Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 3rd Grade :)

Discipling Our Children at HOME Sweet HOME

God’s Design for Family:

Family is the cornerstone, the basic building block of Christ’s kingdom here on earth. Parents following God’s design must diligently teach their children the things of God at all times, in all places and in all ways (Deut.6:4-7). This builds Christ’s kingdom here on earth. Christian worship, teaching, & ministry is primarily a function of the family. This is God’s design for family.

I love to blog here about how discipleship with our children is a relational process that God designed to happen best at home with parents who can do it better than anyone or anything else. As everyone I know seems to be so sincerely concerned about giving their child every opportunity through various after school activities, and families just seem to keep getting busier outside the home, today I would like to put a plug in for……..staying HOME! I will share what God is showing me about building up our homes–the living breathing God given places for discipleship to occur–for the highest purpose of reaching and influencing other families for God.

Books written by the wonderful authors, Sally and Clay Clarkson, wisely speak on building a home according to God’s design. If you were only going to buy one homeschool book, ever, I would tell you to get Educating the Whole Hearted Child, by the Clarksons, as it is a foundational book for any Christian homeschool. It has all encompassing information on how to set up a Christian homeschool, but is also filled with the most heartfelt and wise words of mentorship from a family whose grasp on God’s design for the family is amazing. I have been engrossed in its very meaty content for months now. Sally, who coaches younger mothers in the calling of motherhood, also has a few different books that teach how mothers build their homes as homemakers. In her book, the Mission of Motherhood, she exhorts, “the task of building our homes into places of beauty and life that will feed the hearts, souls, and minds of our children is the most comprehensive task to which God has called us as mothers. We are called quite literally to be “home makers.” When we homemakers think “build up our homes,” we can think of lovingly and daily building it with our own hands and words.

HomeMakers Beautify Their Homes, and Beautiful Homes Nurture Children’s Spirits

Lately, when I think of our own home, I think of cozy candle light, afternoon or evening tea times, always homemade food, the aroma of apple cider or popcorn, daddy’s Bible drills and Saturday morning omelette specialties, hearts joining over family reads like Heaven is For Real, hearing bare feet running up and down the hall, craft time extravaganzas, nature park collections lighting up the mantel and tables with seasonal decor, and intensely celebrated movie nights and game nights. It hasn’t always been this way. When we were first married, we lived in a barren one bedroom apartment and had almost no traditions. Home has come a long way for us, but it hasn’t happened overnight. As He so masterfully does, God pulled on our hearts, and is centering us on home and the building up a strong sense of family, and we are delighted with His increasing creative expression of beauty in our home. Having a home that is welcoming and beautiful happens to be a Cravalho family core value, and little by little the walls of our home reverberate more with the life of God. As Sally Clarkson says, “God is a God of creativity and dimension, and so He is pleased when we we co-create beauty in our own realm, through the power of His Spirit. It was a profound realization when I understood that I could become an artist with my very life.” As homemakers, we can make our home interesting, captivating, colorful, creative, and full of life.

The activities and traditions that we have at home are not just fun family “things to do”, they are the platform for ministry to our children, as a real life tangible expression of the life of God. As our children’s 5 senses are nurtured at home through these types of cozy sights, sounds, and experiences, their soul’s need for joy and delight is satisfied, which opens the door for their spirit to be reached. All that is done at home–from tea time to decorating to holiday traditions– is for the purpose of nurturing the life of God into the souls of our children, so that they want to know and follow Him. An inviting home provides access to our children’s spirits, and is therefore a strong foundation for discipleship. A home is a cistern from which our children may willingly choose to quench their thirst, rather than anywhere else in the world, if it is indeed a fountain of life.

We can give our children reasons to always think of home as the best place to be. Working hard to make home as fun as possible helps form strong family ties (rather than friends houses or outside activities being the greater draw). Rich family literature, family movie nights, game nights, tea times, traditions, and special homemade foods all help to enrich home and family life. When we make our homes vibrant and warm, we are nurturing our children’s spirits and winning their hearts.

A Home is Perfectly Designed to Reach the Lost

Families need to be together on several levels: at home as a faithful family, fellowshipping at church with other faithful families, and ministering to the world as a faithful family. I really want me and my family to be used by God. Yet, I always feel like my time is too tied up with small children to be of any use to the ministry of my church. However, as a Christian, I feel the never ceasing pull of the call of the Great Commission. My predicament knaws away at me because I was heart and soul involved in church ministry before children. Ideally, I know that now with children, I would want to serve in some way that would directly feed into the discipleship process of my children, but I can’t find any church ministry that can be done very easily side by side with a 1, 4, and 5 year old! Why is finding time to serve at church and wholeheartedly raising a house full of children always at such odds with each other? Must I choose one or the other? Hello, home based family driven ministry! God can use the building up that is occuring in our home through homeschool and various family practices, the very things we have our hands and hearts tied up in anyway, to be a main source of ministry–ministry that is easy and natural to do in this season of life because its at home, not church.

An awesome champion for families and author of Family Driven Faith, Voddie Baucham Jr., describes how the love that grows in a home following God’s pattern for family, produces an exquisitely attractive expression of ministry. He says, “Our homes must be rife with the aroma of love. Those who visit us should notice immediately that they have left the world of self-serving, egocentric narcissism and have entered a safe harbor where people value and esteem others above themselves. Outsiders should enter our homes and never want to leave. Our neighbors should find excuses to visit us just to get another whiff of the fragrant aroma of love. The brokenhearted should long to be near us. The downtrodden and the abused should seek us out. Families on the brink of disaster should point to us and say, “Why can’t our home be like that?” A home made beautiful by its inhabitants and their infectious love for each other and Jesus, is how God designed families to effectively and powerfully live out Jesus’ Great Commission.

Sally Clarkson likes to share personal “In Our Home” snippets that bring her family lifestyle to life for the reader. She explains how her family purposely sets apart some time to meet with the Lord during an evening of fellowship with visiting guests, and how that simple act of ministry has served as an instrumental form of discipleship in her children’s lives. Sally shares, “There is always the challenge to balance fun and faith, but we regularly have other families over and dedicate part of our evening to talking about the Lord, sharing testimonies, singing hymns and praise songs, and praying together. Even if we keep the time short, it still creates an indelible mark on our children’s spirits. Even now that they are older, they still remember times of significant spiritual fellowship, if only because such times are becoming more rare in our isolated culture.” Her words have stayed with me for months. The way that the Clarkson’s use their home to reach out to others really makes perfect sense to me. They embody true family ministry, and the higher purpose that God designs families for. Ministry doesn’t have to involve running around in separate directions all the time if we think of the home as the major source of outreach, rather than the church. Families can simply live a vibrant life rich in God, making their home life an irresistable fragrant aroma, and then invite people in to experience the sweet reality of God present in their family driven faith– all so that other families may “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

From a good old fashioned book of Acts house meeting rounded out with food and fun, to an intimate little family gathering with grandparents, any type of gathering can be used to glorify God in our homes. Our personal new family goal for gatherings is to bring everyone before God in some meaningful way, no matter who comes over–family, friends, or strangers. If the things Sally described as part of her family culture, aren’t a regular part of our family ways, then it would be an awkward effort to try to drum such a thing up for company. However, if its just what we always do at our house anyway, then replicating it will provide a natural, authentic, and wonderful experience for our unsaved (or saved!) guests to taste and see the life of God that flows in our home. And no need to worry or strive– “demonstrating God” to outsiders can be very simple. We just begin with whatever we normally do together as a family. For example, since our family is currently reading Heaven is For Real, we can include our guests in our after dinner chapter read aloud; we could read from the Bible as we usually do in the evening, or pick a slip of paper out of our Giving Jar–because its what we do in the evening together anyway. Whatever naturally flows out of the life we have built up together in this season is what we can share. What an easy way to share our faith! If we didn’t normally and regularly do the things Sally mentioned in our home at night as a family, then it won’t likely transpire with any authenticity when guests are visiting. I believe that a gathering without any Jesus time should be considered a shame, since inviting people to share in the life of God that flows in the unique way that it does at your house or my house, is the easiest and most powerfully effective witness that a family has.

Being able to minister to others as a family all starts with holding regular family worship/devotions. Pastor Voddie explains the importance of family worship, “Reading and memorizing Scripture and the catechisms of the church [as a family together at home] results in incredible development of children, both spiritually and intellectually. What families regard as important is evidenced by the manner in which they spend their time. Therefore, regular family worship shows the children that their parents believe that Jesus Christ is central to all of life. This practice leaves a legacy that will benefit thousands in generations to come.” If we share with people the natural ouflow of our homeschool gleanings and family life of worship, we are using what God has given us for His glory, and will experience the exquisite joy of being a family that can ministers to others together. I believe that ministering through our homes, together with our children, will be the most instrumental of discipleship experiences that we can offer our children.

Home Discipleship is Awesome!

