Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lazy Summers - and Prayer

My mom with all her grand-kids
We have been fortunate enough to have my sister-in-law, Michelle and her two children come stay in Utah for a few weeks while my brother was at boot camp.   She left yesterday.  I miss her so much already!   She is a kindred spirit and I love her and her two little boys dearly.  The good news is that my other sister-in-law, Rissa, arrived a couple of days before Michelle left so we have been enjoying spending time with her and her three beautiful children now.
Bazinks at the park

I'm glad the DeMilles thought to add Ingredient #14 to their Leadership Education "recipe".  "Summers are for family" they say.  It's a good thing because otherwise I might be feeling a little guilty about how little I am doing in teaching my children.  July has flown by.  Having lived away from family for much of our marriage, I sure appreciate them when I am able to spend time with them.  My kids love their cousins.  I feel like I haven't seen my children in days just because they are so enthralled with their cousins and grandma.  I hope those relationships will keep on growing strong and that they can be a source of joy and friendship as they grow into adulthood.
My brother's girlfriend, Noel, with my baby and Michelle with her baby

It's hard not to get too lazy while I stay at my mom's house.  I could sit and talk for hours.  I love it, but I should probably find some kind of balance so I can make sure we're still working and keeping up our "core" practices.  It usually takes us a while to recover when we get home.  Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas?
Ray, my brother, and Goose

I have one suggestion for myself:  Don't make a Master Inspire Plan right before summer and then think that you might be able to stick to it.  Save it for the fall!
Skipping rocks 

I did read a wonderful quote this morning that inspired me to have a good heart-to-heart talk with Heavenly Father so I thought I would share:
"Having given them their free agency, their Heavenly Father persuades and directs his children, but waits for their upreaching, their prayers, their sincere approach to him... The Lord is eager to see their first awakening desires and their beginning efforts to penetrate the darkness.  Having granted freedom of decision, he must permit man to grope his way until he reaches for the light.  But when man begins to hunger, when his arms begin to reach, when his knees begin to bend and his voice becomes articulate, then and not till then does our Lord push men to emerge from dim uncertain stumbling to sureness, in heavenly light.

Do you want guidance? Have you prayed to the Lord for inspiration? Do you want to do right or do you want to do what you want to do whether or not it is right? Do you want to do what is best for you in the long run or what seems more desirable for the moment? Have you prayed? How much have you prayed? How did you pray? Have you prayed as did the Savior of the world in Gethsemane or did you ask for what you want regardless of its being proper? Do you say in your prayers: 'Thy will be done?' Did you say, 'Heavenly Father, if you will inspire and impress me with the right, I will do that right'? Or , did you pray, 'Give me what I want or I will take it anyway'? Did you say: 'Father in Heaven I love you, I believe in you, I know you are omniscient. I am sincerely desirous of doing right. I know you can see the end from the beginning. You can see the future. You can discern if under this situation I present, I will have peace or turmoil, happiness or sorrow, success or failure. Tell, please, loved Heavenly Father, and I promise to do what you tell me to do.' Have you prayed that way? Don't you think it might be wise? Are you courageous enough to pray that prayer?" -Spencer W. Kimball Teachings of Presidents of the Church
 More beautiful kids:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Conference and a Thought

Someone asked me yesterday, on this blog, where I got the Celestial Education video (thank-you, Andrea, by the way, because when I looked at your comment I was able to see your website and I am seriously considering signing up for one of your groups!)  I borrowed the movie from a friend, but I looked it up and it looks like you can purchase it here.  It's a 3 hour lecture.  I really liked that it opened my eyes to some things I hadn't considered, but I think are very important in how I educate my children.  She does share some personal revelation and sort of suggests that it might be true for everyone.  I disagreed with this, but I liked her points and I thought the video was worth watching. 

I don't have very much time to say much today, but as I've been pondering on world culture and gospel culture and the gospel in it's fullness, I read this in Arm the Children that I wanted to share because it gave me some food for thought:
"We should be showing our own members what is wrong with the culture surrounding us instead of letting them slip into it.  Such teaching is our duty, particularly with our young people.  I know that many young people, and many adults, too, think at the bottom of their souls that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and I can tell you from personal experience that that grass is made of plastic, which is why it holds its color so well and doesn't need any watering.  We must not let our members yearn for what they imagine to be the greater freedom outside.  There is no greater freedom outside --- there is only wilderness: wilderness and violence and despair."

