Piles of washing and mountains of love

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Piles of washing, still waiting.

I probably should have spent the morning at home. There are dirty dishes in the kitchen and piles of washing waiting to be put away on my bed. I haven’t even finished unpacking from our mini holiday last weekend. But this morning called us to something better.

Over the years our homeschool life has gradually grown from a very free, natural learning style to a more structured approach. This has suited our family well, and helped us continue to love learning whilst also maintain a forward momentum. We have a rough plan, which involves Prince and Princess completing all the work on their ‘learning fun’ chart each day, preferably in the morning. This is mainly self-directed work, allowing me to get housework and other chores done as well as encouraging Prince and Princess towards autonomous learning.

This structure and set work has many benefits. Even though it isn’t always as ‘fun’ as I’d like to believe, the kids both work at it with very little complaining. It is good for us all to have some discipline and work ethic, and I wouldn’t want to drop it all together at this stage of our lives. But at the same time I never want our homeschool to be school at home. In the midst of structure, we still have space for freedom and flexibility. We have the blessing of being able to look at a sunny spring day and throw everything else aside to delight in it! And because we can, we did.

As we walked around Nymans with friends this morning, I smiled. “No one ever regrets spending ‘too much’ time with their children – only too little,” I said.

Prince’s drawing of him and me; mountains of love.

We all know that children grow up fast. Way too fast.

So sometimes it’s best to leave the piles of washing and bask in the mountains of love we share on our journey, together.

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It’s so much more friendly with two

Have you ever faced a challenge alone? Gone somewhere new for the first time? Tried to learn something complicated without help? Gone on a long journey with no companion?

It's so much more friendly with two.

It’s so much more friendly with two.

Being alone can be adventurous, at times. But when you are facing something difficult, something scary, something big – being alone can be daunting.

Life has many daunting moments for our children. The world is full of amazing possibilities, but getting to them can mean facing some tough challenges first. Challenges which can seem so big to their little minds. The dark feels frightening; sharing with friends seems impossible; the new class looks impenetrable; maths work feels lonely. If we leave our children to face these challenges alone, they can become overwhelmed.

The symptoms of an overwhelmed child are varied. Maybe he cries when maths is suggested. Perhaps she throws a tantrum at bedtime. He may be shy and clingy. She might become withdrawn around peers. The important thing is that when we see symptoms of an overwhelmed child, we don’t ignore them. They are a cry for help – and aren’t we our children’s primary helpers? We need to walk through the hard things with them, not leave them to flounder.

It doesn’t always take much. Often just a friendly smile can make the challenge seem smaller. Sitting with your son while he does that hard homework.  Holding your daughter’s hand while she stands up for what is right.  Encouraging words can give strength. A hug, a wink, a squeeze of the hand – just to let them know they are not alone, that we’ve got their back. Sometimes it takes more from us; issues can be deep-rooted and need long term understanding, care and encouragement before they can be conquered.

I am convinced that A.A. Milne knew what he was talking about.  It’s so much more friendly with two.

Little secrets

I sat there reading Little Lord Fauntlery aloud. Prince and Princess were listening quietly, and all thoughts seemed to be on the story. Suddenly, Prince interrupted. ‘Mommy – it seems to me that Francis Hodgeson Burnett wanted to make Cedric like a perfect boy. But…’ his voice took a crestfallen tone, ‘nobody can be perfect.’

I was struck.

Walking and talking together - what a blessing!

Walking and talking together – what a blessing!

It was the smallest of moments, but it contained a world of meaning. It was a glimpse into the heart of my boy; a revelation of something I had never noticed before. My Prince struggled with guilt? Suddenly several tiny moments of revelation over the past few months made sense, and I had become privy to a secret. A secret that Prince himself probably couldn’t even articulate and define, but which was causing inner distress. A secret which, now I knew, I could gently and lovingly resolve.

Knowing, is the key thing. If we don’t know a problem exists, we might never solve it. Even worse, we might exacerbate it. How easy it could have been to miss this vital insight. If we never took time to read together, I would have missed it. If I always simply told him off without allowing him to discuss mistakes with me, I would have missed it. If I frequently missed our morning snuggle time, or rushed through it with no chance to chat, I would have missed it. All these little opportunities throughout the days and weeks could so easily have been wasted. Thank God they were not.

We have our children for such a short, precious time. I am so thankful for the chance to see their hurts and struggles, and minister to their particular needs. I am so thankful for time to reassure, build up, encourage when they are down. I am so privileged to spur on, inspire and watch as they pursue their passions.

All it takes is time – the gift of our time.

