Plagiarized

After a crazy week at the hospital, I checked my email and received a disturbing message. A concerned reader of Teachwithjoy told me that there is a blogger who is cutting and pasting from my articles and putting it on her site. This is different than sharing the articles or passing them around. She is using personal stories and reflections of mine and putting herself in them. Or, hacking up things I have written and using the insights as her own.

At first I was just shocked. Who does this? Especially from a site that is about a woman’s grace journey as a wife, mother, and homeschooler. It’s not like the content is that juicy! This is not about the life of a celebrity or famous person. It is not the kind of stuff that people would normally want to plagiarize. These are deeply personal reflections and stories about me and the people I love. These are spiritual lessons I have picked up along the way. They are meant to be shared and passed around in their integrative wholeness, in context, to bless others. But seeing them hacked up, butchered and stolen in this way is hurtful.

So this is what it feels like to be a victim of plagiarism. Ouch.

Admittedly the selfish and carnal me was offended on two fronts. First, any decent, educated person knows that this is plain unethical and inappropriate. Second, my thoughts were…Write about your own life instead of borrowing someone else’s. Don’t have a blog if you can’t do so. It makes you a thief, not a writer.

I did write the blogger to express my concern and sentiment about what she was doing (it was worded nicely) but I have not gotten a response. Hmm…maybe I was too nice? It doesn’t really matter at this point. If she has been doing this for a while, I doubt that a little note from me is going to bring about radical change. The reality is the digital world swarms with people who do this sort of thing. And by putting content on line I would be an ignorant fool to think that it was “safe” to do so. Of course this reality doesn’t make it less troubling.

Last night I told some of my family members about it just to get their perspective. One person was like, that’s kind of a compliment, right? (Umm…no. Violated was closer to how I felt.) Another one offered to spy on them, digitally speaking (also known as stalking them on social media.) Yet another suggested that I put her name out there and expose her publicly. Bingo! For an instant, this seemed like an attractive idea. But Edric cautioned me against doing so. Okay, okay. It would have been in bad taste if I did. It would be morally wrong, slanderous, to be more accurate. Furthermore, I don’t want to turn this site into an avenue for personal agenda.

I kind of let the whole thing go but this morning, my frustration mounted when, out of curiosity, I read another link that Ms. Concerned Reader sent to me. It was an article the blogger posted — a cut-up version of “The Rise of the Unloved Woman”. My agitation grew and I was tempted again to use my site to do an exposé. But the Holy Spirit stopped me.

What do you hope to gain? Isn’t this site supposed to be about God’s grace? Would that be an act of grace?

Of course not. It would be an act of ugly pride.

Here were some other questions the Lord prodded me to answer…
Why are you upset? Do you think you own the content on your site? Have I not given the insights to you and inspired you with the personal experiences to write? That content belongs to me, not to you. Furthermore, do I not know all things? I know what this person is doing. Why should you trouble yourself? I am better able to convict her to stop what she is doing. And if I don’t stop her what is that to you? Is it so bad that someone is copying your articles? Are you going to pick a fight over this and let it steal your joy?

Remember…”The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:14 NASB)

I had to acknowledge my selfish thinking and say sorry to the Lord. This blog may be personal but the spotlight is not supposed to be on me. This site is something I have dedicated to the Lord, to minister to others. It is supposed to highlight Jesus Christ. So if people pretend that the thoughts, ideas and stories here are theirs, well, it is a crime they can take up with God. He is the owner of everything I have written here.

It is easy to fall prey to the entitlement mentality. But the truth is I own nothing. Not even this site. God owns everything. He has the liberty to decide what ought to be done with the people, possessions, ministry, and gifts he has given me. A tell-tale sign that I am trying to take God’s place is when I become controlling, anxious, or upset when these things are “messed” with, or when circumstances don’t seem to favor what I want. Pride says, “Hey! That’s mine! Hands off!” It also says, “I deserve to be treated better. Don’t do this to me!” Or, “I deserve respect, recognition. I deserve more! Give me what is due me!”

