Just for fun

Prince: Mommy – do Germans get sick more than other people?

Prince wanted to give a friend of ours a present…
Me: But we don’t really know what he likes.
Daddy: He likes sociology!
Prince: What’s sociology?!
Me: It’s about how people relate to each other.
Prince: Relate? Relate… relations! I know, we could give him Uncle Ryan!

This girl has SO - MUCH - CHARACTER,

This girl has SO – MUCH – CHARACTER,

I told the kids to tidy their room, and if they were quick they could read before bed. After a short while, this conversation ensued…
Princess: Mommy! I need to send this dress to charity.
Me: Why?
Princess: Because it’s a faster way than cleaning up.

Princess, on her way through the kitchen, noticed the dishwasher open, clean and full: “Mommy – I would be happy to unpack the dishwasher for you!
Prince, putting down his toys in the lounge: Me too!

Princess declared that: Granny Margaret, Pauline, Auntie Helen and Mommy will be the bridesmaids at my wedding. GUB [her great-uncle] will be the photo-er.

Prince, after our history read-aloud: I have more cashews than almonds. It’s like Babylon taking over Assyria!

Prince: You know, Mommy, not everything is made out of molecules.
Me: [Blank stare]
Prince: Molecules are not made out of molecules!

Prince: I want to have a 4×4 when I grow up.
Daddy: The trouble with 4x4s is that they aren’t very economical – they cost a lot to run.
Prince: Yes – but I want one so that Papa will like it when I drive him in it.

Princess:  My favourite country is Papua New Guinea. Because the first part is Papa.

Princess in the morning: I think I really can fly, you know. I think I remember flying before.
Later that the evening: I can’t fly. I tried. I just kept landing.

Princess: Isn’t it wonderful? What God has blessed us with?

Prince: I don’t think this bear can be in the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, Princess.
Princess: Prince! It’s the WIFE!

Princess:  Mommy, it’s quest time on Classic FM. I’d really like to do a quest.

Princess’s morning prayer:  “And God, thank you that you can hear our prayers even at the same time as other people might be praying. I know you have a thousand listeners. I don’t know what listeners means, but I just made it up. But you know what I mean, God.”

Princess:  Will, do you like tomatoes?
Will: Why, yes, I do!
Princess:  Oh… sorry – I ate them all.

Princess:  After eating two slices of pizza, a plateful of veggies and a blueberry muffin, my five-year-old looks at me and says, ‘Do you know what I am? A hungry Princess.’

Prince:  This house is one of heaven’s many mansions.

Life is so fun with this cool kid :)

Life is so fun with this cool kid 🙂

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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.

Grace vs discipline? It’s not a dichotomy!

“For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Ephesians 6:1

I have been blessed to observe many wonderful examples of parenting amongst my friends and family. I am always seeking to learn how to become a better parent myself. When I see children who are full of love for God and others I look carefully at how they have been parented, hoping to find some wisdom I can apply in my own family. There is nothing so important as the job of a parent, and we only get one shot at it. I desperately want to get it right!

It is a combination of my own experiences, observations of others and study of the Bible that has lead me to believe that grace-based parenting and parenting with discipline are two pivotal parts of the parenting puzzle. I believe they must work together, and that when they do the result is beautiful to behold. Yet so often grace and discipline are seen as opposing perspectives – an either/or choice. My experience is that to show grace without discipline leads to stress, strife, and sadness. To insist on discipline without grace leads to fear, shallow faith, and distant family relationships. The most successful parents I know apply both of these principles, balanced in just the right way – and their children are a delight and an inspiration. Let’s look at these two aspects in a little more detail.

So blessed I get to parent these two precious kids.

So blessed I get to parent these two precious kids.

It is abundantly clear in the Bible that we are saved by grace, and that NO amount of good behaviour or Godly virtues can get us to heaven. It is essential that we teach this to our children. We need to model grace in our daily interactions with them, and we need to show them that we, too, are in constant need of grace. Our children should know in their innermost being that they are part of a messed up humanity, AND that they are loved beyond imagination by a God who wants to freely offer them salvation. This truth is vital. We need to talk about it and live it out openly at every opportunity. It is foundational.

