Teaching Children to Make Wise Choices

My kids like to use the IPads and computers for games. For about 4 months they were banned from gadgets so we could finish our homeschooling year. But after I gave birth, online educational programs and apps were a big help to keep the kids productive while I was busy with Catalina.

We stuck to certain parameters.

1. Is the game or app educational?
2. Will it help to develop an important skill?
3. Will it allow you to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men? (Luke 2:52)
4. Playing games have time limits attached to their use.

Our kids know my apple ID and password. But they don’t abuse it. They will always ask for permission before getting an app, even if it is free. And they know what their boundaries are in terms of criteria.

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About two years ago, my second son, Edan, got hooked on Plants vs Zombies. He was obsessed with it. It was the first time I became concerned about letting the kids use the iPad for fun. I felt like we had opened a Pandora’s box as a family and let in the game monster. Edan of all my other children seemed to have a greater tendency towards addiction. He was more vulnerable.

In fact he admitted to me recently that the danger of computer games for him is he thinks about them even when he isn’t playing.

Every child is different and as parents we need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Elijah, for example, can self regulate and say, “Okay, I don’t want to play with gadgets for a week because I don’t want to get addicted.” And he can busy himself with reading and other interests.

However, Edan is different. He has a harder time controlling his desire for gaming. So we need to help him and avoid putting him in predicaments where he can “feed” that side of him.

A few days ago he came up to me asking if he could install a certain app. It was a game. It wasn’t educational. I struggled as a mom. Edan is a good son. By God’s grace, he is obedient, too. When he asked me, I could see the DESIRE in his eyes. He wanted the game and his happiness seemed to hinge on my response.

So I gave him the opportunity to present why he liked the game, to hear him out. And then I asked him very gently and thoughtfully, “Is this game educational?”

He answered, “No.”

“Is it a business game? Will it teach you business principles?”

“No.” His shoulders hunched over and he seemed disheartened.

“Will it help you to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man? (Luke 2:52)

He shook his head and started to tear.

“Do you think you should get it then?”

When I asked this, he started to cry out loud. He already knew the answer.

Oh my heart broke as a mom. I hugged him. I knew it was important to him and he wanted the game very badly. He had taken a step of faith when he asked me. And a part of me was tempted to give in and then to remove the app later
on if it really was destructive.

But I had to be consistent. I had to consider his greater good and not just his present happiness. So I said something like this…”Edan, mommy wants you to enjoy playing games. I like you to have fun. But you need to find a game that will help you to develop a skill. It can’t be for entertainment purposes only. So why don’t you find something that is educational and present it to me as an option?”

Well, he was able to find an incredible app called Paper 53. It’s a great app for artists. Edan understands balance and symmetry without having learned these concepts so I know that he can hone his artistic abilities. When he showed me the app, I heartily agreed to get it for him because it would be a profitable use of his time.

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I wanted to share this because we need to teach our older children to make wise choices, to weigh the pros and cons of a decision. When they are younger, we can pull off the “obey because I said so.” But this has to change as they grow up. We don’t want them to obey on the outside but harbor resentment and rebellion on the inside. So it helps to get them to think through their decision making process, especially when it comes to dealing with the desires of the heart.

My parents used the same approach with me when I was interested in dating someone who would have been a poor choice. They took me out to dinner and asked me the right questions. Over the course of the conversation, just like Edan, I cried, but I knew what I had to do. I was able to arrive at a discerning conclusion and I did not entertain the guys attempts to pursue a relationship with me. I was 15.

We don’t want to raise children who have an underdeveloped capacity for sound judgement. So it helps to start off with clear principles that we want to live by as a family. And then we need to teach these to our children, reinforcing these principles by our own adherence to them and our consistency in upholding them in the home. When they are in predicaments that can lead to a violation of a principle, the asking-questions-part comes in. Let them consider whether their choices or actions favor those principles or go against them so they take ownership of their decisions. It also helps when we communicate trust in their capacity to make wise choices that please God because he is present in their lives.

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out. (Proverbs 20:5 NASB)

PARAPHRASED FOR PARENTING: “The intentions in the heart of a child are like deep waters but a parent of understanding draws them out.”

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Dominion

The boys convinced me to play the game, Dominion, with them. It is usually a boys only with dad type of activity but they insisted that I join. It is their bonding time with Edric in place of not-so-desirable options like television and tablets.

For over two months the kids have not been playing Ipad games — educational or otherwise. (The only thing they have done on my Ipad is use it to draw). After observing the effects on their concentration, desire to learn, creativity, and interest in reading, I decided to do an experiment. If the IPad was not an option, even on the weekends, how would this impact their development. So far, I have noticed that the kids are easier to teach, less preoccupied by thoughts of a virtual reality, and they have pursued more profitable activities — reading, inventing games, stories, and engaging one another in discussion and dialogue.

