What Children Do When They Don’t Attend Preschool.

People often ask me what our days look like with both my children at home everyday. Some are curious, some are perplexed, some think we’re just a bit weird (which is okay, really, since we are). Because most young children spend part of their weeks in childcare/preschool, I’m sure people must wonder how children who don’t fare.

It’s been well over fifteen-months since we pulled our son from preschool and I can’t imagine life any differently now. It took a few months (after the initial Sigh-of-Relief period when everything was hunky dory) to adjust to having two little ones with me all the time, but now – like I said – this is normal, everyday life for us.

So what do our days look like and what do the kids get up to?

A Preschooler’s Life at Home

We read. A lot. My 4-year-old now sits through some chapter books with me.

We go on outings.

We take a moment to explore new weather experiences.

We garden. And make nests.

We do lots of walks.

We climb hills.

We get messy.

We discover God’s world.

We learn letters.

And we learn new skills.

We do many, many other things. We play together. We bake. We build with Lego. We make huts. We play Play-Doh. We ride bikes. We jump on the trampoline. We have playdates. We go grocery shopping. We go on errands. We go to gymnastics. We go to church.

I do not believe our children miss out on anything. They have a wonderful life at home where we are all learning how to be a family. How to laugh at our weaknesses. How to say sorry when we hurt each other. How to work as part of a family around the home. How to build each other up. How to know we are loved even at our worse.

It definitely isn’t easy. There are fights and bad days and grumpy moods and times for discipline (as much for me as the kids!). This mama is often praying for the Lord to help her know what on earth to do about either – or both! – of the children.

I think this is the greatest blessing of homeschooling: because we are together most of the time, we are doing real life together as real people. And I think that is one of the best things parents can pass on to their children: teaching them how to relate to one another in a way that is real, messy, familiar, and safe. As the years go on, the roots will deepen so the fruit of this living-together will be born when they are older and relating as adults.

Why Disciplining Our Children Means First Disciplining Ourselves (Thoughts on Charlotte Mason).

As we continue to walk slowly into a homeschooling life, I easily see and embrace the beautiful educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason. I wouldn’t say that we will be a strict Charlotte Mason homeschool family, but her ideas about educating children will influence me as I guide the children to a lifelong love of learning within the calm and life-giving atmosphere of home.

Charlotte Mason had a three-pronged view of education. She believes that,

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Two of these I feel I adopt instinctively, like breathing. I love creating a home that induces learning, creativity, and a hunger to know more. And I know the education is more than “school” – it is a wholehearted desire to know God – and His world – and grow towards Christ-like character. If my children are learning math, they’re learning about God because He made math.

But one facet of Charlotte Mason’s approach is a struggle for me: that is, education is a discipline. It is like a wall that I keep running into and struggle to climb over.

Before I look at why it is a struggle for me, first I want to briefly explain what Charlotte Mason understands discipline to be within education.

Education is a Disicpline: All About the Heart & Habits

By Education is a discipline, is meant the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body.” Vol. 1, Preface

Charlotte Mason believed that the character of a child was the most important part of their education. It was the parent’s primary responsibility to steadily form in their children habits – both of their hands and of their hearts – that would aid them as they grow into adults.

Some of CM’s formation of habits included:

  • cleanliness
  • courtesy
  • order
  • fortitude
  • generosity
  • gentleness
  • respect
  • obedience
  • imagining
  • observation
  • self-control
  • thanksgiving
  • truthfulness

The ultimate “goal” in the formation of habits in children is the child’s mastery of self: that is, self-control and self-discipline. Sonya Schafer in her e-book, Education Is, says that we (as parents),

…guide them with discipline from without until they can make the transition to discipline themselves from within.” 

Year after year, as we work alongside our children, diligently and with persistence, our children will slowly learn to work within themselves the discipline that leads to a joy of life: freedom. The more a child is in control of their heart and habits, the more freedom in life they will have. It’s one of those divine dichotomies: the more we limit, the more freedom we have.

