Making Friends

Question:

We joined a homeschool coop which is great and I love it. They only meet for 2 hours or so on Friday mornings, though, and then for fieldtrips once a month. Of course, there is no guarantee that the kids in my daughter’s class will be at the fieldtrips. So, how do your kids make friends? I didn’t want her to go to public school, but with homeschool it doesn’t seem like she’ll make friends as easily. She’s very introverted.

Answer:

Plan a playdate! Choose a friend in her co-op that you both like, and invite her to your house for a playdate once a week for free play. If the friend’s mother is reluctant to add one more thing to her schedule, offer a teaching time such as: “we are going to do arts/crafts class every Tuesday from 3 to 5 pm”. Most moms are more likely to commit if they feel there is educational value involved and they don’t have to teach it.

You are involved in a Friday co-op, so a playdate on Tuesdays would be ideal to break up the week. You can also call to make sure the friend is going to the field trip too, or invite her along if her mother is not planning to attend.

If you feel your daughter needs more social contact, then arrange one more playdate per week with another friend. Playdates plus co-op and a field trip should keep her happy.

Don’t overestimate the public school’s ability to socialize. Just being with other kids is not enough. They can call her names, make fun of her, and teach her bad words and habits. If being in contact with other people was all it took to socialize a person, then our prisons would be great places to become socialized! True socialization comes from associating with those who can model good behavior, share true values, and love you.

 

Go Exploring: the Best Education

Open the door and let your children go out exploring today! Give them each a little sack, and tell them to put their treasures in it. Better yet, go along with them, and be the “sack holder”. Smell all the blossoms. Listen to the birds. Look for butterflies. Observe the clouds. Pick up the prettiest rocks you find. Consider your children better educated for it.

“A child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hay fields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets—and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his or her education.”
—Luther Burbank

Luther Burbank lived until 1926 (77 years old). He was a botantist and developed more than 800 varieties of plants, including 113 types of plums and prunes, as well as the freestone peach, Shasta daisy, Elberta peach, Santa Rosa plum, and most noteworthy, the Russet Burbank potato, the common potato we all use. (McDonald’s fries are made exclusively from these potatoes.) In a speech given the year of his death, he said, “I love humanity, which has been a constant delight to me during all my seventy-seven years of life; and I love flowers, trees, animals, and all the works of Nature as they pass before us in time and space. What a joy life is when you have made a close working partnership with Nature . . .”

My Cantaloupe Man

Ammon (15) loves plants. He cherishes them, in fact. He can spend hours supervising and nurturing his garden. When he was a little boy, I always made sure he had his own large bed in our family garden that he could plant with whatever he wanted. This year, Ammon wanted to plant melons and squashes—both which take more space than our garden would provide, so the idea was born to let Ammon grow his sprawling garden in front of our house. We live our in the country, so this is not so radical a plan as it sounds like . . . but we have had some comments from the neighbors.

Ammon chose his seeds carefully from catalogs during the winter months, with me as his partner. He spent hours upon hours scheming and planning on paper while the snow was still deep. Finally spring arrived and in went the seeds, not haphazardly, but with the greatest of care. All of us in our family were amazed at what detailed care he took.

Now Ammon is enjoying the fruit of his labor—we all are! It is cantaloupe for breakfast, honeydew for lunch and more, more, more for dinner! He wants to taste and relish each variety. He photographs each melon, both on the vine, and cut and ready to eat.

As a mom, I am hoping we will very soon progress to the desire to give them away and reap the joy that comes from sharing something you have worked hard to produce. That would be the ultimate lesson.

While watching Ammon out in the blazing sun tending his melons, I often think of Mark Twain’s remark: “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.” Ammon took a Botany course at the local high school with textbook readings and rather contrived projects. He learned a lot, especially vocabulary terms that he now uses when talking about his plants. But, he has learned a zillion times more about Botany by actually getting his hands in the dirt and growing his melon garden. It is a lot harder in real life than on the pages of a book! There is the constant need for water, weeds to deal with along with bugs, wilting, raccoons, birds, and the scorching sun. Ammon often comes to talk to me about the newest challenge: this week the leaves have developed mildew!

