Book Review: Beyond the Tiger Mom

“This book’s thesis is that Western and Eastern parenting philosophies have vastly different strengths and weaknesses; therefore, parents on either side of the world can learn from each other…”
(Maya Thiagarajan, Beyond the Tiger Mom)

Beyond the Tiger MomBook Review: Beyond the Tiger Mom by Maya Thiagarajan is an intriguing, thoughtful book. Ms. Thiagarajan invites us into her world, giving us glimpses of her global experiences in education and parenting. She shares with us lessons learned both academically and experientially, sharing tips for putting the best of both worlds into practice.

Beyond the Tiger Mom consists of three sections: Academics, Achieving Balance, and Myth, Media & Metaphor. Chapters cover topics such as “Why Are All the Asian Kids on the Math Team?”, “Raising Readers”, “Memorization, Practice, Exams, and Other Things Asians Love”, and more. Each chapter closes with a handy “Tips for Parents” section, to help families apply concepts covered in the previous pages.

We found Beyond the Tiger Mom interesting and informative. We appreciated reading of Ms. Thiagarajan’s personal experiences and her interviews with Asian parents. Each chapter covered key concepts of learning, giving insight into methods both Western and Eastern parents use regarding this area of development. Ms. Thiagarajan does a wonderful job of clearly identifying strengths and weakness in both cultures while continually encouraging parents to seek the good of the student.

A thoughtful point Ms. Thiagarajan brings forth is the notion of finding balance. As parents/educators, we do not wish to over-stress our students with study so intense our children never have play time, but neither should we take our children’s education so lightly they do not take study seriously.

While learning disabilities were briefly mentioned, and confirmed, in her book, we would enjoy reading more on this topic. It would be nice to have a better understanding of how other cultures acknowledge and work through these challenges in education.

We were encouraged by reading Beyond the Tiger Mom! Whenever we take on a book specifically relating to education, it’s possible to find areas of study we’ve glossed over. Instead, we found much to confirm we’re not only on the right track, but already implementing the ideals put forth.

This was an enjoyable read with much to ponder. We appreciated learning about Eastern culture and their parental perspective on child rearing, and discovering their viewpoint on Westerners. The “Tips for Parents” portion of each chapter are a great check for those looking to fill in any gaps in their child’s development.

As Ms. Thiagarajan pointed out, childhood should have balance. May we be inspired and encouraged to seek the Lord to find the right fit for our children. Only in Him will balance be found, enabling us to not only reach our littles academically, but in leading them to Christ.

FTC Disclaimer

Your Turn!: Consider this statistic… “The well-publicized study titled ‘Early Warning Confirmed‘ by the Annie E. Casey Foundation,… third grade as a particularly important year. If a child is strong in reading and math in third grade, then he will do well throughout school.” We’d love to hear your thoughts on training up children early!

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When Pop Comes Home

When Pop Comes HomeI frequently read lovely posts about preparing for Daddy’s arrival back home at the end of each day. The ladies might perhaps put on a pretty blouse, touch up their makeup, and spritz themselves with perfume. Moms are wonderful about making sure the house is straightened up, the kids are in decent order, and dinner is just about finished. I wonder though, what do those women do whose husbands are home all day?!

I find myself in this predicament and often wonder how many other women are in the same boat. My husband, generally speaking, works at home. There is no touching up makeup before he gets in the door, there is no sprucing up the house, or cleaning up of kids; he sees it all.

While we are together the bulk of every day, I would like to think there are a few things I can still do to bless him. They might not be astounding, but every little bit helps!

I make sure we are groomed. This might seem silly to some ladies; I mean sweats are clothes, right? While my husband doesn’t mind what I wear, I still prefer to get up before everyone else and get dressed. I put on “street clothes”, no sweats or pajamas. I put on just a little makeup and do my hair. I want my husband to know that I look nice for him, not just when I leave my house. Periodically I will touch up my makeup, as needed, to ensure I keep looking fresh. My kids are also trained to get up, get dressed, and be presentable.

I make sure the house is fairly decent. While messes can’t be avoided, we do try to keep things more livable. We have trained our children to keep their toys to one room or area at a time. This ensures that the mess can be cleaned up fairly quickly and if my husband walks out of his office, he is not overwhelmed by disorder.

