Teaching children to think by Raising Children Who Read!

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Statistics have shown that in a class of 20 students, few, if any, teachers can find even 5 minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student. These studies have also come to find that the majority of children in our generation will stop reading as soon as they no longer have to. This absolutely breaks my heart for a number of reasons. Children are no longer delighting in reading, getting swept away in a captivating story, or enjoying the wonder and fun that comes from learning.

As parents, God has trusted us with a very important job. We are here to not only be mothers, but to be teachers and instructors in all that is good and lovely in the world. In my sweet Sarah’s book, Read for the Heart, she quotes:

The first thing that a young heart needs is an education in all that is good.”

The main reason behind why children won’t find joy and excitement in reading is the fact that they are not being exposed to great books. We don’t live in a culture that is filled with very much excellence. While we may not be able to control the media of our generation, we must take on the responsibility of exposing our children to excellent books that will encourage, inspire, and help them flourish into adults who have a love of literature.

In our home, each child has his or her own book shelf. Every Christmas everyone gets their own books!

Book baskets are all over the house–with picture books, magazines, art books, and piled with all sorts of genre’s of interesting tales.

In our library, we have overstuffed recliners so anyone can go read in comfort at any time.

At bedtime we kept baskets of short stories and picture books and chapter books to keep going one more chapter each night. (and of course we always followed with cd’s of favorite music that placed beauty in their little heads as they drifted off.)

Mediocrity is natural. There are a lot of time wasters out there. However, as mothers, God has called us to the supernatural–the above and beyond of ideals that Jesus wants us to understand. We must rise above what our culture views as normal  activity and cultivate minds and hearts in our children that are excellent, joyous, and full of wonder. What we feed our children’s minds will in many ways determine what they will have in their soul to respond to when they are adults.

3 Excellent Picture Books to Introduce to Your Family This Month:

1- Tuesday by David Weisner
2- Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
3- Song And Dance Man by Karen Ackerman

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Why We Chose Home Education (One Family’s Story)

Thankfully schooling has come a long way.

Thankfully schooling has come a long way.

Today’s post is by Cherie Werner

All parents are home educators and some decide to home school.

Almost 20 years ago, my home schooling journey began with the following words, “I will never home school my children.”

 The idea of being home all day teaching my girls was not the fulfilling life I envisioned for myself. After meeting some other home school moms, however, I realized that it was not as horrendous as I had made it out to be. As I began to look at the different schooling options, I felt my heart soften towards home schooling out of a desire to do what was best for my girls at the time.

I first tried to home school when my eldest daughter was four back in 1993. This did not last long because we have similar temperaments and kept butting heads. She loved to be right, was extremely social, and talkative. As you can imagine, these traits did not create the most conducive home schooling environment. When Kindergarten came into view, I gladly enrolled my daughter in school.

A year later, our family moved to California where my eldest attended a private Christian school during first grade. She thrived in school and had a wonderful teacher. Being new to the area and school, however, I was quickly overwhelmed when I was asked to be the classroom mom, coordinator for elementary classroom moms, reading mom, etc. given I was a stay at home mom. Hah! All these roles placed my middle daughter and I up at the school a lot.  Sure I could have said no, but it seemed that I was the only one available as most of the other parents had jobs.

Working in my daughters’ classroom was extremely enlightening because I was able to observe many things firsthand. For one, I was able to identify why my daughter was constantly being reprimanded for talking and not paying attention. Every day from September till December she was given warnings and her conduct grade was always unacceptable. While I would never deny that Caryn was a talker, her desk mate played a major role in instigating conversations too and brought up topics of conversation that aroused a curiosity in my daughter that we were not ready to tackle. After three frustrating months, I suggested that the two girls be separated. Caryn went from daily disruptive offenses to compliant focused behavior and I quickly realized how socialization could be positive or negative.

While in the classroom, I also observed how little time was actually spent on teaching verses simple busy work. I began factoring in the time students spent between classroom disturbances, recess, lunch, PE, reading groups, etc… and concluded that maybe three hours daily were spent teaching core concepts.