When I was younger my mom read to me the Pineapple Story. It is a story about a missionary who loved pineapples. He had the locals plant them for him but they stole them when it was harvest time. Angered and frustrated because they kept stealing the pineapples, he began to lose his effectivity as a missionary. It wasn’t until he realized that the pineapples didn’t belong to him but to the Lord that he stopped getting angry. The locals noticed a remarkable difference in his personality and wondered what happened…why he wasn’t reacting to the stolen pineapples. He told them they were not stealing from him but from God. This convicted the locals and they repented and changed. But the real victory was this — the missionary began to bear fruit in his ministry because he was not consumed with self-centered thinking. He focused on what he was supposed to be doing — being a blessing and bringing Jesus Christ to the lost.

Similarly, I need to guard against the entitlement perspective in my own life which can side-swipe and cripple me from being used by God. If I am so preoccupied with fighting for my rights when they are trampled upon or taking up a defensive stance to protect what I believe to be mine then I lose the very purpose for which I exist — to lead others to Jesus Christ. When the entitlement mentality infects me, it becomes about me. But, it’s not about me, it’s all about Him.

I am actually thankful that this unpleasant discovery happened. Being a victim of plagiarism made me reevaluate why I write. Is to exalt myself or is it to exalt the Lord?

If it is to exalt the Lord then I need to keep focusing on the priorities God wants me to…growing in intimacy with him, loving my husband, kids, the ladies I disciple, and faithfully teaching my children so I can keep writing for his purposes and glory, plagiarized or not!

20130924-223105.jpg

Better than 20/20

As a mom, there’s no hurt like the hurt you feel when your child experiences pain, disappointment, tragedy, loss…I can’t explain how it tore me up to hear the ophthalmologist tell my son, Elijah, that his grade had gone up to 400/425 — 400 for the left eye and 425 for the right eye. It wasn’t so much about the grade, although I was shocked that it had progressed to that degree since his last eye check-up at 7 years old. It was more of the disappointment I saw in his face and the sadness he felt when he heard the news.

The reality is that his condition is genetically inherited. I first discovered he was near-sighted when he was about 6 years old. He couldn’t read a billboard that was very visible to me. So it occurred to me back then that something was wrong with his eyes. Edric has glasses but his grade isn’t too bad. I am still 20/20. So Elijah probably got it from my dad who is also near-sighted.

When Elijah was 7, his grade was already over 200. But we thought it would stay that way for a while. He’s just 9 now. I dread to think of what his grade will progress to by the time he is 13. According to the ophthalmologist, his eyesight is going to get worse (whether he wears glasses or not) and there is really nothing that can be done, except changing his eyeglasses every year. By 19 or 20, when he stops growing, he can have laser surgery for his eyes. (Praise God for modern technology.)

After the verdict about his eyes at the doctor’s clinic, I watched Elijah settle in a corner as he tried to remain composed. But I know my son. This was difficult for him. He was not okay. His eyes were getting red and watery and he didn’t want to make eye contact. I pulled him close and asked if he wanted to talk about it. He replied, “In private.”

Okay, I understood. The doctor went on to say that he may “have a hard time in school.” (I guess he meant reading stuff off a black board.) We told him that Elijah was a homeschooled kid. (Another blessing.)

Edric helped him pick out new glasses, which we will pick up on Saturday. And we both took him out to lunch to give him attention. Elijah is very much a time person so he opens up when you share a meal with him, when you walk together, or when you are sitting down next to him reading or discussing a book. Over lunch, he began to explain his feelings. He shared how disappointed he was because God had not answered his prayer. His prayer has been that God would make his eyes better. The other thing he was concerned about was going blind. My poor son was afraid that he would completely lose his eyesight. We both hugged him and assured him that God loved him and that we loved him – that we were going to do our best to take care of him no matter what.

Elijah loved the Persian food we had for lunch. His stomach was satisfied and he enjoyed our company. It was an opportune moment to help him process how he was feeling. Edric shared with him that God has a plan for everything. He reminded Elijah that if he wanted to, God could easily cure his eyes, but he hasn’t. We have to trust him. He reminded Elijah that when we pray for something and God doesn’t answer our prayer, he has a purpose.

There was another instance like this in the past when Elijah was also disappointed with God. Five years ago, Elijah prayed very hard to have a baby sister. During the ultra sound, he was allowed to come in to watch the sonologist. With big faith and confidence in God, he couldn’t wait to hear her say that we were having a girl. But the sonologist announced that we were having a boy – our third son (Titus). Elijah couldn’t contain himself. He burst into tears. “I prayed, Daddy! How come God didn’t answer my prayer?”

