Sunday, May 30, 2010

Inpired to Inspire

I attended a TJEd spring retreat this weekend.  It was such a blessing to be in the beautiful mountains surrounded by truly stalwart women.  I met new friends, some of who read my rambling on this blog - and who I wish kept a blog of their own so I could keep hearing their deep wisdom and insights.

I came away from the conference with several thoughts. 

I love the "feeling" in our home right now, but I want to help the kids be more aware to how they are contributing to this feeling and let them know how grateful I am to them for it.

There is nothing I want to change about our Master Inspire Plan.  I love it.  I just need to make sure I follow through and make "inspiring" a priority.  I love inspiring (in other words, learning things) - I just tend to put less important things first - maybe because I love it so much and I feel that it's a bit of a selfish pursuit.  It is so important for them to see me studying and for me to share my enthsiasm about what I am learning.  They just can't see that if I put less important things first (like checking my e-mails :-) )  Even my small goal to practice the piano for a short time can make a big difference (there was such inspiring talks about creating a musical environment in our home and the beauty of creating music)  In short, I was inspired to be more inspiring.

The biggest thing I realized that I need to work on is taking better care of Rock.  He is so independent that I tend to just worry about those little people who I know really need me, but the truth is that my sweet husband needs me too, even if he doesn't let me know.  He is so good that he doesn't want to add any extra burdens on me and just does things himself.  I don't want to add extra things to my list either so I let him :-)  The truth is though, that serving him keeps him in my thoughts and I am able to show him the love that he needs.  Heather Poll said some powerful things about marriage stewardships - I might have to write another post about my thoughts on it.

There are several things I want to write more about.  It's tempting to spend too much time on it though, so I'll just take it slow and stick to working on inspiring my children!  I love doing both.  Motherhood is amazing.  I had no idea how much fun it would be!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Keeping it Real

I was putting laundry away the other day, when the thought occurred to me that people might think that I actually do all of the things that I write about in my posts.  I don't usually like to write about all my shortcomings because that wouldn't be very uplifting to others, or pleasant for me to expose on the internet, but I do like to be honest in what I portray so I thought I better write a "reality check" post for those of you whom I may have deceived :-)

Well, first of all, I wrote my "Master Inspire Plan" on Saturday.  It is now Friday and I have done ZERO of the "Weekly" inspiring things that I wanted to do with my free time.  Did I set an unrealistic goal for myself?  I don't think so.  Well, maybe - I might have to cut "Cuddle Time" in half by alternating it - one day the girls and the next day the boys, but really I think I just waste too much time.

For some reason, it takes my children an hour to eat a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, so our schedule is often off to a late start.  Okay, sometimes it is my fault that we start a little late if I've been working on a blog post.  They take me a little longer that you would think.  We usually don't get done with our work and get to eating lunch until after 1.  We are supposed to have dinner prepared by the time "family work" is over, but about half the time I end up fixing it myself at dinner time because our family work was taking too long in the morning.  The kids are doing great, but they are still working on not getting distracted!

I "check my e-mails" too often.  To be honest, I spend more time (if you don't count the time I'm reading to the children) on the computer than I do reading my books (*gulp* that was a hard one for me to admit).

I still have too much stuff.  Things are a lot better, but our "project room" is a mess, so I close the door and let no one in and wait for a time when I think I can actually get rid of all the crafty-stuff I have in there.

I haven't practiced the piano in months (no, not even the 10 minutes per day that I'm shooting for).

I love to snack on bread with honey when I don't think anyone is looking.  Sometimes I hide chocolate in secret places in the pantry.

I still have a small tub of plastic baby toys.

My kids will talk me into letting them have loose paper sometimes, as I write this there are two paper airplanes sitting on the side table next to me.  I know it's no great crime, but considering what I've written on the subject - it makes me a bit uneasy...

I could go on and on I'm sure, but that is all the shortcomings I care to think of right now.  You get the picture.

Now that I have that off my chest - I should probably add that I am really, really happy with how things are going.  We are really having a great time with all of our attempts at this ideal I have in my head.  We are making progress and, best of all, we are doing it together.

I know what I need to work on (right now it's staying off the computer during the day, in case you were wondering.  I even asked my hubby to get rid of our high-speed internet and just get dial-up so I wouldn't be so tempted to check my e-mails whenever I nurse the baby or when I happen to be getting something upstairs and I walk by the computer room.  He didn't like the idea though, so I am left to exercising self-discipline.  Isn't that so mean of him?!) and once I get that down, I'll move on to the next challenge.   It's actually nice that I have so many faults because I like a good challenge and I won't be running out of them anytime soon!

Another thing I want to start working on is having our free time outside in the mountains, inspired by Charlotte Mason and this post from my friend Lara.  I'll still keep trying to pursue my "Master Inspire Plan", but there is no reason why I can't just take my nature book with me and "Have a drawing lesson" by drawing something outside, or read a chapter of a math classic as I sit on a fold-out camping chair, etc.  Maybe I can teach my baby to sleep in a play pen outside during his nap so we can spend all of our day outside after we work... or maybe this is wishful thinking and I'll just have to go out for a couple of hours after his nap ;-)

By the way, I highly recommend reading this post about separating yourself and your family from worldliness.  It is great food for thought.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Master Inspire Plan

I sat down on Saturday morning with a notebook and a pencil in order to write down the things I wanted to study during my free time everyday.  There are many books I would like to read and many things I would like to know more about.  One of the seven principles of  teaching from TJEd is "You not Them", which basically means that you shouldn't focus on forcing your kids to learn things.  Instead, focus on learning things yourself and then share your enthusiasm with your children, and they will follow in your footsteps.  We ought to lead them instead of push them.