I make sure to touch bases. While we might both occupy the same house, that doesn’t mean we are actually communicating. At various times throughout the day, I make sure to pop my head into his office and see if he needs anything. Perhaps he might like some fresh coffee, a snack, or a hug? Near the end of the day, we talk about when he would like dinner and I get busy.

When my husband does leave the house, I try to walk him out and greet him on his return. I want to be the last thing on his mind when he leaves and the first one to welcome him home.

While I don’t have the benefit of preparing our home before Pop’s return at night, I believe we are doing our best to make him feel welcomed and appreciated whenever he steps out of his office.

Your Turn!: How do you prepare for Dad at the end of each work day?

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The Dilemma of Sleeping Children in Parents’ Beds

The Dilemma of Sleeping Children in Parents' BedsFor years, no matter how hard we tried, my son would not sleep through the night in his own bed. Oh, he would start the night out in his own room, but somehow in the middle of the night he always managed to sneak into the room and tuck himself in with his Pop. We tried having him sleep in his sisters’ room, we tried keeping a nightlight on, we tried any number of things. There was no substitution for Pop.

When he was little, it had been suggested that we train (read = paddle) him to stay in his own bed. Helpful friends mentioned we should lock our door. Others were adamant we let him cry it out. My guy and I didn’t care for any of those solutions, however. Sure, any number of them would have worked, but why?

While we weren’t getting as much sleep as we could and there were some nights we were wrestling with our son to stop moving around so much, it was nice to have him close. We only have our children for a short time and we appreciate the closeness they have with us. It would seem a shame to prevent them this brief moment in their lives. It won’t last forever.

While our son no longer sneaks into our room every night, on occasion I will wake to find him sleeping on the floor alongside the bed. It seems something bothered him during the night or he felt lonely and needed our company. He needed comfort and security.

I’m not sure where you’re at right now. Perhaps your littles are still in need of constant attention, and you’re about ready for them to grow out of this stage. Maybe you’re where we are with kiddos who still sneak into the room in the middle of the night. You might even be ‘done’ with these foundational years of parenting, with children grown and ready to move out. No matter where we are, may we learn to embrace each moment and rejoice in its gift. For a gift it is, indeed.

And, hey, we can sleep when they’re older, right?

“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
~ Malachi 4:6

Your Turn!: Do your children sneak into bed with you?

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Altering Learning Mid-Year Is Not the End of the World

Altering Learning Mid-Year Is Not the End of the WorldOver the years, we’ve had need to alter several of our courses. Especially in high school. What once flowed is no longer working. What made sense, now seems muddled and hard to follow. It’s taken me some time to realize altering learning mid-year is not the end of the world. Not even my little world.

This past semester, I dropped the geometry course my oldest was taking and went for something different. Yup, you read that right. Mid-year. We’re starting from scratch – just to be sure she fully understands the concepts taught – and using an online geometry curriculum I wish I’d found six months ago. Scratch that. I wish I’d found it last year. It might have made Algebra more bearable. Both of us are appreciating the change.

Geometry isn’t the only course we’ve switched up mid-year. Music appreciation, morning basket, and more have been known to change throughout the year. There were reasons why we switched each course over. I won’t bore you with the details. Well, maybe another day. But not today. Suffice it to say, each served a purpose when they were used and each new change brought about a purpose in our lives. God knew what was best.

Children not only grow in maturity from school year to school year, they develop throughout the learning process. If I am afraid to change, update, or alter my children’s education to reflect this maturity simply because I hate to waste curriculum or renegotiate  a well-planned year, my heart needs to change.

As I’ve mentioned before, I hate giving up on something; it feels like I’m… giving up. What the Lord has been trying to teach me is that this isn’t giving up. This is a lesson in giving in, to His leading. An opportunity for me to understand I don’t hold this little world in my hands; He holds it in His and He knows exactly what’s best.

May the Lord continue to encourage each of us, reminding us He is in control. If God is leading to alter learning, even mid-year, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a new adventure.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God

and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”
~ Psalm 95:1-7

Your Turn!: Have you made any mid-year changes to your learning routine?

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Why the Daily Checking of Our Children’s Work Is Key

Why the Daily Checking of Our Children's Work is KeyFrustration etched on her face and anger in her voice, a friend realized her children needed to review an entire level of their school work. For weeks they had been plodding along without any help from her, insisting they were just fine. The truth sang a different tune once ‘grading’ day arrived. Several of the kids hadn’t understood a bulk of their studies, while others had gone straight to the answer key and copied. She quickly understood why the daily checking of our children’s work is key.

Please understand, I tell the above story not to ridicule the mother who was doing her best with the daily struggle to get everything done, but as a personal homeschool check and a warning. Waiting too long to check our children’s work could lead to trouble and unnecessary frustration.

Quickly, and without much effort, our days become overly filled with activity and responsibility. It seems easier to put off the multitude of worksheets until the end of the day and check them then. If I’m really in a rush, Friday might work? What’s a few days, more or less.

We’ve come to realize a few days can make a great deal of difference. If I miss one day of checking in on my kids, the next day might be a complete loss. And the day after. And so forth. Each lesson is a block upon which another will be built. If one is crooked or out of alignment, the entire structure is faulty; needing to be rebuilt. Once I finally discover the issue, I then have the frustration of calling in my hard workers and apologizing for having to undo everything they’ve already done and have them start over. You can imagine how popular this makes me.

To save myself a world of hurt and days of deflecting angry muttering, I’ve chosen to check in with lessons on a daily basis. It doesn’t take long; just a moment really. All the children sit together to study, so looking over shoulders to make sure everyone is on track is more easily managed. If they are struggling, we work on it then and there. As we’ve chosen to focus on a mastery approach, this works for us. There is no point in moving forward tomorrow if lessons today are not understood.

How often do you find yourself checking work? We know this works differently for every family. Some find it best to review at the end of each day; others the end of the week. For those whose children are working independently via computer, checking work might not be a concern at all. (Although one might expect a brief overview of children’s progress?)

We know one thing to be true, no matter when we grade, being involved in our children’s learning is key. Having Christ as our center and asking what He wants of our learning and leadership helps us stay on track, no matter what that looks like.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
~ Ephesians 6:4

Your Turn!: Share with us how the Lord has directed the fun task of checking all those stacks of paperwork!

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The Case of the Missing Pens!

The_Case_of_the_Missing_PensI didn’t want to do it. It goes against every Mom grain in my body. But, they’ve pushed me to a limit and I need to take a stand. What happened, you say? Well, you see, it all started with the case of the missing pens…

Rrrrr… Am I the only one who’s tired of things going missing? I buy a box of pens, place them in a location where everyone can access them; then, magically, before I reenter the room, they’ve all disappeared. Yeah. How can four kids possible need twenty pens all to themselves?

If it were just the pens, I might – might – be able to move on. (OCD and all that.) But, it’s not just the pens. Paper disappears, rulers vanish, glue runners seem to run off in the night. Where are they hiding it all?

All joking aside, this is a dilemma. I don’t want to go on a treasure hunt just to write a note. I need a supply closet which remains intact. Resources which stay in place, allowing me to get jobs done. Thus, I’ve come up with a solution. The kids have their own supplies, and mommy has hers.

The kids’ supplies get restocked every quarter, but until then, they are inspired to make the best use of their resources. If pens go missing, they know to start hunting them down amongst themselves. Mommy doesn’t have them, and she is not going to buy more until next quarter.

I don’t like having separate supplies. It makes me feel selfish. But, it’s become necessary in order to function without losing patience. If the kids truly have a need, it’s filled. If they borrow something, I let them. As long as things are returned. I’m reasonable like that.

It’s amazing! Suddenly, pens no longer go missing. Pencils are where they’re supposed to be. Rulers are returned. Order has been restored! Thank goodness.

“But all things should be done decently and in order.”
~ I Cor. 14:40

Your Turn!: What is one resource you can’t seem to keep in stock for homeschool days?

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Just How Important Is Nature Journaling?

How Important Is Nature Journaling?I enjoy the notion of nature journaling. Perusing other people’s gorgeous collections of art, admiring their hard work and artistic abilities is a hobby. Unfortunately, the minute I ask my children to pick up a pencil, all joy is lost. Which causes me to ask, just how important is nature journaling?

This is not something we started from infancy. This was not a mom hobby. Oh, I like looking. But I’m not one of those awesomely passionate moms who’ve been journaling for years and my children just naturally pick this up. That would be nice. No, I’ve only started having an appreciation for nature journaling in the last few years and my kiddos are still catching up.

I think our problem derived from a forced study of nature. “Here is a flower. Now draw it.” While I would attempt to coerce them into seeing the beauty of the flower – which wasn’t too hard – the moment I pointed to blank paper, this became another chore on their list. No longer was this fun and creative, it was homework.

Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion I should still carry our journals on trips as often as possible. I will make a point of taking time to stop for the purpose of journaling. But instead of forced participation, I will pull out my own and start to doodle. They are free to join in or simply enjoy God’s creation. If He leads, they will follow.

We’ve also adapted the notion of nature journaling to fit our needs. At times my children enjoy drawing, at others they would rather collect specimen and write about them. To this end, we carry tiny plastic bags which our children can glue into their journals with notations made beside each item. They collect flowers, seeds, sticks, and more. (Obviously this method does not work with creatures, but we take pictures of those and journal about them later.) With the freedom to choose their favored method, they are once again experiencing joy in this activity.

Whether or not our children choose to journal, I make a point of leading our children to God through His creation. I might not take time for a full lesson on the parts of a flower or the levels of a tide pool, but I am sure to express joy and awe in the colors God has chosen to use, the intricacy of the tiniest creatures, and the obvious design in everything. I am not nagging. This is not an assignment. This is true exploration and appreciation by leading my children to God.

I am inspired by the many women I see online, and in person, who take time to journal at every opportunity. We share joy in seeing all those lovely illustrations crafted by multitudes of creative children. Through God’s leading, we are trying to find our own way to nature journaling. It’s going to look unique to our family’s needs and that’s just perfect. Journaling needs to be God centered and open to His leading. What’s truly important is seeing Him.

How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.”
Psalm 104:24-25

Your Turn!: Do you like keeping a nature journal?

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Are You For Us or Against Us?

“Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?'”
Joshua 5:13

are_you_for_us_or_against_usI’m sure we’ve all read this story hundreds of times, both for ourselves and with our children. The object lesson is usually along the lines of teaching God can do anything, even bring down walls of a city. Nothing is too big for God. And this is true. But it wasn’t until quite recently an entirely new lesson was brought to my attention, speaking to my heart.

For those who might be unfamiliar with our story… Joshua is the new leader of God’s people, Israel. After forty years of wandering in the desert, God has brought them to Jericho and the promised land. The only problem? A huge city, with a seemingly impenetrable wall, stands in their way.  While out perusing Jericho, Joshua sees a man and asks his question, “Are You for us or against us?” An understandable question. The response, “Neither.”

If I were Joshua, a flood of emotion would be coursing through my blood. Relief. Disappointment. He isn’t here to kill me, but help would be great too. Frankly, I would be missing the point entirely. The question isn’t whether or not this man – an angel of the Lord, by the way – was with Joshua. What mattered was whether Joshua was with God.

Now that, my friends, is the question of a lifetime.

Often, I find myself praying for God to be with me. (Read: To be on my side.) I want Him to make my homeschooling day successful. Meaning easy and fun. My budget to be prosperous. Oh, and having fewer parenting woes would rock. Who doesn’t want God on their side?

But, what I want is not really important. I should not be asking myself if God is with me and my silly plans. Instead, I should humbly be confessing my desire to be on the side of my Lord. It is His plans which matter and His plans which always succeed. The question is whether or not I am going to seek Him out, asking for vision and clarity.

In Joshua’s story, we see a lesson in obedience and faith. The Israelites do as God planned, and God is glorified. We see the people blessed beyond imagining. If we were to keep on reading, do you know what else we would see? A history of obedience to disobedience and back again. Another lesson. When we stop asking ourselves if this is God’s plan, and start following our own, we end up in trouble. 

Today, may we be encouraged. I pray the Lord would humble me, reminding me of where my heart belongs. May each of us be filled with faith to the fullest, able to follow God no matter where He leads, even to the walls of our own Jericho; knowing God is greater. May we not stray from the path, whether through a valley or mountaintop; continually asking God to lead.

Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'”
James 4:15

Your Turn!: You’re walking through the valley, with fruit trees all around. Which fruit?

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Forcing Children to Make Friends

forcing_children_to_make_friendsI don’t understand. Help me understand. They asked to participate. They were looking forward to today’s event. Now, all of a sudden, they would rather not go. As we’ve started branching out in our homeschooling endeavors, this seems to be a recurring issue. Do I start forcing my children to get outside and make friends?

The Lord has opened incredible doors to us recently. Nature groups, book clubs, and more are all becoming available. While I’d love to participate in everything – that’s just who I am – I also understand this is not physically possible. Thus, I often ask my children which activities they would most like to attend and try to make them happen. Sounds great, right? One would think.

The dilemma is not in the planning, but in participation. Inevitably, the morning of, my children express disinterest in the activity. They hem and haw, unsure of whether or not they wish to attend. To make matters slightly more difficult, these are not events which require our presence or activities which have been reserved. Nope; we are free to come and go as we please. Which is lovely, unless your children use this as an excuse not to attend.

What’s a mom to do?

Understanding the Problem – Perhaps my children’s disinterest is a mask to cover their fear or anxiety. Making new friends isn’t easy. New venues can be stressful. Maybe they are currently content and have no interest in making new friends. It happens. It might be our schedule has been over-busy and our kids need a break. I won’t know what the problem is until I ask. Open communication needs to take place, and my children need to know they can trust me. I want to help, not push them further away.

Working Together – Great, we now know what the problem is. Let’s find a way to make this work. Prayer is always the best first step. Finding a working plan is the next. Maybe a current friend could attend with us, helping us feel more at ease and breaking the ice. Whatever we need to make this work, we’re willing to give it a shot.

When It’s Time to Move On – Let’s face it. It takes time to do all this research. If our children are not expressing an interest, it might be time to move on. Instead, let us focus our attentions on activities they do wish to actively participate in and make the best use of our time.

Here’s where we now stand: I will present an event or opportunity to them. If they say, “Yes”, then we go. Period. Let your yes be yes, and all that jazz. However, if they consistently say no to a group or set of activities, it’s time to put it on the back burner or lose it altogether. It’s just not the right time. No harm done.

Emergencies and inclement weather aside, my children need to understand the value of committing to planned activities. By doing my part and better understanding their desires, I can help them make wiser choices in which events we should attend. Together, we can go forth and have fun, making new friends along the way.

This shouldn’t be me pressuring them to get out and have a good time. Instead, it should be a family endeavor to enjoy each day, prayerfully making new friends along the way. It is only by understanding, encouraging, and forging the way will we arrive.

“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”
~ Matthew 5:37

Your Turn!: What’s the furthest distance you’ve traveled to make a homeschool event possible?

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Our January Reads (2017)


Are you as excited as we are? A new year has begun, and this means tons of new literature. Besides the books we’ve already tagged at the local library for upcoming reads, we’re keeping our fingers crossed on a few previews as well. As always, this should be a spectacular year on the reading front.

As we started back with homeschool lessons mid-month, and the month isn’t quite over yet, I’m afraid we don’t have many books to cover. But, rest assured, February’s stack is quite large and we’ll have tons of great books to share.

  1. Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Want Made Women Miserable (Andrea Tanteros) – Fifty years after Betty Friedan unveiled The Feminine Mystique, relations between men and women in America have never been more dysfunctional. If women are more liberated than ever before, why aren’t they happier? In this shocking, funny, and bluntly honest tour of today’s gender discontents, Andrea Tanteros, one of Fox News’ most popular and outspoken stars, exposes how the rightful feminist pursuit of equality went too far, and how the unintended pitfalls of that power trade have made women (and men!) miserable.
    An interesting read, to be sure. I am not a feminist by any means. But the title was intriguing, especially with all the media buzz lately, so I thought it might be worth a shot. I was surprised to find I agreed with most of Ms. Tanteros’ arguments, and spent a great deal of time sharing with my husband, who continually reminded me that men have been making these points for years. 
  2. The Bet (Chekhov) – The Bet is an 1889 short story by Anton Chekhov about a banker and a young lawyer who make a bet with each other about whether the death penalty is better or worse than life in prison.
    This short story was suggested at a recent conference. It can easily be finished in under half an hour, but the context of the story prompts hours of conversation and soul-searching. If you’ve yet to read it, follow the link and be blessed!
  3. Tyranny of the Urgent (Charles Hummel) – Now thoroughly revised and expanded, this classic booklet by Charles E. Hummel offers ideas and illustrations for effective time management.
    While technology has advanced well beyond that which was mentioned in this booklet, the truths remain. In a world which constantly urges us to hurry, it’s time we learn to slow down and hear God. 

Short, but sweet! February is about to dawn and already our stack is growing by leaps and bounds. Join us next month to see what we’ve been reading, and what we recommend.

Your Turn!: Which non-fiction read would you suggest we pick up next?

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