Checking In With Our Kid’s Hearts

hearts

Lately, God has laid on my heart to check in with my kid’s hearts. Today, I took each of my older four children aside and went for a walk: one-on-one.

We set out, my oldest and I, and I asked some simple questions: “What’s going on in your heart lately? Anything on your mind? What has God been doing in your life?” She talked a bit, I listened. Then I talked a whole lot and she listened. That’s sort of how we roll. I’m a talker. She’s an introvert and listener. It was sweet. Her heart is golden.

We got back to the house and I asked the next in line to walk. We got outside and I said, “So, what’s God been doing in your life these days?” He looked at me and said, “Wow! This is so cool. I’ve been looking for a time to share with you some things I feel God is doing.” We walked and he talked. And it was amazing, because we were seeing answers to prayer together in ways that astounded us both.

hearts

My next son was eager to get out to the door when I returned. “What did you talk about with the older kids?” I laughed and told him how cool it is that we have similar temperaments and how we are both third born in the family. We discussed his gifts, and wondered what God might have in store for all of the unique ways he has been gifted. He doesn’t care for history, though the rest of the family loves it. So we talked about all the reasons it’s good to study it. We smiled, laughed, and he prayed for me when I felt like a migraine was coming on. He had recently shared some things going on in his heart so we checked in on that and shared our thankfulness for all that God was doing in his life.

Number four was anxious to get alone with Mom and see what this was all about. She initiated questions with me, and we talked about our dream home floor plan, setting, and decor. We began to get to heart issues and she readily shared some struggles, how she is wanting to grow, and asked for advice on how to deal with a few things. She prayed together and she asked for some accountability and to check in on how she is doing at a later date.

Little Cinca would have loved to go for a walk too, but at this point, my feet were a little raw from having worn flip flops and my headache was returning…so we sat together and read a silly book instead.

I’ve decided that my goal this school year is to do weekly check-ins with my kid’s hearts. I’m going to log in some time praying over this and our time together. Each precious child will get one day each week for a 15-30 minute heart check. We can pray, follow up on how things are going and share with each other in ways that aren’t practical for group sharing.  These kids are getting big and there is so much going on in each of them in their unique life stages. I’m so thankful God is leading us to connect in this way right now. I need it as much as they do.

Do you do anything special to connect with your kid’s hearts? I would love to hear about it!
I hope you all check in with me too to see how this idea is going this year!

Six Steps for Starting Your Homeschool Year Right, Putting On the Armor of God

new year

new yearA new homeschool year is upon us. No doubt, you have spent countless moments prepping for this time. Confessions of a Homeschooler and Homeschool Creations have been recipients of your many searches as you’ve done your diligent homework for the school year ahead. Budgets have been stretched and your shiny new (or used) curriculum is set up in the book shelves. The kids are signed up for all the church, co-op, and community activities. Meal planning has been done and school rooms have been re-organized. Each child has picked out new crayons, pencils, notebooks, and folders.

Good job mama!

Setting up our homes to educate our children is a serious task that takes wisdom, foresight, organization, and planning. However, if you are anything like us…shortly after beginning a new year of schooling and plans, you hit a snag. Maybe the kids aren’t quite as enthusiastic as mom about the new schedule. Math keeps getting harder and harder to explain. Attitudes are rough, voices raise, wills clash, tears are shed; before you know it, your best laid plans have crumbled around you. The kids sigh with relief as you usher them out to play, and you slump over in a chair asking yourself, “Why do I do this?”

Homeschool mama, please hear my heart…for all the lovely aspects we experience in the calling to homeschool, the reality is…this life we’ve chosen is HARD. There is no scheduling we can do, no curriculum we can choose, no organizational system that will shield us from this reality.

Thankfully, we can plan for all the challenges we WILL face as our new school year unfolds.

Ephesians 6:10-12 tells us to, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

This is the first thing we need to do as we prepare for the school year: recognize that our struggle is not against our CHILDREN…but against an unseen force. The enemy or our souls doesn’t want us to homeschool! And he certainly opposes our efforts to disciple our children in this setting. STAND AGAINST HIS SCHEMES.

What schemes have you faced in your homeschool struggle? Whatever they are, you can know that you have everything you need to face them. So how do you then, stand firm and put on the armor of God in your homeschool?

