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Why We Always Say “I’m sorry”

I grew up in a house of yelling. We yelled when we were angry, happy, sad, or just having a normal conversation. My natural inclination when I feel frustrated, or like I’m being ignored by the children is to yell. I remember as a child getting yelled at and feeling like it was completely unjustified. I’m positive it was just my skewed childhood memory that makes me remember things that way, but it is how I remember it. So, how are my children going to look back and remember their childhood?

I remember two times my mom apologized to me without a “but.” The feeling of knowing she didn’t mean what she said, or how she behaved all hinged on whether or not there was a “but” involved (I think this goes for any apology). I was the oldest child, and as I mentioned in my post Introducing Us Part Three, as a parent we’re ever evolving. We’re always learning better ways to manage situations, and as I got older, my mom did just that. The oldest child witnesses more growth in their parents than any of the others. My poor Hayden knows this all too well!

When Herman and I first started going to church not a whole lot changed in our lives. We could feel the ever growing fire kindling, but it wasn’t fully blown or hot enough to make us take notice for some time. Once we became faithful followers, a lot of what we used to do changed. For Herman, yelling isn’t a go-to, so this isn’t a vice he had to overcome like me. He hardly ever raises his voice when he’s angry, and if he does, it’s probably because he picked it up from me.

“Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” Proverbs 29:11

One of the things that are constantly changing the more I grow in Christ is my parenting. I feel less like I have to control every single situation, and more like a moderator. Yes, I’m the parent. But my job is to guide them, not forcefully make them be the person I want them to be. I slip up daily, but God’s grace is never ending. Once more, His grace is NEVER ending. Ever. So why is mine?

It’s so easy to explode and once all is said and done continue on with life like nothing happened. As the parent, my anger was justified, right? I yelled because they wouldn’t listen. Simple as that. But, watching my children interact with each other showed me how damaging my thinking really was. So I started with apologies.

As children, we’re always told to apologize to each other, and it has to be sincere. We are told to look in their eyes, speak openly without anger in our voice, and not to justify our actions. Only to seek forgiveness. So why wasn’t I doing this with my kids? Every time I don’t handle a situation with grace, I apologize. Every. Time. If I’m short with all of them, I will apologize to them all together. If I yell at one of them, I will seek them out for a one-on-one. Apologies like, “I’m sorry I did that, but you…” are where it becomes a justification for the action and not a sincere apology. So I strive to make them as genuine as I possibly can. I ask for forgiveness, and then for them to pray with me, or for me.

My best friend always says, “it takes three generations to break a cycle.” My hope is that with sincere apologies, giving grace whenever I can, and aiming for more peaceful parenting I will give my children the building blocks they need to parent with grace from day one.

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Introducing Us Part Three: Meet Lylah

If you’re keeping up, you’re already aware this is part three in my five-part series “Introducing Us.” Starting here I’ll be introducing children in my home that are under the age of six, which, you’ll also already know is the age school begins in our house. Their homeschool journey started with ours even though they’re younger than six. Learning is an all day, everyday event in our home.

Lylah is my wild child. I think anyone who has multiple children in their home always has one child that they would consider their hardest to parent. This is my rambunctious Lylah. From day one she was strong-willed and serious. She can throw a fit like no other, but can also melt your heart in the next few seconds. She’s outgoing and never afraid to be herself. No one’s opinion will ever cramp her style; I wish I had half the confidence she does.

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Like the others, Lylah fell victim to my constant need to “keep up.” Ella was an early talker, and since they’re so close in age, it was easy to compare all of Lylah’s milestones with hers. (Bad Mama, I know.) Lylah took longer to talk, and even longer to use personal pronouns correctly. Parenthood is ever evolving. You always hear older children say to their parents, “you didn’t let me do that when I was younger” or “you have more patience for the younger kids.” It’s because every day of parenthood is a learning opportunity. A chance to change the way you handle situations. I’m thankful for this. Especially with Lylah; we clash like oil and water, so I have the need to apologize more often in our relationship than with any of the other kids.

When I did an overhaul of what our goals were for homeschooling I was in the middle of the book The Unhurried Homeschooler. I L-O-V-E, love this book. Follow the link, get a copy if you haven’t already. I promise you won’t regret it. As I’ve mentioned before we were in a rough place right after Emma was born. Schooling was more of a dreaded task than an adventure, and one of the things the book suggested was to write down exactly what we expected at each age. (To be fair, a wise woman who has homeschooled for many years also suggested something similar to this a few years prior, and I just didn’t take her advice. I now kick myself for that.) But, anyway, once I wrote down the things I thought were necessary for each age, and Herman and I sat down and went over them all, I realized Lylah was pretty much right on track with where I would expect a child her age to be. When I initially made the list, I realized a lot of what I wanted them to know would overlap in the age range of 3-6. Colors, shapes, and counting. It was only the amount of shapes and colors, and the number they could reach that would change. Age five is the age that we start to pay more attention to letters and the sounds that they make. I don’t want to jinx it, but Lylah already seems like she’s going to kill it as a reader!

All of her learning is organically achieved right now. She just recently learned to write her name unassisted while we were filling out Valentines. She had the ability to recognize her name, and copy it, but this was different. She wanted to personalize each one, so she learned to spell and write her name by comparing hers to one I completed for her. She was SO proud, and since it was entirely self-lead, she enjoyed the entire process. Not once did she become discouraged, or question whether or not it looked perfect.

Lylah spends the majority of her day “doing her own thing.” She loves to be read to, and once or twice a day she will decide to work in a workbook  (usually when Hayden or Ella are working. Monkey see, monkey do). I always help her if she asks for it, but I never intervene. When I take control learning just isn’t fun for her anymore. She enjoys treating each page like a puzzle and gets eminence satisfaction when she’s able to decipher what it is the instructions are asking. I’m so excited to continue to watch Lylah learn new things, and grow.

Posted in home education, Uncategorized

Introducing Us Part Two: Meet Gabriella

Six, almost seven years ago a nurse handed me a tiny baby girl. I put her into the crook of my arm, and that wrinkled baby raised the back of her hand to her forehead, let out the most pitiful cry I’ve ever heard and turned her face into my chest. Oh, the drama. Gabriella- more often referred to as Ella- has lived up to her first introduction to the world.

Meet, Ella. Our sassy, soft-spoken, sensitive, shy, sweetheart. (Did Y’all catch my unintentional use of alliteration? Save your applause for later, folks.) She loves books, babies, hot tea, cooking, and baking. She’s wise beyond her years and the worrier of the family. She’s the “mother hen” of our crew; always making sure her siblings are well cared for and listening… especially to her. She’s the best kind of challenge when it comes to homeschooling.

Ella attended Pre-K at the local public school for only a few months. There was never any indication she wasn’t succeeding in school, nor did she have any serious issues with being there each day. She had excellent, attentive teachers, and enjoyed her time at school for the most part. She would occasionally tell me she didn’t benefit from the amount of time she spent at school, that it “took too long” for her to come home each day. That would pull at my heart-strings. My girl missed me!

I’m not a public school “hater.” Herman and I both had somewhat enjoyable experiences in school. I’m also very much aware of the necessity of public education for some families, because of work or just Mama’s sanity. Public school teachers are real-life superheroes who deserve a cape, a large cup of coffee, and an endless supply of dark chocolate. But, once again I found myself thinking there had to be a better way. Who guides us? The social norm, or God?

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

Ella has always been quiet. She enjoys playing alone and is the exact definition of an introvert. She got that from Herman, which is evident if you know anything about me. Until recently, when she would speak to me while driving, I would have to pull over and turn off the ignition just to hear her! In a crowded place? Forget hearing anything she may have to say.  After starting Pre-K, these things became much more apparent. Almost like she was exhausting all of her energy at school, and when she came home, there was nothing left. She’s still pretty shy in social settings but has come a long way.

She was only a month past four when she started Pre-K. She was not ready. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? Ella is an unhurried learner. I won’t use the word slowly because learning isn’t a race. If she’s not ready to learn something, it just won’t stick no matter how many times you go over it, and that’s okay. When I started homeschooling the kids, I immediately made the decision we wouldn’t push for any type of structured learning for her or the younger children until six. You would be amazed at the information children pick up just through play!

Unfortunately, after we were home for a while, I kept falling into the trap of comparison. What if she’s behind? This question always led to me trying to teach her things she just wasn’t ready for and frustration from us both. So of course when she turned six I started her on the DVD-led curriculum right away, and she learned NOTHING! It was discouraging, and I began praying for answers. Even though I was initially on the right track with helping her learn, I was again allowing the world to influence a situation I had already given to God.

Something I continue to cling to is advice given in the book Homeschooling: what to do when you want to quit. Michelle Cannon writes: “When someone calls me to say they feel behind, the first thing I ask is, ‘behind what, or whom?’ …” (Follow the link to take a look, or grab a copy!) The title of the book almost kept me from reading, but it’s a book full of encouragement for all situations, not just for those who feel like quitting. Once we dropped the academy-style learning, she began to flourish.

Currently, we’re putting emphasis on reading. Within the last few months, she has picked up the ability to recognize all of the letters in the alphabet, and the sounds they make. This is a tremendous feat for her, and the pride in her eyes when she can recognize something makes my heart happy and helps me remember this is not a race. For a while, I was concerned that she may be Dyslexic and starting therapy would be necessary. Seeking outside help is always an option in our family, but for now, we’re just taking our time, and it seems to be working for her.

Here’s a sample of what a typical day at home looks like for Ella:

  • Wake up and eat breakfast, usually, watch cartoons
  • Complete any chores
  • Letters and sounds instruction for 15-20 minutes then complete work ~1 hour total
  • Play/free time
  • Lunch
  • Quiet time (This is time spent alone in a room for approximately 1 1/2-2 hours. She usually does self-guided penmanship practice and workbook pages to fill the time.)
  • Math instruction 15-20 minutes then complete work ~1 hour total
  • Play/free time

There are things we don’t limit in our home that fall under the category of her play/free time. We don’t restrict the use of puzzles, making easy-reader books, workbooks, crafting and art projects, spending time exploring nature, and reading books. This means my house is usually covered in glue, glitter, and scraps of paper. If you’ve ever been over to my house, there’s a chance you’ve witnessed the endless crafting first hand. She will occasionally use some of her free time to practice math, watch science, history, and art videos on Khanacademy.org, or play on abcmouse.com. Our adventure days, as Hayden refers to them, are days spent learning organically, usually outdoors somewhere. Science and art are easily explored on these days. Her current fascination is learning how to sew. Project Runway, here she comes!

Reading to her, I think, has been the most helpful part of her early learning. It’s taught her that reading and writing are always left to right, something she’s struggled with and that there is always at least one vowel in every word. She has started to recognize simple words as they repeat in a book, which shows me she’s able to follow along. Most of all, the stories give her the drive to want to learn. Which is the number one goal in our home.

Our style of learning is definitely not for everyone, but it’s what works best for us. I’ve had to let go of a lot of unnecessary worries, and pride to get where we are today. It’s easy to quiet the voice that tells you to follow your own path when the world is loudly screaming you’re doing it wrong. That’s always a struggle anytime you go against the grain.

Ella needs a lot of breaks, and to always be hands on. Out of everything she has taught me since we’ve started our homeschooling journey, the most important thing I have to remember, is her need to always take her time. It’s a humbling lesson in such a fast-paced world.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heavens…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1