And just in case I was thinking that this didn't apply to me since I already know the grass is made of plastic, he goes on to say this:
"There is a great deal of sloth in our modern life.  There is a great deal of passivity --- and most passivity is sloth.  Sloth is perhaps the most common sin.  Sloth exists all the time when, as Christians, we are not making the best possible use of our time.  If we have chosen to look at a good program on television, good! But if we are just sitting idly in front of the television and watching whatever is happening there, that is sloth....We have to be careful of activities that require minimum intellectual effort and give us an excuse for really doing nothing.  Every moment of our lives, we should be asking ourselves, 'Am I  doing at this moment the best I can?'"

The more I try to do this, the more I realize that I have a long way to go,  but I don't feel discouraged (at least not often!).  I know my Savior died for me because He knew I would never make it on my own.  I know that the test is in my progress - not on how far I am on the road to perfection (thank goodness!)   I am working to know Him better and in helping my children know Him.  That's what matters!  I'm so thankful for the peace I feel despite my faults.  That's why I'm here after all, to learn to overcome those slothful, prideful tendencies of mine and to see the real.  Good thing I have 5 little blessings that remind me of the real everyday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Instrument of our Spirit

As I've recently come to realize my utter dependence on the Lord since I tend to mess up so much when I'm living by my own wisdom (or lack of it), and I don't have enough time to get wise before my children leave my home - I have been studying how to qualify for and receive personal revelation.  I'm coming to find that it requires constant effort and humility and that I have been living far below my promises because of my lack thereof.  I'm trying to get on the ball though!

I haven't been eating very healthy lately and I haven't been exercising very regularly.  To be honest, I've had so many other things that I've been working on that it just hasn't been a priority to me.  As I was studying personal revelation a few mornings ago, I came across this quote:
"Our physical body is the instrument of our spirit. In that marvelous revelation, the Word of Wisdom, we are told how to keep our bodies free from impurities which might dull, even destroy, those delicate physical senses which have to do with spiritual communication...teach your children to obey the Word of Wisdom. It is their armor and will protect them from habits which obstruct the channels of personal revelation." -Boyd K. Packer in Revelation in a Changing World
Darn!  I don't want to have to start thinking about eating healthy and exercising again.  I wondered if maybe he was was just talking about the "do not" parts of the Word of Wisdom, but it seemed to make sense that if we keep our bodies healthy, that we would be better able to hear the Spirit.  I was talking to my husband about this and he suggested we look up the promises in the Word of Wisdom itself.  We could both remember "Run and not be weary, walk and not faint", but that was all.  We read,
And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments...shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures" -D&C 89:18-19
I guess I never paid attention to that part because I wasn't really interested in hidden treasures of knowledge - but now that I realize that it's referring to the knowledge that comes when I am seeking personal revelation for my life, in guiding my children, in knowing what to study, in knowing what to teach, in knowing how to use my time - I'm very interested.  We've been doing okay, but I have been eating too much junk lately.  Knowing that the junk can interfere in the communication I am able to receive from God should be a pretty powerful motivator - now that I see how much I desperately need it!  Wish me luck!

(By the way, if anyone is looking for a cheaper way to eat healthy and you live in certain Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Texas or Washington areas - check out  - I order 2 baskets a week and find ways to use the produce I get.  We don't have to buy too much else at the grocery store and it saves us a lot of money).

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Big Thank-you

I've been wanting to thank you guys who leave comments on my blog.  Many of your insights help me to think a little more about what I am doing.  It also helps when I hear that someone has been feeling the same way - sometimes I am not sure if I what I write conveys what's going on in my head and I appreciate knowing that some people 'get' what I'm saying.  I don't usually respond to comments (unless someone asks a question) because I assume that people are not going to come back and check my blog a second time and so won't see my response to their comment anyway - but I often want to thank people for their thoughtful comments.  I do appreciate them very much!

I just got a "blogger award" - which basically means that someone likes my blog.  The person who gave it to me is a big inspiration to me, so I was honored that she thinks I am an inspiration to her - especially since she is much wiser and further along in "getting life" than I am - so thank-you to Being a Mother Who Knows for thinking of me.

I am supposed to write 7 things about myself:

1. I used to know everything there was about raising children.  I find that I know less and less everyday.

2. I have found that the more I invest in being a mother - the more joy I feel in everything I do.

3. I was born in Mexico City and moved to the United States when I was 7.  Since I've been married, I've lived in 6 different states and have loved all of them.  I am extremely grateful for this amazing country.

