A Child’s Self-Confidence: Handle with Care

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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 somehow picked up 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!

 

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The Baby IS the Lesson

One morning on my daily walk, I was fretting and stewing over what I could possibly do with my one-year-old during school time. I was feeling some despair with a new baby on its way. I couldn’t see any end to the disruption of babies in my home school for many years to come. I was praying and scheming at the same time: I could wait until the baby’s nap to teach school, I could rotate the children with baby-sitting chore away from our schoolroom, I could get a playpen . . . all solutions that didn’t feel right—babies needs their moms!

As I walked and pondered, suddenly the Lord introduced one sentence to my mind and revolutionized my mindset entirely! “The baby IS the lesson!” I thought I was trying to teach Math, but in reality I had been teaching, day by day, how an adult values the precious gift of children. My children, by watching how I deal with the frustration of a crying baby or keep a toddler happy and busy with some of his “own” pieces while we play a math game, are soaking up “the lesson”. Unfortunately, I had occasionally been teaching that the baby interrupts our lesson.

How to be a Christlike person is the most valuable lesson a child could ever learn! The lesson is learned moment by moment; watching a parent being patient, handling frustration with kindness, pressing on for the goal in spite of numerous interruptions, valuing each child’s needs regardless of inconvenience. That valuable insight–how Mother handles the baby is the real lesson–has dramatically changed how I view my home school. I am teaching foremost my values: godly character, kindness, respect for others, individuality, sacrifice and a host of other Christlike attributes. Teaching them reading, writing, math, etc. is very important to me but my perspective has been altered. “Mimic me, follow me and I will show you the way a Christlike person acts and what he values”. That is the message every parent relays to their children whether they are aware of it or not. Children try to copy everything anyway (our mannerisms, our daily activities, etc.). We must be certain that we are providing a correct pattern for them to copy, not only in our daily activities but in our attitude, our tone of voice, and our facial expression. We need to conduct our lives so that we can say “follow me”. If our children are to “buy” our values, what a tremendous responsibility we have to make sure we are living our best so the lesson is clear and well learned! What more could you ask for from your homeschool than to produce Christlike people?!

Teaching your children basically means getting your own personal life in order and striving daily to be the leader for them to follow. Of course, we fall short and they must look to Christ for the perfect being but they need to see daily how one acts, speaks, lives, solves problems. We are acting as a proxy, in a sense, for Christ. Since they can’t have his daily role model, then he has given his children parents to be an example, to point the way. Along with lesson preparations, we need to prepare ourselves by asking: is the pattern I live the way Christ would act? Can I say today that I have marked the path for my children to follow? Children learn from seeing their parent’s role model. Watching an adult make a simple mistake (such as being too punitive with a child) and go through the process of repenting is 100 times more effective than your devotional lesson on repentance. This means children must be intimately involved with you in your daily life. A few hours a day after school won’t do it.

dough-13726_640Children should be involved in the adult’s life rather than daily life rotating solely around the children. Research has shown that children who have grown up to be productive well-adjusted adults are those who have been drawn into the parent’s world; their daily activities, work, and interests; rather than having parents who centered their world on the child. When I began home schooling, I never could find the time to do the things I felt were important for my life; such as writing in my journal, corresponding with relatives, studying my scriptures, and more. Somehow, in my busy-ness of trying to teach the kids how to write in their journals, I was neglecting my own journal writing. Thankfully, we now have journal writing time in school daily, and we write letters to relatives together as a family on Sunday. Homeschool life should help parents do the daily necessities, rather than usurp the time needed for them. Home maintenance, chores, food preparation, gardening, food preservation, budgeting, clothing care (mending and sewing), planning family social relationships, caring for small children, record keeping, quilting, raising animals, etc. are all wonderful life skills that can be done together that enhance a child’s education!

The parent’s joyful task is to lead and guide the child into the real world–not set up a contrived pseudo-world to teach skills that the children would easily learn if they spent their time around adults who were striving to live good lives. What constitutes an adult trying to live a “good life”? Being a productive adult would constitute a full-time curriculum! Plant a garden, read good literature, serve the needy, be politically aware, keep a journal, vote for honest men, develop your talents, etc. The exciting part about leading a child into the real world is that they are self-motivated. The moment I sit down to play the piano, all my children want to play and want me to teach them to play something. No sooner than I begin typing on the computer, I have the whole family “needing” to type. My efforts at writing have, humorous to me, stimulated the production of “books” from my youngest children. Modeling is so much more effective than lecturing.

book-691489_1280Studies show that the biggest determining factor for a child’s success in reading in school is if they have seen a parent reading in the home on a regular basis. This is especially true for boys if the parent who reads is their father, rather than their mother. Somehow, the example says far more about the value of reading than endless hours in school reading groups.