Secondly, we need to parent with strict discipline. I include the word ‘strict’ here because I think most parents discipline to some degree. The type of discipline I’m talking about here is the kind that requires obedience and respect. This is where I begin to hear some dissent. Within the Christian parenting circle we talk a lot about grace. It is generally agreed that grace, unconditional love and forgiveness are central parts of parenting. But when discipline comes into the conversation many people begin to look wary. It’s not that parents don’t want their children to be obedient – but many seem to be afraid of enforcing it. They appear to feel that being strict is at odds with offering grace. But if we look at the Bible, I think this idea is unfounded.

The Bible  shows us two very clear aspects of who God the Father is, and how he relates to us as his children. Firstly, he is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8.) Yet at the same time we are told – no, warned – that “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31.) Also, that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Hebrews 12:6) We can see here that despite our free access to God’s grace, he also disciplines his children and is not afraid to punish those who reject him. That seems very much like a balance between grace-based parenting and parenting with strict discipline.

Proverbs 13:24 is pretty straight forward on the topic of parental discipline: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” This verse tells us that avoiding discipline equates to hating our children. Yikes. In fact, if you really love your child (and most people say they do), then you will prove this by being careful to discipline “diligently”, or “promptly”, as the NASB and NKJV put it. Why? Because living according to God’s principles will bless your child, their family, their friends, their neighbours, their country, and the world. Hebrews 12:11 sums it up perfectly: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

So YES – it is by grace, not works, that we are saved. This is the foundation we absolutely need to teach our children to live upon.  But let’s not allow that wonderful truth to prevent us from disciplining our children – for their own good.

Listen – kids are people too

One of the blessings of having a good memory is remembering what it was like to be a kid. I had a great childhood, really – full of love, fun, and Little House on the Prairie with my bestie.

But I also remember some of the frustrations. Most clearly, I remember being frustrated when adults assumed they knew what I had done/was going to say/felt.  I can’t remember any specific instances, but I do remember the feeling of not being heard.  And as I grew up I was determined that my own children should not have this same frustration.

As a mom now, I find this is easier said than done. It is so easy to assume I know what’s going on in my children’s minds; to assume that I know the whole story behind a disagreement between siblings; to assume I know how it feels and the reason why my child is crying when I say ‘no’ to something. But the truth is, I don’t know everything. And so, I make an effort to listen to my children’s explanations and points of view, and I try hard to avoid making assumptions. I don’t do this perfectly, sadly. But I have a story which illustrates so clearly why I am glad I try, and how blessings abound when I succeed.

A couple of years ago Prince and Princess where playing in the lounge. Prince had left some of his toys unused on the table. After a while Princess, sitting on the floor in the middle of a game, needed an extra character, and seeing the unused toys on the table and asked,

“Prince – can I have your penguin?”

Prince look at her uneasily. I pricked up my ears to listen in, wondering if he would take this opportunity to be generous (something he had been struggling with a lot recently).

“Well…” he said, “That’s a very special toy to me. Couldn’t you have one of these instead?” Prince offered her two or three other toys.

I was disappointed. I felt angry, even. He just couldn’t seem to shake this selfishness – he wasn’t even using the toy! But instead of demanding he give her the toy and lecturing him on being kind (which is what I felt like doing), I stopped and thought about how to act. I then asked him a question.

“Prince – why don’t you want Princess to have the penguin? You’re not using it.” I said this simply, not accusationally. I genuinely wanted to know why he wasn’t giving her the penguin. What was stopping him?

Prince looked up at me, slightly teary-eyed. “Well – it’s very special to me. It’s one of my first big-eyed-toys! But…” He hesitated, as if needing my help, “does she want to have it forever?”

Prince and his penguin in their early days.

Prince and his ‘big-eyed’ penguin in their early days.

Suddenly it dawned on me. My prince – my precious, darling, oh-so-literal Prince – heard his sister ask to ‘have’ the toy, and assumed she meant ‘have to keep forever as her own’.