1. Keep the belt of truth buckled around your waist:

Resist being tossed around by all the philosophies of the world and keep our minds set on truth. Be in God’s word! I know this sounds like another thing to “check off” your list. But it doesn’t need to be a burden! Be creative. You don’t need to do it like everyone else. Here are some ideas:
Have a daily quiet time and read the Bible on our own.
Read the Bible before/during/after breakfast or lunch with your children.
Join a Bible study.
Purchase a devotional book.
It doesn’t matter HOW you do this, what time of day, or how quiet it is around you…just DO it. Read God’s word!

2. Keep the breastplate of righteousness in place:

Recognize that YOUR righteousness will never be enough to please God. Realize that if you are God’s child, it is HIS righteousness that cleanses you from all sin. Submit to the cross..and know that your purity comes from Jesus’ blood. When God convicts you of sin, turn from it, acknowledge your need for God and obey Him. He will change your heart. (Hint…you will mess up in your parenting as you homeschool. A lot. Be quick to see your need for the gospel and confess your sin, not only to Jesus, but to your children.)

3. Make sure your feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

When you mess up in your home and confess and apologize, turn away from self condemnation. Ask for a Do-Over. But even better, use your mess ups, your kid’s mess ups, and life’s heart aches to continually point your kids to the cross and the gospel. When my kids sin, when I sin, when we butt heads, or argue, I have the opportunity to talk about our need for Jesus, and how He is enough for us. There are opportunities to be ready with the gospel of peace EVERY DAY in our homeschools. Keep going back to the cross, over and over again.

4. Take up the shield of faith: Faith is a gift from God.

If your faith is small or weak, ask God to increase your measure. When lies come into your head that cause you to doubt your calling, you need to replace those attacks with truth from God’s word.  Remember what He has called you to and why. Recognize the lies that seep in (i.e., Can I really do this? Will my kids be OK? Did I pick the right curriculum? Is it worth it to homeschool and live on one income? It feels like we are missing out! Fill in your most common lie), and ask God to help you to resist believing the lies, and believe He will be faithful.

5. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit:

Our kids put on helmets when they ride their bikes to protect their brains. We need our brains protected by continually renewing our mind. We need to hear the story of salvation often. Let’s renew our minds with the truth of what it means to be in Christ. Remember it is HIS goodness that keeps us and changes us, not our own. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded by quoting scripture. Scripture is our greatest tool in facing everything we face as moms educating our kids at home. I’ve said it a few times in this post already…but Ephesians 6 seems to make it a recurring theme, so I will too; read it, quote it to combat lies, memorize it, sing it, just let it be your guide. 

6. Pray!

Pray for your children, your homeschool, your home life, yourself as teacher, your husband. Pray, pray, pray as you shower, exercise, make meals, and clean toilets. Pray when you are fighting with your kids (even better, pray together!). Bring ALL your prayers and requests to God. Be alert and pray for your homeschool friends. Pray WITH your homeschool friends. Start a prayer co-op. Two school years ago, my kids and I invited three families to pray with us, two times a month. The boys prayed together (my oldest son lead), the girls prayed together (my oldest daughter led), and the moms prayed together (I lead).

I can not promise you a year filled with ease by following these steps. You can count on various trials as you face your days: sick kids, messy houses, bad moods, confusing studies, bad diagnoses, family problems. I CAN promise you that when you put on the armor of God you will be guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. You will come to a fuller, more mature faith; growing in Christ. Your Savior will face each challenge with you, keeping you strong, helping you stand firm, until you see Him face to face.

Here’s some extra credit for you:

One of my kids and I have had regular face offs for awhile now. Both of us have had some less than exemplary behavior. Tonight, we went together and hung out, just the two of us. We talked about some things God is teaching us, we played cards, we ate junk food. Right before we left to go home I said something really simple. “I’m REALLY excited for this school year with you. I love you so much. We’ve had some hard times. We will probably have more hard times this year. But, I’m committed to you. And I want to work on communicating better and showing you love and patience.” I wish you could have seen the smile on my kiddo’s face. If you need to do this with any of your kids, do it! You will both be so glad you did.

Homeschool on! These days are precious and fleeting! Enjoy…and put on your armor!

