Monday, September 29, 2014

Finding Satisfaction

As I was watching our cat this morning, I suddenly had an epiphany (that means a cool new idea dawned on my feeble brain).

Our cat, Wednesday (so-named because she came into our lives on a Wednesday), had discovered a Nefarious Toothpick that had the nerve to be lying in the middle of the floor. Wednesday-Cat saw her clear duty and proceeded to trounce it. Besides jumping on it and slapping it around, Wednesday retreated around the corner so she could sneak up on the toothpick and presumably scare it out of its wooden wits. 

However, having accomplished her plan of ruthless justice upon the hapless toothpick, Wednesday did something that caused my epiphany: She flopped down beside the conquered sliver of wood with a vast sense of restful pleasure to enjoy her accomplishment.

Find satisfaction
Sometimes we forget to do this. We push and we labor and we strive and we tackle our goals with enthusiasm. But we forget that when we have reached a goal, it’s good to stop and appreciate the accomplishment. In the famous Ecclesiastes passage about how there is a time for everything, the writer says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecc. 3:12-13) Sometimes we don’t remember to stop and “find satisfaction” in the hard work we’ve been doing.

This can be particularly true with parenting. Since parenting is a task that presumably will last for at least 18 years, it’s easy to get in the habit of always seeing the next thing to be done. Yes, Junior has learned to brush his teeth, but he’s still leaving his clothes on the floor. Later, Junior has learned to pick up his clothes, but he doesn’t remember to take out the trash. And still later, Junior takes out the trash, but doesn’t put any enthusiasm into learning his spelling words. And on it goes. Because we are all fallen human beings, there is always room for improvement. The Bible tells parents to train their children in the fear of the Lord, and there’s always more instruction that can be given.

But we need to remember the flip side of the coin. When Junior has made progress or accomplished something, he needs to hear praise and appreciation. I recently read an article by a homeschooling father who lamented the fact that his interaction with his son had always been negative – to the point where his son was surprised at his first job when his co-workers just liked him for who he was.

You can always find something
It can be a hard balance to keep, particularly if it seems that your son or daughter is currently making progress in nothing. But there are always things you can find to be encouraging about. There are always accomplishments you can “find satisfaction” in with your child. Trust me, as a music teacher who often gets to hear students struggle through music they apparently didn’t bother practicing even once, I can tell you that all you need is a little creativity to find something to praise them for!

Here are some ideas of ways you can help your child “find satisfaction” in accomplishment – and maybe even be motived to more accomplishment.

Praise them for trying hard, even if they failed. Yes, you can point out the lessons to be learned from failure, but start by praising them for giving it a try in the first place.

Thank them for showing a good character trait. 
You are kind to your sister.” 
“You are respectful to me.” 
“You have a helpful heart.” 
“You are good at organizing your art supplies.” 
“You put away your toys without being asked.”

Recognize an achievement without immediately pointing out the next hurdle. Sometimes a child just needs to be able to rest in the thought that he finished a chapter of history, not be told that he still has three more to go before the end of the week.

When pointing out flaws, note the parts of their behavior that are good. “Your handwriting is beautiful, Sally. You’ve improved it so much this year! Now let’s work on your spelling in this assignment.”

Publicly recognize their good behavior or achievements. It’s amazing how much encouragement it can be for a child to know his parents are pleased enough with him to actually talk about it to others. (And how discouraging it can be for them to hear you publicly criticizing them.)

Take time to tell them you love them and enjoy them and are proud of them. Just because. Don’t wait for golden opportunities or perfect moments. When you’re sitting in the car, when you’re at the dinner table, when you’re tucking them in bed, when you’re taking a break from unloading groceries. “Sweetie, I just want you to know I love you and am proud of you.”

Because God did
Taking the time to rest and enjoy an achievement is something that even God did when He created the earth at the dawn of time. In fact, He took a whole day out of the week to do it. So in the hustle and struggle of raising your kids this school year, don’t forget to take the time to – metaphorically speaking – flop down by your conquered toothpick! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Institutionalized Butterflies

Our friends had two daughters.  Jane was homeschooled, but Kate was sent to Christian school.  We liked them both.  After they graduated we asked Jane why Kate had been institutionalized, rather than homeschooled like Jane.

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “Kate is such a social butterfly.  I can’t imagine her enjoying homeschooling!”

Whenever I think of that remark, I chuckle.  Having observed both girls at church, in our home, and at various social functions, I can tell you unquestionably which one was the most socially mature—homeschooled Jane!  Yep, the poor, deprived, stuck-with-her-parents girl was far more socially adept than her institutionalized sister.

Now, being a great fan of logic, I suggest we think through logically why this might be.