“No, darling,” I explained, “She just wants to use it for this game!”

Prince looked relieved. “Oh!  Okay!” He passed her the penguin immediately.

I was convicted of my anger. Here I was assuming Prince was being selfish, when in actual fact he was being extremely generous. Remember – he chose some of his other own toys to give his sister ‘forever’, as he understood it. I’m so grateful that I chose to ask him to explain his own perspective on the situation. It blessed me, as I saw his generous heart; and it blessed him, as he was not unfairly accused of selfishness.

I think back on this situation often, and use it to remember that kids are people too. They deserve the respect of being listened to and heard. Their understanding, opinions and explanations are not always what we think they will be.

Let’s stop assuming we know it all, and take time to really listen to our children.

Memories to remember

Some sweet and funny comments from my precious kids (Prince age 6/7, Princess age 4).  Enjoy!

Prince, after I kissed him goodnight, “You know, Mommy, girls are quite in style to me now.”

Princess, while watching me weigh myself: “Can I see how much MY feet cost?”

Prince: You know, Mommy, I don’t even know who I’m going to marry, yet!
Me: No, but God does. You should make sure you choose someone who loves God and will be a good mommy for your children.
Prince: Yep. I think I will go to town to choose my wife. I will ask everyone in town, ‘Do you love God?’ and if one says yes – I’ll choose her!

The beginning of Prince’s prayer on Friday morning at breakfast: “Dear God, thank you for this lovely day. Thank you that we are not having vegetables for this meal…”  (Oops!  I guess my vegetable passion hasn’t been passed on yet…)

Princess looked down at her feet while running in the park, and exclaimed, “My feet are going faster than I expected!”

Love these sweet and funny kiddos!

Love these sweet and funny kiddos!

Prince, learning about capital cities: “Which ones are the lower-case cities?”

Princess, on family night, picked up a chip from her bowl and exclaimed, “This chip is as flat as a pig!”

Walking home from swimming, the kids & I played ‘I Spy’. It was Prince’s turn:
Prince: …something beginning with ‘M’.
Mommy & Princess make some wrong guesses.
Prince: I’ll give you a clue – look all around you.
Mommy & Princess give up.
Prince: Molecules!

I asked Princess to give me a long kiss on my cheek (so that Daddy could catch it on camera). She looked at me sadly and replied, “I can’t, Mommy. Because one time when you and Daddy did a long kiss you said I couldn’t do that.”

Princess, praying before bed one night: I pray, Father Lord, that you will help me to love other people in a way to show them that I love them more than just princessey things.

Princess, writing a card at the table, spies Prince sleuthing in the hallway with a Nerf gun, and calmly comments: “Prince, I know your excellent plan is to shoot me.”

Prince, putting his arms around my neck and pulling me close:  Mommy – you’re my favourite of the physical things.

Princess came after a long and quiet period outside…
Princess:  I’ve been trying to rescue a snail from a spiders web.
Prince:  Princess, that’s very sweet.  But you should just leave it – that’s nature!  Just let nature do it’s thing.  You shouldn’t change nature.

Princess:  Who flushed that toilet?!
Prince: Me!
Princess:  Oh – I thought it was an invisible person.
Prince: There are no invisible people!
Princess: Except for the people who are…
Prince: Yes – like pick-pockets.

The window to your heart

“And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire.”
James 3:4-6

Words. Many lessons have been written on the power of words. The tongue has been called the strongest muscle in the body, and the Bible speaks of its power in the book of James, likening it to a rudder which can steer the whole course of a ship, or a fire which can cause devastation.

wordsAs a homeschooling Mama my kids hear a lot of my words! We talk about everything from history, to meals, to Lego, to toilet habits… I’ll stop there 😉  Being with my kids more than your average UK parent has made me think carefully about how I speak to them. I have noticed that it is easy to slip into the ‘I’m busy but I’ll nod and say “uh-huh” even though I have no idea what you said’ mode of conversation.  There are plenty of comic strips and Facebook images which joke about this. It seems to be a universal Mom thing. But it’s not funny. Now I know that you and I are busy people. But what do our conversations tell our children about our hearts… and their value?