The secret of Joy

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

I love how the apostle Paul expresses himself. Here he is (in prison, no less!) telling the people of Philippi, “Be joyful in Jesus ALL the time. Did you get that? I say, be JOYFUL!” I think I get why he puts such emphasis on this point. I crave for my children to feel the joy of the Lord in their spirit. Because I know that once they’ve tasted real joy in Jesus, they will never want to let go.

Have you ever watched Veggie Tales’ DVD ‘Madame Blueberry‘? It’s about a lady (or rather, blueberry) who tries to buy joy. She knows it’s out there, but she doesn’t know how to get it. Until one day she sees a little boy rejoice despite his circumstances. Suddenly, Madame realises that joy is closely tied to thankfulness. She is well quoted in our house: A thankful heart, is a happy heart. Proverbs 17:22 tells us the same thing: ‘A joyful heart is good medicine.’

Paul tells us we should be joyful always. If joy is tied to thankfulness, that means we should be thankful, always. Not just when we live in peace. Not just when we are well. Not just when we get what we want. Always. We can be barren, threatened by terrorists, or plagued by illness, yet we can rejoice.  The secret is keeping that eternal perspective. ‘Joy in Jesus’ is because of Jesus, and not dependent on anything this world can or can’t give us. His sacrifice and victory and freely offered grace are the source of an eternal joy that we can know and live despite our circumstances. However saddened we are by the situations we are in, they cannot and should not rob us of true joy.

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deut. 6:6-7

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deut. 6:6-7

The question is, how do we impart this joy to our children?  I have shared before some practical ways to encourage joy in our children. We also need to be living joyfully ourselves. On top of this, I believe teaching our children to live life God’s way will help them access joy, as it says in Proverbs 19:8 (emphasis mine):

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the
heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

Most importantly, we need to infiltrate their lives with the Good News. Grace should be woven into every conversation. We need to talk about it as we sit in our house, as we walk along our way, when we go to lie down and as we wake up to each new day. It should be inextricably bound up in our words and actions. It should be sprinkled throughout our home.

As our children go through life they experience all its frustrations, fears, temporary pleasures and empty promises. We must be there to help them see things from the right perspective. To help them grasp that yes – life will fail them. But this is not the same as God failing them. Because God looks at the big picture, the forever. And with regards to eternity, He has sorted it out on our behalf – eternal joy.

Education is not a god: part 2

Last week I wrote about how education is not the ultimate goal of childhood. All this was not to say that education is irrelevant. But we need to remember that education is there to serve us, not be served by us.

So what is education really, then? Here are some thoughts.

Education is a tool

Getting a good quality education is one of the tools which helps to shape our children’s future. The foundation of knowledge they build up though childhood is a platform they can bounce off to reach the heights of God’s plan for their lives. Equipping our kids with wisdom and understanding in academic, spiritual and practical arenas prepares them to use their God-given gifts to their fullest potential. A good education will open doors of ministry and enable our kids to take hold of any opportunities which come their way.

Education should teach children to approach work with an attitude of diligence. If we nurture their natural love of learning, if we show them how to solve problems effectively, and if we teach them to self-discipline and allow them to self-direct their studies, then their education will serve them well when they go out into the world. And the best education will teach our children good stewardship of their talents – helping to grow them, not bury them.

Education gives our wings to soar into all God has prepared for them!

Education gives children our wings to soar into all God has prepared for them!

Education is a gift

I love to learn, and I want my kids to know the joy of learning too. Knowledge is a blessing! As children learn about the world, their minds begin to open up. They make connections between topics, and they start to grasp concepts which open up further new thoughts. With knowledge, kids are able to take part in meaningful discussions and feel that their contributions are valuable. They are learning not just to be part of society, but to be a useful part of society – contributing their gifts and understanding to help better the world around them.

One of education’s greatest blessings is the way it helps our children to connect with people of diverse opinions, beliefs, and cultures. As they learn about the world they begin to appreciate the common value of people as well as appreciate their diversity. Education breaks down barriers and misconceptions and stereotypes. Jesus reminds us that unconditional love for others is one of the most important things we need to grasp as Christians. Quality education helps our children to do this with ease and joy.

I pray that as we seek God’s will for the education of our children we will not lose sight of what is truly important. May our children be blessed with an education which encourages them to live a life of love, not gain.

Education is not a god: part 1

I want to give my kids an excellent education.

In fact, one of the reasons we home educate is because we believe that the smaller ratios, focused learning, and personally tailored curriculum that can be provided at home have the potential to produce a better quality education than that which can be achieved in an over-crowded, peer-dominated, test-orientated school setting.

But I want to be very clear about something which I think has become very unclear in our society: Education is not a god.

