Parenting


Most of you know that I am a Type 1 Diabetic, and have been for almost 30 years.  As a plug for my book, I authored a book several years ago, called “Diabetes:  Overcome Your Fears” which can be purchased on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers, or directly through me (if you’d like an autographed copy).

In this book, I discuss all that I have learned about diabetes over the years, my experiences with different equipment and alert dogs, having children, finding doctors, and so much more.  With 2 biological children, I knew the statistics of them getting the disease, and could only hope and pray that our lifestyle would delay or prevent the onset.  Our firstborn, JR, has been part of a trial study called TRIGR since he was born.  At birth, he showed the genetic markers.  While this was no guarantee he would develop the disease, it did mean he had a drastically increased chance.  By the time he was 4, he was showing all the necessary antibodies for the condition, but was still free of diabetes.  We can only hope our lifestyle contributed to the this fact.  Last fall, however, his annual blood results showed a rise in his A1C results.  Again, it was no guarantee, as nothing is certain in the development at this point, as the actual trigger for the condition is as yet unknown. However, these latest results meant we had to watch more closely for symptoms.

In early February, JR began having some trouble sleeping.  It was somewhat random though, so I chalked it up to the winter cold preventing him from being as active, thus as tired, as normal.  He became increasingly emotional and sensitive, but again, we were all driving each other a little nutty locked inside as we were due to the single digit temps outside.  He began complaining of excessive thirst, but I was also drinking a lot due to the dry winter air we were experiencing, so again, I ignored the symptoms.  Finally, 2 weeks ago, I came home from a long day on the road.  It was long after JR’s bedtime, and he was crying because he couldn’t sleep again.  He said he didn’t feel good.  I knew they had waffles and syrup for dinner (a very high carbohydrate meal), so on a whim, I decided to test his blood sugar with my meter.  Rather than the usual number reading, the meter gave me the message “Blood Glucose not readable.  Over 600.”  I felt the sinking feeling in my chest, knowing what this likely meant.  I hoped, however, that he had residual syrup or sugar residue on his hands from dinner, so I sent him to the bathroom to wash his hands.  He returned and I tested him again.  I got the same reading. For once in my life, I used an almost-swear word.  “CRAP!”  I knew our lives and his life had just taken a major turn.  I didn’t like it, he knew what his future held (at least as much as a 9 year old can), and we had to get that sugar down before he became very ill.

I woke S, told him what had happened, and immediately drove JR to the hospital, 30 minutes away.  We walked into the ER, I explained the BG results to the intake nurse, and she immediately sent him to triage.  He quickly became the center of attention for a ridiculous number of doctors, nurses, and medical interns.  For the next 24 hours, he was admitted, put on insulin, given education and classes, met with one medical professional after another, and finally, we were discharged to go home.

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So begins a new phase of life for our family.  I am not just a diabetic, but I am also the parent of a diabetic.  We are able to laugh at it sometimes–like in church, when I felt weak, turned to test, sat up and discovered JR doing the same.  I was low, he wasn’t, so I “won.”  Other times, I get sick of hearing “Mom, I’m low!  What should I eat this time?”  I’d rather go back to a month ago, when he was free of disease, and had a future free of shots and finger pokes.  That is no longer the case.  Thankfully, he is a mature, responsible kiddo, and often finds the blessings in life.  He looks forward to having an alert dog like I used to.  He already does all his own testing and injections.  He is considering whether he wants a pump or to stay on shots.  He is learning what to eat and how much, and how exercise affects his bg levels.  I have no doubt his future is as bright as it ever was, only with the addition of this all-too-familiar thorn in his side to keep him humble and remind him of his mortality.  Even now, he acts like a fairly typical child, except at bedtime, when his newfound insecurities show up.  He is terrified to fall asleep many nights.  He is so scared of a having a severe low.  Although he has never seen me experience any such thing, he is a smart kid, and knows what a bad low can do.  It scares him that his insulin might take him too low one night, and he might not wake up.  He is doing better, but only with the reassurance that I will test him at night.

As a diabetic mom of a newly diagnosed child, I have wanted to cry for him many times, but the tears just won’t come.  I know the frustrations life holds for him, the humiliations he will likely experience in time, the fears of finding a wife who will love him, or the decisions of whether he should have children and risk passing on the genetics.  I hope he will never blame me for what he goes through, and that he will allow God to walk with him through those tough times.  I hope I can teach him thankfulness in all things by my example, and that he will accept his disease as part of the result of mankind’s sinful nature and not something he himself did.  I can only hope.

