Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Siblings, Monsters or Friends?

I have discovered what I believe to be the biggest drawback to homeschooling. No, it's not socialization. My kids get to meet, talk to and interact with a lot of people of all ages. No, the problem is too much together time. You know how your kids start to bicker and gripe at each other after a few days of being couped up in the house. After about four days inside with your brothers and sisters, even the kindest children turn into monster children.

They grow three heads, five horns and their eyes turn red. Fire spits out of their mouths. Their heads spin around backwards. Smoke comes out of their ears. Their voices become like fingernails grating down the proverbial chalkboard. They become little monsters just waiting to pounce on the first poor, unsuspecting sibling to breath in their general direction.

Take that image, multiply it by 365 days, 24 hours a day. Increase it by 5 children. Now you have the image of a large homeschool family in the dead of winter. It's not pretty. It's downright ugly.

Yet, despite that, they seem to be inseparable. They are fiercely devoted to one another. When apart for only an hour they run to each other and hug each other. A few years ago the two oldest were going to an overnight at church. The two youngest were going to grandma's house (number five was but an infant and staying with Mom). They were spending less than 24 hours apart, yet you would have thought they were going to be apart for weeks by the way they were hugging each other and saying their good-byes. When the next year came around, the two oldest were again off to church, only to discover that this year instead of sleeping in the separate rooms in the same building, they would be in different buildings! They were visibly upset. "We've never slept in a different building before!" True. At 7 and 8 years old they had not been apart overnight since the second was born. They weren't consoled that Mommy would be staying with the girls and Daddy would be staying with the boys!

The most touching time came when our five year old (then four) ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. The kids were made several visits during the day, going back and forth to grandmas between visits. When bedtime came, they all were upset. Noah, at the hospital, wanted to call and talk to each sibling and during prayer that night prayed for each one. The kids with Daddy at Grandma's house where crying because they missed their brother. It was a time that really showed me how deeply they care for one another. They take for granted that their brothers and sisters will always be near them. I pray that this continues into their adult lives and that they continue to develop a bond that allows them to forever be the closest of friends.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shop Til You Drop!

Oh how I love Christmas shopping! Well, okay, not really. I wouldn't mind Christmas shopping if it weren't for the having to choose part. I have five children. We don't overly spoil them with things and stuff and yet somehow they have stuff. I mean a lot of stuff. I know single children who have more stuff than my collective five, yet still we have too much stuff.

When you have children ranging from 9 to 2 the real problem is that if you don't already own it, or something much like it, you don't want to own it. The little ones are the hardest to buy for, not because they care at all, simply because we already have it all.

The older children get, the more expensive their requests. You begin to feel the struggle between balancing getting the great, if slightly more expensive, gifts for the older kids and getting the little ones things they want but cost much less. My husband and I don't feel pressured to spend the same dollar amount exactly on each child. We don't even keep very close track. We try to have the same number of items to open and one cool "big" gift. Of course our definition of cool isn't nearly that of others.

I have tried different approaches to getting gifts for the children. I have tried giving each a gift certificate to do something they've been begging to do ( buy Build-A-Bear clothes for their animals). One year I had the great idea to find that thing in our child we want to encourage and buy gifts accordingly. That helped tremendously with gift choosing.

This year, however, I am stuck. Gift buyers block I guess. Part of the problem is that we chose a cool gift for the oldest. Now to match that for the other four. Actually, the two and three year-olds will be excited with anything (if we can find anything we don't already own!), so we just need great, exciting gift ideas for an eight year-old girl and a five year-old boy! Feel free to post suggestions if you have them!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why do you homeschool?

Today I am going to answer some of the questions and refute some of the often made comments related to homeschooling. People have many reactions to homeschooling, some are supportive, some are disgusted, some are just plain bewildered when they make the following statements:

"Good for you, schools are so dangerous now!"
I do not homeschool because of the "danger" in public schools. After the rash of school shootings many parents became convinced schools are dangerous. We will discuss the true dangers of schools later, but for now understand that I am not worried about my kid getting shot at school.

"They don't learn anything in public schools anymore."
As a former teacher, I hate these reactions. I spent my teaching years working in the school system that my children would now attend, and I have to say I don't think there are many out there that are better. The staff and parents are wonderful. The teachers work hard. They score well on state tests (although frankly that is another can of worms for another day!)