What wonderful preparation for life! Our at-home-Botany-course has taught marvelous lessons that far exceed the textbook, and will ready him for life, including:

*neglect when things are young can ruin them when they are grown (including people, animals and plants)

*the path includes challenges, and joy

*we are dependent on God for every blessing

*growth is a miracle that we take for granted

*you only reap what you sow (corn seeds do not produce cantaloupe, forgetting to practice does not create a concert pianist)

*only God can make the sun shine, can bless us with the necessary elements to create life

*time marches on (get your planting done early in the season, as you cannot delay the killing frost)

. . . and many more lessons!

I love homeschooling!

Excuse this House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some houses try to hide the fact
That children shelter there—
Ours boasts of it quite openly,
The signs are everywhere

For smears are on the windows,
Little smudges on the doors;
I should apologize, I guess,
For toys strewn on the floor.

But I sat down with the children
And we played and laughed and read;
And if the doorbell doesn’t shine,
Their eyes will shine instead.

For when at times I’m forced to choose
The one job or the other;
I want to be a housewife—
But first I’ll be a mother.

(Author Unknown)

 

Practice for Preschoolers

Rebekah does her cut-and-glue work

School time, but what to do with the little ones? They want to have “school” too. They need activities to keep them happy and busy while you are teaching older ones. Here’s some of my preschoolers favorite “jobs” to do during school time:

1. Cut-and-Glue

Hands down, this is my preschoolers favorite fun at school! Simply take a piece of white paper and draw a very simple outline drawing using big geometric shapes such as circles, triangles, squares, diamonds, etc. to make a picture. You could put a circle sun in the sky, a rectangle truck with circle wheels, a triangle teepee, and so forth. Then draw those simple shapes on different colors of paper. Give your child some child-sized scissors and a glue stick and let them cut out the shapes and glue them onto the matching shape on their picture. They can use crayons or markers to draw in details. This is lots of fun and great cutting practice! Stick it up on the wall for Daddy to see when you are done.  (See my favorite cutting and pasting books for little ones!)

2. Pom Pom Sort

Glue several different colors of felt rounds into the bottom of the cups of an old muffin tin. Give your little one a bin of colored pom poms in colors to match the felt in the muffin tins, and let them use tongs to pick up the pom poms and drop them in the matching color space. Now that takes some coordination! Younger children can sort them with their hands or a spoon. This muffin tin is also great for noiselessly sorting buttons, beans, coins and more.

3. Lid Match

Save all kinds of plastic containers and their lids, plus jars and their matching lids, for a 4-5 year old who can handle this project. I kept mine in a computer paper box, and brought it out once a week or less to keep it novel. Just match the tops to the bottoms! A very challenging puzzle!

4. Tracing Time

You can build fine motor coordination, so necessary for writing by using tracing to help your preschooler learn to control a marker, crayon or fat pencil. Just paper-clip a piece of tracing paper firmly to a coloring book page (torn out of the book) and have your child trace over each line. It’s exciting to see the image appear on the tracing paper! Great practice to make a wonderful future writer!  (See my favorite tracing book for preschoolers).

5. Puzzle Dump Challenge

If your preschooler has mastered all the kids’ puzzles you have in your school room, you can give him a project to master by taking 2 or 3 (or more!) puzzles and dumping all their pieces in one pile. Lay the puzzle frames in front and let your student figure things out.  Exciting and challenging!

6. Pattern Train

One of the kindgarten math skills requires learning to replicate a pattern. Preschoolers can learn this and have fun with it. Using big legos (buttons, game tokens, dollar store poker chips or any other manipulatives), create a pattern for your child to follow. Start simple. You might make a row of legos in a pattern: red, blue, red, blue, red, blue. Now it is your child’s turn to make a very long train following your pattern over and over. As their skills develop, make the pattern more complicated: red, blue, yellow, yellow, green . . . and repeat . . . red, blue, yellow, yellow, green. Let your little one take a turn making a pattern train for you to follow, too.

Enjoy!

May I recommend:


Sticker & Paste

Book of Tracing

Book of Cutting

Feed Creativity!

Summer time—the academic pressure is off! Whew! Now some really important learning can happen: creativity! From a monetary standpoint, the value of a creative mind is priceless. Every businessman and inventor yearns for more of this precious element! It is not something that can really be taught in school, either—but you can foster creativity in your home.