Does a Connected Approach to Parenting Really Make a Difference?

Recently, someone yelled at me for not doing what this person wanted me to do. My fight or flight instinct kicked in and I felt a familiar rage rise up inside of my spirit. I was ready to fight back against the injustice spent on me. Before I opened my mouth, a flash back of a conversation I had with my 14 year old daughter raced through my mind:

Jules was in a musical…and her director, talented, but fiery in spirit, often said unfavorable things to the cast. The negative comments were not directed toward her, but her castmates. However, one day, my daughter and the cast mates she worked with most closely were the recipient of sarcastic, hurtful remarks. When I picked her up that evening, I asked if there had been any blow ups at rehearsal. Jules calmly explained the situation, with no inflammatory remarks toward anyone. I was livid that an adult spoke to my child this way. I asked my daughter’s response which was,

“Mom! It wasn’t about me. I’ve watched the director interact with the cast and it’s just how this particular director chooses to work. It isn’t the best way to address things, but it also isn’t personal. I don’t need to own this and feel upset. I’ll keep doing my best and look for what I need to work on in the midst of words that are unpleasant to hear.”

connected teens

The silence in our van was deep and wide. I had to catch my breath, reflecting on the maturity of my first born. In all honesty, had it been me, I would have probably debriefed it with about three friends and let it bother me for days. I’m guessing my 14 year old would never have mentioned the event had I not asked. Her ability to measure the situation with such maturity took my breath away.

As I reflected on my daughter’s capacity to face unwarranted hostility, I took up courage and strength and made a choice. The person who yelled at me wasn’t my issue to take on. It wasn’t about me! Because of the strength garnered from my daughter’s example, I faced my adversary calmly, respectfully, and even validated this person’s feelings about the situation.

And the words from Romans 12:18-21 immediately rang true:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will replay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” 
Those verses references are from Proverbs 25 where the Lord concludes, “In doing this, the Lord will reward you.” I was rewarded immediately, with a peace flooding my own soul.

My oldest son was sitting out by our fire pit, looking deep in thought. I went out and asked if I could join him. I told him I would be up for listening to anything that might be on his mind. He slowly opened up to me some troubles he was having with a sibling. I looked at this almost a man, but still my little boy in absolute awe. Five years ago, this boy suffered with an overactive sense of justice. He kept me on my toes and my knees as we dealt with his often big emotions which could disrupt the household. Today, he quietly shared his struggle with kindness toward a misbehaving sibling. He told me he was asking God for wisdom and help to love this family member with an enduring “love you no matter what” kind of tenderness.

connected teens

I felt tears spilling over my eyes. I confessed my own struggle to love unconditionally when this family member acts out. Putting my arm around my son in understanding, I shared how his godly response was exactly the example I needed to move forward in parenting this child. He looked at his own actions and went running to Jesus for help. I shared how proud I was of the character growth, humility and love, he exhibited. We prayed together…asking God for wisdom, growth, and His spirit of kindness and love. We prayed for our sweet family, lifting up the challenges we face together. Humbly we asked for God’s Spirit to reign in the midst of the joy and the heartache.

We walked back into the house and I silently thanked God for intervening in our family so many years ago now.

There were so many times in the beginning of our journey as we began to change our mind set from “adversarial” parenting, to a more connected approach, that I doubted and wondered if this was the right way to go. I have no question anymore. My children are more equipped to face the world and it’s challenges as young teens, than I was in my first few years of marriage. I’m learning from their depth of insight and maturity and challenged to be a better version of myself. What a gift to move from a place of trying to control these little hearts, to a place of freeing them to be who God intended.

Giving our kids a safe home where they know they are loved no matter what; where they understand they are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing; creating an environment where our children are responsible for their actions and moving toward wisdom is something I will never regret. I’ve been struggling the past couple of months to implement these messages consistently with a couple of my kids. I’m re-energized as I see my older children living them out on their own. And I’m ready to re-commit myself to living out these values in our home.

I hope you choose to join me in my own journey. Together, let’s reach our kid’s hearts for the sake of Jesus and reconciling our children and others to God.

