This Is What It’s About

When people ask me how I homeschool several children, I tell them the secret is to teach my kids obedience. Character is key.

If a child has learned obedience, he or she can be taught attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and the importance of having the right attitude. These traits can make or break the homeschooling experience for any parent.

There’s no way I can teach my five energetic, gregarious, and very curious children if these character traits are not present or, at the very least, developing in their hearts.

Yesterday, I was homeschooling seven children. My niece and two nephews were over to homeschool with us. They did great! But my two older boys, Elijah and Edan, didn’t start out too well. They had a conflict that resulted in Elijah throwing his hands up in exasperation and Edan chucking a pencil on the floor. They were going over Filipino together and Elijah was frustrated that Edan didn’t seem to be listening. Edan was annoyed that Elijah was forcing him to do his work.

We couldn’t continue our homeschooling without dealing with this. So, I called the two of them aside and we transferred to a room where we could have some privacy.

“Auntie Joy! I need help!” I had to ignore the calls of my nephew at the door and request that he wait till we were done.

In the room, I asked the boys to sit close to me. Both of them were fighting off the tears.

“Let me ask you something, boys…we’ve been memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-6. Which of the aspects of love have you NOT been practicing?”

There was an awkward silence but they looked up at me and began to speak voluntarily…

“Love is kind. Love is not rude,” was Edan’s response.

“Love does not keep a record of wrong,” admitted Elijah.

How I love the word of God and its power to convict the hearts of my children! I asked them a simple question but they were convicted.

We recited 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 together again. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love is not proud. Love is not rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices when the truth wins…”

Their faces softened which told me that their hearts did, too. They knew that they had not honored God’s word, which was the greater issue.

“I know you guys love the Lord, you love one another and you don’t want to hurt each other. How can you improve?”

They proceeded to share their feelings and frustrations. I let them talk freely so I could find out why they were being so reactive towards one another. Elijah was deeply upset that Edan apologies for unkindness didn’t seem sincere. He felt that the same offense was bound to happen because there was no “real repentance.” Edan, on the other hand, didn’t like being ordered around by Elijah.

I helped Edan to see that he was not practicing “Love is not proud,” too. To both I said, “We are an imperfect family. Mommy and daddy are imperfect. All of you are imperfect. That’s why we need Jesus. We need to keep applying God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in our relationships.” I went on to admit my own struggles. “Honestly, when I was teaching Titus about rhyming earlier and I asked him ‘what rhymes with pin and he said cup’ I felt like smacking him. But I didn’t because that would be very wrong. But I want you to know that I understand the frustrations you feel towards one another.”

They began to laugh because they heard me teaching Titus earlier and it was kind of a comedy!

We must have spent ten more minutes talking about how to change and apply God’s word in our lives. We ended by praying together.

I said, “I want each of us to pray and confess to the Lord our sins.”

At first the boys resisted. “I don’t know what to pray, mom,” quipped Elijah.

“Don’t worry. I will start, and then you can listen to what I say.”

So I prayed to give them a template of how to acknowledge and confess our sins before one another and to the Lord. Afterwards I invited the boys to do the same. Why did I want them to pray aloud? I wanted them to humble themselves. The best way to do that was to pray.

It’s one thing to say sorry and then walk away from the situation. It’s another thing to come before the Lord and say, “Father will you forgive me for my wrong attitude. Please forgive me for the way I treated my brother. Please help to me to change and improve so that I can become more like you…”

They didn’t pray using those exact words, but in their kid-version way, they said the same thing. I listened to them pray and they started to tear. There was a brokenness that took place that was necessary. I got teary-eyed, too. They were honest and sincere as they spoke to the Lord.

We all embraced and I told them how much I love them. Afterwards, we returned to our homeschooling. Their hearts were ready and we had an amazing day with their cousins.

I’m sharing this story because this is the key to homeschooling. We need to prepare our children’s hearts before we can instruct their minds. Godly character is the bedrock. We must pause to address what’s going on in their hearts – especially when their spiritual compass is off. In fact, we need to drop everything if necessary, and minister to our children spiritually when their attitudes and behaviors are displeasing to the Lord.

How could I possibly continue teaching Elijah and Edan, forcing them to do their Filipino just because they had to, and ignore or postpone the more important matter of their heart condition? Would God bless the work of their hands if they were continuing in sin? How would he allow me to teach well if I wasn’t faithful in prioritizing what really counts in his eyes?

I must always seek to understand where the real “battle” lies. Of all the teaching challenges that may confront me as a homeschooling mother — dealing with the academics, equipping my kids with the practical skills to succeed when they enter into a university, and passing on godly character traits — the latter must precede the others. It’s imperative to instill character traits upon which a successful education can be built.

For my younger kids, obedience is the first priority. The optimum window to establish my authority (and Edric’s) has always been between the ages of 0 – 2. Catalina is at that point where she is exhibiting brattiness. At 10 months old, she intentionally throws her head back, bounces up and down while crying, or she flings her body on to her bed for dramatic effect. Edric and I recognise that it’s time to address these things. After two years old, we know it gets harder. Once a child has experienced what it is like to get his or her own way, there is greater resistance to submission.

I know a child whose parents started implementing effective and consistent disciplinary action later rather than earlier. The child had already grown accustomed to getting her whims accommodated by those around her. Her parents also tended to be child-centric in their childrearing. As a result, she was difficult to teach and train. It was complicated to get her to do simple things like eat vegetables or keep silent when appropriate. She tended not to listen to other authority figures, too. Because the parents are now course-correcting their parenting, she is improving. But like anything in life, prevention rather than intervention is the way to go.

We have to start teaching obedience before a child gets into the habit of defiance. Once obedience is established, we can turn our attention towards other character traits like attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and having a positive attitude. As I said earlier, a child who has these traits will be much easier to homeschool. It won’t be a flawless experience. However, when unpleasant, ungodly behaviors and attitudes surface during a homeschooling day, our children can be REMINDED to revert back to what they know is correct and pleasing to God.

Let me end this with a story about Titus that personally blessed me as a mother. Titus is my youngest “official” homeschooled child. Tiana, who is just 3 years old, is not yet enrolled with a program. And my baby girl is too young for formal instruction. As a kindergartener, I don’t expect the same sort of self-directed learning that I encourage my older sons to have.