Kate was in an artificial, institutional setting with her same-age peers most of every week.  Her after-school activities were centered around the school or school peers.  Therefore, Kate spent most of her life between the ages of 5 and 18 with a gaggle of other kids her age who went to the same institution and did the same activities together.  The obvious consequence?

Kate only knew how to relate to peers her own age involved in her own activities!  She was a nice, friendly girl and responded when approached—but she could only talk about herself and her own little world.  She never sought out people who weren’t her peers.  The “social butterfly” just didn’t know how to relate to them.

On the other hand, Jane spent most of her life with such diverse people as her parents, her grandparents, their friends and children, her peers, and any other people you would encounter during a day spent outside an age-segregated institution.  Consequently, Jane could—and did—relate to anyone.  She was very mature for her age, could converse on many topics, and was always interested in other people—not just herself and her own world.  She made people feel special and appreciated. 

Doesn’t this make logical sense? 

Too often parents feel that their children are missing good social experiences by being homeschooled.  They don’t realize that their children are learning every day how to relate socially to the “real world,” unlike their age-segregated counterparts in artificial institutions.

I, the Humble Logician, would never dream of bragging, but I admit that during my childhood one of the comments our family often heard was how surprised people were by my sister’s and my social skills.  

“They stood there politely and talked with me!” 
“They were so articulate!”  
“I really appreciated them taking them time to talk with my little children!”

Were we incredibly gifted geniuses, born with the ability to socially relate to every person on the planet??  No, my friends.  We were simply brought up in a real-world, every-day setting where interacting with people in various walks of life, from infants to grandparents, was the norm. 

We see in the Bible that this was the way God planned children to be raised.  How better to train your children to be His emissaries to everyone around them—not just their peers?  Hmmm, I guess God must be into logic too….

Written by Heather Sheen

Monday, September 15, 2014

Items of Advice from the Oracle

Not every family is blessed by having a Great Oracle of Wisdom such as myself in their midst, but my family is lucky. I am always ready to dispense Advice and Instruction whenever I’m asked for it, and often when I’m not asked! (Isn’t that nice of me?) 

And although my Vast Talents occasionally go unappreciated by my thankless family, I have no doubt that you will appreciate the tips on homeschooling and childrearing that I, the Homeschooled Oracle, have to offer. I share these Fabulous Tidbits out of my store of Personal Experiences and Personal Observations, coupled with a Vast Stash of Truisms I learned from my Venerated Parents.

A-a-hem. Here we go.
  • Kids will be kids. But that doesn’t mean they can’t learn to act like well-behaved adults—usually at a younger age than parents give them credit for.
  • Just because an “expert” says something doesn’t automatically mean it is the only way—or even the best way—for your children to succeed. Don’t be afraid to think independently. You know your children better than the experts do.
  • Children are much more likely to remember the ice cream they had at the end of an Expensive Educational Field Trip than they are to remember anything else about it. (This pearl I share from my Personal Experience as a kid.) Unless you’re filthy rich (or you’re going on the field trip because you want to go), save the expensive field trips till the kids are old enough to truly appreciate them.
  • Your children are not you and may disagree with your opinions in many areas. But as long as they are in your home and living on your nickel, you have the right to require certain standards of dress and conduct from your children, even if they do squawk about it.
  • Just because a book is an incomprehensible “literary classic” doesn’t make your children ignorant morons forevermore if they don’t read it.
  • Kids need pets. You probably don’t need their pets, but they do.
  • Criticizing or making fun of your children in front of others is a great way to have a bad relationship. Unless you want a bad relationship, don’t do this.
  • It’s not the end of the world if your children spend the first couple weeks of school in September finishing up their books from the previous year. (Another gem from Personal Experience. Do you know how many times this happened to me? And look, I still turned out normal! Er, um, stop looking at me like that...)
  • It does no good to homeschool and shelter your children from the world if you invite the world back in through harmful books, movies, video games, TV shows, websites and bad peer influences.
  • Kids need dirt to play in. If you don’t have dirt that you’re able or willing to let them wallow in, let them grow some indoor plants from seed.
  • Include your children in your conversations with other adults. Your kids will learn a lot.
  • Homeschooling in and of itself doesn’t earn God’s special favor. What counts in God’s eyes is your heart and attitude.
  • If you value your own reputation, teach your children not to touch, taste, or handle things or explore the house uninvited when you take them into someone else’s home.
  • Kids need hugs. So do you.
  • Not every child who begs for a chemistry set is responsible enough to own one.
  • Your children’s overall behavior will usually conform to the level of your expectations. If you expect them to be rebellious little pills, they probably will be. Keep your expectations high.
  • Turn off the TV. Yes, turn it off. Really. It is possible.
  • Your children do not have to go to college immediately after high school. If they wait a year or two to and spend the time working and rounding themselves out with other valuable experiences, their lives aren’t going to come to a screeching halt.
  • Kids don’t need friends their own age nearly as much as they need to find their best friends in Mom and Dad.
  • Teach your children telephone etiquette. “Hellowhoozit?............ Hey, MOOOOOOOOOM! MOOOOOOOOM!” doesn’t cut the mustard. For safety reasons, don’t let young children answer the phone or have their voices on the voicemail recording.
  • My mom says that your life will get crazier the older your kids get. That’s a truism I trust her opinion on, even though I quite frankly don’t have any idea what she’s talking about. Do you?