By the way, I will throw out a request.  We have promised to help him train an alert dog.  Alert dogs are amazing and wonderful aids for diabetics, and especially for children.  They tend to give children more confidence to go places without their parents, and to simply fall asleep at night, because the dogs are trained to detect lows and highs an act accordingly.  Will, my retired alert dog, has just gotten too old to return to service.  The poor dog can hardly get off his bed sometimes, so there is no way he could keep up with an active little boy.  Therefore, around late spring/early summer, we will be looking for a puppy to train.  Our ideal dog would be a medium-breed, labrador, golden retriever, poodle, or cross-breed.  I am not too picky about the breed itself, but I am very picky about the puppies (and parents’ if available) characteristics and will have to expose the puppy to several “tests” to see how it reacts.  The breeds listed have simply had the greatest success rates as alert dogs for children.  Other breeds have included Australian Shepherds, Welsh Corgis, Beagles, and many cross-breeds.  In fact, my first was a rescue that I re-trained.  We could take a puppy up to about 4 months of age, due to other considerations we have.  I am really preferring something that will mature to less than 50 lbs, as the dog must sleep with JR, and because JR is rather small for his age.  A smaller size would just be a better match for him.  I say all this to ask, if you know of anyone who breeds for pups that might be good for a task of this nature, we will be looking.  I would greatly appreciate any info you can offer that might help us find a good candidate to work with.  If the puppy could possibly be donated, that would be an incredible blessing for our family.

In the mean time, perhaps the rest of you could offer up a little prayer on our behalf, as we go through these early “honeymoon” phases, try to get his insulin and blood sugars leveled out, learn to immerse this into our already-busy lifestyle, and soon begin the search for that perfect dog that will become JR’s personal, 4-legged guardian.  We’d greatly appreciate it.

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Have you ever been doing your thing, whatever that happens to be at the time, and just received encouragement in some unexpected way?  I love it when that happens, and, for me at least, it often seems to happen when I don’t even know I need encouragement.  Yet, I feel my spirit lift anyway.

Today, it happened twice.  First, the kiddos and I went to a restaurant after church.  When I went to pay, the manager walked over and handed me $20–enough to pay for the majority of our bill.  He explained another customer had just given it to him, and asked him to deliver the message, “Thank you for having such well-behaved children.  We just wanted to help with your lunch today.”  Funny thing is, that’s the second time it’s happened in the same restaurant.  The customers, I’ve noticed, are mostly elderly folks, so I can only assume they have a greater appreciation for manners and respect than today’s generation.

As if that wasn’t encouraging enough, I got home, and decided to add a light bar to JR’s new desk.  I had purchased this LED light bar off the internet, based on some good reviews.  I got the box all opened up, was trying to figure it out, and as I looked on the box for directions, I saw this:

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In case you can’t read it, the side of the box says, “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” – 2 Samuel 22:29

Two simple choices by 2 different people, but both were such an encouragement to me today, and because of such a simple gesture (and the fact the lights work great!), I will absolutely be buying more to support this company, which by the way is called, “Lightkiwi.”

In case you haven’t been following this blog for long, 2 of our boys are adopted.  4 year old N has cerebral palsy, and many “quirks” we could never explain.  He has mild asthma, allergies, chronic nasal congestion, frequent nosebleeds, stiff muscles, and a very short attention span.  He also cries at anything and everything.  4 (almost 5) year old A was likely exposed to meth in utero.  He may have mild seizures (docs disagree), has major balance issues, and does not understand or learn easily.  He is confused and overwhelmed by change, and will mentally “shut down” as a result.  Throughout their lives, both boys have spent many months going through all sorts of therapies, medical tests, chiropractic care, and naturopathic care, all in an attempt to help them reach their full potential.  Unfortunately, none of this effort has helped me learn how to “deal” with their issues, as doctors and therapists have been unable to find reasons behind their many issues, so most doctors and therapists simply explained them away with “it’s probably related to N’s CP” or “it’s probably just a symptom of the drugs we think he was exposed to.”  Since the professionals couldn’t figure out the root problem, they also couldn’t advise me as to how to best handle the boys in order to keep the day-to-day peace in our home when N loses control of his actions and/or A goes into his “shut-down” or tantrum mode.

