My Bite of Entitlement

Two of my kids love Cupcakes by Sonja, especially their Red Velvet flavor. The thing is, so do I. But I can’t eat a whole cupcake. I just want a little bite of it everytime I get it for the kids.

Well, today, when I bought a box of six cupcakes, I mixed in two red velvet flavors with mocha, cookies and cream, vanilla, and lemon. When my oldest son, Elijah, started eating his Red Velvet, I asked for a bite. He quipped, “Mom, you already got a bite earlier.” (This was true. I sneakily spooned a little bit for myself.) “Hey! I bought those!” I teased him. And this was his very wise response, “But Jesus provided for it.” I burst out laughing.

Oh right, how silly of me to assume that I had any claim on his cupcake just because I paid for it. What?! Did my son just out-wit me?! Well I didn’t insist on an extra 50-calorie bite of his cupcake. I gave up. I was more thrilled that he got the spiritual principle behind everything we have and own — it’s all the Lord’s. We should not have an entitlement mentality about anything…even cupcakes!

Averted “Cat Fight”

I stepped into a near cat fight between two of the ladies who work for me. I was in my bedroom, playing with my kids, when I overheard their voices. Something was wrong. And sure enough, when I went into their room, they were at it…pointing fingers, cutting words, angry faces. My, here we go, I thought. This isn’t going to be quick or easy.

I listened to their discussion for a bit, which simmered down significantly because I was in the room with them. But they were still at it. Accusatory remarks, bringing up the past, judging one another…I had to say something.

Given that my Tagalog is not very good, my proposals and mediation had to be done in English (with my best effort to mix in the Tagalog). Thankfully, they understood me.

First, I tried to find out what was happening. I let the first two ladies (the ones who were really at it) explain their sides and then I asked them to pray with me. I knew this wasn’t a situation that could be solved with human resources because a whole lot of resentment had made the atmosphere spiritually heavy. So I came before the Lord and asked him to help us all.

Then I appealed to the goodness in each of them. Our conversation went something like this, “I know you ladies don’t want to be angry with each other. I know that you do not want to work together like this. So I want you to share with me what has made you feel hurt. Then, I want you to share how the other can improve.”

I gave time to each of the girls to say how they felt. But in the process, they dug up whatever beef they had with each other and tried to make each other look bad! So, I narrowed down the issues. Afterwards, I also shared about how conflict is normal. Edric and I have to work things out in our own relationship. No one is perfect, we all have to improve.

To cut the story short, I asked each one of them to share what they needed to change in their own life (regardless of the other person). And I also asked them how I can improve because I wanted to drive home the point that everyone can become better in some way.

Afterwards, I reassured them that they are equally important to me, that I care about them. I told them that the ugly things they revealed about each other will not make me care about them less. Most importantly, I shared that in our home, Christ is the center. And we want him to be present in the way we treat one another and the things we say. When we act in a manner that is unloving, then we displease God. (This is an edited version of our dialogue because I spent a good 45 minutes talking the issues over with them.)

One of the girls easily get over the issue and move on but the other one was nursing her hurt. This is where I had to bring in forgiveness.

Tears were shed (including my own), but by God’s grace, they all came to a better understanding and appreciation of one another. Repeatedly, I told them, “There are no accidents with God. We have all been brought together in this home. Therefore, we must choose to forgive and love one another.” I encouraged them to pray and surrender their frustrations to the Lord instead of focusing on the faults of the other person.

At the conclusion of our intense conversation, I prayed with them again. There was an overwhelming sense of peace and relationships were restored. I hugged each one of them and encouraged them to hug one another. We even did a group hug in the end and I counted to 10 seconds before allowing anyone to let go. (I ask my boys to do this when they get upset with one another, too.)

One of my girls said that she was so ashamed that their issues were brought up to me. And I told her, “Don’t ever be ashamed to share these things with me. I am not angry or stressed. You don’t have to worry about that. I am committed to helping you all improve and grow. But don’t do things for me. Do what is right for God.”

As a treat, I told them that I was giving them money to watch a movie at the mall so they could have some bonding time. It was a good day for me to do this because my two older kids were with Edric, and I just had my two tiddly-winks, Titus and Tiana, to take care of.

