Wednesday, June 29, 2016

End of the School Year

 Well, the '15/'16 school year is in the books. We wrapped up first grade, pre-k, and "he thinks he's in kindergarten but we don't tell him otherwise."
 We've gained some new milestones this school year. 
 Madison added a whole new course of home economics as the boys learned how to make baby food, burp a baby, and "babysit" by playing with her for a few minutes while I vacuumed or made bread. 
 Wilson has learned his ABC's and can count to ten forwards and backwards though he routinely jumps around and creates whole new numerical patters. He loves singing the ABC song and makes sure to repeat "W, X, Y, and Z" at least five times before ending the song by dramatically holding out the word "me" until he turns purple. 
 Jefferson took off over the past three months. At first he wasn't too interested. He liked the idea of "school" but we stuck to learning through games and hands on play and kept text books out of it for awhile. By the winter he was hungry for learning and has soaked up pre-k type work. But math is his ball game. This kid is already on a first grade level. A few weeks ago he announced, "I know how to make 5 mom. You add 2+4-1=5!" He came up with that all on his own. For fun he'll sit and learn addition and subtraction facts. I know he didn't inherit that from me!
 Harrison cruised through first grade at a pretty steady pace, though senioritis set in somewhere in January. It was pulling teeth to get the guy's head in the game but I can't let his resistance fool him or me. The guy knows his stuff. He is reading so well, aced his spelling tests, and finished up math this year by learning multiplication. We are switching up some curriculum for 2nd grade to help engage his learning style a little more and hopefully we can make it past January before begging for summer break. 
 As far as the teacher, I learned a lot too this year. I learned to take some steps back and let them learn by struggling a bit more so they could experience the feeling of success by figuring it out on their own. I learned to step in sometimes and walk tired minds through something even when I know they know it and that's ok too. I learned when to tell which is needed. 
 I learned it's ok to sit and hold a baby while reading the science lesson or playing a math game. I learned red pen correction marks work really well for incentive to apply themselves to not receive anymore. I learned stickers by good work make the world go 'round. I learned it's ok to take a day off, away from books, and go study the animals at a farm, or learn about unit prices at a grocery store, or hike a few miles to a waterfall. 
 I learned comparing our school to any other is as wrong as comparing lives in general. Our school looks like us. I'm not pushing my kids to be prodigy students. They may show incredible skills in certain areas and I cheer that and aid in providing them with new challenges to grow in that area, but I'm not burning them out. I'm also not stressing them to improve their weak areas. We're working on those calmly and stress free because our learning doesn't have to happen just like someone else's. We aren't in this for a race to win or I've missed the point of homeschooling in the first place. 
 I'm providing these awesome people a safe place to grow. They are building on the minds God created in them. I think we've all learned to be content and enjoy "school" for what it is. Because our "school" doesn't just last September through May. We are constantly staying open to all that's around us to learn through the day to day. And maybe the few months we put away the text books are when we learn the most. 
When we sit calmly counting wave sets and learning how to observe for riptides. When we research what causes sun burn and how to prevent it. When we attempt to count grains of sand and get blown away by the mind of God. When we listen to thunderstorms, make homemade ice-cream, research sharks, and grow a garden. So here's to a great new "school year", summertime :) 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Is My Kid Too Young To Talk About Sex?