This seems very straight forward and I believe wholeheartedly in it. But I struggle with this aspect of the Charlotte Mason life among the three-prongs of education. Why?

It All Starts With Me

That’s it, really.

Forming children of character with responsible habits lands primarily at the feet of the mother. It is her burden to carry since the children spend the majority of their time with her. God has given her that task of laying down the rails that will lead to their freedom in later life, and he has equipped the woman with attributes that lend herself to this task.

And this is why it’s so hard: I struggle with self-discipline myself. If I battle to have mastery over my own heart and habits, how can I consistently attend to my own children with joy, persistance, and fortitude?

Because that is what it takes to raise balanced, God-loving, kind, loving, and enjoyable adults – joy of the Lord, in it for the long haul, holding on to truth when it is tough. This is a daunting task and one that I know I ought not to take lightly. Why else did I choose to have children? To make me happy? Or fulfill some selfish desire?

I definitely started motherhood out that way. Not purely in a selfish way, of course. But, as the years begin to go on and the Lord opens the eyes of my heart to the task before me, I see how much deeper motherhood goes.

I see how much more a servant heart is needed.

I see the roots of a submissive heart reach, not just toward my dear husband as his wife, but as a mother coming under the needs of her children.

I see that the discipline of the hearts and habits of my children requires a depth of discipline in myself – who I am and how I behave on a daily basis – and is a level of hard work that I never realised. And I find myself baulking at that, often.

The Hard Work Comes From Conflict

Not only is the responsibility and authenticity of parenting in a transparent and exemplary way hard work, so is the actual forming of my children. The reason why they need help with their hearts and habits is because they are people. And what are people? Sinners.

Mothering is basically a continual battle of the wills. The will of the mother (who knows what is good, what is right, what is God-honouring – however imperfectly and fallen) to the will of the child (who knows only limitedly and spends much energy on feeling and egotistical instinct). And how is that easy?

There is no other way … but a certain strenuousness in the formation of good habits is necessary because every such habit is the result of conflict.” ~ Charlotte Mason, Vol.6, p.102

Strenuousness and conflict. How can I do this???

Labouring and Striving…With Help

This is why my personal verse for motherhood (and which is always at the end of one of my email newsletters) is Colossians 1:29:

We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, striving with all His energy working in me.”

And that is the key, isn’t it? This is the only way we can see the responsibility before us as mothers and press on, not running away or giving up that responsibility to someone else. Christ is that key. His power is that key.

Both Christ and I work in tandem as I raise His children: I labour and strive to present these children perfect (or, doing all I can to lead them to Christ where only He saves them and takes over) for Him while He works His life-giving, death-defying, healing and divine power in me.

I cannot do this without Him.

So as I struggle with my own self-discipline in my heart and habits, I can take comfort. He is perfecting the good work He has started in me, and He will finish it. Part of finishing it is the many years He has asked me to mother children, who will battle against me (because I represent the Spirit in their life), and who won’t make it easy.

But nothing on this earth that has any eternal worth or significance will be easy or require little of us. So let us not balk, but press on deeper.

Why Mothers Should Sing Around the House More

I’ve never been a “singer”. In our home, my husband is the singer. He’s been singing all his life – boys’ choir, head chorister, church music team, weddings etc. He has a beautiful voice. Me on the other hand? I have an okay voice and I’m pretty thankful I can sing in tune.

I do, however, enjoy singing. It soothes my soul and expresses feelings I often can’t articulate to myself. But I sometimes feel inadequate because how I can sing is not how I want to sing. There is a lot of praise in me wanting to come out but my voice is not strong enough. (So, if you have the gift of a beautiful and powerful singing voice, bless the Lord!)

Yet, despite not being Adele, I sing a lot. As I’m doing housework, getting dinner ready, driving the car, gardening – I sing much of that time. Hymns, church songs, and favourite singers (like New Zealander, Brooke Fraser). Whatever comes to mind, I sing.