4.  I have always loved the outdoors - especially the mountains - but I am just barely learning to really appreciate them.

5.  I have an amazing husband whom I deeply love and 5 of the sweetest children on this earth.  I learn from them all everyday.  They're nice enough to let me.

6.  I find that I am too hard on myself about things that don't really matter and too lenient with myself on things that really do.

7.  I love my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ and am very, very grateful for their patience with me in all my silly pride, laziness, forgetfulness and flightiness. 

Now, to pass this along to blogs I love.  The person who gave this award to me already gave it to some of my favorites (which includes hers) , so I won't mention them again, but here is a short list of a few others (even though I enjoy several others and I would list them all, but you can see them down my side bar).

More of a Mom
Greener Eating
Mrs. Smith
Chocolate on My Cranium
Ramblings of a TJED mom

So, you blog authors get to pass this along to some of the blogs you love - here are the Steps:
Step 1: Thank the person who gave this to you
Step 2: Write 7 things about yourself
Step 3: Pass this along to some of the blogs you love

Thanks for inspiring me!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An Ideal Curriculum

I've been reading a book by E. G. White titled Education.   I don't know enough about her to make any comment about her different teachings, but I do think she was a very wise and inspired woman.  This book is like poetry and I have found much truth in it.  I wanted to share a quote because it sounded like an ideal curriculum.  She is speaking about the educational atmosphere in Jerusalem at the time when Christ came to earth:
"With the people of that age the value of all things was determined by outward show.  As religion had declined in power, it had increased in pomp.  The educators of the time sought to command respect by display and ostentation..."
Sound familiar?  She continues:
"To all this the life of Jesus presented a marked contrast.  His life demonstrated the worthlessness of those things that men regarded as life's great essentials.  Born amidst surroundings the rudest, sharing a peasant's home, a peasant's fare, a craftsman's occupation, living a life of obscurity, identifying Himself with the world's unknown toilers---amidst these conditions and surroundings---Jesus followed the divine plan of education.  The schools of His time, with their magnifying of things small and their belittling of things great, He did not seek.  His education was gained directly from the Heavenly appointed sources; from useful work, from the study of the Scriptures and of nature, and from the experiences of life---God's lesson books, full of instruction to all who bring to them the willing hand, the seeing eye, and the understanding heart."
I loved this.  It can be overwhelming to think of all the things that I'm supposed to be teaching my children.  I've been pondering if I'm sometimes magnifying small things and belittling great things.

What is most important?  

What do my children really need to know?

I talk a lot about work in my blog, but that is not because I am good at it - it is because I think about it a lot since it is something I need to focus on. It is hard to motivate myself, let alone my children, to work day after day - but it gets easier once it becomes a habit. It is what character is made of.
I was inspired by this quote from Arthur Henry King in Arm the Children:
As a people, we need to understand world culture, and then we need to work to save ourselves and others. An ideal Mormon is not one who spends hours in front of the television set...but one who is active, brisk and busy. There are many good ways to be active: there is work, there is exercise, there is prayer. There is a time for all these things, and if we are doing none of them, then we had better sleep. How much better to sleep than to look at most television, because television detracts from our strength, but sleep at least builds it up. Mormons should not expect to be entertained. Life is too short for that. If they want relaxation, they should look for it not in passive entertainment, but in activities that are different from the ones they have been engaged in."

I am working on making this much more of a focus in our daily lives. I underestimated the importance of the scriptures in the past. I thought those homeschooling families that made everything about Jesus where narrow minded. I think the media contributed to this outlook. The fact of the matter is that everything is about Christ. It doesn't mean we shouldn't study the myriad of truth out there, but we study it with a purpose. All truth comes from God and we draw closer to him as we seek truth with the intent to do good and not for our own gain. That is what I want for my children. Another great quote from King:
The most important thing we can read to our children is the scriptures.  The scriptures can be a complete education, as has been shown by those in the past who truly educated themselves from the scriptures when they had no other education --- people like John Bunyan, George Fox, Joseph Smith.... all of us can get something if we will but read the scriptures.  And, indeed, by reading the scriptures thoroughly, we can get a better education than we can in any other way.  Self-educated people who have read the scriptures are better educated than someone who has been through BYU or Harvard or Berkeley or wherever because the self-educated have been reading the word of the Lord and concentrating on it.