Here are some ideas to feed your family’s creativity:

My son Ammon, 15

1) Be creative cooks

This is hard for me to do (because I tend to be thrifty and efficient) but it has been amazing when I “let go” and let the kids combine ingredients and spice things up the way they prefer. My only rule is you have to clean up, and eat what you make.

My son Nathan invented and named a family favorite dish, “Yummy Turkey Bolitos” when he was about 10 years old. He even made a chant/song about it, and printed and illustrated his recipe. I would have never been creative enough to try all the combinations he did! Basically, he baked potatoes and banana squash. Then he scooped out the cooked potato and squash and whipped it with a mixer, adding a little milk and lots of savory spices (salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, parsley, marjoram, oregano, etc.). Then he scooped the golden mixture back into the potatoes and topped them with cheese. They don’t contain any turkey, but they are definitely yummy.

Louisa makes the most gourmet, exotic scrambled eggs. I am afraid to ask what is in them, but they are always highly seasoned and delicious. I have the inkling that she just opens up the spice cupboard and grabs whatever she sees!

As I’ve loosed up on letting my kids experiment in the kitchen, I have seen their creativity expand and their confidence grow!

2) Dress up

We all express ourselves creatively every day just by choosing what we will wear. Moms can allow a lot of freedom in this department and let children experiment with many ways to dress, combining outfits from their own wardrobes. (I do reserve the right to give final approval before going to church or out in public if their outfits are too unconventional—we want to serve as modest, good examples and not be distracting or attention-getting with the way we dress!)

Besides getting dressed each day, there is dress-up play—another chance to be creative! Keep your eyes open for fancy or unique clothes, shoes, accessories and wigs from yard sales or a thrift shop. They are well worth the price in creative dress-up! We have a pair of full length metallic silver gloves in our dress-up box, and they have served to create robot-looking arms, a glamorous accessory for an evening gown, surgeon’s gloves, and much more over the years. Seems every child can think of a new use for those silver gloves!

When Ammon was just a little guy, he wore a tiger suit—complete with headpiece and tail—every single day for months on end. I learned that tigers can do their math and their chores just as well as people!

3) Paint together

You don’t have to be talented in the least to enjoy painting. It is so creative!

I buy watercolor paints (the cheap ones are okay, nice ones are even more exciting) and collect scratch paper (usually computer paper that has been printed on one side and is no longer needed) for our painting times. Set a leaves, shells, or fruit on the table to create a still life. Put on some classical music, and get your brush wet. Look out the window and paint what you see. Look at your sister and paint her eye close-up. Imagine your favorite place and paint it from memory. Do it realistically or with dashes of colors and vague forms, or with dots of paint. Use a fine brush to add details. You aren’t trying to paint a masterpiece—you are just painting for the sheer fun of it, rather like dancing. When you are all “painted out”, you may have 5 or 6 paintings each. Dry these flat, and then use masking tape or sticky tack to arrange your paintings all on your dining room wall for a temporary art gallery. It is fun to look at everyone’s paintings while you eat.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”—Albert Einstein

Have fun being creative!

It's Gotta be Fun!

Question:

This is our second year of homeschooling. Our first year we homeschooled our kindergarten son and were very actively involved and had learning experiences outside of the house. This year, we enrolled him in an online academy. We have not yet finished our first week of lessons and I already hate it! The lessons are long and tedious. Much too academic for our style from last year. Also, we have no more time for our beloved outings to the park or the zoo. I feel like a slave to this program because of the load of work and no real learning going on. My son is starting to hate anything to do with the word “school” or “lesson”! Any advice on this would be really appreciated!

Answer:

In my opinion, school has to be fun! It has to be enjoyable and pleasant; something to look forward to each day. If your learning experiences don’t fit that description, I would say you took a wrong turn, and you better turn around fast. This is not to say that we won’t do challenging work, and stretch our brains, and think deeply, but that the overall sensation is satisfying and happy. Tedium doesn’t belong in the world of a 6 year old boy. He won’t learn anything but to “shut off” whatever interests he had in learning new things if he is continually pressed and wearied by too much academia at his age.