As I began calculating what it would look like to have two children in school, I realized that I would have very little time to myself if I decided to help in both classrooms, but I knew that I ultimately was responsible for their education.  In response I prayed a simple prayer, “Lord if I am to home school my children please make it really clear.” A week later on January 30, 1996, the Wall Street Journal headlines read  “Why More Parents Teach Their Kids at Home.” To make it even clearer, home education happened to be the main topic whenever I turned on talk radio.  After these little nudges along with attending our first home school conference in July, where we heard Clay and Sally Clarkson share their heart on Educating the Whole Hearted Child, my husband became increasingly interested and supportive, and I knew that this was the direction that our family was to follow.

After the Clarkson’s workshop I had the needed confidence and encouragement to try again. They helped clarify my reasons for considering home schooling. We began thinking biblically about God’s design for our family.  Suddenly creating a loving environment for my daughters seemed feasible by giving them encouragement and guidance so they could thrive.

We decided to home school for two reasons. First, ever since our eldest started attending school we noticed that the sweet caring relationship she once had with her younger sister was no longer intact because when she came home from school the first thing she wanted to do was play with friends. Further, our second child was extremely quiet, shy, sensitive, and cautious.  When corrected she would cry and be so hard on herself because she did not like hurting others. We felt that her temperament would ultimately be broken by harsh teachers or bullying children.

A few other reasons we choose to home school and are worth considering include:

  • We wanted to be the primary educators and influencers of our daughters. (Deut. 6:7; 11:19, 32:46; Psalm 78:5 ;) We sought to have greater personal influence in preparing them for the responsibilities of adulthood.
  • We wanted our children to learn the truth of God’s Word and wisdom for their salvation in trusting Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15) and as a basis for all other areas of knowledge (Pro. 1:7).
  • We welcomed the flexibility that home schooling offered to live our family life without having to accommodate to the structure and demands of a school schedule.  This appealed to us given my husband’s extensive travel demands and because our extended family all  lived in Louisiana.

Today, my daughters are 25, 23, and 12. Looking back, I realize that God desired to educate me through the process of home schooling. While things were different back then and there were not as many options, I had the opportunity to grow alongside the changes and include things that became available throughout the years. I am thankful for the time that I had with each of my daughters and I am proud to say that my life as a home educator and mother of three was more fulfilling than I could have envisioned for myself. While home schooling was the best option for our family, schooling decisions are a personal choice that each family should prayerfully consider.

Do you homeschool? What were some of the reasons you chose this path of education for your family?

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If you have questions about home education and what it looks like to create an environment of learning naturally in your home, you can still view Sally’s E-conference from last Monday night online. Click the link below for all the information!

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When Motherhood Includes Grief

 

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Motherhood.  The word conjures up a host of emotions and experiences that we long for and dream of for years.

Planning.  Expectations.  Anticipation.  Celebration.  Embracing.

Millions of women have experienced the miracle of motherhood.  The transition from a woman with a whole heart into a woman with a capacity to have her heart live both inside and outside of her body is a beautiful and miraculous process.

A woman’s heart is never again whole once she has children.  For each of her children carry a piece of her heart with them through life.  Our capacity for love grows with each new child.  We may think our hearts are full to capacity and yet with each new baby emotions shift and unexplainable reserves of love make their way into our hearts.

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Yet, because we live in a broken world suspended between the perfection of the Garden of Eden and Heaven, we understand that life is not always carefree.  Sometimes, life brings events that shake our foundation for a season.

Infertility.  Miscarriage.  Stillborn.  Pre-maturity.  Death.

Harsh, ugly words that no one wants to say much less experience as part of their journey in life.

Yet…too many of us do have one or more of those words as part of our life’s resume.  Known as grief, there is a process that we go through when our hearts are disappointed and we lose people or dreams that we had loved and held onto in our souls.

And when babies we carried beneath our breasts, those who lived and breathed and whose heart beat to its’ own cadence closer to ours than any other human being will ever be, leave us…part of our heart goes to Heaven with them and never resides again here on earth.

  • When we miscarry, hormones rage.  Ovaries and uterus contract and try to find their rhythm again leaving us with emotions that are often hard to control.
  • When death comes to a child, the word sorrow takes on a depth of unexplainable meaning.
  • When we long for a child and fertility alludes us, empty wombs and arms seem to betray our femininity.
  • Grief includes waves of sadness that suffocate us making breathing seem a difficult chore.
  • In our valley, words spoken by well-meaning and good intentioned friends seem shallow.
  • Maybe most painful of all is that human comfort is lost for a season.

But then…God

The One who created life and orders our steps, reaches through the clouds of grief and reminds us that He alone understands our pain and offers comfort that carries us through the storm.  Slowly, often painfully slowly, He shows us grace and strength and the only true comfort that exists that can penetrate the human soul.

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When healing begins, and it will, the next season is to find a way to remember and celebrate the life we embraced even if just in our dreams and in our womb for a few days or weeks.  The danger with grief is that it is so easy to get stuck somewhere in the process instead of moving through each phase toward healing.  We can get stuck in the stage of denial, anger, etc.  It will be that one season of life that becomes so commonly focused on that it emerges as that for which we are remembered if we are not careful.

All of those harsh, ugly words that we fear most about motherhood are just a few of the issues that the winds of life have blown my way.  And, while each event rocked me for a season (or more sometimes), no one event is the sum total of who I am.  I don’t want to be defined only as the mom of a premature baby, special needs child, mom of a stillborn son, the lady who lost four babies, or a number of other things.  While all of those statements are true, they are not the only part of the legacy I want to leave behind.  My goal for a legacy is to be remembered as a woman who loved God with all her heart and though she failed so many times, she claimed the grace of God and loved her family and friends with all her heart.

So, if that is my goal, then that must be the thing on which I focus every day.  I am not minimizing grief.  Please know that.  It is real, painful, and a life-altering process.  But it doesn’t have to define us.  Grief doesn’t have to overshadow everything else good and wonderful in our lives.  Oh, it will for a season, for sure, and that is healthy and wise.  Grief is painful, intense, hard, difficult, and sometimes the very act of taking the next breath is physically painful.  I understand that completely.

I also understand that God is bigger than grief.  His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and His grace is abundant and sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9).  But please know that if you feel “stuck” in the grief process, there is help available.  Seek out Godly counsel and ask God to help you move “through” the stages of grief so that your legacy will not be that one traumatic experience.

There are some benefits when motherhood includes grief.  We are given a unique perspective on the true miracle of life.  We can celebrate on a grander stage those who call us mom.  We can embrace a little longer and relish the presence of those children who grace our homes.  And we can reach out to others who are newer to the journey of grief than we are and assure them that even when despair is fresh and pain is great, behind the clouds the sun truly is shining and it will break forth again in their lives.

Motherhood is a celebration.  An amazing gift God has granted the females of the human race.  It is an opportunity to nurture, embrace, train, love, disciple the next generation of human beings.  How blessed we are to be in that group of women who have held motherhood in our hearts and life in our arms.

Photo Credit: Terri King (Timberlake, NC) and Laurie Whitehouse (Lexington, KY)

Good Job, Mama

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I watched my kids weave through the pumpkins, enjoying the sun on my face and the brisk autumn air. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a mama, belly ready to burst, buying pumpkins with her little one. He was near 3 years old and a cute little button of energy. I observed as she maneuvered around pumpkins with her pumpkin-sized belly, hand holding her sweet, lively boy.

He asked for something, she told him no, and two seconds later he was on the ground flailing in the dirt, letting her know *exactly* what he thought.

I saw the exasperated look in her face, the desperation, the exhaustion, the overwhelmed feelings sweep over her. 

And, quick as that, the Lord whispered to me, “Joy, go over there and put your hand on her shoulder. Whisper to her, tell her she is a great mom, encourage her heart right now.

My immediate response came just a fast, “Lord, she and everyone else here will think I’m nuts! This is America! You don’t just walk over to someone stranger and put your hand on their shoulder!”

He urged me gently again, “She needs your encouragement right now. Go ahead and put your hand on her shoulder and tell her she’s a great mom.

So I did. I swallowed my embarrassment and my pride and walked over. Face hot and palms sweaty, I put my hand on the dear mama’s shoulder. I quietly whispered, “You are doing such a great job. Hang in there, mama. We have all been there. You are doing a great job.”

She looked up at me, startled, and then grateful. She offered a tear-filled, “Thank you“, and we shared some tears and a smile and the knowing bond of motherhood.

No matter our differences, we all share those desperate mama moments when we need a hand on our shoulder telling us everything will be okay, don’t we?!

Who do you know that could use a hand on their shoulder, an encouraging word spoken, a smile? Are you like me, you don’t want to appear foolish, so you hold back? Here is my challenge…. just do it!!

Are you like the mama at the pumpkin patch? Do you need encouragement today?

Leave a comment and let us put our hand on your shoulder, pray for you, and bless you.

Now, let me whisper to you, “YOU are doing such a great job. Hang in there, mama. We have all been there. YOU are doing a great job. Good job, Mama.

Blessings,

Joy GraceFullMama

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Google Hangout, MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4,6:00 PACIFIC,  7:00 PM MOUNTAIN, 8:00 CENTRAL, 9:00 EASTERN.–for all mamas who want to be encouraged! sign up HERE

Is Your Lens Properly Focused? Mine Wasn’t.

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It hit me hard in the middle of the first session of two-day parenting seminar at church.

To some degree, it had nothing to do with child rearing.  But it had everything to do with me and how I think about myself as a parent, as a mom.

Our pastor was pointing us to the Scriptures and encouraging us to minister to our children, reminding us of our call to disciple them through instruction, discipline, and relationship.  I think being reminded of all of the good we can do in our children’s lives might be what caused the Spirit to prick my heart at that moment with this thought:

I process my life through the lens of failure.  I have trouble seeing the good and focus only on what I’m not doing or can’t do.

Like a camera with an improperly focused lens, my perspective was blurring what should have been in crisp focus and drawing my eye to what belonged in the fuzzy background.

As I wrote down this observation about myself at the bottom of my notes, a weight was lifted.  It was as if the Lord said to me, “You do not have to look at your life this way.”  And, friend, I say to you: You don’t have to either!

Here are a few reasons why:

The Gospel Defines You:  When you believed in your heart and confessed with your lips that Jesus is Lord, you received a new identity.  You belong (every bit of you!) to God the Father.  You are His child.  The Bible tells us that our sins are forgiven.  Sure, you probably have in immense number of weaknesses and a hearty list of ways you blew it in only the last 24 hours, but in Christ you are a new creation!  We confess our sins, we remind ourselves we belong to the Lord, we receive His forgiveness, and we move forward joyfully in faith.  Phew!

You are Gifted:  The Spirit lives in you and has gifted you in a unique way to contribute to the body of Christ, including the little part of it that lives in your home.  Don’t be shy about finding out what that is and using it liberally in your church and under your own roof.  I repeat, the Spirit lives in you;  honor Him by processing life through and with Him, rather than focusing always and only on what you can’t or don’t do.

You are “Just Right”:  You have a unique life during which you have had experiences and training that make you who you are as a person and a mom.  I think that’s pretty stinkin’ cool!  You may be a crafter extraordinaire.  If you are, craft it up with your kids.  Share with them what makes your heart sing.  Or, you may be useless in all things domestic but love the great outdoors.  So, stop feeling bad that you’re not doing life with your kids someone else’s way, and do it your way.  THAT’s the way the Lord would have you do it.  After all, He did give your kids to you!  And I have strong feeling that there are some wonderful things happening in your home simply because of who you are as mama to your little ones.  (Don’t believe me?  Ask an outsider for their perspective!)

Moving from feeling like a failure to mothering in freedom requires refocusing the lens through which we see ourselves, making sure it lines up with what the Bible says about who God is and who we are.  These words from an article at howstuffworks.com say it well:  Camera focus depends on light passing through the camera lens at the proper angle to produce a clear image.*  Let’s kick the dark lens of failure to the curb, open our hearts, and let The Light shine in so we have a clear and right perspective!

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”   John 8:12

Photo Credit

*http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/camera1.htm