10 Life Lessons from Generation Joshua and SAT’s

ten_life_lessons_from_genjNow I know November has all but come and gone, but before the title of this post sends anyone into a panic, please allow me to put your mind to rest. This month held a lot of amazing life lessons but taking college SAT’s was not one of them. No, our little family had the opportunity and blessing of attending our first Generation Joshua Student Action Team event, and we can’t stop talking about it!

Generation Joshua is an American Christian youth organization founded in 2003 that aims to encourage young people to learn about and become involved in government, history, civics, and politics. During election months throughout the year students and their parents have the opportunity to volunteer around the United States on Student Action Teams, encouraging people to get out and vote.

Earlier this month, the girls and I spent five long days working with a local campaign alongside many other homeschooling families. Days were spent running around town, knocking on doors; while evenings were spent making thousands of phone calls. It was crazy, busy, and absolutely amazing. Through it all we learned a few life lessons.

The Fruit of the Spirit Is… – There is nothing like faith in action to give you first-hand knowledge of spiritual fruit. We quickly learned the value of patience, as waiting for the right moment to move and for everyone to be ready plays a big part in election season. We learned to be joyful in harsh circumstances. Kind toward those who would abuse us. And so much more. Our week-long experience put Scripture into action, and we learned so much.

Everyone Has Limits – We had a perfect plan set in place. Then reality hit. Some of us could not run as much as others; eating lunch mid-day proved to be problematic as we got tired afterwards; and bedtime became a serious need. Our team learned to identify our own weaknesses, and then set about a plan to strengthen the group. Our limits didn’t prevent us from reaching our goals, but it did teach us to rethink how we would accomplish them.

My Kids Far Exceed My Expectations – My children never cease to amaze me. While I think they do fairly well on a day-to-day basis, there’s nothing quite like a stressful situation to bring out the worst and the best in someone. Through this event the Lord allowed me to see my children’s gift of communication, their kindness, their teamwork, and their dedication to a task. There were a few tough moments, but overall they did exceptionally well and I’ve learned not to discount their abilities.

My Children Don’t Always Need My Help – Confession. New situations tend to make me anxious. When my children are in new circumstances, I tend to over-instruct or hover. It’s true. Student Action Teams depended on trust. Trust in my children making wise decisions, sticking together, and working smarter not harder. Trust that the Lord would protect each of us while out doing the work assigned. While I don’t know that new situations will ever make me feel entirely comfortable, SAT’s were an eye opener. My kids can do so much more than I am ready for.

Competition Can Be a Powerful Motivator – Our Generation Joshua team was divided into six smaller teams, each with its own vehicle, navigation tools, and assignments. At the end of each day, teams would meet up to compare notes and see who had reached the highest goal. All in good fun, and for the benefit of our candidate, our teams quickly caught the spirit of competition; determined to reach more people than any other team. It was amazing to see these children so motivated and ready to do a good work.

We’re Most Productive When Inspired – I’ve noticed a trend in our home. When I push and cajole, my children are likely to lose interest. Quickly. On the other hand, when I am excited – when their friends are excited – the desire to move forward comes from within them and work happens naturally. It was a blessing to see our children be inspired to action and for them to care so deeply about the person they were representing.

Everyone Has a Part to Play… – But not often the same role. We would have done far worse had we all tried to do everything. Early on, we learned to appreciate each person’s unique gifts and put them to use. Some of us were awesome runners, others were fantastic navigators. We each played a vital role, but in different capacities.

Every Little Bit Helps – We can too often get caught up in serving only when it seems we will make a big impact. But who’s to say what is big? Those delivering food to call rooms were equally important to those answering phones. As were those who emptied the trash, cleaned the tables, and filled our gas tanks. Our children leaned the value in doing the smallest of jobs, and how even little things help in the biggest of ways.

God Is Ultimately in Control – Once more we were reminded that while we may lend a hand, God does the work. We might be momentarily frustrated with how some of the elections are turning but we trust He is in control.

We Loved It! – Student Action Teams are a lot of work. I won’t lie to you. But, it was an incredible blessing. We loved being there, lending a hand, meeting new people, and serving the Lord. When people ask if we would do it again, our response is an easy, “Absolutely!”