Last year, friends recommended a new therapist who had a different focus.  After reading up on her works, best summarized in her book, “Miracle Children” by Anna Buck, we were intrigued.  Unlike the professionals we had seen previously who focused on treating symptoms or evaluated the main areas of the brain, Anna’s work focuses on neurological issues originating in the brain stem.  Essentially, the main idea behind her work is that many, if not most, neurologically-related developmental delays and learning difficulties can be attributed to a lack of proper development of the brain stem itself.  The brain stem is the first part of the brain to develop, both in utero and during an infant’s first year of life.  As it matures, it then signals other parts of the brain to begin maturing.  On occasion, however, something will go a little wrong in the early development and prevent the brain stem from maturing completely.  As a result, the child will continue to develop, but he/she will begin to compensate for deficiencies in other ways, which mask the problems.  This explains why A and N are both able to ride a 2-wheel bike with no training wheels, but can’t recite their alphabet.  In reality, they never fully outgrow infantile responses to circumstances (ie, the morro reflex).  Eventually, however, the immaturities will catch up, and delays will be seen in areas such as academic learning problems, balance issues, behavioral issues, and many more.  Although a bit different than mainstream therapy, her work is quite fascinating, and actually makes a lot of sense–especially when, like in our situation, there have been no other explanations for the issues we encounter on a daily basis.

She is booked several months out, so it has been a long wait for our appointment.  This past Friday, she finally evaluated the boys to see if her therapy could help them.  The results were very interesting.  We get used to seeing our boys on a daily basis, so I guess it’s natural that we justify and explain behaviors and quirks as them just “being who they are.”  In reality, though, watching her evaluate them, and witnessing their responses to the exercises she asked them to do, we were able to see their behaviors through new eyes.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were not watching 4-year-old boys play.  Rather, we were watching 12-18 month-olds play, and they just happened to have big bodies.  The more testing she did, the more clear it became.

It. Explained. SOOOOOO. Much!  We realized we were seeing our toddler daughter, R, last year.

N’s constant crying and A’s temper tantrums are exactly how R acted when she didn’t get her way 8 months ago, as an 18 month old.  Their inability to focus on a task or follow more than one or two instructions is where R was just a few months ago.  Their lack of self-control and impulses are exactly the way a one-year-old responds to things.  Our eyes were opened so much, and suddenly, puzzle pieces just “fit” together. I realized that many of my daily struggles were being self inflicted as a result of treating my 3 youngest like 2 pre-schooler and one toddler, when in actuality, I had 3 toddlers.

TRIPLETS!!!  Who knew?!  Somehow, this wasn’t good news to me, though.  It totally explains why A, N, and R seem to speak baby-talk to each other on a regular basis, why A and N prefer playing with R’s toys over M’s and JR’s, and why they are no closer to learning phonics or counting higher than R is.  They are literally on the same level, if not slightly behind in some areas, than R.

The good news is that Anna felt it was very treatable, and with specific exercises that target the brain stem, she felt N could possibly catch up within a year or two.  She feels A also has a great chance of catching up, though it may take longer.  There are different therapeutic exercises that will be prescribed over their time in treatment, but all can be done at home.  The one we are working on first, based on their greatest ares of deficiency, is called the “Burrito.”  I will post a video and explanation at the end.

Of course, there was bad news too.  First, she explained how A’s inability to control his bladder during sleep can be directly attributed to the immaturity of his brain stem.  She said we are likely looking at many years of bed-wetting yet, as it may be one of the last symptoms to disappear as his entire neurological system catches up.  She explained that N’s allergies, asthma, and particularly his bad nosebleeds may not improve when we move (a big reason behind the kids and I moving early as a doctor thought the lower altitude and increased humidity would help), as they too may or may not be connected to his neurological development.  She feels those issues have a good chance of improving as his brain matures and catches up though.  Finally, probably the worst news I could have received at this point in time, was that the simple therapeutic exercises we do each evening will possibly cause things to get much worse before they get better.  N fights the exercise a lot when we are actually doing the therapy, but seems unaffected otherwise.  A, on the other hand, does well during the exercise itself, but has been affected quite drastically the rest of the day.  Every day since we started, his entire mood has changed for the first half the day–for the worse.  She warned us this might happen, because essentially, the exercises, ridiculously simple as they are, are extremely fatiguing to the brain (to put it VERY simply).  The brain stem is literally being faced with its own shortfalls and trying to figure out where to improve the neurological connections (or something to that effect), and therefore, can temporarily cause all sorts of “misfiring” and behavior issues.  As I type, A is once again screaming his head off in his bedroom.  We have gone through phases of “shut down” where he won’t talk or play, phases of being extremely tired and just wanting to sleep, phases of aggression and acting out, and phases of almost inconsolable crying and screaming.