Prior to this, the IPad was triggering addictive tendencies in my younger kids. Elijah could rise above it but Edan and Titus were especially “attracted” to the games they would play. While they weren’t playing, they would talk about the games or think about the games. This concerned me. So one day, I said, “That’s it. No more IPad until we finish our school year.”

The kids found other ways to redeem their time and when I asked them to do their work they were more focused. It took about two weeks to “detox” and “re-wire” their appetites. Nowadays, the IPad is not that interesting to them. They don’t even look for it. Instead, we have gone back to playing strategy games as a family.

Someone sent me a link to this article: The Heart of Screen Time. In the article, author Heather Villa wrote, “How much screen time is too much? The AAP recently reported that children spend an average of seven hours a day “plugged in” to media of some sort. However, AAP recommends that children older than two years old should get no more than two hours a day of quality screen time. Why? Children need a chance to simply unwind, play outside, read a book, and relate with others. Aside from any study, screen time that trumps meaningful connections is possibly too much screen time.”

Here are some photos of the evening when we were playing. They aren’t too clear because they were taken with my iPhone (mostly by Titus). I was the WINNER. Yippee!

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DVBS in Greenmeadows

I should have posted this sooner but in case you are interested in sending your kids to a fun three days of bible stories, music, dancing, games, crafts and fellowship, Greenmeadows subdivision will be hosting a DVBS starting tomorrow. Please check out the flyer. Personally, I prefer to bring my kids to this one because it is just three days and it is a smaller group. Our church just organized one for about 700 kids! This one is a mini-scale version with the same theme.

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The Kind of Day Our Kids Love

Ran with Edric, did ab workout with the kids — teaching them P90 Ab Ripper X routine! Edric’s abs coming to form but mine…too many children. They are somewhere behind the layers of childbearing but nothing impressive yet. Sigh.

Breakfast with the kids and let them eat the ice pops we made the day before. Titus stuck gummies in his ice pop. He likes unconventional.

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Lunch with Edric's family...They are always a delight to be with and the kids always love their food.

Off to High Street to let the kids run around...Yeah! The old bouncy sculpture thingy was back. We missed you! Now the boys can actually jump off it without assistance.

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Wall climbing at R.O.X…The two older boys scaled it like pros. So proud of them. Power Up seems more professional than the climbing group in Market Market (and more accommodating to little kids). Titus struggled with his first time climb but he made it to the point we asked him to (even if he was near tears at first). Go Titus! Tiana cheered, “Go, Titus!” while sitting beside me like a little cheerleader. Considering making this a more regular activity for the kids.

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Looking at furniture in Dimensione…Tiana knocked down a huge lamp but praise God it did not break!!! I let out a panic scream that scared Edric and the kids. We contained ourselves to a non-hazardous area of the store while Edric looked around.

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Went to Fully Booked for an amazing twenty minutes. It was cut short. We were getting tired.

Came home and baked cookies…Ate alot of cookie dough…bad bad. Made me hyper and I negated my running and ab workout. Great. Had dinner at 6 pm. I love early family dinners.

Edan asked for a back massage so I turned our room into a “spa” and gave the entire family massages (except for my assistant, Tiana). Edric thought I had gone crazy. He knows I don’t like giving massages but I found all these different massage oils while cleaning out my bathroom cabinets and I wanted to use them before they expire.

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Had game night with the older kids — 7 Wonders. Tiana went to bed with her big bear bear. Titus stuck many many coins into our drawer by slipping them through the opening on top while the drawer was closed. He also broke one of my necklaces and beads were all over the floor. It did not bother me. It was an intentional accident. ;)

Edric tucked the kids into bed and prayed with them. And we had QUIET. Wow. The kids went to bed with big smiles and full emotional tanks. I wouldn’t be able to do this everyday. But this was a good day. The kids love these kinds of days when we are umbilically attached to them.

Edric pooped out early and now I am ready for bed, too!

Learning in the 21st Century

“The classroom of the future isn’t a classroom. Today’s students are wired for a digital world where time and place simply don’t matter.” Echo360

I read this on a website last year and I found it again when I was going through my files. If this is true it really makes you wonder why we insist on classrooms as the delivery mode for learning, and that subjects must be taught in a particular order and manner through the years. The reality is children of this day and age are so digitally different than children twenty years ago. What worked before is not as relevant today. For example,  children are not as dependent on teachers as they used to be. With the amount of information that is easily accessible online, children (by a certain age), can research about almost any topic they want to learn about. Children don’t have to be limited by a teacher’s lesson plan. Instead, they need to understand how to use the internet wisely and be protected from the junk that is just as accessible as the good stuff.