Unfortunately, November has almost come and gone. However, we’re soaking up the last few days of the month and rejoicing in the coming holiday season. While enjoying our turkey and cranberry sauce, I’m sure we’ll all be fondly remembering the blessing of serving with local homeschool friends and sharing moments of thanks for the Lord’s blessing during our trip. We learned so much, and give God the glory for each moment of our adventure.

We’re curious… Have you ever joined a Generation Joshua SAT, or something similar? We’d love to hear all about it!

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
~ I Peter 2:13-15

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Is My Dream Dangerous?

is_my_dream_dangerousJust like Mr. Martin Luther King Jr., I too have a dream. It might not seem as grand as his. No one but me and God might know it exists. But it’s there. Deeply rooted in who I am, extending to every fiber of my being. My dream is a beautiful one, but potentially dangerous. For my dream, like all dreams, is not reality. And if I’m not careful, my unfulfilled dream can quickly cause a great deal of trouble.

The dream is me always smiling. I stand in my kitchen watching over my children while we homeschool happily. I am always dressed to perfection, and own a spectacular apron which personifies the glory of homemaking. There are fresh-baked cookies in the oven ready for my family to devour. We get through our lessons with little fuss, anxious to continue exploring. We play games together, cook together, and we are constantly encouraging each other.

The reality is I don’t smile as much as I probably could, or should. While I’m usually with my kiddos, there are some schools days which have us all pulling our hair out. The apron I do own is usually forgotten, and my clothes are evidence of this fact. Lessons don’t always work as planned. Particular subjects are a challenge to the day. We’re all craving cookies, but mom is on a ridiculously tight budget and can’t find five minutes to bake, even if she could find chocolate chips in the cupboard. By the time we’re done schooling, we’re all needing a few moments of space and relaxation.

While I jest, and over-exaggerate just a tad, there is nothing wrong with the dream. We all need something to aspire to. Nor is there anything horrible in our reality. We all have hard days. The danger lies in my inability to separate what I’d like to be from what God calls me to be. God is not asking me to be what anyone else thinks I ought to look like; not even myself. God calls me to be faithful.

There are days I get lost in the dream. This isn’t the life I imagined! Why can’t I seem to be the mom I want to be? Why isn’t our homeschool day as I envisioned? My day is so clouded by my dream, I fail to see the beauty in my reality. No, the day isn’t perfect, but it is mine and it is a joy. If only I would look past what I wanted and see how God has blessed.

I am sure there is a dream in each of us. A dream of what type of parent we want to be; what our marriages would look like; and how our homeschooling year would flow. Our dreams are special, ideals we are reaching towards. But in the struggle to obtain, let us rejoice in the reality in which we live.

We’re curious… What was beautiful about your day?

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
~ I Timothy 6:6-7

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Children’s Books – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. But Mostly The Ugly.

My wife, thankfully, is a voracious reader. I say, “thankfully”, because someone has to vet all the literature our children read; and they read a lot. The thing is, there’s a lot of ugly stuff out there, and it’s produced by a secular entertainment industry which cares nothing for the well-being of children. All they care about is pushing the envelope in order to tantalize young minds. In the end, it’s all about appealing to the basest of human nature in order to sell a product whilst promoting a worldview untethered from moral restraints. What’s worse is that the entertainment industry is propped up by secular critics who, quite frankly, are shills for their material (whether for ideological or for pecuniary reasons).

Not all critics, however, are quick to embrace the trend toward dark children’s literature. Meghan Cox Gurdon has made the case more than once for “good taste in children’s books“. You can read her well-argued position at the Wall Street Journal. Her arguments are so good that I can’t improve on them, so I’ll simply quote her to give you an idea where she’s at.

Gurdon observes, “How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

Some of her detractors have suggested that reading about such subjects does not lead one to participate in such things, to which she responds, “Reading about homicide doesn’t turn a man into a murderer; reading about cheating on exams won’t make a kid break the honor code. But the calculus that many parents make is less crude than that: It has to do with a child’s happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart. Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.

Gurdon also notes that an “argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless.” Gurdon responds to this by suggesting that “it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures.

When addressing the literary world’s view of this trend, Gurdon observes, “literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to the words or storylines in young-adult books.” Gurdon goes on to share about an editor who “bemoaned the need, in order to get the book into schools, to strip expletives from Chris Lynch’s 2005 novel, ‘Inexcusable,’ which revolves around a thuggish jock and the rape he commits. ‘I don’t, as a rule, like to do this on young adult books,’ the editor grumbled … I don’t want to acknowledge those f—ing gatekeepers.’ By f—ing gatekeepers (the letter-writing editor spelled it out), she meant those who think it’s appropriate to guide what young people read. In the book trade, this is known as ‘banning.’ In the parenting trade, however, we call this ‘judgment’ or ‘taste.’ It is a dereliction of duty not to make distinctions in every other aspect of a young person’s life between more and less desirable options. Yet let a gatekeeper object to a book and the industry pulls up its petticoats and shrieks ‘censorship!’

In a recent Imprimis article (July/August 2013 issue) adapted from a speech given by Gurdon at Hillsdale College on March 12, 2013, she again shared about those on the secular Left who view her efforts as repressing freedom of expression. This objection is, of course, an hypocritical double-standard. In fact, Gurdon notes in her speech that such secularists “have their own list of books they claim are tinged with racism or jingoism or that depict [GASP!] traditional gender roles.” Gurdon’s larger point is that “the self-proclaimed anti-book-banners on the Left agree that books influence children,” insofar as they demonstrate this by preferring some books to others. This unavoidable elephant in the room is a damning indictment against irresponsible persons who would despoil children’s innocence by promoting an endless stream of material which presents nothing more than (if I can borrow from Dennis Prager) “a proctologist view” of the world.

Rather than continuing, I would invite you to search out Gurdon’s articles on the subject and read through them for yourselves. Allow me to share the ending words of her Hillsdale College speech:

Let me close with Saint Paul the Apostle in Philippians 4:8:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

 And let us think about these words when we go shopping for books for our children.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

FG

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How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

how_much_screen_time_is_too_much“Mom, may I play on the iPad now?” “You know the rules. Have you completed everything on the list?” Yeah… You read that right. I have a list. It’s not a long list. It’s not a particularly hard list. But, it’s a list nonetheless. You see, I want my kids to understand something important. Technology is not the be-all and end-all of life. Using devices is fun, absolutely, but responsibility and activity really ought to come first.

How do we determine when our kids can use a device? I’m glad you asked!

Setting Boundaries

First things first, our kids need to get their day started off on the right foot. No devices before breakfast, not even on weekends. Second, during the week, our kids need to finish their learning activities and any chores we may have for them.

Once our kids are allowed to get on iPads or computers, there are also a few restrictions. I love for them to have fun, but spending all afternoon playing is just a bit too much for this mama. They are allowed to play for a designated period and then they must find something else to occupy their time. They are encouraged to go outside, play with one another, start a project, or just relax. Just because we have the blessing of a device, doesn’t mean we have to sit in front of it every waking moment.

How Much Time is Too Much Time?

If you’re looking for a fast, easy answer, you’ve come to the wrong place. Honestly, this is not a decision anyone can make on another family’s behalf. Through prayer and study of our children we have a better understanding of how much time is too much time and when to pull the plug. Sometimes literally.

I would recommend monitoring screen time though. As in all things, moderation is key. You can have too much of a good thing! One key factor is how our children start behaving in their free time. If they become unable to entertain themselves outside of devices, they are spending too much time on it. If their behavior starts to suffer from usage – throwing tantrums when asked to get off, etc. – this is also an indication that we might need to start cutting back or cutting off entirely for a period of time.

Understanding the Difference

There is a significant difference between being on a device for gaming purposes and learning purposes. Yes, both require sitting in front of a screen, but one adds significantly more wrinkles on the brain than the other. Arguments could be made that Minecraft and the like are actually helping our children to learn; I won’t debate that point. However, games like Crossy Road? Just… don’t.

Screen time for gaming purposes needs to be limited. Learning, generally speaking, has no limits. However, I reserve the right to kick my kiddos off all technology and make them get fresh air. After all, one can only sit in front of a glowing screen for so long before the brain starts to fizzle and die.

If At First You Are Confused…

Go and ask Pop! That is my fall-back. As much as I’d love to tell you we always abide by the above routine, that would be a lie. There are days our routine is completely thrown off; days when we take field trips; days when we have hospital visits; and days when they want more time on a device. When mom doesn’t know what to say, we ask Pop. He always has an answer.

I’ll be honest. If I could own the newest Apple device the minute it comes on the market, I would. I like technology. I use technology. All…the…time. However, I also understand that sitting in front of this screen all day everyday is a bad idea. Our bodies need sunshine, exercise, food, fellowship, and rest. Technology is a good thing, as long as we exercise self-control and use moderation.

We’re curious… In your opinion, how much time is too much time?

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Fulfilling Our Civic Duty

fulfilling_our_civic_duty

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…”
~ U.S. Constitution – Article 4 Section 4

Mid-terms are upon us and it’s time to turn our attention to the voting booth. As citizens of this constitutional republic, wherein we are blessed to participate in this experiment of self-governance, we have a civic duty to be proactive in electing representatives and voting on legislation.

As parents, not just “homeschoolers”, it’s our duty to teach our children about fulfilling their civic duties. While our children’s textbooks taught them government and civics, we thought it was time to start putting what they learned into practice. So this year I decided to include the whole family in the voting process; a practice we intend to continue, hopefully, for the rest of our lives.

Begin the Voting Process With Prayer

During the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin declared: “In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by word down to future ages.”

If one of the Founding Fathers, a self-confessed deist, believed in divine intervention and called for an appeal to God based on divine scripture, certainly we who call ourselves by Christ’s name can and should do no less.

“You can’t legislate morality.”

In truth, morality is one of the few things you can legislate, and it’s important for our children to understand this. Upholding and enforcing moral principles is the main point of legislation (the other legitimate duties of government being that of adjudication and defense). Laws are passed to codify and announce to everyone that there will be a penalty for engaging in activity that violates moral principles. Thus, while there is nothing inherently wrong with driving past a pole with a red light affixed to it, it’s certainly wrong to endanger the lives of people walking or driving in the other direction, so we have rules to uphold the moral principle of not intentionally endangering others, and this principle is upheld via things like traffic-lights. We need to teach our kids that, upon examination, most laws have some underlying moral principle. The few that do not obviously require weighing other considerations.

The REAL “Voter Guide”
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

Too many people vote based on emotion (which they confuse with morality) and not via any sort of intelligent thought. This leads to much of the chaos we see today. However, we must have something to inform our deliberation, i.e., when deciding how we will vote for a candidate or laws, we need some objective standard of ethics to guide us. Given that a theistic worldview is the only one in which such an objective standard can be found, we turn to God’s word for guidance. Thus, we look at the policies of a candidate or political party or proposed legislation and see how closely all options align with Biblical principles.

Don’t Take Biased Material on Face-Value

We began by taking all of the voting materials sent to us, both the official ballots and general election guide as well as all of the junk-mail, i.e. political flyers. I passed out all of the material to everyone, and we all had a chance to read out loud the things sent to us. Needless to say the junk-mail sent out by candidates or proponents/opponents of certain legislation seriously lacked informational substance or else contained outright misinformation. The kids quickly saw how useless most of this kind of material is.

Just the Facts

After ignoring most of the junk-mail, we turned our attention to the official election material. Depending who controls the state, the names of proposed legislation and the analysis can sometimes be misleading as well. If you really, really, want to be certain what’s in a proposed bill, it’s best to read the actual text of the bill. I’ve only done this a few times with controversial laws because it can be a daunting task reading the vomit of verbose legalese used to conceal the dubious activity contained in most legislation. Certainly the kids won’t sit still to listen to me read through all of that mumbo-jumbo. So if you decide to read through a bill, do it on your own and give a brief recap to the kids so they don’t lose interest.

“Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things,
to draw away disciples after them.”
~ Acts 20:30

While this verse is teaching about doctrine, it can also be applied to “Christian” churches or organizations that put out voter guides. We teach our kids not to place blind trust in such material simply because it alleges to be from a trusted source. If false teachers lie about God’s word, you can bet they’ll lie about political issues. We teach the kids to be diligent and do their homework to the best of their abilities.

Candidates for Our Republic

Again, most political mailers were not at all helpful when deciding on candidates. Usually, their political party platform is sufficient to determine their position on issues, so comparing their positions to Biblical standards is an easy enough task. One thing we impress upon our children is the Biblical principle that all of mankind are sinners and flawed individuals, so we’re not looking to elect a perfect person. Moreover, politicians will be long gone while their policies remain to wreak havoc on us and our families, so it’s best to impress upon the kids that one ought to vote based on a candidate’s policies, not the man’s flawed character. It’s those policies that will affect us for generations, not the person.

While we’re on this subject, it’s also important to impress upon our children the fallen state of the world. We can’t create heaven on earth. Any and all of our efforts will always be flawed in some way. Our choices in life, including our political choices, will be wrought with compromise of one sort or another. Often, in order to enact one law or another, it may adversely affect something else. Furthermore, electing a person who upholds one set of Biblical values may mean you have to suffer their endorsing of some unBiblical value. Few if any candidates will share every single position we hold, and even if they do so through their rhetoric, few actually do so through their practices. The point is, it will always be easy for critics to level some charge at any policy or politician, because few decisions in this life prove to be flawless or without some consequence. The guiding principle is to remain as close to God’s Word as possible and, where there are apparent conflicts of duty, seek to do the greater good.

“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
Mark 3:25

While we, the parents, will ultimately cast the vote, we let the children know that their participation mattered in how we decided to vote. It was also important to let our kids know that, since we are looking to God’s word to guide us, we should be united and of one mind, so one family member ought not to be voting contrary to another where clear moral principles are concerned. We are not voting based on personal opinions or preferences, but according to God’s will, which seeks unity.

Make This Family Event Fun

We didn’t want to turn this into a drudgery. All of the kids were allowed to speak their mind and give their opinion. We asked them to defend their positions and explain how it corresponds to Biblical principles. We highly encourage healthy and civil debate, if people differ, until a resolution can be found, again, based on God’s word.

It is our duty to not only fulfill our civic responsibility, but to pass the importance of that blessing down to our children. Through prayer, open discussion, careful research, and the study of God’s Word we’re looking to encourage our children both in their learning adventure and in becoming responsible members of the world in which they live. And, prayerfully, have a little fun along the way.

We’re curious… At what age did you begin to take an active role in civics?

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Am I A Thermometer or A Thermostat?

am_i_a_thermometerIs my thermostat in working order? I don’t mean the one on the wall of our home, adjusting the temperature in the rooms of our house. Rather my internal thermostat; the spiritual gauge which helps maintain the temperature of my heart and life. I’ve discovered something true. When my internal thermostat is placed at God’s proper setting, myself, my family, and my relationships remain in balance. Every once in a while it’s important to do a heart check and be sure everything is in working order.

What happens when our internal temperatures get too hot? We tend to boil over and spew a burning mess over all those around us. We make rash choices, blow up, and occasionally stop working all together. And when we get too cold? We freeze out those we love, making them feel unwanted. We refuse to think of others, giving them the cold shoulder and becoming self-centered.

Our thermostats can be hard to maintain if we are doing it on our own strength and fail to establish helpful “programs”. We need to rely on the Lord (John 15:5). We need to set boundaries for ourselves, knowing that when we hit a certain point a change needs to be made.

When we get too hot, we need to learn to take a walk, pray about the situation, breathe, and let things go. We can call a good friend and “let off some steam”, allowing us to vent and better get a handle on the problem. When we get too cold towards others, we need to work on building the relationship and showing our feelings. We need to think of their needs, listen carefully, and speak kindly. We need to love on them and let them love us in return.

As my children’s parent and educator, part of my job is to teach them about their own internal thermostat and how it works; to help them learn their limits and how to put programs into place which access the assistance God is so willing to provide. My job is to also example a properly operating system. Are my children witness to an out of control parent, or one who adjusts to the continual changes of the day? If I am failing to model gracious, purposefully redirection of the temperature in our homes, how can I expect anything different in my children.

We are not called to be thermometers; constantly being changed based on the mood of our homes. We are called to be thermostats; constantly maintaining to remain inline with God’s purpose. Having a balanced thermostat will keep our family unified and peaceful. We will begin to recognize when the temperatures get out of normal range and how to adjust, bringing us closer to Christ. May we rely on the Lord to keep our hearts aligned with His will, and may He give us strength to work accordingly.

We’d love to learn… How do you readjust your internal thermostat when it gets out of range?

“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
I Timothy 4:16

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Am I Provoking My Child?

am_i_provokingLife can be challenging, especially for a child. There are so many things to learn, rules to follow, and people to obey. They have seemingly little control over their own lives and can often get frustrated when things do not go their way. One of the most frustrating trials a child can face is when their own parent provokes them. Whether we mean to or not, as parents we can push our children beyond what they are able to endure.

I find it beneficial to periodically reflect on my parenting; making sure I am not the source of my child’s frustration. At least not purposefully. Here is a list of ways I’ve found might provoke my children:

  • Constant criticism and a failure to encourage
  • Double standards and/or being a hypocrite
  • Being angry and harsh
  • Lack of affection
  • Telling them what to do or not do without giving Biblical reasons
  • Comparing them to others
  • Embarrassing them (correcting, mocking or expressing disappointment in them in front of others)
  • Lecturing them and not listening
  • Failing to be humble and asking for forgiveness
  • Micromanagement
  • Giving them a greater burden than they can bear (whether it is homeschooling work, chores, or responsibilities)

The Bible teaches that we are not to provoke our children to anger. (“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4) While this verse speaks directly to fathers, I am sure it must also apply to us moms.

Reflecting on my parenting and my relationship with my children, I am able to clearly see ways in which I am failing as a parent and ways in which I can improve. While I will constantly fail, I pray that I am getting better.

We’re curious… Which verses speak to you when dealing with this area of parenting?

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged.”
~ Colossians 3:21

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10 Reasons Your Child May Not Want to Attend College

10_Reasons_CollegeFor years we’ve been planning this day. All the hard work has finally paid off, college applications are starting to pile up and we’ve narrowed down which grants our student should apply for. We sit down with our baby, excited to narrow down which colleges they’d like to focus on. Then, our child hits us with a bombshell. “Mom, I don’t think I want to attend college.” Wait… what? Wasn’t that the goal of our learning? Isn’t this what we’ve been aiming for all these years?

Before we have a panic attack or start convincing our child why they have to attend college we might want to take a step back, pray, and ask a few questions. Maybe the Lord has other plans in mind.

  1. They Are Scared – Let’s face it, becoming an adult is a big step. Instead of judging our children or passing off their fears as immaturity, we should take the opportunity to pray with our child over this matter. Encourage them, help them seek comfort, and take steps to calm their fears.
  2. They Don’t Know What They Want to Do – While we’d all like to think our homeschooled children finish their learning with a goal in mind and purposeful steps toward achieving it, that’s not necessarily true. Instead of criticizing and nagging about needing to make some decisions, we need to pray and give them time to hear the voice of the Lord. Trust God to speak to them and guide their futures. We should council our children in their strengths and help them see their own potential.
  3. They Don’t Understand the Importance of Higher Education – Our child might be an artist, a writer, or already have a job (see below). While it might be true, getting that piece of paper might not make you a better artist, our children need to be made aware of the other benefits of attending college. Connections, discipline, and business management. Besides, who says it can’t fine tune those God-given talents?
  4. They Want to Take Time Off – They’ve just finished twelve years of solid learning. If we were planning for college, the last four to six have been heavy-duty studies. It’s not shocking for some students to want down time. For some, it’s the best thing we could do for them.
  5. They Already Have a Job – Some view college as a means of obtaining a job. If they’re already working, going to college seems pointless. This might be a good opportunity to point out that higher education will help them further their careers. Even if you stay at a job for several years, you’ll want to work your way up the ladder. You will need to take business courses and managerial courses to do this.
  6. They Want to Attend Vocational School – Not all careers require a four-year university. Instead of immediately jumping on the college bandwagon, we might want to consider local schools which focus on our children’s interests and gifts. Vocational school is not a step down, but a clear path towards the goal.
  7. They Want to Run Their Own Business – Some don’t want to climb a ladder, but build their own. That is an admirable goal. Instead of discouraging our children, this is a great opportunity to lead them toward focused classes which will help them meet their goal. We need to help them think of this as a business investment.
  8. They Want to Join the Military – Joining the military is an honorable endeavor. If this where our children are being led, my only advice is to pray. Pray a lot; pray tons. Then, we need to give them our blessing and continue to pray until they are home. May the Lord go with them and protect them.
  9. They Want to Be a Missionary/Pastor – The Lord has called our child into the field. It can be a scary step for a parent, knowing our children might be in danger or rejected. But, if God has called them, who are we to stand against? Pray, seek the Lord for confirmation, and then help them prepare for the journey ahead.
  10. They Want to Be a Stay at Home Mom – A noble career often looked down upon, even amongst ourselves. (Isn’t that sad?) Some of our daughters are not going to seek jobs and that’s not a bad thing. Until the day the Lord blesses them with families of their own, this is a great opportunity to help them learn the fine art of making a home. If we’re concerned about them providing for themselves while they’re waiting upon the Lord, this might be a great time for them to work in fields which help promote such gifts. They might work at a crafting store, a bakery, or in any other establishment which helps them further their gifts and serve the Lord while doing so.

We must remember our children are becoming adults. We may council them, guide them, and disciple them, but our children need to make their own decisions about their future. If our children are floundering or making seemingly poor decisions, we need to be praying on their behalf.

I would also encourage us to not wait until high school years to start praying over our children’s futures. From their births, may I encourage each of us to constantly be lifting our children before the Lord, asking Him to speak clearly to our children and make His paths known to them.

As I am constantly telling our own littles, “This is not about what I want for your future. This is not about what you want for your future. This is about what God wants of you. My job is to prepare you for whatever He has called you to. My prayer is that you hear the voice of the Lord clearly and then, that you obey it wholeheartedly. Seek God first.”

We’d like know… Is college something your children are interested in?

“Seek the LORD and His strength, seek His face continually.”
~ I Chronicles 16:11

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Getting the Most From Our Reads

getting_the_most_our_readsSurprisingly, I read as much young adult fiction as my children do. I enjoy the genre and especially appreciate being able to share these books with my kiddos. Our family also delights in classic literature. We laugh, cry, and share some wonderful memories centered on great books. Together we’re getting the most from our reads.

In our family, reading books extends beyond the page. We soak up the words and make them come to life. Through conversation, play, and more, we use these steps to help us:

Read – No matter how we choose to read, sharing a book with our child can be fun. We pick one of the following methods and go to town:

  • Together – We snuggle on the couch, gather round the table, or cuddle in bed at night. No matter when or how, we enjoy the read as a family.
  • Alone – Some of our books make the rounds. Mom reads it first – making sure it’s a clean read – then it goes through the crowd, usually from the fastest reader down.

Story Coaster – After we finish our book, we hit the plot points. Were my younger children able to follow along? I use this time to ensure they understood who the main characters were and the focus of the story; reviewing vocabulary and literary terminology I wish for them to learn. Only a short amount of time is given to this, but it is well worth the few moments and our children have learned much in this practice.

Reenact – Depending on our chosen book, acting out portions of the story is included. While reading Little House on the Prairie, we might build a cabin with Lincoln Logs or do a little baking. Most stories inspire some form of hands-on activity to partake in.

Discuss – While the reading, in-and-of itself, is always a treat, I rarely leave a book without taking a moment to check in with my kids. I want to hear their thoughts on the read and cover important ground which the Lord has prompted me to share. This takes our book to a new level, moving past what’s on the page and encourages our children to correspond the story to reality.
A key-note: We launch conversations with open-ended questions. The goal is to get our children to talk, not merely answer “Yes” or “No”. We ask what our children liked/disliked about the book; what they learned; their favorite character/portion of the story; and their take on the book in general. As our children mature, we discuss world views which might be present. (One series which comes to mind is Hunger Games. These books launched many wonderful conversations about government and reform. The writing was not at its best, but the benefits from our talks was well worth the poor literature.)

Watch – If there’s a movie, we’re more than likely going to watch it. This launches entirely new discussions on difference between the two, which they liked better, and more. Plus, who doesn’t like a good movie?

Play – Did you know many popular books, authors, and publishers have websites filled with games and activities? For added fun, we enjoy hopping on to one of these sites and playing games which relate to our read. Our favorites are the The Chronicles of Narnia, Mysterious Benedict Society, and Harry Potter websites.

For those with littler children, or are unsure of where to start in their literary adventure, we highly recommend Five in a Row. With FIAR all the work is done for you! Each week, you follow a suggested read and enjoy the multitude of activities available. Included are questions to discuss with your children and additional resources. Once you’ve grown comfortable with the format, branch out and choose your own books.

We love great literature. By discussing these books and bringing them to life, we are creating wonderful memories and life-long lessons for our children to remember forever. Our books jump off the page and we get the most from our reads.

Now we’re curious… What is your favorite part of reading a book?

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Do Not Grow Weary

do_not_grow_wearyI’m not sure why people associate being a “good” person with having an easy life. Sure, you don’t suffer the consequences of as many poor choices, but life is far from easy. In fact, doing good can often be trying, difficult, and, if we allow it, disheartening. It can be discouraging to work your fingers to the bone and yet see others succeed far beyond what you can imagine. It can be hard to watch others with more resources while you are barely making ends meet. How are we to deal with these feelings of jealousy, disappointment, sadness, and discouragement? With truth and thanksgiving…

Their Kids Are So Well Behaved

Trust me, no one’s kids are perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, misbehaves, and has trouble on occasion. We should rejoice for that family, praising the Lord for what He is doing in that home. Then, thank the Lord for the kids we have. They might not be perfect, and we still have some work to do, but they are ours. We should pray the Lord would show us ways to encourage better behavior and give us grace while they are still learning.

Their Kids Are So Accomplished/Well Educated

Just like you would not want to be compared to others, we need to be careful about comparing our own children. Each child was created by God perfectly. Some children are quicker at learning; others delve in deeper, but take more time. Some have learning delays, but they are trying their hardest.
Our goal ought to be in having our child do their best, not as good as Johnny down the street. We need to thank the Lord for the ability to educate our child, or help them with their learning, and praise Him for their progress thus far. We should ask Him to show us if we could be doing better and how. If we are doing fine, we pray the Lord would remove the doubt seeping in so we can better focus on the task before us.

Their House Is So Nice/Organized

What works for one family, might not work for another. A lady might clean her house daily because her husband prefers it this way or because she doesn’t know how to function any other way. The lovely home you see might be the culmination of years of saving and hard work. Of course, quite simply, it could be a blessing. How sad it is when we look at the blessings bestowed on someone else and all we see is our own lack.
This is a great opportunity to praise the Lord for what He is doing in that family; that He use them for His glory. While our homes might not be our dream, at the moment, we thank Him for a roof over our head and full bellies. We ask for His continued provision and for wisdom to use our resources wisely.

They Have More Money Than We Do

Another tough one… We can try our hardest, but sometimes we struggle. Why is this? Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer for you. Financial struggles stem from a myriad of roots; some we’ve brought upon ourselves and others from life circumstances.
Again, thanksgiving is key. We need to thank the Lord for the ways He is currently providing for us and ask that He continue to do so. We praise Him for meeting our needs and hearing our cries for help. We also need to remember, in times of plenty, those who are still struggling and lend a helping hand.

They Always Have So Much Going On

Home improvements, soccer games, ballet recitals, vacations, dinners with friends, and more. We all know people who seem to be constantly on the move; always busy, with lives filled. Praise the Lord for times of quiet, where you can hear His voice and be filled! They’re great. If you’re looking to have more sociable activities, pray the Lord would open those doors.

Sometimes our hearts lead us astray, preventing us from seeing the truth of the situation before us. We see ourselves as trying to do the right thing, doing good, and yet we seem to be going nowhere; struggling in vain. It is in those times, especially, that we need to be asking the Lord to show us His truth.

When our hearts are focused on what God has already done in our lives, offering up thanksgiving for our blessings, we have no room to be ungrateful for what we don’t have. When our hearts are filled with His love, our strength is restored and we are able to continue doing the good we are called to. May we all take a moment to simply offer our thanks to our Father for what He does in our lives daily. May we learn to look past the moment to see the eternal, and focus on things above.

We’d like to know… Share seven things for which you are grateful for today!

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
~Galatians 6:9

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