Welcome to the Club

Has your child ever been destructive? How do you handle the chaos with Christ in the middle - Heaven Not Harvard

It’s been just about a year since this happened. I still can’t believe she did that! I don’t even notice the marks on the bed anymore. I am forever grateful that I was able to handle this act of destruction in a loving way. Our relationship would have been more damaged than the bed had I not.

To Homeschool or not to Homeschool, that is the question!

Trying to decide if homeschooling is the right answer for our family. Weighing the pros and cons is hard when we don't know all of the potential results of either choice. Heaven Not Harvard

To homeschool or not to homeschool, that is the question! Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of playground bullies, or to take up workbooks against the common core and by opposing – teach common sense. Oh to wonder no more, and by making a decision, to say we end the heartache of forever scarring our children by choosing incorrectly. . .

Okay, that Hamlet allusion was probably only amusing me. My students either loved or dreaded Shakespeare units. I always started with a Monty Python-esque British accent and Hamlet’s soliloquy, attempting to inspire them to love the bard.

I was a dedicated public school teacher for 17 years. I hope my students look back and feel I was part of a good argument for sending your children to public school.

But myself, I’m not so convinced. We live in an area that has an emerging school system. Things are improving, but not quickly. We’ve really been torn about whether we should homeschool.Trying to decide if homeschooling is the right answer for our family. Weighing the pros and cons is hard when we don't know all of the potential results of either choice. Heaven Not Harvard

Part of me feels like I’m cheating her from the childhood experience of “the first day of school”, making friends, and meeting other adults who might love and nurture her in a different way than I do.

Local pre-registration for next year is already finished. We chose not to enroll her at this time, but I still struggle with the questions of whether homeschooling is the right choice for us, for her.

I feel like I’m sitting on the fence, making my Pro/Con list without really being able to see all the items on either side of the list.

Trying to decide if you want to homeschool? Here's our pro/con list that made our decision… Click To Tweet

Pro Homeschooling

  1. She has recently been labeled as possibly having ADHD. Homeschooling would allow me to build in wiggle time between lessons.
  2. I can also teach her to deal with her attention issues in a way a classroom teacher wouldn’t be able to in a classroom with 30 other unique children.
  3. She can learn at her own pace, allowing for remediation or enrichment activities and additional subjects, like Spanish and art that our area school may not have.
  4. We can schedule piano lessons or doctor appointments during the day, leaving more time for family in the evenings and weekends.
  5. We can create our own calendar and schedule, which allows us to take breaks when her brothers visit, when her dad has a random day off from the army, or when we want to travel to visit family or friends.
  6. We can reduce or eliminate bullying.
  7. We can control her introduction to the adult subjects of the world. I don’t want to shelter her so much as mindfully guide her using our faith to give her the tools to navigate the world.
  8. I get to watch the world unfold for her. Watching her learning to read for herself has been absolutely magical. Everyday she makes a new discovery, like learning she has a super power.
Here is my pro/con list from our decision about homeschool. To homeschool or not to homeschool? Click To Tweet

Con List

  1. She is the center of my attention all day, every day. She doesn’t learn to take turns or be patient with others.
  2. She misses out on the good memories of making friends, giggling on the playground.
  3. As her only teacher, she may not learn to respect or deal with other authority.
  4. As her mom, our relationship is different, she pushes back at structure and discipline with me in a way she wouldn’t at school.
  5. I have to sit with her during every lesson right now. It is time-consuming and challenging.
  6. Can she learn to be independent if she spends all day with the safety net of Mom and home? Will she be too attached to me?
  7. I can’t seek paid employment while homeschooling, which is difficult for our budget.
  8. Will my attempts to create curriculum be successful and meaningful?
  9. Will playdates and co-op be enough to socialize her? Will she learn social skills as a primarily only child being homeschooled?
  10. Will I have the patience and temperament to make homeschooling a fun adventure instead of daily drudgery?

Stepping into this new realm as a homeschooling parent is less terrifying as a teacher, because in some ways I’ve been teaching her since she was born, but it puts so much responsibility on my shoulders for her social and academic success.

Are you a public/private school parent or are you a homeschooling parent? Are you a product of homeschool? Please share your thoughts and ideas for me.

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Purposefully Practical #1

I am trying to be honestly transparent in my posts, making sure every word is Godly and Biblical. But as I have been working on my parenting, I realized that a lesson about anger and temper is a wonderful tool to help our walk become more Godly; however, some practical tips may be more helpful at times. Like when your child is smearing her somehow naked body with soap in front of the sink when all you asked was for her to wash her hands. . . those are the moments I need real answers about how to parent without getting angry.