That is NOT what I hoped to get out of this therapy.  It was hard enough to keep the peace before hand with A, and now this.  It is a little overwhelming, and I can only pray that God will bring us through this stage quickly and smoothly, and give me the patience and endurance I will be needing this coming year as the boys work through all this.  If it will help them in the long run, I am willing to try.  Honestly, after everything we have tried so far, I am afraid to hope that such simple exercises will help them the way they need, but Anna seems confident, her research and case studies seem to support it–not to mention the fact she treats children from all over the world and does have such an incredibly long waiting list.  I am trying to be positive, to not expect any major changes for at least a year (since an infant normally takes a year to mature this area of the brain stem properly), and to just take it one day at a time with A, reminding myself constantly that even though these phases are hard to deal with, he is not doing them intentionally.  Again, he is simply a 12 or 18 month old acting out, just in a 5-year-old’s body.  Believe it or not, somehow, that last concept makes it a little easier to deal with.  These changes also show, according to Anna, that SOMETHING is happening with his brain because of these exercises, and that is a positive in itself, even if we temporarily seem to be going the wrong way.  It is all a process of his brain having to figure out where it is lacking, where it has been covering up and compensating, and trying to re-develop properly this time.

In the event you are interested, the exercise we are working on now is called “Burrito”.  I honestly don’t fully understand how it works for the brain, but apparently it does something to cause all sorts of nerve firings and brain stem stimulation, as the body is slowly moving and compensating for the angle and sensations it feels.  First, the boys lay on a soft, stretchy blanket, with their head sticking out one side, and their feet out the other.  Their arms are beside their body.  I began rolling them slowly….VERY slowly…in the blanket, transitioning from their back to their belly, and then returning to their back.  The whole exercise takes about 4-5 minutes.  If at any point in the roll their body stiffens or otherwise “fights” with certain signals Anna told us to look for, then I stop rolling and just allow the brain to work through its issue.  Once they relax again, I resume rolling.  At the end of the exercise, I have to use sensations of squeezing, rubbing, and “poking” to stimulate other nerves.  One day, we roll one direction, and the next day, we roll the other direction.  Again, I don’t fully understand how it works, but I’m willing to try.

In this video, you’ll notice we are quiet.  I cannot explain what we are doing, or the boys could begin to force what they perceive to be what I desire, rather than allowing their brain to figure it out on its own.  At the same time, to minimize distractions, we try not to have the other children being too noisy or distracting.  Notice that N LOVES this exercise, and is all smiles the whole time.  Notice, also however, how squirmy he is, how his head is constantly moving, and how he just can’t seem to keep his arms down at times.  Even when laying on his belly, his little bum keeps bouncing up.  Those are all signs of his fighting whatever issues his brain stem is trying to deal with.  According to Anna, the brain has to work through a lot of insecurities that have developed as a result of his learning to compensate for deficiencies in the brain stem.  Sounds totally confusing, I know.  Anyway, maybe that gives you some idea what you are seeing in the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IulgGNfAHGM&feature=youtu.be

For more information on therapist Anna Buck, or the work of Anna’s House LLC, click here.

Oh, the moment every parent dreads….the BIG talk.

S and I have discussed this event on numerous occasions, and the importance of explaining it in such a way that the children would understand that Biblically-founded marital intimacy is a wonderful, God-designed, and God-intended thing.  Like most parents, though, it was a very mature topic we weren’t exactly looking forward to discussing with the children.  Because of the many pregnancies of animals and friends the children have been exposed to, we have described pregnancy in detail.  We just kinda left out the actual conception part of things.  They understood the basics–girls have eggs all the time (that’s why hens lay them for us to eat).  It takes a boy to make the eggs fertile, which is why there are no chicks without a rooster, and no baby bunnies or goats without a buck.  In the beginning, it was easier to allow the children to make up their own ideas as to how conception occurred.  For the most part, early on, they believed a girl just didn’t get pregnant until God blessed her with a man, and they got married.  For some reason, they didn’t link humans and animals at first.  However, I suppose it was inevitable seeing as how JR has been heading up our rabbit program for about a year now.  I still handled the actual breedings of the rabbits, since JR was clueless as to the details of how to know when the breeding was successful, but I have been ready to hand that over to him for some time no.  Miraculously, despite all the children being witness to rabbit and goat breedings, certain, um, details, remained (thankfully) hidden from view.  As time went by, though, questions began arising….

“Why does he have to mount the back end?  Why can’t she get pregnant if he mounts the front end?”  (“umm, That’s just the rule. Hey, did you finish your schoolwork?”)

“Why do we have to actually wait until the rabbit squeaks and falls over?”  (“umm, That’s his way of telling us he’s finished. Hey, did you finish cleaning your room?”)

We quickly learned short answers to specific questions were key, and then distraction worked wonders.   Then, of course, we experienced our first open adoption, where the kids have gotten to know a single birth mom.  JR caught on really quick.  The other evening, as we sat down dinner, he asked, “I don’t understand…animals don’t get married, and since a girl doesn’t really have to be married, and she just has to be close to a boy, then how does she know she won’t get pregnant while sitting in church and boy sits next to her?”  OH BOY!  He HAD to ask at the dinner table, in front of all the other siblings, and he HAD to select church of all places as his example!!