Post 4 in Discipleship in Safety
We start talking about sexual purity at a pretty young age. Before you completely think we've lost it, let me explain. 
Parents in general start talking to their baby the second he's place in their ams. They soon begin reading books and explaining the world around him/her well before the baby can repeat back anything they are saying. Why? Because that's how we learn to talk. Parents build a foundation with one word identifying nouns and verbs and then add adjectives and pronouns as their baby starts using the language on their own and learns more and more all the while building on those first few "mama", "dada", "dog", "ball", words. 
Why would we wait until age 2 or 3 when verbal skills are present to start even talking to our babies? It would be a detriment to their development and growth. It would fail them in ways of a strong foundation for learning and building on. 
In the same way, why would we wait until puberty to start teaching about sexual purity? It's not like discussing anatomical words and natural urges for the first time with a hormonal pre-teen will leave everyone feeling not awkward at all. 
But awkwardness aside, how can we expect our children to identify, react to, restrain, and defeat the enemy and his desire to steal, kill, and destroy their purity? Because one thing is for certain, he isn't waiting until puberty to start robbing them of innocence. And we aren't waiting to start discipling these young men and women in the safety of their bodies and sexual purity. 
Because our children are young, we aren't asking them to carry the heavy load of all the evil tactics Satan and this world will use against them. But just like learning to talk, we have started with the basics and we will add to it as they grow and become strong enough to carry more. 
In another post I will talk more about how we have begun training in sexual purity, but for today I'm focusing on sexual predators. 
The first foundational step is to use real anatomical terms. Statics clearly show that children who can correctly identify their body parts actually deter predators who are looking for victims that won't be able to describe an assault. It may not seem natural at first but establishing correct terminology at a young age will also aid in future discussions since parents and kids are already used to saying them.
The second step is to help them develop a fierce protectiveness of the bodies God designed and made just for them. Around the time we started potty training we really increased our instructing about how their bodies aren't for others to look at or touch. Our kids know only mommy and daddy, and the doctor with mommy or daddy present can see them naked. Knowing that childcare workers, Sunday school teachers, family members, or friends may be taking our kids to use the restroom or change clothes, etc. we increased their safety training by being specific about the areas of their bodies that need the most protection from Satan's attacks. 
Using correct terminology our kids know if anyone tries to touch, asks to touch, tries to show, or even talks about it to them, they are to "yell and tell" - yell 'no' and run to a parent, and tell on the individual in detail. Telling on a predator denies him of his perceived power and exposes his filthiness before he can prey again. It is very important during this safety training that your kids know they would never be in trouble for yelling and telling, no matter what lies a would-be predator may spew. They are heroes for exposing evil and they would be defended and protected as such. 
We have also trained our kids in "it's better to be safer than sorry." Even if they aren't sure, they just felt uncomfortable, we've told them not hesitate to run away from that situation and to a parent for help. 
In the same vein, instruction on false accusations is just as important and we have talked about how lying is also an evil tactic of the enemy and not one we will entertain. 
Trust must be established between you and your children. In this world our enemy has no shortage of tactics. He will most commonly employ predators our children know and trust. Which is why trust between parent and child must be stronger. 
Child molestation is not immune to Christian families and church groups. Heartbreakingly, assaults are common inside church walls, close friend's houses, and among family members. We can never allow our children to assume they are safe enough to let their guards down. That is foolishness and leaves them vulnerable. Remember Ephesians 6 when discipling in this area. It doesn't say to put on the full armor once battle is taking place, but to be in full armor so when that day comes you're ready. Be ready, at all times, period.
Discipling is crucial when it comes to discussing predators. We always review Ephesians and remind our kids how our battle isn't against flesh and blood. They cannot live in fear of every person being a potential enemy. We live boldly, with our faith in Christ, that suiting up in the armor of God will provide us the wisdom, courage, weapons, and endurance to defeat the schemes of the devil. 
Fear gives way to failure. 
So when discipling in sexual safety remind kids of the joy in this life and the incredible way God designed their bodies. It's an awesome opportunity to talk about the limitless mind of God and be in awe of His creation!
Safety training about our bodies is an easy laid-back conversation during our safety school talks with the boys. Becoming a natural topic has only made it easier to add to as our world declines and our kids grow older. Public bathrooms, dressing rooms, pools and beaches, sports teams locker rooms, going over to friend's houses, babysitters, staying overnight somewhere, are all scenarios it's important to prepare for and have a battle plan for. Our kids need to know it's ok to call, run for help, say 'no', protect, defend, fight back, yell, and tell, without any fear of being in trouble or further hurt by the attacker. They need to know fear is not of God. They are mighty soldiers in His army, trained for battle, and not about to be taken captive by any scheme of Satan. 
Each of our boys has this "sword" memorized and I couldn't imagine discipleship in safety without it in our arsenal;
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind. 
II Timothy 1:7

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Good Guys, Bad Guys

Post 3 in Discipleship in Safety:
Explaining to kids who think everyone they meet wants to know their birthday and favorite color, that not everyone they meet is a good guy, is hard. 
My three year old will be freely passing out hugs while my oldest is reciting our entire family's first, middle, and last names to the lady behind us in the check out lane. We've had to up our safety school training with all their friendliness. 
Talking about good guys and bad guys almost comes naturally with kids, but the most important part of instructing is to never introduce fear, that's Satan's weapon. Our's is the Word of God. We start off our stranger safety school by reading Ephesians 6:12. I ask them, "is our fight with the man we don't know at the grocery store? How about the woman talking to us at a playground? How about the stranger knocking at our front door? No. God made these people, all the people we see. But the most important is what we can't see. That is where our fight is. We have to use wisdom and discernment to determine where the fight is. That's the only way we can recognize who is being used to fight on the bad side or not." 
The Bible tells us to always have on the full armor, so we are always at ready. We can never let our guard down, not on playgrounds, grocery stores, Sunday school, friend's houses, or even playing outside our front door. We must always be standing firm. I talk about how the enemy is disguised and we won't always recognize bad guys. Our job is to recognize bad situations and foolish decisions that lead to them. I discuss a nice man asking them for directions or showing them his puppy. We discuss friendly strangers that say things like, "Your Mommy said it's ok for you to come with me..." or "I already talked to your Mom and she said it's ok if you want to come help me..." We talk about people in uniforms with badges even saying "it's ok to come with me". We rehearse until they know by heart the answers to all scenarios and little voices repeat what they would say, "No, I'm going to ask my Mommy," and then to come immediately and quickly to me.  
As hard as it is, it's important to not stop there. What if that stranger persists and grabs at you or a sibling? We've gone into detail and much to their enjoyment they have permission to scream, kick, claw, fight, bite, writhe, hit, and punch while hollering at the top of their lungs, "You're not my mommy/daddy! Where's my Mommy/Daddy?!" 
We talk about being polite to strangers in stores. While standing with Mommy it's ok to say "hi" to someone and answer their simple questions, but to obey mommy first time if I say it's time to move on. In parking lots the kids know to get into the car quickly not dawdling and leaving mommy in a precarious situation standing outside. At home we've trained the kids to not answer the front door without permission from mommy and daddy, no matter what; not even if it sounds important or if it's someone you know.
It's also important to develop a family code word to be used when a parent perceives a dangerous situation and needs their children to understand that it's time for their training to be utilized. The code word can be said if Mommy sees a stranger by their car in the parking lot, or a stranger is being especially attentive at a park, etc. The kids know when the code word is said it's gravely serious and they must not hesitate to do exactly as instructed after it's been said. 
Just like training for sports, hobbies, or anything else you want to excel in, it's important to train regularly and often. We have safety school once or twice a week where we review all of these things. But the most important aspect in stranger training, is discipleship. Ensuring our children know where the real fight is, that they know how to identify the enemy and his tactics, and that they are equipped with the weapons to fight it. It's not about making them fear their surroundings and people they don't know. It's making them strong in their ability to take on the full armor and stand firm. They don't need to be scared of people they don't know, they need to grow in their discernment of recognizing bad situations. God created all the strangers we see. God loves each of those people. Our first mission is to be in prayer for all the people we interact with on a daily basis. But in the event the enemy uses one of these strangers for evil, we must have our children trained to respond and react. 

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12

More 'Discipleship in Safety' coming soon: sexual abuse, who can kids trust, fire and home invasion drills...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Once Upon A Madison

This post will consist of a ton of pictures...
...a ton of pink...
...and a ton of creativity and giving hearts that made this beautiful party for our Madison. 
This is the very first girl party we've ever been able to do so we went all girl. 
There was pink and gold, tiaras and lace, flowers and fairy tales, and sugar and spice. 
It was crafted, designed, set up, baked, decorated, laid out, arranged, and conducted by lots of family who love this little girl to pieces. 
The rain even stopped for one morning so her party could be outside...
...which when it comes to toddlers and cake is always a good thing. 
Actually when it comes to toddlers and most anything, outside is the cleaner and safer option, at least for furniture and floors. 
Asides from the incredible family pitching in for days ahead of the party to create and design, Madison's big brothers also joined in to help. 
They were more than eager to provide their best present opening tips. 
And when Madison would seem tired of opening presents they were so kind to jump in and take over the task.
They graciously brought her the wrapped gifts...  
...and then selflessly tested out some of the presents to make sure they were of optimal enjoyment for their baby sister. 
 
It's a good thing Madison loves her big brothers and their nonstop entertainment. 
With their help she made it through opening presents before hamming it up for a few pictures. 
And pictures from this party will always bring up some unique memories from the weekend. 
Because the week before her party, Miss Madison was covered in chicken pox. 
We didn't know if her party would happen. 
But she was a trooper and navigated through beautifully!  
So scabbed up chicken pox and all the party went on and those cute little scars will always be a fun memory. 
They didn't seem to bother her at all, except for a few less smiles and spunkiness, she totally didn't seem to mind a day all about her. 
And we are so grateful for family and friends that didn't mind about chicken pox or chancing rain to be a part of her day either. 
We couldn't have done this party without our amazing family. 
And Madison is a blessed little lady to have the privilege of growing up with the extended family she has surrounding her and pouring into her. 
We can't wait for all the future parties down the road, all the pink and sparkles, and gold and glitter. 
But for this day, I couldn't have imagined it better, and it was a very happy, "once upon a Madison" birthday. :)