An Atmosphere of Discipline

IMG_0184

As promised, here’s some more thoughts from my personal “unit-study” on discipline.

When it comes to discipline “training” it’s helpful to use a medical perspective. Prevention is better than medication. I think that most of us would whole-heartedly agree with that train of thought. It is SO much easier and more enjoyable to train ourselves and our families to be disciplined in the present, rather than dealing with all the numerous hosts of consequences and misbehaviors down the road.

Daunting task? Yep. Easier said than done? Absolutely. Complicated? Not really.

The thing is we’re all going to have our weaknesses and different personalities and cultures to deal with but even given all those variables, discipline training really boils down to two key concepts. Model and Method.

#1 The model:

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We HAVE to model self-discipline.This is absolutely essential in discipline training with children. They are still learning all the nuances of language for one and may not completely understand WHAT you are saying. Or maybe you’ve caught yourself like I did with myself the other day yelling at my daughter, “Stop speaking so rudely to your sister!!” Hmmm….see anything wrong with that picture?

But there is even more to self-discipline than anger control and obedience. I’ve been thinking about questions like this:

Do we buy everything we want, right when we want it?

Do we make others in our family wait on their wants to meet our own?

Do we barrage our families with every bad mood/day?

Do we complain and whine whenever we don’t want to do something or are inconvenienced?

Do we eat like there will never be food again?

Do we avoid exercise?

Do we avoid reading/ learning new things?

Do we avoid planning because we don’t want commitments or expectations?

Do we lie? Cheat? (Kids usually can’t tell the difference between a “white” lie and a “lie”)

Do we neglect our family or other important responsibilities because we are thinking of ourselves (ie: “me time”, career development, etc)?

Do we avoid budgeting because we don’t want to have the responsibility of managing our funds?

Well then….what exactly are we expecting from our children?

Now, obviously with some of these questions there are things to consider such as disability, health issues, etc. But when I honestly took a look at myself with these questions in mind I started to realize how much a disciplined home begins with me.

#2 The method:

This encompasses both Work and Patience Training.

For Work, we typically use Stewardships. Ok, I guess they are more commonly known as chores or jobs but to me those words had such a negative connotation that we use “stewardships” at our house instead.  The basic premise is that these jobs create responsibility which gives them a feeling of belonging and significance. They feel needed and wanted. Their contribution matters.

Also, when introducing the “whys” to our kids we explained that God gives us everything we have and in order to show gratitude and have further “responsibilities” we have to take care of the ones we already have.

This should be a step-by-step, little-by-little process. It requires training too! You can’t expect anybody to read your mind. Be honest and specific about what is expected and then follow through with instruction and continued “check-ups”.

Since the world is becoming less and less agricultural we may have to be creative, but find a way to make sure that everyone has something that they are responsible for and that they FEEL it is a responsibility. Work creates self-discipline because one must put off the natural man and train their mind and body to do something they many not WANT to do, but they know it is necessary and good.

This step ties right back in to modeling as well. If you’re not taking care of your responsibilities then….?

Patience Training happens naturally while training your children to work because they have to be patient to see a desired outcome. We can enhance patience in our children pretty simply: Make them wait. And often: Make them work for it. This doesn’t mean withhold needed things. We’re not creating stoics. Although we can make them wait even temporarily to eat, sleep, attention, etc.

This starts in infancy, we can soothe a child with our voice to let them know we will meet their needs but we don’t have to do it in the moment. This is especially true when the “need” is really a “want”, kids must learn from the get-go what is a need and a want and that they will have to be patient for both and generally work for a “want”.

Just like anything else, you CAN have too much of a good thing. Discipline does not mean you should become like a machine. Everything will NOT be perfect. I should make this my mantra 🙂 Sometimes, life happens. BUT, “training” in any sense of the word is an incremental process. Every morning I wake up I’m striving for a “better-than-before” kind of day!

Monkey See, Monkey Do

ImageOne of my son’s first words was “Crap”.

One of my daughter’s favorite things to do with her dolls is put them in “Time Out”, not always nicely.

When my children have a disagreement among themselves, more often than not, yelling is involved.

When my oldest daughter doesn’t agree with you she gives you a face that looks like she could slap you upside the head.

So why did they or do they do these things? Take a guess….

Yep, when my son was little I used the word “Crap” about as often as I said “No”. My daughter gets “time out” frequently of late, and I’m not always nice about it. I yell…..WAY more often than I should.  That look on my daughter’s face? Well, it’s like looking in the mirror for me.

The nice thing about this phenomenon is that it IS like a mirror that MAKES you face your weaknesses. The bad part is seeing those weaknesses ALL the time and facing up to them and THEN having to train it out of your child as well.

So, why the confession? More of an analysis for me really. I would say about 95% of the time, when I encounter a behavior and/or pattern in my children that I do not like I can trace its beginning back to teaching and training done in the home.

I’ve been thinking this over as I consider our character training for this next academic year. Thinking about what I MUST DO and BE in order to me the mother God and my children are expecting of me. The thing is, I can teach and train ‘til I die….but if I’m not talking the talk and walking the walk, there is very little likelihood that my children will have the character that I aspire them to have. No one listens to a hypocrite.

Does personality matter? Yep. Absolutely. That’s why the teaching and training cannot be identical for each child. That is also why it gets so complicated when you have more than 1 child in the home to deal with.

It’s just like a chemical reaction. There are some chemicals that we don’t mess with too much because they are so volatile. The same goes in the home….there are some personalities in our family that should not be corked in the same bottle for too long. There are also things we know that in our family we just steer clear of….our main triggers are over-scheduling/fatigue and “bad” (for us) eating habits. I know that when we start mixing in one or both of those ingredients there is bound to be a blow-up with someone.

Then I have to consider needs. Physical yes, but mental and emotional more. We cannot listen and learn if our needs are not met. Just think about when you are physically ravenous….can you do calculus? (Well, I can’t do calculus anyway, but you get the point). It’s the same chemical reaction mix. If my kids are not “fed” with all of THEIR needs then very little learning will happen. This is also a tricky one because every child is so different and thus their needs are as well.

It’s tricky, no doubt about it. There are times I feel discouragement start to trickle into my soul, leaving deep black valleys that can quickly fill up with despair. I may have made changes but I have light-years yet to travel on my road to perfection. If it were just me that would be one thing, but I have these little angels in my home that I must guide along the way.

But I am not alone. YOU are not alone. What great trust God must have in us to lend us HIS children to teach and train. He will not leave us alone to do it. I have been running across this message in my devotionals all week, one of my favorite verses of scripture says in beautifully,

Matthew 7:7-8:

aAsk, and it shall be bgiven you; cseek, and ye shall find; dknock, and it shall be opened unto you:        8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that aseekethfindeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Whenever I feel alone, whenever I feel like I’m the only one working….I stop and reflect….God NEVER  leaves us alone….WE walk away from HIM. It’s a promise….we seek, we find….we knock, the door opens….we ask, we receive. Yes, I have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of changing to do. But I have peace, knowing that the One that knows all, will be my guide….IF I but LET Him.

Laws of Parenthood

001

Don’t get me wrong. I love being a mom. It has always been my career of choice since childhood. Every once in a while though I think, “Can I really handle this?” It was just such a day that I started laughing at myself, reminded myself that I’m not in charge, and wrote this post.

The Laws of Parenthood

Children will only try your patience when you have none left.

Friends and associates won’t stop by the day AFTER cleaning day. No, they stop by the day BEFORE.

Your “quiet” child will only yell in the middle of church.

If you have more than one child you will have a least two that have opposite personalities.

Children have a certain quota of “why” questions they must ask each day, with most kids it comes to about 15,435,986 questions per day.

Your child will not do it; if they think they can get YOU to do it for them.

Children will always try their new tricks out when you have company or are trying to leave the house.

Your child will not sit down or take a nap when they become overly tired, they will become running, yelling, disobedient little trolls.

When your baby starts to sleep better your toddler will start waking up more.

Your children will decide to only make a fuss about food when you’ve spent at least an hour preparing it.

Your children will remind you of things you’ve forgotten when it’s too late to do anything about it.

If you have children you will always have a built in honest appraisal system, they’ll usually try to be tactful, “Mom, your butt is kind of big!”

If you have more than one child it is an irrevocable law of the universe that you cannot have ALL of them OR ALL of your home clean simultaneously.

If you have at least three children and a spouse, odds are that EVERY meal, SOMEONE will not like it.

Children will push all of your buttons only when you’re tired, hungry, and have to go to the bathroom.

You will have uninvited dinner guests on the day you decide to make bread and the kids decide to make mud-pies…..yes, in the house.

Though you may have times when you cannot get your child’s attention, DON’T WORRY! Your children will ALWAYS find a way to get YOUR attention.

And last but certainly not least:

When you first hold your own little baby in your arms you begin to understand the love that God must have for you.

Sneaky Learning

Image

My Sneaky Learning Example for today was creating a scavenger hunt for my kids using these hearts. On the front of each heart was a letter to form the phrase, “I love you”. On the back of each was a rhyme with an underlined word, and a missing word that needed to rhyme with the underlined one. For example, ” To find your special treat, you don’t need to look too far. Why don’t you try looking right inside the _ _ _. (answer: car)” By following the clues it led them to their Valentine’s day gifts and they got a secret English lesson without them even knowing it!

I love learning! I love it even more when I don’t feel like I’m being “schooled”.  One of my main goals as a parent and teacher is to create an environment in which learning is a natural process and feels more like nurturing our minds then pounding in information. I’ll be honest, there are days when I feel like my kids are just going through the motions, and me too for that matter. Is that really learning? I think not.

Then there are days when it feels like we’ve hit “the zone”. They are interested, I’m enthused, everyone is on the same page and engaged and it just flows. I’m coming to learn that these days of real learning usually come when we are discovering information rather than downloading it.

Can we discover something new every day? Yes, I think so. Is it easy? Not for me! But step by step I think it will become more like second nature with practice.

Regardless of our learning and teaching styles I think there are some things that seem to help everyone be more engaged in learning. Here are some things that have helped us stay in the “the zone”, so to speak.

1. Rethink your Role:

We tend to think of learning in a student and teacher set-up. Of course we know that things run more smoothly for everyone if there is a clear definition of who is “in charge”, but I think we need to also consider what we define as “in charge”. Do people work better under a dominating leader? Or is there more cooperation and involvement when the leader guides rather than mandates? We’ve found it more helpful to have the “teacher” be a guide and invite the learners to participate and also invite them to “take charge” at times.

2. Questions:

This is a two way process. Asking questions of the “students” and inviting them to ask questions of the “teacher”. I’ve personally learned a lot through this method and it keeps both me and my children engaged.

In our homeschool we have what we’ve termed “discovery time”. We do this at least once a week and sometimes every day. It all starts with a question that I or my children have, it may be one that was formed during a lesson or it may be something we’re just curious about. Then we look up the answer(s) together in books or on the internet.

So maybe we didn’t follow “the plan” today but we did learn something that they were interested in and thus will likely not forget and will be able to apply to other learned information in the future. Besides when a learner takes action in their own learning process they become more successful because they are inviting the information rather than being fed the information.

3. Make it fun:

We’ve used lots of games and other forms of play in our homeschool.

My son saw very little comprehension or progress in his reading skills until we started using primarily games to teach reading and grammar concepts.

My first daughter wanted nothing to do with school until we started creating songs and creative dance to teach basic information (numbers, letters, sounds, etc.)

Both my daughters have become fascinated with math skills now that “Sammy the Squirrel” comes to visit and teach our math “lessons” from time to time.

My 2 ½ year old daughter has finally engaged in the learning process now that we’ve gone to teaching her with toys and manipulative objects rather than more rote methods.

My son can retell most every history lesson we’ve had since we started re-creating the stories of history with role-playing and diagrams/models. All my children have amazed me with their grasp of science since we’ve moved to an almost pure experimental method.

All in all I think that if we take more queues from our children we will find the child within us that is still hungering to learn. If we can tap into that desire and not be so worried about following a schedule and plan that we lose the excitement of learning something purely for enjoyment. Take luck and wish me the same!

Serve Up Some Sweetness!

Image

When planning my homeschool activities I look at my entire day as a learning experience. Then I try to divide the day into blocks of time. Some time will be used for formal learning, some time for discovery learning, some for personal projects and development, some for family projects and development and some for service. There are days when I have activities planned for each category and other times that I disperse them throughout the week to try to create a good balance.

At this point in our families life and also because of our living circumstances (ie: safety and cultural issues) I sometimes struggle to create experiences in which to teach my children service outside of our own family service to each other.

My desire is to have them look for ways they can serve in their daily lives (ie: help their family with daily tasks and/or the elderly and/or busy moms and/or neighbors) by simply looking around and seeing ways they can be kind. But I also would like to purposely create opportunities to serve. To do this can be tricky with young children, especially to keep them interested. Image

One way that we have created service opportunities is by using holidays to share treats! Not only do the children always enjoy either making them with me or inviting friends over as we did today, but since they created the goodies themselves they seem to take added enjoyment in sharing them with other people.

For Valentine’s day we like to choose a family to “heart attack” (tape paper hearts with fun messages all over their front door, along with a treat). We try to pick someone that we think needs a friend or encouragement or just needs to know they are loved. Image

This year we invited a few friends to join us in decorating one plate of cupcakes for our own families and one to give away. The kids had a blast and were very excited to choose which one of their special creations they were going to give away! Here’s hoping that along with the inordinate amount of sugar they consumed (yes, that would be my son eating a handful of sprinkles!) they also learned that service can be sweet!

Image

Discovery Learning

Image

Don’t you love it when you think you’re being all original and clever and then find out that you’re just not? Well, that would be me, in many instances, but when it came to defining my method of teaching homeschool, I’ll have to admit that I was a little disappointed to find out that my term had already been used for almost a half century.

Discovery Learning is essentially the “learn by doing” approach to teaching and learning. I wouldn’t say I’m a “purist” when it comes to this method, like I mentioned in my articles “Homeschooling: Before You Begin…” and “My Educational Philosophy” our school has evolved over the years. Being trained as a teacher, I originally began homeschooling with a more traditional or what some would term “Classical” approach to education. Basically the way we are taught in public and most private schools incorporate the Classical style, with rote memorization, standardized tests, lots of lectures, writing, and reading.

While I have nothing against this method, and personally I actually enjoy lectures and learn well through this method, I soon realized that my children would not be learning what they were capable of, using purely this methodology. Also, I found that school was more of a chore, both for them and for me. They didn’t like it, I was constantly nagging and coaxing and honestly, it was draining!

The problem was that I wasn’t really sure how to teach in a different way. Sure they give you a few ideas of “group activities” and “hands-on learning” that you can do when you’re taking education classes, but to teach from a mainly “learning by doing” methodology….frankly, that just seemed way to “out there” for my little control freak mind. I started researching and came up with more activities but I was basically just supplementing a classical style and I knew we needed something more.

That was when a wonderful homeschooling mom, that had been doing it for a lot longer than I had and had homeschooled all of her 7 children at some point, gave me some pointers. She said, “When you’re at this point (meaning, homeschooling young children) the most important thing is Discovery.” She went on to explain how is was more important that the child learn to love learning than it was that they be at a certain “level” or be able to pass a certain test. When she said that, it was a huge “light bulb” moment for me.

One of my main objectives for homeschooling was that my children be “Life-long Learners” that they LOVE to learn, that they search things out, ask questions and have the pro-activity to find the answer. This was hugely important to me. My dear friend explained that too many teachers/ parents push their kids to adhere to a norm when no one is “normal” everyone has their own pace for learning and certain subjects that they will have a special talent in.

She went on to say that the “window” for learning to read was actually 4-10 years old and she actually had children herself that hadn’t learned to read until after they turned 8 and decided they were ready…three months later they were already surpassing the “level” they were “supposed” to be at. She further explained that they had learned the alphabet and basic phonics through reading her frequently reading aloud and playing games. This was also her suggestion for all other subjects, find really kid-friendly, illustrated, good books on all different subjects and then lots of activities and games to complement them and your kids will WANT to learn.

She concluded by saying that once this foundation of asking, searching, finding and loving to learn is in place, they will, with time and maturity move on to more rote methods without much coaxing because they will realize that in order to answer one of their questions or reach a goal (ie: become a physicist, fly a plane, become a doctor, etc.) they will need to read about it and memorize some things. However, the great part about teaching with the goal of loving to learn was that by the time they reach that point, any rote learning that they may have to do to answer a question or reach a goal will not be drudgery to them because they will WANT to learn it.

I already believed this to be true and it was one of the main reasons I was still searching for something better…though I was still terrified at the thought of executing such a task. Nevertheless, I knew I needed to change if I truly wanted what was best for our family.

Thankfully, I was already an advocate of reading and we had lots of kid-friendly books and I searched out a few more to round out the subjects and ones that I knew my children would BEG me to read to them. Also, I was blessed with a great mom myself that had taught me to be a life-long learner and was already incorporating many of those techniques into my own family.

To explain a bit, I always try to give as much information as I think appropriate (age, maturity, and ability being considered) whenever my children asked me questions (which is VERY frequently, sometimes it seems constantly!). Also, if I do not know the answer to the question I will say something along the lines of “I don’t know, let’s ask so-and-so (if there was someone we knew that I knew would know the answer)” or “Let’s look it up” and we would find a book or look up the answer on the internet. In addition to these, I would also ask my children lots of questions like “Why do you think that is?” or “What do you think will happen?”

So, now I started thinking, “How can we DO this to learn it.” That question was hard at first, especially with things I had always learned in a rote method, like reading and math. However, thankfully again, I live in the era of the internet and through some research I found some great programs and great mentors that could guide me along the path of helping me become a “Discovery” teacher. Moreover, I feel so blessed that as I have poured my heart out to my Father in Heaven, He truly has been my greatest teacher and has led me and prompted me to add and make changes that have made a monumental difference.

With time it has also become much easier to be more creative on my own and find different ways to teach a subject through “doing”. As I would explain the methods I was using in our school, to friends and family, the word “Discovery” was used so often that I started using the term “Discovery Learning” (thinking I was so witty). It wasn’t until much later that I found that I wasn’t quite as clever as I thought.

The best part has been that through all the challenges and changes the energy change in our schooling is its own reward. My children are much more willing and I am much more motivated. I wouldn’t say I’ve completed the journey however, when I get tired, burned-out, or stressed I tend to switch back to my old habits and have to re-route myself again. My children are my best reminders because they clearly prefer and thrive in a “Discovery” environment as opposed to the Classical style.

I’m so grateful for this incredible journey of homeschool, it has stretched me and caused me to reach down into the very depths of my soul as I strive to create the best environment for learning in my home. I love it and I look forward to further adventure in the future!

So tell me, how did you find YOUR methods for teaching? What has been the best advice you’ve received in your journey of homeschooling?