I looked at Daddy, who agreed, nonchalantly, to chat with him about it later, and we changed the subject.  We quietly told JR to stay up when the other kids went to bed.  After tucking the other kids into bed, Daddy took JR downstairs to have THE talk.  I made myself very busy, of course ensuring I could eavesdrop on the conversation.  I had no clue what to expect from such a conversation.  Shoot, my folks managed to hide the facts from me until I was well into my teens, and then gave me a book to read that contained the details.

JR, age 8. Photo by A Better Image Photography

JR, age 8.
Photo by A Better Image Photography

I won’t offer details, but Daddy explained the principles behind it, how God intended things to be, how sometimes people mess up that intention, and then related it to JR’s rabbits.  Finally, he emphasized that discreetness was needed out of respect for other parents and children who didn’t know.  This was a very special adult subject, and  children should only know about it when their parents thought they were ready.  JR was surprisingly mature about the conversation.  He asked a few questions, and we could tell the little wheels in his head were spinning as he absorbed the information.  Behind his eyes, we could tell he was fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together, and things were finally making sense to him.  About 10 minutes later, the discussion was over, we all exchanged hugs and kisses and sent him off to bed.

Surprisingly, though, JR hasn’t brought up the subject since.  It’s as though all his questions were finally answered, he feels all the pieces of the puzzle have fitted together, and he is totally content with that.  Out of respect to his siblings and our wishes, he has never even eluded to the topic with them.  Now that we have crossed this major milestone, we have one down, four to go.  I have a feeling it won’t get any easier.  Our plan has long been that I will talk to the girls, and S will talk to the boys.  I guess it’s my turn next, but I confess, I’m sure glad we have only 2 girls and 3 boys!!

Do you ever have “one of those days?”  Particularly as a parent?  You know, the kind of day where you are thankful for your children, but you can’t quite remember why they are considered a blessing?  Yeah, that was my day today, as I continually reminded myself how I couldn’t possibly live without them.  However, the day was supported on each end by some really cool events!

It all started about 48 hours ago, when S asked me to check his e-mail for something.  One seemed a typical phishing e-mail–the type that tries to get you to click a link and get your personal info.  It said we had a check they were trying to send us, but they needed to confirm info.  I almost deleted it, but then noticed that the e-mail did NOT contain a link to click, but did contain a good bit of personal info about us already, which got my attention and made me nervous.  The signature line included the name and contact information for someone supposedly from the Attorney General’s Office of CO.  Rather than responding directly to the e-mail, I decided to investigate.  I googled the CO AG’s office, called that number, spoke to the operator, and asked her if a person by the name listed in our e-mail worked there.  They did, so I left a message on their voicemail.  She called a couple hours later, and turns out it was totally legit!  Two years ago, a debt collector trying to find someone else, called our house at 5:30 in the morning, waking us up, and putting S in a REALLY bad mood.  Later that day, he filed a complaint with the AG’s office per CO instructions.  We never heard another word about it, and totally forgot about it until this person reminded me.  Apparently, a few others had done the same, and the AG began an investigation.  Recently, the investigation was closed, and the debt collection company was fined a significant sum for breaking CO laws regarding when and who they were allowed to call.  Now, the AG office was trying to track down the “victims” of those calls, and send them their portion of the fines.  Now, we are expecting a nice, unexpected Christmas bonus!!

Then, yesterday morning started out pretty typical, but after breakfast, R began vomiting.  My day’s plans were shot, though I rather enjoyed spending a few hours just laying on the couch with her, bucket handy of course.  She slept a few hours, then seemed to improve around lunch time.  I kept her on the BRAT diet for most of the day until I was confident she would keep food down.

First thing this morning my little “biggest” rebel, N, who just can’t seem to resist any sort of temptation, snuck a lollipop, gobbled it up, and when I caught him, he flat out lied about it.  Of course, the “Very Berry” flavored breath was a dead give-away.  As a part of his discipline, I told him he would not be allowed any yummy treats that we were making.  Later, the other kids and I made Monkey Bread, and I specifically instructed N not to touch it, and had a discussion with him to ensure he understood what he had done wrong.  We fed him a non-sweet snack to at least help him not be hungry.  Yet, no sooner did I turn my back, he snuck into the kitchen, and ate the treat.  Let’s just say that was his last fun moment of the day, as it got REALLY boring after that.

After my lecture to N, I stood up and turned around to find R drinking out of the dog bowl.