And today, by God’s special grace, He’s shown me an unexpected fruit of being a mother who sings around the home.

Little Hearts Sing

I must have been singing this hymn without realising it. And perhaps it’s been sung in church recently before the kids head out to their little preschool programme. But today, all on his own, I suddenly heard Josiah singing the first few notes of “Crown Him With Many Crowns”.

“Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon the throne; Hark! how the heavn’ly anthem drowns, all music but it’s own! Awake, my soul, and sing; Of Him who died for thee; And hail Him as thy matchless King, throughout all eternity.”

I was blown away. This boy listens and he takes in what he is hearing. What an amazing thing!

Of course, it’s not as though I didn’t know my kids listen. We often sing little songs together, and Rosalie is singing Tangled’s “I See the Light” all the time. I’m always hoping to pass on a love of singing to them.

However, I don’t think I have realised what a powerful tool singing is for a mother seeking to instill Gospel-truths into her little one’s hearts. I didn’t realise that as a mother sings songs of the Lord around the home – doing her tasks and playing with the children – she is organically and authentically passing on both her faith and her belief to the little hearts listening.

This is incredibly beautiful. And what a responsibility!

Authentic Faith

One song I love to sing is Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong, especially Lauren Daigle’s cover. (I’m personally not a massive fan of Hillsong but every now and then they produce a beautiful song that I really love, like Oceans or Man of Sorrows.) It speaks to all that God has done for me when I have gone through deep pain and suffering, and the faithfulness He has shown to me, a broken sinner.

As I sing this song, I sing it with a genuine love and faith in my Father. And the children see that. They pick up on something in me that I might not be able to communicate in words. They see a light that is in me, a love for a God they know is real but cannot see. And I pray that it plants seeds of memories and faith in their own hearts, just like I have of my own mother singing The Father’s Prayer at bedtime.

Authentic Truths

Above contemporary Christian songs, I delight and love hymns. The main reason is because of the depth and truth of the words within them, that I find more modern songs sometimes lack. Hymns communicate deep, spiritual truths that the everyday person often cannot come up with themselves. This is why hymns stand the test of time.

One of my favrourite hymns, Rock of Ages, lifts my soul to Heaven and articulates the Gospel in ways I pray my children hear and take into their little hearts. I pray that when they hear the words that there is “nothing in my hand I bring/simply to Thy cross I cling” they know that only Jesus can save. I pray they know that, given that our lives are short, we must think of “realms unknown” and that oneday we will “Bow before Thy judgement throne”. And yet that, if we believe in Jesus, He will [as our] Rock of Ages, “cleft for me”.

So, dear mothers, even if you aren’t “singers” – sing anyway. Or quietly put on music that draws hearts to the Lord. Without even being aware of it, our dear children will absorb the truths and the faith we show. Slowly, over time, we can pray that God will hide those thoughts and memories and words in their hearts, bringing them to full fruit as they grow older.

So sing! Sing with all you heart.

Motherhood & The Few: Why Our Feet Should Be Tied

 

There are millions of mothers in this world. And there are millions of Christian mothers. But, out of all those millions of mothers, there are but a few that are pursuing their responsibility with passion, intention, and wholehearted, undivided hearts.

Several centuries ago, there was one mother who recognised that she was one of the few. Her name was Susanna Wesley, the mother of nineteen children – only ten of which grew to adulthood. (At one time, she buried her two baby twin boys within weeks of their births.) Two of her sons grew to be devoted, passionate men of God who began the Methodist movement within Christianity.

Over one hundred years later, another woman recognised the singularity of dedicated motherhood. Her name was Amy Carmichael and she rescued children from Indian temples who were either child prostitutes or the children of prostitutes. Though no children were ever birthed from her own body, she birthed new life to hundreds.

What did these two strong Christian women believe about motherhood?