In every area it takes instruction to teach skills to little people. Children need to master the basic academic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic), social manners, music competence, and a host of other abilities and that do take focused concentration and time from mother/teacher to accomplish. It isn’t realized just by living in a family. But shared family life practices and contributes to those skills. Having taught my little girl the numbers and the plus, minus and equal signs and how they worked, she jumped right into figuring out how many plates she needed to set the table using her new skills: (“We have 9 and the boys are gone to college so that is minus 3, so we need six”).

When we think of homeschool, sometimes we get tunnel vision, and think “academics”, “keeping up to speed” and other worrisome concerns that don’t really tell the whole story. Homeschool is the growing and nurturing of fine, upright people.

So, how we treat and value the baby really is the lesson.

Class never dismissed.


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Fifteen Years of Research in the Homeschool “Lab”

man-216985_1280As a “research associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations”, some days my research seems more productive than others. My younger lab assistants continually challenge my theories. My able teen-age lab assistants are truly helpful and quick to point out where I can improve. Of course, research in the field (excursions to the science center, camping trips, park days, etc.) is always great fun. Preliminary “lab reports” from my 15 year experiment has given me the courage to stay in the laboratory and keep on experimenting.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

• Increase tolerance for noise, confusion, dirty walls, and unclean windows. The great “unmaker” is far superior to all of my attempts at organization. Patricia Clafford put it so well: “The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.”

• Make a conscious decision ask yourself over and over, “Does this really matter?” and only give energy to things that really do matter. I truly believe I have enough time to do what is most important.

• Catch your children doing right things. Nothing improves a child’s hearing more than praise.

• Remember—you are not having “school at home.” You are choosing a different way. Experiment with your options and your confidence will grow.

• “Trust your children!”

• Take time to pursue your own interests. Be a role model of a true homeschooler—discovering in your own areas of interest.

Have your own quiet time daily. Be strict about “Mom’s Time”. Daily fill up your own cup so you are more patient with those who are so demanding.

• Interruptions always happen—plan enough time for them.

• Make a “What NOT to do” list to help you in prioritizing or putting “FIRST THINGS FIRST”. No matter how hard you try, you never will get it all done.

• Ask: “What is most important during this season of my life?” Choosing between two good things is much needed skill in an era full of wonderful opportunities. One thing that helps me is to go to a quiet place and ask myself, “What is happening to me because of what I am choosing to spend my life on? Am I becoming a better person because of choosing this activity?”

• Do not compare yourself with others. Let go of self-condemnations that come with judging yourself by other’s standards. You are unique. Your home based education will be uniquely.

• Your individual worth is not dependent upon your performance or the performance of your children. Understanding this is key to allowing your children the freedom to teach themselves what they need to know.

These are some of the important things I have learned in my Homeschool Laboratory. I’m sure you could sit down and compose your own list.  We’re all still learning what works and what doesn’t work as well. So, put on that white lab coat and have a great day in your “Lab”!

 

by Cyndy and Mark Weiss of Richmond, Washington, homeschooling parents of 3

 

 

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Homeschooling a Struggling 18 year old

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My son Ammon and the giant cantaloupe he grew!

Question:

My son is 18 and he has struggled through school , especially through high school. He wants to get a diploma and graduate but it is not looking like he will be able to do that through the regular high school program. What would you suggest that I do to get started, and how would I go about helping him to achieve his goal to finish school?

Answer:

It is admirable that your son wants to finish high school, and quite wonderful that he has a mother who is willing to help him! His motivation and your help will be a great factor in his success.

First of all, I would go to the high school counselor and get details on what it is going to take to get a diploma. If he needs to do the coursework to finish up classes, he will have an advantage being at home where he can devote himself to study, with you as mentor to help him along. Explore the option of testing out of the classes with an written exam (or oral exam) rather than doing the assigned work. This is a faster method because learning the core requirements is not as laborious as doing all the homework assigned in class. You can get books on each subject, such as World History or Math, that help you study the basic facts for the proficiency exams.  In fact, getting children’s picture books are a good way to give a basic understanding of a topic, such as cell structure, before delving in further.

Taking the GED test may be a good option.  The GED is an easy exam that grants a high school diploma.  Because the GED exam is often taken by unwed mothers, high school dropouts, etc., it may possibly cast an unfavorable light on your son to a future employer or college, so that is a consideration. But some colleges now require it, so the tide may be turning.  If your son would be happy with this route, it will certainly be easier than trying to finish up difficult high school coursework.

A high school diploma is not an education, however. It represents putting in time at the local high school and doing passing work but there is a lot of leeway in there!  I would hope that your son would be able to learn the things he is interested in. Talk to him and see what gets him interested and enthused. Then go to the library together and load up on books, magazine articles, videos, and whatever else you can find on his subject of interest. You’ll be amazed at how focused he is when the subject is of his choosing. When he feels the thrill of learning, that perhaps has been dormant for far too long, you will have started something wonderful!

imageI would urge you to do some reading aloud of classic children or young adult literature that would interest him (Call it Courage, Night Journeys, The Giver, Sign of the Beaver, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, and others). These can be found in any library and are not hard reading, but they are inspiring and the main character is a young man who strives to achieve. Read them aloud (no one is too old to be read a story) and enjoy them together. There is something very bonding and encouraging about reading good books. I believe it is essential to an excellent education and a fun way to re-ignite a love to learning.  A high school degree is a good short time goal, but a desire to keep learning is the ultimate goal!

Take a look at your local online high school program. Most public schools have them as an option to help those who need to catch up on classes.  If not, there are many sources online for free tutoring.  Khan Academy is a good one! Many colleges have free “open courseware’, which are basic classes taught online by a college professor (for the sake of learning, not credit)

Best success to you!

 

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What’s it Like to Be a Boy?

My son Ammon is a sensitive, intelligent boy who loves plants. He is a careful 17-year-old, and he has been working studiously on his budget. I noticed that his budget includes a monthly allowance for “breaking things”. I was amused that he would list such an expenditure, but over the days since we talked about his budget, I have had a taste of what it would be like to be a teenage boy. 

Not ripping your clothes is a constant challenge. Somehow barbed wire just jumps out at you when you walk by. Outreaching knobs and latches snag your clothes when you pass. Your pants end up with holes in them. Your buttons rip off when you wrestle.

Dishes slip out of your newly-large hands. Pictures on the wall just seem to slide off when you walk near them. Even ceiling moutned light fixtures are not safe from a boy’s antics. Keeping a watch on your arm while doing boy things is always tricky. That is, if you don’t lose it first.

Not breaking things is extra difficult. Yesterday alone included dropping a sharp object on the kitchen floor and denting it, and then dropping a stapler on the hardwood table and denting it. Perhaps it has to do with the need to do science experiments with every thing you handle. Last summer’s breakage expenses included a truck window. Ammon was loading firewood onto the back of someone’s truck as a service project, and accidentally jammed a log against the back of the cab window, shattering it. That was a pricey budget deduction. Last month, it was a broken bow to his violin. Whatever it is, breakage is a real and ongoing issue for boys!

My current theory is that teenage boys are kids in mens’ bodies, and still trying to learn to handle and direct all the sudden and unexpected muscle power. They mean well, but things do break ever so easily when you are a teenage boy!

Mom, don’t get too mad at your teenage or soon-to-be-teen boys. They really don’t mean to break a thing. They really mean to be very sensitive and very careful. It is just all this strength unleashed . . . it is hard to keep it in good control! It feels like driving a car for the first time. These boys will soon be men and off on important duties. Enjoy now!

 

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My Child is Behind in School

hand-644145_1280Question:

I put my son James in public school for a short time and the teacher said he was “behind”.  I was so upset, I cried for days!  You said he is so young, I shouldn’t worry.  At what point should I worry?

Answer:

At what point should you worry?

NEVER!

Just pray and do your very best.  Children have their own growth path, their own maturation process.  Assisting them to learn what they are interested in, and providing fun ways to learn the things they have no interest in, but that are necessary life skills—is the best any mortal can do, including any public school teacher.  You are their very best teacher!  Your methods may vary, and you may explore and try new ones, but basically, it is YOU— your love, your caring concern, your energy to help them pursue their interests— not the academics, that makes a good education.

Your child is not “behind” or “ahead”.  He is James.  Period.  With all his varying skills and abilities—some areas higher and some areas lower than the “norm” (which doesn’t exist, of course).

I am so sorry that you felt bad and cried about the teacher’s opinion.  James is who he is. I wish you could see how it will work out—that James will grow up to become his own phenomenal person!

I think we underestimate the divine nature in our children.  They are progressing, opening like a blooming flower.  And their potential and final intelligence level is really not up to us, just as we cannot determine what color a blossoming flower will be.  We can assist, or retard their blooming efforts, but we can’t determine their talents, ability or intelligence level.

forge-550622_1280Make sure he has religious training. That is the biggest factor, because as kids get to be teens, their respect for God, and for you and others will make a huge difference.  Next, make sure he has the basics:  reading, writing and math—according to his time table—don’t put expectations on him to go faster, to be something he is not.   Make it fun, as I know you try to do!  Help him:  be his best aid in pursuing his interests.  Get books at the library, buy kits, find DVDs, travel with him, take him to science fairs, seek out mentors like the blacksmith at the county fair, that can answer his questions.  Kids are hungry to learn things that interest them. Feed him as fast as he can take it.  And don’t force feed him too much stuff that he has no interest in.

I used to stress, too. I think it is because I had the mistaken idea that I was the creator.  That how my children turned out  intelligence-wise, talent-wise was entirely up to me, somehow. I know that if you keep homeschooling the best you can, and you keep him out of public school and make sure he has religious training, you will be calling me in ten years to tell me what a fabulous, smart, achieving, amazing son James is.

Breathe deep.  He is God’s child first, yours second.  Do your best, and you’ll be amazed with the results!

 

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Kids to the Rescue! Training Children to Do Housekeeping

DCP_5869Emily is only six years old, but she loves to vacuum! She is too small to maneuver the vacuum cleaner very well, but that doesn’t matter. She is in training, and a partially-vacuumed carpet is better than an unvacuumed carpet!

When I began homeschooling ten years ago, I was in for a shock. “Where do you find the time to do homeschool in addition to the regular daily tasks you were accustomed to doing such as housework, grocery shopping, laundry, and gardening?”, I asked. After several months of exhaustive overload, I figured out the plain and obvious fact that there wasn’t enough mother to go around. From a sheer survival standpoint, I had to delegate the housekeeping duties. Now, looking back ten years later, I can see what a blessing in disguise it has been to not be able to keep up with my workload. As a result, my children are all well trained in housekeeping and cooking. They don’t balk at carrying a hefty portion of the housework chores. It really has become second nature to them, and each new little one that grows into toddlerhood in our home is expected to take on their portion of the work.

dishes-315084_1280No, they didn’t do it as well as I could, but then for several months there I wasn’t managing to do it at all so I decided a “child quality” job was just going to have to do. As the years have passed, the children have developed their skills through daily practice and can do the job as well and as quickly as I can. Best of all, they expect that they will do daily chores and help with meals. It would surprise them not to have their duties. We take off Sundays, holidays and one day a year on their birthday, we divide up their chores and they have a free day. By the manner in which they bumble around the house during chore time on their day off, I get the feeling that doing housework is like breathing. You don’t know what to do instead.

If you are trying to do it all by yourself, let your kids come to the rescue! In a large family, you will be stunned what can be accomplished in the half hour before breakfast. We get up at 6:30 AM for scripture study. Right after family prayer at 7:30 AM and before breakfast at 8:15, my entire house is cleaned . . .daily! Often the older children finish early and play their musical instruments for fun until breakfast is on. I always chuckle to see the little ones take their responsibilities so seriously. I finally realized that they feel loved and a real part of the family when they do their assignments. They are capable and contributing!

Of course the hardest part of getting children to do the housework is training them to do it, and consistently checking up so that they know it must always be done. As the months and years go by, they will become accustomed to the pattern and stop complaining about it! It becomes an ingrained habit. We do chores six days a week. On Sundays, the only chores that are done are the mealtime chores. It takes a parent or an older child to train children under six in doing their daily jobs. By the time they are six or seven, they are capable of doing almost any job in the house by themselves, including simple cooking.

spray-315164_1280It helps to have some good cleaning supplies. Old cotton towels cut in fourths, or old cotton cloth diapers are the best! Don’t try to use rags made from polyester as the water will just run right off rather than soak up. Keep an ample supply of cleaning cloths in a designated spot, right next to the cleaners. I use natural biodegradable cleaners, rather than grocery store stuff, just because I think it is safer for children to breathe and soak their hands in. Make sure you have enough labeled spray bottles to go around. Give the whole family a little training session about which cleaners go where: all purpose cleaner on all surfaces except mirrors and windows, glass cleaner on mirrors and windows, etc. Teach them to return cleaners and used cleaning cloths to your designated spot and hang them to dry before laundering.

I divide my house into areas such as living room, kitchen, pantry and mud room, upstairs bathroom, etc. Then a child is assigned two or three areas. The more children you have, the more cleaning your house will need but the less area each child will be assigned to do. Every area has a chart in a plastic page protector taped to the inside of a door or cabinet. The chart lists daily work needed for that room (Quick Clean), plus occasional work (Good Clean). For example, the bathroom chart Quick Clean requires cleaning the sink daily, but cleaning the bathtub is a Good Clean job only required on Wednesdays. At the bottom of the chart, I list infrequent jobs that must be done in that area. Once a month, on the first Friday, spots on the walls and the windowsills must be wiped down. The children do not mark on these charts, but just refer to them as they clean their assigned areas. Parents refer to them when they check the work. The littler children get drawings on their charts so they can participate too.

Ideally, children will grow past needing the charts. As my children have turned 12 or 13, I tell them that the chart is just a schoolmaster. Their goal is to keep their assigned areas C-L-E-A-N! They can train their eye to look for what needs doing. That is the long range goal.

The little ones, under six, are given jobs rather than assigned areas of the home. Right now, Ammon (4) daily folds the household laundry (towels, washcloths, tablecloths), takes the dirty clothes hamper to the laundry room, takes out all the garbage cans in the house, and scrubs the kitchen sink (2 x week).

Besides their assigned areas, each child and parent must maintain their own bedroom to the acceptable standard: no junk on floor, dust shouldn’t show, make your bed, change your bed sheets every other week. I’m still working on keeping my own room in order to the standard!

Mealtime chores are also divided up. The jobs are:

  1. cutlery-237802_1280set table, pour water in cups, put on serving spoons and trivets
  2. clear and wipe table and put away food
  3. sweep kitchen and dining room floor and spot clean
  4. unload and load dishwasher
  5. rinse and stack dishes that must be hand washed
  6. help with food preparation.

For the little ones, we have such jobs as “unload utensil bin in dishwasher” or “wipe off the countertops”. We also assign seating at the table for mealtimes and dish washing nights.

I rotate chores every three months. Children get proficient, and eventually bored, with their work after a few months. I am not walking around the house saying, “Who’s on the upstairs bathroom?” when I see a mess left like I used to when we changed chores every week because it is easier to remember. We keep chores for three month periods that naturally divide the year: Jan, Feb, Mar— Apr, May, June— July, Aug, Sept— Oct, Nov, Dec.

Is it necessary to check your children’s work? Only if you want them to do it. If you only check sporadically and let some things slip by, soon you will have trained your children to be sloppy in their work and to gamble not doing everything in the hopes that you won’t check up on it. The children aren’t trying to be bad; it is just human nature to do as little as possible if you never have to give an accounting.

Do I do chores? No, not in the sense that I take an area to clean daily. During our morning work time I do laundry, oversee training the little ones in doing their chores well, nurse the baby, start breakfast, clear off a counter, check the chores have been done, etc.

Louisa bakes cinnamon bread

Louisa bakes cinnamon bread

Developing some good habits will ease your workload too. One of those habits in our family is honking the horn as we pull in our driveway from grocery shopping. At the sound of the honking horn, all the children in the house come running to unload the groceries from the van into the house, and then from the bags into the freezer, fridge and cupboards. It only takes 15 minutes and the job is done, which is a nice ending to a tiring shopping trip. Another good habit is to have a “go through the house” time every morning orevening. Every person just walks through the house collecting anything that belongs to them as well as putting away anything they got out and left out, such as a stapler or schoolbook. If you do this daily, children get in the habit of picking up after themselves and it makes the task of cleaning that area much more pleasant for the person assigned. Little ones can be trained (and helped by the person assigned to that area) to clean up after themselves. There is only one problem with this little game: Mom and Dad soon realize that they are culprits in making messes and leave lots of stuff lying around too!

Although I was originally just trying to survive, I realize now that my children have received some much needed training in life skills. They know how to cook meals because they have all had a turn on helping with food preparation at my side. They know how to clean every room. They have the habit of doing chores before the day begins. We are a team, living together in the same house and sharing the upkeep of that house. I hope they make better husbands and wives because of these habits!

 

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Is Homeschooling Too Hard?

emilycleartheshelvesQuestion:

I am thinking about homeschooling my 3 children, but I am getting a lot of negative attitude about it. Remarks like my children won’t be socialized, and it is really hard for parents to do. I know my children will be socialized, they have tons of friends, but is it as hard as everyone makes it sound?

Answer:

My sympathy! I think anyone who has even thought seriously about homeschooling knows just how you feel! My thought on this is that some people may feel personally threatened by the idea of homeschooling, fearing that if it is a good idea, they may have to consider it seriously. When I tell others that I homeschool, the first thing that always comes out of the other person’s mouth is, “Oh, I could never do that!”. Then they continue with such comments: “I don’t have the patience” or “I’m not smart enough” or “My husband likes a clean house”, etc. As far as having patience goes, if we believe in lasting family relationships, just when were we intending to learn to be patient with the ones we love? Better now, than later, I think. As far as being smart enough, what better way to learn than by spending time with your own children, learning together? As far as housekeeping goes, what better way to teach your children life skills than work side by side with them?

dianeemilyrick

Diane (me), my daughter Emily, my husband Rick

I have done both—had my children in public school and homeschooled them—and I personally feel that homeschooling outweighs public school. Yes, it does take my time and energy, but I want to spend my time being with and teaching my precious children. That is my top priority—to raise my children uprightly—and homeschooling makes it easy to spend time with my children and pass on my values, and have fun together and become best friends. When my children went to public school, we had very separate lives. I lived my life and they lived theirs and seldom did our interests cross. When you homeschool, you share the same interests and enthusiasm. Whatever great literature book you are reading aloud, or art project you are working on becomes a fun thing that you share. Field trips, museum visits, and even choice of dinner foods seems to focus on what we are having fun studying at the moment. Vacations become the ultimate educational field trip! All the world becomes your school, and learning becomes a passion.

Just a note: the hardest combination of all is to have some kids in public school and some kids in homeschool. Public school schedules and calendars tend to dominate life. Mornings are a frantic rush out the door to catch the bus, gulping breakfast down before the departure. Kids comes home tired. Homework spills into the evenings, as do performances, Back to School Night, and more. Spring and fall vacations (the cheapest, least crowded, most weather pleasant times) are impossible. Homeschool is a lifestyle that is squelched by the public school calendar.

All ready for the 3-legged race at a homeschool picnic

All ready for the 3-legged race at a homeschool picnic

Socialization is something you have to attend to. When you birth children, you take responsibility for their lives: their education, their physical health, their social life, their religious training, etc. You can’t really shake those responsibilities. Public school can educate your children (although it does not teach them morals and values) and fulfill their need for being around other people (sometimes, as long as they make friends and avoid bullies). When you do not use public school, you have to provide opportunities to fill those needs. Belonging to a homeschool support group and making sure your children have opportunity a few times per week to play with friends, or attend a club or activity where they can be with friends, will do the trick. They will need homeschool friends, friends who share a similar lifestyle, so they have things in common. They can have public school friends, but they may feel left out of that public school scene, as that is generally what the kids talk about. As the years go on, your children will become different sort of people, more educated and better mannered generally, and they won’t feel as comfy with their public school friends, perhaps.

Homeschooling does take attention and work, but this is the kind of work: reading to your kids and playing phonics games with them and doing science experiments and going to the library and writing stories, and such. This really sounds more like “fun” than “work” to me. I love to be with my kids. I want to teach them that life is good and learning is fun and satisfying, and that great literature and fine books can open a whole new world to you. I am very interested in giving them Christian values and faith in God. For me, this is the most satisfying way to live and raise children!

Please come see my advice on Homeschooling: You Can Do It! .  This is a series of simple assignments for the brand new homeschooler or wanna be homeschooler, to give you a taste of how fun homeschooling can be!

 

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