion control may be critical. You will need to make their meals and use it as a learning tool to explain portion sizes. Two sandwiches for lunch is Two portions... you only need one. Here is a website on nutrition in children that may help you to discern her needs. I can't stress enough... children NEED to eat... we just need to make sure they eat healthy, appropriate servings.

Step 6. Limit Screen time. Screen time is anything using a screen: T.V., computer, video gaming, etc. Whether you set limits of 1 - 2 hours a day or make them earn their time, limiting screen time will help to curb sedentary activity and the urge to snack more than normal.

Step 7. Get active as a family. Impressing on your children to get out and do when you don't, won't get them very far. Get active as a family by taking bike rides together, going for walks or on hikes together, visiting the park together, and even taking part in recreational sports together.

Step 8. DON'T focus on weight. Sound strange in an article about how to talk about it? The biggest problem I had perpetuating the cycle in my eating disorder was my obsession with weight. For one thing, a person's build will affect their acceptable weight. For another, not everyone metabolises the same. Even within the same family, bodies can be very different. So what do you focus on? HEALTH. ALWAYS talk about your family's efforts to be healthy, build a healthy life, stay healthy. Never talk about how you look but always talk about how you FEEL. Make health and feeling good your family's goals.

Step 9. Lastly, moms, just like everything else your children see you do, they watch you and how you act about how you look. If you obsess about diets and being thin and fitting into clothes... they will too. You may not think this is such a bad thing. But for a child who has a difficult time eating healthy and staying at an acceptable weight, this mindset can be detrimental and lead quickly into a cycle of eating disorders. Teach your children to love themselves as they are. Teach them to embrace their inner beauty and encourage them to want to be healthy. I always tell my kids that it doesn't matter what you look like on the outside, as long as you feel good, take good care of your body by eating healthy, and exercise your heart for Jesus... you will be gorgeous!

I hope this helps anyone struggling with this dilemma. Please keep in mind, teenage boys can have this problem as well and be susceptible to eating disorders or over-exercising. Also, eating habits are best influenced when you start working with them young. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

To Encourage and Inspire

At the Homeschool Convention last month, one of the keynote speakers was Lorrie Flem. Her workshops inspired me so much, as did my personal encounters with her, that I subscribed to her magazine, TEACH. I also purchased some back issues that looked interesting and I have, in fact, felt uplifted by the words I find within their pages.

This quarter's issue arrived this week and I have been slowly working my way through it's pages. The theme for this issue is "Purity: In the "Purest" Sense of the Word". I found myself enraptured in Lorrie's introduction to this issue. The following articles drew me in farther to facts I only consider in passing or take for granted.

One of my favorite Bible passages is, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23. It may seem like a bleak passage to be so passionate about. However, it leads me to think of what comes next, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8.

We all sin. Yet God loves us so and sent us his Saviour that we might have everlasting life.

Many people look at Christians has uppity-up. Some Christians even look at each other and think, "I can never attain that person's level of purity". But the fact is, none of us are pure. For we live in the world of man only but striving for the world of our Heavenly Father. When a Christian seems practically perfect yet claims they too are falling short of the Glory of God, we waver in belief because they seem like they have it together. 'How could they dare say that... they have it all!' But the fact is, the mouth speaks what the heart feels.

Kindness can beget kindness. Good deeds do make a person look pure. Words of love demonstrate a heart devoted to God. BUT. Yes, BUT... that does not reflect the small voice in our head that loves to tell us we aren't good enough! We don't escape the small pleasures that, by God's law, are equal sins to those of the Hippocrates.

A heart striving to be pure may still fall into the act of judging (Judge not and ye shall not be judged, Luke 6:37). A mouth seeking to spread the word of God, may fall into the sin of spreading the word of Gossip instead. The list of sins we consider "small" goes on and on: envy, boasting, idleness, discerning who we should help or be kind to.... But the fact is, all sins are equal in the eyes of God and ALL fall into the trap of at least one of these sins from time to time.

So my epiphany today was this: When I read or hear the words of someone that I perceive is near perfect and in the favor of God saying they are far from perfect and "fall short" continuously, I can trust that. Why? Because when I strive to be "perfect" and fall short and then feel worthless of His kingdom or this one, it is OK... everyone does. Even if we don't see those 'weak' moments in others... those moments are still there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Puzzling Thought

Yes, I am a puzzle fanatic! But that fact aside, I do encourage a love of puzzles in my children for more academic reasons.

They have all loved to do puzzles since they were very little. Since my oldest (not pictured below) was born I always made sure simple board puzzles were available for his enjoyment. By the time he was 3 years old, he would make a game of dumping them all out and then racing to put them together all at once!

As they have grown, so has the level of puzzles I have presented to them. We keep a shelf packed with all types and they will, at various given moments, pull one out and proceed to piece them together.

I have tried to draw them into the puzzles I enjoy, the 500 - 1000 piece types. At first they were intimidated. I encouraged them to help me find edges and, upon doing that, they would find a section of the puzzle picture that drew their interest and focus in on it.

The above picture represents a milestone in this process. ALL 3 of the my youngest children actually sat and worked on this one with me, at times completing more than I did! My ADHD child was intent on her area (the city skyline) and I saw it help her to settle and calm down at times. My dyslexic was fascinated with the old cars. Piecing together their details helps him to work on discerning differences and detecting details... a skill crucial for dyslexics. My youngest just enjoyed taking part in something with the big kids (she, like my oldest not pictured, is a puzzle fanatic and accelerated child)

Where to start? Pick a 500 piece puzzle. The one pictured here is actually 1000 piece. Also, choose puzzles that do not repeat too much. The ones with nothing but cookies or a lot of reflections can be overwhelming for young prospects. Instead pick large, simple, colorful designs with pictures that might draw your child's interest. The one above was chosen because we have been reading The Secret Garden and studying that era and the eras close to it. I knew the cars would appeal to my son, the flowers to my youngest, and the horse statue and city scape to my other daughter. I was not disappointed!

Happy Puzzle Piecing!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

If consistency is key... what's wrong with me?

I have an uncanny knack of neglecting my blogging lately! I check my email every day, I write in my journal most days, so surely I can buzz into here!

My hopes for this site have not changed and as I read other's blogs and various magazine and newsletter articles, I am continuously inspired. One theme I regularly come upon is the ever challenging aspect of teaching our children at home. I haven't met a mom yet that didn't have her moments of distress. Some more frequently than others!

My moments come in waves. We have had some added challenges the last year and a half in our household. I have taken these trials and set them on my back, weighing me down with each step. However, our local homeschooling convention I blogged about last month awoke me to the need to 'unload' and step forward withOUT my burdens.

Psalm 55:22 tells us, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved". But how easy is it to forget these words and drudge ahead with the weight of the world riding on our shoulders?

I have spent the last month re-discovering the importance of quiet times in my life. As a mother of 4, this discovery is not easy to come by! I find my peace in the quiet times of the early morning before the pitter-patter of little (and big) feet make their way from bedroom to breakfast counter. I am re-establishing my prayer and Bible study life. I am finding peace.

Not all peace is permanent. I have come to understand this over the years. But for too long now I have neglected the core principle that I MUST make time for God each day if I am going to be able to "Cast my burdens". Not the quick uplifted prayers of daily life I have always muttered, but rather the sustained quiet peace of meditation opening that highway to heaven that I use to enjoy each day before the crises of recent. If I have this time... perhaps the rest of my worries will somehow find their way to my Heavenly Father's broad shoulders, rather than these small ones of mine.

My message? Consistency is the key that hangs on the chain of perseverance. I hope my perseverance in my personal life will allow some consistency to prevail in my internet 'life' so that I might hope to inspire all those who wander in here looking for some hope, advice, or just plain chatter!