Blog grid view

Why Summer ‘School’ is for Every Kid!

Here in the USA the natives are restless in schools across the nation as they wrap up their studies this month and anticipate a lengthy summer break from the monotony of classroom routine.

How we define ‘school’ and ‘education’ is no small thing because our beliefs will determine a heck of a lot about our lives, our children’s lives and our future, separately and together.

Most of us, understandably, have a conventional view of schooling. We’ve watched it modeled, we’ve lived it for decades, thus we became it. It simply is. 

Typically children go by big yellow bus or carpool to institutional settings where they sit in desks in classrooms with peers, line up to go to the bathroom, water fountain, lunch room, and playground then line up to go back to desks for hours and hours with a few variables. Then these kids go home to do homework, play on the computer, maybe play outside if there’s time, sleep and wake up the next day and do it all over again with the occasional holiday, sick day or field trip thrown into the mix.

This was my experience while growing up minus the computer while adding significant time playing outdoors, riding bikes, climbing trees, exploring the neighborhood – because that’s what we did every single day for hours after school, being unencumbered by the copious amounts of homework required of kids these days.

When I had children, I used to believe they were empty buckets needing to be filled with all the necessary information and knowledge determined by an unidentified expert somewhere. As I endeavored to home educate my sons (another story for another time) I nervously eyeballed the ‘scope and sequence’ timelines I would come across, fearing I’d miss a major building block in their education, thus crippling them for life. 

My worries were unfounded.

I’ve come to understand that children are born brilliant and educating a child is simply tapping into the genius already there by nurturing it with the necessary components for growth. God fills in the gaps of the ‘scope and sequence’ organically as we do our part to attend to our little human; loving, training and providing nourishment.

It’s as if mind-blowing seeds of GENIUS are locked within every single child and it’s up to us to unlock that ‘seed-potential’ lying dormant in that kid by providing the necessary components for this ‘human plant’ to thrive, not unlike gardening. Whether it be tomatoes, marigolds, cucumbers or melons we’re tending to out in the backyard, the principles remain the same. When we nurture these seedlings in healthy, rich soil, with fresh air, fertilizer, water, protection from the elements and destructive enemies in their many forms, while providing appropriately-measured boundaries so as to avoid root bound conditions, or watering carefully to avoid root rot, we will be amazed and even ecstatic to see the hearty, miraculous fruit that emerges from our humble efforts.

Children are exactly the same. As I spend time with my grandchildren, these principles are underscored and highlighted for I feel as though I’m homeschooling all over again, just engaging with them, because learning comes so naturally to children. Their hunger for knowledge and understanding – to know what, why, how, where and when – is so God-given that if our radar is on we will see that real, valuable education is happening constantly, even on summer ‘break’ when you think they’re simply playing.

As I interacted with my grandchildren this week, we participated, unintentionally in so much learning – we sang songs, built Legos, named our letters and counted while we played on the swings, colored and drew, investigated the horses next door, the airplanes in the sky, the irritating crows and seagulls.

 

We chased butterflies, ducks and bees…

…caught a frog then gently led him back to freedom.

We entertained old and new friends, showing hospitality and love, and stopped along the way to reiterate our “please” and “thank-yous” and “I’m sorry’s” and our “yes, Nana’s.”

 

My granddaughter chose to read to us for over an hour, suddenly left and re-entered the room in her Laura Ingall’s Wilder costume and in-character we interacted about her new teaching job at the one-room schoolhouse and how the kids were behaving – no joke – it’s like our curriculum just rolls on and on and on…

Suddenly she was inspired to create some fresh-squeezed juice drinks for her parents, decorated with fresh fruit.

She interjected little bits of wisdom along the way about how we should train the puppy and what little sister can or cannot do. We prayed, we talked about creation, and we snuggled.

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but this holistic approach to life IS AN AMAZING EDUCATION and develops the entire person: mind, body and spirit setting their wet cement according to our values. I’m excited to be able to participate in the informal education of my grands a lot this summer (click here to read my recent post), and I can only imagine what we shall discover together even as their intellect is stirred and our bond is deepened – what a privilege to be available for them in this season.

My heart beats to see all of our children and grandchildren unchained from the stifling menu of staid, conventional order as they learn. I believe the classroom should consist of wide open spaces where they are encouraged to find their unique expression within the freeing parameters of their parents values -this is a curriculum that never fails in its effectiveness. Let’s make every effort to help them grow organically this summer, running toward their destiny!

Your Two-Minute Takeaway

  1. Ponder for a moment how you have defined ‘education’ and ‘schooling.’ After reading this post, are there some tweaks you’d like to make in your definition and approach with the children in your life? Jot down those thots quickly so as to capture them while they’re highlighted in your mind.
  2. Be prepared for all the kids in your life to suggest you ‘watch a movie together, play with Snapchat, look at videos and pics on your phone, play a computer or digital game’, because they will! And be prepared to cheerfully offer a better alternative! Make every effort to keep electronic amusements to a minimum so that your time together is maximized to be meaningful even if it’s simply working together in the kitchen. It’s real life and real life MATTERS!
  3. Be determined to ignore your smartphone and laptop as much as is humanly possible. Yes I snap pics and vids when I’m with my children and grandchildren, but most of the time we’re together, I work to keep my phone silenced and out of sight. Most of us are addicted to our devices in some way, and we must recognize the need for change.

Want MORE? I’d love to be a voice of encouragement on your parenting journey! Grab my FREE gift: 7 Simple Steps to Raising Happy Kids Who Persevere (while building team spirit in YOUR home) by clicking HERE. 

5 Pivotal Truth Bombs to Drop on Your Kids Before They Meet Their ‘Soulmate’

Here in the USA, gittin’ hitched is averaging $25,000 – 30,000 dollars per celebration.

Gulp.

Great pains are obviously being taken to plan the Big Day, but judging by the dismal outcome of too many of these pricey unions, many of the kids marrying aren’t prepared for life after the ceremony. 

 

Building a life that stands the test over time isn’t luck and unicorns. It’s real, raw and often rugged. We must dispel popular culture’s pretty little lies about fairytale futures. Here’s a good start:

1. Marriage is a marathon. A very long, tiring, and at times, soul-crushing race. A race indicates a lengthy stretch of rough road that leads to a glorious finish line. Most modern humans I talk to want a finish-line relational experience every single day, with full make-up, goosebumps and a photo shoot.

Sans sweat. 

We’ve all heard the phrase, if not vowed it ourselves, “for better or for worse.” In real life, there’s a whole lot of ‘worse’ you’re gonna experience along with the better in this marriage thing. Yes, the ‘better’ is priceless, but it only comes with the daily investment of long suffering, hard work and compromise over the long haul. 

Nora Ephron, screenwriter of blockbuster romcoms Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Harry Met Sally said “most people learned their beliefs about love from my movies.” Even she knew, after 3 marriages of her own, the reality vs. fantasy of romantic love.

And while we’re on the topic, ‘conscious uncoupling’ is a sentimental fallacy created by a bazillionaire Hollywood Hamptons ditz who is not in touch with the true spirit of marriage which has it’s roots in the term ‘covenant.’ Look it up, it’s brutal. More brutal however is divorce, which, in the words of my good friend, a divorced mother of four, is, “a death that never dies.”

2. Family is Complex. It’s a multi-generational conglomeration. A household of foreigners, ofttimes speaking different languages, trying to live together in harmony. Close families are not created by accident. It takes large amounts of grace extended to build a strong family.

How is it that the one family member you want to kill on Monday, saves your life on Thursday? Am I right? And you think your job is hard, but you’re a piece of work, too, even though you may not be in touch with it. We’re all like diamonds, many faceted, all having sides to us we cannot see. We see our good side; our family members see our not-so-good side. And we love each other through it all.

This is the mystery of family. This is the truth of covenant relationship. The staying power of staying when you often feel like fleeing. So much of the magic of life is simply not quitting!

3. Mothers. Are. Priceless. They cannot be rented or bought. The ‘I wanna nanny’ mantra parroted by so much of the Gen X young mama population is a worldly idea created by Hollywood starlets who are out of touch with reality and will one day, all-too-soon be found old, wrinkled, washed up and alone on the shores of Santa Monica beach. And for the rest of us overtaxed serfs of the world, surrendering our children to full time daycare centers and systemized, confining public education from age zero-18 will generally not produce the specimen of human being that our heart longs to raise. 

Do your job today, Mama, with all you have to give, and you will rest well on your pillow 20 years from today when your children are impacting the whole wide world with the heart and soul YOU gave them.

4. Fathers have super powers! The smear campaign against men over the past several decades has impacted our culture in an enormous way, redefining manhood and casting suspicion upon men who dare to display strength and leadership in most any context. Meanwhile, strong women are cheered on.

Men are not the weak, bumbling idiots media has portrayed them to be, nor are they the arseholes they’re often implied to be. The trickle down effect of this narrative has infused poison into family life where it seems to me that many men have become tentative about their role, defaulting to their very capable and dominating wives, which often leads to chaos, confusion and ultimately the breakdown of the family. 

(Conversely, ask most any single woman what she’s actually looking for in a man, and it’s not weakness. #scratchingmyhead)

After parenting for 33 years, I know the power of having a strong man at the helm of our family. Gregory is the steel beam holding up our dynasty – invisible at times, but more necessary than could possibly be imagined. We would be lost without him. Moms can do a lot, but they can’t take the place of a father.

5. Money Has Never Made a Human Heart Happy. All of creation chases the dollar bill and what do most of them have to show for it? More debt, distress and brokenness. Most double income families are spending 1/3 more than they bring in each month. Fact. The more you have, the more you spend. It’s a tireless backwards cycle, leading to chronic stress that destroys families. The love of money is still the root of all evil. Don’t love anything that can’t love you back. 

The plumb line your children measure their lives against will determine how strong, straight, tall and for how long the building stands. Let’s help them form their measuring stick with truth, not Madison Avenue myths.

Your Two-Minute Takeaway

  1. Take a moment to ponder all that your child is taking in through media, magazines, Netflix, movies and social media. What’s the life message he or she is regularly imbibing through all this input? Are you happy with this? Is there anything you’d like to adjust?
  2. Your kids are formed and fashioned by the 5 people closest to them. Are you happy with the friends they hang out with and the social extracurricular activities they’re involved in? Is there anything eating at you about their relationships? Does something need adjusting?
  3. You should be the primary force shaping your children. Is there any oxygen left in your week to spend quality time with your children, just poking around at thrift stores, walking the dog together, cooking or crafting or shooting hoops? If you don’t plan these things, they’ll never happen. Make a plan!

 

If you enjoyed the read, there’s more! I’d love to be a voice of encouragement along your journey.

Building a Strong Foundation in Your Child: the Magic is in the Details

I’m convinced that the fundamental and distinctive characteristics and qualities of an individual – call it their moral and spiritual DNA, is formed by what is taught and trained, ingrained in them day-by-day over years and years. This process creates the very essence of their lives, the vital foundation from which future life decisions originate.

We humans like to compartmentalize everything. But life is holistic.* Everything’s connected.

For instance, our kid gets acne so we buy the cadillac of zit creams and slather it to remedy the crisis. But in actuality did you know that skin issues are most often a symptom of what lies beneath in the gut, the foundation of a healthy body?!

This revelation as it applies to our physical health is truly revolutionary – but it’s just as powerful in our parenting.

The value of a solid, healthy foundation really cannot be exaggerated. It’s essential to a solid life. It’s the result of a consistent, faithful presence doing what needs to be done over the course of someone’s life development.

Find any individual having a positive impact in the world, look over their shoulder and it’s likely you’ll see a dedicated parent or parental figure who invested a lot into their foundation. It’s precisely what made the person who the person is.

A mother and a father have such power. Super powers in fact, but the most important people on the planet are ofttimes hidden and underestimated, and eclipsed by the myths of popular culture.

Historically, many mothers dismiss their influence as inconsequential. They imagine vainly that they’re flunkie moms, glorified maids, dull nannies.

They don’t comprehend that their daily multitudinous tasks for their family’s benefit are setting the mold for their children. They reckon, “if women can have it all, why on earth would I not hire out all the unimportant tasks to someone less gifted?” But very little is unimportant in the scope of parenting.

 

It’s easy for parents to overlook the fact that the most important moment of their lives is always **NOW**!

Yes, everything matters because this is a holistic, comprehensive approach to developing a human being.

  • the organic green smoothie you’re blending
  •  the chore chart you’re making
  • the book you’re reading aloud
  • the iPhone you’re denying
  • the attitude you’re correcting
  • the big screen television that’s not running
  • the thank you note you’re requiring
  • the bed you’re making
  • the prayer you’re praying
  • the credit cards you’re shredding
  • the marriage vows you’re honoring
  • the political discussion you’re broaching
  • the foster child you’re nurturing
  • the meal you’re delivering to the elderly neighbor
  • the gossip you aren’t tolerating at the dinner table…is all working in synergy to produce a combined effect in your child that is greater than the sum of their separate effects to build a healthy, whole, stable individual who will in turn, build a healthy, whole, stable society with their influence on the world around them.

You are developing a culture in which your child is eternally influenced through all their five senses, soul and spirit.

Children do not primarily need the benefits of a mother bringing home an additional paycheck, but the entire household needs the influence of a mother in the home in these formative years.

We have only to scan the news headlines to see life after broken life, fool after fool, train wreck after train wreck of lives coming undone.
Unstable people without a clue.
Their foundations weren’t laid properly.
They are sorely lacking in substance.
It’s not a speech they need – too late for that.
Rehab may help. But it’s iffy.
It was the tireless, unending, laborious, exhausting, discipline and discipleship of a mother and father that was foisted off on others who didn’t have what it takes to get the job done in a youngster’s life.

Dr. Caroline Leaf, cognitive neuroscientist and best selling author confirms this principle in her book, Who Switched Off My Brain. “Childhood is a particularly crucial time for the brain because neural sculpting is at its lifetime high. Many of our abilities, tendencies, talents and reactions are hardwired in childhood and set a mental stage for adulthood.

Herein lies the root of the corruption of public morals in our day. Character is developed over time and it’s what makes the world go round. It’s what determines decisions and divorces and successes and failures, monies made, stolen and given. Character drives the course of history, the condition of nations, cities, villages, communities and neighborhoods.

The dominant, constant force in that kid’s life is going to constantly dominate in his life.
It’s really quite simple.
Who’s imparting to your children-reminding, hugging, instructing, mentoring, training, re-training, repeat?
It’s all so clear.
This is easy.
This is too easy to miss when so many have their hands outstretched to take this responsibility from you.

It’s about developing values and conscience and conviction and perceptions and judgments and discernment both intentionally and ‘accidentally’ in a human being who will, in turn, touch so many other human beings for better or worse.

Your Two-Minute Takeaway

  1. What specific, helpful thoughts came to mind as you read this post? Write these thoughts down, as they are the revelation you will be inspired by into the future so that you can be aware and take appropriate action for positive change as you build a healthy foundation in your home, for the benefit of your children.
  2. Look at the big picture of your family’s weekly and monthly schedules and evaluate what really needs to change. Are you so busy and distracted that you are missing so much of ‘The NOW!’ of daily life? I’ve been there and I understand. It could be time for a course correction. Pray and ask for wisdom to bring practical change to your weekly, monthly and quarterly schedule.

*Holistic: characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

5 Priceless Practices for Your Little Leader-in-the-Making

“It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.”—Warren Buffet

Beware the pervasive weak parenting culture where everyone’s tip-toeing around the tulips, afraid of crushing little Johnny and Sally. Adults driven by this misguided philosophy seem unwilling to gently and clearly teach some simple, but important social etiquette skills that are sorely lacking in many kids I meet.

These are four examples I bump into regularly that many parents seem to be:

1. blind to

2. prefer to avoid tackling or

3. simply feel powerless to resolve.

Shy is a lie. I understand that some children are wired to walk in a room mouth first, and others’ inherent nature is to be quiet as a mouse, but the common expression of ‘shy’ in public situations really bugs me.

 

Many young children I meet will not look me in the eye. Their parents stand there pleading with them to greet me, and they refuse. They drop their faces and contort their bodies. They’ll even turn and kick a sibling or fight over a toy as I’m standing there waiting, but they won’t respond to me. I am amazed.

“She’s shy,” Dad says with a nervous laugh. But she’s not shy when dessert is served or she’s handed a gift. First impressions are hard to erase. There is no excuse for such behavior.

Yes, the human race contains many personalities, but each of them, whether quiet and subdued or charismatic and demonstrative, should be bold in humility, chin up. Children shouldn’t be allowed to express shyness and timidity at whim, and greetings should not be optional. Let me add: they ought to be warm and cheerful, with eye contact and an outdoor speaking voice.

Responding to adults is a necessary skill, even for the two-year-old among us. Teach your children to shake hands firmly while they look the new acquaintance in the eye. Putting their best foot forward is imperative if our children want to thrive in any vocation as adults. That’s what leaders do.

If you’ve trained your children to acknowledge adults in some particular manner, their refusal to do so is rebellion to your authority. Don’t ignore it. One day I took the time to line up three of my sons, talk with them calmly and clearly and dole out discipline for their infraction: not shaking hands with a gentleman I had introduced them to earlier in the day, which they knew was expected. Their improper response showed a lack of respect and honor toward the man. “Shyness” takes on many forms. We’ve got to be discerning in these matters in order to parent effectively.

Public Performance. My youngest son was in a performance and his group of four and five-year olds were preparing to sing. I had observed a pattern in his life I knew I had to adjust, so I gave my son a firm, but loving, exhortation. I told him he was not to look down at the ground during his performance. This expression of pretending to be shy would not be allowed because he isn’t shy. Even if he tended to be on the timid side of personalities, I wouldn’t indulge him in the habit of ‘hiding’ as such because it’s fear-based and an unhelpful practice.

I said to him, “You are strong and courageous and bold, and you’re a leader, so get up there and keep your chin up.” After the program, I noted with enthusiasm that he had kept his chin up and participated well. He said, “Mommy, my face wanted to be shy but I said ‘no.’” Victory! This little life laboratory lesson served him well, and now that he’s a Sony-signed artist performing on stages across the continent, he gets to practice this skill regularly. #momknowsbest

Rude Interruptions. Picture this: Two adults are engaged in conversation when suddenly a little tyke runs up, exploding with questions, demands, and other “urgent” matters, and completely disrupts the discussion between the adults. Who gave this three-foot-high little guy the power to derail the progressive communication between these two 150-pound adults, three times his size? Why does this child suddenly become the main attraction, taking center stage when no blood is running, a fire isn’t threatening, and a terrorist has not entered the building? Easy. His mother and father haven’t trained him to handle himself with restraint.

Instead, they’ve trained him that at the drop of a hat, he may have his way, rudely barging in where his nose doesn’t belong. My advice is to put a stop to this self-centered behavior. Train him or her to walk up quietly and gently place his or her hand on your arm or side, never saying a word or making a peep; the child then waits for you to decide when it is appropriate for him to speak, not the other way around.

Potlucks and Parties. Buffets OMG. I dread them when kids are involved. We shouldn’t allow raucous little children the right to race their way to the head of food lines, in front of adults who are present at potlucks or parties. How rude of them to grub everything their heart’s desire, even touching things they decide not to take with no thought for those behind them in the queue.

 

What are we thinking by teaching them they can rifle through all the desserts with their mucky little fingers, slobbering, hoarding, coughing and picking through the healthy stuff to pile on the starches and carbs while their impotent parents sit idly by, watching but unmoved?

Wise adults don’t leave the children to run amuck. Caring adults get involved. Kindly impose regulations when necessary. There are occasions when a citizen’s arrest is absolutely appropriate, and if it happens to your kid, don’t get your nose out of joint.

Written Communication. Thank-you notes should not be optional. Mom was right! Teach your children to weave a tapestry of beautiful words that bless and build up others. ‘Thank-you’s’ can help our children build the muscles of gratefulness and thoughtfulness. By writing notes regularly, my boys worked out their vocabulary, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, artistry, and penmanship or typing skills, all-in-one!

For little ones just starting out, I recommend the fill-in-the-blank type of thank-yous. It’s easy to create these with fun paper on any home computer, or you can purchase them ready-made. Special note cards or personalized stationery can be a great motivator for your older children.

Gifts aren’t the only reason for writing. Teach your kids to appreciate grandparents, neighbors, war veterans, and others who would love to find real mail in their box!

As in other life disciplines, don’t settle for ordinary when your child is capable of so much more! Hand-written, personal notes are rare in our day, but always well-received! Sloppily written text filled with redundant wording, equals laziness. Add horizontal lines with a ruler to help your kids succeed in the neatness category. Rough drafts are often a good exercise and give Mom or Dad an opportunity to review and offer creative input. Have a thesaurus and dictionary handy as tools for successful expression.

Although some would consider these matters trivial, big doors swing on small hinges. These simple real-life exercises will serve your child hugely in the days ahead in more ways than you can imagine. When we take our place as the wise, mature adults that we are, engaging with our children at the points where change needs to happen in their lives, we can expect greatness to emerge in the lives of our boys and girls.

Want MORE? I’d love to be a voice of encouragement on your parenting journey. Grab my FREE gift: HERE: 7 Simple Steps to Raising Happy Kids Who Persevere (while building team spirit in YOUR home)