They were embarrassed to accept my offer, but I insisted. In my heart, I felt like this was one of those moments when they needed to experience grace. Why? Because we had shared the gospel of Jesus Christ to them in the past and we have always been vocal about what we believe, but the gospel’s true power must be seen in our lives. I sacrificed my own comfort this afternoon for their sake so they might understand that the gospel is about forgiveness, undeserved kindness, and redemption.

I didn’t do this for myself. My goodness, no! My human, self-centered side does not like dealing with other people’s “mess.” I don’t like to mediate discussions or jump in to help others resolve their issues. Sure, I do this with my kids. But that’s different.

Yet, God put a burden in my heart to disciple these ladies. They live in our home. I trust them with the lives of my children. And even if the world may think of them as just “the help,” I consider them fellow heirs of God’s grace because he loves them and died for them.

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:28 – 29

I also know that they watch our lives more closely than anyone else. By reaching out to them in grace, I want them to desire the Jesus whom we believe in and love. I don’t want there to be any measure of contradiction in me to nullify whatever seed the gospel has planted in their hearts. If my actions as a boss turn them off to Jesus then I am accountable for a great crime before God. His invitation to relationship is for them, too.

They came home from their mall and movie bonding time smiling and chatting. The pleasant sound of their laughter in the kitchen was a wonderful reminder that peace is possible in Christ. Praise God for bringing back the harmony into our home!

May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.
(Jude 1:2 NASB)

The Unteachable Heart

I want my kids to have a teachable heart but lately, I have not been so teachable myself. Sadly, of all the people in the world, it is my dear husband who has been meeting my resistance to correction.

And it has been wrong of me. Prideful. Instead of being humble and looking at what I can change, I have reacted to his style, method, tone of voice and made excuses.

I can think of two obvious instances in the last few days when the ugly horns of my pride were resurrected. The first was when I accidentally left Tiana in the car. I left my daughter sleeping in the van in the basement parking of our condo! Yes, it was a crazy, dumb, dangerous mistake on my part.

As soon as I realized what happened (which was a few seconds after I entered the front door), I panicked, ran back out and took the elevator down to the basement. Was Tiana crying and screaming? Nope. There she was, my little sleeping princess, undisturbed and totally oblivious. I picked her up, held her tightly and kissed her hair. She was fine, but I could not believe I had been so careless and absent-minded.

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When Edric found out that I had done this, he was upset. I told him the story and laughed at my forgetfulness because it seemed comical looking back but he quickly said, “It’s not funny.”

Huh? Wait a minute there, mister! I did not like his tone and so instead of saying, “You are right. I need to be more careful,” I dug up his past mistakes and said, “Hey, you did that twice with the boys and I didn’t make a big deal out of it. Besides, I got her right away and she was sleeping soundly.”

He did not like my historical comment and my disrespecful manner of turning the situation around to make him the bad guy. What he was trying to say was I need to be more attentive and vigilant. That was the issue. It was a very valid point. I mean, come on! I locked my 23 month old daughter in the van! Even if Edric had made the mistake before, it didn’t make my mistake excusable.

Another example was Sunday morning when we had Tapa (Filipino breakfast steak) for our morning meal. Edric commented that the beef was not as crunchy as before. According to him the texture was different. When he asked me why I changed the brand and cut of the meat, I felt irritated so I made a smart-alecky remark and said, “Why don’t you taste it first? You have not even tried it. It’s really yummy!”

His reply was something like this, “I don’t understand why you can’t stick to the same thing if it already works.” I started to give an excuse and then I realized hmm… He is right. Why can’t I stick to doing the same thing? He is not the problem. I am the problem. I don’t like being told what to do, especially when it comes to home management, and his observation was actually sensible. But because I felt like he was being such a nitpicker and complainer I had a hard time humbling myself.

While listening to Edric preach on the heart yesterday morning, God convicted me. He reminded me that I have been struggling with pride. A symptom of pride is not listening to correction.