I told my kids some years ago, “If you ever see anything on the internet that shows naked people or something scary, just run away! And tell mommy or daddy. Don’t even look at it.” They aren’t aloud to be on sites like YouTube and as much as possible, we avoid having them online when we are not around. I often think of that verse, “The devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Surely, he is after our children, too. And if they are in a vulnerable situation, he can find an opening. Personally, I feel that the internet is a gateway. It is a gateway to the knowledge of good and of evil. Boys are especially susceptible to the smut that is out there. All it takes is one accidentally spelled word on the search bar and they could have their first introduction to pornography. And so we are a bit overprotective when it comes to the internet. Instead, our children use my Ipad, and only the apps that I have installed.

A few years ago, I was not a believer in technology as a means to educate kids. But after experiencing the wonders of Apple’s Ipad and talking to educators about the effects of computer-based learning, my mindset changed. I realized that technology is not the devil. Sure, we must safeguard our children from the evils that technology can introduce them to. But, there are very real benefits that gadgets like Ipads offer.

My children have played a game called  Stack the Countries and  Stack the States for about two months. They don’t play these games everyday. In fact, they only have extended time to play on the weekends. There are occasions when we are out at dinner and my Ipad helps to keep them in a contained space. Otherwise, their time on this device is very much monitored. But, this mode of learning is so effective that my kids (especially my two older boys) have memorized every single country in the world and its location. I taught them zero geography lessons. My geography is pathetic. But because of these apps, my kids know continents and countries and they began researching about other information — capitals, peoples, languages spoken, flags, etc. I provided them with an atlas, globe, map, and other useful tools to do their research. Yet, this isn’t “hard work” for them. It is enjoyable and fascinating. They get a sense of fulfillment out of learning these things.

We had a contest the other afternoon in the office to see who could name a country that my kids didn’t know. These are the silly ways we peddle our children’s intellects! It was all in good fun. People were asking them countries I didn’t even know. But they spun the globe around each time and pointed with crazy accuracy to the exact location of the country. I can’t take any credit for this ability they have. In fact, I often think that my kids are smarter than I am (intellect-wise…but wisdom-wise, well, that’s totally different!)

I’m sharing this to encourage parents to consider investing in an Ipad or something similar. Don’t ask me what these other devices might be. I’m not a techy person at all! If you have more than one child, it really helps to have a device that can assist you in the areas where you are academically weak. So, I research about educational apps that are worth $0.99 to $5 each because they are great supplements to what I teach them. And, my children can go far beyond my own capacities, too. They don’t have to be limited by what I know and don’t know.

Do my kids play other games on the Ipad, for entertainment purposes? At this point, no. They used to play a game called Plants vs. Zombies which I realized was doing nothing for their intellect. For now, the Ipad is for educational games only. If they are going to spent a good 30 minutes on that device, I want it to be something that makes a positive contribution to their lives. They are learning to internalize the value of wise time management — whatever you do, let it be purposeful, to help you grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)

And of course, never settle for just intellectual capacity in your kids. Their hearts and their character are still more important than knowing things like all the names of the countries in the world! :)

 

Geography App

Once in a while, I let my kids borrow my IPad and play educational games on it. There was a time when they were into Plants vs. Zombies until I realized that my second son was getting addicted to it. So I installed a couple of educational apps on my IPad to deflect his interests. One of the amazing apps that I discovered was “Stack the Countries.”

Since we don’t get to do too much geography for homeschooling. Well, it worked wonders. This morning I heard my four year old, Titus, say, “That’s Chile!,” while pointing to Chile on a globe. He and his brothers were gathered around a globe identifying countries. Some of them I didn’t even know! Apparently my second son, Edan, has also memorized most of the flags of the different countries, too. (iTunes also has a Stack the States game which I need to upgrade to full version.)

Really, these kids are smarter than I am. Like I often say, homeschooling’s biggest challenge is not the academics. My kids are learning all kinds of things, even without me. My challenge is to keep focusing on the God-ward orientation of their hearts.

And thanks to Apple’s educational apps (more of which I am looking forward to discovering), I can focus on the heart stuff and get help on the academics part.

Read a review on the Stack the Countries App here: Common Sense Media

Afternoon Delight

Thanks to one of Edric’s college friends, we spend the afternoon in Serendra. I am not a sales person for Ayala Land, buy wowza! I could be. They make the best amenities for their home owners. Serendra is one of those places that feels like another world. With its gardens, open spaces, children’s playgrounds, sports facilities and spectacular pools, it’s like an oasis in the city. The kids and their cousins couldn’t get enough of the “obstacle course” playground area. I was happy to see them love being outdoors all afternoon.