But, alas, the scriptures no longer occupy the place in our lives that they did with our forebears. We no longer read the scriptures aloud to one another daily in the family, as we should do, year after year, decade after decade, until they have sunk in and become part and parcel of ourselves. They are no longer a stable part of public education, as they were in Britain when I was a child: in my school, we had two scriptural lessons per week and a Bible reading in school assembly every single morning. Even in the Church we often prefer to read about the scriptures rather than to read the scriptures themselves. The result of this is that we do not readily appreciate the scriptures or get out of them all that there is to be got. Fewer and fewer people today are able to feel the scriptures; the haven't been brought up to do it. The don't know what is going on there...

Some may think that the language of the scriptures is too difficult for children, but the language of the scriptures can be built into children's lives if it is part of their daily existence. A family that reads the scriptures together regularly from the time when the oldest child is still an infant in arms will be helping the children, as the grow to learn the language of the scriptures at the same time as they absorb the language of their home and environment..."

E.G. White describes nature as God's lesson book. I am filled with awe lately as we go outdoors. I notice a flower and I ask myself, "Why did Heavenly Father create this - what did he want me to see, to think, to notice, to learn?" I learn something every time. That is what I want for my children.
"The child who sees his mother with reverent touch lift an early snowdrop to her lips, learns a higher lesson than the 'print-books' can teach. Years hence, when the children are old enough to understand that science itself is in a sense sacred and demands some sacrifices, all the 'common information' they have been gathering until then, and the habits of observation they have acquired, will form a capital groundwork for a scientific education. In the meantime, let them consider the lilies of the field and the fowls of the air." -Charlotte Mason

Life Experience
I have learned much in my own life experience - from my mistakes and from my good choices. I have so much more to learn! I am coming to find that a great deal of our purpose in life is to know the good from the evil. I am really working on this lately - learning from personal revelation. I'm trying to give my children choice so that they may also learn from their own experience to know the good from the evil.  I also love learning from other people's life experiences and insights. There is great power in a story.  One of the best, most insightful talks I have heard on this was by Marlene Peterson at the TJEd forum. You can listen to it for free on her website. Click here and go to the bottom right hand corner and push play under Stories that Build Statesmen. It will be well worth your time!

That's it.  Doesn't that sound like an ideal curriculum?  Math, science, art and music will flow so naturally as we gaze in wonder at the beauty in nature and ponder God's words.   History will be fascinating as we strive to learn from the life experience of those who came before us.  Every subject will be filled with life as we understand it guided by the Source of all truth and light.   Now, to put it into practice....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Looking Beyond the Mark

 (We've had fun discovering things in our backyard.
This post is mingled with pictures of some of our 
latest discoveries)

I've been working on filling our home and our time with the best things.  I do this because I think my time with my children (and my time on this earth, for that matter) is so short, that I don't want to waste it on things that don't matter - running to and fro chasing nothing.  As I've been pondering about what those best things are - I've been led to praying more intensely, studying my scriptures more seriously, and actually doing the things that I feel prompted to do while I am engaged in those activities (I've been trying to write then down so that I remember them)
I realize that this is pretty obvious.  Haven't I been hearing it my whole life?  Yes, and I have often gone through spurts in which I am better about it than other times, but there is a difference lately.

Part of this difference has to do with my inability to trust in the cultural flow as I've learned that it has often steered me wrong.  I am questioning assumptions about what I eat, what I read, what I allow in my home, what I teach my children.  There are so many theories and so much advise.  I thought I knew how to raise a child when I had my first baby.  The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.
I have come to understand that I MUST be in tune with the spirit to know truth from error.  I am discovering that Satan can take just about any good thing and use it as a distraction or tool to keep us from focusing on the Savior.  He can counterfeit our emotions and the Lord's tender mercies and he can confuse our thoughts.  He can lead even the most righteous people away by degrees. It's rather disconcerting when you think about it.