I do not homeschool to try to give my child a "better" education (in the world's eyes). I have worked with many of the teachers that my children would have right now and can tell you without a doubt many of them are far better teachers than I ever will be. Most of them love their students, have taught for years and know every trick in the book. I doubt I could do a better job than most of them.

"At least you are a teacher so you know what you are doing."
It is not easier for me since I am a teacher. In fact I think it may be harder. I have expectations that others do not. I discovered my first year that you can not run a homeschool class of 2 kids like you would run a kindergarten class of 18. It just doesn't work.

Many people operate under the thought that since you have to have a degree to teach in public school, you should have to have a degree to homeschool as well. What I find amusing is that in my state you do not have to have a teaching degree or license to teach in private schools. Funny isn't it. People will spend thousands of dollars on private school tuition to send their kids to a better school, where they don't have to have a teaching license to teach, but think parents aren't qualified to teach their own children.

"What about socialization?"
For those of you that worry about socialization, you can stop worrying now. When my "small group" meets monthly, those 6 families bring 22 kids. Homeschooled children have the great opportunity to interact with children younger, older and their own age. They also learn to interact with adults, not just in a classroom student/teacher situation, but in a group discussion setting. They are more likely to be encouraged to work with adults on projects from cooking dinner to cutting and delivering firewood to a friend in need. Don't you worry about socialization. We socialize more than any group of people you know! Perhaps you should worry more about over-socialization.

"Good for you but I could never do it."
Honestly, we all think that. Sometimes daily. That is when you use your "phone-a-friend" option. And fortunately in the homeschool world, you aren't limited to the number of those you get!

Yet, no matter what reaction I receive from people who first learn that I am homeschooling, nobody ever understands why. Unless that is you happen to homeschool yourself.


"Why do you homeschool?"
If those are not the reasons, then why do I do it? This is a tough one to explain. It begins with the simple answer. I believe God wants me to. I believe that God has placed it in my heart, in the heart of my husband and very clearly models it in the bible. Do I believe God is calling every Christian to homeschool? I believe that is between them and God. I know he has told my family to do this and that is what we stand on.

Now it gets harder to explain. Why would God want you to homeschool? Public school works out for everyone else, besides, wouldn't it be easier? Heck ya! It would be way easier! Until I had to undo the damage done to my children that is. You see, when you send your child away for 8-9 hours a day (depending on bus time) and they sleep 8-9 hours a day you are left with 6-8 hours a day to model for your children what you want them to be become and unmodel what you don't want them to become. Realistically, that time is more like 3-4 hours, maybe.

Let us take an average day in the life of a public school kid. You get up, scarf down some breakfast, get dressed, leave for school by 7:30. You spend all day surrounded by children who don't respect their parents being taught evolution and the big bang as facts, and hearing materialism being worshiped in the form of "Look what Johnny has!" You get home from school at 4:30. You have a snack, and do your homework. You eat dinner at 5:30. After dinner it is a bath, TV time and off to bed at 8:00. That is a perfect ideal world, where nobody is in sports, scouts, piano or band. As a parent, where in there do I have time to show my kids the things I want them to know? Where do I have time to remind them that the big bang is a theory, not a fact? When to I teach them that evolution is a theory that contradicts all of the rest of science, even science supported and believed by the very ones spouting the theory? How do I undo hours of my child hearing the worship of stuff?

You see, I do not want my child to spend the majority of his day in a world that when he comes home, I am going to tell him is wrong. I don't want him to make all of his best friends at school and have to say to him that their behaviors, choices and values are wrong. It isn't a matter of not allowing my child to be friends with kids who are different from us. It is a matter of not allowing my child to believe that everybody else lives their lives differently. I don't want them to feel isolated. If everyone else is doing it, why not us?

I want my kids to know the truth. I want them to know there are many, many people who believe as we do, who walk as we do and who live as we do. They know that not everyone believes in God. They know some kids don't go to church. But for them, that is odd, not the norm. As they get older, they will be more able to handle the fact that the world is big and there are a lot of people who think we are wrong. They will have to make their own choices and live with their decisions. But you cannot tell me that at five years old, when they are still chasing bad guys with their cap guns, they are old enough to begin to make those choices. They are not big enough to defend their hearts from the evil in the world, the evil that seeks to undermine the truth of God's love and parents' authority. Until they are big enough, it is my job to guard their hearts. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23

So I guess the answer to why I homeschool is "To guard my children's hearts until they are mature enough to guard it themselves."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Raising Boys Isn't for Sissies!