To operate and grow in all 3 levels of togetherness–at home as a faithful family, fellowshipping at church with other faithful families, and ministering to the world as a faithful family–obviously takes much time spent together! Building a home of family driven faith requires spending considerable time at home. Does our current schedule, choices, and priorities allow for these 3 levels to become a reality in our lives? Do we find ourselves saying, “I don’t have time!” Lets be careful of the “good things” we are involved in that may be eating up our time, and taking up the place of “better things.” I challenge us all to bring our children home more, for deeper and more regular strategic discipleship influence. If you don’t feel convinced yet, just pick up a copy of Educating the Wholehearted Child and read chapter 3, Home Nurture; or chapter 10, Discipleship Studies Methods: The Study of the Bible. Those two chapters especially opened my eyes to see just how big this job of discipling is! Just to skim the surface of what is discussed, let me list some of the areas that God can use us to disciple our children:

  • hold regular family devotions
  • help our children form personal devotion habits
  • train them in the gift of grace by ministering hospitality to neighbors together
  • train them how to listen for God’s voice in the Word and in prayer
  • teach them how to search the scriptures using Bible study helps (commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, concordances, etc.)
  • engage the family in dinner table talks surrounding Biblical topics
  • create a fun home Bible club or weekly scripture memory challenge/drill
  • read inspiring biographies about heroes of the faith together
  • create and practice our own list of family values
  • get involved in a regular service project together
  • volunteer as a family for a church ministry
  • make care packages or write pen pals to get involved in world missions
  • give to the needy

Awesome (and time consuming!) responsibility moms and dads!!! Just envision how much God can do through our families when we decide to make the time to go deeper. Help us to go there Jesus!

As I study the words of family coaches like the Clarksons and Pastor Voddie, I envision a home with an atmosphere of great drawing power–both on our children and anyone in our life who may need Jesus. I am realizing how a family that spends a lot of time together at home is able to better tend and nurture the children’s spirits, as well as win their hearts for the purpose of discipleship. I am realizing how important a strong home is in order to disciple children, as well as reach out to others. I am realizing that the nature and extent of parents’ commitment to nurture, disciple, and educate their children will dramatically effect their view of home, how much time they spend at home, and how they choose to spend their time at home.

Home is where the heart is, and home is where we can best reach our children. It is our homes that give God the most undistracted access to our children’s hearts and minds. The home is a God designed dynamic learning environment for children. Therefore, we as a family commit to being at home, together, a lot, in order to build our home. We desire a slower paced environment and atmosphere in our home, where our children can soak and drink deeply of God, rather than us always rushing in and out, building up much of our lives outside of home, and separately. With some intentional thought, we can make our home a place that our children prefer over any other place. With the holidays coming, it might just be the right time for all of us to slow down and cozy up together at home, work on beautifying and warming up the atmosphere, open up our homes to minister through hospitality, while seeking God to expand our vision of home discipleship.

Love you.

Picking Popcorn at Ardenwood Historic Farm

Picking Popcorn at Ardenwood Historic Farm

Happy Harvest

Happy Harvest

Nature Boy

Nature Boy

Happy 4th Birthday Faithy!

Happy 4th Birthday Faithy!

Big Boy

Big Boy

Good Daddy

Good Daddy

I Want to be a Diver When I Grow Up (and an astronaut)

I Want to be a Diver When I Grow Up (and an astronaut)

Learning how to spell and sound out "space"

Learning how to spell and sound out “space”

Noah's Pyramid Idea

Noah’s Pyramid Idea

Daniel's Praying Hands

Daniel’s Praying Hands

Do I Have to Mommy?

Must I Mommy?

Noah's Block Pyramid Idea

Noah’s Block Pyramid Idea

Craft Extravaganzas, My Favorite Moments

Craft Extravaganzas, My Favorite Moments

A Kid Inspired Project

A Kid Inspired Project

Putting Some Blessings Together for Our Neighbors

Putting Some Blessings Together for Our Neighbors

All Ready!

All Ready to Go!

Sweet Karla Invited Us to Play on Her Putting Green

Sweet Neighbor Karla Invited Us to Play on Her Backyard Putting Green

Astronaut Faith

Astronaut Noah at the Chabot Space and Science Center

Astronaut Noah

Astronaut Faith

In the Mercury Capsule

In the Mercury Capsule

At the Nature Park on a Rainy Day

At the Nature Park on a Rainy Day

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The Creek is Flowing Again!

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Free Play is Wonderful!

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This is Pretty Much How We Look at the End of the Day

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Costumed Cuties and Our Giant Homegrown Pumpkin

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Blasting Off in Our Cardboard Rocket

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Three in a Row!

Daniel at School

Daniel at School

What Can I Say?

“What Can I Say?”

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Adventures in Nature

Golf at the Nature Park

Golf at the Nature Park

Fall Finds

Fall Finds are Gorgeous

Faith and Mommy's Leaf Turkey

Faith and Mommy’s Leaf Turkey

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My Beautiful Mother on Her 70th Birthday

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Noah’s Tree Study in his Nature Journal

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My Nature Journal in Progress

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Awesome Rocket Art

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Dinner and Stories with Neighbor Doris

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Daniel’s Finally Starting to Walk!

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Noah’s Number Arrangements for 6, 7, & 8 (a design with combinations, which enable you to quickly determine what number it is)

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Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Decides to Make a Play Dough Megalith

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So sweet how Faith brushes Daniel’s hair every morning, and he loves it.

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King and …..Queen??? History is Getting Weird.

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Shape Puzzles Were the Perfect Math Challenge for Faith

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Beautiful Fairytales

The Value of Imaginative Literature in Character Education

I love that homeschool affords our children constant opportunity to learn how to discern between good and evil, right and wrong. Character education involves moving children deeply with sympathy for the good and repugnance for the evil, and inspiring them to act in accordance with these perceptions. This is rarely accomplished by preaching at children or moralizing to them. Although I am sure we feel that we make some really good points in our mommy “sermons” :), our children can instead be most inspired to be good by seeing goodness lived out in their parents, and also by reading and “living out” the ideas present in great stories depicting moral character. Reading biographies of historical heroes is one effective way to approach character education, and since I have previously discussed the value of historical heroes on my blog, today we will look into the value of imaginative literature such as fairy stories and folk tales.

Olive Beaupre, editor of My Book House, explains how the story of Cinderella, for example, evokes children to hate evil and side with good:

It has been said that fairy tales give many children their first clear perception of the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, and at their best this is certainly true. No child can sympathize deeply with the patience and gentleness and sweetness of Cinderella and hate the selfishness and vanity of the stepsisters, without all unconsciously registering a definite and lasting impression which forms a permanent part of his ideals.

Properly selected imaginative tales with good morals intertwined feed our children’s moral imaginations with portrayals of courage and faith, strength and perseverance, honesty and loyalty, which is motivation for character growth. According to Olive Beaupre:

Beginning with his earliest fairy tales, the child commences to see in his stories, quite without any drawing of morals or particular direction of his attention to the fact, what qualities are splendid and noble, what qualities are base and ignoble, and for the very reason that the tale does entertain him, does interest him so intensely and move him to the very depths of his being, the impression left by the story is far more lasting and permanent than any sermon that could be preached on the subject, and constitutes itself an influence upon him greater than any other one thing which comes into his life, except the ideas and ideals that surround him in his own home, which, it must never be forgotten, leave the most telling marks upon his character.

Character education done through the programs run at our local schools, such as Character Counts!, has little effect on moral imagination (sometimes neither does the character education component that comes out of a boxed homeschool curriculum for that matter). Regrettably, simplistic little morality tales seem to be preferred by school educators over rich, complex literature. School Character Education Programs also favor practical and realistic stories that have a distilled moral message containing plainly stated values and principles. Character training is a dose of spoon fed medicine. The stories have no beauty or imaginative quality to draw readers in, or draw them back to revisit and contemplate ideas further, and so the stories are disposable……and that is exactly how the children’s conscience handles them. Even when character education curricula include impressive pieces of writing, the works tend to be used for the purpose of drumming in simple lessons. School character education methods often don’t engage students in critical thinking discussions either. For sake of time, or lack of faith in the children’s powers of mind, a teacher might state plainly, “This man is a hero; do what he did,” for example, rather than involving the students in deciding who (if anyone) is heroic in a given story, and why. At school or at home, character education is sorely deficient if we don’t use proper literature or allow  ideas to germinate within a child’s soul.

I am glad that homeschool can be so different. Heart to heart discussions surrounding rich literature selections, occurring under the guidance of the all knowing Holy Spirit, can actually be the norm. A life hewn out of such experiences at home will be magnificently distinctive.

Character, the real object of all reading……let there be beauty, sweetness, and light

Rather than teach ethics from literature that reads somewhat like a “how to” manual, there is a better way. But what stories will we choose to stimulate and sharpen a child’s moral imagination? Many parents today don’t read original fairy tales to their children because they are simply too harsh, violent, scary, or downright evil. And as cute as they may appear, Disney’s versions are actually too full of bad values. Modern fairy tales, while they may lack some of the more objectionable features of the old stories, are sentimental and wishywashy, and lack also all the splendid and convincing sincerity, vitality and strength of the folk tales. The old folk and fairy tales, properly weeded, still remain the real solid foundation for a child’s reading. However, children’s stories must be carefully selected. Too many stories have competing messages in them and Olive Beaupre feels that this essentially contributes to marred character development:

……smug self-satisfaction, their mental and spiritual laziness, to express in their various relationships and lines of activity, all the subtle dishonesty, selfishness, littleness, bigotry, superstition, conventionality, narrowness, envy, hatred and greed of a flourishing and unchallenged but well veiled and covered evil, that all too frequently wears the cloak of righteousness and respectability.