I have found comfort in knowing how to judge. I know how I feel when I am being led by the Spirit - I feel love towards all those around me - even those who are harder to love - and I feel peace.  The trick is to keep that influence with me always.  I can only do this when I am obedient and focused on the Savior.
Obedient to what?   Obedience to my church leaders and to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  I feel love and peace when I hear the prophet and other church leaders speak.  I know they are servants of God and that I need to follow them even if I don't understand the reasons at first - just as I expect my children to obey me when they do not understand - because I know what is best for them. I am thankful for the organized manner in which our church is ran.  People are given revelation for those things within their stewardship - this gives me a sense of safety in knowing whom I must follow.  They will not tell me every little thing I must do though.   Those leaders often remind me to be seeking personal revelation.  What a beautiful thing not to be compelled in all things - to have the ability to ask and learn line upon line and precept upon precept. 
Being focused on the Savior is the most tricky one for me.  There are so many things that distract me - even good things.  I can not ask, "Am I being righteous enough?", "Are my children good enough?", "Is my home clean enough?"  This is looking beyond the mark.  All of these questions focus my thoughts on me, my, mine.  The only question to ask is "What would Thou have me do today?" or even "What would Thou have me do right now?"
I know it all sound ultra-religious-Bible-praising crazy to some and some people are wondering how I could not have seen something so obvious before, but it's where I am.  I have so little time left!  Spice will be 18 in 7 1/2 short years.  I need personal revelation.  I need to know what to teach her, what is most important for her to know before she leaves my home, what I need to be reading to help her, what I need to be listening to and attending.  I need the same guidance for all of my children.  With so many waves of information pulling me in different directions and so many exciting ideas and thoughts - I am hopeless without that discerning Spirit that teaches me truth from error.  I can not afford to take it for granted.  Life is too precious and too short and too much hangs on the balance.
I am grateful for those few things that I do know without a doubt.  I know God loves me and wants me to have joy and eternal life.  I know Jesus Christ died for me and that He cares deeply about how I use my time.  I know they love my children and all of the people around me and will guide me in how I can best serve where I am needed.  I know that there is a living prophet on the earth today and that he will not lead me astray.  I know the Book of Mormon and the Bible contain God's words that He would have me heed and ponder.  I know that the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth and I can be guided by the Holy Ghost in my daily decisions. 
I have all that I need in order to discern truth from error.  I just need to put forth the effort to take advantage of the guiding light that is before me.  There is nothing more worthwhile.  There is nothing that gives me more joy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Teaching Obedience

(a hike with my sister in law last weekend - nothing to do
with this post, but it was pretty)

The other day, I found Bazinks outside.  He hadn't asked me if he could go out.  I told him that his consequence was that he needed to stay inside for the rest of the day.  A few hours later, I found him outside again.  I told him that his consequence was that he would have to remain inside for the rest of the day and for the following day.  A couple of hours later, I found him outside again! This time I told him that he didn't only need to stay inside, but that he would have to stay right where I could see him for the next two days.

Something very interesting happened.

I've been thinking about the importance of learning obedience.  In the movie, Celestial Education, Michelle Stone mentions some "stages" that children go through.  She reminds us that children do not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until they are 8, and that before that age they are not able to be tempted by Satan (even though they can be influenced by evil if they are exposed to it).  She expresses that during this time, children learn to listen to their parents.  She says that their mother almost acts as the Holy Ghost for them - influencing them, guiding them, comforting them, teaching them, whispering to them.  At this stage the child needs to learn to heed and obey his parents.  Once the child gets the gift of the Holy Ghost, they continue to obey their parents, but they start looking for extra ways to help without being asked - they start listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost - and obeying them.
Spice with the new addition to our family (yes, we got a dog)

I haven't placed as much emphasis on obedience as I should have.  I liked to encourage creative thinking and discussion, so when my children had a good argument about why I shouldn't ask them to do something - I was willing to listen and change my mind if their opinion made sense. There were also times when I did not want discussion.  This is when I would count.  My kids have become quite adept at listening to numbers.  I guess saying, "One, Two..." became a signal that the discussion was over and they needed to obey.  I've been pretty good about being consistent at giving them a consequence when I reached "three", but even this was up for discussion sometimes - do you get a consequence if you didn't do what I asked when I got to "three" or is it okay as long as you started started to go do it by the time I got to "three" etc.  There have even been times when I count to "10" because they weren't moving fast enough and I didn't want to do a consequence right then, or maybe I'd count really slowly, etc.

Anyway, this system has worked okay.  I don't feel out of control because I can usually count on the kids to obey when it matters (no pun intended), but it has had some drawbacks.  Now that I have five children, I don't have time to discuss everything I say - I just want it to get done when I say it.  Also, it has fostered an environment where the kids feel like they can question my authority if they think they are right.  Questioning parental authority is not okay.  When I saw that Bazinks had disobeyed me three times in a row, I realized that he was starting to not take me very seriously.

