Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Preschool-at-Home Planning: August 2016

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Josiah has been home for a few months and I have taken this time to have him settle down, rest back into daily home life, and re-establish playing well on his own and with his little sister. Quite a few things needed to be reversed and gotten out of his system so that I didn't plan any preschool things for him. 

It's been a really good and edifying time for our family. We have read lots of books, played lots of games, gone on lots of nature walks, had some play dates and - to be honest - spent a lot of time at home, just quietly going about our day. It's been delicious.

It's time though to add just a little something for this preschool boy of mine. He's definitely ready for some intentional time learning. But, I am a big believer in not pushing school on children when they are young. Research just shows that if a child isn't ready, they shut their brain down, which has lasting effects in later schooling years {I've just started reading Why Boys Fail and it makes so much sense}. 

This is why we are doing nothing intensive or vigorous. We are embarking on a very relaxed and gentle preschool time. And this isn't just for Josiah, it's for me too! Homeschooling is a very daunting adventure and taking small steps makes it seem slightly doable for me.

I have three goals for Josiah at the moment:

-lots of outdoor play {despite it being mid-winter}
-lots of literature
-learning hand co-ordination skills

He already knows most of his ABC's and can count to ten. I am happy with that at the moment and don't want to push him beyond that. He has learnt this all through play and watching educational shows. We play games every morning after breakfast and before bed time {usually a letter bingo game I found for $2 and a numbers game called Turtle Recall that I bought off a NZ version of ebay}.

So with that in mind, here is my plan for August.


Structure:

- We have two commitments during the weekdays which are doing the grocery shop and my mother's bible study at church {which has a creche for the kids where they get to play with their friends}. 
- I want more outdoor play than "academics" so I put this in for three times a week. This works for me because a) I get my exercise in at the same time and, b) the dog gets his walk!
- I'm alternating weeks based on a book and Josiah's work on his "writing".
- This all ties in very loosely with a Charlotte Mason based-preschool.

Nature Walk

I am a big believer in getting children out of doors as much as possible. Josiah was crawling outside in winter at six months old and we have never looked back. He is very much an outdoors boy and needs that freedom to run around and go a bit cray-cray! 

One of my most popular posts on the blog as been The Importance of Wild and Free Outdoor Play for Boys. I believe it's so good for both genders, but boys learn really well by hand as they move about and experiment with the movement of their body, as they push the boundaries of gravity and all the other imagining they do with sticks, hills, trees and water. I really believe this outdoor play will be the foundation of Josiah's learning experience and as he gets older, will flow into his desire to learn more harder things academically.


Literature

We love books. I grew up with a father who is a professor in children's literature with our own home library. And I mean, a library. So, with my very fond memories of the worlds I lived in as a child {and as an adult} and my own passion for English and literature {I have a degree in it}, our homeschooling will always heavily involve books. 

We have started with some favourites:


I have picked one book on three separate weeks. To enhance their experience of the book and their love for the storyline/characters, I have come up with some super easy activities like: using play dough to shape the foods that the caterpillar eats, having a tea party like the tiger, and making Scarface Claw masks {they LOVE Scarface Claw}.



About Three

This is the first book in the Rod and Staff preschool-aged curriculum {there are only four}. The first book is full of lines for practicing holding a pencil and learning to follow straight lines and all the signals the brain sends to the hand. I have heard of great reviews for this series and I'm so excited to get into it. 



That is it. Seriously. So easy. I think each "lesson" will go from two minutes {the About Three pages are so quick} to maybe half an hour with crafts involved. And that is all I want. Light, simple and boy-friendly.

Some homeschooling mothers will have more planned and more future goals for their preschooler. I just can't do it. I've tried but in the end, when it doesn't work out the way I want it to, I feel defeated and stop trying. This way I feel no pressure and it will be okay if we skip a day or a week. It doesn't matter in the long run. This stage is about fun, slow and doing real life.

Do you do preschool-at-home? What are you doing? How do you plan?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What Happened When We Brought Our Son Home From Preschool.

I could write so much on this, but let me just summarise it in one word:

Transformed.

That is the most succinct word I can think of to describe what has happened to our little boy since we brought him home from preschool. It's been two months and they have flown by. Why? Life is just easier with him at home.

Now, I'm not saying my days are breezy. Ha! Two children under three? No day is going to be breezy! I'm teaching, correcting, encouraging, disciplining, playing, chasing, imagining, cleaning, cooking, and living with them both all day, everyday. I don't get the few hours of space like I did when he went three mornings a week. And I don't get time alone with Rosalie now, either.

But - and it is such a big but! - we just have a totally different boy in the house. The boy who was always there, underneath, but who got confused and influenced and tired and overstimulated and put in the world before he was ready. Therefore, the boy who was more aggressive, rebellious, hurtful, less kind to his family, bored all the time, unable to play with himself or others has gone.

Instead, we have a boy who is more kind, more loving, more open, willing to be corrected, less rebellious, more imaginative, more able to play by himself, enjoying more self-directed learning. So, like I said, transformed. We have our little boy back. 

Do I regret sending him to preschool? Yes and no. 



Yes, because I have changed my stance on early education and the only reason I have is because of the negative effect it has had on our son.

But no, because I believe God has had His hand on it all.

It's helped me know my son more {he's an INTROVERT, people!}.
It's helped me know my convictions more.
It's helped me trust God's guidance more.
It's helped me be more confident as a mother
It's helped me be more confident in my husband' judgement {why don't I learn this quicker??}.
And it's helped me see that homeschooling is probably going to be the best thing for our family.

God always knows what He's doing and, when we make mistakes, if we bring them back to Him, He redeems them and glorfies Himself. I love it because mistakes then, are not ever mistakes at all. Just experiences that push us more into God's will, and nothing can go wrong with Him.



Today, as I was contemplating it all and looking at planning some activities at home, I spent some time in my number one favourite book on motherhood: The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson {affiliate}. Whenever I'm feeling in need of some motherly advice for a mother, I turn to her. These words just lifted me up today:

"Simply throwing children into a cultural tornado and hoping for the best gives them little chance of living up to their potential or coming out unharmed. Someone needs to take responsibility for their nurture, protection, nourishment, intellectual development, manners, recreation, personal needs, and spiritual development. Someone needs to commit time and energy into staying close to them as they grow, encouragung and correcting and teaching...
Best of all, when a mother chooses to stay home, she has the time and opportunity to craft the kind of relationship with her young children that only extended time together can foster. And from such a relationship she has a much better chance of building a strong moral and spiritual foundation in the heart of her young children, teaching a system of truth and values without the constant challenge of authorities and peers whose lives are totally different." p.43,48

This is me. Just me. From my heart for motherhood to our own experience. If you have a little one in preschool or school, and you just have something in your spirit telling you pulling them out might be a good idea - don't ignore it. Seek the Lord, talk with your husband, pray and read His Word. There is great wisdom in keeping children home for as long as possible to prepare them to be with the "authorities and peers whose lives are totally different". 

Have you experienced something similar with your own children? What do you think about Sally's words?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Contentment: The Reason Why We Never Have it & Why We Need a Reality Check

Ah, contentment. It is like the elusive spiritual goal we all struggle to obtain. We see it in the distance - a promise of peace, deep joy no matter the situation - and yet, we keep stumbling over every.single.thing that could cause us to be discontent. We know God wants us to be content, we know it is something Paul reached and exhorted us to find it - 

And, yet. We are just as discontent as ever. Could we be one of the mot discontent group of Christians ever? I'm not sure. But it is certainly an insidious heart-condition in the First World part of the Church.

What can we do? What does the Bible tell us about contentment? Can we ever get it? 

In some recent study of the Word in my quiet times, I have been struck by a simple truth I feel really compelled to share with you:

God requires us to be content, but it isn't as hard as we think. Do you know why? Because God's standard for acquiring contentment is low, and our standard is high.


"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." ~ 1 Timothy 6:6-8


There are so many things we can look into within this verse, but let us look at just two.

1. Contentment is a godly character we must pursue. 

Paul commands Timothy to be a godly, content man. Within his letter to Timothy, Paul has been instructing him how to establish and run a church, how his flock are to live, and how Timothy himself is to live as a godly leader and man. Contentment is a specific characteristic Timothy must pursue. God's standards for leaders of the church are high, and having a peaceful, joyful and thankful disposition toward the life given to him was one of them. Godliness with contentment is great gain for all Christians.

2. God's Standard of Worldly Contentment is Different to Ours.

Paul tells Timothy that all he needs to be content is to have something to eat and something to wear. That's it. Have you noticed "have somewhere to live" isn't on the list? Apparently, that isn't as necessary as clothing and food. Paul says that, because we came into this world naked and empty-handed, and will leave this world pretty much the same, then whatever we have beyond the necessities for living, we are to be content with.

I'm not sure about you, but this is a strong reality check for me. 

When I measure up our life of material goods to others, I feel the great lack. We have less money, less opportunities, less holidays, less spare cash etc. When I compare our home to others, I really struggle not to jump onto the internet and find something better - something bigger, more "us", more attractive etc. 

As a blogger, many of my readers are Americans. When I, as a New Zealander, measure my average home to an American's average home - I get a sinking feeling. When I read blog posts about an American family moving to a bigger home for more space, I look at the previous home and I think, "That house is twice the size of ours." One of my blogging friends Rebekah lives in a smaller house with twice the many kids as us, and she has journalled her journey to contentment so well. {Read this post as well.}

I'm not bagging Americans or anything like that, I'm just showing how comparison kills - no matter where we are. Comparison kills our joy and it kills our delight in God's sovereignty in our lives. Any comparison of earthly things that isn't compared to God's little list ought humble our hearts with gratitude and joy for God's great mercy and generosity towards us.

Friends, most - if not all - of my readers will have just so much more than clothing and food. You'll have cupboards and freezers and fridges full of food. You will have closests of clothing {perhaps even walk in closests}. And you will have a home, cars, toys, gadgets etc. We are so rich. Do you see that? And do you see how misleading the eyes of the heart can be?

If you struggle with contentment with earthly things, feed the eyes of your heart on this verse. Be content with food and clothing alone. Everything else is just decoration. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Deepening a Love for God's Word

Within the worldwide Church, we all "do church" differently. And that is something that, I believe, glorifies God. God is a God of beauty and variety, so the way we express our love for Him and how we do fellowship with each other ties into His creation of diversity. But I do believe that there is one thing that is more important than anything else: the priority of the Bible.

Belonging to a church that faithfully believes in, professes, and acts upon the teachings of God's Word is the most important commitment of a follower of Christ. Though the way a service is run and led, the way music is done, the way communion is practiced etc. are important aspects of church life to consider - how much a church body loves the Bible tops them all.

The Bible is how we know God. It is how He has revealed Himself to us explicitly {Romans 1:17} - by His laws, the unfolding story of His people of Israel, the life and death of Jesus Christ, and the ministry and letters of His early apostles. If we did not have the Word, we would only have His creation to show us He exists {Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20} and His will for us would be a mystery.

But isn't God good to us? We can know His ways and His will because of the Word. And as we grow to know God through the Gospel of Jesus, we can love, be in awe of, honour, and be passionate about the Bible more and more.

Do you know the wonders of God's Word? Let's look at a section of Psalm 19 and see the work God does for us in His Word.


Psalm 19:7-13

"The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple." {v.7}

Sometimes from the doubt in our own hearts or from the voices from the world, we can come to the Bible and doubt it. We can doubt that it is true, that it can be trusted, that it is consistent, that it is relevant. But here we see simply: the words of God in the Bible is perfect. We can trust it, even when it is confusing or difficult to accept. And, not only that, it is alive - it refreshes our souls and makes us wise. The Bible is not a stagnant book. God uses it powerfully within us through His Spirit. If, we let Him.

"The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes." {v.8}

Not only is the Bible perfect, it is right. Our holy God has revealed to us His will so that we may know how to please Him. He is our Creator, we are His created beings. If He says something is sinful, it is. We can trust the Word to show us the way - even now, in the twenty-first century. And when we apply His truths to our hearts and lives, we are transformed. Joy and light become the way of our lives, no matter the situation.

"The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous." {v.9}

So much of the Church's lack of impact on our world today is because we don't fear the LORD nor do we fear His Word. We dismiss aspects of His Word as irrelevant or wrong; and we focus more on His loving care than His holiness. We forget that God is still the holy God of the Old Testament and that, the only reason we have access like we do is because He killed His own Son for our sake. God's Word stands true forever, and so does His character. We must revere His Word so we can revere His righteous ways. Reading His Word faithfully helps us worship and treat God the way He deserves.

"They are more precious than gold, 
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb." {v.10}

Is God's Word a delight to your soul? Is it as precious to you than anything else in your life? It ought to be. It should be what we turn to more than people, more than books - even good books written by faithful Bible teachers. This is a weakness of mine, as a big reader. God's Word should be so precious to my heart; I ought to yearn for it above any other source of knowledge or wisdom.

"By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless.
innocent of great transgression." {v.11-13}

God uses His Word to enlighten us on our sins - those that we do willfully, and those that are hidden in the darkness of our hearts. How good He is, and merciful, that He doesn't leave us to our own devices. God's Word is a guide for us, a healing book, a history of His great love for sinners. Use it to help you, use it to convict you, use it to comfort you, use it to give you knowledge and understanding.

**

God loves it when we love to love Him. And He loves it when His Word is as precious to us as pure gold, as important to us than any other thing in our life. If you feel lacklustre towards the Bible, or you doubt, or you just don't know where to begin - begin with Jesus, in the Gospels and go from there. Read Psalms for comfort and beauty, read Proverbs for wisdom and truth, read the letters of the New Testament for Christian living. And know that when you ask God to help you love His Word, He has no greater delight than answering that kind of prayer! All you need to do is ask and actively read and study it.

"We must have the Word of our Lord...Our souls need food, and there is none for them outside of the Word of the Lord. All the books and all the preachers in the world cannot furnish us a single meal: it is only the Word from the mouth of God that can fill the mouth of a believer." ~ Charles Spurgeon

Sunday, July 3, 2016

You Can Slow Your Life {and your family will thank you for it.}

It's Saturday night and we put our son to be at 5:55pm. I don't think he has ever been to bed that early. But he was tired and burning up. His eyes were puffy with tiredness and when we said, 'Early night tonight, buddy', all he said was, 'Yeth'. {Yes, he has a cute lisp.}

This week, despite ever being conscious of how we spend our days, has overtaxed our children. Compared to other families, it may have been a fairly normal week, but for us, it was busy. My kids don't do well with busy. They tend to get a bit crazy and, at worst, come down sick with temperatures. Hence, a toastie of a little boy, in bed an hour before his normal bedtime.

And me? I don't do well with busy either. Introverts with a tendency to be anxious go better with a slow life. So, when I make sure our life is stable and peaceful, it's not just for the children - it's for me, too. Happy mummy, happy campers.

Living a quiet and slow life is a passion of mine. But I'm not perfect at it. There are still weeks where we get out too much or there isn't enough downtime at home. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but for the most part, it is possible to live a slow life.


Principles for Slowing Your Life Down

Keep family your main priority. When your family come first, it is much easier stripping the unnecessary away. Perhaps you're like me {in Myers-Briggs, I'm an INFJ} and you love helping. If someone needs help, I will put my hand up. Or, when we commit to something, we really commit {and so go to the group even if it is the last thing we should be doing}. As a wife and mother now, I say no to everything that does not add to our family life. Even if it would add to my life but would cost someone else in the family, I say 'no'. This may seem extreme, but this full-on motherhood thing is only for a season. I won't always have this amazing opportunity to pour everything into my family. Oneday, I can do things for 'me'. But right now, they are my priority.

Accept the different seasons. As mentioned above, there are many seasons in life, and each will mean saying 'yes' to some things and 'no' to others. We don't need to feel guilty about this - it really is a fact of life. Limitations during different seasons are not meant to be constricting; they are perimetres for keeping the ebb and flow of daily life in check. Within those boundaries is great freedom and peace. Just like seasons of life, there are also the seasons of the year: we slow down in winter, and become more active in the warmer months. This is a natural timeline that God has made for our lives, but we have forgotten it in our modern life.

{Source}


Do what makes life a joy. 'The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' Reading books on the couch, cuddles close, kisses buried in golden curls, tickles with boisterous boy-giggles. This is pure joy and it is enjoying Him in the moment because His hand is all over it. Stuffing kids in cars, rushing here, stuck in traffic there, tempers rising, irritation. There is no joy there. And it isn't what life is about. Walks in the park, make towers with blocks, reading good books, painting pictures, planting bulbs in winter soil for the spring. Glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever.

Keep your eyes wide open. Don't just accept the status quo because that's what everyone does. Just because busy is what our culture endorses doesn't mean it's good. Read our culture, read history, put everything into perspective. Don't be afraid to be a little bit kooky. In the end, what other people think of us doesn't matter - it's Him we're wanting to honour. Let us submit ourselves under His way of living for each of our own lives.

{Source}
There are other things to keep in mind, too:

  • re-evaluate when needed
  • keep Scriptures hidden in your heart to keep you focused on what is important for your family
  • be bold even when you feel nervous to be different
  • keep communicating with your husband and his dreams for your family
  • accept the busier moments in life {ie. Christmas} then return to slow as soon as possible
  • watch and listen to your child's cues {they may not be able to articulate their need for more or less}


The blessings of a slow life are just enormous. And I don't believe it is something you can regret. As mother's, if we were constantly busy, we would look back and think: 'I wish we had taken things more slowly; enjoyed the little years more; read more together; had more home days...' But I don't think, in living a slow life, we'll look back and think, 'I wish we had been busier.'

It's never too late to start. It's okay to quit clubs and extra life fluff to scale back. It may take awhile to adjust - your bodies will be used to going, driving, spending, hurrying. There will be urges you need to master. But a morning will dawn and your heart will think of the slow day ahead and be content. 

And, I promise, you will be a more patient, more enjoyable, more joy-filled wife and mother for it.

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