As my faith in the value of great imaginative literature has grown, naturally I have increasingly sought out good fairy tales, but it has proven to be a difficult process of elimination! Its been hard to sort through books of fairy tales to try to find ones that would not just be safe to read, but also provide a feast of sweet and noble ideas for my impressionable little ones. I want so much to feed the imaginations of the little people in this house with beautiful tales that I know must exist somewhere!!

Well, finally I found a true gem…… My Book House. Olive Beaupre and her compilation of literature in My Book House has recently graced my life, and is now helping to fill that growing desire for literature that awakens moral imagination. My Book House is a 6 volume, age leveled, anthology of children’s stories, compiled in the 1920s by Olive Beaupre who carefully selected stories for their literary quality and good morals. There are indeed great selections. Now, let me mention, I still pre-screen unfamiliar selections, because Olive and I don’t see eye to eye on everything of course, but, at least I won’t be throwingout 80% of what I am finding, like my pre-screening of other fairy tale compilations from the library.

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Here is a little more about My Book House in the words of the author, Olive Beaupre:

In My BOOK HOUSE, I have tried to give children the best in literature, gathered from the greatest authors of the past and present, and from our rich heritage of old folk tales, told from generation to generation in every country in the world. But I have selected those stories with care. Avoiding those tales where evil traits of character, such as lying and cheating to gain one’s ends, have been made to appear good, I have chosen only those where truly desirable qualities invite the child’s admiration. I have tried also to grade all this material as wisely as possible, that the child might have the right story at the right age, and to put it forth so beautifully illustrated that it would be irresistable to him. Here, in these twelve volumes, adult and child can enter, hand-in-hand, a wonderful realm of imagination and beauty, portrayed in the best literary forms of verse and prose….

The permanent value of My BOOK HOUSE arises from the fact that at the time of its inception, I had no pet theory of education to advance…. I was in search of fundamentals, simple fundamentals, which must remain eternally true. Chaos then existed and is, unfortunately, still permitted to exist, in the realm of reading for children. They were being given stories, ethically sound, all jumbled up with those where the ethical slant was bad, and stories for the older children were being read to the child when he was too young, overwhelming him with fright and confusion by presenting to him characters and situations far beyond his understanding at the moment. Out of this chaos I was trying to bring order, an order that could never be disturbed. So let me review a few basic principles, with which I emerged from my search and on which I built My BOOK HOUSE.

First,–To be well equipped for life, to have ideas and the ability to express them, the child needs a broad background of familiarity with the best in literature.

Second,–His stories and rhymes must be selected with care that he may absorb no distorted view of life and its actual values, but may grow up to be mentally clear about values and emotionally impelled to seek what is truly desirable and worthwhile in human living.

Third,–The stories and rhymes selected must be graded to the child’s understanding at different periods of his growth, graded as to vocabulary, as to subject matter and as to complexity of structure and plot.

Good news! Great Classic Literature Can Be Found Free Online

The rich literature that I have spoken of in this post are, not surprisingly, primarily older works, which happens to be advantageous to homeschoolers trying to operate on a budget. My Book House, for example, being an older book, is in the public domain and can be read as an e-text for free at Google Books. Volume 1 is for the youngest children, starting out with poetry for baby, and gradually moving into longer pieces for small children. Its the perfect volume for my 3 year old. My 5 year old I think could happily stew in volumes 1, 2 and 3 right now at his age and ability. By the way, if you decide to look into My Book House, The Twin Lambs in Volume 1 (page 255), is a thought provoking story about selfishness, and one of my favorites so far.

Volume 1: In the Nursery of My Book House

Volume 2: Up One Pair of Stairs in My Book House

Volume 3: Through The Fairy Halls of My Book House

Volume 4: The Treasure Chest of My Book House

Volume 5: From the Tower Window of My Book House

Volume 6: The Latch Key of My Book House (a volume mostly for parents and teachers)

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ALSO volumes 1-4 can be listened to at Librivox.com, a site with free audio books! Since discovering this great resource, audio books have quickly become a part of our family life as they increase my kids exposure to literature, and are so helpful for homeschooling (mommy can only read so much in a day!), at no extra cost to us! Beware that not all volunteers on Librivox are excellent readers, and some can greatly detract from the story, so be choosy and preview first.

Other Character Education Resources:

The Book of Virtues

Also check out The Book of Virtues out from your library for help selecting literature that addresses specific areas of character. Helpful for planning out character training (ie habit training) for homeschool next year since the book is organized by character trait:

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“Responsibility. Courage. Compassion. Honesty. Friendship. Persistence. Faith. Everyone recognizes these traits as essentials of good character. In order for our children to develop such traits, we have to offer them examples of good and bad, right and wrong. And the best places to find them are in great works of literature and exemplary stories from history.William J. Bennett has collected hundreds of stories in The Book of Virtues, an instructive and inspiring anthology that will help children understand and develop character — and help adults teach them. From the Bible to American history, from Greek mythology to English poetry, from fairy tales to modern fiction, these stories are a rich mine of moral literacy, a reliable moral reference point that will help anchor our children and ourselves in our culture, our history, and our traditions — the sources of the ideals by which we wish to live our lives. Complete with instructive introductions and notes, The Book of Virtues is a book the whole family can read and enjoy — and learn from — together.”
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Laying Down the Rails and Laying Down the Rails Companion Books

If you have money to splurge, don’t forget about these great Simply Charlotte Mason resources, also organized by character trait/habit:

Laying Down the Rails: “Our bestselling book on habit training! Here, compiled into one volume, are all the habits Charlotte mentioned in her writings with her thoughts and suggestions for cultivating each one. This work also includes Charlotte’s help for breaking bad habits, hundreds of inspiring quotes, and lots of practical tips.”

Companion Books: “A habit-training companion for the whole family filled with more than 400 pages of stories, Bible passages, poems, activities, quotations—living ideas that will nestle into your children’s minds and motivate them toward the habits of good character. Corresponds to the award-winning book, Laying Down the Rails.

The Millers Series

I keep hearing great things about The Millers books. “Storytime” is the most simply written, perfect for using first with young children. All the books seem awesome, but “Wisdom” and “Missionary Stories” are especially popular with homeschool families.

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Storytime with the Millers: “Amos and his brothers learn a valuable lesson about returning good for evil in the story “The Indians and the Cookies.” Paul, a 3-year-old farm boy, nearly loses his life through disobedience. Betty learns the hard way, that being bossy is not much fun! Storytime with the Millers” tells these stories and others, for preschool and primary-aged children.”

Wisdom and the Millers: “Make Proverbs come alive for the children in your home, church, or school! Here is a character building collection of lively, inspirational stories. Each chapter explains and illustrates a passage from the book of Proverbs, along with a story based on true life experiences. Follow the four “Miller” children as they learn great truths of life and wisdom; sometimes through their parents’ stories, and sometimes the hard way!”

 Pictures From March– Theme: ‘I am a Helper’

Reading Lessons

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Practicing Being Helpers at School

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Pulling Weeds for the Neighbors

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At the Nature Park After a Good Rain with Friends Garrett, Max, and Ryker

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Growing Patterns

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Lovin’ My Brother

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First Day Sitting Up

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Beauty, Sweetness, and Light

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Nothing More Precious Than Little Ones Holding Little Ones

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The Little Red Hen Asks Us For Help

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A Fun Addition to “Recess” Time at School

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Pure Joy

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A Pond With Tadpoles (and Cows) Found!

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A Backyard Birthday Campout for Daddy

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My First Math Graph

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Happy 5th Birthday Tayler!

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Running Laps In the Rain

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Another Weeding Day

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Such a Hard Worker that He Got Paid For Weeding

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A Favorite Center for All: Retelling Goldilocks and the Three Bears

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Big Laughs

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So Excited About Thunder, Lightning, and Hail

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Food, Yucky! Still Nursing 100%

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Love My Helpers

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Our First Few Days of School

It has been a beautiful beginning to the school year here at Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs! We are learning that God knows all his sheep by name, that our Creator knows us even before He formed us in the womb, and that we are so special because we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God our Maker. Our “I am Special/ I am a Child of God” theme for September helps to get the school year started with the important focus of viewing ourselves through God’s eyes. It is a well timed message. As homeschool starts up this year with some new and higher expectations, Noah has been sending out a few distress signals. I don’t know if you can relate to hearing the “I can’t” statement from one or more of your kids? In order to excel this year, and not crumble under the pressure, our kids first need to be sure deep down that their inherent God given worth far exceeds any value we place on their academic accomplishment.

You Are Special by Max Lucado, a book I read to Noah recently, speaks right to the heart of children when they struggle to believe in themselves. Punchinello, a small wooden character in the story, learns that he needs to meet regularly with his Carver in order to have literal gray dots of negativity, doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of failure fall right off of him. Just like Punchinello, we too need to be reminded of how much we are cherished by our Maker, and that no matter how we feel one day, or what we can or can not accomplish in life, God really loves us all the same. And these tender reminders are the beautiful gifts of a real relationship with our Maker built on regular quiet times together. The book You Are Special is such a poignant reminder of a person’s true worth apart from all striving and accomplishment for our children………and definitely for us moms too.

So instead of whimpering at the thought of tackling a difficult task or lesson, Noah goes to have some alone time in his room talking to God about it until he feels confident enough to try again. Thankfully, Noah is learning at a young age how to meet with God in quiet time whenever he feels daunted, so that his mind can be renewed with God’s thoughts about who he is and what he can accomplish through Jesus’ strength in him. We don’t just wait for problems to surface before seeking the Lord though. We make sure to meet with God separately and all together each morning so that God may bring out the best in us all day long–whether it be confidence, kindness, obedience, patience, grateful attitudes, etc. I can attest that a day built around time with the Lord, is a day that does not unravel. I thank God that homeschool allows for such life changing lessons to occur any day, any time, and just as the Lord leads.

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At the beginning of the school year, I love figuring out a flow for the day in order to maximize our homeschooling hours. Here is a peek into what has been working for us in Little Lambs!

Our Tuesday/Thursday School Schedule

Before 8:30 am, we do our jobs (make bed, get dressed, etc.), have personal time with God, and eat breakfast.

8:30-9:00

Math Exploration Time–play with math materials on the carpet

9:00-9:45

Circle Time–Prayer, Worship, Bible Story and Coloring Binders

9:45-10:30

Centers Time–Math, Word or Sentence Building, Handwriting

10:30-11:00

Snack Time–Calendar, Poem, Memory Verse, Classical Art and Music Exposure

11:00-11:30

Outside Time

11:30-12:15

Group Project–“I am Special” Books, art projects, cooking projects, science experiments, community outreach projects

12:15-1:15

Lunch Time

1:15-2:00

Independent Reading Time

Reading Practice in Readers

Story Time

2:00-3:30

Quiet Time in Bedrooms–worship music, time alone with God, nap, independent emergent pretend play, read books, workbooks, play dough, cutting, coloring, etc.

Our Mon/Wed/Fri Non-School Day Schedule

We do Circle Time first thing after getting dressed, and then about 20 minutes of lessons either before or after breakfast. Lessons are varied– reading lessons from our Delightful Reading curriculum, math, handwriting, drawing, or fun stuff like dot to dot worksheets and dot painting. The rest of the morning Noah and Faith play at home and help out with chores (like sorting and putting away laundry), or we go out to run errands, play in nature, or go somewhere fun. Our afternoons follow the same schedule as school days.

First Day Back to Homeschool Pic

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Faith’s First Year of Preschool, 2 years & 10 months–Bold and Confident!

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Handwriting Lessons

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Our first handwriting word of the year

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Transferring our writing to paper

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Wow, perfection!!

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Take a Picture of Me Too Mommy

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Math Lessons

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Bible Lessons

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So proud of Noah’s Bible story coloring work!

His narration (drawn) while listening to “Adam and Eve Disobey God” surprised me. My little boy never draws pictures! His drawing, or lack of, has actually been disconcerting enough that I took it to God in prayer–“please help Noah to draw!”. Praise God for caring about all the little things!

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Our Personalized Memory Verse Box from Gifts and Talents at Etsy

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Calendar Girl

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So Exciting, Tayler Can Ride a Bike Now Too!

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Working Hard on Our “I am Special” Books

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The Highlight of My Week

Noah started dusting the house with his doggie washcloth, even removing and replacing items off of furniture in order to clean the surface. He told me, “we need to help you dust mommy because you don’t do it that much.” Ha!! (How did he know?) Then he vacuumed the living room and said, “Is there anything else I can do for you mommy?” Four days away from my due date, I couldn’t have been more thankful. Doesn’t God use our children to minister to us? Just when I was silently feeling sorry for myself because of my workload at 9 months pregnant, God turns my little boy into an angel sent to encourage me. With his confident accomplishments in school lessons, kindness, and Godly servant attitude, I couldn’t have been prouder of Noah from morning until night that whole day. I love you so much Noah!!!

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Hold Onto Your Kids–Book Review Part IV

I have been reading like a fiend!!! I hope you have been doing some reading as well! Although I finished the book Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers quite awhile ago, I want to go back and finish up my review on this book because I think the next batch of information will be helpful to you. Some of you have told me that you are thinking about reading this book now and I am so pleased that my reviews have done their job. : D Hopefully after reading the last 3 reviews on Hold Onto Your Kids, you are convinced of the necessary attached parent-child relationship. Now its time to get to the ‘discipline that does not divide’ part, and what I think is the BEST part of the book, the practical ideas for keeping your children close.

Discipline Methods Need to Preserve Attachment

In our quick fix culture with its focus on short term results, the be-all and the end-all is the behavior itself. If we gain compliance, even if only temporarily, we deem the method successful. Time outs, tough love, 1-2-3 Magic, withdrawl of privileges, according to author Gordon Neufeld, are tactics that can strain the relationship. Yes, children need discipline, but developmentally safe and attachment friendly discipline (Neufeld outlines his seven principles of natural discipline in the book). The current trend in parenting literature is to offer parenting strategies or skills. This is far too definitive and limiting on a task as complex and subtle as parenting. They insult the intelligence of the parent and the child. Relationships don’t lend themselves to strategies. Neufeld believes the fad of timeouts as a means of behavior control makes more problems than it solves. It is effective because it triggers the child’s worst fear–abandonment. Separation would have little impact if closeness was not important to the child. Separation techniques used the relationship against the child. After time out, a well attached child will promise to be good, but only to restore the relationship, not out of genuine understanding or contrition.

So we must consider whether the way we do timeouts really do teach a child a lesson or make him consider the error of his ways. The high cost of playing the separation card is insecurity. Under such conditions the child experiences no release, no rest from the drive to attach, and , therefore, no freedom for the emergence of his individuality and independence, The child will be very “good”, but will also be devoid of emergent energy. The ultimate consequences of that separation technique attacks a young child at his most vulnerable point–his need to stay attached to his parents. Sooner or later the child may protect himself against the pain of being wounded in this way and he will shut down emotionally, or resist contact with the parent.  A child defending himself against the vulnerability of separation may hide under the bed or in the closet and rebuff overtures by the parents for reconciliation. Or in anticipation of trouble, she may run to her room or demand to be left alone. In one way or another, the experience of separation will trigger a child’s instinct to detach from us.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of Neufelds reasoning in the area of discipline because I believe that the Bible is correct in its teaching that children need punishment. What I did take away from Neufeld’s ideas is that I should be drawing Faith and Noah to myself as much as possible when they are acting out before going the separation route. Noah flips out when I try to give him time outs and I find them to be really hard to do with him anyway. I really dislike the effectiveness of timeouts. Timeouts have become time-ins with God here– Bible in hand and prayers of forgiveness on lips. These time-ins go much better. I have noticed that whenever I draw closer in relationship to Noah as opposed to coming down on him harder when he is going through a rough period, things always smooth out.

So I think it is true that connecting, rather than isolating, should be our main go to discipline method. Yah, brother blew up at his sister, but don’t feel like you need to whip out a quick fix discipline strategy. Connect, go on a walk, do an activity together, and then really talk it over together. Discipline is not mere short term compliance, it is a teaching of the heart that really sinks in. A failure to collect a child (bring him emotionally back to you) should be a reminder to us to back off a preoccupation with conduct and to focus our effort and attention on building the relationship. Another similar point Neufeld made helped me–If the force of discipline you are applying is greater than the strength of your attachment relationship, the discipline will backfire. Discipline can only be as effective as the relationship is strong.

Enjoy Your Child

So many things about our culture suck the enjoyment right out of parenting, and yet, our enjoyment of our child is key to feeding our child’s attachment to us. Neufeld believes that “….if we saw the situation clearly, we would realize that in our culture it’s a knock-out-drag-out, no-holds-barred, no-quarter-given, winner-take-all and loser-gets-nuthin’, devil-take-the hindmost struggle for our kids hearts and minds!” Christians know this very well already as we spiritually battle against the “prince of the air”, satan and the demons who rule and dwell in the atmosphere and cultures of the earth (Ephesians 2:2). In today’s culture we have less margin for error than parents ever had before.

How shall we collect or reclaim our children, draw them under our wing, and make sure they want to belong to us and not another? The good news is our God given natures tell us exactly how to do this. Its like a courtship dance. With infants, the antics we go through to secure their attention and their smile is hilarious and obvious. This same idea of wooing and relationship building with an older child needs to be present, usually just less obvious. Smile, use a warm tone, let there be a twinkle in your eye, value her simply for her with no other agendas. Too often, the older children become, the more likely we are to get in their faces only when something goes wrong.When we look at how we speak to our older child, it is usually to get her to do something, teach her something, or somehow change her behavior. How often is it about just being together and enjoying her?

“My Kids Drive Me Crazy!”

A highly insecure child can be exhaustingly demanding of time and attention. “Let me have a break,” is our plea, not more engagement. The conundrum is that attention given at the request of the child is never satisfactory: it leaves an uncertainty that the parent is only responding to demands, not voluntarily giving of herself to the child. The demands only escalate. The solution is to seize the moment when the child is not making a demand. Or express greater enthusiasm than the child expects: “Oh, that’s a great idea. I was wondering how we could spend some time together! I am so glad you thought of that.” Take the child by surprise, make him feel that he is the one receiving the invitation. This is one of my favorite concepts of the book: “The more breaks we take, the less attached children are to us. The irony is that they become more difficult to parent–and therefore the more breaks we need from them!” This to me is one of the saddest conundrums I hear everywhere from parents today: I need regular breaks from my kids in order to enjoy them more.