When we speak to our children, we are showing them a little of our heart. Our words are a window. Not just our words, in fact, but our tone of voice, eye-contact, expression, and all those other non-verbal communication attributes. If I am staring at my computer and say the glazed “uh-huh” when Prince comes to tell me about how the latest GUP is the coolest thing, what are my words and actions telling him?Here’s a list off the top of my head:

  • I am selfish
  • I value other interests above him
  • I have no self-control
  • His effort is unimportant
  • He is not interesting to me
  • He is not high on my priority list
  • Computers are a god
  • It’s okay to ignore people

These are pretty shocking messages. Even more scary is the fact that even if I was doing something REALLY important, he is still getting these messages. As I see it, if I don’t want him to get these messages I have two options: 1) Put him first whenever possible: Stop, look at him, smile, appreciate, ask more questions (rather than hoping he hurries up and finishes talking), hug him, praise him. OR 2) if what I am doing is pressing and important: Stop, look at him, explain “I’d love to hear what you’re saying, but I’m just in the middle of something urgent. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, and you can tell me all about it, OK?” Now he knows that he is valued highly, but sometimes other issues need to take priority for a time. (Side note: we should balance this advice with make sure our children learn the importance of not interrupting, that they are not the only thing in the world which matters, etc. But in my experience this is a far less common problem, and what most of us really need to work on is giving the message of love and value.)

The busy mom syndrome is just one example of the way we talk to our children, but here are some other messages that our words & non-verbal signals may be telling our children:

  • I don’t like you
  • I’m impatient
  • I value obedience more than a right heart
  • I am inconsistent
  • You are stupid
  • You are insignificant
  • You should be perfect
  • My desires are more important that yours
  • You don’t deserve love
  • Anger can be expressed without love
  • What you do is not important
  • It’s okay to be rude
  • Self should be valued above others
I want to be my kids' best friend!

I want to be my kids’ best friend!

Again, a shocking list. And again, it’s even more scary when you stop to think that it’s not just the ‘bad’ parents out there giving these kind of messages. It’s us. We need to stop and take a good look at what we say and how we say it when we talk to anyone – but especially our children. We must not assume “they know that I love them”, but rather SHOW this in the way we talk. We must let our kids know that we respect, like, love, and appreciate them. How many kids would choose to be friends with someone who preferred the company of Facebook over them, who lost their temper with them on a daily basis, who expected them to be perfect and never thanked them for a job well done? I sure want to be my children’s best friend. And one step to this I believe is learning to speak to them in love all day long, as a friend, mentor and mother.

Our words are a window into our hearts that our children look through each day. Sometimes this window may not reflect accurately what is inside, but it is still what our children see. And sometimes this window is more accurate than we like to admit.

In the mind of a three-year-old

Just for fun, here is an interview with Princess, on what life is like at three years old.

My beautiful, darling Princess - the light of my life.

Me: Can you tell me about your life?

Princess: Um, no. I don’t want to tell you about my life.

Me: Oh – okay.  Well, what are your favourite things to do?

Princess: I love to read these [Usborne books]. And I love to read the Tiger book that has lots of things to open in it.

Me: Nice.  What else do you like to do?

Princess:  To draw. Play.

Me:  What do you like to play?

Princess: Playmobile.  And I like to draw.

Me:  What do you like to draw?

Princess: Animals and princesses.  Even that.

Me:  When you get up, what’s the first thing you like to do?

Princess:  Draw.

Me:  What do you like about drawing?

Princess:  I like about drawing – drawing!

Me: Oh! What makes you happy?

Princess: God.

Me:  That’s a good answer 🙂  What makes you sad?

Princess:  Having my jumper on.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Princess:  A mommy.

Me: A mommy?

Princess:  Yep, a mommy.

Me:  And what do you think about dying?

Princess:  Come back to life again!  And Grandma and Papa die, and we die, and Timmies goes there, and we can meet Grandma and Papa.

Five a day: part 3, fun for kids

My little food loving Princess!