I wasn’t in any state to comfort him. Seeing him so wrecked about the news made me feel like crying, too. I was excited to have another boy but I feared for Elijah’s tender faith. Edric took him outside of the room and wonderfully explained to him that God always has a good plan. Eventually, our little Elijah understood what this meant and he embraced Titus as his youngest brother. Three years later, God gave us Tiana. Everything worked out according to God’s time-table.

Yesterday, Elijah was once again at a crucial point in his faith journey. As he wrestled with his disappointment with God, he was emotionally vulnerable to doubts about God’s goodness. His outlook on the future was also bleak. God had to make Elijah recognize that he had to choose to trust in him and thank him for this unchangeable in his life.

After lunch, I reaffirmed what Edric shared with Elijah. All of us go through difficulty and trials. No one is exempt. But if our perspective is right, then our thinking is right, and our behavior will also be right. But if we have the wrong perspective, our thinking will be wrong, and our behavior will be affected by wrong thinking… For example, if our perspective on God is that he is good and that he loves us then we can believe that he has a plan and purpose for our lives. And as a result, we can choose to be joyful, happy, and thankful despite our circumstances. Elijah listened to this and received it well.

Edric and I spent a good three hours with Elijah yesterday and something magical happened in those hours. Elijah’s attitude changed. On our way home, he was smiling his big, bright smile. He was chatty and positive, and he was raving about the food we at. He’s back, I thought to myself. Thank you, Lord! Elijah told us he had a great time, that he loved the food and most especially, he felt better because we got to talk about how he was feeling “in private.”

As a writing assignment, I asked him to do a blog entry about his experience at the ophthalmologist. This is what he wrote:

Today (September 5) I had my eyes checked and the grade of my eyes had risen double in the past three years. I felt disappointed because, before I had my checkup we prayed that my eyes would be better. But God had a different plan. He had a bigger plan. He loves me, so he will only do things to help me. And someday (or soon) God will fulfill his plan.

All of us have our own dreams for ourselves, but God has the best plans for us. I really wanted my eyes to get better, but I know that God can’t just make eyes better, he can make them perfect. It may not happen, but I know that God loves me. He will not allow anything bad to happen to me.

I want to be thankful because at least, I can still see!

In heaven, my eyes will be perfect and I will see better. This is the verse I want to share in Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”

Over breakfast this morning, I said to him, “You seem so positive and different than yesterday when you found out. What changed?” “I know God has a plan,” was his sincere reply. Does he still feel sad about his eyes? Yes. But he is choosing to believe in the goodness of God.

Elijah may not have 20/20 vision, but if he can see with spiritual eyes, he will see far more than 20/20 will ever give him. After all, “we walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) 20120906-115934.jpg

Handwriting Practice Worksheet Maker

You will like this! Forget about buying penmanship workbooks. Just make your own worksheets. The nice thing about D’Nealian’s writing style is that it makes the transition to cursive more natural. Instead of boxy print letters, D’Nealian uses slanted letters. Admittedly, I have used boxy letters when teaching my kids and I forgot all about D’Nealian. So I was happy to rediscover this worksheet maker. It is free!

D’Nealian Handwriting Worksheets Maker

Rest While Homeschooling

Yesterday, I shared with my dad a story about homeschooling one of my sons, and he asked me to share it during his message today to illustrate what it means to rest in Gods presence, from a parent’s perspective.

As a homeschooling mom of four children, my patience gets tried pretty often. My kids are between the ages of 2 and 9 and God gave me a mix of different personalities to train my character. One of the challenges of teaching my own kids is remaining spirit-filled when they are unmotivated about studying. Perhaps all parents can relate when I say that there are many occasions when I am tempted to give in to irritation and frustration by reacting negatively and harshly. But, by God’s grace, when I practice the presence of God, he gives me victory in this area. He gives me his rest to replace my distress.

For example, some time ago, I assigned one of my sons an activity. He had to write and draw about the life cycle of a fern for science. Mid-way through his assignment, he dropped his pencil in a dramatic manner, slumped back into the chair and said, “I can’t do this! I don’t want to write anymore.” I struggled to respond positively to him because he had this reoccurring issue with writing. He would become negative and demotivated when I assigned him writing tasks.