Collect Your Children; Bring Them to You

As our culture erodes, the structures and rituals that protect family life and the sacredness of the parent-child relationship are also gradually eroded. What are some structures and rituals I can put back into my family to protect our relationships? How do I keep my children under my wing, and wanting to belong with me?

1. Make greetings a priority and a must, just like in Provencal culture. A greeting should collect the eyes, a smile, and a nod. To ignore this step is a costly mistake. We do this with friends and family, whenever Daddy gets home from work, and even when mommy returns from an errand.

2. Give connection before direction (and discipline). Sit down and reestablish a connection with your child (taking just a few seconds to a minute) he is while playing, reading, watching tv, or doing homework before asking him to do something else. “Hi! What are you playing? That looks fun!……Ok buddy, lets get to the table for dinner.” If the attachment is strong, this shouldn’t take long.

3. Properly collect your child in the morning after sleep and this will start the day right. Early morning is cuddle and devotion time here at our house, and it always sets the right tone for the day. Holding a child and eliciting smiles first thing is a most fruitful family custom.

4. Spontaneity, surprise, and initiative are vital to collection. Things that are expected can not collect a child. Birthday gifts or expected rewards are more associated with the situation or event, not with the relationship. Its about conveying spontaneous delight in the child’s very being–not when he is asking for anything, but when he is not.

5. Invite dependance. We push and pull our children in a thousand little ways to grow up, hurrying them along to dress themselves, feed themselves, entertain themselves, solve their own problems–we champion independence. Unwittingly we push their natural need for dependence off of us, and it then transfers to their peers. Can you imagine the effect on wooing another adult in courtship with the message, “Don’t expect me to help you with anything I think you could or  should be able to do yourself”? Yikes. No we are full of let me help you with that, let me give you a hand. This was a lesson for me concerning my tendancy to push my children too much: “Its time you learned to button your own buttons now Noah!”….before he is even really ready. Our job is to look after and not resist our children’s dependance needs, and when we do, nature is free to take care of its job of promoting maturity. Just like the most basic principles of growth in the garden–don’t pull your little plant up to make it mature, or you can endanger his attachment roots and fruitfulness, and cause him to transplant into peer orientation.

6. Act as a child’s compass point. We fail to act as a guide to those who depend on us if we don’t orient them to the world. Older children still need to know what is going to happen, where we will be, what they will be doing, who this person is, what something means, and who they are (their identity). “This is what we are doing today,” “This is where I will be,” “What I have in mind for this evening is, “I would like you to meet so and so,” “Let me show you how this works,” “This is who to ask if you need help,” “You are the kind of girl who….,” “You have a real gift in….,” “I can see you are going to go far with….”

7. Create structures and restrictions. Structures that restrict what would take our children away from us allow us to collect our children. Have rules and restrictions for tv, computer, telephone, video games, and extracurricular activities. The demand for sleepovers and playdates can get out of hand and so restrictions should be placed on peer contact. Structures work preventatively, and so if they are later imposed by force, it can be damaging to the relationship. Determine what your standards are and put structures in place while you still have the power to do so. I encouraged you all in a past post about Holiness to set your standards high because its easier to lower them later than to raise them.

8. Protect Family Outings and Holidays in order to collect your children. This means friends don’t always need to come on your outings, nor should holidays be a way for adults to get a break from kids (by grouping children with children or even going separate ways on holidays).

9. Family Sit-Down Meals are one of the best ways to regularly collect your child. Don’t let anything encroach on this time. We sit down for dinner all together every night and then try not hop up right afterwards.

Parenting is Sacred

Confidence, patience, faith, and warmth–just to name a few traits–are a prerequisite to successfully achieving an attachment relationship with a child. Perhaps this book makes you feel frustrated wondering how can I possibly be all this to my child?? I believe we need Almighty God, designer of relationships, to infuse his supernatural strength into us to do what we can not do naturally on our own. Make sure your relationship with Jesus is strong so He can fill you up with what you need. Then watch how your relationship with Jesus gives you a strong relationship with your child, and see the gift of that strong parent-child relationship translate into a beautiful relationship between your child and his Heavenly Father. There is no greater gift than to lay down one’s life.

Finally, reach out to the hearts of other parents in your community and join with me in fighting against the erosion of the sacred parent-child relationship. Share knowledge that changes your life. And may God protect our families.

Lord God, Master of Relationships, hold onto us so that we can hold onto our children

Sweet Summertime Family Bonding

Our Hugest Sunflower Ever!

Noah Counting Up Our Corn Harvest

……which ended up in the garbage because it was so tough.

Faithy Pigging Out on Plums Off the Orchard Floor at a U-Pick Farm

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Hold Onto Your Kids–Book Review Part III

To Preschool or Not to Preschool

Preschool time is soon approaching, and perhaps your child is on their way this fall! Perhaps you are excited, or full of mixed emotions about sending your little one off. Whether you feel at ease and your mind is made up, or your eyes moisten at the thought of this new change, read this post, please. (School age parents read too as all this info applies to older children as well) There is so much info and opinions out there supporting a young child going to preschool. Harder to find, but pretty thought provoking, is the information regarding the cons of preschool. In this third review of the book, Hold Onto your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, I will continue to examine the trend of our time: peers replacing parents, but this time in light of another recent trend: sending young children to preschool. Preschool parents of course want to know what preschool will not do for their child, so that mom and dad can do it. For you, here is a firmer foundation to step out on your decision. Honestly, I know very few families not sending their kids to preschool. However, there may be a mom simply following her instincts to keep her young ones home, and yet can’t quite put it into words why it is she is choosing to hold on to her children a little longer. Someone else may be reluctantly keeping a child home for lack of options. For you both, here is some wind to sail through your decision.

Here are several popular beliefs surrounding the decision to preschool one’s child and some countering arguments:

Preschool Will Socialize My Child

Today’s parents and teachers view early and extensive peer interaction in a positive light. We need to socialize children, right? Everywhere you go that’s what you hear parents talking about. The belief is that socializing–children spending time with one another–begets socialization: the capacity for skillful and mature relating to other human beings. However, there is no evidence to support such an assumption, despite its popularity. Author of Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, Gordon Neufeld, challenges our definition of “socialize”. “Social integration means much more than simply fitting in or getting along; true social integration requires not only a mixing with others but a mixing without losing one’s separateness or identity.” That is something that takes a great amount of maturity that children do not yet have! (Christians, can our children socialize with people of unlike values and still hold their identity in the world? Be salt to the earth without first being salty? Or a light to the world that can’t be snuffed out without first being ablaze? Not yet. Children are inherently not salty or ablaze, yet.)

If you have read my other book reviews, then you know that attachment to adults, not peers, is necessary for maturation. And the maturation required to keep one’s identity in all settings is necessary for genuine socialization. So true social skills arise out of a child’s maturation, maturation that results from his attached relationship to an adult. To be sure, the socializing of playing with other children plays a part in rendering a child capable of true social integration, but only as a finishing touch. It is no easy task, even for adults, to hold onto oneself when socializing. When we are too desperate to make things work, or uncomfortable being ourselves, we make ourselves fit in or we back away from conflict. Children have even greater difficulty holding onto themselves when interacting with others. What is praised as getting along in children would, in adult life, be called compromising oneself or selling oneself short or not being true to oneself. Until children can hold onto themselves, we need to hold onto them.

Hold Onto Your Kids has made it so clear to me why having my family standards is so important–like allowing Noah and Faith to socialize consistently only with like valued families. Our parent initiated and hand selected friendships for Noah and Faith are by far the safest, most beneficial friendships they could ever have. Cousin Roman, Landon, Tayler, and David’s families are so like minded that Noah can easily hold his sense of self around them. These children are the finishing touches to Noah and Faith’s socialization. But the true socializing behaviors are wrought out right here with mommy and daddy. Preschool, on the other hand, Christian or not, is a mixed bag, and relationships arise that are often not carefully hand selected by the parents. However, the more well attached children are to the adults who care for them, the less concerned we need to be about restricting their social play. Since homeschool lends naturally to a very attached child-parent relationship, this actually allows for more true social freedom. Who would have thought? (Oh, and who said homeschooling is riddled with socialization issues anyway? ;))

Peek in at your child’s preschool one day and observe your child–does it appear that he is learning more from his peers or his teacher? Preschool interaction seems innocent enough for sure, but the environment still has consequences: the kids are learning to follow each other. This seems ok for awhile, but as those innocent preschoolers grow and become immersed in American pop trash for example, the cultural icons of our age, our own children have already been trained from young to follow these peers. Like a bit placed in the mouth, our children can be led astray. Preschoolers are completely unable to hold onto themselves and therefore, the preschool environment is not the place for learning social skills.

Preschool Can Help My Child Overcome Shyness

Preschool seems important to some parents because they do not want their child to be shy. What Hold Onto Your Kids has to say about shyness makes me sigh a breath of relief about Noah’s shy tendancies. Some kids are naturally more shy than others, but it doesn’t have to be seen as a handicap. The usefulness of shyness is that it serves as an attachment force keeping a child from making an unsafe connection. The shy child will be timid around people he is not attached to. Naturally, adult-oriented children are much slower to lose their shyness around their peers. They might appear socially naive and awkward around their peers. Peer oriented kids, appear to be socially successful. This is their forte–what is cool and what is not, what to wear and how to talk. Much of the sociability of peer oriented kids is the result of a loss of shyness. Phew! My little Noah is just mommy oriented, a good thing worth appreciating his shyness over. What should eventually temper shyness is not peer orientation but the psychological maturity that engenders a strong sense of self (which comes from strong parent attachment). I think I will see Noah’s shyness melt away as I keep him close and as he comes into who he is. That is something preschool can’t do for a shy kid.