Shortly after, JR reported to me (for the second day in a row) that one of his school books was lost.  I threatened him with consequences if he didn’t find it.  He eventually found it, but only after half-emptying his school bookshelf all over the floor, crying about it a bit, and insisting it had to be his brothers that misplaced it (it wasn’t).  Then, he had trouble with his math, and his entire school day took him over 9 hours with a few breaks in the middle (it should take 3-4).  That was followed by an incredibly sore throat that left him unable to eat dinner or speak this evening.

M and A have both suffered a bit of discipline over the last two days due to their seeming inability to listen and follow instruction of late.  She was better today, but still had her fair share of arguments with her brothers.  A and N have both begun whining a lot, which drives me batty.  “Talk like a big boy” has become a common phrase around this house.

As if that wasn’t enough, R, who has been potty training for the last 2 weeks (and doing extremely well), came into the room where I was to see what I was doing.  A sudden and unexpected bought of diarrhea hit her, and the next thing I knew, I had stinky mush on my carpet.  Got that cleaned up, took a deep breath, and said, “I think I can, I think I can….”

Nap time finally arrived, and I got online to do some Christmas shopping.  Shopping for the children when the children haven’t exactly been on their best behavior can be a good thing, actually.  I have a feeling it SAVED me quite a bit of money!  I did however find a great gift on Craigslist.  I contacted S and he arranged to pick the gift up on his way home.  We really needed two, but one would suffice for now.  He arrived at the persons house, only to find out that they had TWO!!  For slightly less than retail price for one, we got TWO awesome gifts for the kids this winter!

S got home, took over the kiddos before my head exploded, and I went and cooked dinner.  I read a book to the children for a little while, we ate dinner, and then S put the kids to bed while I went for a jog.  I can’t even remember the last time I did that!!!  I think it was about the time the number of children outgrew the number of seats in the jogging stroller!  Yeah, I really needed to blow off some steam so I could focus on hubby for once today!!

Oh, this is my life.  The good, the bad, the exhilirating, the exhausting, and the downright ugly.  I guess I need days like this sometimes to keep me humble and remind me that I am NOTHING without Christ.  So, despite days like this, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

Why do we homeschool?  Are our children keeping up with their public school peers?  Are we making the right choice?  Are we using the right curriculum?  Are we using the best homeschool method?  Why don’t they enjoy learning as much as I want them to?  Why aren’t they grasping this concept faster?  Is it OK to break the traditional 8-3, M-F school day?  Will we finish our school year on time?  And what is “on time” exactly? 

N, 2 yrs., built some sort of "train track" (as he calls it) for his cars to drive on. My son, who is *statistically* supposed to be way behind in fine motor skill development due to his CP, did it by completely by himself one day, while I was working with the other children in the next room.

This homeschool year is our 3rd official year of homeschooling.  JR is in 1st grade, M is in K-4, and A and N do a little Montessori activity on the side.  It is our 2nd year using the Abeka curriculum.  This year has been a little rough.  Between the housing issues causing a lot of interruptions and delays in our schooling, holidays and vacations that resulted in us taking weeks at a time off, and the birth of our newest baby, I have really struggled to stay even close to “caught up” on our assignments and daily lesson plans.  The anticipated upcoming move only added to the pressure I was feeling.  After we re-started school after the Christmas holidays, I began having a lot of attitude problems with JR during certain school lessons.  It caused me to get a bit frustrated and I threatened to burn out for a short spell.  All the circumstances combined to make me start asking myself the questions above.  I really had to start praying and re-evaluating my reasons and choices.  S and I had a lot of discussion, and fortunately, even on my roughest days, he was the one that pushes me to continue because he so strongly believed in what we are doing.  In an attempt to really find some solutions to my problems, I started experimenting with our school day a bit.  I researched other curriculums and school methods again.  Then, recently, I talked to some fellow homeschool moms that attend our church.  Over the last couple weeks, I have had some HUGE light-bulb moments in regards to what our priorities are, and how they relate to our homeschooling in general. 

I realized that I was putting far to much pressure on myself to create a more traditional schooling experience for my children.  I was trying to document lessons, organize worksheets, keep good records, and train the children to act almost like they were among 30 other children in a classroom– they should sit still, with good posture, be quiet, focus on work, and ask questions only with permission. 

When I began to re-evaluate, I began to see why homeschooling was no fun for the kids!  We homeschool because we want MORE for our children than a standard school day!  Yet, I had become a bit of an ogre of a teacher, with my priorities completely mixed up!  I immediately backed off.  I lessened the seat work I was requiring, quit following the teacher’s manual so strictly, and waited to see what would happen.  I also began to watch the children.  I realized that my 4 and 6 yr. old children both read far better than their public-school friends and neighbors of the same age.  My 6 yr. old can read a traditional clock and tell me what time it is.  JR can count to 200 by 1’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 25’s.  M can count almost to 100, and A can count to ten and identify many letters of the alphabet.  JR can add and subtract 2-digit numbers, and understands basic fractions like 1/2, 1/3, and 1/4.  He can count money to a point, understands basic sentence structure, can spell many words, and is starting to write multi-sentence stories in cursive.  Much more important than basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, our children can sing praise and worship to our Heavenly Father.  They can tell us what communion is, how the earth was created, and identify many people of the Bible.  They know Jesus loves them personally, and created each of them in their own special and unique ways. 

