To School or Not To School?

Home schooling is a frequent discussion topic in our house, not only amongst 'outsiders' but between me and Matt too. We want to make sure we are doing the right thing, and for the right reasons, so we regularly chat about our plans. 

There are days when the children have taken turns to scream at me for an hour, the laundry is piling up, the dishes need doing and the floor is a mess when I think to myself 'you know what, school is a great free baby-sitting service!' but that's just it, the pro's and con's list we make up is nowhere close to balanced. There are only two pro's I can see to sending my children to school. 
i) I get a break - this, I'm told by our society, is reasonable and in fact, my right. But what does the bible say about my rights? It says I am to lay them down and die to myself. A self-centred society tells me I need 'me time' and that 'happy mommy = happy family' but it's just a veiled way of saying 'live selfishly, everyone else will be fine'. 
ii) home schooling costs - I have no idea how much it will end up costing us, but it will certainly be more than if I sent them to school. Not just curriculum and resources that I need to buy, but field trips and lessons/coaching in things I can't provide (gymnastics, swimming, etc...) which are provided or heavily subsidised in school. Also, because I don't have the 'free child care' facility of school, it is unlikely that I will ever reach my full earning potential, so we have to rely (for the most part) on a single income.

I am always so encouraged though, when I read about other home schooling families who are trusting God for their provision, such as Kimberly Eddy, who writes that her family lives near the poverty level ("Can God Provide? Even Beyond the Budget?" ). Yet they are able to generously give to their church and show hospitality to others. She says that she could fill a book with her blessings and lists some. I will give just a few: 

  • God supernaturally blessed our garden, and we canned about 500 jars of vegetables, did a lot of dehydrating, and froze a lot too.
  • God provided clothing for my children all year long through people who just felt led to give us things though we never expressed a need.
  • Someone this past week gave us a couch, and it matches our living room!
  • We got a lot of free bricks to use for landscaping (also a want that was met without expressing it).
  • Our neighbor gave us five bushels of pears.
What this means is that, when you put God’s kingdom and His righteousness first, and home schooling is certainly a way to do that, God will provide your needs. Mother may have to quit her job, and you may have to lower your lifestyle, but God will provide. 

Zan Tyler lists five ways that financial constraints can actually be a blessing. I don’t want to plagiarize him, so I will list them in only abbreviated form, and you can read his entire article here: ( "The Blessing of Living on One Income" ).

  1. Financial constraints force us to choose wisely.
  2. Financial limitations cause families to work together as teams.
  3. Limited finances keep our children from being spoiled.
  4. Financial limitations can keep us focused spiritually.
  5. When we choose to homeschool and to live on one income, we freely choose to limit ourselves financially. We demonstrate powerfully to our children, on a daily basis, that we value them more than we value things.

I love that last one. Putting the kingdom of God first means that you will have your needs met. It does not mean that you will live like the rich and famous. It means that you will be showing to your children that being rich and famous in this world is not a priority. You will be showing them that the kingdom of God comes first.

So, how can I afford to homeschool? By knowing that God holds parents responsible for the way in which their children are brought up and educated and that this is a crucial way in which we put the kingdom of God and His righteousness first. Then I can have confidence that He will see to our needs.

I can afford to homeschool because God sees to it that I can afford to homeschool. It is as simple as that.

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

I love this time of the year. I know that song refers to Christmas, but there is something about this time of year, when I'm starting to think about Christmas, but no one is stressed about it and I'm not being bombarded with giant flashing sale signs that I love. It's a time when I get to secretly start planning, but there's no hurry. I can stash a way a gift for someone and smile every time I see them, but not worry when I bump into those I haven't got any ideas for yet.

I like to make gifts for people too. The time and love that goes into preparing something makes it all the more special when you get to hand it to them. This year I decided that I'm going to make my kids one present that they can open early - stockings!

No, I'm not going to make up sacks full of presents for them, I am making the actual stocking, which I will wrap and allow them to open early, so that we can hang it up see if anything is inside it on Christmas morning. 

Now those of you who know me will know that I am not into kids receiving loads of gifts, so I made my stockings what I consider to be a reasonable size. I'm embroidering each one with the relevant child's initial too, so that they will always know which is theirs. The stockings are made out of an old pair of curtains too, so they have literally cost me nothing - bonus!

So here is Will's finished stocking:

And here is the close up:

My blind stitching needs a lot of work, I'd completely forgotten how to do it. My Sewing teacher would throw a fit, but I'm pretty proud of my embroidery.

Enjoy the season! 

Getting your children to pick up

A common topic of discussion at nearly every toddler group I have been to (and there are many!) is how can we encourage our children to pick up after themselves?

Most parents seem to accept that children of this age don't do it naturally and that some special coaxing techniques must be employed if we are are to maintain order in our homes without spending all day following behind our child and picking up after them. 

We want our children to develop life-long skills that help them to be organized and respectful of their things in the future. I might fail miserably — kids have amazing will-power — but here is what I'm trying:

Model the behavior. It’s tempting, especially with small children around, to wait until after the kids go to bed to pick up the house. However, children should watch and “help” you clean up so they can start to mimic your actions. Otherwise, they’re under the impression that a magical fairy appears and cleans up the toys, coloring books, and wooden spoons.

Explain the process. As you put away toys and project materials, talk through what you’re doing. “I’m putting the lids on these markers so they won’t dry out and you can use them next time you want to color.” “I’m putting these books on the bookshelf because it’s where they belong when you’re not reading them. The bookshelf protects the books from being damaged so you’ll have them the next time you want to read them.” I should admit that this narration is extremely tedious, but I’ve noticed my son incorporating words into his vocabulary like shelf and lid, so I at least know he’s listening.

Be positive. Look for ways to make the clean up process as interesting as the play. Put on fun, fast-paced music your child enjoys every time you pick up toys and dance while you work. Make up a cleaning song to sing or play a counting game. Voices shouldn’t be raised and threats shouldn’t be wagered.

Give your child time. Clean up for young children shouldn’t be rushed. If the child has an hour to play, budget the last 10 minutes of that playtime to picking up the toys. Let your child know that playing with toys involves taking the time to put them away. This is similar to dinner not being finished until the dishes are cleaned, the table is wiped off, and all of the ingredients returned to the pantry or refrigerator. Playtime includes putting away the toys.

Be consistent. This is the hardest part of the teaching process for me — making sure I always leave time for picking up toys. If we’re in a rush to get out the door to run an errand, it’s difficult to pause and make sure the toy is returned to it’s storage place before we leave the house. The consistency and repetitive action, however, are what instill the positive behavior. If a child doesn’t know there is the option to leave his toys strewn about the room, he won’t make that decision. (Well, at least in theory.)

Be minimalist. This is one we struggle with, particularly as well meaning relatives insist on buying the children gifts every time we turn our backs! Realistically, our children can't pick up if they don't know where everything belongs, and won't remember where everything belongs if there is too much. We regularly have a clear out for charity or for friends, or the local church/nursery group. Other than that, good ways to ensure that your children are not overwhelmed is to hide their toys. I have boxes labelled 'cars', 'music', 'lego'... etc... and all the toys not in use are hidden from view. This encourages the children to only play with one kind of toy at a time (as they are not distracted by other toys in their peripheral vision) and makes clean up very easy ('please put all your cars back in their box').

So there you have it. These are my techniques. Do you know of any others?

Praying Scripturally For Your Children

Donna Otto, from Homemaker's By Choice in the USA says:

'Part of building your home on holy ground is praying for your children. It is both a responsibility and a privilege.'  

I am reading a book at the moment that is challenging me to pray scripturally for my marriage, so now I want to apply this principal to praying for my children too.

In case you want to take up the challenge also, I have written out some guides below  that you could use in your prayer time by putting your child's name in the blank.  Perhaps as you spend time in God’s Word, you could write down passages that you could use later as prayer prompts specifically for your child.

Help _______________ listen to her father's instruction, and not forsake her mother's teaching. (Proverbs 1:8)

Show ______________ your ways, O Lord, teach him your paths, guide him in your truth...and may his hope be in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)

Hide _______________ in the shelter of your presence from the intrigues of men; keep _____________ safe from accusing tongues. (Psalm 31:20)

Help _____________ to love righteousness and hate wickedness. (Psalm 45:7)

Guide ____________'s feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:79)

May _____________ love the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Protect ___________ from the evil one. (John 17:15)

Give ____________ strength to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

May _____________ be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16)

May ___________ have a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith. (I Timothy 1:5)

Are You Training Your Children To Whine?

I realised today just how often I say 'in a minute' or 'not yet' or 'just let me finish' to my children. Particularly Will. This is partly because a new born has needs that must be met and can't soothe herself as easily. Sometimes I'm feeding her, or changing her nappy and I can't drop everything to come and look at the ladybug he's found or the train track he's built.

Sometimes though, it's because I want to finish my tea in peace, or the article I'm reading or just ring a friend. 

Not that any of these things in themselves is wrong. It is right that my children learn the world is not revolving around them and that they must wait patiently sometimes. 

The problem is when they do wait patiently. What is my response? Do I reward their behaviour by swiftly finishing up what I'm doing and joining them in whatever it is they want to show me? Or do I think, 'okay, he seems to have forgotten about it. I can get on with the next thing and he won't notice.' 

Then, when he eventually does notice and asks again I say 'oh sorry, coming now'. What I have just re-enforced is that only when he nags me will I respond. 

He's learnt that waiting patiently never gets rewarded and if he wants mummies attention he has to repeat his request over and over at regular intervals to remind me. 

I'm teaching him to nag.

Not cool. 

So I'm making it my new resolution to stick to my word strictly. If I say one minute, I will be exactly one minute. If I mean ten minutes, I need to say ten minutes. 

And if realistically I have a million and one things to do and I just don't want to come and look...
                               ... I will die to myself a little, go with him.

Fitness and Focus

When I'm stressed, or rushing, I tend to make stupid mistakes. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. How many times have you found the car keys in the fridge? Or you mobile phone in the microwave? Especially when you have small kids to take care of. I recently walked out of a coffee morning with Will and the the pram, change bag and keys, only to realise I'd left someone holding Elisha in the kitchen! Very embarrassing. 

This is one of the reasons it is important to me that everything has a place. If I habitually hang my keys on the hook the minute I come in the door, I'm much less likely to freeze them. But recently I've been intrigued by the work of a neuroscientist at the university of Illinois, Arthur Kramer. Particularly an article titled 'ageing, fitness and neurocognitive function' which reports that a good way to improve your ability to focus and brain cognition is through aerobic exercise. 

'The Invisible Gorilla' discusses his study and I've extracted a bit here for you:

'...aerobic exercise more effectively improves the health of your heart and increases blood flow to your brain... don't need to compete in triathlons; just walking a reasonable clip for thirty minutes or more a few times a week leads to better executive functioning and a healthier brain... ...Exercise improves cognition broadly by increasing the fitness of the brain itself. '

As your working on setting up your home routines, ensure you schedule in time for thirty minutes exercise two or three times a week. If your thinking 'I don't have time to exercise' think again - the reality is that the exercise will help you to focus, meaning you will work more efficiently and end up with even more free time! 

Good job I joined the gym yesterday. Now I've just got to find the time to go... ;)

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