My Child Would Be Bored Without Preschool

“I’m bored” is the all too common refrain of older children. I remember finding myself bored during childhood summer vacations–so much time, so little to do, and mom and dad at work. Many parents find themselves trying to alleviate their child’s listless type of behavior by facilitating peer interaction or finding a social activity of some sort. Even preschool parents are are trying to prevent boredom with play dates, sports, summer camp…..Thank goodness this is not what my parents did–they left us bored and alone. 😉 Social activities and friends are exactly what bored children do not need. It may temporarily seem to work, but it actually exacerbates the underlying issue. The underlying issue is that children become bored when their attachment instincts are not sufficiently engaged and when their sense of self does not emerge to fill this void. In other words, the hole that is usually experienced as boredom is the result of a double void of attachment and of emergence: the child is not with someone with whom he can attach and feel comfortable, and, on the other hand, she lacks sufficient curiosity and imagination to spend time creatively on her own. Ideally, such a void comes to be filled with the child’s emergent self: initiative, interests, creative solitude and play, original ideas, imagination, reflection, independent momentum. My sister and I were forced to “find ourselves” in these long summer hours, and that we did–emerging from all that ‘something from nothing’ type of play as thinking, creative young ladies with a strong sense of self. 😀 Peer orientation only blocks the emergence of the vital, curious, engaged self. So don’t be afraid of boredom! It will serve to mature your child! Better bored at home, than constantly superficially stimulated at preschool.

I would be so bold as to say that too much social play is an endangerment to emergent play (creative play). For young children, the closeness and contact with the person attached to must be very secure, like an anchor, in order for the child to be venture out into emergent, or creative solitary play. Children can never be a strong enough attachment anchor for one another, so their emergent play is always preempted by social play. Because we strongly emphasize peer socialization now days, emergent play–play arising from the child’s creativity, imagination, and curiosity about the world–has become endangered. Even parents serving as a playmate need to be careful and not overdo it, lest the emergent play deteriorate into social play, which is far less beneficial. Emergent play is more important in regards to a child’s development; social play is just fun, the icing on the cake. Upon discovering this, I too became aware that long solitary playtimes need to be carved out in the week for Noah and Faith, rather than having a constant stream of friends and play dates at the house. Preschool may be fun, but make sure it does not preempt true learning time at home alone.

My Child Needs Preschool Friends

The very concept of friendship is meaningless when applied to immature people. A true friend is considerate, acknowledges our boundaries, respects us as individuals, supports our growth and development. The capacity for true social integration comes with maturity and individuality. Many children are not even remotely capable of such. Until children are capable of true friendship, they really do not need friends, just attachments. What a child really needs is to become capable of true friendship, a fruit of maturation that develops only in a viable relationship with a caring adult. Our time is more wisely spent cultivating relationships with the adults in our child’s life than pursuing “friends” for our child. If its adult interaction that our child really needs, then we must admit that a lower adult to child ratio than what is found at preschool will best serve our children.

Preschool Will Smooth Out My Child’s Personality

When we think of homeschooler, we automatically think eccentric, right? Ha! We have an obsession with wanting to be “normal”, and for our kids to fit in. Perhaps we ourselves have become so peer oriented that we have a hard time expressing our own individuality and take cues from each other instead. To be cool is essentially to conform; we seek safety from shame. I urge you to consider that down through history it is the non-conformists who have made a difference in our world. The more a child depends on accepting adults, rather than peers, the more room there is for uniqueness and individuality to unfold and the greater the insulation against the intolerance of peers. Sorry, its just not cool to be cool. We are going to have to celebrate our children’s oddities and idiosyncrasies, or run the risk of suffocating their unique contributions in this world. Nowhere is there more freedom for a preschooler to be himself than at home!

Being Liked at Preschool Will Boost My Child’s Self-Esteem

Our challenge is to use our influence with our children to break (or prevent) their dependence on popularity, appearance, grades, or achievement for the way they think or feel about themselves. True self esteem does not say, I am worthwhile because I can do this or that. Rather, it proclaims, I am worthwhile whether or not I can do this, or the other. Only a self esteem that is independent of these things is going to truly serve a child. Only the unconditional loving acceptance that adults can offer is able to free a child from obsessing over signs of liking and belonging. Time at preschool can never do for your child’s self esteem what time spent in your love at home can.

Preschool Will Make My Child More Ready For Kindergarten

In the first days of kinder, a peer oriented child will appear smarter, more confident, and better able to benefit form the school experience. The parent oriented child, impaired by separation anxiety would appear to be less adept and capable–at least until he can form a good attachment with the teacher. Peer oriented kids have all the advantages in situations that are adult poor and peer rich. Because peers are plentiful and easy to spot, the child need never feel lost or without cues to follow. Thus, in the short term, peer orientation appears to be a godsend. And it is undoubtedly this dynamic that research taps into when discovering benefits to early education. In the long term, of course, the positive effects will gradually be canceled by the negative effects of peer orientation. Anxiety becomes the haunting long term emotion of the peer oriented because peer attachments are inherently insecure, and peer oriented kids are among the most agitated, perpetually restless, and chronically alarmed. Preschool may appear to serve the kindergartner, but the closer preschool brings a child to peer orientation, the worse off the child is in the long run at school.

Not Preschool Friends, but Best Friends

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Homeschool Preschool

So what if I decide to preschool at home you say? I feel overwhelmed! Let me put you at ease. One of the most pressing questions of parents who have made this decision is, “What preschool/kindergarten curriculum do I use?” The short answer that you are probably looking for is Before Five in a Row, Sonlight, or Rainbow Resource (supplier of curriculum). All wonderful curriculums. However, let me diverge into what really matters. Do you know that 85% of a persons personality is formed by age 6? What are the implications of that? The time to pour your life (rather than academics) into your children is now. As I have been shouting from the mountain tops so to speak on this blog, your investment in the preschool years is unsurpassable. Perhaps only 15% of what you do with your children needs to be academic. Where does that place curriculum on the todem pole? Pretty low. The other 85% of your investment is one of the heart. Whose personality was ever formed by letters and numbers? Have you come to realize at this point in life that it is so much more about what is in your heart than in your head? Values, character, love of God, spiritual skills, family life–knowledge of the heart–outweighs the importance of intellectual pursuits, especially in the formative years before age 6. You needn’t give away these priceless precious years to a preschool teacher.

Besides learning these lessons of the heart while at your side, the next most pressing need of preschool age children between 2 and 5 years old, is unstructured playtime. Too often, when not engaged in academic activities or some other intellectual pursuit (eg. music lessons), young children are engaged in other activities substituting for play, like playgroups and playdates (social fun, yes, but emergent, no). The current trend is to plan short play activities for children. Play that is adult planned and structured is rarely emergent, imaginative and creative. Children allotted short play periods over and over again may give up on more sophisticated forms of play and settle for less advanced forms that can be completed in short periods of time. Play that develops a child is long, uninterrupted, spontaneous, and initiated by the child. This is hard to achieve at preschool. This is hard to achieve even on non-preschool days at home as music, gymnastics, art classes, little league, church classes, playdates, playgroup–not to mention errands and other family obligations–fills up the schedule. And preschool goes from two days one year, to three days the next, and then kinder is a full 5 days! In my estimation, preschool + our calendar, may not leave enough time for emergent play. Find a way to get home and stay home, a lot.

If you are homeschooling, try to resist the urge to pack too many activities into the week or to make your homeschool preschooling too structured (I think I am speaking to myself here!!). Take heart that if you provide books, colors, paper, pencils, scissors, the outdoors, along with plenty of time with you, your preschooler will easily acquire the so-called school readiness skills. Learning comes naturally in the early years, our attempts to “teach” often just gets in the way. What pre-school/kindergarten curriculum should you use? The one God has already provided. God’s curriculum includes His Word and His world, loving parents, and the natural learning abilities of young children. With your Godly guidance, your little one will learn everything he needs to know without ever having a pre-packaged, store-bought curriculum.

Cherish those Rosy Chubby Cheeks!!!!!

Finally, from my heart to yours, please don’t send your little ones away to preschool unless you have to or are led to. Try to put yourself in the future and imagine how you will yearn to be able to once again kiss the cheeks of your preschooler again. Just to spend one more day with them when they were little. You wouldn’t care how bored you used to be pushing them on the swing, or listening to another story that didn’t make sense to you. You would just ache for the time when your little one saw no flaw in you, when you were perfect in their eyes, when they had absolutely no shame being smothered in your kisses, no flicker of embarassment present in their eyes when you lavished your love. You would long to hear their belly laugh as you tickled them on the swing, or to hear their sweet young voice eager to tell you everything they are dreaming up. Haven’t you already wished to be able to go back in time with your preschooler and hold them as a baby just one more time? This time in life will never come again. Hold Onto Your precious little ones a little longer and have no regrets!!