When I started to realize what they did know, I quit worrying so much about teaching them what they didn’t.  Amazingly, many of the bad attitudes and resistance disappeared, and were replaced by more willing attitudes in regards to completing schoolwork.  Formal learning, while perhaps not their favorite past-time, became more enjoyable.  I also began to realize that even though we had fallen a bit behind in some seat work areas, we had more than made up for it in real-life lessons.  We have visited the zoos where I have been able to use my extensive history in the animal field to teach my children all sorts of things about animals of our world.  We have gone inisde real working gold mines, panned for gold, attended rodeos, hiked to mountain tops, learned about our military, and so much more! We have been able to travel the country-side and give the children visual and personal experience in the states and places they have studied.  I have been able to turn on the news or youtube.com and let them listen to and see images of things happening in our world today.  They have been able to watch the duties a president or a king or a dictator performs, and see how they treat their people differently.  They have watched the poverty that some people live in, and we have been able to discuss our blessings in detail.  We recently attended a Native American Indian festival, where they learned all about traditional Native American crafts, beliefs, dress, and more.  Where they were once a bit nervous at the idea of an “Indian,” they were able to mingle and talk to real Indians, and see that we were all the same in God’s eyes.  They have been able to participate in projects to help and serve others.  They have been able to witness daily the duties of being a husband/wife/father/mother, as S and I try diligently to include them in many of our household responsibilities.  JR has learned to prepare and even cook basic meals with no assistance.  The older children have been able assist us with their new baby sister, learning how to dress, bathe, feed, diaper, swaddle, soothe, etc.  Because they don’t just leave every morning and come home to a clean house every afternoon, they have experienced first hand the effort that it takes to clean and keep clean.  Oh, how the list could go on. 

Native American tipi

Learning the different meanings of different Indian dances.

An Indian child, who is learning the art of the dances.

My point in this once-again-too-lengthy post is that I am learning that in order to be most effective, homeschooling has to be integrated as a way of life.  In order to work through those rough days, it must be about so much more than the seatwork, formal curriculum, and daily lesson plans.  It must be about earning our children’s hearts, showing our children the world, allowing them to experience as much as we can about the world around them.  Rather than focusing on teaching basic arithmetic, I can show them why we need arithmetic to cook, mix cleaners, and build things around the house.  It is my job to teach them how learning can be fun through these experiences.  As part of this, I am learning it is OK to mix-and-match homeschool methods and curriculums so it suits us and our children.  I can tailor and customize to each child, so JR can learn by hands-on experience, M can read about adventures, I can use activities to help A with his focus, and allow N to always be improving his fine motor skill development.  It is OK to not limit JR to his one lesson per day, but rather, to allow and reward him for taking initiative to work ahead on future lessons when he finds them easy and understands.  When I do feel a bit behind, it is perfectly acceptable to do school on the weekends, or to do the minimum needed for that day.  And through it all, because I am there, I can better ensure that godly, bibilical seeds are being planted so that they can grow spiritually as well as physically and mentally.   After all, isn’t “raising the next generation for Christ” the foundational basis of true Christian parenting?

Between having 5 children, homeschooling, cooking from scratch and raw ingredients, and still trying to maintain a home and be a good wife, one of the most frequent questions I receive is “How do you find time to do it all?”

Although there are several ways, I have to say, the greatest decision we ever made in regards to our time was getting rid of our TV.  We actually got rid of it after JR was born, were without for about 2 years, then got a new one with the intent of entertaining the kids through approved videos only.  Over the next 2 years though, we realized that we used the TV, and watched the videos just because they were there.  We also began to see that, no matter how wholesome a show we chose, there was always something negative that entered our children’s minds through that show.  One video was just wonderful, but then we realized there were a few instances of a negative, disrespectful attitude from a child toward an adult, and toward the end of the show, they slipped in one single curse word.  Another show was about as wholesome, moral, and upright as it got, yet, our children still saw smoking and drinking as a part of the background story–and worse, they began to act it out.  Thus, we got rid of the TV again. 

I have to tell you, the hardest part of getting rid of the television was taking the actual step to do it.  As a nation, we have become so incredibly dependent on TV.  We get our news from it (half of which is not entirely truthful anyway), and we seek our entertainment and “me-time” from it.  We often seek our children’s education from it (Dora teaches Spanish, Sesame Street teaches alphabet, Barney teaches good morals, and Discovery/TLC teaches all sorts of great things, are all reasons I have been given in support of a TV).  If you really think about it though, are we using the TV truly to teach our children, or are we really using it as an excuse to keep our children occupied, with the hopes they’ll learn something from it in order to justify the decision? 

This was the question I was forced to ask myself, and I realized that, although some good lessons were being learned, overall, the children were being exposed to more negative than I desired, and these negative things were planting “weed seeds” in the little minds I was trying so hard to cultivate properly with seeds of Godly purity and wisdom.  Furthermore, I had to ask myself, “Did I really want TLC/Discovery/cartoons teaching my children those critical life lessons in ethics, morals, and foundational skills?”  When I put it that way, of course the answer was a resounding “NO!”  I began to observe TV in a different light.  We would go to a restaurant or doctor’s office with a TV in the background, and I would observe the messages contained in the commercials that were influencing my children.  I began to see how the girls on the shows dressed very provacatively and inappropriately, according to what we were trying to teach our children about modesty.  I began to witness the way the actors interacted with each other, and what it said about healthy relationships.  And I realized that my desire for the children to be educated and entertained by television was a very unwise choice. 

Once we tossed the TV, DVD’s, and videos, we suddenly had a great deal more free time available.  Although we honestly believed that we watched “very little” television during the week, it was amazing how my time was freed up without out.  Obviously, we watched more than we realized.  Of course, it meant I suddenly had to get more creative about keeping the children busy throughout the day, and I became pretty solely responsible for their education, but I was OK with that.  As time went on, I got better at that. 

That all being said, I do not think any and all TV is a sin persay.  I do think it is possible to find educational and informative things to watch, and ways in which you can enjoy the movies together.  I believe the sin part develops as the dependence develops.  Once we had been without it for a while, we subscribed to a very basic online-only Netflix program.   For a very minimal fee, we are able to access some excellent documentaries and learning shows.  Prior to watching something, I can review everything about that show, why it is rated the way it is, and what other viewers have to say about it.  While I have certainly had times of desperation when I put the toddlers in front of an episode of Thomas the train, this is quiet rare and generally reserved for those “bad” days when I just absolutely need to focus on something else for a short spell.  While most of our evening family time involves playing a game together, reading a book, or physically playing, about once every month or two, we might sit down as a family and watch a good family movie together.  If something negative should pop up, because we are right there with them, we are able to either turn the movie off and/or discuss what is going on.  Even then, we must use great caution. 

I recently looked through a catalog from a Christian bookstore, and they offered several DVD’s for sale.  Since it was in their catalog, I assumed they were relatively wholesome, so I went into my Netflix account, and reserved a couple titles that sounded good.  One evening, after the kids were in bed, S and I decided to curl up on the couch and watch one.  I was absolutely shocked to find that this Christian-book-store-recommended movie contained messages of divorce, pre-marital sex, curse words, bad attitudes, and seriously mis-guided perspectives on relationships.  You must always be on your guard!

Besides the time savings, we have also witnessed many other benefits.   They used to have a tendency to beg for TV everytime they were bored.  Now, they know life does not revolve around the TV, and rarely ask to watch anything.  They have learned to be much more imaginative and creative in their play, and play outdoors regularly.  They can also play independently, for hours in some cases, without the constant need to be entertained by someone or something.  They are not exposed to advertisements, which means we can easily walk through a toy store without them begging for every item they saw on television commercials.  Our decision has helped develop children that are quite content in the life they have, which is absolutely priceless!  It also makes it much easier for us as parents to be the primary influence on their beliefs and development, without the distraction or mixed messages received from the TV.  At the same time, they know that some shows can be used as a tool to learn.  For example, if we are studying some type of animal in science, I can look up an educational film about that animal so the kids can see it in action on the screen.   

So there you have it.  I encourage everyone–especially Christians–to toss the secular messages of the TV, and just get rid of it.  We are called to protect our minds, and more importantly, the minds of our children.  Obviously, the older children are, the more difficult that step might be, but then again, the more difficult it is, the more obvious your family’s dependence on the TV will be.  If nothing else, I encourage you to take a few TV periods and sit down and watch with your children.  But, this time, observe what you are seeing from a Biblical, Christ-standard perspective.  Watch for the subliminal messages being passed to your children through behaviors, dress, jokes, and comments.  I dare say, you will be very astounded and disheartened at what you find.

If you are interested in more insight, or a more Bible-based perspective on this issue, read a post I wrote some time ago about contaminating our lives.

 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”   Philippians 4:8

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