I have discovered that I am too much of a girl for raising boys. Yup. I, tomboy, raised in the sticks, can do whatever boys can do, I am too much of a girl for this line of work. My boys remind me, nearly daily, that I can never out think or predict the thoughts of a boy.

Since my oldest boy was probably 5 he has played with an old rusty hatchet. My husband thought that he would have to work awfully hard at cutting himself, so we allowed him to play with it. My boys now, ages 9 and 5 have their own hatchets for helping Daddy with fire wood. Many people think we are nuts for allowing our boys such freedoms, they shouldn't be allowed to use hatchets, own pocket knives or rifles. To tell you the truth, if I were a single parent they wouldn't do any of those things. Not because I disagree with my husband's desire to raise boys into competent, strong, self-assured, adventurous men. Only because I am a girl. Apparently, way more so than I would like to believe.

My boys have done many things to prove to me that I am to much of a girl for this job. My oldest, at age 4ish, climbed a tree and got stuck. Not so unusual, except that we didn't have any trees that a four year-old could reach. The lowest branch was 6 feet off the ground. He dragged a ladder over to the tree, climbed up and got scared and was unable to figure out how to get down. The rule now is you may only climb a tree if you can do so without help. Never thought I'd have to make a tree climbing rule.

Recently I heard "Zachary caught a rat!" being yelled by my children. Unhappy as you can imagine the thought made me, I went to check to discover that in fact he was holding (with my grill tongs) a baby mole. He was beating it on the ground trying to kill it. Gross. I am way too much of a girl.

A few weeks later I hear my five year old saying that he is trying to kill the little animal living in the wood pile. He wants to trap something to kill it and clean it out and make a hat out of its skin. I am such a girl.

Today my boys made a harness. My younger and yet heavy, stocky boy, was rigged up in this harness and his older brother, Mr. Skinny as a rail, was planning to lower him off of the deck. I had to call Daddy. Sometimes a girl just has to call a man when boys are up to their antics!

I am grateful every day that I have a loving, adoring husband who balances out my girliness and helps raise these amazing little creatures called boys. It has long been my motto, women raise boys, men raise men. I know many single moms out there are struggling to raise their boys into men. It's not an easy thing. I encourage you, if you know one of these moms, give her all the support you can and if you know a man who can help mentor these boys, encourage them to do so. Girls just can't do it alone.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Not Brain Surgery

One of my husband's favorite sayings is "It's not brain surgery". He uses this statement when it comes to all the fix-it jobs he does around the house. "Honey, do you know how to pull a pump out of a well?" "It's not brain surgery." And for the most part he's right. He can pretty well figure out how to fix or do anything. If he doesn't know how, he asks. When he doesn't know the best way to solve an electrical problem in our 100 year old house, he calls an electrician friend. When the car won't run, he calls a mechanic friend. He watches educational shows, surfs the internet in an attempt to gain more knowledge because "You never know when you will need to know how to ____________", fill in the blank.

Recently I found myself wondering why so many people seem completely lost as to how to raise children and I found myself thinking "It's not brain surgery". Now, before you get all angry with me, understand what I am saying, and what I am not. I am not saying good parenting is easy. I am not saying that it isn't a lot of hard work. I am not saying that it doesn't take effort and struggle and tears and prayer. I am just saying it isn't complicated. The basic principles are insanely simple. Truly.

If anyone has ever trained a pet, successfully that is, they can understand the basic premise of parenting. It is child training. The bible says "Train up a child in the way he should go", not hope up a child, not plead up a child but train up a child. We aren't in this to hope that everything turns out well without actually putting in the effort to train. We are here to teach them, train them, lead them, guide them.

I have known many people who were not highly educated, most without college degrees and some without even high school diplomas, who have trained their children well. This proves the point that it doesn't take a high level of education to train children. In fact, every parent trains their child. Unfortunately many do so these days without even know it. Let us look at a couple of scenarios.