However, a few weeks back I had to leave the house in the morning. So I assigned the kids their work and told them I would check on them when I got back. I wasn’t too sure if Titus would be able to do his Filipino on his own, but when I got home, he showed me his notebook. His finished work was inside it. I was very pleased!

In the evening, when I was feeding Catalina, he peered into my bedroom. “Come in,” I motioned to him. He smiled and skipped over to my side, snuggling under the covers. I told him I was very proud of him for doing his homeschool work. And I asked him, “Why did you finish it?” He said, “Because I wanted to obey you.”

I loved that answer.

Titus can be a highly distracted child because he is so curious. For him to finish his assigned task without someone peering over his shoulder to remind him to do it made my day! I was happier about his motivations rather than the actual output. He valued obedience.

My prayer is that my children will internalize godly character and experience the blessings of doing so. Our family is a work in progress. God deals with my heart daily as a homeschooling mother and he is molding the hearts of my kids, too. We make mistakes and struggle with our weaknesses but I can’t think of doing anything else with this season of my life. As a mother to young children, I want to be where the more important battle is. For me, the battle is at home…winning my kids for the Lord by teaching them what really counts. This is what homeschooling is about.

From enemies to best buds again…
 

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Men Need Men to Become Men

Boys benefit from man-building activities that encourage the development of their manhood. When I say man-building activities I mean experiences that are like “man-versus-wild” kind of stuff – camping, mountain-climbing, scouting – and sports.

When Edric was growing up, my father-in-law, Eddie (Papa to me), invested time teaching him how to fly kites, scuba dive, climb mountains, boogie board, fish, sail, repel, bike, play ball, and swim…among other things. This is how they bonded, in the context of activity. Edric has always remembered these father and son occasions with fondness. And I have appreciated the attractive masculine traits that Edric acquired because of them.

Men need a good adventure and challenge, but they also need a man who has gone before them to pass on survival skills and know-how.

Our sons had the opportunity to take on a good adventure and challenge when Papa invited Edric, Elijah and Edan to climb Mt. Batulao last Saturday. Edric and the boys were thrilled. I was jealous because I wanted to go, too. But this was an experience that Edric wanted to share with the boys – just the guys. I had the other three kids to take care of anyway.

Early Saturday morning, Elijah and Edan had their hiking shoes on and were set to go at 5 AM. They packed their energy food – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, hard boiled eggs with salt on the side, granola bars, and water. Elijah was in charge of carrying the water and Edric carried the food. They got to Batulao 2 hours later and met up with Papa.

Initially, as they began their climb, Edan complained about the prickly tall grass and fatigue. But he wasn’t being a soiled brat. This was no tiny mountain! It was two and a half hours up one way with 12 peaks!

Edric admitted that he was concerned as he watched the boys scale some of the steep inclines. They could’ve rolled off to their deaths! Sadly, some time ago there was a woman who fell off one of the peaks while trying to take a picture. She died!

Well, I’m glad I didn’t know about that story before they went on the climb. The protective mother in me might have tried to dissuade Edric from taking Edan. But he did great! He was the only 7 year old on the trail and he persevered. Even though he was bickering at the beginning, he thoroughly enjoyed the hike as he went along.

Edric called me at one point during their climb (amazingly, there was a Globe signal), and he gave me an update on how the kids were doing and how much fun they were all having. What I would have given to have been there! I wanted to see their expressions and be a part of this special moment in their lives. But without me around they were better off. There was no nurturing mother figure to turn to for sympathy when they got tired or tripped and skinned their knees. The boys had to stick it out, suck it in, and push themselves under the guidance of Edric and Papa.

When they got home, they were exhausted, bruised and cut up, but they were smiling like they just had the time of their lives. They also had a certain satisfaction in their tone when they spoke about their trek. Thanks to Papa and Edric, the boys learned to overcome their fears, weaknesses, and put in the hard work and effort necessary to achieve a goal they were proud of.

How valuable it is when fathers and grandfathers mentor their sons and set aside time to help them become men. Climbing a mountain together is not the only way to do this but it sure worked for my boys. They went up Mt. Batulao as two clueless boys but they came down as wiser, stronger, more confident young men!
 

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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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Teaching A Toddler

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Alot of eager-to-teach-moms ask me what I do with my 3 year old daughter, Tiana, so they can get ideas. Honestly, I don’t spend too much time laboring over academic material. I feel that she is too young to be learning to read or mastering her numbers. My older boys were more ready than she was at the same age. She has her own time-table so I don’t want to compare. Our homeschooling is more “come what may” at this point.

I encourage parents to be sensitive to their child’s readiness. Not all children are ready for academics at age 3. They can be forced to learn but it is easier to wait a few months or even a year or two. When they are ready, they will absorb material much quicker and more confidently. This will eliminate alot of the battling that goes on between an impatient parent and a frustrated and pressured child.

Trust me…I have tried to pressure my kids to learn concepts against their time-table mostly because of pride and this approach turned out to be disastrous. I wanted to showcase homeschooling or I wanted my kids to get ahead of others their age so people would say, wow, look at their family. Choke and gag me. How insidious pride is!

So what to do, what to do with a 3 year old…

1. Let them tell you. I let my little kids ask for work. It takes an amount of trust to wait for this point. But kids are naturally curious and eager to learn. When there is no pressure to perform, they actually want to move on to more intellectually challenging activities. All my kids after Elijah were the ones who wanted to be included in our homeschooling. I would only “test the waters” by introducing concepts but if they weren’t ready, I would leave it for a later time or change the methodology — more games and play as a teaching tool.

Tiana is at the stage when she wants to do work. Almost everyday she asks to do “work.” Her question is, “Can I do my work?”

One day she asked me about 10 times while I was still eating breakfast. I kept on telling her, “Yes, we will do your work, but you have to wait.” She trailed me all the way to the study room to ask again. I finally said, “I told you we will do your work but you have to wait,” with a little more conviction. “Okay, mommy.” A few moments later he was about to ask the question again but she stopped herself and melodically said, “I REALLY like doing my work!” just to make sure I did not forget.

2. Start slow. A child’s interest may indicate readiness but it may not always mean they can take on loads of content. Their enthusiasm may simply mean they want to be included in the day’s homeschooling to be like their older siblings. However all they need is a piece of paper to draw on and they are content. But it could also mean they are ready to learn their numbers and letters and shapes and patterns and whatever else we consider to be sooo important to the survival of the human species.