  • Children do not have to grow up despising their siblings. Encourage and insist on siblings treating each other with love, kindness and respect.
  • Baking soda and vinegar experiments should take place outside.
  • If you’re indefinably uncomfortable with who your children hang out with, your gut instincts are probably right. Don’t be afraid to politely sever questionable relationships.
  • The old adage that “What you do in moderation, your children will do in excess” is usually true.
  • Take time for family fun now and then. Schedule it on the calendar if you have to.
  • Teach your sons to cook too.

And finally...
Once in awhile homeschooling is a lonely and difficult road. It’s still worth it. You’ll be glad you did it. 

I, the Oracle, hath spoken!

Written by Raquelle Sheen

Monday, September 8, 2014

Weapons From the Philistines

"Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, 'Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!' So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened… So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand." (I Samuel 13:19-20, 22a)

This passage from Scripture tells about a time when Israel was fighting for its very existence. Nations on every side were attacking them and trying to wipe them out. So I find it quite odd that the Israelites submitted to having the Philistines be their blacksmiths. Especially when the day of battle came and the Israelites had plenty of plowshares, axes and sickles, but no swords and spears. A plowshare is a good implement for farm work, but in battle a sword is the most useful!

Why would you let your enemy be your weapons manufacturer?

That’s a question we ought to be asking ourselves today. Modern society is in a similar situation. Christians, engaged every day in spiritual warfare, think nothing of sending their children to the pagans for education. They even allow the pagans to set the standards for education. And so we are now finding ourselves in the same predicament as Israel was – no proper weapons in the day of battle. The pagans have done a good job of creating “worker bees” for the state (sort of like making axes and plowshares), but they are actively against training your children to be weapons of godly warfare.

“Wait a minute,” you might say. “That Scripture was talking about weapons. You’re talking about children. That’s two different subjects!”

Like Arrows
But I would like to remind you of another Scripture passage. “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth.” (Psalm 127:4) As you may have noticed, arrows are weapons. So God Himself says that one of our weapons against the devil’s tactics is the godly children we raise up. But how can we raise up such weapons of righteousness if we allow the enemy to be our “weapons manufacturer?”

At this point, you may be thinking, “Well, we already homeschool, so that admonition doesn’t apply to us.” If you have taken your children out of the pagan education system, good for you! But that’s just the first step.

What about your curriculum? Is it from a Christian worldview? People often think that if it’s in print, it must be right. Therefore, a non-Christian text can consciously or subconsciously influence your children’s thinking by the simple fact that it seems truthful because it’s in a book. It’s not hard to find good Christian textbooks. Go for the good stuff!

What about your entertainment? It doesn’t do much good to teach your children that lying, stealing, swearing and immorality are unbiblical if you let them read books or watch movies that are saturated with these activities. Entertainment is one of the most powerful methods of persuasion since it is often a subconscious influence. Make sure your children have plenty of good books to read. And when you do watch a movie, preview it first to check the content and worldview.

What about your friends? Your children’s peer group can have a powerful influence on their lives. A child lacks judgment to evaluate his friends’ actions. If mommy says one thing and his buddy says another, oftentimes the buddy’s view is considered the cool one. Why let your children get their value system from bad influences? Find good, godly friends of all ages for your children.

Remember, simply stopping the “Philistines” from being our “weapons manufacturer” does not solve the problem. It’s just the first step. The second step is to become proactive in manufacturing “weapons” ourselves. We can’t simply stop the bad books, friends, movies and academics. We need to actively replace these things with good books, friends, movies and academics. We need to talk with our children about how to lead godly lives. This takes a great deal of prayer for wisdom as our culture constantly bombards families with anti-Christianity.

As you fashion the arrows God has given you, think ahead to the spiritual battles they will be engaged in. Remember that the "Philistines" want us to be making axes and plowshares. But God intends for us to create weapons for His glory.

Written by Heather Sheen