Parenting For Eternity

Someone recently posted a blog asking parents how they discipline, train and disciple their children. So many answers, so many opinions, so many philosophies – most totally contradicting one another – my head was swimming! So how do we know what is right? What are the chances of us doing a “good job” in raising children that not only “behave well” but children who choose to do what is right, even when they don’t feel like it, just because it is right. How do we raise children to think of and consider others before themselves? Children who have an undying, personal love for God, the earth and those around them, Children who are passionate and expressive, strong yet compassionate and gentle?

Honestly I don’t know!

But…

I know someone who does! Someone who not only knows all these answers but also knows each of my children personally. For this reason I do believe that the biggest, most important investment I made into parenting my children wasn’t buying the latest jungle gym or saving for a dream holiday but rather seeking my heavenly father for wisdom in raising the little people he has put into our care. Through the years He has gently guided, encouraged, rebuked and corrected our parenting and we have learned so many valuable lessons along the way.

So what I’ll share with you here are a few things we have found to be fundamental to parenting our children…

I remember, when our first child was a baby, hearing someone say that they did not allow fighting in their home. This took made me so a double take. Made me sit up an listen. Made me stop and consider all I knew about family, siblings and raising children. “Not allow it!?” As I processed this information I began to realise that as parents we are given our homes to “have dominion over”, to rule and reign. We have the right to determine the atmosphere, the attitudes, expectations and out play of bevaiour with this space we had been given dominion over. With this in mind we set out to determine what we wanted to have our family and home look like.We set high expectations for our children with regards to their bahaviour and attitudes toward one another. One of these is that our speech is to always be full of grace – love, forgiveness, patience and understanding.

Now setting the expectations and obtaining them were 2 separate things and in different seasons, for different children working towards them has meant different approaches. Ultimately when they are very little it meant removing them from a room, or sitting looking at a wall, till they could chose to talk nicely, chose to be kind or chose to change their attitude. As they became older and now knew the expectations we would ask them to “try again” when they used a harsh tone or were mean to someone else. This also often came hand in hand with role play and practicing how they will behave in a situation.

This set them up with a picture in their head of what was an appropriate response rather than just disciplining or punishing them for “being naughty” – leaving them with no idea on how to rectify their behaviour.

As the years have rolled by many situations have simply been spoken through. With the older children we have discussed how you respond when a friend leaves you out or says something hurtful. How to ensure a new child feels accepted in a group or that the boy who scores his own goal in soccer is not made to feel embarrassed. These discussions have once again set them up with an appropriate, loving response rather than leaving them to figure it out all on their own.

I remember hearing years later of another family who would not allow their children to entertain the idea of being a “teenager” due to the connotations, expectations and liberation this word presented but that they would rather become a “young adult” – an adult in training. This immediately changed the expected behavior and attitude of the child from one of reckless, selfishness to one of responsibility and maturity. With this in mind we started speaking of these things with our young children so that by the time they reach 13 they know what the expectation is of them. They look forward to being embraced into the “adult” world and their behaviour grows into this expectation.

God obviously also plays a vital role in all this as our children look to Him as their guide and as their personal relationship with him grows so does their desire to live in a way that honours him.

So no we don’t have all the answers and don’t always get things right. Yet we have learned, through God’s wisdom and guidance, that parenting is not about discipline but rather exception and then training, discipleship and mentoring a child into becoming all they were made to be.

 

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Coming Home

Nagging and Nagging. Deliberate disobedience! Fighting. Arguing. Nastiness. I could no longer recognise my home. As I escaped to do some shopping I found myself walking the aisles dreading going back home. What had happened? After 12 years how could everything so quickly have fallen apart? How could my sweet, helpful children be the same people as these back lashing, nasty creatures that had slipped into our life?

Pacing up and down the pasta aisle my fervent prayers we met with a still, honest answer. I had neglected Being Mom. As much as I didn’t want to hear the truth I chose to look into the cold eyes of reality and take stock of my heart and focus in life. As I pushed the trolley past the milk I realised that unless I “came home” not only physically but emotionally too I would be setting out to “tear down my house.”

It wasn’t as if I had neglected my children. I spent almost every hour of every day with them and yet – when I chose to see the truth – even in being with them I had been absent. We have had the awesome privilege of setting up a homeschool learning centre. This has been an amazing adventure that we as a family had embarked upon as a ministry and we stand in awe of how God has used it to affect so many people’s lives. My children loved coming to do school at the centre. They had so much fun playing with the other children and all the art and crafts, science experiments and great things we offer there. I was there with them all morning. So how could anything have really changed?

Yet how silently and quickly the downward spiral had descended upon us! The symptoms I was now desperately trying to escape from were in fact my children desperately crying out not just for their mom to be around be for her to be present and her heart to be beating alongside theirs.  As I slowed my trolley I knew the truth. Yes I had been physically present with them but my focus had been on the other children. Always pushing my own aside, telling them I’d help them later at home – a later which in fact never came. With us rushing out in the morning we no longer sat and savoured breakfast. The afternoons were a flurry of extra murals. By the evening I was prepping for the next day – time only for bath, supper and bed. No stories or snuggle time. Mom was stretched beyond and having so many people relying on her she let her own slip between her fingers.

In a haze I left the shop and silently began the journey home. My mind full of all that now needed to take place for me to once again return home. God in his love and grace speedily sent me two amazing facilitators to run with lessons at the facilitation centre. They have been such a blessing and have done such a marvelous job. With that I was able to quickly return home. Back to lengthy breakfasts, one on one reading and maths lessons with my weaker children, stories outside in the sun, cuddles when a knee or heart was sore. Healthy food once again began to appear on our table and within days all the nastiness disappeared. Yes, my children do still fight and they still don’t clean their rooms when asked but those things were always there. It’s the grating, antagonising and deliberate disobedience that has all vanished as a vapour that never was.

This Mommy has now learned the truth of Proverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” And by keeping God close by my side I do trust to keep walking in wisdom.

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Let’s Vote

Today was a special day here in South Africa – it was time to once again vote for the people we see fit to lead our nation.

20 years ago we stood before a land mark decision for South Africa to become a nation in which all are recognised, acknowledged and valued. The past 20 years have faced many challenges. There have been many amazing advances forward but still many disappointments and disillusionment have filled many, many lives. So today as we look upon yet once again a restless nation we all fell hopefully empowered to yet once again help make a difference in this beautiful land.

Our children have not missed the hype and excitement building up around them. Time spent in the car, at breakfast and dinner have been bristling with discussions about different parties, what makes a good president, how one votes and how having a seat in parliament works. Today we were able to take our children with us to vote, they were allowed to stand in the hall and watch how it all came together. Their excitement has been so tangible all day. So yes this vote of ours today may mark a change in South Africa’s history or it may not. It did however begin a shift my children’s minds and hearts toward their love for our land, their future right to vote, their voice in the country, their place as adult citizens and how they too have a responsibility to make a difference in the future of this amazing country.

This could not have been summed better than just after we voted Nate comes to us and says, “When I”m an adult I won’t be voting – because people will be voting for me!”

Nate’s own political party’s badge – Rainbow Nation Freedom

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Cedar Wood

At the beginning of 2013 God led us to begin a homeschool facilitation centre. This has been a most awesome privilege and adventure to embark upon!

We started out with my 4 and just 2 others last year and are now up to 12 children. The vision God has planted into our hearts is to open a learning environment that is an extension of our home. A place that breaths God, a place where individually, excellence, diligence, creativity and a high standard of academics are valued.

Each child is on their own individual program – which makes for interesting mornings, but as they are at their own level for each subject, engaging in work they are excelling in, at a pace and presented in a way that is personally unique to them they are all so motivated.

Each child has a tablet, connected to the wifi, which they use throughout the day to access their reading or maths, science or history. They are required to to do daily research and then narrate about what they have discovered.

Cedar Wood is based upon a Charlotte Mason philosophy and we use a great deal of the Sonlight curriculum – especially for the history and geography. Neil runs awesome weekly science lessons that the kids can’t wait for and many Fridays are spent attending various outings or herb club (run by Peter’s Gate a farm in the midlands that grows herbs and produces herb products.)

Each child is issued with a planner of their day’s work and what they need to achieve during the day. What they don’t complete in the morning they do at home. We don’t have a break time – they simply get to eat when their work is done.

I have stood in awe of how responsible each child is for their work – even our youngest 4 year old diligently takes responsibility for her own learning! The children manage their time and their own work program. It is so interesting to watch the level of excellence and work ethic they place on themselves.

Yes there are squabbles and irritations and attitudes that need to be tweaked but just as in a family these are dealt with promptly and given natural consequences and choices they usually come right quickly.

I think the biggest reflection that this is something good that we have stumbled upon is that the number of parents who have called me to say that within 5 weeks of their children joining Cedar Wood their confidence has skyrocketed. This was never something Cedar Wood aimed to do and yet as the children have grown in responsibility and freedom to be who they were made to be this has been a natural progression.

So as we step boldly into 2014 we hope to soon have many more children learning in this sort of environment.

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A Mere Breath, A Moment, Breath

To hear the whisper of his voice brush the corners of my soul…

 To Know the One who created the depths of the universe

 cares and loves me enough to guide my every step along life’s way.

 To see the breadth and depth of colour.

 My breath catches – it’s hard to breath.

 Sunlight’s dawn caught upon a misty spider web.

Spider's Web

 My children’s eyes.

 Water: cascading, spilling, splashing upon the ancient rocks.

English: Waterfall

 A single feather. Held, between my mortal fingers.

Feather In Hand

The wonder of a world beneath the silent waves.

 The trust of innocence.

 The firm grasp of a baby fist.

 Autumn leaves – dying beauty…

Autumn Leaves begin to fall-052

 The marvel, the wonder, reaching beyond…

 Transending mind and body – Drenching the soul.

 Erupting beyond the physical – embracing the eternal.

 For every breath…

 -all birthed – and held – within a mere moment –

just breathe…

I am thankful!

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At last!! We’re 6!!

Oh my for so long we have counted the months, weeks and days and finally Joy-Summer and Lily-Grace can tell the world that they are 6! With their birthday right in the middle of December we decided to have their Princess Party in mid-November.

It was a simple party, they made princess paper dolls, iced biscuits, had to ward of brother dragon who stole the party packs and then they had a real tea-party! They did however savor every moment and it was a roaring success.

This last week however the “real birthday” arrived. True to tradition they woke to find the breakfast table set and they a breakfast treat awaiting. This time it was waffles and ice-cream!!The excitement of opening presents was however too much and so little was eaten – for a change!

We then all got ready to head off to Butterflies For Africa for the day. We had organised to meet up with granny and grandpa there so we had a full day ahead… Browsing their little butterfly shop is a treat in its self but spending the morning holding butterflies and searching for little caterpillars was so special. The girls were in their element!

They fed the fish and stoked the stick insects -aagh! A picnic was in order during lunch time. Oh and did these little princesses eat!! – before heading back into the butterfly house yet again. By 3pm we bundled 5 dirty,full and happy little people into the car to head home. It was such special day and, “Yes, NOW you can tell everyone that you are 6!!!”

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Learning Beside Mama

Toy Train Set 084Despite popular belief that children should spent as much time as possible socialising with their peer group, there are always easy and fun ways to include them into what we, the big people, are doing. It is at these times, when children work side by side with adults, that they learn more than when left alone with a room full of toys. Yes, a pretend tea set or train set allows them to spend time imagining all sorts of games. Through pretend play children develop their concept of who they are and how society and relationships as a whole fits together. Make believe is a fundamental part of childhood. However, toys don’t specifically allow a child to learn life skills that they will need in daily life. A child may be able to cut up play dough to make a dolls dinner, however, cutting a cucumber and adding it to the salad for dinner gives the activity meaning and purpose. Instead of just pretending to be useful and playing a role they are engaging in real life activities that make them feel useful and a part of the family. This gives them a sense of belonging and importance.

From the age of two or three years – under adult supervision – a child can be given a cutting board and a blunt knife, to cut up fruit and vegetables. Start off with soft fruit such as a banana, or paw-paw so that they don’t need much effort or co-ordination. From about three years children have enough co-ordination to start peeling carrots. Children as young as two years can learn to break an egg. Simply place a bowl under a mug and break the egg into the mug and if it misses the egg lands in the bowl. You may need to stick your fingers into the shell with them a few times and scoop out the shell bits. However, by being a part of the family unit in such a meaningful way from the beginning develops children to want to help as they get older. Incorporate your child in all your household chores such as hanging up and folding washing, washing dishes – you do the glass ones and they do the plastic ones. From the time they can walk children can help put dishes away and pick up toys. All these are not only training your child in vital life skills but also building an attitude of service and responsibility. Children love feeling that they are trusted and needed, therefore by giving them the responsibility of feeding a pet or wiping a table builds their self-esteem too. As children are included in the household activity they feel needed and loved.

Sjouwen van melkbusen / Children helping out a...

These times of working together as a team deepen family relationships, build friendships and encourage siblings to make a plan and work together for the good of the family. Children don’t need to be bribed and rewarded for helping keep the home running smoothly instead you may have natural consequences such as if they haven’t fed the dog they may not have their supper. Or the family can’t go out to the park until all the responsibilities are completed.

December is such a wonderful time as Christmas creates so many of these co-working opportunities. It is however also a stressful, busy time. One therefore has to determine before each morning if little people will be playing a big part in our day and if so we need to dress with an extra layer of patience each morning.

Family is such a special and wonderful concept. It is designed to train and teach a child in so many ways and yet we get caught up in babying children, pampering them and rushing to meet their needs. Instead we should see children as a part of the family. By drawing our children into the centre of the home action, we are not only preparing them for life and teaching them many important skills but they grow up secure feeling needed, valued and loved too.

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St Nicholas Celebration

Many years ago when our first son celebrated his first Christmas something just didn’t sit right with us regarding the whole Santa Clause – Father Christmas experience. This was strange as these childhood fantasies were the structure upon which my childhood was build. That aside… we chose a different route for our growing family.

We are in a difficult situation as the rest of the cousins believe in Father Christmas, sleigh , reindeer and elves overseeing their annual behaviour… Therefore in a bid to maintain family relationships and not foster pride in our children (explaining to them that other people choose to celebrate St Nicholas day on Christmas day) we chose to create and celebrate our own St Nicholas day.  This began with us making a pope’s hat – which is looking a bit weathered after 11 years of use. Then on the 6 December, after dinner we sit the children down and using very basic pictures off clipart we tell the wonderful story of how a real pope called Saint Nicholas helped pay for 3 girls to get married, by throwing gold down the chimney into their stockings. During the story Dad leaves the room and as I end the story he reappears in the hat and a big jacket or bathrobe. How funny how the children don’t recognise him! Only at the age of 6 does one of them say, “but it’s dad!” Only for us to hear another whisper, “He just has Dad’s shoes on!” St Nicolas then greets the children and says he’s so glad to hear us telling of how he gave and he then gives each child a tiny gift. This may even be just a small bag of sweets – the one year they got a tub of ice-cream to share with the family. He then reminds them about God and how he gave Jesus and how we must now prepare our hearts to give during the Christmas season.

After a quick photo shoot he leaves and the children head off to bed. This is the beginning of our time of thinking of others. This is out played in that each child is to personally make gifts for other family members. Another activity is that when we put up the nativity set Jesus manger is empty and we have a small tub of straw. Every time someone helps another or silently serves someone they get to put a piece of straw in the manger. It’s the hope that on Christmas morning there will be a soft bed for Jesus to lie in.

St Nicholas day has become a much loved family celebration that lasts maybe 45 minutes and yet speaks volumes to not only the children, but our hearts too.

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Christmas – Our Way

Christmas has always been an interesting time in our home. And in the homeschool circles you come across many families who no longer celebrate this holiday. I have always been so grateful that during our first years of marriage we lived in a town far from family so that we could work through some tough thought processes and decisions. On our return to living amongst the family we had managed to establish our own traditions, beliefs and who we were.

The most obvious of these was Christmas. We came to realise that this season has so many roots and evokes huge emotion within people. We could spend hours discussing the different world views and the pros and cons to various views. Instead I’ll simply share how we as a family spend this special season. We have spent a great deal of time learning about the different Jewish festivals and how these link to Christianity. From this study we have begun to celebrate Hanukkah which celebrates the miracle of light. This we find is an awesome introduction to Christmas as it keeps us focused on Jesus, the Light of the world. The 6 December then finds us celebrating St Nicolas Day. This we found fundamental as all the cousins have father Christmas arrive on Christmas day and whilst we chose to move away from this we found it important to honour them and not teach our children to be filled with pride by saying “we right and they are wrong,” – we simply do things differently. So by us celebrating a ST Nicolas day we could simply explain they celebrate St Nicolas day on Christmas day.

The the decision as to whether we should celebrate Christmas at all… After much deliberation we decided to continue celebrating it, for a number of reasons. Firstly the rest of our family does – many of whom are not saved so we saw this as an excellent chance to witness to them. We found it was an entire month of celebrating our savior and focusing on him. Christ himself recognised and celebrated Hanukkah which was not a God ordained holiday but rather a man made one. Therefore if our hearts are right we too are free to celebrate man made holidays and traditions.

So as a family Christmas is an exciting, much anticipated time of year. It does require much preparation and heart searching but that is what makes this time so special to us all.

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Embracing Story Writing

As a writer and literacy lover I can’t help believing it’s fundamental for my children to be able to express themselves excellently though the written word. For the last 6 years we have used Sonlight as our homeschool curriculum and have loved their way of encouraging children to write and express themselves.

I was however thinking the other day how often a child will say they went to the “beach or park” and then launch into a story about what occurred there but never actually stop to create the scene. I really wanted to have a visual way to encourage the children to think more about the setting and use expressive words to describe it.

So here was the simple plan – an art lesson…. Each child was given an A4 page and using bright crayons they has to draw their favourite place. The trick being that they could add scenery but no people or animals – as those were characters not scenery. Some got this right others not but it was a great first try. We then laminated these pages. Once this was done I pulled out some stickers I had bought. They could each choose about 4 stickers to be the characters in their story. They could then move the stickers around to help them create the story.

This part became so exciting that we forgot all about spending a good amount of time describing the setting but I was so pleased with the stories they created that on another day we’ll do the activity again and spend time describing the scenery BEFORE I give out the stickers.

These pages have been used again and again at home to play with. They have even been taken on car trips. Think this is one idea I’m going to ensure I remember to do again soon!

 

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