In this case, break them in gently. I made the mistake of assuming that Tiana could identify numbers 1 to 10 in one sitting. Wrong. We both ended up in tears. She could count but that was completely different than knowing what the numbers actually looked like and what quantities they represented. So I decided to tackle one number at a time. (She is three years old. Slowing down the pace is not going to kill her future.)

3. Make learning very natural. You don’t need a black board or white board. Homeschooling is side by side learning and teaching. It also involves a lot of dialoguing as you go about your day.

For example, I started to panic when Tiana did not know her colors because her same-age cousin did. So I tried flash cards and books and she didn’t seem to get it. Since this wasn’t working, I took her outdoors instead and we went for walks, identifying colors as we went along and playing games like, “I see the color red, can you point to something that is red?” I also modified it to, “What color is this gate? What color is the grass? What color is that car?” to see if she could name the colors. Well, with the exception of gold and silver, she knows the basic color wheel now.

4. You can use work books but proceed with caution. I understand how workbooks can make a teaching parent feel incredibly secure. After all, everything has been laid out by supposed experts and all you have to do is go through each page faithfully and that constitutes educating a child. No, honey. A workbook can be a reference and if your child likes it then yippee. But don’t feel discouraged if filling out workbook pages with answers doesn’t appeal to them. Workbooks aren’t even the best way for a child to learn. Real life should be the main context for learning. Workbooks are a supplement.

Titus wasn’t really into workbooks at Tiana’s age because he wasn’t writing yet. And when a child isn’t able to write proficiently, workbooks are difficult. So, I had him draw and color a lot first. After a few months of doing this, he started writing letters and names and spelling words. Recently, I let him write out words more formally but I waited until he was comfortable with holding a writing instrument.

If a child clamours for a workbook but needs help handling a writing instrument, then assist them. That’s ok. No one is looking over your shoulder. It’s not cheating. It’s allowing your child to develop confidence while they don’t have very good finger dexterity yet. Give them some time and they won’t need you anymore.

5. Use manipulatives to concretize the learning experience. Young children learn better when they can involve more of their senses. I’m always on the lookout for educational toys. This year, I got Mathtacular for my kids. It’s a great math program that includes manipulatives, a DVD, and an instructional guide with all kinds of math-related activities to explore. I got the educational package for my younger kids.
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6. Prioritize phonics instruction. I like to get my kids to learn their phonics sounds even when they are young. This can be done very informally. For example, I use Sing, Spell, Read and Write (SSRW) music to teach the sounds of the letters. I got Tiana the All Aboard Book but I go through it very slowly. She is only able to learn one letter per week.
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I also downloaded and printed alphabet mini books from Sparkle.

7. Have read aloud time. I need to do a better job of this. Tiana really enjoys being read to. She’s at the age where she can sit through a book and focus. So I need to take advantage of this. I’ve got a whole box of books coming to my door step two weeks from now. I’m so excited to share them with her (and all the other kids). Soon to arrive…

Time for Bed by Mem Fox
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barett Barrett
Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Rod Campbell
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
First Little Readers Parent Pack: Guided Reading Level A: 25 Irresistible Books That Are Just the Right Level for Beginning by Debora Schecter
First Little Readers Parent Pack: Guided Reading Level B: 25 Irresistible Books That Are Just the Right Level for Beginning Readers by Liza Charlesworth
Favorite Thornton Burgess Animal Stories Boxed Set (Sets) by Thorton W. Burgess
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Boynton’s Greatest Hits: Volume 1/Blue Hat, Green Hat; A to Z; Moo, Baa, La La La!; Doggies (Boynton Board Books) by Sandra Boynton
Classic Characters of Little Golden Books: The Poky Little Puppy, Tootle, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Tawny Scrawny Lion, and Scuffy the Tugboat
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Story about Ping (Reading Railroad) by Marjorie Flack
First 100 Soft to Touch Numbers, Shapes and Colors by Roger Priddy
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
Biscuit Storybook Collection by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Classic Starts: A Best-Loved Library (Classic Starts Series) by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Classic Starts: Tales of Adventure by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
My Rainbow Fish Book Box by Marcus Pfister
My Little Pocket Library Early Learning Fun by Roger Priddy
Brown Bear, White Bear by Svetlana Petrovic
Nanuk Flies Home by Christa Holtei
God Gave Us Love by Lisa T. Bergren
A Father’s Touch by Joni Eareckson Tada
The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson
Max Lucado’s Wemmicks: Punchinello and the Most Marvelous Gift, Picture Book by Max Lucado

Arch Books…
Born on Christmas Morn
King Josiah & God’s Book
Parable of the Prodigal Son
Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Servant
Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
Jesus Heals the Man at the Pool
Jesus Returns to Heaven
Get Up Lazarus!
Samson

Happy Day Books…
Don’t Do That Dexter
God Made You Special
Jesus is My Special Friend
God Made Our Bodies
God Made Dinosaurs
God Made Outer Space
Keep Trying Travis
God’s Special Rule
I Can Follow Jesus

God I Need to Talk to You Series by Dan Carr…
God I Need to Talk to You About Stealing
God I Need to Talk to You About My Bad Temper
God I Need to Talk to You About Disrespect
God I Need to Talk to You About Being a Bad Sport

With five children, books are a great investment. I always want to surround my kids with many options for books so they develop a love for reading.

8. Emphasize character instruction. I really believe there is a window of opportunity for teaching character traits like obedience, learning to wait, sharing, kindness, respect, etc. Take advantage of the toddler years to impact the heart in these areas. If I were to jump into all the academics without my children’s hearts being ready to receive instruction, it would be a constant battle to get them to learn. And I don’t want to have that kind of relationship with my kids. I want them to find joy in learning but the prerequisite to that is a teachable heart.

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Here We Go Again! Round 2…

I have always been stubborn about bringing my babies out earlier than they ought to be. I just figured it wasn’t realistic to have them isolated at home for the first three months of their lives like my pediatrician and friends would always recommend. With every other child I’ve had, they were out and about within the first few weeks and they remained perfectly healthy.