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“Best Day Ever!”

We spent all of Saturday hanging out with the kids (and mostly, at home). We played Monopoly Philippine Edition, went swimming, drove around in the car to run errands, and put out a big mattress in the living room so we could all lay on it and chill. One of our sons said, “This is the best day ever!”

Edric gave me a look and said under his breath, “Did you hear that?” We smiled at each other. We know that our kids say this when their emotional tanks are full. And their emotional tanks are full when we have uninterrupted, lengthy amounts of time together as a family doing the things that they enjoy.

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What blesses my heart is that the kids treasure togetherness more than fancy toys, gadgets, their friends, or going out. (Edan, our second son, wanted to play Plants vs. Zombies on my IPad but he forgot about it while playing Monopoly.) Someday when they are older, togetherness may not be their number one priority, but I am so thankful to the Lord that Edric and I can have these moments with them now.

While our children are still young, we are the most important people in their lives. Our approbation, attention, and time matter to them. They actually want to be with us. They listen to what we have to say. They want to please us and make us happy. But I know that this window of opportunity will not be open forever.

Two weeks ago when Edric spoke before a group of parents he said, “I have one life to live and only one shot at parenting. I want to make it count.” Edric and I did not always see parenting from this perspective. But as we attended family seminars, received mentoring from spiritual leaders, studied God’s word, and homeschooled our kids, we realized more and more that no one can take our place in the lives of our children.

There is no substitute for the relationship between parent and child. There is no monetary equivalent. There is no greater influence for the formation of values, character, and understanding of faith. When parents are not available, replacements will not satisfy the deep longing children have for parental acceptance and security. When parents do not guide and lead in the home, children are without a moral compass.

Yes, God can heal and redeem the shortcomings of parents, but it is not easy to survive the consequences of absentee parenting. When I say “absentee” I don’t just mean physically away. Many parents can be present at home but emotionally absent — watching TV, surfing the Net, checking Facebook, working, or preoccupied with hobbies and personal interests. It’s called disengaged parenting. “I’m here but not really.” Are you guilty of this? Well, I am at times.

But, I don’t want to be that kind of parent. So I choose to switch from disengaged mode to engaged mode with my kids. Engaged mode is about interacting, communicating, socializing, laughing, having fun with my kids. Honestly, I don’t like Monopoly or swimming! (Edric and the kids know this. They know that I prefer to watch a movie, write, or read.) Monopoly and swimming are NOT favorite past times of mine. But I still spend two hours rolling dice and investing in imaginary properties to build pretend hotels on. I still wade around in the kiddie pool, standing on my knees while I hold on to my little kids.

Why? Because these activities matter to my children. They like playing Monopoly and other board games. They like swimming, biking, walking outside, painting, being read to, etc…For them, the draw is togetherness. I have often heard my kids blurt out this statement, “Yeah! We are all together! It’s family time!”

“Togetherness” is a noun that means “a feeling of closeness or affection from being united with other people.” (The Free Dictionary) It is the magic that happens when Edric and I participate in the activities our children enjoy (versus forcing them to do only what we like to do). It is what keeps the doorway to our children’s hearts open. And it is what turns ordinary days into the best days ever! I hope all of us can have more of these days!

28th Street Has A New Park!

A new mini-park for kids has opened in Bonifacio Global City. We checked it out today with the kids, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves. For us condo folk, it’s always nice to find grass for our kids to run around on. Terra 28th Park is located across the Active Fun Building in High Street. Its open to everyone! 20120204-202407.jpg

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Planet Earth by Game

The boys enjoyed this Planet Earth game. I had forgotten that we had this game until I saw the box on one of our shelves. We didn’t know 60% of the answers to the questions, but we learned from our mistakes. Games like this can really make a subject like geography or science come alive for the kids. And we didn’t even feel the time go by!

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Kitchen Tool or Toy? Both!

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The kids played with these wire racks from the kitchen and turned them into toys — spinning tops. I just love seeing the boys invent games with household items.

Kids really don’t need high tech or expensive toys. They are quite simple and can find ways to entertain themselves. I think it is us, as parents, who complicate things. ;)

Screen Media: The Modern Day Pacifier of Our Children

I must confess that today I didn’t really homeschool. Okay, the kids did a little bit of work here and there, but I was so exhausted this morning, I plopped the kids in front of my laptop. After coming home from the U.S. Embassy to process Tiana’s citizenship and staying up late last nnight to prepare all her forms and photocopy old passports, I didn’t get much sleep. And it didn’t help that Tiana woke me up with her “Mama” and “Dada” babbling at 6 am. And so when Edric and I got home from the embassy, I said to the kids, “Okay, you can do educational games today.” They were thrilled, of course. I put my eldest, Elijah, in charge of the games for everyone and I fell asleep on the couch for the next two hours.