But God reminded me, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

I prayed, “What is the right response, Lord?” because I felt the heat rising to my neck and head, and I wanted to lecture him on the importance of writing and perseverance. But instead of doing so, I asked him, “Is there any way I can improve as your teacher to help you develop a love for writing?” He said, “I don’t know” and he started going on and on about how he just did not like to write. According to him, he wasn’t a good writer. So I tried to say very calmly, “Why don’t we pray together, why don’t you pray about it?”

“I don’t know what to pray! You pray, mom!” and he sounded agitated and discouraged. Wow, this was a serious issue for him! This was my one thought and the other thought I had was “This is ridiculous! Get over your dramatics, snap out of it and just finish your work!” But again, the Lord reminded me, be an encourager, be positive. So I didn’t say those things.

Instead, I prayed with him, “Lord, please help my son to develop a love for writing, to understand that it is important to learn this skill, and to change his attitude.” Afterwards, I asked him again, “Are you ready now?”

“No I still don’t want to write.” And he slumped further back into his chair and started to tear. I felt my anger start to rise again because in my mind, I was trying every spirit-filled tactic, but it was not working. I was at the tipping point.

Yet once again God spoke to me and gave me another idea. “Your son belongs to me, remember? So turn him over and let me deal with him. Don’t make this writing assignment more important than your relationship with him. Let him speak to me about it.”

That was a great idea! I told my son, “I am not going to force you to write right now. But I want you to go to your room and spend time alone with God. I know that Jesus is in your heart and he will tell you how you should change your attitude and what you should do about this writing assignment.” My son looked at me and he was kind of shocked, but I insisted that he go and have alone time with God to pray.

In five minutes, my son came back to me and said, “I am ready, mom.” “For what?” I prodded and he responded, “To write.” Really? Why? “God spoke to me and told me to.” By then, his tone and his posture had changed. He went back to his desk and finished his work and even did so while singing, too! God had changed his attitude completely.

Years ago my husband and I shared the gospel with this son of ours and he made Jesus his Lord and Savior. And so this experience was not just about experiencing rest in Gods presence as a parent, but about teaching my son to do the same. I learned that the responses we have towards our children must be redemptive in nature, restoring them to the Lord, causing them to draw closer to him instead of pushing them away because of our temper, anger, irritation, or ungodliness. I still struggle with patience as a homeschool mom but God is my source of strength, joy, grace, and peace when I teach my kids. He is my rest! All glory goes to him!

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)

If you are interested in viewing the message during today’s service here it is…

Rest In God’s Presence — Message by Peter Tan-Chi

Pre-Writing Skills Resource

I chanced upon a wonderful book at Toy Kingdom while shopping the other day — My Very First Writing Book of Patterns. It was a great find for my 4 year old who is learning how to write. The exercises are presented in a visually appealing way and it gently introduces children to writing. For less than P70, I thought it was a steal!

20120702-201017.jpg

20120702-201036.jpg

20120702-201045.jpg

20120702-201028.jpg

20120702-201106.jpg

20120702-201125.jpg

Blog entry by Elijah

For a writing assignment, my son, Elijah, wrote this for his blog (with some grammatical assistance from moi)…

When I was almost 8 years old, I asked for an NIV Bible called Adventure Bible for Children. I wanted to finish the whole Bible like my parents. It took me one and a half years to finish it.

Every day, I would try to read. I tried to read (at the most) five chapters a day. Occasionally, I would not be able to read when I would forget to bring it on a trip or when I had a busy day. But, most of the time, I tried my best.

To be honest, I would not always learn things, but I would read through it anyway. But I did learn the most precious truth in all the world — that Jesus died for me and that he has saved me. All I have to do is to take his gift and believe in what he has done, and live for him. Someday, I know I will go to heaven.

At first, I wasn’t sure about what I believed. But, my mom and dad told me that the Bible is veritable because Jesus died and rose again. He has triumphed over death and his resurrection is historically proven. Therefore, what I believe is real and not based on fiction.