I remember a valuable principle that my dad taught me about criticism. He said something like this, “A sign of spiritual maturity is the ability to respond positively to correction. If the criticism is wrong, then praise God, take it as a warning — a sin to avoid. If the criticism is true, then praise God it was revealed to you so you can change. In other words, when people criticize you it’s a win-win from any angle if you can respond in the right way and with humility.”

My parents have been a good example of this. I have watched them deal with difficult people who have accused them, slandered them and judged their motives. They have not held grudges against such people. Sure, they have been hurt and were tempted to defend themselves or retaliate but instead they trusted the Lord. And in instances where they were wrong, they asked for forgiveness to restore the relationship.

After pondering all these things, I asked Edric for forgiveness. I said to him, “Hon, during your message today, I was convicted about my pride. Please forgive me for being resistant to your correction. I am sorry and I want to change.” Edric’s reply was, “I should preach more often!” (Ha ha) Of course he forgave me and we enjoyed a wonderful, PEACEFUL Sunday together.

I need to remember that Edric’s correction is God’s personalized way of helping me to improve. Here are the verses that God brought to mind as I wrote this…

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:10 NASB)

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel. (Proverbs 12:15 NASB)

Lord, please help me to have a teachable heart! I want to raise teachable kids so help me to be a model of teachableness!

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When Boys Go Biking with their Dads

Edric took Elijah, our eldest son, for a bike ride around the city. And it was magic for building his manhood.

As for me, I am glad I wasn’t there because it would have freaked me out to know that cars were passing closely beside my son or trying to dodge him while he biked on the main thoroughfare near our place.

It was Edric’s idea to include Elijah and it was his invitation for dad and son bonding time that mattered so much. So off they went on their merry way — father and son.

Well, they had a blast. Elijah came into the study room to see me when he got home. He was drenched in sweat but smiling from ear to ear. After catching his breath, he told me about their biking adventure. He was obviously excited and happy as he narrated his experience.

He also told me a funny story about a bird that chased Edric. I half-believed him at that point and thought that maybe he was exaggerating until Edric told me the same thing.

Apparently, Edric was going up a grassy hill when a bird swooped down and started chirping wildly. Then it followed him and flew close to his head as if it was going to attack him. It was so bizarre and Edric had to evade it. In fact, he nearly got thrown off his bike because he was trying to get away from that crazy bird.

As for Elijah, his most memorable part was going through the off-road areas that were overgrown and unpredictable. Edric saved a tidbit of their conversation to pass on to me, thinking that I might possibly want to write about it. And here I am doing just that.

It was not easy for Elijah to navigate through all the difficult parts on his bike but Edric kept encouraging him and not allowing him to give in to his fear or emotions. So Elijah pushed on, peddling hard and trying his best. At one point, however, Elijah could not make his way past the tall grassy areas so Edric instructed him to follow right behind him. And he did.

Then he said something that I feel is emblematic of a father and son relationship. As Edric conquered the terrain, Elijah was able to move through the same way with greater ease. He even said, “Dad it’s amazing! Your bike is able to create a path for me so it is easy for me to follow.”

I just thought this statement gave good insight into the necessity or a husband and father to take the lead. Sons need to have a clear path to follow. Fathers help to carve out that path for them. But they make the most impact when they are in front, leading the way…by example.

I am sure an occasion like this made a big deposit in Elijah’s heart. May he have many more of these magical father and son bonding moments with Edric!

My Husband is a “Pusher”

I mean that in a very good way. He wakes me up three times a week to go running even if I hate it. There are days when I wish he was lazy enough not to get out of bed but it hardly ever happens. Most of the time it is me who is trying to get out of running.

I used to be so into fitness. I mean, I played college soccer (football) and was on the UAAP team of Ateneo. Then came 1…2…3…4…children. And my body felt irrecoverable. Whatever glory days I had as an athlete seemed a very distant fantasy after pregnancy and childbirth.

I remember trying to do P90x two months after my daughter, Tiana, and my body felt like it was going to break in half. My abs were the mushiest they had ever been. I was trying to copy the Ab Ripper X moves but they were torturous. And there was my husband, easily adapting to the exercises. I was actually upset at him! Jealous! Even my sister who had given birth to her son had washboard abs after four months. But not me. Ab-sent was more like it.