Susanna Wesley: One Of The Few

No-one can, without renouncing the world, in the most literal sense, observe my method; and there are few, if any, that would entirely devote above twenty years of the prime of life in hopes to save the souls of their children, when they think they may be saved without so much ado; for the was my principle intention.”

She renounced the world’s method’s of mothering. Even in the days when mothers were still at home with their children, Susanna recognised that few women were actually present with their children. She rejected the idea that children were in a separate sphere that required governesses or nurses. She didn’t give her children just the first year of their life and then went to do her own thing. No, she dedicated twenty years of her life and more to wholehearted, undivided motherhood.

Her principle intention was to lead her children to Christ. Susanna knew that the principle goal of raising children was to endeavor to bring them to a knowledge and love of God. This is why she spent the majority of her life pouring herself into her children. She knew that the only way that she could win her children’s hearts to Christ, and keep them safe from the world’s influence, was to invest all of herself to that principle duty.

She accepted being different. Being one of the few, she knew that there wouldn’t be many like her. She accepted that the path God had called her to was a narrow one, oftentimes lonely and misunderstood, but that this was necessary for the sake of her children. She was called to be different, asked to live towards a higher standard, for the sake of her children and for the glory of God.

Amy Carmichael: Fit to Be Tied

Children tie the mother’s feet the Tamils say…We knew we could not be too careful of our children’s earliest years.So we let our feet be tied for love of Him whose feet were pierced.”

She accepted and embraced sacrifice. Amy, despite all the opportunities that were being offered to her as a missionary in India, saw the call God was giving her to raise needy and orphaned children. Despite the fact that these girls {and later boys} were not born from her body, they were her children and she gave up the rest of her life to caring for their needs. She did not seek fame or glory. She sought the hard, the dirty, the exhaustion, the desperation, the helplessness, the wonder, the blessing, and the sacrifice of motherhood. She allowed herself to be tied.

She understood and pursued intentional motherhood. Amy did not waste away the early days of her children’s lives. She did not let one day pass into another without any thought, care, or intention on her part. She knew the vital importance of those early years of life that her children had to spend with her. She could have rescued them and then allowed them to be brought up by other women. But she didn’t. She had helpers, but all the children knew – and experienced – that Amy was their mother. For their formative years, the children had all of Amy.

She did it because of Jesus. Her Saviour is the reason she did it all. He is why she went to India. He is why she didn’t marry. He is why she suffered through the loss of many children and friends. He is why she carried on when it was hard. He is why she continued on during bed rest for many of her later years. He is the very reason she mothered and how she mothered at all. And He blessed her and her children.

Dear Mother,

If you have any doubt as to the call God has given you, or the importance of caring for your children, or for the need to sacrifice for the season of a child’s life, look to these two examples and see the profound legacy that their dedicated, Christ-loving mothering has had on thousands of people. Please do not give way. Please do not listen to the world’s siren call, seeking to lead you away from the home and your children. Nothing in this life will be as hard – or as fulfilling – as the joy of giving your life up for Jesus in the service of caring for His children. Don’t give up! He who has called you has, and will, equip you to do the work He has asked of you. Loving our children for Jesus is what He has asked us to do and,

To this end [we] labour, striving with all His energy working powerfully in [us].” Colossians 1:29

The Heart of Being a Good Parent

We all want to be good parents, don’t we? I know I do. It’s something I strive for most days. (And I say most days because, well, some days are just for getting through than for thriving.) I’m always trying to learn more about what God thinks is a good parent and what makes a Christian family thrive. It’s a passion of mine, hence the blog.

But just because I’m passionate about wholehearted motherhood and seeking God’s will on family life doesn’t mean I have it all together. So very far from it. I go through rough patches where our days are great struggles. I get frustrated, grumpy, irritated, impatient. I have even manipulated my kids to get them to do what I want when they’ve been stroppy to me.

I know. Mother of the Year, right?

Thank God, quite literally, for grace. Unmerited favour poured out on me, a sinner.