After waking up, I felt kind of guilty for having pacified my children with screen media. I totally used the internet and my computer to entertain my kids for those two hours so I could enjoy some peace and quiet.  There is nothing wrong with educational games. In fact, when my kids play games on the computer from time to time it is a nice break for me, especially when I need to re-group or keep two kids busy while I work one-on-one with another child. Technology makes homeschooling in this day and age a lot easier. But, I am also wary of how convenient it can become for me to hand my kids my cellphone or the laptop just to keep them preoccupied. It shouldn’t be my default option to put them in front of a screen when I want some me-time or when I need them to sit still and quiet.  The reality is young children should not be exposed to too much screen media not only because it is addicting and sucks them into some sort of vortex (I’ve seen that dulled look on their faces when they are glued to a screen!), but because it is actually harmful for their development.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has established guidelines that recommend no televisions, video games, or Internet access in children’s bedrooms; no screen media for children under two; and no more than two hours of educational television a day for children older than two.”

“In the first 18 to 24 months of life, the brain is developing rapidly, primarily in response to environmental stimuli,” Strasburger says. “Stimuli that optimize the development of brain architecture include personal interactions, motor skills practice, and problem-solving activities. And the best way to teach these skills is not through screen media.” Read more from “TV Media’s Influence on Child Development” http://www.cleancutmedia.com/tv-shows/tv-medias-influence-on-child-development

The Illinois Early Learning Project published this online: “People who study children’s development have often suggested that video games and computer use simply do not match the learning needs of children under 3 years of age. At that age, children are still learning to coordinate all the parts of their bodies—their arms and legs, their eyes, their ears, the organs that affect balance, and so on. They change focus frequently and seem to need to move often. There is no good substitute for physical activity during this period of life. Video games and computer use are not good choices for promoting the essential skills that infants, toddlers, and preschoolers need to master—crawling, walking, talking, picking things up, taking turns, and getting to know other people.”  http://illinoisearlylearning.org/faqs/playage.htm

This article may be talking about younger kids but I feel that the principle applies to my older boys as well.

I am thankful for my husband, Edric. He is really great about keeping the kids busy in a productive way and he doesn’t believe in putting a screen in front of their faces to keep them entertained or behaved. Last Saturday when we celebrated my sister, Carolyn’s birthday at a restaurant, I was tempted to hand the kids my cellphone while we waited for everyone to arrive. I took a look around the restaurant and knew that they wouldn’t last longer than fifteen minutes sitting on their chairs. Praise God for Edric! He said,“Boys, let’s play a game. I will do actions with my hands and face and you have to guess what I am trying to say.” This turned out to be a really fun game for the kids and us. We would act out silly phrases like, “Don’t put this peanut in your nose.” And the kids would actually come very close to guessing things that! They also came up with their own actions and phrases.

Eventually, our family arrived and we had a wonderful lunch. The kids kept themselves entertained by playing pretend games and they did their best not to disturb people in the restaurant. We only had to correct them a few times.

In other words, we don’t need to hand our children an Iphone, an Ipad, a computer or let them watch TV to pacify them and keep them from being bored. They do just fine when challenged to engage in creative and active play and they can find ways to do so in a manner that isn’t disruptive.

I kind of veered away from this belief when I let them play online educational games today because I was so tired, but these moments are pretty rare. For the most part, I keep the kids away from too much screen media. As difficult as it is to have to say no to my persistent three year old son, who asks the most often if he can play computer or watch TV, I am trying to be vigilant. It helps alot that Edric is even more strongly opposed to the convenient pacifying effect that screen media has on children.

But here’s the thing. If you are going to have rules about computer and TV time and limit the use of these media, you need to present alternatives or replacement activities. Don’t just say, “no more TV” and then have no options for them to choose from. Say, “let’s not watch TV tonight but play a board game instead.” Or, “you can’t play computer right now but let’s do something with your art kit.” Or, “No TV this afternoon but we can read books!”

Express your desire to spend time doing something with them that is not screen media related and they will be interested in it because they get to have your time and attention. That’s what I do with my kids when they feel sad about not being able to play computer games or watch TV. I propose something else to do and hype it up by saying that I will be with them. I’m just thankful they are still happy to interact and spend time with me! So this tactic works for now. ;)