In the Celestial Education video, Michelle pleads with parents to keep their young children close - they do not have the guidance and protection of the Holy Ghost, and we as their parents need to be sure to be there for them - teaching and guiding them in those critical years.  So instead of just putting Bazinks in time-out when he went outside without asking (and then disobeyed me twice), as I would normally have done, I decided to keep him near me for a while as well.

I had assumed that little Bazinks had a bit of a rebellious personality.  He tends to resist helping me when I ask.  He ignores my requests sometimes and acts as if he doesn't hear me.  When I told him that he would have to stay where I could see him for a while, he didn't seem very upset.   Then he started wanting to help me with things.  He smiled an hugged me more.   I'm beginning to see (as embarrassing as it is to admit) that it wasn't his personalty that was the problem - I was.  Since he has 3 older siblings, I had been okay with letting him go wherever they were (even outside to play with friends) because they kept him happy.  It is harder keeping him with me because he wants me to pretend things with him and my thoughts get constantly interrupted, but I also love it because he likes "being my little buddy" and helping me and he tells me all sorts of things about what is going on in his mind.  Little children are full of wisdom if we stop to think about why they say what they say. 

So I have decided to focus on obedience for a while.  My older kids should have this down, but as I mentioned, they will disagree with me sometimes.  I like Nicholeen Peck's method of allowing this.  The children can ask once, "May I disagree appropriately?" and if you allow it, they give their point of view.  After this, they are expected to obey whatever the parent decides after hearing their opinion.  In our house it looks more like this:

"Bud, come pick up your shoes."

"I'm just going to finish this first."

"You need to be obedient, but you can ask me if that is alright."

"Can I please finish this first?"

"Yes, you may."

Hopefully we can get this down to a habit so I don't have to constantly remind.

I remember Nicholeen saying that you need to train your children to obey the first time you say something.  Otherwise, you're teaching them that the third or fourth time is when they need to listen (or when you count).  She starts her comments with, "I'm going to give you an instruction." so that her kids know it's time to listen.  I haven't been able to remember to be quite so formal, but I'm working on making sure they let me know they are listening to me.  I'll ask them to say, "Yes mom" or "okay" (also one of Nicholeen's ideas) so I know that they heard me.  The thing I have the hardest time with is remembering to have them report back when they are done.  I think that is going to have to be something I focus on.

It is crucial for children to learn to be obedient to their parents!  I hadn't realized the extreme importance until recently.  I'll explain what I mean later.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

I don't have time to write a blog post today, so I thought I would post a video that I watched a while back and thought it was thought provoking.  Watch it and tell me what you think!  Ken Robinson has recently published a book called The Element that I would like to get around to reading someday.  I like his logical way of putting things.  I watched another one of his talks recently on and it was also very good.  Here's the creativity video:

I should probably add that I am not claiming that school does kill creativity.  I have too many good friends with very creative children who go to public school.  I thought the video was interesting and it does help you think of some things to safeguard against regardless of your educational choices :-)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Free Time and a Headgates Update

Happy 4th of July everyone!  I am so thankful for this country and the freedom to worship how I feel is right, to teach my children in the way that I want, to learn the things that I choose to learn, to express my opinion without fear, to have the peace of mind of knowing that my children's world is filled with innumerable possibilities!

I mentioned quite a while ago that I would write a post about "Free Time" in our home.  This being the day that we celebrate freedom, I decided I might as well post it now.  It has taken me a while to get to it for several reasons.  Reason #1 - There is not much to say - it is what it is - free time.  People do what they choose to do.  Reason #2 - It sounds absurd because, yes,  I really do expect my children to choose to learn when they have other options before them.  Reason #3 - We just started this "experiment" and I wanted to see what it would look like.

In our schedule, mornings are used for work - we get the house in order, we work in our garden, we prepare meals, we have a devotional (recently we have been splitting our devotional up into different parts during the day because of some of our new meal rules - maybe I'll write about it later), we eat lunch and then we have free time in the afternoons.

In the DeMille's Leadership Education book, it is suggested that afternoons are used for inspiring.  In other words, mom sets an example.  They say:
"This example is not lost on the children, who learn much more from what they watch us do consistently than from what we assign them....Afternoons are for setting an example, and interruptions from little people are welcome."
During free time, I try to model whatever it is I want my kids to do.  This is how I set up a Master Inspire Plan - deciding what I wanted to do during free time.  I have been too busy lately (pioneer trek, and friends coming to stay with us, visiting family for the 4th of July) to be very on the ball with my Master Inspire goals, but I fully intend to get on track next week.

Regardless of my many limitations as an inspirer, I have seen some really great things as we've closed headgates and I've allowed my children to choose what to do with their free time.  I previously wrote about the "virtue of time".  The virtue, or essence, of the free time in our home is:  to do what our heart and mind tells us.

Keri Tibbets mentions on her headgates ebook that you can get an idea of what phase your child is in by peeking in on them during their free time.  If they are playing, they are in core phase.  If they are learning (although they tend to think it's play) then they are love of learners.  If the are studying, they are scholars, etc.  When they are given the right environment, they progress naturally through the phases.

A while ago, I found myself asking, during a family prayer, for Heavenly Father to help us use our free time wisely.  When I finished the prayer, the kids asked, "What did you mean that we should use our free time wisely?  Should we be praying about how to use our free time?"  I was a little taken aback by this question.  If they felt like they had to pray to ask what they should do - would this make them feel forced to do something?  Would this take away from their love of learning?  Would it be like requiring?  I didn't know, so I simply said, "Umm, I guess so, shouldn't we?"

As I thought more about it, I realized that I didn't just want my kids to learn stuff for the sake of learning stuff.  I wanted them to learn for the sake of doing good, helping people, finding joy in fulfilling what God placed them on this earth to accomplish. 
"The promptings of the Spirit were never intended to supplant our moral agency, but the Spirit will underscore preferable options in our behavior and clarify a certain course of action in our hearts and minds."-Howard W. Hunter
A few days ago, I watched a movie called Celestial Education.  It opened my eyes to a few things and I'm sure I'll be writing about some of the things I felt inspired to do, but one of the things that she mentioned was that from ages 8-12, the focus of our children's education ought to be to learn to hear their Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost.  I wonder how often children are given this opportunity.  We tend to keep them pretty busy - do they have time to ponder and wonder what God would have them do?  Do they get enough practice hearing and acting on the promptings they receive?

Since the essence of free time is for us to do what our hearts and minds tell us - then maybe it's a good thing to be in tune with what those things are.

Allowing children to choose what to learn, and giving them guidance and example along the way - isn't that how our Heavenly Father parents?
"To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess. He wants to help us and pleads for the chance to assist us, but he will not do so in violation of our agency. He loves us too much to do that, and doing so would run counter to his divine character."-Howard W. Hunter
Like I said, I am still experimenting.  If I notice there is something amiss, or something that I feel strongly that they need to learn at a certain time, but they are not choosing and I can't seem to inpire them in any way, I'll have to go with what feels right at that time, but for now, I am seeing wonderful things happening.

When I first started this notion of "free time".  (We fgot rid of everything in the house that would be entertaining or distracting first - see  The older children chose to read.  After a couple of days it was like they needed to see that they really could do anything they wanted and - they played.  Even my 10 year old played with dolls for a few days.  I have to admit that at this time I began to worry.  "Maybe this is not such a good idea," I thought, "Maybe I should give them more parameters about what is acceptable." A good friend talked me in to giving them a little more time.  Sure enough, within a few days, playing was no longer quite so fun and the older kids began to look for more mentally stimulating activities.

We've been trying this for about three months now.  It is so fun to wait and see what the children will choose to do. 

Lately, Spice has been reading, practicing the  piano, climbing a tree in which she found some eggs she likes to check on, working on math (I actually told her to stop math for a while because it was stressing her out, but she recently decided that she was ready to try it again), and writing - she likes to practice cursive so she's been writing poems down from memory. 

Bud has been reading - he read Where the Red Fern Grows, The Summer of the Monkeys, and The Hobbit in one week.  He is currently just over half-way done with The Fellowship of the Ring.  It is harder reading so he hasn't been picking it up as often as he was picking up the other books, but he chose it and he likes to read it.  He is also writing (he just finished a story - it ended very abruptly - I think he ran out of things to say and didn't know how to end it - he said, "I want to leave you hanging at the end of this story - just like Charles Dickens does at the end of his chapters!" Now he wants to write a story about his three frogs.)  He also loves observing nature.  The other day I saw him laying on the sidewalk staring at an ant colony - I kept checking on him and still, there he lay.  He probably watched those ants for 45 minutes.  He came in and told me so many interesting things that he observed.  I haven't been quite as pleased with his choice of activity the last couple of days.  He got a bouncy ball at the dentist's and he has spent a big chunk of his free time catching it and racing it with other bouncy balls down the driveway - maybe I should consider it a lesson in physics and relax ;-)  I am happy to report that he is still happily doing his penmanship lessons every day.