Let's start with a dog. Your dog decides to get into your trash. You tell him "no". The dog is more interested in the goodies he smells so he returns to trash digging. You say to the dog "fine, you can get in the trash this time, but no more." Sounds kinda silly doesn't it.

Now let's view this in a child. Your child gets into the cookie jar. You say "no". Your child smells cookies and is undeterred. He returns to the cookie jar and gets into it again. You say "fine, you can have one now, but no more."

Is the dog likely to get into the trash again after being allowed to do so? Of course. He was just trained to ignore his master's "no". He will now be harder to break of the trash habit than if you had persisted with your "no".

What about the child? He also has been trained. He has been trained to ignore his parent's "no". He will get into the cookies again. And each time you tell him no, his unwillingness to obey will get stronger because he now knows, there is a time when your "no" means "okay". And it won't end with cookies.

I know there are days when child training is so hard and so frustrating that you want to quit. I have called a friend and said "I quit!" But I know, as does she, that we have to go headlong back into the battle. When my husband was having trouble getting water from our well, he was frustrated. He wanted to quit. He wanted to say "This is too hard, I don't know what to do next, so we are just going to live without water for the rest of our lives" but he knew that wasn't an option. He called more people, called professionals, talked to friends with experience. That is what we have to do as parents. We need friends with children to give us suggestions, to give us encouragement. We need professionals, teachers, pastors, people with adult children that turned out well. But we cannot just say, "this is too hard, I will let them do what they want!"

My husband and I get so frustrated when we go out in public and see they way children are being trained to behave. We see screaming fits in stores over toys. We hear children tell their parents "no" and not be made to obey. Understand this, if you cannot make a 3 year old obey you, you will have no chance, and no authority with that child when he is 16.

I receive compliments about my five children and their behavior so often that I find myself thinking "If they really think this is good behavior, what must they see normally". That isn't a statement to brag, in fact just the opposite. I will have days where my personal standards are way above that of my children's current behavior and I will hear someone say "Your children are so well behaved." Is that a statement that my expectations are too high, or the world's are too low? Perhaps a little of both.

I think sometimes strangers think I was just naturally blessed with five super well behaved children and therefore I don't know what it is like in the real world. Let me assure you if you don't know me, that is NOT the truth. My children are from a long, long, long line of strong willed people, on both sides. We have perfected stubborn and turned it into an art! We have daily spankings, etc. I once heard a lady at church voice surprise at my three year old receiving a spanking (at church no less). "I've never even seen her do anything to deserve a spanking". I explained that the reason you don't see my children deserve a spanking is because they receive them.

This isn't a "to spank or not to spank" debate. I frankly don't care how you choose to "discourage" bad behavior, but you must. We as parent's have to stop rewarding bad behavior. It encourages it! If you give a kid a cookie for getting into the cookies when you have said "no", you reward the bad behavior!

We train our children every day either by not following our words with actions or by following through with everything we say. We all "Train up a child" but is it in the "way he should go" or is it in the path of destruction?

Holiday World 2011!

Holiday World 2011!

Baby # 6

Baby # 6
Welcome to the world and welcome to our crazy family!

Fort Benning

Fort Benning
We finally made it to Georgia!!!

Just a day at the park!

Just a day at the park!

My Hero!

My Hero!
I don't do dead things. Fortunately for me, God gave me boys!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!
Daddy and Grandma make Jammies every year for the kids, They love it!

Christmas in PJs

Christmas in PJs
Don't I just have the cutest kids?

2010 Jammies

2010 Jammies
Once again Daddy pulled it off. They look cute!

Round 2 birthday parties

Round 2 birthday parties
Cake number 1 of 3 done. I am so not an artist, but I think it came out pretty well!

My Girls

My Girls
Borrowed dance clothes, my girls sure look cute.

Couped up

Couped up
More images below showing the children feeling a bit "couped up" from the long winter!

Chickens: Take 2

Chickens: Take 2
Cute chicks!

The robot cake. I am glad my kids' standards aren't as high as mine!

Tree Climbers

Tree Climbers

Summer Fun!

Summer Fun!
Hi Daddy! Hope you are having fun at work!

This one is so bad, I had to label the cake so you would know it's not a cow!

Dressed for Church!

Dressed for Church!
Come as your favorite Bible character night!

Too cute for words!

If the boy wasn't so tall, I could get a picture of his face!

Establishing the pecking order!