May God speak to your heart concerning the important decision to preschool as you pray.

Mommy’s Cupcake. Look at those cheeks!

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Hold Onto Your Child–Book Review Part II

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

An attachment village that is– a set of nurturing adult relationships that help mentor and assume responsibility for your children. Do you have an involved and available extendend family close by? If not, do you know your neighbors? Do you value making friends with people who show an interest in fostering a relationship with your child? Do you purposefully find ways to endear your child to her teacher? We need to raise our children together, like people do in a village. While those of us feeling burdened as we parent alone, would benefit from an attachment village, others of us feeling competent in our parenting, still can not deny that the effects of having a matrix of influence would be incredible. One day I would love for my children to spend a day, or longer, apprenticing under all sorts of people in their work, trade, craft, interest, etc.. (The flexible open-ended nature of homeschool allows for immersion in true learning experiences like this, a real luxury indeed!) We will be on the search for mentors who can teach our children what they really want to know. Friends and neighbors with a vested interest in our children’s development who will share their experiences. Can you imagine what a richly rewarding experience it would be to school outside of the classroom under the nurturing mentorship of an attachment village? For children in school, an attachment village is even more indispensable, lest they fall through the cracks into the “mentorship” of their peers.

Provence, An Attachment Culture

Lets look at a traditional culture; Rognes, Provence; where children are growing up with strong adult attachments, so that we may glean what we can, and recreate our own “attachment village”. Interesting to note, attachment wisdom is in the Provencal culture itself, not in the people’s consciousness. The people don’t even have to think about it, its just what they do. In our culture, we have far fewer embedded attachment rituals and structures, and some of the ones we have, are eroding. We are losing the structures that protect family life in our culture and relationships are paying a price. When attachment is not in a culture, it must be consciously worked at in order to prevent the consequences of attachment voids. We do not have the luxury of relying on our culture to protect us from ourselves and safeguard important values important to human life as other traditional cultures do (even to the point of not having to be conscious of what such values are). Reading Hold Onto Your Kids will serve to bring attachment into fuller consciousness.

In Provence, children greet adults and adults greet children. Socializing involves whole families, not adults with adults and children with children. There is only one village activity at a time, so families are not pulled in several directions. Sunday afternoon is for family walks in the countryside. Even at the village fountain, the local hangout, teens mix with seniors. Music and dancing bring the generations together instead of separating them. Culture takes precedence over materialism. One can not even buy a baguette without first engaging in the appropriate greeting rituals. Village stores are closed for three hours at midday while schools empty and families reconvene. Lunch is eaten in a congenial manner as multigenerational groupings sit around tables, sharing conversation and a meal.

The attachment customs around the primary school are equally impressive. Children are personally escorted to school and picked up by parents or grandparents. The school is gated and can only be entered by a single entrance. At the gate are the teachers waiting for their students to be handed over to them. Again, culture dictates that connection be established with the appropriate greetings between the adult escorts and the teachers as well as the teachers and the students. Sometimes when the class has been collected but the school bell has not yet rung, the teacher leads the class through the playground, like a mother goose followed by her goslings. While to North American eyes this may appear to be a preschool ritual, even absurd, in Provence it is self-evidently part of the natural order of things. When children are released from school, it is always one class at a time, the teacher in the lead. The teacher waits with the students at the gate until all have been collected by their adult escort. There aren’t many cracks to fall through. Provencal culture is keeping attachment voids to a minimum. However, attachment is simply in the culture, not the consciousness of the people.

Teacher-Student Relationships in Our Schools

“Attachment is by far the most powerful process in learning.” The desire for sameness with important attachment figures leads to some of a child’s most significant learning experiences; attachment empowers learning like a power assisted vehicle. In our culture, learning in school is often labored and the teaching is forced due to large attachment voids between teachers and students. Think about the impact of that. The author mentions how he was attached to his 1st grade teacher and not again until he was in 5th grade. “The in-between years were a wilderness as far as my education was concerned.” It is sobering to realize that all of us have similar stories about school. I can testify that as an attachment learner (the immature, ie young, especially depend on attachment to help them learn), I did not learn well in school because I felt so disconnected from the teacher. Even very caring teachers could not offer enough connection for me as they still had 30 other students to care for. On the flip side, when I worked as a teacher in preschool, I was not fully conscious of the attachment learning connection (I hadn’t read this book yet!), and so I did not attach myself to the children as much as I could have. Understandably, I was caught up in all the work to be done, splitting myself between 24 students, and honestly, serving my own attachment needs as I was there to make some teacher friends for myself. Gasp! Many of you think of me as a great teacher, and I was certainly putting a lot of effort in, but I want you to realize that the BEST teachers can never educate your child in the amazingly effective context of attachment like YOU can! That is just one reason of hundreds why homeschoolers believe “We are our child’s best teachers.” The way to a child’s mind has always been through his heart.

So learning is obstructed in a classroom setting by the inherent lack of attachment available. In the classroom, the often harried teacher of 30 is burdened by the ever increasing demands of the state and the schools, and worn out by trying to teach a herd of  kids who do not heed her or learn easily due to their peer orientation. If attachment does occur, its never for long, as kids are uprooted from teachers every year to move up a grade in elementary. The massive amounts of teachers a child has in junior high and high school only compounds the problem at a very attachment needy time in life. The schoolyard is actually where the power-assisted attachment based learning occurs best–learning peaks during recess, lunch hour, after school, and in the breaks between classes. Unfortunately, kids being attached to each other renders teachers ineffectual, no matter how well trained.  Learning happens where there is attachment. With little or no attachment to teachers, we are trying to get children to thrive in an unnatural learning environment, and in school, we even punish them for not succeeding with bad grades.  Also, a dangerous educational myth has arisen that children learn best from their peers. They do, partially because they are easier to emulate than adults but mostly because children have become so peer oriented. Unfortunately, what many learn is not the value of thinking, the importance of individuality, how to become humane, or what it means to be noble (let alone math, science, language, etc.) They learn what matters to their peers.

Ok, say your child is the one who escapes peer orientation and is actually learning something at school. It is still increasingly difficult to keep a child (let alone an adult) in the midst of a system that is screaming in an opposing direction at an alarming volume. As each generation becomes more peer oriented, teaching gets more impossible, and your child is subject to that impossibility. What is the chance that your child will have a teacher whose morale has been sunk by the already formidable task of educating the young, and on top of that, struggling with the chronic resistance of the students? If we can recall having some “bad” teachers way back when we were in school, and if peer orientation only increases with each generation, then the chance of getting a burned out teacher is also greatly increasing for our children. Having come from the teaching world, I know that teacher burn out is rampant. Burn out is inevitable when teachers can no longer lead because students no longer follow. With teachers not able to teach anymore, real learning does not happen anymore. Plus, you only have to imagine how you as an adult would fare if subjected by your friends to the kind of social interaction children have to endure each and every day–the petty betrayals, the shunning, the contempt, the sheer lack of dependability. Immature manifestations come naturally with the territory of being young, but the insatiable attachment hunger of peer oriented youth exacerbates the immature manifestations to an unbearable degree. (More on this next time!) Indeed, a very difficult environment to learn in.

Build Your Village

Homeschooling is not the only way around all these issues– yes, it is one of the best safeguards–but in the event that a family is not willing to homeschool, some protection from peer orientation may still be found in building an attachment village, a “mini Provence”, to surround your child. Hold onto your child, and when you can’t, make sure another adult you trust is.

Just a Few of My Villagers 😉

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Calling All Parents to Read!!

Ah summer! Its a great time of year to read if you find yourself with any lazy summer days at home or relaxing on vacation. I found a couple high interest booklists that that I will be reading through myself this summer to help shape my parenting and education views. And now that I have started reading, I realize that I can’t keep info this good to myself. I want you to know too! If you are homeschooling, or considering homeschooling, have ever had any single thought of homeschooling flicker into your mind ;), read these books with me!!! Or maybe you are a really awesome parent who just wants to learn things like how children learn best by teaching themselves, or the 6 patterns of natural intelligence; then read some of these books! It doesn’t matter if your kids have already been going to school, these books will open your mind so much. Besides, you never know what could happen. My story of becoming a homeschooler is like so many other pre-homeschoolers–I was not originally interested in homeschooling, there was something almost offensive and unattractive about it. How naive I was. As a dutiful parent, I researched it anyway–just to make sure we weren’t supposed to be doing it. I admit that the one nagging feeling driving me to figure things out was the loss I felt inside over the thought of sending my children away into the school system, and the imagined gradual deterioration of our precious attachment to each other. I put the research off for awhile because the idea of teaching my own kids successfully all the way through highschool scared me! However, I attest that reading did wonders to quell my fears, and surprisingly, presented a wonderful array of pros that were just too irresistible to resist. I am totally hooked, and gushing!!! I must mention one research resource– Dumbing Us Down has been an amazing instrumental book revealing why I do not want my kids in government schooling, or school as we know it at all. I highly recommend it! Internet research has also proved to be very helpful.

So I plan to pick up the pace of my reading this summer, start writing reviews for you all, and I suspect the momentum will carry me well past the summer and into the school year. Many nights I sit down with my husband and review what I have read recently (we don’t have TV, but that is a story for another time). Its so important to have a united vision and keep hardworking, time deficient hubbies, in the know! I think if you have little kids, like me, now is the time to read, read, read, and get things figured out. Life doesn’t slow down, so I hear, when the kids are older. But whether your kids are big or little, homeschooled or not, form your vision, write down your mission, and become fluent in your philosophy. We must read to do this. Don’t wait, kids keep growing.