When Our Pre-schoolers Won’t Stay In Bed at Christmas Time

bedtime

bed

The usual bedtime routine with my four year old looks something like this: Daddy helps her work through her evening list of tooth-brushing and pajama wearing. She then hides under the covers and giggles waiting for me to find her. I pretend I don’t know where she is and call through the house. When we throw back the covers for the big reveal, we laugh and snuggle. I sing to her, read her a book, say prayers with her, and we chat a bit. She asks me to stay with her awhile, and I do…until she is asleep.

Tonight, I left before she fell asleep. Earlier in the evening, I heard one of the big kids say they hoped to play Apples to Apples as a family. When I got downstairs the game had begun, and I joined in. Minutes later, little Cupcake walked down, saw us playing and with a pathetically sad voice said, “You KNOW how I feel about you being with me at bed time…PLEASE, come back.”

I DO know how she feels. I also know she is the little caboose in our five car train. The four “train-cars” sitting in front of me were proof that this little girl bed-time sabotage doesn’t last forever. I could have chosen tonight as a night to help her grow a little in this area. That wouldn’t have been a horrible idea. However, my heart flooded with a love and understanding for a little mommy-loving girl, who really loves to be by my side. 

I called her to me, asked her to climb up on my lap. I wrapped my shawl around her like a blanket and sweetly suggested she close her eyes. As she snuggled in, she looked up and said, “I know this isn’t really the time for talking, but could you just pretend that I’m a baby and you’re the mommy and you’re rocking me to sleep?”

Right now I can picture sighs from wise Grandmas who know I got a gift tonight. I am aware there may be some people reading this who think I’m a fool, letting my baby have power over me.

I’m all too aware that these sweet babies in my home are meant to grow up…and my job is to help shape them into adults. I also have the gift of perspective…being an older mom, who realizes four year olds don’t stay four.

My first four babies came approximately every two years. I didn’t have the option of making the choices I make with our little Cupcake. It wasn’t realistic to sit with each one until they drifted off to sleep. Honestly, if I remember correctly, I probably would have sat with my girlfriends, discussing how hard it was to get the older ones to bed, thinking this stage would never end.

The stage did, however, end. Not because I struggled with them to stay in their beds or did anything to teach them to self regulate. It ended because developmentally, kids don’t stay four. They grow up. I wish I would have known this back then. Isn’t that life? Experience is our best teacher…and rose-colored glasses are a good friend.

I’m thankful tonight for the sweet gift of being an older mommy. What a sweetness God has granted in the five souls He designed to grow up in our home. If  you’ve been given sweet babies to raise up into men and women, please remember them as a gift. Hold them tight. Sing them “Silent Night,” by the tree while you rub their backs and re-tell the greatest story ever told—of the God-man who became flesh.

Holding my little one while playing Apples to Apples with my big kids and David isn’t something that will go in our photo album. It was such a forgetful, ordinary night. An ordinary night transformed into a tender, Christmas gift, I intend to cherish awhile.

Merry Christmas from Swannie House friends!

~Let every heart, prepare Him room~

Responding to the Loneliness of a Disconnected Culture

disconnected culture

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 14 years. Before that, I office’d out of my home where I had minimal contact with humans during the day. As an external processing extrovert, this hasn’t always been easy.

With the advent of social media, smart phones, and a disengaged culture, this has become more of a struggle. My kids are older and we don’t “play” with other moms and kids like we used to do. I know I’m not alone in feeling lonely, disconnected and forgotten at times. We don’t talk on phones anymore. We send texts or comment on social media, or perhaps on e-mail. My kids barely even know how to answer the phone. We haven’t had a landline for years. I get that it’s our culture. There’s little I can do to change the world around me. But it bothers me.

I’ve tried to do my part. Instead of texting my neighbor to see if she has an egg or powdered sugar, I try to call. I’ve made it a goal to send a hand written note to people in my life once a week. I don’t always do it, but I continue to make an effort.

disconnected culture

My family was alone this past Thanksgiving. We had a lovely day together as a family, but it was sad for me too. It was another feeling of disconnect from others. So when I received a phone call from a childhood friend, I was seriously shocked and surprised. Mike called just to wish my family and me a Happy Thanksgiving and to bless and encourage us. When I answered his call, he told me he prefers the “personal touch” to a texted message. I can’t even tell you how much this encouraged my heart. It made me feel human. I felt remembered, encouraged, and loved. It was a simple, short phone call, but it literally made my whole day.

disconnected culture

There has always been power in reaching out to others with a personal touch. It seems today, the power has increased exponentially. We are a lonely culture. No one ever thinks I’m lonely. I have an abundance of beautiful friends and contacts. It’s true. However, I’m not immune to feeling the sense of “alone” in our disconnected world. None of us are.