I realize that there are two types of things I want to study during my free time.
1. Things that I find interesting and want to know more about
2. Things I do not find as interesting (yet...  because I don't know enough about them), but that I want my children to  be interested in.  In other words, things that I can't inspire my children to love because I do not yet love them myself.

I have come to see that even subjects that seem boring at first, can be quite fascinating if you choose to look a little deeper.  There is beauty and truth in them that is waiting to be discovered.

After I wrote my list, I realized that it looked a lot like a "Master Inspire Plan" that is discussed in my TJEd basic training CDs, so I wrote "Master Inspire Plan" across the top.  It is a living document (meaning that it will change as the need arises), and it contains the things that I think are most important to my children's education at this time.  I maybe should have waited to write it after the TJEd spring retreat that I will be attending this weekend, or after I finish the Charlotte Mason books that I plan to read this summer - but this is what feels right for now, so I'll just change things as the need arises.

I don't generally like to divide learning into "subjects" because, really, all of our learning is one big subject (truth), but I did divide things into general subjects in my planning in order to make sure that I was exposing my children to a broad array of different ways to seek for truth.

There are things that we do daily - these are ingrained in our daily living.  They do not look like "school", but are just part of the learning environment in our home.  There are also things that I do (or I would like to do) about once a week to inspire the children to look a little deeper at the beauty out there.  I also included a few things that I would like to include monthly because I do not have time to do them every week, but I would like us to be exposed to them periodically.

Again, these are plans I have made for myself.  When I wrote, "Read Story of Science or a math classic" under "weekly" things, it means that I plan to read a chapter of the Story of Science or from a math classic, not that I am planning on reading it to the children - or "Lesson from art book" means that I will be doing an art lesson myself, not giving one to the children, etc.  I am not denying that I made these plans with the hope that they will inspire my children to follow along, but I am not making a list of goals for my children.  That is their job.

I will also admit that one of my main objectives is for my children to read.  A lot.  What I mostly want to do with my free time is read.  I do not plan on taking very long on the rest of the goals I have set for my free time, so that I have time to read.  I want my children to gain an education from the classics (there are classics about every subject) and in order for them to do this, they must develop a love of reading and an ability to understand higher thoughts.

Here is the plan:

Cuddle Time: I take each child, individually, and read them a chapter of a book that I would like to peak their interest in.  I go from oldest to youngest (in hopes that the oldest will be inspired to read more of it, or some other book, during the remainder of their free time) and say, "It's so-and-so's cuddle time!"  They look forward to this, and so do I, since the books I read to them are classics, and I get into them myself.  (Free Time)
Family Reading Time (Evenings)
Journal Writing (Morning List - Personal Time)
Short Story or Play Excerpt (Devotional- Fiction Section)
Poetry (Devotional)
Memorization (Meal Times - Place mats)
Spanish (Speak it throughout work time)
Scriptures (Morning - Personal Time, Devotional, Family Scriptures in the evening)
Daily Living - Do not answer any mathematical questions that come up throughout the day (there are several) and have them figure things out on their own.
Stories -  Have "living math books" out from the library (find a few from the math section at the library - some examples are here) (Free Time)
Observe Nature (Free Time)
Gardening (Work Time)
Story of the World or biography (Devotional - Non-Fiction section)
Learn Hymns (Devotional)  
Listen to Composer - different one each month (Meal clean-up, work time, car)
Piano - 10 minutes per day (I know it's not enough for me to improve much, but it's better than I've been doing, maybe I'll work up to 30 minutes someday) (Free Time)
Pictures (to look at throughout the day)

Social (outside of family):
Friends(For me and kids: Tuesdays - Park day, For kids: Friend time on Friday evenings and Saturday after work time)
Groups (For me: Relief Society, Book Group.  For kids in summer: Scouts, Activity Days)
Activities (as they come up)
Read Story of Science or Math Classic (Free Time - Thursdays)
Lesson from Art Book (Free Time - Fridays)
Library (Free Time - Tuesdays)
Book of Centuries (Free time on Mondays or Wednesdays)
Nature Walk or Hike (Free time - Monday or Wednesday)
Handbook of Nature Studies - one lesson (Free Time - Monday or Wednesday)
Art, Music, Language, Math, Science:
Preparation for Monthly Plans (Saturdays)

These are prepared for on Saturdays and done on Wednesdays - in leu of the non-fiction part (usually Story of the World) of our morning devotional

Week 1:
Art: Read about one artist (put a picture up and leave his/her art on coffee table for the rest of the month)
Week 2:
Music: Read about one composer (listen to his/her music the rest of the month)
Week 3:
Language: New place mats, review old ones
Week 4:
Math or Science demonstration or activity (Number Devil, Mathematicians are People Too, or math in nature)

Field Trips:
As they come up and I see a need for the children to be inspired by them


I realize that at first glance, this list may seem complicated, but it is really very simple.  In application, it looks like this:

Morning:    Morning List
                  Work Time (listen to composer and speak Spanish)
Afternoon:  Free Time (Cuddle time, one weekly goal, read)
Evening:     *Dinner*
                   After-dinner list
                   Family Time (Read Scriptures and a classic)
Someone asked me the other day when we were done with "school" for the summer.  I realized that we don't really "get done" with school.  Learning has just become a way of life for us.  I love it.  I love that we are simply living, learning and having a great time along the way.

Some great thoughts I read yesterday:
Children are a Public Trust.––Now, that work which is of most importance to society is the bringing up and instruction of the children––in the school, certainly, but far more in the home, because it is more than anything else the home influences brought to bear upon the child that determine the character and career of the future man or woman. It is a great thing to be a parent: there is no promotion, no dignity, to compare with it. The parents of but one child may be cherishing what shall prove a blessing to the world....

Mothers owe a 'thinking love' to their Children.––'The mother is qualified,' says Pestalozzi, 'and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; ... and what is demanded of her is––a thinking love ... God has given to the child all the faculties of our nature, but the grand point remains undecided––how shall this heart, this head, these hands be employed? to whose service shall they be dedicated? A question the answer to which involves a futurity of happiness or misery to a life so dear to thee. Maternal love is the first agent in education.'" -Charlotte Mason

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My New Plan of Action for Raising Creative Children

You know when you realize that you've had a faulty assumption for some time, so you decide to change it, and then you have to figure out what your new assumption needs to be?  That is what has been going on in my head.

I used to think that creativity was something that you did when you made arts and crafts.  Then I began to realize that "creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before" (Elder Uchtdorf - Happiness, Your Heritage).  So I began to wonder how to help my children do that.  I realized that the creative drive is inherent in all of God's children (since we are created in his image) and that we do not need to try to make a creative drive - instead we need to know how to channel it towards making real beauty.

In my last post about this I said,
"I mentioned before that there is something that we need, besides skill, to be able to express the creativity that is within us. Well, I take it back. That statement doesn't make any sense. You can't express creativity. What in the world does that mean? I should go back and change my post. What I meant to say is that there is something that we need in order to be able to creatively think and to express ourselves."
Well, guess what? I was wrong about that too. I was reading in Arm the Children again, and Arthur Henry King said something that struck me. He was speaking of art and literature in the Renaissance time and he said,
"It did not occur to the artist in the Middle Ages or the early Renaissance that he was expressing himself: at the lowest level, he was placing his technique at the disposal of his patron, and at the highest level, he was placing his technique at the disposal of his church, of his religion...This is true not only of much of the greatest painting of the time, but also of the greatest writing, and it is most profoundly true of the music.

"But, since the Reinaissance, we have developed a heresy about the artist, which is one of the major heresies of the modern world because it has misled so many people ---this heresy of the artist as hero, of man as the center"
So I've been learning that creativity is not about expressing ourselves at all.  It is about expressing the truth, beauty and goodness that is already there.   It is, as far as I can tell, making connections in the truth around us in our own unique way.
Spice at the Renaissance Faire

So here is my new plan of action for raising creative children:

Surround them with the true, beautiful, real and good.

That is it.

Simple isn't it?  Here is why it will work:

1. Once they recognize truth and how it tastes - they will seek for it on their own.  Their souls will become true, beautiful and good.
2. They will be able to connect with the truth and beauty around them and will gain a desire to share it.
3. They will work at developing whatever skills they need to share the truth that they see in a way that inspires them.
4. They will be able to express these things in a true way - true creativity

That, by the way, is what a real education is.   It doesn't really matter how many books you have read, how much math you understand, how many countries you can name.  If you can learn something, find the truth in it, and change your thoughts and actions accordingly, you have a real education.  That is the stuff that greatness is made of.

Here is how I plan (as of right now) to surround them with the true, beautiful, real and good:

1. Get rid of anything not true, beautiful, real and good (been working on that lately) so that their senses are not dulled.
2. Expose them to the true, beautiful, real and good (in art, music, language, people, math, nature, science... I'll be writing a post next about how I plan to do this)
3. Exemplify the application of those truths. (I can't force the application -it has to come from within them. Otherwise I will hinder their desire and passion for it and it will not really be their own - they will not become. I know there is no need for force - that creative drive is inherent in each ofus.)
Creativity is a precious gift from God.  Just like every other precious gift, it has been hollowed in the "world" and has lost it's true meaning.  Creativity has become the chief aim in much of our education.  Unfortunately, its source, its meaning, its core has been discarded and we are left with an empty shell to fill with pointless arts and crafts.  

The devil, Screwtape, wrote to his devil-in-training nephew:
"A few centuries earlier... they still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning.  But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that: Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head.  He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily
 "true" or "false,"
but as
"academic" or "practical,"
"outworn" or "contemporary,"
"conventional" or "ruthless."
... Don't waste your time trying to make him think that [anything] is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous ---- that is the philosophy of the future.  That's the sort of thing he cares about."
-C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


More pictures from the Renaissance Faire about two weeks ago:

Looking for good "walking sticks"

Magic show

Getting ready to watch the jousting

Some pictures from a 1917 farm about a week ago:
"Freeze" game

Blacksmith shop

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Marriage Disagreements, Stewardships and the Catch

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. -The Family A Proclamation to the World:
A friend said something at book club last week that I have been thinking about ever since.  We were discussing The Communist Manifesto.  She said that the reason that this type of government is so detrimental to people is because it takes away stewardship. She said something to the effect that when stewardship is taken away, then no one is responsible and no one is to blame.

I have been thinking a lot about stewardships in marriage. My friend, Lara, has been sharing some of her insightful ideas with me (you can read some of them here, here, here, here and here - you might agree or they might make you mad, but they are sure to get you thinking), and my friend, Julie, has also been writing some inspiring posts about femininity (here, here and here).

I've read several books about femininity and masculinity (like Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus and The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, and I recently started reading Fascinating Womanhood).   I've come to the conclusion that these things are valuable in shedding light on the concept of stewardship, roles, understanding, and equality. They can also be harmful if used to justify our character weaknesses because of our gender and when used to promote an idea of separate goals in a marriage, or when they lead people to believe that their family responsibilites end with their set stewardship.    However, I must admit that these writing have made a positive impact on our marriage. Why is that? How can we be "one" and "separate" at the same time?

I love that my primary responsibility is the nurturing of our children. To me, this means creating an optimal environment for their growth, giving them love and the tools they need to gain wisdom and understanding, leading them to Christ through my words and example. It is an exiting, character and faith building adventure. I learn so much everyday as I work on staying close to the Spirit (although I'm still not very good at it) to live up to such a task (since it is so beyond me!)

I love that my husband has chosen to protect me from outside forces by providing what we need so that I can focus on this responsibility in the best way that I can. I love that he has the opportunity to grow in character and faith through the priesthood and all of the leadership responsibilities which that it entails, including (and especially) in our family.

It is wonderful that we have different roles - we need each other. We become "one" as our interdependence deepens and we learn to trust one another. I couldn't focus on my responsibilities very well if I was worrying about providing for my children and I know he couldn't focus on his responsibilities if he had to worry about how his children were being nurtured (although, I do think that when circumstances beyond our control do not allow for the ideal then Christ makes of the difference in some way - as He does with all of our shortcomings when we turn to Him).

It's beautiful the way it is set up. There is no hierarchy in a marriage. I love this quote (from here) by President Boyd K. Packer:
In the Church there is a distinct line of authority. We serve where called by those who preside over us.

In the home it is a partnership with husband and wife equally yoked together, sharing in decisions, always working together. While the husband, the father, has responsibility to provide worthy and inspired leadership, his wife is neither behind him nor ahead of him but at his side.
The thing that we have to figure out is what to do when disagreements arise. Of course husbands and wives will have different view points about a lot of things since we come from different backgrounds with different built-in assumptions that we don't even realize we have! This is where understanding stewardships has been helpful to me.

It makes me so sad when I talk to friends who have some wonderful ideas about what they would like to do in their families to nurture their children, but their husbands won't let them (it goes against some of his assumptions) and hold them back, or when a husband is held back by a wife that doesn't trust him to do what is best in providing for his family. Almost every time, the husband or wife who is holding the other back, is doing it with the best of intentions. They want to help. And the one receiving help may even think that they need it - when they, in reality, would thrive if given the chance to try.

I have spent a lot of time trying, failing, learning, succeeding, practicing and working on being a nurturer. My husband has spent a lot of time learning how to best provide, preside, and protect us. It works out so well when we can, after listening to one another's counsel, trust one another in these stewardships, even when we may still disagree. This trust also implies that we let one another fail and trusting that our spouse is inherently capable and good and that they will learn from their mistakes. In fact, stewardship is tossed out the window when we don't allow one another to fail (think Communist Manifesto) and we try to control each other's behavior.

There is a catch to all of this though. It would seem so nice and easy to be able to say, "I see how you feel about this, but this is my stewardship and I will do what I think is best with or without your consent." It doesn't work that way. The reason? We can't take trust. We can only give it.
"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion...
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood..."
and I would add - by virtue of any stewardship
"...only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned..."D&C 121:39,41
So seeking to better understand stewardships has helped me to see where I need to spend my time in order to earn my husband's trust in the things that I have been given primary responsibility for. It has also helped me to understand where I ought to trust my husband and give him room to grow without my interfering. I love this from Boyd K. Packer as well:
No man achieves the supernal exalting status of worthy fatherhood except as a gift from his wife.
I would say that the same holds true for the "supernal exalting status" of motherhood. This trust is something that we both ought to work to give in a marriage, but that we can not fight to take. If we ever hold "stewardship" over one another, if either of us think we have a "right" to a final say - we fail.

I am so thankful for a kind and wise husband who has worked to trust me in the nurturing of our children. In doing so, he has given me the wings to fly and to work to find a way to give our children what is best. I hope I can do the same for him. I am trying. He makes it easy to trust him, but I have to fight with my controlling tendencies sometimes. I am grateful I found such a good and patient man. He has been wise in letting me learn from my many mistakes.

Some more words to ponder:
"We often forget about the other word in the phrase 'help meet' --- help. An understanding of the original Hebrew word gives insight into the meaning of the term and the reciprocal nature of men's and women's God-given stewardships. The first word, translated as 'help,' combines the meanings 'to rescue or save' with the idea of 'strength.' Combined with the second word, 'meet,' or equal, help meet suggests one who has equal capacity to help Adam as he had to help her. It is important to note that nowhere in scripture does the term help mate occur. Help mate wrongly suggests the Lord gave Adam a companion just to help him, quite a different meaning from what scripture and the Proclamation teach.

The stewardship over priesthood given to Adam and his worthy sons and the stewardship over bestowing and nurturing life given to Eve and her daughters both come with strict guidelines for how they are to be used to bless the lives of others. These stewardships do not entail dominations and subordination; rather, they allow for a system of interdependent service and leadership for the purpose of redeeming souls. Stewardship over priesthood allows a father to open some doors to spiritual progression for his family just as stewardship over nurturing life allows a mother to open some doors to spiritual progression for her family." -Strengthening Families

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Teaching Kids Respect

I was driving in the car with my mom the other day. I was telling her about an interesting side-effect that I have noticed in my children since I read the headgates article and have been implementing the principles. The children have really increased in the respect that they have towards me.

Now, don't get me wrong, they've never been rude and disrespectful children, but they did have their rude and disrespectful moments. Sometimes they would argue and talk back to me when they didn't like what I asked of them. Occasionally they would cry or throw a little fit if they thought I was being unfair, etc. Of course we talked about the virtues of obedience and respect, so that helped with the behavior, but not so much with the real feeling of respect that I wanted them to have for me and their dad.

I was talking to my mom about how, lately, they do not talk back to me and how they are kind when I ask them to do things even when they don't necessarily want to. I was telling her that I wasn't sure how this all came about. I had some theories - maybe reading the Little House series helped them to catch a vision of what respect for parents was, maybe my giving myself my proper place as a mother and having a greater respect for what that means has been rubbing off on them. I'm sure some of these things have contributed, but then she said something that, I think, really pinpointed the answer.

She told me that when my brothers and I were young, she thought that the mother's job was to cook and clean while the children's job was to play. Because of this, she would often put us in a room to play and she would clean the house without us.

She didn't didn't remind me of this, but as we got older, we had some responsibilities (cleaning our room - which we were not very good at) and some chores on Saturday (which we were not very good at) and she kept doing all of the housework on her own. My mom always prepared home-cooked meals. We never ate out and we never had pre-packaged food. Did we appreciate her work? Not much. Did we show her the proper respect when we were teenagers? I'm embarrassed to say that I did not.

What she did remind me of in the car that day was that as we got older, she would sometimes call us down for dinner and that we would come - complaining. How could we complain when my wonderful mother had just spent an hour in the kitchen preparing a wholesome meal for us? Because she had interrupted our "play". She recalled that sometimes we were actually mad at her for asking us to come down to dinner. She wasn't complaining about this little phenomenon, but she was pointing it out to me because she was telling me that I was doing the right thing by having my children work with me every morning. She mentioned that because of this, they were appreciating me and were able to show me the proper respect as their mother.
Have you ever noticed that kids don't really pay attention to how hard you are working? I had a couple of experiences in which I would ask a child to do something and that child would ask, "How come you don't do it? What are you doing?" or "You make us do all the work", etc. Did they not see that I was in the middle of cleaning right then and that I had been doing it all morning?

 No, they didn't. Children get so preoccupied with what they are doing that they don't even notice their mother running in circles around them trying to feed them, clothe them, and keep their environment looking nice. We think that they must notice since we are often in their same room working all around them, but they don't see it. It's not their fault. They are busy in their own minds and mom is just intermittently interrupting them to have them do something. Mom is so inconsiderate.

How could I expect them to respect me when this is what they genuinely see? Of course, when they would make a comment like the above, I would be sure to point out everything I had done that day, but as everyone knows who has ever tried to get someone to appreciate them by telling them what they do all day- they still don't get it.
Spice making sourdough bread

I have loved reading in the Little House books how the children worked with their parents and how they would feel so privileged when the parents gave them a new responsibility. The children saw this as a sign that they were growing up, that their parents trusted them, that they were responsible - and growing up was a good thing. Nowadays, teenagers are putting off "growing up" for as long as they can. They do not see the beauty and majesty of it.

As you know, I have been trying to teach the kids to work ever since they were old enough to. I wasn't having them do much though. I have really been focusing on it the last six months or so, but the chores where largely individual things to get done. What has made the difference lately is that we all work together until the work is done. I work along side them, they see me work and they help me work. I go into more detail about it here.

Another thing that has been incredibly helpful is making sure that the kids have an area that they are responsible for - a stewardship of some kind. I talk about this here.

We are all learning that work comes before play, that we are a family and we all contribute to the welfare of our family, that we are happy when we serve one another, and that free time and learning are a privilege that we earn (this also helps us respect one another's free time).

Of course, they can't go with their daddy to work and appreciate and respect him in the same way, so I try to remember to remind them throughout their day that we have the privilege to do what we are doing because their father is working so hard. We thank Heavenly Father for him in our prayers, and I'm working on being a good example of appreciating him and giving him time to relax and have his "free time" when he gets home from work. Since the children are starting to understand what "work" means now, these things help them not take him for granted either.

Children can be quite responsible when given the chance.  I've been noticing this lately.  Last Thursday, I told the kids the things that we needed to do that day before our free time.  Among them was vacuuming the floors throughout the house and mopping the kitchen/dining room area.  Bud said, "I'll mop!"  He removed all of the chairs from the dining room (I got the mop ready), he mopped the floors, scrubbed the spots that wouldn't come off with a rag, and then put all of the chairs back - without any help from me.  Spice vacuumed the basement, the living room and the stairs, then then helped get dinner ready (we do this in the morning so it's easy to put together at dinner time).  Little Miss picked up the things in Spice's way.  I oiled some squeaky doors and cleaned the laundry room.  Then we all did a little weeding.  Not too long ago, Spice or Bud would have complained if I asked them to do something as simple as unloading the silverware from the dishwasher if it wasn't on their chore list.

So my point is, if you want children who will respect their elders. If you want chidren who will respect YOU, then make sure that they are working! I'm not just talking about keeping their own rooms clean and doing an occasional chore. I'm talking about real responsibilities that contribute to the welfare of the family. Don't underestimate them. We are still working on this, but they keep surprising me with what they are capable of.
Bud loves making pancakes.  Last week, he asked me
if he could make them.  He got out all of the ingredients,
followed the recipe (I did put the mixer on it's base for him),
and cooked the pancakes ALL BY HIMSELF.  I was
rather impressed.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How I Stumbled into Something Wonderful

About three years ago, when I lived in Baltimore, my friend, Angela, and I used to run in the mornings.  Two of my kids were in school at the time (Spice was in 1st grade and Bud was in pre-school).  Angela had just decided to homeschool because she was not pleased with the teacher her son would have in the 1st grade.  At the time, I knew I couldn't ever homeschool, but I was fascinated with what she was doing and really enjoyed hearing her plans and what sorts of things she was trying.  She inspired me to do a better job creating a learning environment in my home even though my kids were in school.
A friend and I took the kids to a duck pond on Monday

One of the things that she mentioned was that she wanted her kids to be educated from the classics.  She wanted them to learn math from the great mathematicians of all time, about the government from the words of those who founded it, about history from those who lived it, about literature by reading the great classics etc.  I knew I had greatly missed that in my education - I got excerpts and bits and pieces from textbooks, but I hadn't read any of these people's words.

I've been surprised as I've started trying to get this type of education myself.  Suddenly, I'll realize something like, "Julius Ceasar wrote a book?!?  Why didn't anyone ever tell me?"  "We actually have the words of Albert Einstein?!?  How great it would be to read what went on in his mind!"  (I haven't read from either of these by the way, I was just exited to learn that they were out there.  I have found too many other things that I have been excited about that I have been trying to read first).  
Anyway, I decided at that time that I wanted my kids to have this type of education as well, so I started looking into reading Spice some classics.  I wanted her to start being exposed to great thoughts and words.  I started with The Secret Garden.  I was already reading little books to her at bedtime, so instead of pulling one of those out, I told her we would just read a chapter of this bigger book every night.  She was exited about it and we got started.
After a while, other little people started trickling in to hear the story.  I told them that they were allowed to stay in the room as long as they didn't interrupt (unless they had a question about the book).  They were all excited every night to see what would happen next.

Thus, Family Reading Time was born.

I didn't think about it at the time, but this is what families used to do in the evening before the the radio was invented, and later the TV.  Evenings were a time for stories, bonding, and being inspired.
All I knew is that I had stumbled into something wonderful!  The books we read were just as exiting to me as they were to them and we were all learning from them.  We were bonding as we shared the experience together.  It made a perfect ending to our days.  It gave us something to look forward to together.  

I remember one particular evening, Bud was 5 and we had just finished reading Summer of the Monkeys.  He asked, "It's over?!?"  
"Yes" I said, "That was the end of the book."
Then he grabbed the book, hugged it to his chest, laid on his bed, and cried.
At that point, I knew he would never take reading for granted.
Since then, I have heard many, many great reasons for having a family reading time.  One great one that I recently learned about at the TJEd conference came from Andrew Pudewa.

He said that children do not necessarily learn to be great writers from reading. Why? Because they often read too fast to really digest the syntax, the words, the structure. They need a "database of sophisticated language". In an average house a child hears most of his language from the television (25 hours/week on average).  The #2 source is their peers (interestingly, children use the least sophisticated language when placed with children that are within 2 years of their own age.  When they are with older children, they use more advanced language (to talk like them), when they are with younger children, they use more advance language as well (because they see themselves as the more mature child).   The #3 source is parents and "other busy adults".   We are often speaking in short sentences when we speak to our children because we are busy.  The #4 source is books.

The only problem is that children are often reading a book so fast in their head that they are not taking in the language, they often skim through the words.  This is why it is so vital that we read out loud to our children.  In fact, reading out loud to children is the #1 predictor of good writing skills.
It's always nice when you find out that something you are doing with your children, that you happen to LOVE, is also very good for them. (By the way, the other thing he said that was important for good writing skills was for children to memorize poems or passages).
We've been reading books as a family for close to three years now so we've been able to read several great books.  I couldn't list all of them, but here are some of my favorites:

The Little House in the Prairie series
The Secret Garden
Summer of the Monkeys
The Indian in the Cupboard
A Door in a Wall
A Wrinkle in Time
The first few Harry Potter books
Fablehaven (we've read the first two)
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Hobbit
The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew
Caddie Woodlawn

My friend, Deanna, inspired me to try something a little more advanced in language so we'll be trying Oliver Twist next. What are some of your favorite family books?

For mother's day I asked for 2 new books shelves.
We've had the 2 tall bookshelves for a quite a
while but we were running out of room (I have been
giving away boxes of books, but there are still some
I can't part with).  I spent most of Tuesday trying to
 figure out how to match the smaller bookshelves
with the taller ones.  I had to get creative, but 
I am happy with my new wall of books! 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Most Influential Person in my Life

I have read some powerful books that have influenced my life.  I have heard discourses on things of eternity that have inspired me to reach higher.  I have had insightful teachers who taught me truth and encouraged me to search for more.  I have met amazing people who's examples have impacted my life greatly.  I will be eternally grateful for good and inspiring people who have been instruments in God's hands in helping me grow closer to Him.

No one, however, has influenced me for good or shaped my life nearly as much as my angelic mom. 

My mom is quick to tell you how many mistakes she made in raising her children.  She talks about how difficult it was to get her teaching degree because she had to hear about all of the right ways to raise children and she felt bad about all of the things that she had done wrong.  She doesn't even realize that she was perfect!

I have a theory.  I think that the more selfless-love that a mother has for her children, the more influence she will have in their life for good.  My mom was perfect in her love. 

My mom's childhood was not ideal.  She suffered much, much abuse.  She suffered through much hunger.  She suffered most from a lack of love and acceptance, from an intense need to feel cared about.   Someday I would like to write here about her story.  Most people can't imagine what some children have to go through. 

Some people would tell you that you can't really love others until you learn to love yourself first.  My mom would prove them wrong.  She had none of what people call "self-esteem" when she became a mother (she still has very little of that self love), but oh how she loved her children!  There has never been a sacrifice too great for her to make for one us.  She gave us everything she had - everything she was.   If she went to the store to buy something she needed, she would often return, instead, with some silly thing that her children thought that they wanted. 

She personifies humility, love, and selflessness.  Her example lights the path for me toward true happiness, towards Christ.  Some people have to grope in the dark as they try to find their way.  Her eyes have been windows to His love.  Her hands have been tools for His service.

My mom might question some of her methods, but she could never have doubts about her motives.  None of us ever could.  If I can say the same thing of myself someday, I will know I have succeeded in this life.

This morning, as I was tying my little boy's shoes, I felt a sense of honor in who I was and what I was doing.  I owe that sense to my mother.  She taught me, through her example, that there is nothing more majestic, more royal, more godly than being a mother.

Little Spice wrote a beautiful poem for me today.  Here is what she wrote in her card:

Dear, Mom I love you so so so so so so so so so so so so much and way way more.  I hope you have a great mothers day!  You are the best mom in the whole world!

I wanted to write a poem for you.

My mom is grand
She is the best in the land
She helps me everywhere
like helping with math or doing my hair.
Better she's helping all of us be
each year each month weekly and daily
She always comforts me when I'm sad,
and gives me a hug when I'm mad.
Tells me the difference between wright and between wrong
and at nightime she always sings me a song.
If I tell you all the things she does for me
this poem would be soooo long you see
It's hard to ryme all those things and such
but I love my mom so very much
My mom is grand
She's the best in the land.

The other kids drew me pictures and wrote a little something as well. I'll have to take a picture of them and attach them to this post later. Here is what they wrote:

Happy muthers day. Yor the best mom I love you so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so much
Little Miss:
Happy mothers day! U R THE BEST MOM IN THE WORD

Bazinks (with help):
Happy mother's day.

I sure love those little kids.  Happy Mother's Day to everyone!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More Lists (Daily Tasks)

Someone made fun of all my lists the other day :-) I'll admit, I do like lists. It's nice to have something written down so I don't have to remind myself and others what needs to be done. I stopped using our previous "Daily Jobs" list because most of the things on it had become habit so I didn't need to have lists to remind us.  Also, as our life has become more simple, I don't need as many lists and schedules to keep track of things.

I now have 3 task lists: "Before Breakfast", "After Dinner", and "Going Out".  The children still set the table before every meal, clean the kitchen with me after every meal, and help with the laundry.  During family work time they help take care of the yard, do chores, help with meal preparation, and whatever else needs to be done, but the following are the things that are expected in addition to family work.
We've been using these lists for a few weeks and they have worked so well! The other day, we had to be somewhere at 9am - we were ready and the house was clean before we left. I could hardly believe it. My cute little children are becoming quite capable little people. I should add though, that the lists were not what caused the results. The lists are nice, but they wouldn't work if the children were not willing or able to do what the lists say. I'll write a different post later about what I've noticed about work and children and respect.   For now, here are our recent lists:

Check Back Lists:

Before Breakfast:
1. Personal Time
2. Make your bed
3. Clean your room
4. Tidy up cubbies or dresser
5. Tidy up closet
6. Tidy Zone*
7. Get dressed
8. Brush Hair
9. Check Little Ones
10. See what else mom needs**
11. Report to Mom

Going Out:
1. Pass off Clothes
2. Fix Hair
3. Socks
4. Tidy Zone
5. Check Pack -water bottle, book
6. Check Little Ones
7. Shoes
8. Help Little Ones with shoes
9. Use the bathroom
10. See what else mom needs
11. Report to Mom

After Dinner:
1. Clean the kitchen
2. Tidy Zone
3. Bath/PJs/Hair
4. Tidy Room
5. Brush Teeth
6. Tidy Bathroom
7. Get water bottle ready
8. Check Little Ones
9. Use the Bathroom
10. See what else mom needs
11. Report to mom

*I divided the house into zones.  Little Miss has the front room, the stairs that lead to the bedrooms, the hallway between bedrooms and the upstairs batrooms.  Bud has the basement which includes the stairs that lead down to it, the hallway, the toy room, and the family room.  Spice has the living room and the bathroom next to it.  It sounds like Spice has the easy job, but we spend most of our time in the living room so her zone tends to get the messiest.

The children are responsible for their zones.  This means that if people leave things out in someone else's zone, that person in charge of that zone has the responsibility to remind their sibling to put his/her things away or they may choose to put the things away for them.

**I can't tell you how nice it is when a child comes in my room with a sweet smile and asks, "What else do you need mom?"  It warms my heart.  Sometimes I'll ask them to start breakfast or help with the baby while I finish my morning things, but often the only thing I ask them for is a hug.  They are so sweet.

This post is part of my thoughts on teaching kids to work.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Learning to Simplify

I like to keep my thoughts in order.  Since I have been very focused on simplifying - I decided to write this quick post so I can refer to it and so the progression of my focus will read more fluidly.  If I am seeming a bit extreme lately, maybe reading the way my thoughts have progressed will help others to know where I am coming from.  Here are the posts so far:

- One motivation: My desire for "whole living"
- Making the effort
- Choosing what toys to keep
- Headgates ebook
- My new vision
- A simpler schedule
        - A time to work
- Lessons from the pioneers
- Discerning what is fun
- Too extreme? 
- Clarifications and addressing some concerns
- Creativity (without crafts)
           -Creative thinking and expression
           -The foundation of creativity
           -My Plan of Action
- Going with the flow in these times (and our taste for the better)
-How this helps the kids learn to respect
-The "Virtue" of Stuff
-The "Virtue" of Time (and a small miracle)
-How Our Stuff Weighs us Down
-Headgates and the Closet
-Looking Beyond the Mark

Time to Toss Stuff... Again
           -Computer/Baby Room: Before and After
           -Toy Room: Before and After
           -Master Closet: Before and After
           -Project Room: Before and After
           -The Rest of the House: Before and After (and what I learned)
           -Dulling Our Children's Senses 

TV and Other Headgates: what I have noticed so far

How a Simple Creates an Inspiring Learning Environment

2012 Spring Cleaning

I'm sure there are more to come.  I'll add them here as I go.  I'm just getting this all figured out.
Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power.” ~Julie B. Beck, “Mothers Who Know,” Oct.2007
*Picture from
*Thanks for the quote Donna

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Going with the Flow

I started confusing my children's tastebuds for the real and true when they were just little babies.

It's true. I didn't know any better.

I bought them all sorts of bright shiny plastic toys that made all sorts of loud noises and shined pretty bright lights at them. I thought, "Oooh, this toy will stimulate their mind. My child will be so smart for being exposed to so many colors and sounds!" That's what the toy manufacturers wanted me to think - and it worked - I thought it.

I remember one particularly annoying toy. When my babies would kick it (they were too young to sit up) some loud plastic things would roll around and "classical" music played.  Poor things. That must have been so tiring for their sensitive little bodies.

It didn't end there. As they got older, I bought more things to "keep their minds busy".   I bought Leapster products, books with buttons, battery-operated train sets (children don't even have to pull their trains around anymore!), and anything I thought would "educate" them.  Why not? I figured that as long as they were learning something, it was a good toy. In fact, I thought that I was stimulating their minds and helping them thrive. That's what the toy manufacturers wanted me to believe. And I did.

What where my babies really learning as they tapped on a drum and it sung the ABCs for them? They were learning to like bright lights, loud sounds and to need stimulation.  They learned to look for the next thrill instead of exploring the world as it really is.  What was I thinking?  I wasn't.  I was just going with the flow (going with the cultural flow used to work okay for people, unfortunately - in these days - cultural flow leads to unhappiness or even despair).

I am aware that childhood experts recommend that children get exposed to different colors, sounds, and textures.  They've done studies where kids only have blank white walls to look at and kids who have pretty colors on their walls.  The brains of the kids with colors developed better.  Obviously.

Arthur Henry King (Who, I am learning, was an extremely well educated, well read, well travelled, and very experienced man) had an amazing perspective on truth and reality.  Here is what he said about what children need to see:
The eye sees form and color ---lines, angles, and curves; shades, tints, hues.  Plastic objects are made in molds, and these molds produce approximate lines and depths; they smooth everything out.  The colors of plastic are often a searing contrast with the delicate colors of the natural environment.  A child reared on the strong colors of substitute materials will not respond to finer shades.
Hmmm. I didn't think about the fact that maybe I was desensitizing my children. I was thinking about stimulating them.  Going outside and seeing the wondrous colors in nature is what their brains needed- not some bright, plastic noisy toy.  Wouldn't you agree that the same might hold true for textures?
Before they even hear or see properly, children touch fabrics, toys, room surfaces, human hands and cheeks, themselves.  All this touching may form either a rich experience or the experience of mere uniformity.  Synthetic fibers produce a great variety of textiles, but they are more uniform in texture.  Wool, cotton, linen, silk and velvet need to be felt in their variety.  Plastic toys are safe and cheap, but they are smooth; they don't feel like wood or metal or textile
No wonder my children gravitated to the wooden spoons and my metal car keys! They were fed up with plastic and loved to touch something different! Instead I filled their life with more artificial stuff because they were growing bored of the other artificial stuff. Would you think this holds true for the sounds that they are exposed to?

 At Little Miss' piano lesson the other day, her teacher played a chord for me. Then he played some notes that were not a "true" chord. He asked me if I could tell the difference. I could. Barely. He said that many people can not tell the difference between the two "chords" these days because Jazz music started messing with the chords to make new sounds, and popular music has followed suit. As a result, we can't hear a proper chord when it is played. From Arthur Henry King:
Young children flinch at loud noises, but in modern society they soon learn to endure and then to enjoy excessive decibels. Loud noise, however, prevents the development of discriminative refinement. Our civilization shouts so loud that the value of a whisper is forgotten.
A pretty profound statement, considering that when God speaks to us, He whispers to our spirits. I also have to add what he said next. It is so powerful and so true and so forgotten.
Continuous background noise --- from the radio or television, for example ---discourages the development of perception and discrimination. Something that is there the whole time no longer draws proper attention: it dulls; it becomes a kind of drug; it floats us sluggishly along. It is like a stream of dirty, lukewarm water --- a kind of inferior bath taken disgustingly in common. Whatever encourages our inattention diminishes our ability to make wise choices because, of all the things that are required to make wise choices, a delicate and sensitive attention is the most important.
"Whatever encourages our inattention..." Our inattention to what? To truth, to beauty, to the reality that is all around us begging for us to notice it! DISTRACTIONS - whether they be too much clothes, too many kitchen appliances, too many toys, too many books, too many art materials, too much of any good thing (and of course any of the bad)- encourages our inattention.  Not to mention, it takes our time to take care of it, to clean it up, to use it, etc.

I can't explain adequately how beautiful life has become as we've made these changes.  We've always been a good family - trying to do what was right.   I was too busy seeing how else to enrich our lives that I didn't stop to think that they were already enriched - I just had to remove the stuff that kept us from noticing!  I see so much more now.

It's interesting, I read the book that these quotes came from about 2 years ago.  I read it and thought, "This is true.  This makes sense.  I need to go get more of the real kinds of things - some real art, some real plants, some velvet and silk for my babies..."  I do still want some of those things, but I failed to see the real point of the message - get rid of the fake!  I wasn't ready for it yet.  I hadn't stopped to question some of my basic assumptions.  I was still going with the flow.

How about you?