My kids are opposites when it comes to their stance on fruit and vegetables. Prince, as I mentioned in part one, has issues with the texture of almost all raw options, and most of his life has strongly disliked them. Princess, on the other hand, seemed to be born with a passionate love for all food! Her first real food after breast milk was a strawberry, which she gummed to death, holding my hand (which was holding the strawberry) as tight as she could with her little fists to keep me from taking it away! Her intense love of strawberries still holds strong today, but she also loves to eat just about any fruit and most vegetables on offer.

I have to admit, I was quite relieved when Princess came along loving these healthy foods! I did nothing different with her – they are just naturally different. My prince has mild autistic traits, and texture issues are known to be prominent in this spectrum. It is because of this that I have taken a very gentle approach to getting Prince to eat these raw foods.

My success so far is limited, yet hugely significant. Prince, who is nearly six, loved his fruit as a baby. In fact, his first birthday ‘cake’ was actually a fruit salad instead of cake. But only a few month later he started refusing to eat certain fruits until I was left with just one I could get him to eat – bananas. He even went through a period refusing these, but I managed to successfully reintroduce them to him when he was four. Apart from banana he has not eaten any other raw fruit or vegetable in nearly five years. Until now. Now Prince also eats sugar-snap peas, apples, carrots, bean sprouts, cucumber, green beans and baby corn – all raw!

This is more than I had imagined was possible 6 months ago, and we are still in the processes of expanding his range. Here are some things I have done which have helped my Prince to do so well. You may find some of them useful if you have kids who don’t like their fruit and veggies.

  • Be patient.  Understanding that Prince has a real issue with texture, and that he wasn’t just being fussy or defiant has helped me to be patient with him. I think this has been one of the most important steps we have taken, though it can be one of the hardest. I have had to be patient for nearly five years, waiting until he was mature enough to take on the task of facing such a challenge to his senses.
  • Know your child.  I know Prince very well. I know what he struggles with (in this case, texture and discipline), and what motivates him (encouragement, imagination, achievements). When you can identify these things, you can work out a plan which plays to their motivations and overcome their struggles.
  • Put the two together.  When you have been patient and discern that your child is ready, then put your plan into action! My plan was to use a chart. Charts work very well for Prince, and ever since Princess started working on a ‘no accidents’ toilet chart he has been asking for one. The timing was perfect – he was highly motivated by finally having a chart of his own, with prizes to work towards.
  • Explain the ‘why’.  The classic children’s question! Prince is in a real ‘why’ phase, so it is both important and interesting to him when I explain why he needs to work on eating raw fruit and vegetables. We talk about vitamins, health, illness, etc.
  • Be firm but gentle.  The first few times he tries any new food is particularly hard for Prince. I have to insist he eat it, and usually have to feed it to him. I have to keep enforcing the next bite. But I also keep it very matter-of-fact, to help him not become over emotional about it.  I am careful not to raise my voice, and not to tell him off or get angry. It’s important to keep in mind how difficult this is for your child.
  • Make it fun!

    Make it fun.  Sometimes I encourage Prince to imagine that his chewing is ‘choo-chooing’, and that he is going on a journey somewhere exciting. This distracts him from the tastes and textures in his mouth, as he thinks up new places for each bite. Sometimes I arrange his food in fun shapes. The other day I made an ‘alien’ face with different vegetables for the eyes, ears, mouth, hair etc.

  • Pray.  God cares about every detail of our lives, and this is no exception. Pray for your child to have the strength and discipline to be able to take on this challenge and succeed.
  • Encourage their success.  Praise is sweet to the ears of a child. Make sure you acknowledge their hard work and achievements, even if they have only managed a little. This is sure to encourage them to keep working hard and trying their best, and to have a positive outlook.

I want to leave you with something Prince said to me a couple of weeks ago, as he was working on eating cucumber.

“Mommy? When I’m finished my chart I am going to LOVE fruit and vegetables!  And I am going to say, ‘Mommy, please can I have some strawberries, please can I have some carrots, please can I have some grapes, please can I have some blueberries!'”

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