Will you read with me? I would love to read these books with other interested parents! Please share the lists with others who may benefit.

Booklist!

Christian Home Educators Association of California Booklist

Homeschool Association of California Booklist

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

(Free Online Magazine–I love this mag! Click on “magazine” and then “current issue” for 150 pages of awesomeness)

Why I Write Book Reviews

Why will I be writing book reviews? Its the same reason that I write this entire blog. Its because I love you!!! I want to share information with you that will make your family rock. Many of my readers, whether near or far, are very dear to me, and I naturally want to to be a blessing to you. However, whether I know you well or not, I care a lot about the happiness and fulfillment of mothers, and I churn inside to know that your hearts and minds are well nourished for the demanding calling of motherhood. I want you be wildly successful! I want you to totally believe in yourself and have the courage to follow the less traveled path. “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matthew 7:13 If something I convey in my “cliff notes” helps you, then its worth typing it all out to me. Please share my reviews with others who would benefit so we together can empower parents everywhere.

Please, Tell Me You Make Time To Read!?

Now, I know you have read some parenting books, and if you’ve been so fortunate, learned some pretty good stuff that has helped you out. So recall the delicious taste in your mouth as you savored a book full of inspiring new information that you just couldn’t get enough of. Your heart beat faster as you sensed that a new day was dawning on the horizon of your understanding. I hope you have been fortunate enough to have had that experience recently, or to have had it at all. Either way, it is certainly not too late……nor too early to jump into the vast and wonderful information available to parents willing to self-educate. How many years did you study for your college degree that you may or may not be using right now, only come to find out that its family and parenting, your truest life calling, that you should have been studying a little more? We can never anticipate all that the future holds for each of our families, but we do know that problems are certain to arise as we all are rearing children in this chaotic world. When problems come, we often rush headlong into trying to figure out what to do about this or that, and ignore the preceding essential requirement of reflecting and understanding. We must understand how things work so that we can understand what can (or did) go wrong. Prevention goes a long way when it comes to something as weighty as the awesome responsibility of raising up a child. Knowledge is empowering, right? Knowledge helps us think ahead, and some forethought can prevent, intercede, or head off many problems altogether. I know you want to feel empowered as a parent. It would be wonderful if we could set aside some time regularly or seasonally, to gather a pile of books and read up. Its more important than the nightly news, the morning newspaper, the iphone time. This is for our children, our primary responsibility– what could be more important? The more we grow up (maturing psychologically and spiritually), the better we can help them grow up.

Why I Do Not Write Book Reviews 🙂

In case you were wondering, here are some reasons I do not write book reviews. To make my blog look pretty, to shame you for not measuring up to the ideals contained within the books, to hear myself talk, to stay up really late and work really hard and not reach anyone’s heart, to provide cliff notes to those who could be reading the full book instead, to provide tedious and irrelevant information that no one cares about, to waste your precious time. Pretty please read my reviews?

Be a Thoughtful Parent

There are some reeeeeeally good books out there about raising children that will make you think. What books have been pivotal to you? We would love to hear from you.

The worst thing we can do as parents is to think less by reading less. The quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our lives. “Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves, they therefore remain bound.” –James Allen

The more that you read,
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you’ll go.
~ Dr. Seuss

Will you go with me? We shall not journey alone.

Happy 4th of July Hugs!

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Hold Onto Your Kids: Book Review Part I

You are your child’s nurturer, comforter, guide, model, teacher, coach. You are her home base, her retreat, her fountainhead of inspiration. We know our infants world revolves around us, but do we realize that this needs to become even more true as our child grows? Why is this not the case for so many families? Why do children seem so defiant and detached from their parents now days? Deep down I think all competent young parents wonder, will this ever happen to my sweet child, is our family at risk?!?! Author Gordon Neufeld asserts that estrangement happens because of peer attachments. For parents (working and stay at home alike) who want to expose and rid anything that would stand in the way of a close attached relationship with their children and anything undermining their parental authority (I think this is all of us!), I recommend the book Hold Onto Your Kids–Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. Check it out from the library. This is not a homeschool book, it is a parenting book discussing why and how we should be the primary life shaping force in our children’s lives (although homeschool is just about the greatest vehicle for life shaping in my opinion). Parents of young children should not be naive of how peer relationships can subtly but powerfully undermine our authority and eventually steal our children’s hearts from us (psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually). We can and should prevent this! With the proper information, we can purposefully lay a strong relational foundation while our children are still young in order to prevent the seemingly inevitable alienation of growing children that we see in society. Parent teen relationships fraught with discord is so prevalent today that we tend to take it for granted, as something that just has to be, as “normal” development– but nothing could be farther from the truth. Let your mind be transformed from the “normal” pattern of this world. If you (or someone you know) is already a parent of a defiant, friend focused teen or pre-teen, then this book will wake you up to see how and why your child has slipped out from your grasp in some/all areas due to his peer relations, as well as what to do about it. (Side note: Although this book is secular, it is valuable, and we as believers will be able to perceive that the author has insightfully–also perhaps unknowingly–exposed satans methods of gathering this generation of youth to himself, which gives us the upper hand in our child-rearing!)

We the parents are meant to be our children’s universe, like planets orbiting around the sun. Whether this sounds like a strange exaggeration, or a lot like your own wishful intentions, please read this book for a serious wake up call!!!

I have taken the time to pull out what spoke to me from the book while reading the first few chapters so that I can share it with you. My hope is that it will draw you in and stir you up into action. The book asserts that our power to parent has been slipping away largely for societal reasons. (Of course the book’s secular viewpoint fails to address the Godlessness of society as the root cause.) For the first time in history young people are turning for instruction, modeling, and guidance not to mothers, fathers, teachers, and other responsible adults but to people never intended to be placed in a parenting role–their own peers. Children now days are peer oriented. Young people are not manageable, teachable, or maturing because they no longer take cues from adults. Instead, children are brought up by immature persons who cannot possibly guide them to maturity. They are being brought up by each other.

In our society, we now thrust our children from a very early age into many situations and interactions that encourage peer orientation–like day care for tiny children, longer school days, endless activities geared towards youths, and technology like cell phones and instant messaging. The author asserts that it seems very normal now days for children to be around other children more than adults, but normal does not mean it is natural or healthy. Unwittingly, we promote the very phenomenon of peer orientation that, in the long term, erodes children’s attachment to the adults responsible for nurturing them.

Typically over a process of time, a child becomes so attached to her peers that she would rather be with them and be like them, and those peers, become that child’s working compass point. She will look to her peers for cues on how to act, what to wear, how to look, what to say, and what to do. Her peers will become the arbiters of what is good, what is happening, what is important, and even of how she defines herself. Our power to parent on the other hand, rests in how much our child specifically depends on us, in their looking to us to be the answers to their needs. After all, we can not truly take care of a child who does not count on us to be taken of. The power to parent is transferred to whomever the child depends on, whether or not that person is truly dependable, appropriate, responsible, or compassionate–whether or not, in fact, that person is even an adult.

Parenting, as surprising as it sounds, should be relatively easy (no parenting manuals or parenting classes needed!). Getting our children to take our cues, follow directions, or respect our values should not require strain and struggle or coercion, nor even the extra leverage of rewards. The key is having an attached relationship. There is a special kind of relationship developmentalists call an attachment relationship, and without having this with one’s child, parenting lacks a firm foundation. A child must be receptive if we are to nurture and guide her, and her attachment to you is what forms a context of receptiveness to your parenting. Children who lack this kind of connection are very difficult to parent and teach. Its not that you don’t love your child, its simply that you are parenting from the wrong context. In the latter half of the book, the author presents practical ways to secure or restore your child’s attachment upon you the parent (I am not yet there in the book, but it looks really helpful!).

The sad thing to me is that so many young parents reveling in the natural dependency stage of our babies and preschoolers are unaware that the seeds of peer dependence usually have already taken root by the primary grades, rather than by adolescence or even preadolescence as we tend to assume. And then soon enough in the intermediate years, the growing incompatibility of peer and parent attachments plays havoc with our power to parent. Author Gordon Neufeld had his head buried in the sand too until his own children abruptly disrupted his denial. “I had never expected to lose my kids to their peers. To my dismay, I noticed that on reaching adolescence both of my older daughters began to orbit around their friends, following their lead, imitating their language, internalizing their values….Its as if the parental influence my wife and I had taken for granted had all of a sudden evaporated….I thought my children were immune: they showed no interest in gangs or delinquency, were brought up in the context of relative stability with an extended family that dearly loved them, lived in a solid family oriented community….” Be mindful that a quiet nice life in safe suburbia, or even having a healthy functional household, is not always enough to secure our children.

I am taking time this summer to read up and go deeper in forming my philosophies of raising and educating my children! I hope you will read with me, grow with me, and find yourself fascinated in our learning. And then share what changes your life with others!! Booklist coming soon!

“My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6

Hold Onto Your Kids Book Review Part II

Hold Onto Your Kids Book Review Part III

Hold Onto Your Kids Book Review Part IV

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