Our children need to know that while they should always strive to work to their personal best, grades do not define who they – or we – are. There is only one God, and our children have immeasurable worth in His eyes, and in our eyes, which is not defined by their academic or sporting ability, the career they obtain, or the number of extra curricular activities they attend.

Education is good, but it is not a god.

Education is good, but it is not a god.

It is easy to ‘know’ this. But do we live it out?

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I don’t think any of the things below make us ‘worthy’. God alone provides our worth, and it is not dependent on works or behaviour. I also think all of the activities below have a value, a place and a time. However – the fruit of our lives reveal the secrets of our hearts. It is worth examining our priorities honestly.

I believe that education is often worshiped as the ultimate goal of childhood. It is evident in a culture which prioritises academic achievement over character development. It is evident in the efforts to make sure our kids understand geometry, and yet neglect discussions on evidences and controversies of faith. It is evident when parents fear lack of education for their four-year-old, more than lack of compassion. It is evident in the way parents work longer hours to pay for a extracurricular activities, but leave no time for quality, relationship building.

I want to repeat – all of these things have good and right places in our children’s lives. Geometry, sports and academics are good things.  But the question is – do we let ‘good things’ take a higher place than the ‘best thing’?

There is only one thing of first importance, and we only get one shot at parenthood. Let’s make sure we don’t get our priorities confused.

In part two I will be looking at some of the things which education is, and how it can be used to help our children, not hinder them.

Homeschooling on holiday: our camping trip

We recently took our first family camping trip to one of our favourite places – the New Forest. I had been looking forward to this trip as an opportunity to enjoy some unique learning and bonding with the kids. I envisioned rustic evenings and adventure-filled days.

Yeah, I’m an idealist.

As it happened, hay fever and a terribly uncomfortable gravel tent pitch meant we didn’t embrace the fullness of my camping vision, and had to leave for home a couple of days early. However, we had some fantastic fun with some very special friends (who, very sensibly, ‘camped’ in a nearby cottage). We made the best use of our time that we could, and overall enjoyed learning, laughing and loving despite the set backs.

Day One:  After setting up camp, we spent our first day picnicking, walking and playing in the forest. The kids had tons of fun just ‘being’ in the natural woodland. The educational benefits of being outside are often overlooked and under-supplied, but this day was a feast of connecting with nature.Day one

Day Two:  Having just signed up for membership with the National Trust, we took advantage of unlimited free visits and went to Kingston Lacy twice. This day was our first visit, where we enjoyed relaxing on the lawn, exploring the hidden bamboo garden, and reading poetry in the shade. After a lovely lunch in the cafe, we then went to Studland beach, another National Trust owned area, where we licked ice-creams and paddled in the sea. I highly recommend National Trust membership to homeschooling families. There are properties all over the country, and they offer opportunities to enjoy beautiful gardens as well as historical houses.IMG_2033

Day Three:  Salisbury cathedral is one of Hubby’s favourite buildings, so this day was dedicated to enjoying the architecture with our friends. We were blessed to be there while the boys’ choir was rehearsing, and all our musical drama kids got to watch as the boys treated us to some high quality singing. The kids followed an activity trail here and learnt a bit about the history of the place, as well as appreciating the craftsmanship of the building itself.IMG_2184

Day Four:  We went back to Kingston Lacy to explored the house this time. We got to see beautiful marble staircases, real cannon balls from the destruction of Corfe Castle, the cutest turtle footstool ever, and Prince’s favourite – an extensive Egyptian artifacts collection. The kids completed an activity trail here too, and collected badges at the end. We followed up this morning with a little walk around Christchurch castle ruins and another beach trip. Then we headed home to our oh-so-comfy beds.Day two

Although we didn’t get to do all the things we had planned, our few days away were full of blessings. They gave us a chance to spend more time together as a family. They offered new and exciting learning opportunities. And they created memories which we will hold close for years to come.

But I am never camping on gravel again.

Lessons from my son

With thanks to my dear friend Monique for writing her second guest post here at Writing on the Doorposts!

I became a mom two and a half years ago and I remember thinking, ‘I have so much to teach my baby boy.’ The thought was rather overwhelming at the time. Actually to be honest, I was scared of such a responsibility. My prayers increased as I cradled, fed, nurtured, burped, and changed him. Now that two and a half years have passed, God has shown me something amazing. While I am training up my child Thaddeus, he is, at the same time, teaching me life-changing lessons. There are several lessons I have learned, but here I will list three.

Beauty

“While I am training up my child Thaddeus, he is, at the same time, teaching me life-changing lessons.”