Thank God that He covers our mistakes and uses them for His glory in our children.

And, thank God that He guides the way so that we can keep seeking to be good parents and become more Christ-like to our children.

…That is the heart of being a good parent, isn’t it? Loving our children as Christ loves them.

That is a big, broad, beautiful truth to understand. It’s of sacrifice and selflessness and service and deep, never ending, unconditional love – no matter how much our children hurt us (because they do and will).

But on a smaller scale, what does that look like? What ought the heart and actions be of a parent towards their children as they seek to love them like Jesus?

Little People

Just recently I have felt a challenge to really seek to understand our children as people. It is very easy as a parent to look at our children as mini-me’s or as blank slates that we can imprint upon them our own agendas. But this isn’t biblical at all.

As a sidenote, James Dobson wrote about these unbiblical notions in his book Solid Answers and how the root of them in child education/psychology is from the 1950’s era of “permissiveness”.

We know, firstly, that God made our children by Himself and for Himself (Col. 1:16-17). They have their own unique personalities and God has His own plans for them (Psalm 139). Despite having physically grown and birthed our children, they are not ours. They are His. Therefore, they are their own little people.

“Truly parents are happy people – to have God’s children lent to them.” Charlotte Mason

I believe as we see our children are people – with their own valid thoughts and feelings – it will encourage us to really seek to parent them in a way that meets their needs. 

Please don’t think I am saying that if a child is screaming on the floor saying mean things to you because you didn’t give them another lolly you should validate their feelings and not discipline them. That is not the answer. God clearly says we are to discipline our children when they sin (Proverbs 22:15, 23:24-25, 10:17 are just a few). We can acknowledge their feelings of frustration but, in that moment, the most loving thing we can do for them is to correct their hearts and behaviour. Sometimes coming at our children is the very best thing we can do for them.

But that’s the key word, isn’t it? Sometimes. Most of the time we seek to understand their little personalities and what makes them tick, and this will guide us as we strive to love them well and train them up in the Lord.

Under, Not At

 A quote by John MacArthur really opened this idea to me further:

“Parents are to submit [to their children]…And they are to submit by ‘not provoking your children to anger; but bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Eph. 6:4). That means you are to ‘get under’ your child, as it were, and be a caring and supportive teacher.” John MacArthur, The Family

Paul’s instruction in Ephesians clearly shows that the most effective way a parent can reach a child’s heart – that is, the heart of good parenting – is to come under children (knowing them as people) and meet them where they are. 

We are not to be always up here…

                                                                  …and our children down here.

Like I said, there are moments in the day when we are the parents – period. My daughter’s running down the driveway with no intention of slowing down before the street? My word goes. My son is getting sassy and disrespecting me? I am his mother, by God’s authority, for his good. But, for the most part, we’re on their level – loving them, knowing them, seeking their little hearts and thoughts, tenderly embracing these souls God has lent to us.

Isn’t that a privilege and an honour? I have been so challenged and so encouraged. I pray you will be too and, as we seek Christ’s help in this, He would help us to be more aware of coming down From Up There to our children’s level, where we can meet them as they are there and begin our teaching of them right where they are.

 

 

Book Review: Home Sweet Homeschool by Sue Maakstad

This post contains affiliate links.

Ever since we decided to educate our children at home I have been reading and reading almost anything that I can get my hands on {see this post on some other home education books}. Now our eldest is four and heading towards the “officially homeschooling” mark {though, really, we’ve been homeschooling since his birth – but that’s a different post altogether 😉 }, I’m diving into as many as I can.

Here’s the latest.

I randomly {or, I thought it was random!} came across this on a second-hand online shop and bought it on the spot. I had never heard of it in all my homeschooling rabbit trails, nor the author, but it was being sold here in NZ {rare}, so I thought, “Why not?”

I’m so glad I did!

Written by a homeschooling veteran when such a thing was, as Sue Maakstad says, “in the Dark Ages”, she raised and taught eight children right through even though she never even finished high school herself. How did they get into homeschooling when a) no-one else was doing it, and b) she was “uneducated” herself?

“God’s so smart. He knows that if he told us this kind of stuff up front, we’d certainly opt out early. But he also knows that if we just stick with him and do what he sets before us because we know it’s a rough job but somebody’s gotta do it – and because we know he’s able even if we aren’t – he’ll always pull off great things in spite of us.” p.21

Sue is humble, wise, straight-forward, and very funny. She has a way with words and creating the chaotic scenes of homeschooling days with a tonne of kids. I loved it how much she made me smile, and not just challenged and encouraged.

“I pile the kids in the van and the dog [whose had an accident] in the car. Now I notice the puddle of soft vulcanized rubber under the wheel rim. The tire passed away last night and has awaited me with expectant glee ever since. The lug nuts haven’t been budged since the Revolutionary War. This provides relevant material for history class. I empty two cans of Liquid Wrench over them while the kids call our tearful reminders that Fido may expire any second…

Days like these make me wonder if I can muster enough collective brain cells and achieve sufficient level of peace amid the pandemonium to conduct some sort of teaching, let alone impart pedagogical wisdom.” p.30

She is very realistic about homeschooling. She doesn’t paint it all rainbows and butterflies. She’s clear that it is hard, that you’ll want to quit, but that you can’t. And that is what I love about this book: it is full to the brim with inspiration and thought-provoking wisdom to keep your feet one step ahead of the other on the homeschooling journey. For a newbie, it’s refreshing and encouraging.

Though I have read many arguments for homeschooling, particularly biblical ones, I found Sue’s to be the most theologically-balanced ones. Obviously, Sue is very pro-homeschooling and believes that Christian parents should educate their own children, but she isn’t condemning or judgemental towards those who do not. I don’t think {though I can’t confirm} she believes homeschooling is a biblical mandate, like other author’s such as R C Sproul Jr. I found this great and added to the gentle-but-affirming tone of the book.

Here are some of the topics Sue discusses in her book:

  • Their story: evidence that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness
  • Recalling the readily visible as well as often hidden advantages of home education
  • Your parental calling: to educate, train, and disciple men and women of God
  • Family, the extracurricular curriculum that impacts a lifetime and builds a heritage
  • Discipline and motivation: foundations to survive the hard times and achieve the results
  • Everything is clearer in retrospect. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Some favourite quotes

“Our kids have been given to us so we can present them back to their heavenly Father. His image is stamped upon them, and it’s up to us at home to teach them from His Word about their godly heritage and calling – to birth in them a love of him and show them the more excellent way.” pg.102

“The conventional ‘wisdom’ must be discarded on the faith that higher and more reliable wisdom will carry us across the chasm. When we step outside the realm of the familiar, the boundaries disappear. Homeschool parents know the secret effectiveness of alternative fuel: The grace of God will guide unique individuals through individually tailored plans that help each learn best, and thereby broaden their horizons. When we careen off that cliff into the unknown, we ind our kids’ Creator has a bridge in place to take them safely across the chasm to the future he’s prepared for them.” pg.89

“And the real truth is, nobody ranks higher than you as the expert of your own children. The real truth is, you have the goods – the wisdom and power of God, not the deficient methodology of man. The real truth is, you are duty and honor bound to answer the William Tell calling given to you by God in Psalm 127:4: ‘Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth’…Those little arrows are your unique area of expertise. They’re placed in your quiver at birth. You get the first shot.” p.79

“I know in whom I believed, and I know that I’m able because he is able. As parents, we’re partners with God in our greatest earthly endeavor – raising kids.” pg.44

“[I know that I do homeschooling] to save myself from myself via my children. Because it’s not really about me anymore, which is the best way to find out whom he has created me to be.” pg.160

I really recommend this book. Have you read it?

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.**

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.

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?

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.