Even after I believed this, I still was not sure if I had faith. My dad told me, “believe the little that you know and let it grow.” And my mom shared with me that if I seek God with all my heart, I would find him. The verse she showed me was in Jeremiah 29:12 – 14 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

I was also encouraged when my mom said she could really see God in my life. This made me realize that I have Jesus in my life. And if I have Jesus in my life this means that I really have believed in him.

When I read the New Testament, I really like it. I learned a lot more than the Old Testament even though it is much shorter. All of the verses in my blog right now are from the New Testament. But I kept a journal where I wrote down so many verses from the Old Testament.

The date I finished my Bible was June 20, 2012. It was a terrific and gratifying feeling. I absolutely enjoyed reading my Bible and I look forward to going through another translation. (There are many translations.) Of all the books I have read, the Bible is the one I can learn from the most and one of the longest!

To celebrate my completion of the Bible, my family and I ate at a Japanese restaurant called Jozu Kin. Japanese food is one of my favorite foods! It was a special celebration for me. My dad said we would do this for all my siblings when they finish their Bibles, too!

Stages of Writing

Gently introduce pre-school aged boys to writing, especially if they are not very confident or skilled at handling a pencil. I have found that exposing my kids to various writing instruments and craft-related materials (like glue, tape, playdough, clay, safe scissors, etc) has helped them to develop their hand muscles in preparation for gripping that pen or pencil!

However, I often feel that conventional schools overemphasize penmanship and writing so that parents tend to stress out on their child’s handwriting. But pen and paper methods are not the only way to teach kids to write. In fact, most children who have difficulty with their penmanship simply did not have enough opportunity to work out their hand muscles, develop their hand-eye coordination, vision, right posture, appropriate grip, etc.

“The development of handwriting is actually a process that involves the mastery of several important aspects —
vision, coordination of the eyes, arms, hands, memory, posture, body control and posture, and the ability to hold a pencil and form text.” (Source: Child Support )

So before penmanship related issues cause undue stress in my relationship with my kids, I expose them to many pre-writing experiences. I have them draw letters in the air, roll dough into the shapes of letters, numbers and shapes, practice in a tray of sand or flour, cut out or tear pieces of paper to form them, glue or assemble objects together to represent them, practice the strokes on an Ipad or Iphone app, and use all kinds of fun writing instruments like crayons, markers, chalk, colored pencils, and paint to inspire writing. Frequent exposure to text in books or in the surrounding environment (like identifying letters, words, numbers, shapes, etc) also gives my kids better recall of their forms, too.

Writing will happen in stages so I tell myself, “relax, my child will get there.”Stages of Writing In the meantime, I praise their efforts and give them positive feedback.

Titus, my third son, often hands me scribbles that don’t seem to make much sense but given the opportunity to express what his picture is about, I often discover there is some logic to all the lines and swirls. He brought me a picture once and I was not sure what it was. However, he took the time to explain it. “Mom, this is a maze…you go up here and there, and there’s monsters in this one part but don’t be scared. Jesus is in your heart, right? Right? So you will go to heaven.”

It was the cutest description of a drawing I had ever heard. I laughed and told him I loved it!

Here is a photo of him practicing his writing on a chalk board.

20120626-222452.jpg

20120626-222520.jpg

Notice how he is holding his chalk. It’s not even the correct grip. But he is getting there and he is enjoying the process!

The Young Architects

My eldest son, Elijah, just launched his own blog called The Young Architects. It is his online portfolio of created things and meaningful reflections. Of course since he is just 9, his blogging time is monitored. But this is his project as he ends third grade and moves on to fourth. It is also my secret way of getting him to write. He has been very motivated to include descriptions of his work and add journal reflections. There really isn’t much text but he is highly interested in this new found hobby so I imagine that he will get into writing more. :) Yeah!

20120609-003249.jpg

Making Mini Books

Children need a compelling reason to write. I remember having a conversation with author of Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Debra Bell, and she said that a person must have an audience to write.

Well, my second son, Edan, asked me to make him a book so he could draw and write in it. I stapled bond paper together and he got to work. I had no idea what he was up to but he wrote an drew pictures for his own little book. He called it a book about The Bible and the Created World.