I’m so challenged by my friend’s simple, but kind gesture. It’s not the first time he has surprised me with encouragement, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I want to learn from Mike, and reach out and tell the people around me that I love them, the specific things about them for which I am thankful. I hope you join me in this challenge. Just a simple, small step to reach out and touch someone’s heart with a personal call or letter or invite to coffee or lunch can have an impact on the people in our lives.

How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

wisdom

When I speak with moms about making connections to our kid’s hearts, I often hear things such as: “How can you stay so calm? I’m way too fiery.” Or, “How do you know what to say? I could never think to say those kinds of things to my kids in the moment.”

I want to share with you a little secret. When my parenting paradigm began to shift to a more connected approach, I was fiery and didn’t know what to say either. To be totally truthful, I’m STILL fiery. My personality and temperament are a gift from God and they haven’t changed.

A change has taken place, not in my personality, but in my submission to God’s beautiful ways…which are not my own. As I understand more of who God truly is and what it really means to walk in unity with Him, I am able to trust and submit more of who I am, to let Him mold me.

I mess up. A lot. When I was beginning to learn the messages of connection from Connected Families…the mess ups were sometimes, literally, All. Day. Long. I wanted to communicate safety, love no matter what, that my kids were capable and responsible for their actions. However, that didn’t always happen.

My kids were just laughing about a day that I THOUGHT I was living out the messages. At the sweet age of 8, I told my son that because he argued with all of my instruction that he could live a day WITHOUT instruction and parent himself. I thought this was so creative. I was going to teach him to listen to me! What I ACTUALLY communicated was rejection, throughout the day. I remember talking to my friend Jim on the phone later in the afternoon telling him what I had done. I felt depressed, realizing I had pushed my boy away and did nothing to grow anything lasting in him. Jim helped me come up with ways to communicate better with my boy, and thankfully we ended the day with a strong message of acceptance and love.

Often times, though I WANTED to communicate grace-filled responses, my old responses of anger, control, conditional love, and “you aren’t capable,” would creep into my interactions with my kids. It isn’t in the natural part of my spirit to give life-giving, always loving messages.If I make a mistake and then tell myself, “I’ll never change, I just can’t do this. I’m too fiery. I don’t know what to say,” then I’m also saying, “My kids aren’t worth me sacrificing myself for better parenting.” I love my kids passionately…but I’m not able to walk in perfection. Letting go of perfection has helped. 

wisdom

So, let’s get practical. When I find myself responding with anger or sarcasm, saying or doing something that isn’t my new heart for parenting, I do the following: I stop. I remove myself from the situation and take time to calm myself before I say any more. I ask God for wisdom. Then I go back and practice what we call a “do-over.” I look at my child and simply say, “I’m sorry. When I was sarcastic just now, that isn’t that kind of parent I want to be, nor the message I want to give to you. Will you forgive me? May I have a do over?” Then, I try the interaction again, sharing the messages I want to share, in a manner that shows love and safety to my child. 

In the beginning, my do-overs were numerous times a day. As I continued to practice this act of evaluating, repenting, apologizing, trying again, I started to notice something. Sometimes, I would stop myself right in the middle of an immature interaction and try again. Then, one day, I realized my do-overs were getting less and my wisdom-filled responses started becoming more of who I was.

An added bonus, I was communicating several strong messages to my kids:
  1. It’s OK to be authentic and bring mistakes to the light.
  2. Modeling repentance and asking for forgiveness has given them the tools to do this in their own relationships.
  3. Grace and truth are high values in our home.
  4. God changes our hearts, and sanctification takes time. We can be patient with each other as we grow.

After years of practicing do-overs, calming myself, and communicating unconditional love, safety, humility, and wisdom to my children, it has become more of who I am. It is more natural now. God has been using my continual trusting Him in the midst of my own misbehavior to change my heart, over time. So much so, that I don’t even recognize myself in the comments from the moms with whom I’m blessed to interact. 

You can do this too. You don’t need to stay enslaved to a temperament that needs refining. Growing in wisdom takes time. I don’t have all the answers and say everything perfectly to my kids. However, I’m doing better. You can do better too. Let go of the perfectionistic thoughts that tell you, you have to do it right all the time to do it at all. Those are lies from an enemy who wants to steal our kid’s hearts. Fight it. The victory is already yours, waiting for you to pick it up and take it. You CAN connect with your kid’s hearts.

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

sand dollar

One morning the kids and I discussed Festo Kivengere’s book, “I Love Idi Amin.” Festo had been persecuted and treated horribly, yet chose in the power of God’s love to forgive his evil enemy. I gave a writing assignment for each of the kids to share a time when they had been hurt by someone else’s actions. They could choose to share a time when they responded in love, or a time they didn’t respond in love and how they could learn from their response.

Jules gave me permission to share her paper with you (slightly altered to protect a sibling’s identity).

My sibling broke a gift I got from Hailey. It was a magnet sand dollar with a painting of dolphins jumping out of the water. The background of orange, yellow and red made it look like a sunset over the ocean.
I was so excited about the sand dollar. It was the first gift I had ever received from a penpal. I put the magnet on the fridge next to a friendship magnet I had gotten from another friend awhile ago.
One day, my sibling was reaching for something above the refrigerator and knocked the dolphin magnet. A large piece of the sand dollar broke off. As I watched it happen, I had a pang in me that wanted to yell out at my sibling, exclaiming how much that magnet meant to me.
Instead, I was able by the power of the Holy Spirit, to calm down inside and pleasantly say, “It’s OK. It’s just stuff. Stuff that will eventually burn. It won’t last.”
I kept that broken magnet as a reminder to me to be patient and loving, even when I feel like exploding. I kept it to remember it is just stuff that will burn.

sand dollar

How about you? Has someone broken your sand dollar? Your trust? Your heart? Are you living in the bondage and bitterness of an unforgiving spirit? I have stand out times in my life history when I’ve suffered the wounds of beloved friends. I carried onto my wounds and tended to them with great care. Over time, my bitterness hurt more than the memory of the offense. When God re-awoke my heart to His grace, I was able to pray for my enemies. I lifted them up to Jesus and He gave me the power to forgive. I became free.

So here is my encouragement to you today: be free! Don’t wait any longer. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the kind of power to love with His love so that you can look at your “sand dollar” as a reminder that the only thing that lasts are the eternal souls that God has set in His people. Let’s help each other value those souls and love…even when it hurts.

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

transforming anger to peace

When our big kids were little, I remember thinking that they were trying to control me. Their job was to obey, my job was to enforce obedience. When they didn’t do what I said right away, I felt worried that they were going to become difficult. Ceasing to obey me on demand would give them a pattern of disobedience if I didn’t strongly intercede.

I remember asking them to get out of the car, or to come with me upstairs to get on pajamas or brush teeth for bedtime. When they stubbornly resisted, I felt a tightening in my chest. I needed to remain in control and they needed to do what I said!

Sometimes, I spoke with a stern, angry voice, “You need to get out of the car, NOW!”

Other times, I would grab an arm and physically pull the child out of the car, with a scowl on my face and a desire to show I was boss.

Have you been there? Can you think of times when you didn’t know what else to do?

Believe me when I tell you, there is SOMETHING else you can do!

God DOES call my children to obey. It is my job to HELP them do so. In the past, when they didn’t listen and I felt the pressure rise in me, I gave into it, lacking self-control. When I matched their level of stubbornness, I created a power struggle where everyone felt as if they lost. This was the opposite of helping them obey, it created hardened hearts toward me.

When I repented of my need to be in control, it transformed my relationships with my children.

Today, Cupcake wouldn’t get out of the van. I asked her to come inside. She flatly refused. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I calmed my entire body and took a deep breath. Then, sweetly, gently, I walked over to the car. I extended my hand toward her in gentleness. I sweetly touched her arm and smiled as I said, “Come on in with Mommy, honey.” She simply reached for my hand and walked inside.

transforming anger to peace

This kind of interaction between us didn’t happen over night. In the beginning when I began walking in freedom with my children, I would have to stop, count, pray, breathe, ask God for wisdom. My children didn’t always respond right away to my smiles or gentle gestures. Sometimes they dug in even further. I needed to find wise, kind responses. Over time, they began to understand that my heart was changing and they could trust me.

In the beginning, I messed up a lot. During those times of messing up, there were days when it felt hopeless. Sometimes I feared I would never change. I lost hope that this grace-filled way of relating would have a positive impact. Humbling myself and committing to a do-over was an hourly part of my existence.

As days have turned into years, muscle memory has kicked in. My body doesn’t immediately get tense when kids resist what I have to say. I’m able to stay calm, listen to their view point, give them options, and I have power to turn from the temptation of forcing obedience. As I have changed, my kid’s hearts have opened to me. They resist me less and trust me more. This has taken years! And we are still working on it! Am I perfect at it now? No! But we are all TRANSFORMED.

Moms, Dads, if you find your parenting paradigm is causing you distress, pain, anguish…try another way. If you feel defeated, lay awake at night regretting your parenting interactions…you can change! Start small. Smile when you want to give a disapproving look. Speak softly when you want to yell. Ask God for a calm heart and wisdom.

When we as parents obey our commands in our relationship to our children, our children are better able to obey their command to obey us.

Reach out if we can pray for you or help you take the first steps toward a grace-filled home. We are here to help.

First Day of School

First Day of School

There’s very little that’s authentic about our family’s First Day of School posts. It’s really not our “first day.” We have a very fluid homeschool and we are always learning. We don’t put a high emphasis on what “grade” our kids are in. Mainly, this helps us know where to categorize them in events outside of our homeschool.

But we love doing “first day” pictures when the rest of our area goes back to school. It breaks my heart whenever I see pictures of children looking downcast as their mom celebrates her children going back to school. As a homeschool mom who feels grateful for every day home with her kids, it’s very difficult to understand.

We are having a party over here at our house today… a party that celebrates our freedom and gratitude to homeschool.

Happy First Day of School everyone! We pray you have a blessed school year, with hearts turned toward God and turned toward home.

Malachi 4:6 y’all!

 

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

One question I hear all.the.time: What do you do with your little kids when you are trying to homeschool?  Homeschool moms love to plan, purchase curriculum, and dream about crossing off all our check lists.

But…babies, toddlers, preschoolers! They are a reality in many of our homes. I’ve found that pre-school aged children don’t care about our carefully laid plans.

Here are ten ideas for investing in your pre-school aged children during the homeschool day:

1. Buy a good baby carrier:

When your hands are free, you can nurse that baby, while teaching a math lesson. You can keep your little crawler out of dangerous cupboards as you listen to narrations and dictate spelling lists. With a toddler on your back, you can stay engaged and sing and talk together as you make pb&j in the kitchen.

2. Use play-dough during concentrated school time only:

Toddlers and preschoolers LOVE play dough, magic sand, and all things messy. Keep it for special occasions when you want them to stay engaged for just a few minutes longer. Let them make letters in salt or shaving cream. If messy makes you anxious when you already have so much to deal with as far as clean up, get some trays! Teach your toddler to keep materials on the tray as they play. It won’t be perfect, but I’ve found trays to help minimize the mess.

preschool

3. Give the older kids “assignments” to play with the little one for a short while:

Little siblings usually adore older brothers and sisters. Special one-on-one time where older siblings read books or play puppets or build towers with blocks is not only helpful, but so good for their relationships. When Cupcake was a small infant, Jules used to bring the baby and her science textbook to a rocking chair. She would use a British accent (for fun) and read her science assignments aloud to the baby. It made a boring subject more fun for Jules and was a blessing to everyone.

preschool

4. Make sensory bins:

Grab an empty bin or tray, fill it with rice/perler beads/popcorn/rocks/water/beans and top it off with small toys. If you want, get “fancy,” make themed bins (I was able to do that this year and it was so fun! I included one of my big kids and he had a blast finding little toys to put in the bins). Little hands love to pour items from cup to cup and to make discoveries under the layers. (Notice the tray under the bin? I use those trays all the time!) *Supervise your little ones to keep them safe and your house from becoming a rice field.

preschool

5. Make a light table:

I took a white trofast storage bin, put left over lights underneath it and gave my preschooler opaque toys: letters, window clings, reusable ice cubes, neon letter templates, dollar tree plastic shot glasses. She loves to build on the light table. It has a calming effect. Bonus, you can turn the bin over and fill it with all the toys and the lights…easy clean-up.

preschool

6. Dramatic play:

Dramatic play is our FAVORITE around here. We have a closet right outside our school room. It was nearly empty, so I made it into a cute little nook where my little girls have home-base for dramatic play during school time. I hang up dress-up clothes and rotate them out. The dramatic play toys are small and fit on the top shelf of the closet. No one can reach them but mommy and they only come out when I’m doing concentrated school time with big kids. We have a camping set, specialty food items, a tiny kitchen, doctor kits, and a cash register. I set up the rug outside of the closet with a “theme” and give them different props on different days and set them free with their imagination.

preschool

7. Do school together:

My little Cupcake takes her “school” so seriously. One of her frequent prayer requests is that she can “get her school done.” My favorite “school” ideas for littles over the years have been:

~”Before Five in a Row.” The book list from this gentle curriculum is precious. Even if you don’t purchase the teacher’s guide, your preschooler will enjoy sweet time on your lap with classic books that teach many beautiful concepts.

~Chocolate Chip School: We do have Counting Bears…but, nothing made my Cupcake happier last year then when I announced it was, “Chocolate Chip School time.” We got out chocolate chips and counted them. Simple addition and subtraction is fun when you get to eat your manipulative. Siblings came running when they heard us subtracting and everyone enjoyed a little chocolate break in the day.

~Ziggy school: All About Reading has a sweet way of introducing letters to your preschooler with their pre-reader program. Make sure you purchase the activity sheets. They are darling. All of my littles have LOVED Ziggy the Zebra. He says such silly things. Sometimes he helped Cupcake listen to instructions that have nothing to do with the “AAR” program. Taking instruction from a puppet is more exciting than following mommy some days.

preschool

~Letter Search: Cupcake and I got some squishy bath-toy letters. After Ziggy introduces a letter to us, we take out the bath-toy letter and put it in our “hunting box.” Then we go around the house and try to find things in the house that start with our letter to put in the box. THIS IS SO FUN. Do it!

preschool

~Include them in the “big kids” school projects: Whenever my kids are assigned an active, hands on, messy, or fun project, we make sure the little ones are front and center. Does it sometimes lengthen the project? Yes. Have there been times when it frustrated the situation? Certainly! We just look at those as character building moments for all of us and move on.

preschool

8. Make a “can-do” list:

Sometimes it’s overwhelming for everybody to think of all the things preschoolers “can’t do.” I used to have a “Catty Can” list. I laminated little cards and hung them on an o-ring. Each card had something “Catty Can” do; sing the alphabet, roll a ball, color a picture, read books, play dolls, blow bubbles,” The list can be as long and creative as you want it to be. When Catty was a tiny little thing and she felt frustrated with being told “no,” we got out our “Catty Can” list and picked an activity.

9. Don’t forget your baby:

Homeschool moms…you have so much to do. I get it! Math, handwriting, history, read alouds, science labs, spelling, grammar, art, breakfast, lunch, clean up, dinner, Bible, memory, character issues. Being a teacher to our big kids is important. If God has blessed us with little ones who aren’t in school, they need us, just as much as our big kids did when they were pre-schoolers. Make sure you are hugging, laughing, tickling, reading to, coloring with, pushing on the swing, chasing, being goofy, dancing, singing silly songs and spending time with your little ones. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of hard play to help them feel remembered, loved, and valued.

10. Hold your plans loosely:

You know I love a well thought out plan. Please remember, that plans should not trump people. Our little ones will be fussy, sick, and overwhelmingly needy at times. It will be tempting to feel like they are getting in the way of our plans. Sometimes, God has a curriculum for us that doesn’t match our beautiful planners. Pay attention when He puts something in our path that pulls us away from what we thought was the “perfect day.” Especially if that “something” is one of our little ones. Don’t look back on the preschool years of your children with regret because you pushed them away to check off a list. Gently guide, love, embrace, and include them as much as you can!

Oh…and one more tip:

Don’t do school when they nap! Really. Don’t do it. Use that time for all of you bigger people to refresh and rest. You can thank me in January for that one.