I have often found it amusing and interesting when looking at homeschooling statistics to find that 80% of first year homeschooled children are boys, usually between the age of 7 and 10 years. I think there is a real message in that for us. Little boys are wiggly creatures that need to climb trees, build things with their big muscles, dig holes, wrestle and tumble, ask questions, and discover the world of nature. It is somewhat cruel to put their bodies in front of a computer or book for long hours. There is a lot to be learned without ever opening a book. And when little boys are tired, they will gladly lay on the floor and listen to Mom read aloud some classic literature that vividly engages their mind. And there is time in their day for a few hours of schoolwork, if it is interesting, involves lots of interaction, discussion, hands-on projects, pictures and stories and learning tastes delicious to them!

Please go to the park and the zoo and the museums! Get lots of books from the library with bright pictures, books about space and animals and trains and everything else you can think of to give him a feel for the joy of learning. Teach him how fun math is. Play number games and math games after he has 1/2 of his math page done, as a break and a reward. Read aloud to him. Let him do all the messy science and art experiments you can think of!

Most of all, enjoy! Learning is so very satisfying!  You can feel very confident that he will grow, progress and learn if you give him a happy, interesting learning environment.

Self-Discipline for Mother: the Crux of Homeschool

My 7 children

Note: This article is intended for homeschool moms that have been at it a long time. I share these feelings with other veteran homeschoolers as a motivation to improve. New homeschoolers may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of doing homeschool at all, let alone improving what they are doing. This article is not meant to discourage anyone, but to inspire to higher ideals. If you are a beginning homeschooler, please skip this article for a few years!

When my first son, Daniel, moved out on his own, I found myself looking at homeschool and mothering with a new perspective. Although he was 19 years old, I was still getting around to the things I’d put on hold while I had babies, moved, planted my garden, endured chicken pox, etc. The music lessons, the family vacations, the trips to the museums, the mountain hikes, reading classic books together—somehow they all never happened like I’d hoped they would. (We did do a lot of them, to be sure.) Truly, life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.

I don’t really have regrets because our relationship is very close and strong. Over his childhood years, we did do many good, positive things together. We talked, laughed, worked, confided in each other, discussed life and God’s laws, shared favorite scriptures we found with each other. Our hearts were knit together in love. There are skills that children learn in a close relationship that are priceless. No other experiences of life draw us nearer to heaven than those that exist between happy parents and children.

But as I watched him clean out his closets while he packed, I winced at the things I had hoped to teach him as he was growing up such as woodworking, first aid skills, writing succinctly without frustration, taking notes and studying effectively, and so much more. Basically, I wish I had given him every opportunity to learn and develop himself (every mother’s dream!) I wish I had a plan and had carried it out no matter what distractions developed in my life.

Homeschool is only as good as the mother’s ability to discipline herself. If you can’t get up, get dressed and be on time every morning for school to begin, you will likely find yourself with unruly children that can’t discipline themselves either. Getting dressed can be a problem! I want to do it right; meaning exercise, take a hot shower, dress nicely for the day, brush my hair and put on lipstick, straighten up my bathroom and bedroom, etc. Since the opportunity rarely avails itself, I find myself thinking that I will just attend to this spill, explain that math problem, or fix my girl’s hair while still in my nightgown, and then I will go get showered and dressed. Operating in that mode means occasionally I am still in my nightgown until noon. Arrgh! I have learned to just get dressed! I slip on a skirt and top and am done with it. Not a fashion statement, but at least I look together. It has a very positive effect on the homeschool for Mom to be dressed and start at the same time every morning. For one thing, she can expect the same from the children.

I know from sad experience that if homeschool does not start on time (whatever you deem to be the time, 8:30, 9:00 AM or whenever), it usually will get thrown off track by everything else (doorbell, phone calls, toddler’s messes, etc.) and not really get underway until 10:00 or 11:00 in spite of your good intentions. Children need a solid 3 hours a day if they are going to get a basic academic foundation. That’s not possible to manage if you don’t get started on time, dressed and ready to learn. That is one good thing about public school: children must be there dressed and on time! We could take a lesson.

I listened to my son Nathan at 16 years old, trying to substitute for a parent and teach devotional to the family one morning. Oh, it takes years to learn to teach well, to be patient with children, to know how to keep interest, to rely on your belief in God. Children need guidance! They need supervision and teaching and nurturing and love. Our responsibilities are great. Each parent must choose what is most important for their children to learn, but learn they must! It is our God-given duty to train and teach, and to prepare them to the best of our ability.

Mothers are still on the hook as far as disciplining ourselves, when it comes to the content of the studies. If every morning of homeschool is a scramble to assign something, you can bet you will feel disappointed when your children graduate into adults. There is barely enough time to teach them what they need to know if you have an organized plan!

The older my children grow, the more I feel opposed to the “unschooling” approach (in children are allowed to follow their interests freely, with no constraints). I wasted two years of our homeschool this way. Why? Freedom looks so appealing! It looks easy for Mom, especially if she is childbearing. There is no flack from the children because they are basically doing what they want all the time. (I don’t complain when I get my way either!) There is usually no accountability or stewardship, meaning neither Mom nor child has to feel guilty. The sad news is that while they are under your thumb, it seems to work okay. As soon as they get out in the world, they see their inadequacies and academic weakness in glaring clarity! A person doesn’t have as much influence in the world if he can’t speak, write, think and reason clearly. He doesn’t have much confidence if his peers are debating Plato while he is struggling to read!

If a mother is not able to discipline herself to plan out the education of her children, her children may be better off academically in a private school or another setting. Of course, education was not the issue when I took my children out of public school. They could probably get an adequate education there. I have other concerns about the public school system. But I do not want to hinder my children’s development in a helter-skelter homeschool either. I want to do better than that.

Children need to be accountable for their work, to be able to show what they’ve done and receive your approval or correction. This seems to be the hardest part of homeschool for me. I can start on time (usually), I can get the course of study planned ahead (usually), I can write up their assignments in their planners, I can even search out the best materials so that my children will enjoy learning and feel enthusiastic about it. But, when lunch time rolls around, thoughts of “checking up” seem to vanish. If you don’t follow up, children may not always finish their work, or work as hard as they should. Questions will go unanswered. Learning won’t seem as important as it really is. You will have succeeded in training them that it really doesn’t matter so much.

We all need the opportunity to give an accounting of our efforts. We are only “half-homeschooling” if we are not following through to make sure the job is done. I have tried several different approaches to motivate my children, and have them check off charts, to have a sense of completion. The school year can slide right into the next year without much progress if you don’t keep track and work diligently.

So as Daniel left home, I turned to consider how ready my other children will be as they start their own lives. I know mothers all say that the time flies by and the children are so soon gone—now I understand it! There is so little time to teach them. It takes self-discipline for Mom to create the plan and follow-through so they will be given every opportunity to develop. It seems they are just learning to read, and you feel you have forever. The next time you notice, they are 8 years old, reading fine, and eager to learn everything. Next glance, they are teenagers and a bit resistant. How you wish you had taught them more when they were eager 8-year-olds! Suddenly, they are grown and homeschool is over for that child. We have only 10-14 years to prepare them for life. It is a grave responsibility! I feel a deep resolve to sacrifice my time and discipline myself to give them the best education—spiritually, academically and socially. May the Lord bless all of us homeschool mothers to catch the vision of our important work!

Homeschooling: You Can Do It!

Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed with homeschooling? Have you just made the decision to homeschool and wonder how to jump in to this adventure? Could it be one of those days when you’d like to pack your kids into the van and drop them off at the registration desk of the local p.s. (public school)?

We all have those days! Well, most of us. I know some moms who seem to have been born with a “Homeschool Mom” badge on (you know who you are!) but for most of us, there are those days! I think we all struggle to juggle all our duties: mom, wife, homeschool teacher, church member/worker, good neighbor, and more. But as you get organized and catch the vision, it gets lots easier and the fun will outweigh the “overwhelm”.

Come with me and build your homeschool from “survival” to “super”! Each day can get better. Nobody gets there overnight. It takes practice to learn to homeschool well. I’ve been at it for 2 decades and finally feel like I am beginning to get a little comfy in my teacher’s “hat”. . . and suddenly I’m running out of kids to homeschool! I would feel it a privilege and an honor to be a part of strengthening your family and your homeschool!

These are easy little assignments, but if you take them seriously, you’ll notice a difference in the climate of your homeschool immediately. It will get happier. More fun. You’ll enjoy your children more. They will think homeschool is great.

We’ll eventually work on: setting up a schedule, creating a teaching plan, disciplining and getting respect for mom as teacher, motivating kids to happily do their work, making teaching and learning fun, and more. We’ll go with easy steps. You’ll see that YOU CAN DO IT!

The rewards?

*getting to know and like and love your kids

*learning something yourself (I have a college degree but I definitely learned what I know in homeschool, not in college!)

*greater family unity

*teens who listen to your advice because they’ve grown up respecting you

*academic excellence of which you will be amazed!

*more mature kids who are not so prone to peer pressure

*stronger faith in God and less worldliness

*upbeat happiness in your home!

YOU CAN DO IT! Your love for your child makes you the most qualified teacher.

—Diane

P.S. As soon as you do Assignment #1, you can move on to #2, and so forth. Just don’t overwhelm yourself.  Just don’t get stressed and feeling like you have to do more and more. You are already doing quite a bit, just to be involved in homeschooling (whether you are just starting, or “keeping on”). So, keep up what you are doing, and try to add one assignment at a time until you and your family feel the benefit and think you want more.

Homeschooling Assignment #1

A Child’s Self-Confidence: Handle with Care

 

Jennifer, a mom who reads my blog, wrote about what happened to her little boy:

My middle child went to kindergarten last year at what was supposed to the best public school in the best school district in Kansas, which is one of the top states in the country. He is a kinesthetic learner with incredible spatial skills, but is a slow learner when it comes to reading. Watching his classmates “get it” while he struggled, killed his self confidence. His teacher progressed through the curriculum according to plan, and my boy was left behind. Not only did he finish kindergarten not reading, but he did not believe himself to be capable of reading. His teacher NEVER raised with us any concerns about his reading—I’m not certain whether she even realized that he was struggling, because he is not the type to ask for help. Here we are now, homeschooling, half-way through 1st grade, and he is just now becoming confident enough in his reading ability to read to someone besides me. He still insists that he can’t read, but he’s reading cereal boxes, and he can answer for me when his little brother asks, “What does that say?”!  Yes, he is behind where other kids with his same manufacturing date range might be, but he is a unique little person who is learning and growing every day and I am proud of him and the progress he has made!

My heart sinks when I read comments like hers, because I have seen this happen too many times. And usually to boys, as they tend to be very hands-on and reading and writing comes later for them.  Just the thought of a kindergarten boy struggling to grip that pencil correctly and manipulate it to form legible letters is distressing—for some little boys, it is just so difficult!  And the girls their age often manage it easily, which only magnifies their deficit in their young heart. What pains me about Jennifer’s story is what happens to that little person’s feelings about himself—that wonderful self—and his feelings of capability.  Too sad!

I can remember when I was just a little girl, probably about 4th grade.  Our school pictures were coming up and I just wanted so much to have the “right smile”.  Back to that “norm” idea.  As if there is a “right” smile. I practiced in front of the mirror, trying to smile a movie star smile.  Is a 9-year-old girl even capable of a movie star smile?  No. “Too much television”, would be my diagnosis now, as a mother.  Too much of the world having an influence.  But I didn’t parent myself, so having that “right” smile was pretty crucial to me back then!  I practiced in front of the mirror, touching my face so I could memorize what it felt like to have that perfect smile.  When picture day came, and it was my turn to smile for the camera, I felt my face and made sure it was the “right” smile before the photographer snapped the picture.  Back in those days, you got one pose only—probably the same these days for school pictures.  When I got my pictures back, arrrrrrgh! They were AWFUL!  My pasted “right” smile was a facial contortion.  Plus, ALL my other classmates had a permanent record in their full sheet class picture!

The ache in this memory is the fact that a 9-year-old girl would even have the notion come into her head that she needed to try to be pretty, to have to try harder-than-possible to be acceptable.  I am sad that as a little child I had been trained early to worry about it!  It didn’t come from my mother, as she always had positive things to say about how beautiful we children were, and how we should be grateful that we even had a body that worked. So it must have come from the culture, the school environment, the early training out of ear shot of my mother.

One thing I have been surprised about in raising my homeschooled teenagers is that they never were afflicted with the self-depreciating attitude that children often display in the teen years (…my nose is too big, I’ll too tall, I’m too short, I’m too fat, I’m too busty, I’m not busty enough, I’m a wimp muscle-wise, I need to lift weights, etc.)

Actually I think it starts quite young, even back in kindergarten.  The teacher, wanting to make losing a tooth a fun and special experience for the children, inadvertently rewards those who lose a tooth by having them come up in front of the class, putting their name on the “Lost a Tooth” chart, taking their photo, giving them a special award, etc.  Seems like an innocent idea, but the seeds of peer comparison and self-depreciation are sown very early. I’ve heard more than one 5-year-old lament that they still had their baby teeth . . . as if it was a sin, or a reason to be sorry.

Children think they are fabulous—in the absence of negative peer review, and in the absence of being compared academically or skill-wise to classmates.  It is amazing to me to see the natural feelings of a growing child!  I used to worry a bit about it with when my first children came of age—to hear and watch them assess their bodies and make positive exclamations about how fabulous their bodies or their talents or their minds were!  It made me laugh nervously and feel embarrassed because in our culture it is not acceptable to mention how wonderful our body is!  And yet, viewing it from God’s perspective, it truly is amazing to see a child’s body transform into a teenage body, with all its resulting capacities.  Bigger muscles for boys means they can lift things and work like an adult and be truly useful to the family in that manner.  And it is natural for them to be excited and to make positive comments about what is happening to their body. “I’m so strong!  I lifted as many hay bales as Dad did!” Those type of remarks are often discouraged—we think they are un-Christian somehow, as if we are not being humble enough.  But truly, I think they spring from genuine awe and appreciation of the personal miracle that God has wrought in their lives.  And it follows that poise and confidence are the natural results of feeling secure and thinking well of oneself.

Self-depreciation is taught by our culture of critique as being appropriate.  Perhaps it sounds more humble, but it does a wicked work on self-esteem. When children repeatedly compare and criticize their body, their intelligence, their capabilities—it does irreparable damage. Better to gently teach your children to contain their expressions of delight in public, than to nullify their appreciation for the beautiful work of God in their growing minds and bodies.

One of my young teenage daughters used to lay on her bed and hold up her adult-looking leg for review.  “Look how perfect my leg is!”, she would exclaim.  It made me chuckle, as I am a product of this culture of self-depreciation, and it seems odd to delight in oneself.  But when I truly looked at her leg objectively, I was amazed too!  How God transforms a child into a beautiful adult is amazing!

I can guarantee you that my daughter wouldn’t have that attitude towards herself if she’d spent much time in the culture of the public school.  I know that for a fact.  I had been hospitalized and was forced to put my youngest at age 9 into school for a few months during this time.  The drastic change in her attitude towards herself was alarming to me, and to her siblings.  In just 3 months, she transformed and it was not for the better. One trait she quickly developed was “social awareness ” (gotta be cool!)  Long before she attended school, she had been given a soft, furry, white, full-length coat that was her very favorite!  She felt like a snow princess when she wore it.  It was beautiful! She came home from school, coat slung over her arm, on a very frigid winter day.  “Why aren’t you wearing your coat?”, I asked. Because it made her have “polar bear hips” she confessed.  She didn’t even have hips yet! Whoever put that cutesy little barb of criticism into her mind prevented her from wearing her very favorite coat that made her feel beautiful . . . ever again. Though she never would part with it. I finally took it out of her closet recently and packed it away, and the feelings rushed back to me. So sad! So wrong!

Moms, academic training is important, yes.  But a child’s confidence and recognition of their own self-worth is crucial to their happiness and well-being their whole life long!  Children are able to hear the truth, that they are a beloved child of God and hear His approval spoken quietly to their minds, UNLESS the negative voice of their peers and the practices of our society’s critique system is louder. Which it usually is.

It is a good time in history to homeschool . . . to protect our children’s faith, tenderness, and self-worth.  God times the growth of their body and mind perfectly in His wisdom. He loves them. He speaks approving words to their heart about their wonder and worth. Why shouldn’t everyone else?

A child’s self-confidence requires gentle, tender nurturing.  Handle with care!