I wrote about Temper Tantrums just a couple of entries ago, about the power of letting go of our selfish nature and choosing not to be angry in our discipline. I can honestly say that nothing has changed my household more than refusing to get angry. Getting angry was about my kids, dogs, cat, husband being stumbling blocks to getting my way. Putting aside what I want and simply serving God has gentled me tremendously, but I am still working on practical solutions because in the moment of disobedience or stress, I need a plan so I know I can stay on track with controlling my temper and yet not allow her to rule the roost.

My daughter has had very little regulated schedule for the past two years. We have enjoyed that freedom (between my endless stream of doctor visits), but preparing her for more structured activities is important. Teaching her to follow rules, be on a schedule,  and be able to work independently on a task are some of the skills we worked on today.

Didn’t that sound fancy and formal? When I say skills we worked on, let me translate that for you, I mean I attempted to get my child to behave in any kind of appropriate way. Today the struggle was our daily routine. Getting her to eat breakfast has seriously been a struggle for years. I’ve been dreading her first days of organized school because she eats so doggone slowly.

Rather than wait for school bus days, I decided to start adjusting this behavior today. A year from now when it is her first day of out of the house school, we all will be better prepared.

Our day started off with a bowl of dry cereal (milk makes it too mushy to consume, apparently) and a handful of blueberries with her glass of milk. None of these foods are new or different or weird, but handing her breakfast food has traditionally been a battle. She hems and haws. She takes a bite or two and sits there. She stares into space, wants to watch TV while she eats, she talks incessantly, so we end up spoon feeding her just to get her to eat. If we take it away, she is starving ten minutes later.

After spooning two bites into her mouth, I decided that this was it. I wasn’t going to do this anymore. She is FOUR for-the-love-of-pete! I prayed to God and asked for some idea to change this behavior.

“Eating your breakfast is important. Food makes you grow healthy and strong. This is what I am serving today. You have 15 minutes to eat this cereal and drink your milk. When the timer beeps, if your food isn’t gone, you will have a consequence,” I said.

I was quiet and firm. Walking over to the microwave, I set the timer so she could watch it ticking down and went back to washing dishes and cleaning out coffee pots, etc. She didn’t say another word. She ate. At 9:18 to go, she shouted, “DONE!” I praised her and kissed her. “Good job! You worked really hard to get your breakfast finished quickly. I hope you eat like this all the time.” Beaming with pride, she hugged me.

Then I sent her to brush her teeth, which she did for two minutes, then came back for her next set of directions. Going to her room to make her bed took awhile. She was in there playing (imagine that!). After a few re-directions, I told her I was going to set the timer for five minutes. She started crying hysterically, jumping up and down. God grabbed me and told me to listen to her emotions, not ignore them.

I brushed away her tears and asked her what was the matter. She was afraid she couldn’t do it in that time, so I doubled the time, assuring her I believed she could easily make her bed. I kissed her and sent her running laughing to make her bed. She came and tagged me at two minutes. Then I sent her back to pick up her toys, she was back in another two minutes. She even told me not to reset the timer, she could get it done. In a total of four minutes, she had picked up all her toys and made her bed. It was like magic. Amazing.

IMG_4280-3.JPGI gave her clear expectations that were developmentally appropriate for tasks that were not new. I made racing the timer fun, giving her pride in her accomplishment. She felt empowered instead of over powered. Mommy WIN!!

Discipline is crucial, not to create automatons, but to create children who are respectful of authority, kind to others, empathetic, loving, obedient, and ultimately self-sufficient and confident. Learning how to use calm, consistent discipline in my home has been a game changer for me, but sometimes the day-to-day issues that arise take some ingenuity to solve without resorting to the negative behaviors of my past, especially when her temper is still wildly in play. I have to remember she is 4, that her coping skills need guiding so that someday she can deal with her emotions just as easily as she made her bed today, a skill that four months ago was new. Maybe in a few more months, my ability to be quiet and calm will be second nature to me as well.

At least today, God ruled my heart which allowed me to deal with her attitudes and issues appropriately. Using the timer even helped her eat more quickly at dinner when she wants to talk so much that she ends up not eating, which made daddy happy, too.

Update – day two – she ate, made her bed, picked up without actually having to set the timer, just had to ask her if she needed one. I recognize all children aren’t motivated the same way, but most children will respond to something fun. Seek out how your child has fun and use that to motivate him/her.

Setting a timer, making a task feel like a game, can be a tremendous motivator for us too. Have a task you’ve been dreading? Set a timer or stopwatch to see how quickly you can get it done. I will do this with dishes or laundry sometimes to help me get through it quickly.

Like Mary Poppins once sang, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” We like to use music and a timer to make unpleasant tasks fun. Any ideas that have worked at your house?

It isn’t the rule that matters

Today, my daughter needed to tell me something while I was in the bathroom. We’ve instituted a rule that if the door to the bathroom is closed, she is to knock before entering and/or wait, unless she has an emergency or something is really important. She’s four, so we give her some latitude with what she considers important (i.e. her brother holding a toad in the living room), but today she by-passed three closed doors to get to me. Opening all of them without knocking. So far she has only done this with me, but the rule is partially in place to avoid her walking in on her father or nearly adult brothers, or heaven forbid, a guest.

She stood at the bathroom door, peeking in at me. “I need to tell you sunthing.” I sat there, trying to decide what to do. Her little voice  was so quiet and sweet.

Was it life or death to make her follow this rule? Part of me said, just listen to her, what will it hurt? It will be faster just to hear her out.

But then I realized, that it wasn’t important to make her follow this specific rule because it was that important of a rule, but because if she doesn’t learn to follow the little rules, she won’t learn to follow any of them.

1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Despite being a rule follower myself, I realized I’ve been letting a lot of little ones slip around here. Instead of holding her to the rules, I try to be nice, taking circumstances into consideration. However, she doesn’t understand the complicated mental processes I’m going through when I decide to let a rule slide for a single circumstance, all she sees is that she can’t count on the rules, that I’m not consistent.

Instead of being nice, I’m really being incredibly unfair. She doesn’t know how to behave because there is no consistency. The result is a lot of discord and disobedience, frustration and anger. I decided that making her follow every single rule every single time might not be right, but I need to be way more consistent. Teaching her what to expect from me every time will help her feel safe and secure in a home that has structure with logical consequences. If we are our children’s first Bibles, first glimpses of God in how we reflect Him, I need to be as Christlike as I know how to be each day, and part of learning to be Christlike is to be consistent.

Hebrews 13:8 ESV “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

He never changes. His ways are all the time, for everyone, even when, in His mercy, He created exceptions to the rules and sent His son to redeem us from the penalty for our sin. All we have to do to know what He expects is to read the instructions ( i.e. the BIBLE). When I finally came out of the bathroom, after ascertaining that her “sunthing” was neither emergent nor important, she happily told me some little adorable animal fact she had seen on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I didn’t have to get upset or raise my voice. I just had to be consistent. This is the rule. This is the expectation. I will happily hear you in a moment, please be patient. She walked away knowing I cared, I want to listen to her, and knowing what I wanted her to do. Wow.

Later today, she tried to act up while a friend was over, throwing a fit over the guest child’s toy. I was focused on our conversation, but took the time to put her into time out, to make sure she was sitting quietly, not shouting at me from the step, then to send her to her room when she couldn’t control herself. She started to throw a fit, but when I counted to three, she ran to her room, sat in her rocker and waited for me to come get her. Being consistent, gently firm, and unwavering helped her understand what I expected and how she should behave. Considering that she went from laying on the floor in front of the stairs yelling that she had no toys to play with to sitting quietly in her chair waiting for me to tell her she could come out, I call that a parenting win. I didn’t have to get angry. Her failure to comply was her problem. I just had to be consistent.

Most parenting experts can tell you, all it takes is ONE exception to an expectation, and children understand all bets are off, whether that expectation is giving up a pacifier or sleeping in his/her own bed. If a parent caves once, children know to exploit that weakness. I’m fallible, I’m weak, but I have to be more consistent because I love her, and want her to know what that means. As an educator, I know I know better, but I didn’t realize how much I had been letting slip in the name of “kindness.” How hard would it be to worship and follow a god like I’ve been acting? I’ve been holding her accountable to a rule, except when I don’t feel like it, then getting angry when the rule isn’t followed the next time.

Thank God for GOD. His law is forever. We can understand who God is and who he calls us to be.

Luke 16:17 ESV “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”

I’ve read most of the Bible at least once, some bits way more times, and some parts, I’m working my way through. But when you put it all together in context, with understanding of the WHOLE scripture and the Holy Spirit, God becomes very clear. He is who He is, all the time. If he calls us to be transformed from the ways of this world into His ways, isn’t being consistent and faithful part of becoming more Christlike?

Hebrews 10:23 ESV “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

God is faithful, always. We can know if we confess our sins and believe, that we are forgiven. We are called His sons and daughters. He gives us that to KNOW, not to hope in or assume, but to know because He is faithful. We understand our responsibility and the infinite grace God shares because of who He is.

1 John 5:13 ESV

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

So that we may KNOW that when we believe, when we act in accordance with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, that we have been redeemed and saved. Shouldn’t my daughter be able to know who I am, what I expect from her, all the time, or at least as much as humanly possible? and to know thy my discipline is guidance and love just as we know to accept God’s discipline (see Hebrews 12) as it brings us closer to sanctification. 

1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV “God is faithful, by Whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

God is our Faithful Father, calling us, guiding us, disciplining us, restoring us in gentleness, being hard when our hearts are hard, but always holding to the same standard, ‘do not sin.’ I have a hard enough time not sinning when I know what the rules are, when the expectations are clear. I feel a bit ridiculous for expecting my daughter to follow fluid guidelines as if she could read my mind, knowing which time I “really meant it.”

Turns out, it isn’t the rule that really matters. It is choosing to have a few fair rules and enforcing them consistently with love, mercy, and compassion hopefully developing a child who knows how to love others as Christ has called us, and yet knows when to question an unrighteous rule because she truly believes something is wrong, not just questioning and rebelling against everything because she doesn’t have a firm foundation.

Matthew 7:24 ESV

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

Another day of making sure my actions, my prayers, and my words reflect the words of Christ to teach her to build her life on the Rock because He is always faithful.

Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/God,-Faithfulness-Of#sthash.CQmSqPYz.dpuf
Lamentations 3:22-23

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

– See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/God,-Faithfulness-Of#sthash.CQmSqPYz.dpuf

Lamentations 3:22-23

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

– See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/God,-Faithfulness-Of#sthash.CQmSqPYz.dpuf

Welcome to the Club

It finally happened. I've officially joined the club of "mmm, she's awfully quiet in there . . . WHAT DID YOU DO?" moms. Now I had to decide how to discipline.

It finally happened. I’ve officially joined the club of “mmm, she’s awfully quiet in there . . . WHAT DID YOU DO?” moms. Now I had to decide how to discipline.

My mom joined the club when I was two and covered my crying sister with talcum powder, then made tiny powder clouds all over the upstairs of our house. My parents never got all the powder out of the deeply grooved tile floor and still blame me for my sister’s asthma.

It is my earliest memory.

I’ve actively avoided joining this club. We read Olivia as a cautionary tale. I hide ALL the Sharpies. All to no avail. I’m a card-carrying member now.

It finally happened. I've officially joined the club of "mmm, she's awfully quiet in there . . . WHAT DID YOU DO?" moms. Now I had to decide how to discipline.

A couple of days ago, she made her bed all by herself. I went in to praise her for doing such a good job independently, and then I saw it.

Up and down the top and side of both her headboard and footboard, were bright gashes everywhere, all over her espresso stained bed. Pairs of gashes .  .  . wait, those are TEETH marks?!?! Oh my child, what did you do?

I was instantly furious. I froze in sheer horror at the damage she just did to a very expensive bed. And I prayed for guidance because I felt all sorts of crazy, but I knew that this was a defining moment. I could parent her or punish her.

Despite my anger, I prayed for guidance, knowing I could punish or parent. Click To Tweet
Ephesians 4:26  NIV “In your anger do not sin”

The Bible doesn’t tell us not to be angry, but not to sin in our anger.

In fact, losing my temper would be more serious than her behavior because I know better: Because I’m the adult, and I’m the one calling myself a disciple of Christ, Because my actions could be a witness of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life.

2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I am actively working on self-control, assessing and changing my default reaction when my emotions are overwhelmed.

The true test of faith is demonstrating it when life doesn't go according to our plan. Click To Tweet

It is easy to behave like a Christian when everything goes correctly. The true test of faith is living it when life doesn’t go according to plan. Being able to parent her kindly in this moment would be a huge testament to the change God is working in my heart.

Proverbs 13:24 ESV “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

Most people, Christian or not, are familiar with this verse. Some people use it to justify abusive punishments.  I do not. As a parent, I try to use the least amount of discipline/force necessary to correct my child because I want her to focus on the instruction, not the angry mom.

Make the discipline instructive, designed to correct the behavior, not to alleviate your anger.

Make the discipline instructive, designed to correct behavior, not to alleviate your anger. Click To Tweet

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

Sometimes adults forget how their little minds work. We forget the logic of being four. We treat them like little adults, which frustrates and hurts, instead of leading them with age appropriate discipline and guidance.

When I was five, I actively believed that people learned to fly as adults, despite never having seen anyone fly in real life, and was determined to make my parents so proud by learning early. I would run and jump down the 14 step wooden staircase, crashing into the wall at the bottom, convinced that once I could just navigate the turn, I would swoop out to the impressed cheers of my mom and dad.

But it was also supposed to be a surprise, so every time I crashed, I just told them I fell. It was only during an adult conversation about this memory, my dad confessed that he thought, perhaps, I had special needs and considered carpeting the stairs to avoid head injuries from all of my falling. I think he was more convinced I had issues after I told him what I’d really been doing.

So my child definitely has the right mother, and I certainly needed reminding before deciding how to discipline her that she might have been ‘trying to fly’.

So in that moment, I prayed, just the act of asking for guidance, really helped me step outside the emotion. And I marched her tiny hiney to time out, which is also our bottom step.fleming_timeout-225x300

I was upset, I cried a little, told her I was very upset about the damage to her bed, and she needed to sit in time out until Daddy could come talk with her.

And I walked away. I prayed to use this as a teaching opportunity because the damage was already done. No yelling or fussing was going to undo her chewing (?!) all over her bed.

Deuteronomy 6:7-8 ESV “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise . . .”

Teaching our children God’s ways should be in everything we do, should be as intertwined with our lives as our breath.

I contemplated what lesson was important here. Was the lesson to not chew on our furniture? Or to respect our belongings? Or to obey her parents?

I could easily have made sure she never chewed on furniture again, but what I really wanted to teach her is how to make a mistake and learn from it and how to ask for guidance when she is tempted to do something she thinks is naughty.

I let her sit in time out for a few minutes while Daddy finished his chore outside. I briefed him on what happened then followed as he walked her into her room and talked with her.

“What did you do?” He said, exaggerating his dismay.

“I scraped my teeth all over my bed.” she answered solemnly, a tiny quiver to her voice, her big brown eyes and pouty lip daring him to be angry with her cute little self.

“Why did you do that?” daddy asked, incredulously.

Then quite matter-of-factly, she answered, “I was sharpening my teeth.”

I had to cover my face and turn away because I was laughing. I’m not sure which was funnier her beaver explanation or listening to my husband’s science lecture carefully explaining why humans don’t need to sharpen their teeth.

So now what? We needed to make the punishment appropriate and instructive instead of merely punitive.

As daddy dabbed stained the spots to make them less noticeable, we talked about taking care of our things to enjoy them longer. Maybe going without some of her favorite things would help her understand. I got a small bag and asked her to select her favorite toys to go into time out. She carefully filled the bag, explaining to me why each one was treasured.

I made sure she knew the toys would come back in a few days, but that it was a lesson in why we take care of our things and that she needed to remember that we don’t destroy things on purpose.

Something about my first memory is that it was my first spanking. I had been trying to help my sister stop crying when I discovered the fun powder clouds. I didn’t understand I had coated the entire upstairs of our house. I couldn’t see that.

All I could see was that my dad was angry, and I didn’t understand why. I got a spanking and stood in a corner. I remember staring at that yellow wall, crying, angry, wondering what I did. I was only two.

I don’t want her to remember our anger. I want her to remember a conversation and fair punishment. She was sad. She asked me in her tiny voice, “Are you dista-pointed in me?” breaking my heart into a million pieces. She said sorry, and I forgave her. She rushed into me, begging for an embrace, knowing that no matter what she does, I still love her and will wipe away her tears.

Galatians 6:1 ESV “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

We needed to restore her in a spirit of gentleness. The bible has lots of verses about discipline, but this one feels like it is just for me, reminding me to be gentle, not to be tempted to allow my anger and indignation to spiral out of control.

Hebrews 12:11 ESV “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

God disciplines us. If you read the rest of Hebrews 12, the passage basically says to rejoice in God’s discipline because it means we are truly His, that He is treating us as his children. The fruit of Biblical discipline and a Godly reaction is redemption, salvation, and righteousness.

She needs to learn discipline and instruction in many areas to grow into a Godly woman. That is our job. Her beaver antics were an opportunity for me to teach her, and for me to remember what the world looked like through four-year-old eyes.

If I punish because I am angry, she won’t learn the right lesson. She’ll learn to not get caught, instead of how much we learn from failing. I really want her to learn that everyone makes mistakes and how to make better choices in the future. I need her to know the joy and freedom of forgiveness.

When we got her toys out of time out this morning, we talked about what she learned. She asked me if I was still mad. I pulled her gently in my lap, kissing her cheek as we talked. I said that I was still sad about the damage to the bed, but that I stopped being angry when I forgave her. Her smile was priceless. I asked her what she learned. She told me that she learned not to chew on things, not to be naughty, and to listen to God’s voice in her heart.

I feel like I learned just as much about God’s love, redemption, and forgiveness as she did. What a wondrous Lord we have, how miraculously He works all things together for our good, even a child sharpening her teeth on her bed was a great lesson in love for all of us.