Okay, so because I am back to my college weight people have very nicely told me, “You don’t look like you have had four children,” and I really have wanted to reply, “If you only knew the agony of it all! It hurts me to stay this way. Seriously. It ‘hurts’ to exercise and eat the right stuff because I am getting older. I have to fight gravity, hormonal cravings, a higher rate of muscle to fat conversion, and fatigue. And oh, by the way, you haven’t seen my tummy. It is a more truthful gauge of my post-baby body!”

It hurts. It’s true. Waking up early to run and feeling creaky while I do it is no fun. Right now, I only have my husband to thank for being the pusher that he is. If not for my pusher of a husband, I dread to imagine what kind of potato I would have turned into…surely a lumpy-lumpy-doo kind of couch potato.

Thankfully, my husband, Edric, is like a warrior. He is not the kind of man who will let things happen to him. He will make things happen. And I admire this in him. It is a very attractive masculine trait that makes him a natural leader and man of purpose. But I get dragged into his warrior-ness. Of course. Naturally. How can I be married to a man like this and not be infected and motivated by his personality? We are one after all.

So this morning, at 5:30 am, when he tapped my shoulder and said, “Are you ready to run?”, I got up. I didn’t want to, but I did. And when we got outside and there was a downpour, I even said, “This looks like acid rain.” (Secretly I was hoping he would back down because he did think the sky was a different color this morning. I don’t even know what acid rain looks like. He he) Well, we ran anyway.

Lord willing, I will keep running. But Lord willing, we will also find another fitness activity that is more engaging and interesting.

After reflecting on my resistance towards running, I began to recognize something fundamentally wrong with my motivation for exercising. It has been based largely on external factors — competing with others, the “pushing” from my husband, the happy hormones that circulate inside me after I exercise, and even pride. The pride part is I don’t want Edric to be physically fit and I be a lumpy-lumpy-doo-gooey person next to him.

My problem is I have to develop an inner motivation to be healthy and fit. I can’t be dependent on the pushing of my husband. And I need to stop eating junk like M&Ms! (Sometimes I exercise so I can eat bad food. Tsk tsk. Oh, but I love the little indulgences! Rice! Cheap chocolate!)

So here is the connection to the more important realization. Motivation is key — the why behind what I do, what everyone does, what my kids do…

Someday, I won’t be able to “push” my kids the way Edric pushes me to exercise. Their desire to learn can’t be external. I have got to work on cultivating their inner persons to learn for a greater purpose — the pull, instead of the push. I mean, I really have to reinforce it everyday and repeat it often that we are not learning just for learning’s sake. Until they really get that, I will keep having to convince them to learn. And I don’t want to do that. I know how it feels to be on the other side (like with running. Bleck!).

Homeschooling is not going to get any easier. In some ways, it may, like the routines, the expectations, and the closeness that I have with my kids. All these factors will help. But I am thinking of the days when my kids will really have to work their little tooshies off to make hard-core compositions and figure out algebra.(Okay, that includes me re-figuring out Algebra). I am also thinking beyond that to the moments when they will be confronted with very difficult decision making experiences that will test the truths that they have built their lives on.

Right now, what we are doing is still “comfortable.” The problems and obstacles they encounter are not earth shaking. “Mom, I can’t fold this piece of paper! Mom, how come I have to do five pages of this book? Mom, I don’t get this word problem!”

Oh no, dear Mommy-o Joy! We are at the smooth part of the rapids and we haven’t seen anything yet!

What will keep my kids going so they finish well? I don’t want it to be the peripheral things that are considered good — our relationship, the value of responsibility, duty, excellence, the quest for knowledge, understanding, wisdom, fear, obedience, etc. There are many worldly and christian ideas and ideals that might be called acceptable motivations but I don’t think these things can be the IT.

I think 1 Corinthians 13 tells us what ought to be IT.

Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…(1 Corinthians 13:7, 8 NASB)

The apostle Paul said that love of Christ compelled him. If my children can say, “Jesus, you are my King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I love you. I want everything I do, say, and think to testify to this. And in the end may you receive all the glory for everything I am and become,” then wow, that would be the IT.

The sobering reality is that if Edric and I can’t give our kids the IT now, I expect they will approach life with the same kind of shiftiness, double-mindedness, and secret resistance that I have towards running as a form of exercise. Then won’t have full conviction or complete resolve to be faithful to the end. In short, they will need a pusher. But, what they really need is a built-in propeller. Okay, we are going to work on that.

Now about running… I need to change my heart. “Lord, I am going to work out and be fit, strong, and healthy because I love you. Because I love you, I delight to follow your word and your principles. And your word says, my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, therefore I must take care of it. The discipline of my body and good health does not have to be a meaningless, worldly pursuit, but a choice to glorify you, which I hope to do. Let joy replace the drudgery!” AMEN!

Ultimate Longing

“How does God fulfill our ultimate longing? He does so in many ways: by being the perfect fit for our very nature, by satisfying our longing for interpersonal relationship, by being in his omniscience the end to our search for knowledge, by being in his infinite being the refuge from all fear, by being in his holiness the righteous ground of our quest for justice, by being in his infinite love the cause of our hope for salvation, by being in his infinite creativity both the source of our creative imagination and the ultimate beauty we seek to reflect as we ourselves create.” (excerpt from The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire, pg. 33)

I was blessed when I read this. I hope it will bless you today!

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Debra Bell’s Key Factors for Homeschooling Success

Debra Bell, author of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, was a plenary speaker at the recently held Philippine Homeschool Conference.

She was a pioneering homeschool mom and educator who was instrumental in legalizing home education in Pennsylvania back in the 1980s. Her book has been an invaluable tool to homeschoolers around the world. I read my mom’s first edition copy years ago when I was researching about homeschooling.

Her book and testimony is of even greater value to me at present because her children are all grown up, married and successful. They are committed followers of Jesus, accomplished in their occupations of choice, and they all remain close as a family. They are living proof that Debra and her husband, Kermit, made the right choice by homeschooling. I was blessed to spend some personal time with her and hear stories about her family and her walk with God. She is a remarkable woman.

During a smaller gathering of parents that was organized a day before the conference, she shared six key principles for homeschooling success. In the decades that she has taught her kids, been a certified educator, and served the homeschooling community, she has narrowed down the success factors to six non-negotiables. Regardless of culture, these factors are elemental to gracefully surviving homeschooling:

1.Your family relationships are healthy.

Do you and your spouse prioritize your marital relationship?
Do you pursue your children relationally?

She recommends reading books like Age of Opportunity by Paul Tripp

2. Your home is educationally stimulating. Children’s natural curiosity is God-given and never intended to be extinguished.

What value do you place on education?
Are you convinced that God wants you to invest in the intellectual gifts of your children?
What do you expect your child to devote his or her time to?
Are you willing to invest in the best resources you can afford?

3. You have a biblical conviction that God has called you to this.
How did you make your decision?
Do you trust that God will make His will known?

“A double-minded is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8

Homeschooling is born out of a biblical conviction and is sustained by faith and grace.

4. You are committed to Christian maturity
What is your commitment to progressive sanctification in your own life?
Are you growing in spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness?

Expect homeschooling to be uncomfortable, but by God’s power, you can do it!

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:3-8 NLT)


5. You have a support system.

Do you have people with whom you can build a homeschool community for the benefit of your children?
Can you share resources with family and friends?

6. You are willing to seek help.

Do you acknowledge that you need others?

God gives grace to the humble. No homeschooler is an island. You will need to supplement and augment your weaknesses by enlisting the help of others.

Here is the encouragement, if these factors are in check, you can be confident that you are providing the best education you can for your kids.

I love this quote of Debra Bell. If we built a school from the ground up based on how children learn best, we would build a home. May this inspire you!

Connect with her here: Debra Bell

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Homeschooling is A Brotherhood

Elijah was learning about pangalan pantangi o pambalana (proper nouns and common nouns) and one of the exercises required him to give proper noun examples. When he got to the word “kaibigan” (friend), I thought he would write down names of his homeschool buddies, neighbors, bible study friends, etc. But when I looked over his shoulder, I saw him write down Edan and Titus’ names.

Of course, this delighted me. I want our kids to be best friends. And they often say that they are. I think homeschooling has alot to do with it. The boys are together so much they learn to work out their differences, defer to one another, and love one another unconditionally. They also protect and support each other.

A few years ago, my second son, Edan, was coin bearer at the wedding of some good friends. He must have been close to 4 at the time.

When the entourage was lined up to go inside the chapel, Edan broke down. He was terrified. It was his first time to march down an aisle like this. Elijah, on the other had, was experienced in this area. He had been ring bearer, coin bearer, and bible bearer in different weddings. So he said to Edan, “Edan, don’t worry. Just hold my hand. There will be a lot of people and a lot of lights. Just look straight. Don’t be scared.” He held the coins for Edan and let him hold on to his hand. Then they walked into the chapel together.

It was an unforgettable picture of brotherhood. Here was a six year old and three year old who understood what it meant to “have each other’s backs.”

My prayer is that our kids will stay close like this — that God will knit their hearts together. Someday they will benefit from each other’s spiritual support and encouragement to weather the storms of life. At present, they are beginning hold each other accountable for responsibilities like violin and piano practice, or activities like reading the Bible and praying.

Adidas used to have a tag line for basketball. Basketball is a brotherhood. Well, for my boys, homeschooling is a brotherhood. May they be like the chord that Ecclesiastes describes, “…A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”

I recently found photos of Elijah and Edan during the wedding…

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Go Homeschooling!

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Innate Capacity

Do you believe that your child has the innate capacity to learn? I certainly do. And I have taught my kids with this mindset. But I have also chosen to burden myself with the responsibility of tapping into that capacity.

In classrooms full of different types of learners it is a rare teacher who can cater to the needs of each child. But at home, with one on one instruction, it is much easier for a parent to adjust to the learning needs of her child. When instruction and learning are customized, then a child’s capacity is given the opportunity to shine.

For example, I have taught three boys to read. My eldest son is a nine year old who is a very advanced reader. My second son, a six year old, is becoming highly proficient at reading. And my third son started reading three letter word books before he turned four. (This was unexpected!)

I am sharing these things not to turn a spotlight onto our family and say, “hey, look at what we can do!” Please forgive me if it sounds like I am “tooting my own horn.” Reading, after all, just opens the doorway to learning. This is just the beginning of an exciting journey my children will be taking as they increase in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. However, I do want to use their examples as proof that homeschooling works. It works because a customized education is what children really need.

If someone had asked me a while back if my third son, Titus, would have started getting the reading code by three years old, I would have said, “I don’t think so.” Honestly, I was skeptical only because he is a more physical child that needs to be engaged in different ways from his older brothers. I thought he would eventually read because I believed that he had the capacity to, but my plan was to take it slow with him and let him develop readiness in the area of reading. His brothers read before four, but my prediction for him was age five. Yet, he pleasantly surprised me one morning when he read a Hooked on Phonics book cover to cover and went on to read two more in the same week. It was then that I realized he was actually ready and able to commit to more formal instruction.

At first, I was using Sing, Spell, Read, and Write for all of them. But, after Titus learned most of the songs but still did not seem to get the blends, I knew that I had to change my approach with him. In my heart, I still believed that he was just as capable as his brothers but that his time table was just unique. And this was okay with me because I did not want to pressure him to be anything other than what God designed him to be.

So I created a system for him that involved five to seven minutes of phonics several times a week (not even everyday). And after a few months of doing this, it just clicked. I can’t even begin to express how delightful it was to see his confidence soar as he read through his first book. He was beaming. He was thrilled. I was cheering like a madwoman.

“God, you astound me!” This was the thought that came to me over and over again. “Once again you have shown me that homeschooling is really a testament to the ‘in spite of’.” I am not a professional teacher. I am not even a reading specialist. But God has consistently demonstrated that he is the one who enables me to teach my kids.

We have a long way to go. From this vantage point, the end of our homeschooling days is far off…not even visible on the horizon. But one thing I have learned about teaching my own children is that parents can be the exact teacher their child needs to bring out that God-given capacity in them to learn.

My simple philosophy for teaching my kids is this: All children are equipped to learn and they can develop a genuine love for learning, but a teacher must be willing to discover and investigate how a child learns best, welcome the adjustment it requires on her part, and look to the Lord for the supernatural creativity, insight, wisdom, and ability that this kind of inspired teaching requires. But children are also born with fallen natures, and a teacher must not lose sight of the goal of her instruction when she makes adjustments in her teaching. To adjust is not to let go of the training aspect. And the training aspect deals with the heart — that a child’s heart be conformed to Christ-likeness.

Maybe you will like this way of putting it…We can’t use cookie cutters on all children because they aren’t all made of the same dough. So don’t use a cookie-cutter approach to teaching them either. But you have to know what kind of cookies you are making. Cookies don’t bake themselves. Yet in the masterful hands of a baker who follows the right recipe, they have the potential to turn out wonderful! (I would say that’s as far as the analogy goes because we don’t eat our kids like we do cookies!)

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The Relational Atmosphere

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My two older sons sat through Sunday service to watch and hear their dad preach. At one part during the message, Edric admitted to the audience that, “I still struggle with irritability towards my wife and kids from time to time but by God’s grace, I am improving.” The theme of his talk was “Pursuing Intimacy with God through A Heart Makeover.” He was nearing the end of the morning’s sermon when he revealed that bit about his heart.

Elijah, my eldest son, was seated beside me and he whispered to me, “Dad is so honest! He does get irritated sometimes but he says sorry right away and we forgive him.”

He said this so candidly and without any hint of hurt or bitterness. Edric does lose his cool once in a while. But, he has changed so much over the years. This is really the Lord’s doing (I used to get so reactive when he would snap at the kids, but “correcting” him would backfire, so I chose the better alternative — praying to God while acting respectfully towards Edric. That worked!)

Hearing Elijah’s comment taught me a valuable relationship principle. A home must abound with humility and forgiveness. My dad used to say, “keep short accounts.” Don’t let anger or hurt linger, especially among family members. Growing up, I remember that our family was quick to say sorry and willing to forgive immediately. We saw our parents model this. When they would make a mistake, they would sit us down and talk with us. They would humbly admit that they were wrong and ask for our forgiveness. If they had disputes with each other and their “discussions” became public, they would apologize for the way they spoke to one another in front of us. This meant a lot to us kids. We saw how conflict was resolved and relationships restored easily when people practiced humility, forgiveness and grace.

Edric and I are trying to cultivate this same kind of relational atmosphere in our home. Our children know that we are imperfect people. But they also know that we are committed to becoming better and our standard is to keep maturing into Christ-likeness.

Periodically, we will also ask our kids, “How can we improve?” And they will give their suggestions. This keeps us from repeating actions that damage our kids emotionally. It also keeps our communication channels open.

Recently, I was counseling a friend whose parents were verbally and physically abusive (more verbal than physical.) After their outbursts of anger, they would act like nothing really happened and expect their children to “move on.” But their actions had compounded negative interest in the heart of my friend. She lived with a lot of resentment and pain.

As God continues to work in her life, she is slowly breaking free from the emotional bondages that have prevented her from loving others without fear. But their is still residual junk from the unhealthy way her parents dealt with their parenting and relational mistakes. I believe in God’s time, she will experience complete breakthrough because she has surrendered her life to the Lord completely.

We really need to think through the repercussions of how conflict and offenses are dealt with at home. The way we apologize, forgive and extend grace to family members will carry over into our children’s future families.

When I don’t feel like forgiving others, I remember that God has forgiven me a debt I cannot pay. He has shown me undeserved compassion and loved me enough to die for me. Therefore, who am I not to forgive?

You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:36, 37 NLT)

“…I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations
.” (Exodus 34:6, 7 NLT)

Balloon Color Lesson

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Titus’ birthday balloons became an instant color lesson for my little girl. I let her play with colors and I helped her identify them. She’s still a long way from getting it, but these balloons provided a great hands-on color lesson. Homeschooling toddlers is so much fun!

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