Open your eyes. My son Thaddeus has taught me to open my eyes to my surroundings. His curious nature allows him to point and say, “Look Mama, ant!” I can tell you that without my two year old’s keen vision I would have missed the opportunity to see the busy ant walking back and forth to its anthill (Proverbs 30:24-25).  Another example is when I’m carrying Thaddeus and he waves to the person behind us in the checkout line at the store. Without him doing that, I might have easily forged ahead with my errands and not stopped to speak to the person behind me in line.

Enjoy the moment. Thaddeus loves life! He is full of energy and doesn’t let things wear him down. As an adult, I get caught up in the worries of this life, such as paying bills. It is important, as an adult, to be responsible and take care of what God has given us, but we must also enjoy each breath God has blessed us with and live for each moment.

Keep looking up. Thaddeus looks up a lot searching for airplanes in the sky. When he sees one, he shouts with glee, “Airdplan!” This has reminded me to look up more, figuratively speaking. My Heavenly Father is up in Heaven and my life here should consist of “ups.” I should be living my life in such a way that people will want to look up and know more of my Father. My desire is to live one day in my heavenly home with my God.

I am so thankful to have been blessed with the role of “mom” in this life. It’s a beautiful thing to see life through the eyes of a child.

To my daughter


To My Daughter

 

Delicate dancing girl

you spin your silk around my heart

and twist your

baby fingers

around its chords

 

Floating fairy girl

you sprinkle smiles around the house

and leave your

laughter lines

in every room

 

Little Leora girl

you shine your light into my life

and sparkle

boundless joy

into my days

Attitude expectations

Have you ever received a compliment or word of encouragement that you really don’t feel like you deserve? I have.

“You are so good at…..”  Eeek!

Or “You really knows how to …..” Do I??!!

But I have noticed something very interesting about these kind of comments. They make me try to live up to their expectations. Think about it. If someone praises the way you solve problems peacefully, even if you honestly don’t think you are so good at it, you’ll more than likely make an extra effort to be peaceful next time a problem crops up. You see, you want to live up to that good expectation.

Having someone expect good things of you is nice. Sometimes a little daunting, but nice. Someone else’s confidence in your ability somehow bolsters your own confidence, and in turn this inspires you to try; you aim to do your best to deserve the praise already given. And I think this is a principle we need to apply to parenting.

Moment by moment we are shaping the attitudes our children will hold for years to come.

Moment by moment we are shaping the attitudes our children will hold for years to come.

I want to make clear that I am not talking about setting the kind of expectations which put negative pressure and stress onto a child. I don’t think we should say, “I expect you to win that race.” This can result in a fear-based effort. Not only that, but it is unfair – your child simply may not be the fastest runner in the race. We should not set expectations based on our children’s performance; we should set expectations about their attitude and character choices. Verbalizing your anticipation of your child’s best effort to win the race will spur them on with joy rather than fear.  And your praise at the end, no matter where they finish, will bring about positive results.

"We are raising the next generation"

“We are raising the next generation of this world”

Children are perceptive little people. They observe and absorb much more than we realise. And I’ve noticed that as adults we are almost constantly giving off impressions of the expectations we have of our children, perhaps unaware that they are soaking up and internalising these messages.

You can see it in all kinds of places. In the t-shirts we buy our toddlers: “I’m the boss”, “I’m a little monster”, “Mischief maker”. In the TV shows which model “normal” teenage behavior: arrogant, more concerned about appearance than character, self-absorbed. In the tone of voice and choice of words with which we communicate to them: “You’re so naughty! You never listen to me.” Or the way we talk to others about them, “He’s such a nightmare. He really knows how to wind me up.” All of these set negative expectations, and they tend to result in one of two scenarios: a child who lives up to these poor expectations and becomes the “nightmare” he is called; or a child who strives to please but deep down is broken and depressed.

We need to think more carefully. We are raising the next generation of this world. If we want them to be kind, compassionate, healthy, competent and respectful adults then we need to set those expectations now, while they are children. Why do we think we can call them “a little monster” yet expect them to behave well? We need to set them good standards which they delight in reaching, by highlighting the good they are capable of achieving. We need to find things to praise them for – not to build pride, but to remind them that everyone is valuable no matter what. I can tell you from first-hand experience: commenting on the good your child has done – no matter how small – inspires them to achieve more.

In the book of James chapter 3 we are told that the tongue has the power to set the course of a life – for good or for bad. Let us use that power to set our children on the course for greatness. In Titus 2:7 Paul says “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.Let us use every moment to model high standards. And when we talk to or about our children, let us keep every conversation “full of grace” (Col. 4:6), that they may be inspired to become the best version of themselves they can possibly be.

And above all, let our unconditional love flow through our words and actions.

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