When he presented it to me, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of thought an insight he put into it. He is just six but he has a heart for God. I was blessed to read what he wrote. He asked me for some spelling help, but the ideas were all his. His grammar was not perfect but it’s a good start for him. :)

20120604-112113.jpg

20120604-112122.jpg

20120604-112133.jpg

20120604-112141.jpg

20120604-112153.jpg

20120604-112159.jpg

20120604-112211.jpg

20120604-112204.jpg

When Kids Feel Like the Sky is Falling

My highly gifted son gets easily frustrated with his writing. And his very high standard of perfection often keeps him from enjoying the writing process. He labors over each cursive letter, erases, re-writes, erases. It drives me crazy when he gets like this. I often feel that he is missing the point of the exercise because he is too caught up in making his writing look calligraphically flawless (calligraphically isn’t even a word).

Do I pressure him to have perfect handwriting? Not at all. In fact, I’m often telling him, “Just write clearly enough so I can read what you want to say.” Penmanship is no biggie to me. I think children won’t be writing with paper and pen ten years from now.

But it’s not just his handwriting that has been a source of stress for him lately. It’s anything that he can’t do according to his expectations of himself. This behavior has become more and more frequent in the last few weeks. At least once a day he will get very upset at himself for a task he cannot perform to the standard at which he believes he should. Yesterday, for Daily Vacation Bible School, he was making a candle holder. But the buttons fell off and he repeatedly said in a very agitated voice, “It’s ALL breaking! It’s ALL falling apart!”

I’ve told him before that trying his best and having a high standard is not wrong, but if it causes him to be angry and lose control of his emotions, then that is wrong. How does he lose it? He starts crying and giving melodramatic speeches, and he may even toss his work and give up completely.

When I hear him tailspin like this something in me wants to snap. There are days when I feel like giving him a good smack across the face to “wake him up.” It sounds terrible and thank God I have not ever done that. But, I am tempted to react to what seems to be an overkill response to a situation. I just want to tell him, “Stop it! Get over it! The sky IS NOT falling! It’s not the end of the world!”

God has to bring to mind the verse which says, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” And boy do I pray and ask God for H-E-L-P.

After seeking advice from several people I look up to and admire (my mom being one of them), a very logical reason they brought to my attention was the possibility that the root cause may be pride. My mom encouraged me to tell him, “You have to be able to accept that you can’t do everything perfectly. Even if you try your best, sometimes it won’t turn out the way you want it to. But that’s okay. You need to be thankful for what you are able to do, be humble, and then strive to become better. And getting it right won’t always happen immediately either.” Well, that made a lot of sense. So today, when my son had another one of his bouts, I let him settle down first. Then I spoke with him in the car about it when the atmosphere was relaxed. (Come to think of it, car-talks are some of my most effective teaching times.)

This is one of those things that I really need to pray about and bring before the Lord. My son’s emotions are not something I can switch on and off with a remote control. And it wouldn’t be right of me to expect that he can do the same thing. Sure, he can learn to manage his emotions, but he’s got to understand the real problem first and learn to be humble and accept his weaknesses.

As for me, God is calling me to be patient with this one. I have felt myself near boiling point a couple of times. But thankfully, the Holy Spirit rescued me from blowing up. Whew!!! The last thing an emotional child needs is an emotionally wacko mother!

Lord, I need your grace. This is one of those unknown territories of parenting that I am entering into.

1. Give me understanding and a listening ear to know what is going on in his heart.

2. Give me patience when his behavior is unpleasant to me.

3. Give me grace to respond positively — to build him up and draw him closer to you.

4. Give me wisdom to teach him in the way he should go.

5. Give my son the right spiritual perspective to help him overcome this struggle.

AMEN!!!

In the meantime, I gave given my son this verse to think about:

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. Proverbs 16:32

20120602-203011.jpg

Writing with Tears

I have often heard other moms talk about how difficult it is to get their sons interested in writing. Well, now I am one of them. My 9 year old, Elijah, is an incredibly intelligent boy but writing is his least favorite activity.

Last Friday was one of those days when he resisted an assignment I gave him. He was asked to write a short story using the vocabulary words he learned and he was visibly upset about it. Sigh. In my heart, I was wrestling with my own rising irritation. I watched him bury his face in his hands, yank at his nose a zillion times, and then stare at nothing. We sat like this for about twenty minutes and he wrote zero sentences.

One of the amazing things about homeschooling, however, is that it is a character education for me, too. So I prayed and committed not to lose my temper. And I didn’t, but he heard me say that I was frustrated. (Oops)

He started tearing and said, “I feel bad because you are mad at me.”

I replied, “I am not angry or mad.”

“But you said you were frustrated.”

“I did say that and I am sorry. I was frustrated, but our relationship is more important to me than your writing assignment.”

To reassure him, I gave him a big hug and held him for a while. Yet, the teacher mom in me knew that Elijah had to learn to write. I couldn’t let him remain negative towards this skill. It was an important ability that he needed to develop. And while I believe in allowing children to learn at their own pace, I also believe that they can be lovingly encouraged and challenged to do hard things.

It wasn’t just about doing a writing activity, it was about overcoming self-doubt and self-imposed limitations and negativity. I knew that Elijah could write and that I wasn’t asking him to do something beyond his capacity. But I was asking him to do something that wasn’t comfortable or easy for him. The question was, what strategy would work to motivate him?

God gave me an idea…

I continued our dialogue, “I need to ask you something. Do you think there is anything you can improve on? Do you think your heart is right?”

He shook his head to mean, “No.”

“What do you think is wrong?” He admitted that he didn’t like writing and didn’t want to do it.

“Do you think it’s okay that you have this attitude toward writing?”

He shook his head again. Another, “No.”

At this point in our conversation, I knew that he recognized his aversion to writing. He knew it was not good or right.

When I saw him soften up a little, I said, “Okay, I want you to repeat after me…”

I don’t like writing but I will try my best for Jesus. I asked me to say this several times until it became somewhat comical and he started to smile. There is my Elijah! I thought to myself. Breakthrough.

It was my opportunity to try again.

“How about we do this. Choose 10 of the vocabulary words to use in a story and you can write about a topic that you like. You can also use my computer to do it.”

“Can I choose my own font?” He asked.

“Yes.”

Prior to this, his assignment was to write a story using about 20 words and he had to use them in the order they were dictated. This was stressful for him. But when I changed the mechanics of the assignment and gave him enough space to be creative, he was excited. I also said, “Afterwards, you can play the educational game about countries on my IPad.”

“Thank you, mom! This is more motivating.”

Praise God!

I left him to work on the computer and when I came back, he composed a wonderful piece. Mission accomplished!

Here is a copy of what he wrote: (Re-printed with permission from Elijah)

One day there was a commotion outside the house. There was a booth that allowed you to get free plane tickets that let you go on an expedition anywhere in the world! There was a long line when I looked out the window. There were about 150 people waiting to get tickets! A few days later we got tickets and we chose this place called Adventure Islands.

Once we got there, we first went into the subterranean cave. The next day we reached one of the precipices. We climbed up to the top, and I saw an eyrie below us and an ingenious invention flying above us. We also went to one of the mystery places. I was flummoxed by how the place looked. Soon we saw some menacing, dark rain clouds overhead. We settled in an uncanny place and it was a bit eerie for a while, but soon we fell asleep.

The next day it was time to go home. Three days later we got home. I looked out of the window and saw that the booth was gone. But soon we might go on another adventure…..

After I read what Elijah wrote, I immediately said, “This is fantastic, son. You are such a good writer!” He was quite happy with this encouragement. And I meant it. He was able to use difficult vocabulary in the right context. For a 9 year old who seemed mentally constipated an hour earlier, I was very pleased with his output.

This experience was a confirmation that academic goals are achievable even if I don’t follow the cookie-cutter approach to teaching. I customized my son’s learning experience. And customization is a key benefit of homeschooling.

The reality is that a teacher educating thirty kids will not be able to customize assignments for each of the children she teaches. Yet many times customization is exactly what a child needs to be engaged and motivated to learn. When children are engaged and motivated they do not need to be coerced or pleaded with to learn or try their best. In contrast, when they are uninspired, getting them to do their work feels like pulling teeth…teeth that won’t come out!

Therefore, my challenge as a homeschool mom is not getting my children to do their work but inspiring them to do their best and to love learning. It requires me to adjust (which is not always easy or comfortable or me) and it requires a whole lot of prayer for grace, wisdom, and patience, but the results are worth it!

We’ve got more writing assignments to deal with this coming week, but I am looking forward to how God will move in the heart of my son and help us get through these challenges. :)