Elijah attended his first birthday party at 9 days old. Tiana had her first photo shoot at 9 days old. All my other babies were in church with me by the second week, hidden in a sling. So I figured it was no big deal to do the same with Catalina. She’s been to several groceries, meetings, our house construction site, the Manila International Book Fair, a seminar I gave last week, restaurants, church, bible study group, and anywhere else I have had to go because I am her bottle. 20130916-231713.jpg

Well, now I am kicking myself for being so carefree. She picked up a cold and cough in the last three days that has been miserable for her (and for me!). I’m not 100% sure the bug came from outside the home because her siblings and cousins were coughing and sniffling this past week. They could have been the source. I would put Tiana up there as number one on the list of suspects, too. She came pretty near Catalina’s face a number of times.

I learned too late that everyone who is sick in the house must wear a gauze mask to avoid infecting an infant. By the time our pediatrician told me this, the virus was already incubating. All the while I assumed that babies who get breast milk have a superior immune system. Apparently this isn’t always the case. My doctor said they are better protected from gastrointestinal infections but not necessarily the respiratory kind.

Taking care of Catalina has been such a journey for me as a mom. She is just a month old but she has introduced me to many firsts. For instance, she was the first of my babies to ever be confined in a hospital. She was the first to adamantly refuse being put down. And now she is the first one to ever battle a virus at just a few weeks old.

I was tempted to worry, especially since pneumonia cases are on the rise. However, yesterday morning, I was encouraged as I watched the live stream video of our church’s Sunday message. In Isaiah 6:1-3, it says “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ’Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
the whole earth is full of His glory.’”

No matter what is going on my life, God remains on the throne. He is the majestic and holy one who sits as King over all the world. And he is present with me, right here, right now, even as a write this. When I start to feel stressed I think of how big, awesome, powerful, and perfectly holy God is, and my problems diminish in their gravity.

I don’t know why he allowed Catalina to get sick again after all she went through during her first two weeks of life. When I ask the why question, I am inclined to draw all kinds of inconclusive reasons. Is it to humble me? Is God not pleased with me? Is it to teach me faith? Is it to make me more dependent? Is it a lesson on choice and consequence (I took her out of the house and compromised her immunity)? I have no idea.

It can be unsettling to live with unanswered questions and to keep speculating. So I will not dwell on the why. Instead I will cling to what I do know. God loves Catalina and God loves me. He is a good father. When he allows affliction, he doesn’t abandon his children while they struggle through it. He knows how hard it is for Catalina to be sick. He knows that it pains me to see her this way. He knows that I am getting even less sleep at night. He knows that I want her to be well. It is of great comfort to me that he sees all and knows all. Nothing escapes his notice.

My part is to keep seeking God and move towards him, instead of withdrawing or questioning his ways. He gives and he takes away as Job says, but He is blessed still. So this is an opportunity to praise him for who he is and to remember that all things belong to him — my children, my life, my comfort, my wants and desires…

On the practical side, I am doing what I can to help Catalina get better (most of these things were advised by Dr. Joy Ty-Sy, our paediatrician):

1. Use a Nebulizer 3x a day. Titus needed this when he was very sick two years ago. So we invested in one for our home. It has been put to good use since then. Whenever my kids have bad coughs, nebulizing allows them to recover more quickly. 20130915-221723.jpg

2. Spray saline solution into nostrils. To keep the mucus soft, I use a saline spray called salinese. I have used it for my other kids too. Of course it’s uncomfortable but it does decongest their nostrils.

3. Give plenty of time to rest in a quiet room. I was busy last week so Catalina was out with me. This affected her sleeping patterns which probably lowered her immunity also.

4. Keep the head propped up so it’s easier to breathe. When she lets me put her down (which is becoming more frequent, hurrah!) I use a pillow. But I don’t let her sleep without someone watching her. (It’s not ideal to have pillows around the crib for babies. They can suffocate if they roll over. So someone has to be with them.)

5. Avoid the use of air conditioning. The cold, dry air aggravates the throat and makes her more prone to coughing. Without the ac turned on, she slept more soundly.

6. Suck out snot using Nose Frida. Thankfully, Mothercare sells Nose Frida, the snot sucker. It is the best! I was planning to order one online and have it sent to Manila for future use but my sister-in-law, Jennifer, told me that it is available at Mothercare in Global City. So after dinner last night, Edric and I drove over there and got one for P660. We used it right away and it cleared Catalina’s nostrils very efficiently. 20130915-221704.jpg61FEKPXUIfL

Nose Frida works well for babies and young children who cannot blow their noses themselves. All you have to do is place the tip of the syringe at the opening of each nostril and then you suck out the snot using a mouthpiece that is attached to a tube which is connected to the syringe. It sounds disgusting but the snot never reaches your own mouth. There is a filter that blocks this from happening. Plus the syringe is pretty sizable to contain the snot so it doesn’t travel up the tube. I actually found it fun to get all that gook out of her nose. My, how unglamorous I have become!

It’s not easy having an infant who is sick. I am being stretched in a new way as a mom. Catalina has thrown up several times because of her cough. And she is not nursing as much. I tried to mix breastfeeding with breastmilk through a syringe to feed her this evening just to make sure she is getting enough. 20130916-220459.jpgOn the up side, Catalina seems to be sleeping longer in between feeds. And she has been lying down in her crib or on our bed! It doesn’t always work but what a relief when it does! Wonder of wonders!  I have also been able to leave her at home with our househelp several times in the past few days to run errands.

Catalina is not yet well. Dr. Joy says I still need to observe her and watch out for certain danger signs — high fever, changes in her cough and breathing. This feels like round 2 of our hospital experience except that it’s all happening at home.

Well, when I start feeling down about Catalina being sick again, I think about passages in the Bible like this one… Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is God from of old, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)   20130916-231632.jpg

The Danger of Self-Centered Homeschooling

My imperfections as a homeschool mother have been magnified as of late…especially my impatience. It is a real struggle every time the kids don’t cooperate the way I hope they will. And this has been my very problem. I want my kids to cater to my needs right now. I need them to be easy to teach because I don’t have an easy baby to take care of. So I hold them to a set of expectations and I feel frustrated when these expectations are not met.

Today I put this pressure on my little three year old, Tiana. She blanked out half-way through our lesson like she didn’t know anything and I was so irritated. I tossed her work on the bed. She cried, I cried. I felt like a monster-mom. I WAS a monster-mom!

Tiana inched away from me, took hold of her stuffed tiger, walked over to the other side of the room, and climbed up on to the bed. She curled up in a fetal position facing the window. This was the first time she ever saw me lose my temper. She withdrew from me, emotional pained by my outburst.

God, I need your help. This is not the kind of mom I want to become. I feel like such a failure.

I have always told moms to make learning enjoyable. Sigh. I even give seminars about this! However, I did the very opposite. Tiana was not motivated by a love to learn this morning. She was afraid of disappointing me. I saw it in her eyes. She would point to the answers (the ones she was guessing) without confidence. And she would gaze up at me to see if she had my approbation. When I seemed stern, she would look down at the work in front of her, uncertain of how to proceed.

When I realized how I had hurt her, I said, “Tiana, please come to mommy.” (I was kind of immobile because Catalina was nursing.) Tiana walked over with her big brown eyes still watery and red with tears. I pulled her close and embraced her. “Will you forgive me? I was wrong. I am so sorry. Mommy will help you to learn.”

She looked up at me and started to sob again. But she said, “I forgive you, mommy” and she reached out to touch my hand. I held her for a while and kissed her head. How could I have hurt someone I love so much?

A few minutes later, I told her we would try math again. Our take two was much better. There was joy and laughter in it. I decided to appreciate her small victories and I made the effort to be positive and encouraging.

This was a lesson on parenting for me. I can’t ever think that homeschooling is about me. It’s not about my agenda — my own goals. I have been entrusted with the fragile and vulnerable hearts of my kids. And I am accountable for that trust. It is about stewardship.

My main responsibility is to disciple them — to teach them to love God and obey him, and to help them develop their gifts and abilities for his purposes and glory.

If I get angry because my kids don’t know their academics as well as I want them to, then I am violating the trust of stewardship. If I wound them emotionally because they fall short of my expectations, then I cannot disciple them effectively. I become a self-centered teacher. And self-centered teaching does not amount to the greater good of my kids.

Lord help me to be a Christ-centered teacher and not a self-centered one. I need to improve in the area of patience and I cannot have victory if I am always thinking of what is most convenient for me or what I would like to accomplish. Direct my teaching so that I accomplish what you want me to in the lives of my children.

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The Hearts I Hold

Titus is a very mechanically-inclined child. He is my little “tinkerer.” When he enters a room, he will touch whatever he can get his hands on, especially if he is in a room he has never been in before. He will fiddle with objects, turn them around, pull or push at them, or even take them apart if he has enough time to.

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I remember going into my friend’s dermatology clinic and Titus made a bee-line towards all the breakable objects, trying to pick them up or shake them. There was no malice or intent to destroy. He was simply exploring. I had to ask him to stop though because there were a number of fragile decorations that could have crashed onto the floor. He listened but I could tell that his fingers were itching to grab a hold of something…anything.

As his homeschool teacher, I have to be sensitive to this learning style of his and not curtail it too much, especially at home where his personality doesn’t have to be stifled. Our house is pretty child-friendly. I am not too particular about the kids breaking things. It happens. Life goes on.

Giving him his space to grow and develop the way God designed him to has been a wonderful sort of “experiment” to help me understand how my children learn. Titus is the kind of person that thrives when he is able to observe, experiment, and practice without the pressure of outcomes.

For instance, he has been writing words lately, not because I asked him to but because he was ready to, on his own. The most recent handwriting work I asked him to do was to copy the letters I wrote down in big and small caps. I only required him to do a page a day. But, through this exercise I discovered that he already knew how to write his letters.

How did this happen? It’s really quite a mystery. I have not made him do pages and pages of handwriting work. But I do let him draw, color, paint, cut, and paste a lot which has probably strengthened his finger muscles. On occasion I give him minimal doses of penmanship practice.

So it delighted me to witness his attempts to write out everyone’s names — family, cousins, as well as words that he was trying to sound out on his own. He spelled the word “start”, for instance, on top of his drawing of a maze.

I asked him, “How did you learn how to write?” I wanted to be able to take some credit but his answer was, “I just watched Edan. I saw how he did it.”

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This really got me thinking about the blessings of having more than one child, especially because we are a homeschooling family. The younger children benefit from the older ones and their examples.

When I am concerned that I don’t get to invest the same amount of time teaching my two younger kids that I did with my two older ones, I am pleasantly delighted to discover that they teach one another, intentionally or not.

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The same thing happened with my youngest sister, Carolyn, when my mom was homeschooling us. She learned to read very early. One morning she came up to my mom and confidently said, “I know how to read, mom.” My mom was incredulous because she hadn’t really taught her to read. Carolyn was included in our homeschooling, but she was much younger than all of us so her studies were not too formal. However, when my mom asked Carolyn to demonstrate her ability to read she was able to do so.

Sometimes, as a mom, you come into the homeschooling experience with many doubts and questions. Will my kids turn out alright? Can I really do this even if I am not an educator? Is homeschooling going to give all my kids a good education? Having bought into the notion that conventional schooling will meet these needs more effectively, we tend to feel insecure about our ability to teach our children. Our preconceived ideas about how children learn and the context in which they learn is biased in favor of the institutional set-up. Yet, I am discovering more and more as my children grow and mature that they are learning all the time and in ways that often surprise me.

Without the impediment of time frames, lesson plans, leveling, same age groupings, and pressure of grades, they naturally discover, create, investigate, problem solve, interact, and imitate what you want them to.

God has designed each child with the potential to learn. And I have to trust in this innate capacity and nurture it. My greater role is to train my kids so they are disciplined, responsible, attentive, and obedient. I also need to instill in them a love for the Lord. This is the bedrock, the indispensable foundation that must be present in the hearts of my kids.

While standards and checklists are helpful as a reference, I have to remember that these should not define, box in, or ignore the uniquenesses of my kids. If Titus is not writing sentences at age 5 like school aged children might be doing, so what? He still has time to acquire that ability.

I do not doubt that he will if I constantly provide an environment that encourages the love for learning — an environment where there is joy, unconditional acceptance, generous praise, access to books, materials, and toys that stimulate creativity, and the formation of character and godliness. But what an impossible environment to have if I am not grace-filled and spirit-led. Unless the Lord is at work in my own life, I can be tyrannical, overbearing, demanding, and selfish as a teacher…all the things that can destroy my children’s desire to learn. So I have to be in continual partnership with Christ who designed and tenderly made the children he has entrusted to me. I need to be sensitive to his leading when he tells me I need to improve or modify the way I instruct my kids.

This morning, Titus climbed into bed next to me and I held him for a bit because I wasn’t fully awake. He snuggled up beside me and I wrapped my arms around him. My right hand happened to rest on the part of his chest where I felt his heart beating. I imagined that little, unique heart of his in my hand and I thought of my other children’s, too. And this was the prayer that came to me…

How fragile, Lord, are my kids. How easily wounded if I am not careful. How tender are their consciences. How opportune the season to plant your truth in them. May I not trample upon their fragility or desecrate their consciences with my own sinfulness. You have made me steward of four extraordinary treasures. I cannot be faithful to this trust if you do not supply the extraordinary help. So I look to you to teach me how to hold the hearts of my children. Let me treat motherhood as a sacred offering of love, time, and sacrifice that directs my children to you, to reflect and live for your glory. Reveal to me what I should teach and what I need not fret over, and calibrate my responses and instruction according to what pleases you so that each of my children can be redeemed and prepared for your purposes! Amen!

What if You Don’t Feel Like It?

379 (3) 378 (3) 306 (3) 479 240“What do you do when you don’t feel like homeschooling?” This was a question one of my friends brought up during breakfast while we were meeting for a Bible Study. Well, first of all, it’s a reasonable question. It’s normal NOT to be super excited about homeschooling every single day. I don’t know any homeschooling mom who is 100% on fire about homeschooling every morning. She doesn’t exist.

There are good days and not-so-good days when you homeschool. Sometimes you are tired. Sometimes you want a break from the kids. Sometimes you feel the urge to go shopping instead of reading about Zoology.

I’ll be honest. The past two weeks we haven’t had any regular sort of homeschooling. We were traveling for 7 days and before that I had all kinds of commitments to attend to. The kids had it pretty easy. This next week, however, we will finish up the last few subjects that haven’t gotten done – mainly Science, Social Studies, History, and Filipino. We started in September so I still have some time to turn in portfolios, but I want to get everything accomplished before I give birth.

I will say here what I told the moms that morning. Homeschooling is your job. If you were in the corporate world, you wouldn’t say to your boss, “I don’t feel like showing up today so I won’t be coming in.” You can get away with that a few times (if your boss is cool) but you can’t make it a habit. I think of homeschooling the same way. Just show up. Be there in the morning even if you don’t feel like it and let God lead and direct the day. Unless you are on a family vacation or have an engagement that you must absolutely attend, your homeschooling schedule should be a priority. This is when the commitment part has to kick in and God’s grace will compensate for what you lack in enthusiasm.

When I’m not in the mood to homeschool, I still go to our study room and prepare the kids’ books anyway. I believe in the principle “motion before emotion.” I have to be faithful even when I don’t feel like teaching my kids, and I ask God to supply the energy, creativity, positivity, and wisdom I need for that day. And he does!

Of course, I know how to give myself breaks, too. I homeschool on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. Tuesdays, my kids have Music, Art, and PE classes. Having one day off makes a big difference! It allows me to meet with ladies I disciple, write, pursue hobbies, or do errands. In the afternoons of most days, the kids get to play and I get to rest because we accomplish the major part of the work in the mornings. This helps, too.

I also mix up our daily activities so it doesn’t feel so monotonous for me or the kids. Sometimes, I will do art the whole day with the kids and it is such a treat for them and good therapy for me. On some days we just read a lot of Science and History. I keep academic goals in mind but the journey to that point doesn’t have to be a straight line all the time.

One of my friends shared about how she baked with her daughter and incorporated math. That counts as homeschooling…learning while having fun…both teacher and student!

Not everyone is comfortable with a relaxed approach, primarily because we tend to compare what our kids are doing at home to what other kids would be doing at a conventional school. This is a mindset we have to weed out of ourselves. It’s so ingrained in us to believe that the educational system has the best methods, teachers, and learning environment for children. So if we can copy what they are doing at school and bring it into our homeschooling, our children will be the better for it. But this isn’t necessarily true!

There are some pros to conventional schooling but I prefer the pros of homeschooling. Homeschooling gives kids a customized education. This is very difficult to do in school. Homeschooling also allows children to develop and grow without the pressures of standards and labels. They learn in a very natural setting that encourages the love for learning. Gaps are addressed and given attention. Children’s learning styles are accommodated so they absorb and retain content more effectively. And most importantly, character, values, and spiritual growth are a main focus.

So don’t worry if your homeschooling seems a lot more relaxed than the conventional school setting. For as long as you are accomplishing your goals – character, love for the Lord, physical, emotional, and social development, and equipping your kids with the tools for learning then praise God! You are doing just fine!

I’m sharing this because if I were to imitate the conventional school system in our home, I would burn out. I would be pulling my hair out! So I don’t pressure myself with thoughts such as, If my kids were at school, they would be doing this and that, and if they aren’t, there is something wrong with my homeschooling or my kids. Whenever I start to compare, I take the joy out of teaching and impose my stress on my kids.

Every homeschooling parent has to develop a system that works for them and their kids and provides the optimum setting for learning. My kids happen to do just fine with a more laid-back approach to learning and we get all the work done by the end of each year. As Elijah and Edan get older, they sit at a desk more often. But with the younger kids, the floor, bed or couch are more conducive to their learning style so I don’t make a big deal about them sitting on chairs. They can ease into that as they grow up.

During the morning discussion I had with the moms, we also talked about how homeschooling is a character education not just for our children but for us, too!

As I teach my kids the Lord teaches me about patience, understanding, sensitivity, discipline, commitment, unconditional love and acceptance, open communication, the importance of modeling the right values and principles, being spirit-filled and the list goes on and on.

A few hours ago, my second son, Edan, started to act up about writing his memory cards for history. I was tempted to be annoyed and reactive. Instead, I started scratching his back and hugging him. This made him perk up and he was more motivated. Minutes later however, he was distracted again and delaying his work. So I had to talk with him and ask him to work in another room. He felt sad and started to cry but I reminded him gently but firmly that he needs to learn to get his work done before playing. When he realized this, he finished everything I asked him to. I gave him a 15 minute break and then we moved on to another task. It’s 1:30 PM and he can now go down to our neighbor’s house to play and enjoy himself because he got his work done.

Initially, my carnal self would wanted to get angry because I was experiencing a blocked goal as his educator. But, God often uses situations like this to help me grow as a mom, as a teacher. This is one of the reasons why I know that homeschooling is beneficial even for me. When I don’t feel like teaching, I think to myself, I need to do this for my sake, too.

It’s okay to feel tired and worn-out when homeschooling. Believe me! Teaching four kids can get exhausting. But how sweet it is to receive the grace of God to keep going, keep smiling, and keep enjoying my children and the many adventures that our homeschooling lifestyle brings our way. The Bible says, “When we are weak, he is strong.” If I am not committed to show up at my “job” when I don’t feel like it, then I miss out on experiencing God’s faithfulness to get through that day. And amazingly, more often than not, these days turn into the best sort of days because they are fueled by his power!

“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

 

 

 

My Out-of-the-Box Child

I’ve said it before that Titus often fascinates me because he is such an out-of-the-box thinker and he has learned many things on his own.

One afternoon he was counting aloud by 10s (something I had not taught him). He counted all the way up to 100. I turned over to him and said, “Where did you learn that? Who taught you that?” His Jedi-like reply was, “I know many things, mom.”

At this statement I started laughing really hard. He meant it with all sincerity. I followed up with, “Yes, but HOW did you learn to count by 10s?” Once again, I found it comedic when he said, “I think, mom! I just think!” It was almost like he was insulted that I questioned his ability to understand concepts on his own.

Recently, when my nieces, nephews and kids were doing a puppet show with my sister-in-law she asked everyone to make their puppets stand on their heads. Titus was the only one that thought of bending his puppet in half so that its feet touched its head…literally, standing on its head!

Because I haven’t spent too much time “teaching” him formally, I will have to give credit to John Holt’s idea that children are learning all the time. When they are not forced to learn too early, but provided with a stimulating, enriching environment in which to explore, create, build, invent, and discover, they educate themselves. Learning happens naturally and very often in the context of play. Titus certainly needs character training like my other children, but he has caught on just fine with the academics even without too much one-on-one instruction from me.

At four years old, he can read, comprehend, he is beginning to write better, he understands fundamental math concepts, and he is developing normally. He may not be as articulate as his older brothers were at his age, but he is a loving, happy, curious, and determined child…with a very positive opinion about himself. When I am teaching him, he will say, “This is sooo easy, mom!” And then he will start working and be like, “How do you do this again?”

I laugh alot with Titus. He has a unique perspective that I treasure as a mom. I appreciate that he doesn’t think linearly and that he pays attention to things that others might take forgranted.

One time he picked up a flattened fruit loop that was left on the floor of our condominium lobby. Everyone else thought it was dirty. But he picked it up and put it in his pocket. I didn’t realize this until we were in the car and he was cradling it in his hand. I told him he should throw it. After all, who knows where that fruit loop came from or who stepped on it? But he begged me to keep it.

Heck. Why not, I thought. If it matters that much to him and it isn’t a life and death issue, why can’t he be himself and keep it? He’s the only one who thought of doing so anyway and it’s important to him. So I told him he could and that made his day. A little fruit loop. I made him promise not to eat it and he didn’t.Whew!

Titus has stretched my parenting muscles a lot. I used to get really frustrated with him because he would take things apart, break his toys, color and draw in his books, tear out pages, peel the labels off things like crayons (he still does), hide objects under his bed like marbles and cereal, get himself into precarious predicaments, and bullheadedly insist on his way.

For example, when he was 8 months old, he weaned himself from breastfeeding. I was so upset and sad about it. None of my other children did this. I really wanted him to breastfeed for longer to keep bonding with him. But he insisted that he was ready to move on to the bottle. My fear was he would be deprived of affection because he was my third child. Without those bonding sessions, I didn’t get to hold him as often.

This was my first experience with Titus’ different way of doing things. Initially, I wanted to control him. I wanted to force him to breastfeed. But he ended up biting me! So that was it, I surrendered that stage over to the Lord. Crying and depressed, I accepted his decision to wean.

Such was the beginning of my parenting adventures with Titus. It took me a while to recognize that God designed Titus with a personality that was hand-picked by Him for a reason and purpose.

Titus turned out to be one my most affectionate children, my big hugger. In fact, he is such a touch person, he will randomly head butt people to get their attention! On certain mornings, he will crawl into bed beside me after he wakes up and let me drape my whole self around him like a pillow. He is the only one who will lie there contentedly and still. He won’t squirm away or complain that I am too heavy. And he will come up to me and randomly hug and kiss me during the day without being asked to. Who would ever have thought my earliest weaned baby would have become like this?

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I love all my children equally but God taught me how to love my Titus. Through Titus, God has helped me to grow in character, especially in the area of patience!

His birthday is coming up in two days and I wanted to write this to celebrate the joy and color that he has brought into our lives. I could’ve missed out on appreciating him had I placed him in a mold of my own liking…to make my parenting “convenient.” But God made certain children out-of-the-box — children who make us see the world differently, who challenge the norm (in a good way), who keep us from getting complacent about our parenting, and who make us dependent upon the Lord for the creativity and wisdom we need to instruct them. Titus is special just the way he is and I hope that Edric and I can keep encouraging him to grow in the Lord and become the man that God wants him to be.



 

 

Dealing with the Resistance

Given the “break” we have had from homeschooling because of no househelp, I have been trying to get my kids back into the habit of studying. Since they have gotten used to having the liberty to dictate their personal schedules instead of sitting down in the mornings for their usual studies, I find myself having to deal with complaining and negativity. And these are attitudes that I absolutely do not allow my children to get away with.

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Today was one of those days when my second son, Edan, put up a resistance. He slumped over his science notebook and started writing in chicken scratch. This is very uncharacteristic of him. As a very diligent child, he will more often than not assess his goals for the day, tackle them one by one, asking for help when needed but finishing it all by noon. Instead, he was holding the pencil begrudgingly, like he was being tortured, and his demeanor was a picture of negativity.

Recognizing that his heart wasn’t right, I asked him to step out of the room and pray about his attitude. When he was ready, he could come back in and resume his work. I wasn’t about to struggle through the morning with him. When he left, I focused on Elijah, Titus and Tiana, trusting that at some point, he would “crack.”

Well, he took longer than expected. In fact, my eldest son, Elijah, who has gone through the same process of taking time away to think through his attitude, commented, “What’s wrong with him? He is being defiant.” Several times, he checked the door out of concern to see if Edan was coming back. I responded with, “Don’t worry about him. Just focus on what you need to get done. God will speak to him.”

In thirty minutes, Edan snuck back in but not to do work. He sprawled himself out on the sofa like I was not serious about what I had said. “I am sorry but you can only come in here if you are going to do your work. If you are going to lounge around like that, you have to go back into the other room.” He walked out and started to cry – a wailing sort of cry that had anger mixed into it.

I know Edan. He tends to be quiet but he can be just as strong-willed and bullheaded as his other siblings. They all need training and discipline to learn submission to authority, respect, and other important character traits that are necessary for life success so I have to be lovingly tough when necessary to help them grow in these areas.

I knew this was a resistance. He was putting up a “fight.” At any point he could have said sorry and gone right back to what he had to do. But he was trying to escape responsibility.

After a while, he tried to make his constructive exile a little more comfortable, so he picked up a book to read. He also called out, “I am hungry.” My, my.

I went into the room he was in and spoke with him. “I want you to know that you will be in here all day if necessary until you realize that you have to fulfill your responsibilities. That means that you don’t get to eat, read, play, or do anything until you change your attitude.”

He looked at me and started to wail again. Of course he was upset. But it was his choice to draw out his “suffering.” I don’t always have to use spanking as a form of discipline when withdrawal of privileges or natural logical consequences will work just fine. In this case, Edan had to realize that he was free to choose but not free to escape the consequences of his choices. So I let him cry in the room and process his attitude. In the meantime, I went back to teaching my three other kids.

Well, what do you know, in fifteen minutes Edan opened the door and approached me. “I am sorry, ” he said with all sincerity. He gave me a big hug and I embraced him tightly.

“I forgive you. Mommy loves you so much.”

I held him for a while longer and asked if he prayed about his attitude. “I also said sorry to God,” was his reply. He was smiling, happy, and a transformed person. He finished what he had to without a complaining spirit.

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Personally, I have experienced how much more effective it is to let my kids acknowledge their wrong and make a personal choice to repent and correct their emotions rather than force them to do their homeschool work when their hearts aren’t ready.

Learning is a privileged experience for those who are eager and willing to be taught. And I want my kids to realize this. My job is not to force them to learn or work hard. I may encourage and motivate them, but my greater job is to cultivate in them a heart that is teachable and responsive to instruction, a heart that desires to please God. And this is a supernatural task. I can’t do it on my own power. By inviting the Holy Spirit to speak to them when they put up a resistance, I am acknowledging my own limitations and dependence on him to work in their hearts. If I were to push them to learn I can imagine that it would only make me angry in a counterproductive way (to say the least).

The more kids I have and the more of them I have to homeschool, the more I realize that only the Lord can convict them of sin and only he can bring about lasting change in them. My part is to remain committed to help them grow spiritually — more in love with God and more like Christ — and to be Christ-like myself (which is often the harder challenge!).

Proverbs 13:1 A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death.

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I Have Missed This

I have missed teaching the kids since we lost our househelp. So I have been trying to get back into the routine of our daily homeschooling schedule. The kids were “rusty” when I asked them to do their work a few days ago. They responded a little reluctantly, but we managed to kick things off once again. I am nearly a month behind where I should be with them. But I am not going to panic. Okay, just a little. By God’s grace, we will finish it all soon!

Oh and someone asked me recently if my kids get a summer break. We don’t take an extended break away from learning because learning is a natural part of our daily life. We may take a two week break so I can regroup for the next school year. Otherwise, the homeschooling goes on. And if there are interruptions during the year due to trips, family vacations, or untoward incidences, we can take a few days off from studying and make it up as the year goes by. In other words, we are pretty flexible when necessary but we don’t need to stop homeschooling for two months straight just because its summer. And we still get to enjoy summer. :)
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Be A Hugger Not a Slugger

There are days when my kids have a rough time dealing with homeschooling and all they need is a big, long hug to make it through. Yesterday, I was homeschooling Elijah at Edric’s office. I took the four kids with me, armed with art supplies and a couple of their books so they could be productive while waiting for me finish some last minute details for an event we had today.

It was my brilliant idea to have no help with me but I thought, it will be a good chance for the kids to step up and take care of one another. They were great. I was at the office from 8:30 AM to 7 PM and they made it through. In the morning, I sat them around a small table and assigned them their tasks for the day. There was a little bit of complaining, but for the most part, they did as they were told. Titus, who needs more one-on-one instruction, only got through 1 page of math work. But I thought, aw heck, it’s okay, we’ll make it up another day. I didn’t have time to sit down beside him. Elijah looked at his Language Arts material and started to get upset. “I can’t do this, mom! I can’t do this right.”

I came over to his side and said, “I know what you need. All you need is a big hug. Come here. Come to me.” Since Elijah is an affectionate child, he will never turn down the opportunity for a hug from mommy or daddy. He stood up, collapsed into my arms and I held him really tightly. “I love you, hon.” And I hugged him in the most reassuring way I could and he began to smile. “Do you feel better?” I asked him. “I do, mom. Thanks.” He sat back down in front of the same book and completed his work.

Titus (who is also very affectionate), called out to me, “What about me, mom? Can you hug me, too?” I also took him in my arms and gave him a very big hug.

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Touch and affection have proven to be helpful remedies to my children’s frustrations, especially when they are studying. During many occasions I have used a back rub, massage, hug or kiss on the cheek to calm my kids down so they feel relaxed when they are learning. I’ve had instances when Edan has cried out, “Mom, I need help!” And I will come over to where he is sitting and he will say, “Can you massage my back?” So I will rub his back for a while and then, when I forget to keep going, he will point to his back again and say, “Mom…massage…”

Sometimes, I don’t have the spiritual presence of mind to be so tender towards my kids, especially when I’m focused on accomplishing a goal. I can be a verbal “slugger” used in the sense of “someone who delivers hard swinging punches.” Like, mouthing out bible verses, lecturing about attitude, yakking about what they ought to do and how they ought to behave. But after attending a talk on the power of touch, I thought that maybe I could use it with my kids during homeschooling. And it has worked wonders to motivate them when they are struggling through a lesson. It also helps to keep me composed so I can respond in a gentle, spirit-filled way. Hugging makes me relax, too! How can I be annoyed while I am embracing my kids?! When I hug them I realize how much I do love them, how much I want to be a mom that is an encourager. So it is mutually beneficial!

My children can be “weak” emotionally speaking because they are still in the process of maturing so I like how 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15 reminds me to,” admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia