Why I Believe In Homegrown Kids {Part 2 in the Homegrown Kids Series}.

I actually don’t really know where to start with this post. Sometimes a belief goes so deep it is very difficult to articulate into words. I think this is especially so when there are a myriad of reasons, which is the case for us. Also, this journey for us seems to have layers and levels – the reasons we’re heading down this path and our belief in it just keep transforming, and cementing, and growing.

If you haven’t read how raising homegrown kids kicked off for us, read Part 1 here. Otherwise, I just want to enter this post with these words: 

This is our journey. Though I believe deeply that it is ideal, I know that it is not always possible. The reality of families the world over is very different. And God is the God of all families, and will lead us all differently. I write our conviction to encourage, challenge, and inspire – not to judge or condemn. I really pray and hope I can bring you along with love, humility, and friendship.

So, why do we believe in homegrown kids? Get comfortable, and possibly grab a sustaining meal 😉

My early life story is one of a settled childhood, both in the city and the countryside, and of chaotic and uncertain teenage years, when I lived in a suitcase and had no place to call home for long. So, when I started married life and we eventually had children, I came at both roles with a determined passion to bring security and devotion, and to do all that I could to give my family a place to call home.

Despite painful years, I am thankful to God for the story He has written for me as I believe our children would be having a different upbringing than the one they are having. I certainly wouldn’t be as counter-cultural or have the perspective to look beyond the here and now like I do.

I’m also thankful to have had both parents in different aspects of the education system {in NZ} for the last 30-40 years so that, through them, I am able to see how – in the end – government’s can never make up their mind as to how children, in a school environment, learn best. Through the experience and working history of my parents, I can see how educational philosophies are like fashion – they come and go within the ministry of education like flare pants and big hair.

So, with this background and our own experience of early education, questions were raised about how our kids were going to be educated pretty quickly into our parenting journey. Neither of us had ever considered homeschooling; pre-kids, we have always been adamantly pro-public schooling. Post-kids, we sing a different tune 🙂

As we began wrestling and reading and talking, a train of thought settled in our minds and hearts that became the fundamental driving force behind our decision to keep our kids home. Essentially we believe that today’s fractured family – parents working here and there, kids at school and a thousand different activities – is not how it is meant to be. Especially as Christians, we believe that sending children away to be under the strong influence of people not of their family is not how God intended children to be raised.

An initial objection to this thought would be to say, “Well, the Bible never addressed education as we know it. How can you make such an assumption?” I used to think this way too, that is, that education of the family is not spoken of in God’s Word. But now, along the track, I actually think it does – when you’re looking for it and have a heart open for what it says.

I could quite easily go into a maze of tangents in regards to what the Bible says about education, but I will stick to the one basic point that is quite clear when one reads into what God says about the upbringing of children:

It is the parents that are to raise their children.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

In his tome of a book, Man and Woman in Christ, Stephen B. Clark says,

“The term ‘discipline’ (paideia) in this passage is particularly significant. The word could also be translated ‘training’, ‘instruction’, ‘punishment’, or even ‘formation’. The Hebrew equivalent (musar) appears often in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament… ‘Training’ in the scriptural sense is an educational activity which changes the way a person lives. It does not mean only knowledge or mental understanding. It means training to act in a certain way.

…Training in the scriptural sense is an educational activity which changes the way a person lives.

This means that true education is when the entire person of the child – his body, mind, heart, and soul – are to be disciplined, trained, taught, instructed, and changed to the man he is to be.

In the ancient world that Jesus grew up in, sending children to an environment that was run by Caesar-endorsed teachers for most of their formative years did just not happen. In those days, children were in the primary care of their mother until five- or seven-years-old. At this point, boys would spend the rest of their childhood with their father learning the trade and how to be a man. Daughters continued on at home with their mother until marriage, learning how to run a home and how to be a woman.

“The boy was not really raised until his father had equipped him to function as man.” Stephen B. Clark

A five-year-old – or even an eleven-year-old – is not fully trained. They are not men or women. But they are learning how to be every single day of their lives. By implication, if they are spending the majority of their time at school, it is obvious who they will be learning this from: from their teachers, the government-endorsed curriculum, and their peers. 

It’s not that I think public schooling is wrong or that homeschooling is the only option for Christian parents. I have been public schooled and Christian schooled, and I am alive 🙂 But, I firmly believe that Christian parents need to be sure that the place they are sending their children to be educated at is a place that will further, rather than hinder, their work they are doing at home in their children to equip them into manhood/womanhood as a godly person. 

“Whoever walks with the wise will become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

What is the Bible’s definition of a fool? Someone who says there is no God {Psalm 14:1}. And if there is any other time in history since Scripture was written that these commands be more pertinent, wouldn’t it be now? 

Because of all the above, this is the main reason why we will be homeschooling our children. If you have been thinking of as well, or have been wondering what true education is as a Christian parent, I hope this encourages you on your journey. It’s posts like these that started me on ours, like this one from Abiding Woman, or this one from The Unplugged Family.

**Tune in soon for how to children without going crazy.**

Continue Reading

Homegrown Kids or, Why We Keep Our Kids Home {A Series}

We’ll soon be coming up to a year since we began wrestling with bringing our son home from preschool. Though we didn’t pull him out of preschool until May, the first quarter of 2016 was a time when I did a lot of wrestling in my soul over our son, our daughter coming up behind him, and our vision for the growth and direction of our family.

Our son was two when we enrolled him two mornings a week {for three hour sessions} at a local preschool. It was a lovely centre with caring teachers and a great outdoor area. It took some time for Josiah to settle in. He would cry when I left, and I would talk to myself as I walked away with another person holding him as he cried {often screamed} for me, “It’s okay. He’ll get used to me not being there. This is good for him. He’s getting more independent.” I hardened my heart against his feelings because I genuinely thought it was the right thing to do. Everyone does it. It’s normal.

But, despite him getting used to being without me over time, something in me would not rest easy. He had fun and did learn to “socialise” better with kids. BUT. We noticed him changing. He became less and less like the little boy of before. He was naughtier, meaner to his baby sister. He was more dissatisfied with home life, with his toys and playthings. He has always been an energetic boy, but I would find him even more worked up when he came home at lunchtime.

When term holidays would come round, especially the long summer January holidays of 2016, our little boy would return. Life would become easier. Our day-to-day wasn’t such a battle anymore. He was more obedient and kinder and a joy. But as soon as preschool started again, his behaviour would regress. I found that it would take two or three days to de-preschool.

The uneasy feeling I had about letting my little boy spend time apart from me, despite it being what everyone did, continued to grow. Both my husband and I could see so clearly what an effect preschool had on him. We asked the Lord for wisdom and help, and He did. We made the choice to pull him out.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I had to have a lot of courage in the Lord to approach the teachers, sign the forms, explain to other mothers why we were bringing him home. I grappled with doubt and feeling faint of heart. It’s hard when people don’t understand. No-one ever disparaged our decision, everyone was very supportive and helpful. But I know they didn’t understand, and if they disagreed, they were really kind to not share their thoughts with me. I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it, despite my beliefs. I’ve always struggled with trying to please everyone. But, as I’m learning, you can’t!

I do remember, after officially unenrolling him, on the second to last session til he finished, walking with Rosie in the buggy to pick him up and getting a call saying that Josiah seemed to be unwell. I hurried my steps, thankful I was only five minutes away. When I got there, he was lying asleep on a little kids couch that he was too big for, pale, shivering. He looked so fragile and small. I gathered him up and took him home. He said to me, “I cried and wanted mummy. I want to go home.” My heart broke.

What seemed so normal at the beginning, now seemed really unnatural.

Within a week, our life with our three-year-old was transformed. His beautiful nature returned and he was our happy boy again. I remember the first week of having him home again, I felt incredible amount of relief. I knew he belonged at home with me.

Since then, despite how hard it can be and how much I have to give of myself, that belief has only grown and grown. As we have sought God for wisdom, guidance, and help, He has so graciously provided everything we have needed – including times of rest from burnout.

My passion for raising children at home – or what I call Homegrown Kids – has grown and deepened, and I really want to share these thoughts with you.

This isn’t to condemn, at all. I know how varied our world is and the pressures there are on modern families. But, I really do believe this is best for most children, so I share this in the hopes that it will encourage other mothers. I especially hope it will encourage mothers who may be thinking of doing something similar, but are scared to make that first step, or just want to hear of someone else’s experience. I know I scoured blogs, particularly homeschooling blogs, looking for encouragement and inspiration and guidance.  This is for you, dear mother, and the heart you have for your children and for their future.

I plan to write three more posts in this series. When they are finished, this will be the landing page where you can find the rest of them. They will be:

1. Homegrown Kids: Keeping Our Kids at Home Series {You are here}

2. Why I Believe in Homegrown Kids.

3. How to Be a Full-Time Mother of Young Children {Without Going Mental}.

4. Resources for Raising Homegrown Kids.

I’m really excited to write this series, and humbled, as well. None of this is my husband or I. We had to make the practical, earthly decisions for our family, but it’s been completely God above it all. I’m really grateful that this is the story He is writing for us. Please share and comment below with any thoughts.

Continue Reading

If the Husband is the Head, What is the Wife?

Headship. Submission. That’s what I’m wanting to talk about today. But not to you, to me.

Huh?

What I mean is that, if I were talking to myself, I would know that I have read, understood, accepted, and am trying to live out the Biblical design for men and women in marriage: of the husband being the leader of the family, and of the wife being his helper and submitting to his leadership. This way I can get straight into what has been on my heart and mind, and I don’t have to do all the preamble of theology etc.

So, you’re me, got it? 🙂

Right. Let’s do this!

Headship and Submission

If I’m being honest, in this year of 2016 I have found it really hard to submit to my dear husband. There is so much behind that struggle which I won’t go into, and it’s been a long time coming, but I really feel like this year God has been asking me this question:

“You tell me that you agree in My design for marriage, but do you really believe it is good and My best for you?” 

Over and over this year, as I have been faced with opportunities to submit and come under my husband’s leadership and have struggled – sometimes with an ugly, selfish fierceness – God has been gently, but persistently, knocking on the door of my heart. I feel like He’s been asking me again and again,

Where is your joy?

Don’t you trust Me?

Don’t you know, from my Word and your history, that I am trustworthy and I always do what is best and good?”

When I see it put that way, my heart cries, “Yes! I know You are good! I know that all Your ways are THE BEST. I don’t doubt it! I want and need Your Truth in my life!” So I look at myself and I know that it isn’t God’s Word and His laws that are doing me harm or making submission hard —

It’s me.

I am the problem. Always. As Dave Harvey says in When Sinners Say I Do {best marriage book ever, by the way},

There are no marriage issues. There are only sin issues.

Sin. The obvious, but always elusive, culprit. We are apparently good friends. Especially when it comes to me trying to truly love God, and truly love my husband, a friend who gets this spirit-and-flesh-battle we’re always in.

A big thing my flesh and spirit have been fighting over this year is the feeling of What About Me? {I know, it’s always about me.} If it’s true – which it really is, Sarah, so deal with it – that God lovingly crafted men to be the leaders of their family units, what position did He lovingly craft women to have?

We are helpers. We accept and respect our husband’s leadership {ie. submit}. Yes, Truth.

But what does that all really mean?

As the head of the family, all responsibility is laid on the shoulders of our husbands. On Judgement Day, the state of our family will be laid at his feet before the Lord in all His glory {Ephesians 5:25-27}. Will he have led well? Imperfectly, yes, but still, will he have led well?

And when I face the Lord, thankfully, that weighty responsibility will not be at my feet. But my responses will be. How joyful was I as his helper? How caring was I in showing my respect of him? How honouring was I in sharing my opinions and, subsequently, how gracious was I in submission when our opinions differed?

This is big stuff that I have been grappling with. And, as I have mulled over it more and more, and faced with it practically again and again, I realise it all comes down to this:

How is my heart?… Because I am the heart.

If my husband is the head of our family, then I am the heart. We all come under his care, we are all cared for by me.

This is what Sally Clarkson says in The Mission of Motherhood:

I realized again that the ultimate key to providing a nurturing environment in my home is me…In the end, though, what my children and husband need most from me is not a perfect home or perfect training or a perfectly spiritual role model or a wife without faults – but a mother and wife who is committed to doing what it takes to love them and make a home for them.

They need to know that they are cherished by someone who is a champion for their cause, a cheerleader for their lives – someone they can always count on in the light and dark times of life.

Accepting the responsibility of being the overseer of my domain with all of the heart and energy and faith I can muster is what nurtures my family best and provides my children with the sense of security and stability they need. My attitude is ultimately what makes our house a peaceful haven.

What Sally is saying is that if mama ain’t happy, then no-one is happy in the family. We are the emotional thermometer of our homes. Our attitude sets the tone. That’s a big responsibility. It may not be the burden our husbands bear, but it is a hard one. Basically it means that we have to work hard to keep our joy, keep our peace, keep our hearts aright before the Lord all the time.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have bad days. Of course we can! But, for the most part, if we want our family to be happy, healthy, joyful, and content then it is our work in our own hearts that matters, and we need to be disciplined and persistent in cultivating a relationship with the Lord. We can only be the heart of our homes by the grace of God.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have this job than my husband’s. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with wanting to be in control and having things my own way. I’m a daughter of Eve, after all. But, when I consider it, I would rather be the beating heart of our lives than the working head. This suits me perfectly because I am a woman. I am a nurturer.

I am so grateful the Lord has worked this all out in His original design, and I am grateful for all the struggles I have had this year to help grow me and make me more into the woman – and the wife and mother – the Lord would have me be.

What do you think about being the heart of your home? How do you keep your heart joyful, at peace, and content so that your family thrives? What evidences of God’s grace can you see in your struggles and will to follow Him?

Continue Reading

Feeling All The Feelings: Life After Anti-Depressants

For more posts on mental health and motherhood, click here.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will know that for the past three years I have been on anti-depressants. You will know that I haven’t suffered from depression but rather a cyclical anxiety disorder that was triggered off when our first child was born in 2013.

The first three months of his life were a giant hole of crazy. I drowned under all the noise in my mind and the hormonal imbalance that were causing me to cry a billion times a day. A great fear of foreboding gripped me from the moment I woke up and only left me when I had moments of sporadic sleep with a baby that would.not.sleep over night.

Going to my doctor one day, who has known me for years, he kindly told me that I needed some help to get out of this episode. Normally I could work my way out. But I was a new and overwhelmed mother, sleep deprived, and I just needed to have a little help pulling me out. Because I certainly, at the time, was barely able to function let alone pulling the bootstraps of my mind up.

So, Prozac became my friend. I called them my “happy pills”.

{Although, technically, they don’t make you happy. Happiness/joy is a choice. The pills just get us into a place where we can choose joy.}

I have always been open about being on medication. We need more women in Christian circles speaking out about the okayness of taking medication for mental health issues. I always say that, if we were diabetic or epileptic, we would need medication – so why would mental health be any different?

Well, today I am here to tell you: I am pill-free. Woo!

lifeafterantidepressants

The first question I’m asked when I share this with friends is: how are you feeling?

I feel great.

I have known that it was time to come off my pills and I think I have been ready this past year. I’ve known because originally, when I first took them, they made me feel like myself again. I remember one day, about two or three weeks since I had started on them, and my mind felt calm again. All of a sudden I could think freely! My emotions were stable! I was me!

In fact, I felt so good I remember thinking, “Wow. So this is what normal feels like.”

You see, I have had enormous hormonal/emotional struggles since my mid-teens when my parents separated. They got particularly bad when I was about nineteen/twenty after my DTS with YWAM. I came home such a mess my father thought I was bi-polar. But no, I was just in great need of healing: of having a stronger knowledge and life in the Word, of having a home, of having stability, of having someone who truly loved me.

After Josiah and those pills kicked in, I felt and was thinking the most normally I had since I was a child.

In the past year, I knew that I was me again and that the pills were no longer the buffer I needed. But I was scared. Scared of falling back into that horrible pit of anxiety. Scared of not being a strong wife and mother. Scared of becoming as self-absorbed as I used to be.

So I prayed and over this year, I just felt the desire to go it alone grow stronger and stronger. I knew that I would be okay. I knew that I was able now to work on my thinking and have the strength to say “no” to feelings that liked to direct my moods {and therefore, my days, my behaviour, my reactions to my family}.

Therefore, in October, I did it – I weaned myself off. And I’m feeling pretty good.

motheroodmental

The biggest thing that I am having to do is re-learn how to think, and therefore, how to act and feel.

Having the pills helped me be pretty stable emotionally. If I cried, it meant whatever it was was really important to me. I was also pretty clear-thinking. I could identify thoughts that were dumb and I was able to disregard them fairly easily. Since I no longer have that buffer, I am feeling all the feelings again.

Now, these feelings aren’t extreme like they were. Now, I’m just more easily irritated or more easily affected by a thought. And when I follow a thought {however brief or fleeting}, my mood is more easily swayed.

It’s been a learning curve. And not just for me, but for my lovely husband, too. We both haven’t had to deal with mood changes in me for three years. But we’re both giving each other a lot of grace {oh, he covers me with so much grace, that amazing man}. If I seem irritable or more stressed than usual, we talk about it. If I feel like something could trigger me off, I speak it out loud to him {which usually gets me back on track and out of my head}. If I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, I go to my room, get on my knees, and talk to God. He is my ultimate peace.

 

72af023c7e5006124ec004081114790f

I love this quote from Elisabeth Elliot:

“Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

Motherhood and mental illness has taught me so much about my great need for God. He has given me such a vision and goal for our family, and it is my nature to set out on my own, striving to perfect myself and my character so that this vision can be accomplished. But how much the good Lord knew I needed this thorn in my side. I need this weakness of heart and mind to keep me close to Him.

One of my favourite hymns, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, has a stanza that speaks so deeply to me. I sing quietly to the Lord and ask Him to answer the prayer of that song in me so that He, and He alone, is all I need to do this life He has given me, in my broken jar of clay.

“O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let that grace now like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Are you a mother that struggles with illness? What scriptures, quotes, or songs encourage you on hard days?

Continue Reading

What Happened When We Brought Our Son Home From Preschool.

Preschool. Our son was at it about nine months. And then we brought him home. What happened?
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 kinder, 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.
What Happened When We Brought Our Son Home From Preschool

What I’ve Learned

In some ways I regret it because I have changed my stance on early education and a large reason  for this is because because of the negative effect it has had on our son.
But, at the same time, I don’t regret it because I believe God has had His hand on it all. As parents we always make our best decision with the information/situation we have in front of us. We can only step out in faith and readjust our footing as God guides us.
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in God’s way.” Psalm 37:23
Some of the ways God has established our steps as parents is by:
  • helping us know our son more {he’s an INTROVERT, people!}
  • helping us know our convictions more.
  • helping us trust God’s guidance more.
  • helping us be more confident as a mother and father.
  • helping me be more confident in my husband’ judgement {why don’t I learn this quicker??}.
  • helping us 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 glorifies 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.

What Young Children Really Need More Than Preschools

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

Over the last year or two God has just been placing these thoughts so heavily on my heart. I’m at a place where the idea of leaving either my children at a centre regularly on their own just doesn’t sit well with my conscious. For other people, there will be no issue with this. But, for our family, at this season in time, our children belong home with me.

So I would just love to encourage you, dear mother, that 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”.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Psalm 13:20  << A confirmation Scripture from the Lord when we were praying about bring our son home >>

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

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

The Importance of Wild and Free Outdoor Play for Boys.

Outdoor play. The term is bustled about in education circles, but how many people are listening? How many young children, especially boys, are being let down by being cooped up in classrooms all day long? What happened to hours and hours of wild, free, and outdoor play?
 As a mother living in a suburban city, I see how much lack there is for children to just roam nature and climb trees and explore bushy areas. Plus, with a very active, rumbunctious and high-energy three-year-old boy, I see the vital importance of outdoor play for him. Of course, spending time outdoors is of vital importance for both girls and boys. But recently, in the study of my own little boy, I see a direct correlation between outdoor play and the whole-being of a boy.
 

Here are some of my current thoughts.

importancewildfreeoutdoorplayboys

Boyhood Today


I really believe that we are in an era where boys – and much of what makes them boys – is squelched out of them. Their desire for rough and tumble; their need for deep male friendships; the way they learn as opposed to the way they are taught; their need to be heroes and warriors and rescuers; their desires to be leaders; their innate instinct to protect {gasp! yes, protect women}.

Boyhood today is not the boyhood of yesterday. Today, we have domesticated our little boys. And one massive area of boyhood that has been domesticated is the greatly needed realm of wild and free, unstructured outdoor play.

And this lack and decline isn’t just because we live in cities. There are many factors that have contributed:

  • Our children are in educational institutes from a very young age, corralled into areas with tens of other children, confined to playing with man-made play equipment.
  • When the school day is over, boys are being put into constructive and defined extracurricular activities.
  • We’re also terrified of them braking arms or hurting others and lawsuits from occurring.
  • There are school games – like bull-rush in New Zealand – that are deemed too dangerous so are banned.
  • From a young age, we rely more and more on technology to entertain children {especially boys}.
  • We ply them with ready-made toys {and lots of them}.

In the last fifty years, but more from the late eighties, a boy’s childhood has become more and more confined, controlled, timed and planned out. Our culture’s view of boyhood has become more feminine. We have allowed fear to rule our parenting. So altogether, our boys are domesticated.

{v} domesticate: to tame

We have tamed our boys. But so much research is showing the need for children to be free, wild and outdoors. Having plenty of time to play, build, explore, imagine, role-play and just run around crazy outdoors has social, health, educational, and behavioural benefits.

 

Why Outdoors Is Needed

This study from England delves into the need children have to be outside, and a study by the American Medical Association quoted in a Guardian article showed that:
“Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors.”
If parents are worried that such unstructured play isn’t learning {because our culture is so obsessed with education and being succesful before children even reach puberty}, it is both obvious and proven scientifically that play is learning for the child.

“It is difficult to differentiate play from work in the child, as according to nature play simply is a child’s work – the work or exercise of body and mind required to prepare for coming life.” {source}

And that makes sense, doesn’t it? From birth, babies are continually learning. We don’t put them into classes to learn how to crawl, or walk, or feed themselves. They learn organically by playing, by experimenting, by trial and error. And as older children, that hasn’t changed.

As a boy climbs a tree, or runs as fast as he can down a slope, or finds as many crab shells as he can to fill a bucket – this is all learning. And many boys learn through activity, building and breaking with their hands, digging trenches, dropping sticks from a tree hut, seeking out rabbit holes. Boys in that kind of environment learn quite differently to a boy in more domestic environments.

 “…it is obvious that outdoor play experiences contribute to children’s physical development, in particular to motor development. Less obvious is the learning that happens as children test their strength, externally and internally: how high can I climb? Why does my heart pound when I run? Am I brave enough to jump from this platform?” {source}

In the homeschooling sphere, the education philosophy of Charlotte Mason encourage nature study and outdoor pursuits, especially in the early years. Charlotte Mason said that children should be outside for many hours each day, in unstructured play, but with a parent observing for necessary help and habit training.

 

My Own Little Boy

As a mother, I have found all of the above to be true. I think though, more significantly, I have found changes in my son’s behaviour depending on how much time he has to be free outside.
Since bringing him home from kindergarten, Josiah has just blossomed. The attitude and behaviourial issues we were having with him have decreased greatly, and he is more gentle, more loving, more adventurous, more imaginative, and more helpful and kinder to his sister {and everyone!}. Aside from being home with his family more, I do believe this improvement has been because I have taken him out at least three times a week for walks in the buggy to spaces where he can just play.

In both pictures above, he is wearing his favourite costume: a hooded towel {his Batman cape}, his rocket socks and rocket boots. He loves zooming around the house as a superhero and he loves running here, there, and everywhere on our walks. He expends so much energy. He uses so much imagination. His mood elevates. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes are full of joy.

He is wild and free and living.
Though the kindergarten we had him at was great with an amazing outdoor space, there is just something very different about acres of land, park space, pathways in forest walks, creek beds and bushy hideaways. Though our city was devastated by earthquakes a number of years ago, where we live is now blossoming into green space because all the houses are gone. This is where I take the kids to roam free and it has just been the best of blessings.
If your son is struggling, is moody, emotionally up and down, more troublesome with you and siblings – try sending him outdoors. Take him several times a week to a place that is big and wide and green for him to run around in. If he’s absorbed in dropping stones down a drain, just let him. Don’t hurry him a long. Forget about the time, things that need to be done – just let him have space and live.

Your little boy needs to be a boy and it is your job as his mother to understand this and to provide opportunities for him to have that avenue of free exploration in God’s green earth.

 

Continue Reading

When Something Good Is Not The Best.

As Christian parents, Tim and I are continually having our minds graciously and lovingly renewed by God to His way of thinking. I’m not saying we have the number one, most biblical way of parenting thinking {insert *snort* here}…
 
…Rather, as we submit ourselves to our loving Father as our own children’s parents, we find Him offering new ways of thinking about our family, our children’s upbringing, and His way for us of “training our children in the way they should go” {Proverbs 22:6}.
The more we keep going on this parenting path, the more I know each family’s submission to God’s guidance will be different. And that is good! God loves variety! It is my responsibility to work in our family quietly, minding our own business and keeping our hearts from comparison.
“Jesus said, ‘If I want him to remain until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.'” John 21:22 {emphasis my own}
With that preamble set, let me share with you a big decision we have made recently for our family which has been challenging; offering an opportunity to follow God’s direction in faith as it follows a different path that most families make in this day and age.
Last year, we enrolled Josiah into kindy. In NZ, kindergarten is a free-play environment that usually takes children from 3 until they go to school at 5 {though requirement of schooling age is 6}. The kindy we chose is truly amazing with incredibly supportive, skilled teachers and a wonderfully large outdoor area. This was a big for me as Josiah is an outdoor boy.

Aside from a few bumps, Josiah has thrived at kindy. He has grown out of his shell around people who aren’t his immediate family and he has learned to play alongside others really well. Yet, we noticed after the start of this year that, though he was doing really well while he was at kindy, that his behaviour at home had really changed.

We went through all the normal reasons that can cause struggling behaviour and felt that none of those really seemed to apply to him. We talked to his teachers and we talked to each other and we prayed a lot. Last week we decided that we were going to pull Josiah out of kindy.

It was such a hard decision and even now, with only a few lessons left for him, I still feel emotionally torn about it {though, when I calm my feelings and think deeply about the guidance we believe God has been giving us, my gut tells me it is the right choice}.

It’s been a lesson of learning that sometimes even really good things aren’t necessary the best things for us {at the time, in a season, or, forever}.

Kindy, in and of itself, is a great place for little children. It is nurturing, with smaller numbers and a million opportunities for growth and play, play, play. Playing is the key for a child learning is their philosophy {and I totally agree}. It has done Josiah a world of good. It has been good.

But, we have come to the conclusion that – right now – it is not the best for him. The best, that we can see, is for him to be with his family more. With times that he has had off of kindy this year {holidays etc.}, his behaviour/demeanour/attitude has been undeniably better, more stable and more loving. For some reason – and we really have no idea why – something that is good {kindy} just isn’t bringing out the best in him {at home}.

To some, this may be no big deal. But for us, home behaviour is everything. The saying that goes, “You really are who you are at home” is so deeply true. We can put on our “best” behaviour in public and then be just awful to those who love us most at home. Are we strict? Perhaps. We just believe that loving, disciplined yet authentic behaviour at home is the standard we are striving for.

There are seasons in life where, no matter the situation, we will have to make decisions based on how our priorities in life are lining up with where we are involved in. If our priorities align with our involvement in some commitment, church activity or other organisation, then that is really great. But if an involvement is causing issues that might allow us to compromise a priority or standard, some hard decisions may need to be made.

Even when, in many ways, you don’t want to make that decision. Or that, sometimes, there may be no clear right or wrong. Sometimes all you can do is pray, seek God’s guidance, analyse all the information you have before you, and make a choice. And then, step out in faith.

A child not going to some form of preschool or kindergarten is rare these days. We, again, are going to look different. {Sigh. Really, God? Again?} But we have to obey.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
 
Trust and obey, for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
And it’s not just us, as parents, who want to be happy in Jesus. We want our children to have the ultimate joy of knowing and being happy in Jesus. And, because they are in our care, we have to trust and obey God, even when it bucks against the norm and requires hard, emotional choices for what is best, even if the second choice is still good.
 

In the comments: Have you ever made a decision that was hard because you had the choice of good and best?

Continue Reading

Callings and Self-Doubt: Choosing Faith that You Are on the Right Path.

We all struggle with comparing ourselves to others {remember?}. And, as I am growing to see in myself, we all struggle with doubting ourselves next to others. Self-doubt is a massive continuing blip in the radar of my Christian growth.
Before we had children, I wasn’t like any of the wives I knew. I didn’t have a full-time job. I wasn’t helping us save money for when children came. There was great logic in those choices, but they weren’t our choice. I worked part-time {generally ten hours a week} and, for the most part, I considered being a homemaker {ie. Tim’s wife} my full-time job.
Oh, it was such a different path to take. Granted, I never, ever got negative comments or remarks – but I did get lots of people questioning me.
 
Why don’t you work more?
Don’t you want more money?
What does Tim think?
Aren’t you bored?
What do you do all day?
The questions always got me. I knew, deep down that this was God’s calling on my life, and I knew people would disagree with me. But all the questions – and often what the questions didn’t say but silently did – were like little arrows of doubt. In those times, I really did have two people on my shoulder; one speaking positively to my calling, the other asking more and more questions, leading to deepening doubt. Even though I knew my own story and Tim’s, even though I knew why dedicating my life to my family was my dream job, I still doubted. I doubted simply because I feared man.
 
Each day we have a million battles we face. We battle the choice to have faith or reject the Gospel. We battle to believe the truth of God’s Word {and not listen to the hissing whisper, “Did God really say…?”}. We battle to choose obedience to God and not sin. We battle our culture. And sometimes, sadly, we battle our own family, friends and church.
Living a life of faith and conviction is ridiculously hard. Mere questions can be the marsh mellows of it all! Ridicule, persecution, misunderstanding, judgement and rejection are almost expected. And I am not just talking about God’s moral laws here {as opposed to the world’s standards}: I am talking about an individual’s call, their choice of occupation, a family’s way of life, their vision for the upbringing of their children…
 
I am talking about the personal, quiet, submissive belief one has before God that this way – this choice, this path, this conviction – is uniquely given by the Lord, to them, for their life. Everyone has callings that submit under the law of the Gospel.
We have authors, painters, teachers, leaders, servers, mothers, fathers, missionaries, single individuals, bridge builders, carpenters, evangelists, singers, bloggers. Under the grace of the Gospel, we have individual callings. And they will be different. You, and I, will be different. And amongst the many battles that we face each day will be the battle to believe, to hold on to, to grasp the hem of God that this calling is ours. No matter what questions are asked. No matter who asks those questions.
Self-doubt is one of the ways in which the enemy gets God’s people off track. Indulging, believing and participating in self-doubt causes us to be like the person James speaks of, the one who, when asking for wisdom,

 

“must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” {1:6}
When we are being tossed about in the waves of self-doubt {which is not faith}, we are ineffective disciples of Christ. We are crippled by our own selves and will not thrive in the calling God has given us.
Paul, throughout the Epistles, repeatedly began his letters stating his calling, or appointment to service {1 Timothy 1:12}, or apostle by command {1 Timothy 1:1}. He claimed his calling and, despite believing he was the worst of sinners {vs.15}, he knew his calling to be true and that it was a mercy of Christ.
Though we are not Paul, we too are disciples of Christ and have our own callings. I am called to be a wife, mother, homemaker and church member. I have talent-callings I must use for God’s service. And, as a married couple and as parents, Tim and I have decisions we must make in regards to the atmosphere of our family, the upbringing of our children and the way in which we use the blessings God has given us. We will look different. But being different to others doesn’t mean being wrong.
So, dear friends, choose to have faith in your calling. You will be different, but don’t let questions cause you doubt. Hold fast to your appointment, use questions to show God’s mercy in your own life, and be thankful for God’s unique care and concern over the way your life is lived, in practice and purpose. 

 

Please share your calling and any struggles you have had of self-doubt in it.

Continue Reading

The Foundation Years: Letting My Kids Just Be.

I wrote awhile back how we are considering homeschooling our two children. This is still very much on the cards, and my husband is about 70% convinced it’s a good schooling option {compared to the 5% when I first brought it up!}.
Just with every major life decision, I have spent much time in reading and praying over the reasons/positives/negatives about it all. And I can honestly say that, as I have done so, the Lord has really surprised me. 
My original reason why I wanted to educate our children at home {ie. there are no good schools in our area and I think God might want us to} is now a periphery reason. Even my conviction that it provides a really solid education is not where God has surprised me. My happy surprise has been this:
Home is where my children should be for as long as possible.
In all my reading, the conclusion I have come to is this: research shows that the influence of parents and family during a child’s foundational years is fundamental to their health and well-being. Not only that, but, educationally, children learn best when they can take their time and grow/learn at their own pace. Self-directed and guided learning in childhood sparks a life long joy and delight in learning.
I have never been a person who takes the status quo without thinking it through. That has always made me a bit different. My parents taught me from an early age to try and see past the surface to the why’s and how’s of situations and ideologies. My history degree taught me an array of new ideas and concepts, but most enduringly, the simple fact that our culture today is the odd one out.

And it frustrates me when others do not see this. They take the status quo and accept that either,

  • this is the way it has always been, or,
  • our society is more advanced now so this way must be better/more evolved/more fulfilling {and so it goes}.

Sometimes I feel my insides spiking a fever of “Use your brains! Think outside of now! The way things are doesn’t mean it’s better!”

And for Christians who, genuinely without realising I believe, I want to say,
“Just because our culture sends kids off to school at five-years-old doesn’t mean that it is right.”
 
Chocolate.
 
Childhood in western society today is a pendulum of experiences unlike any other in the past. They have health, they have freedom from work/pain/suffering/fear, they have education, they have gadgets, they have individuality. Children today have gained so much and yet, have lost so much as well. And the most significant loss I believe they suffer through is the loss of their family as the primary source of worth, friendship, learning and wisdom.
Time goes so quickly. My son is just over three – wasn’t he born not long ago? And my daughter, she is two in July. We no longer have babies in the house – but I have only been a mother three years. Time is just sucked up into the vacuum of fading memories. In less time that he has been alive, according to the status quo, I ought to be sending him to a place where he spends the majority of his days for the next thirteen years. 
Five years. That is all I’m “supposed” to get.
Historically, educationally, relationally, theologically that just doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t.
Now, I’m not ganging up on school. I wasn’t homeschooled – I’ve been to big schools, country schools, public schools and christian schools. I see great benefit in being in such an environment. But, I firmly believe now, only when children are ready
Schools in my area of New Zealand are changing dramatically. Modern Learning Environments are the new “thing” for education {even though they tried it in the sixties and it didn’t work, but hey, we have technology now and we are more advanced so that time/failure doesn’t count} and at the school my children are zoned for, they would be new entrants in a single building {with no walls} holding three hundred children. Three hundred. At five years old.
Why that makes sense when research {over and over again} shows children learn better the smaller the class room. Who knows what politicians are thinking?
Sensory bin.
Anyway, that is just not an option. And not just because it’s nuts. Primarily that is not an option because our children are our children. Our community and society can have them one day, but not yet. They are just not ready. They need time to mature, know their place in the world, grow in beliefs that are rejected in most institutions.
So until they areready {ten? eleven?}, I’m letting them be with us. Yes, we’ll do “proper” learning, but even then, it will look different. We’re going to read ridiculous amounts of books. We’re going on lots of walks. We’re going to kill lots of dragons with homemade bow and arrows. We’re going to listen to a lot of Batman by Danny Elfman {at least three times a day, currently}.
These foundation years, we never get them back. So I am grabbing hold of them and living them to the fullest. Childhood that is family {and not schooling and peers and fads} is back in. There is no status quo around here.
Continue Reading