Little Miss has also wanted penmanship lessons.  She often reads as well (she just finished Charlotte's Web for the second time), and she likes to read to her little brother.  Most of the time she plays some imaginary game with Bazinks.  They play that they are animals, characters from books (especially Harry Potter and Little House on the Prairie).  They also love playing outside.

Bazinks plays.  He likes to "practice his penmanship" lately too and he likes to pretend that he is reading.  He also sings a lot.

Baby Ray naps, and finds stuff to stick in his mouth.  He has mastered crawling upstairs and is starting to learn how to crawl down them.  He loves dancing to classical music as well.

Everyone is really happy.  I was worried that they might feel resentful this summer when they saw many of neighborhood kids outside playing much of the day, but they seem perfectly content to tell their friends that they can't play until Tuesday or Friday.  They seem to enjoy their free time as much as I do.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Great Influence

About four years ago, we moved to Baltimore so that my husband could to a business residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  It was wonderful living so close to so many historic sites and we tried to see as many as possible.  After a year, we still had much we had not seen, but my husband found a job in Texas and it became time to move on.  Leaving so much unseen was sort of sad (we never made it to New York City which was only 3 hours away! Though we did drive through it on the way to Boston once), but leaving my friends was the hardest thing of all.
I had only known them for a year, but it felt like I had known some of them my entire life.  One such friend was Angela.
Angela and I started running together shortly after I moved to Baltimore.  Getting up at 5:30 am was not hard when I had such inspiring conversations to look forward to.  We talked about everything.  She had recently decided to homeschool her son.   She would tell me all about the things she had been trying and learning.  It was wonderful listening to her insight and wisdom.
When we moved, it was a heart-wrenching good-by.  It sure was hard to leave her.  She and my friend, Amy, had taken my kids while I flew to Texas to find a house.   Amy and a few other friends came to help me clean our apartment (Angela was busy having a baby at the time) before the move and took my kids often while I packed.  We even stayed at Amy's house the night before the kids and I left, she drove us to the airport and made sure I had help with my 10 suitcases before she drove away.  I was so incredibly blessed with such wonderful friends.
It is kind of funny to look back now.  Angela was the only one homeschooling then.  Since then, I have started homeschooling (even though it took me another year after Angela's influence to work up the courage to try it), our friend Diana has started, and Amy is seriously considering it.  Too bad we weren't all doing it that year - we could have had some really great times together!  Spice was in first grade when we were in Baltimore.  I missed her when she went to school, but homeschooling seemed rather far-fetched to me.  Instead, I would try to incorporate the things that Angela would tell me about into the time that I had Spice at home.
Anyway, Angela is now moving to Australia!  On her way there, she drove across the country (from Maryland to Washington, where her mom lives) with her four children (her husband is already in Australia) stopping at historical sites and visiting friends along the way.  I was lucky enough to have her stay with me last week for 8 days!  She was actually here longer, but we missed her for the first 2 days because we were on a pioneer trek.  It was so wonderful driving home from the trek because we were all exited to come home and find her and her kids here!  She had even cleaned up our messes we made as we tried to leave the house quickly to be on time for our pioneer trek.
It was so wonderful having her here and talking.  We stayed up too late too much.  We discussed books and ideas.  She is still as inspiring as ever.  She made me feel rather like a slacker with all the wonderful things she does for her kids.  Her children were so good, they worked right along side my kids during morning jobs and they played so well together without a single argument the entire week.  It was pretty amazing.  Her son once commented, "Hey, I thought we were the only ones that did a 'kid of the day', but you guys do a 'kid of the day' and I thought we were the only ones that did hard jobs, but you guys do hard jobs, and I thought we were the only ones with a bean jar and you guys have a bean jar!"  Spice replied, "Maybe we got it from you guys".
It's true, I wondered where I would be without the example and influence of  my stalwart friends.
Some more pictures from a hike we went on while they were here: