Redeem the Time

“It all goes by so fast. You blink and they’re grown!”

We’ve all heard it. We’ve heard it in waiting rooms, libraries, grocery store aisles – usually when the baby has thrown up all over himself and the toddler is into the sugary cereal boxes and the four year old is jumping from foot to foot wanting to use the bathroom. Some kind old lady has had the audacity to tell us to “cherish every moment” of this animal called motherhood.

It all goes by so fast, she repeats as we roll our eyes internally.

“It isn’t possible to cherish every moment!” we retort under our breath, but we smile at the nice woman and shuffle the four year old to the bathroom, leaving a small trail of cereal and anxiety in our wake.

In the bathroom, over the din of the hand dryer and the excited squeals over the soap bubbles, we wish it would go by faster: this time of child raising, this time of repeating everything, this day in and day out teaching, training, diapering, a life exhausted, poured out in service of those too young, too distracted, to appreciate what we are doing.

Later, to our friends, online, elsewhere, we declare we can’t wait for the next thing when we can breathe – when the children are walking, talking, at school, grown up, married, gone.

Really?!

Are we really so sick of our children that we want them gone? I need to know. Because I’ve been seeing it more than I care to admit – this disdain for our role, this wishing away of our own flesh and blood.

Of course there are days when we are weary, of course it is incredibly hard to do what we do day in and day out, but is it honestly, at its core, is it really so horrible and so burdensome that we publicly claim to be thrilled to get rid of the same children we claim to love with a fierceness bordering on violence?

I really must know.

Is motherhood really that much of a burden? Are our kids that much of a weight on our shoulders that we want to publicly rejoice – for all to see – when they go away for long chunks of time?

Look, I get it. The days are long – longer than long and they have a tendency to run into the night. But is that all we’re doing? Marking time like prisoners, waiting for escape, counting down to the hour of our release?

I need to know.

It’s All Work and That’s Not Bad

Washington Post recently published this story about parents sick of summertime and waiting for school to begin. The biggest word that stuck out at me in the article was “entertained.” No one can be entertained for three months!

Our heads are full of images of families having fun together – being entertained, on water slides and in the movies, on boats and fishing, running around, squealing, picnicking. Instead, we have children that sulk, complain, are bored; we have children who squabble, scream, cry and throw things.

Is this the reason then that moms are found counting down the days to the most wonderful time of the year on Facebook and elsewhere? Have we so easily bought the lie that entertainment is what’s most important, not just to the children but to us as well?

Or could it be that we somehow are forgetting to teach the children the same lessons we know to be true in our own lives – that it’s not all fun and games, that, when it comes right down to it, what we do all day doesn’t have to be “fun” to be fun, that work is good, and fulfilling, and rewarding?

Redeeming the Time

I don’t claim to know it all. I have often – way too often – complained about my lot, drowned myself in self-pity. I have gleefully thought of days away from my family and time to myself.

I repent.

In my experience and the experience of many, it isn’t the picnics and the fishing that bring families closer (although of course there’s a place for that), it’s the humble, day in, day out, shoulder-to-shoulder work. I have realized, repeatedly, then that it isn’t my children, or the labor they require I should be dreading, it’s the false pictures in my head and their siren song.

I do adore seeing my children smile, laugh, play in puddles, run through sprinklers, shouting, come down the slide exhilarated, but do you know when my love is even fiercer?

When they’re trying to form letters, trying to grip the pencil just right. I delight in them when they’re trying hard to read, struggling over consonants like walls, then climbing over them, victorious. I cherish them when they work together, hard, when one of them learns that, no matter what, he must learn to love his brother; I celebrate them when, with every ounce of determination in her, she will sit at the desk and solve her math problems and, because she so is diligent, will get better at them, even if it is infinitesimally so.

I want to bundle up moments when the two year old remembers to put his toys away with his pudgy fingers, the last of toddlerhood clinging to them. I want to store these moments in a corner of my memory forever, to call on them on those days when hours seem longer than long.

I want to remember that joy often comes dressed as work.

Dare I say that the kind old woman at the grocery store is right? That it is possible, after all, to cherish much of what we miss in this wishing away of our own labor?

Just a thought.

Like this post? Share it with your friends!

3 Resources for Sex Education in the Elementary Years

A mother’s intuition is almost never wrong. I knew the question was coming.

“Mom, how are babies made?”

We are not a family that has shied away from the answer, or intended to, in this case. The older children (ages 6 and 5) knew where babies came from, but we had not gone over the mechanics of it all, so to speak.

We had watched many a video of babies growing inside mother’s wombs, and I had been waiting for the next question, but it hadn’t come.

Until one day they were playing Minecraft. And the pigs are some carrots.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

I decided it was time. Sure, this wasn’t going to be the only conversation – there would be many others, but it was time to delve into the nitty-gritties.

Because if they are asking, they are thinking about it. And if they are thinking about it, they will find out from somewhere else. And somewhere else is not a place I want them to look for answers, especially today.

Here are my three favorite resources for beginning or continuing the conversation with my elementary age children.

1. This video: We Are All Miracles

Since my daughter shows a real curiosity about how things work in our bodies and devours encyclopedia, I set aside some time to show them this video. I kept it age appropriate, waiting for them to take it to the next step. “There’s a little bit of daddy and a little part of mommy” was enough to keep them satisfied for a little while. And they loved watching the baby form, which is where most of the questions erupted until I had to pause the video and answer them.

2. This book: God’s Design for Sex

This is the first in a series of 4 books and Amazon just told me that I purchased this book in 2011. I guess I was prepared! But I wish I had bought more than the first one. Nevertheless, it helped to be able to read the book as a story to my curious six year old daughter.

In it, a little boy asks the questions she has asked in the past. Every page has a picture. My favorite part? That information came from the boy’s parents, not strangers or friends. I will be buying the rest of the books in the series.

3. Another helpful resource: Anatomy for Kids

This deals specifically with anatomy and can be especially useful for changing bodies when the children get a little older. I have not used this yet, but do plan on having it as a resource. The website also includes some activities the children can do that are related specifically to each book.

Some caveats, of course. Some children will ask sooner (or later!) than others.

My daughter is very curious about biology, as I mentioned before. My son, just 16 months younger, couldn’t care less about it. I took the lead of the one most interested to teach the rest.

And most important: you might be surprised at how easy it is when you get going.

We have, from the time they began to talk, used the right anatomical terms. It just made the conversation much easier.

Don’t freak out and it won’t be embarrassing, scary or dramatic. As my husband said, “Talk about it, then ask them what they want for lunch.” Okay, full disclosure, I was freaking out a little and had to call him at work for emotional support.

But, most importantly, don’t evade it or shy away from it.

My greatest joy, after the tiny freak-out session, was that they had asked me and I had an opportunity to tell them the truth before anyone else had fed them lies.

Like this post? Share it with your friends!

Learning History – Three Things I Want to Teach My Kids

I have recently developed a fascination, no, that is much too tame a word. I would have to say I have grown an obsession with history.

I suppose it is a natural and necessary outgrowth of liking the memoir genre. Because what is memoir but history on the minutest scale anyway?

But I have lately been enjoying history on the grand scale as well – world history, American history – the broad sweep of civilizations, cultures and people, lapping up timelines that fill walls, innumerable books from the library, even the hopelessly biased shows on the History Channel – America: The Story of Us, The Men Who Built America and The Story of Mankind.

When I was in school, I found history unappealing.

It was either full of dates and wars that meant nothing to me or it seemed hopelessly disjointed and nothing that mattered personally, on a daily, moral or intellectual level. I mean, yeah, it was cool that so-and-so king built all these temples and the architecture was interesting to gaze at, but ultimately, what was my reason to know this – outside of test scores?

No matter how many facts I learned, I didn’t see why I needed to know them.

Which leads to my wondering how to teach it to my children. What is it that I want them to see, to know, to remember? How will what they know inform their lives, their worldviews?

In the world of easily accessible information, they don’t need to memorize dates and wars. I refuse to make history about test scores and I definitely don’t want to teach history out of a text book that gives them the state-centric view – whether nationalist or revisionist.

No matter what, I find historical accounts, however dry, however “objective,” hopelessly biased and yet endlessly fascinating.

Appropriately then, the one time I did find history interesting was when we studied the Indian Independence struggle. The textbook was heavily nationalistic and yet one that sought to appease the myriad faiths and philosophical leanings of fiercely Indian parents who sent their Indian but English speaking children to a school established under the British system of education. In the midst of that struggle, history acquired a new meaning for me, I think.

Even as a fifteen year old, I understood something about living in the in between, about divided allegiances. I understood, on some level, however murky, that people were imperfect and deeply flawed.

Seen this way, what’s the point of history anyway, I seem to have decided. There are no clear cut boundaries, no winners and losers – it only seems that way until the next battle, the next war. And let’s not even get started on how it is constantly revised and rewritten, even to protests of that’s not how it happened! 

So I gave up history for the pleasures of literature, of no clarity and tons of speculation. Fact was stranger than fiction and I preferred the solace of stolid stories.

But then, I came back. When I came to Christ, suddenly history became important. There was an objective truth somewhere in the narrative, I realized, and it was important – the most important thing was not about how individuals perceived things, life was more than a tale told by an idiot. There was more to sound and the fury than more sound and more fury.

And so, as I stumble along, no, tear along, learning things I never before found interesting, here are three things I want my children to learn from history:

The story of history is the story of God’s love for his people

People often mean things for evil, but God uses them for the good of those called by Him. The battles, the wars, are important to know, but they have to be remembered as only a backdrop. God’s redemption is often the main plot against the background of man’s sinfulness. I would hate for us to miss this as we study.

God’s Word truly does endure forever

Empires rise and fall and the grand sense of Ozymandian waste we feel should be balanced by the grand sense of grandeur God offers by showing us how he has always cared for His own from the beginning of time. The story of God’s redemption does not begin with Christ’s birth as is often erroneously noted but with the promise of His birth to His people and the response of faith by those called by Him.

It’s ALL important and we cannot know how it all fits just yet

For all my complaining about how I left history behind for the promise literature offered, I soon realized that literature had its own flaws and similar ones at that. Not everything can be tied up with a bow, some things are just there, not understood, not deciphered but that does not mean they are lost. Nothing is lost in God’s economy but we cannot always know this side of eternity how it all fits.

History is fascinating, full of kings, queens, monsters, and ordinary people.

It offers lessons to our souls beyond what living in the present has to offer, but ultimately, for all the adventure, for all the inventions, for all the discoveries, the reason we are attracted to it, I think, is that we find ourselves in it.

And we find, more than anything else, a great and faithful God.

Like this post? Share it with your friends!

Says who? Mom, Rethink Your Schedule

I taught my older kids how to play tic-tac-toe today.

My four year old didn’t like losing. You can see his attempts at solving this problem.

First, he tried making his Os over the Xs to escape the inevitable end. Second, he made his own board and decided he would fill it with only Os so he could win. When that didn’t achieve the desired response, he connected random Os from three different boards and declared that he had won.

Unfortunately, stickler that I am, I had to remind him that there were rules to this game and he wasn’t playing within them.

It was only then that he cried and gave up. And whined, “But I want to win!”

I think many moms would do well to remember and ask as he does, in his own way, “Says who?”

Says who? It’s a decent question. Ask it, ask it humbly, truly wanting to know the answer, but ask it.

It is not rebellious to question why you are doing the things you are doing especially when you’re spending all day doing them.

I am not referring here to convictions, I have written about those elsewhere. I am referring here to the thousand things moms think they ought to do because, well, there’s no because. Why do you cook a certain way, spend a certain way, do the work you do, make the choices you do, or don’t?

Who says things have to be done a certain way?

Sure, there are some things we just have to grit our collective teeth and work through, some others must be embraced and loved, but a large part of the day is clay, waiting to be shaped into something useful, something beautiful.

And by not asking that all important question, we allow our time to slip away to whim.

So ask.

And then try a million little ways to tweak your day, your schedule; use all your creativity, all your resources before you give up and say you can’t win.

Because somewhere along the line you might just hit the mark.

Be a four-year-old.

Like this post? Share it with your friends!

Five Things I Learned in my First Year of Homeschooling

Oh my! The school year is over. (By the way, we will probably school year-round with a lighter summer schedule.)  Really? I didn’t notice. Haha. That’s normal, right? For a homeschooler?

So, here are the highlights of the year:

1. It didn’t look how I thought it would.

Not for the most part anyway. And if I held on any longer to how it should look, I wouldn’t do it another year. I had a planned curriculum, written out, neat and tidy, text books lined up under subjects galore, ideas and pictures in my head, blah, blah, blah.

The year came and went. I forgot about the written curriculum, went by what I saw my kids needed and God’s grace. The other day, looking through some stuff, I find the curriculum. Would you believe it if I told you we had covered every. Last. Textbook? Yup. Did it all. But not the way I had planned. Homeschooling is messy. Messier than I had thought.

2. School happened in the midst of life.

I had a baby this year. I also had to get tested twice a week for high blood pressure for eight weeks while pregnant. The kids went with me. God knows better than I do what they need to learn. Looking back now, I recognize those moments as pivotal in my daughter learning the beginning steps of obedience.

3. My kids learned all the time. Not just during school hours.

That’s a scary thought. I love and hate schedules. I love that they seem so controllable and the kids find then predictable but I also hate being an automaton. So although I like them I feel the need to break them. Unfortunately, if I break them too often I feel like I’m not doing enough when sometimes I’m not required to do much at all!

They’re not learning just when I’m teaching, they’re learning even when they’re playing. I know because I get the odd question (while I’m harried and crazy making dinner! Why is it always while I’m making dinner?) that tells me something has clicked into place!

4. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist but it does take energy.

Tons of it. And I can’t pour it all out either at the gym or in my social life or even in supposedly planning the perfect curriculum. It needs to be available for them, for teaching when they’re ready to soak it in.

5. I’m the teacher and the student.

This has perhaps been the hardest year spiritually speaking for me so far. God has broken my pride, bent me in ways I never thought possible. But I have seen more blessings than I can number. He has shown me His faithfulness. I have learned more patience, more mercy, more grace than I thought I could muster. I have learned how much my husband loves me. I have found out how much more my children can learn about loving each other if it is expected of them.

Today, my daughter recited Philippians 2:14 to me: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” Yeah.That reminded me, as it does, every time I’ve said it to her that I’m definitely the teacher and the student. Definitely.

Like this post? Share it with your friends!

Learning through Beading

Currently, we’re learning all the time but we’re typically schooling about two days a week.

It may not seem like a lot but then again the kids are only four and three (I have to keep reminding myself of this!) and I can fill the entire day pretty easily with activities to keep the them learning and having fun. (Thank you, Pinterest!)

On days we don’t officially school, we still begin the day with reading – typically, the Bible and then other books if there’s interest.

Anyway, I think I’ve mentioned our schedule before, so for now, I’ll just talk about how we incorporated math into another craft. The kids love beads, you know the kind, craft beads that are in gyms and preschools everywhere. They love stringing them, which is a fantastic fine motor skill but I thought to take it one step further. Why not teach them sequences? I thought.

R.C.Sproul Jr. as well as his late wife Denise Sproul have talked about how to teach math from a biblical perspective. Since sequences are pre-math work and my role as a Christian parent involves mainly teaching my children to love God, sequences helped me draw the connection between night and day, summer, fall, winter and spring and how reliable and faithful our God truly is.

And we ended up with a whole lot of fun toys for the baby!

Like this post? Share it with your friends!

More Homeschooling / Unschooling Decisions

On St. Valentine’s Day this year, I’m grappling with decisions about homeschooling and / or unschooling the children. I really should say “we” are but my husband agrees that for the most part, I’ll be making the day to day decisions.

He simply feels strongly about the children not going to public school. Ever.

My mind, though, is also dwelling on St. Valentine who, as we all know now, was a priest who got couples married even when there was a national ban on marriage when King Claudius hoped to get more men to fight his wars in ancient Rome. For this, he was martyred. Married people don’t like to be away from their spouses, well, ban marriage!

What does this have to do with homeschooling? A lot, John Taylor Gatto would say.

My introduction to homeschooling has been different from the typical path. For whatever reason, I was drawn to it when the idea first entered my head when we left Pollock Pines. I was still pregnant with my second baby and Bombie was a year old.

I was picking up books at the local library when an unschooling mom stopped to chat with me because she saw the books I was buying. She had her totally unselfconscious and confident children with her. She encouraged me to read writers like John Holt and John Taylor Gatto and join an unschooling network.

I hadn’t the faintest idea what I was getting into. And here we are about a year and a half later and I’m now trying to decide between charter schools or “pure” homeschool.

Some places go as far as to say that if you’re using a charter, you’re not homeschooling, you’re doing “independent study.” I’m beginning to lean that way as well. Something inside me completely revolts at the idea of someone from a government agency walking into my house and “letting me” buy only what is according to certain guidelines.

While the money is nice to be able to buy curricula, if I can’t teach my children anything Christian unless it’s “over and above” their usual coursework, then what’s the point?

I also read while browsing various Charter School websites that the education specialist / teacher / state representative stops by to give you your ordered material and talk to your children about what they’re being taught. I know, I know. I’m sure it’s done in a completely non-threatening way and the representative is not personally the mean guy, so to speak, but the very idea of it gives me a visceral reaction.

So, I guess it makes me one of the others.

So we’re going to do it. We’re going to step out in faith and really, truly do it. We’re going to homeschool. The Christian way. The way God intended.

I can’t wait!

Like this post? Share it with your friends!