Friday, October 26, 2012

Five Minute Friday: VOICE

By design, we have one.  Some have lost their's.  Many have never found their's. 

Other's overuse or abuse with their's.

  Precious few have trained their's.  Brought it into submission. 

 Coach it and trained it.

In my home, we discuss our "Error Risks"

To properly define our error risks allows us the opportunity to devise a strategy, plan of attack, for cultivating the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors
necessary to balance out the error risks so that it doesn't enslave us.

Christ proclaimed freedom for the captives.  Let us not present our neck again for the yoke.

My oldest is a sweet hearted pleaser.  Lovely.  However, his error risk is to quelch his voice to please another.  Sometimes, this is Christ like love, esteeming others more highly than yourself.  Sometimes, it's just wet-stinky doormat syndrome that can lead to resentment, which leads to bitterness.  Ugly, Ruinous.  Deep.

He needs to know he's not responsible for the happiness and well being of others. 
Each of us is responsible for his own house.  Including the cultivation of our own garden in such a way as to not allow a bitter root to grow.
He needs to develop his "NO" muscle.
Coached in the fine art of when to use it.
My second was born with a loud and powerful voice and she's never been afraid to use it.
Her error risk is to slice and wound which, left unmastered, would cause others to pull back in self protection, creating distance that would unintentionally wound her enormously loving heart.

She needs to learn disciplineTo time herself out before she speaks
To master her quick temper.
She needs patience and encouragement.
Close lovers of her heart that will not allow self protection to drive a wedge.
She is a roaring lion.
She needs those who can courageously lover her.
My little man hides his voice.
He suppresses it.  Afraid he hasn't practiced enough.
That the words won't be perfect.

His error risk is to avoid grace.

He needs space and time to find the courage to practice his voice.
It needs to result in a positive experience for the effort.
Lots of encouragement and celebration.
He needs extra grace when he messes up and apologizes.


James said it, and I paraphrase, "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"
James 3:10

The purpose of the VOICE
To Proclaim the Excellencies our our God

and to Ephesians 4:29

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for editfication according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

and to Ephesians 4:25 
 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each on of you with his neighbor,
for we are members of one another.

We must do both in balance.
We must receive both.
We must be trained in both.

Five Minute Friday is a blog challenge thrown down each week by Lisa-Jo Baker
Details here

Facebook:  Homeschooling in High Heels
Twitter:  HSinHighHeels

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ah! The Abstract Sequential-logical and objective

Ah!  The Abstract Sequential-logical and objective

This is a third installment in a 4 part series on Gregorc Learning Styles.  We've defined Concrete/Random/Abstract/Sequential and combined them Concrete/Sequential (CS) (here) and Abstract/Random (AR) (here)

Information!  Knowledge!  Research!  They love it and they may think that everyone loves it as much as them.  Ask them a question and you'll likely get a very long, detailed answer.  Just when you think they've completed their answer, they may say "and that's just one point of view."  Then they may continue to answer with a dissenting opinion to the first part of the answer.  Again, it's all about analysis and being objective.  All points of view considered. 

You'll recognize an AS as an adult as the person who is slower to make decisions, seeming to endlessly explore ALL the options.  It seems to be more about the process of making the decision than it is the actual decision for the AS.  They will apply this logic to real estate transactions which is great, but it can seem a little much when they take 30 minutes to select the perfect restaurant for lunch.  After much research, they may hit the enter key to complete a cardigan purchase, convinced they've found the best deal.  If they discover that same item later for $3 cheaper, they may be compelled to return their original purchase to take advantage of the $3 savings.  If the $3 savings is gobbled up by the cost of returning the original cardigan, they may berate themselves for "making a bad decision" and they may scrutinize future purchases even more to avoid 'making another mistake.'

Author Cynthia Tobias gives this example of her AS husband: 

They had an argument while they were dating.  Cynthia poured her jumbled thoughts into an emotional letter and mailed it to her future husband.  When they got back together to discuss her letter, he had rewritten her letter in outline form, complete with Roman Numerals I, II, III and subheadings A, B, C.  She was horrified.  His explanation?  "Cindy I love you.  What you wrote obviously meant a lot to you.  If I were to just answer you off the top of my head, I might well miss the points that were most important to you.  So I put this in a format where I could be sure all your concerns were addressed."

That may just be the perfect illustration for not only an AS person, a great example of how our different styles can clash and cause us to feel unloved, even when love is being shown, just in another language.

As a parent, an AS may struggle with communicating with little ones.  AS's think in logic and reason.  Not a strong suit for a 2 year old.  Moms if you're an AS and you feel guilty for getting frustrated with little kids, or maybe feeling sometimes like you don't like them, this might be why.  You're not broken.  You're not mean.  Just wait till your kid is old enough to win the science fair, you'll knock it out of the park because your research can't be beat.  Let go of the guilt, but be aware of some of the real effects you may have and compensate.  Adjust.  Learn new ways.  Get a band aid, this might sting a bit. 

AS parent, a little truth in love:  To your kids or even your spouse, you might tend to come off as overbearing or lecture-y.  Another example from Tobias, a simple request for a puppy could turn into an NCIS interrogation to collect data.  Who's going to feed it?  Where will you keep it?  How much is grooming?  Vet?  What about kenneling for vacations?  Vitamins?  Shedding?  All the while, your six year old daughter is looking at your with tears welling in her eyes and her hair blown back thinking 'I don't know....they're just so fluffy and cute.'  And you're right Mom or Dad, your kids should learn to make logical, well thought out choices and you will be a blessing to them in that way.  But maybe celebrate the request, "You're thinking you'd like a puppy?  That might be neat.  They are cute and fluffy.  Let's sit down together and make a list of what it would take to raise a puppy and see if it's a possibility.  Would you like to help with that?"  See?  Less tears.

Another thing an AS parent may tend to do is 'beat a dead horse.'  You know, your kid just learned a lesson and you feel compelled to verbally clarify everything you think they should have learned.  And you're probably right.  And you're probably more well motivated than you come across.  You don't like to see your kids hurt (pain often accompanies learning a lesson) so you want to make sure they've learned the lesson well so they don't have to suffer this pain again.  But it comes off as self-righteous and condescending more than you know, or more than you intend.  Again, Tobias has good wisdom in this area.  When you start lecturing, grant your kid (or spouse) permission to raise her hand.  If she can sum up the points she feels you're about to make, you have to stop lecturing and get it off your chest another way.  That way, you can know the lesson has been learned, but you've not created distance in your relationship, the result of them protecting themselves from feeling 'stupid' by you feeling the need to explain what they already know, as though you don't think they're smart enough.  Which, you probably don't, but it comes across that way.  Discipline yourself in love.

Your AS child/student:

*They'd rather turn in nothing at all than to turn in something incomplete, or not up to their personal standard.  It can look very stubborn.  But resist getting into a battle over 'their attitude'.  It may not be 'attitude,' but rather an internal integrity issue for them that they don't meet their own standard.  If you spin off into some emotional 'I can't believe you're being so stubborn.  It's not hard, I don't know why you can't just do it" rant, you will lose credibility with an AS.  For your own Spock here mom.  Say something very logical about "I'm sure you have your reasons.  I'd like for us to talk about them (at some designated time) but for right now, I need you to complete the assignment.  When do you think you can have it done?"  Don't let them take too long.  They need to discipline their desire to research.  They do need to learn to work in the time frame allotted.

*They can become disappointed in themselves, or even experience shame, when they are not permitted enough time to explore their options, do their research.  For them, it's like going out in public in their underwear.  They need time.  For little ones, this may mean letting them make their clothing choices the night before so that they are not rushed or making the rest of the family late in the morning and have everyone get frustrated with an AS just doing what an AS does.

 *They may read as shy...but it is not a social issue, necessarily.  It's a processing style that is sometimes demonstrated in social situations.  Calling them shy could make them believe they are something they may not be.  (I'm sure some AS's really are shy.  Just as some other personalities are shy)
*Praise.  But make it authentic.  Your AR kid will give you credit for even false compliments, because he appreciates the sentiment behind it.  But an AS kid will evaluate it to see if it's true.  If he believes it be a false compliment, you lose credibility with them. 

*They have internal standards that may read as a perfectionistic bent.  They need time to do things to their own standard.  If not, they may chose not to do it at all.  Over time, this could develop into a habit of avoidance.  Do your best not to allow discouragement and frustration to morph into an avoidance habit.

*These kids (and adults) need time to process before they speak.  Quick decisions are fool hearty and threatening to an AS.  If you must discuss some matter with them, deliver your proposal or suggestion and include as many options as you can think of.  Then ask for them to get back to you with their thoughts in a few hours, or few days. 

*Email is great for older AS's.  They don't like confusion or emotional rants about "don't you remember, I told you XYZ."  Put it in writing.  That way, you have something to go back to as evidence.  Not to bust them (or you) but they so value logic and their respect for authority hinges on the leader's credibility.

*For a younger kid or a kid that is organizationally challenged or is easily overwhelmed, love him by limiting the options for him.  "What kind of science would you like to study in the 5th grade" may be too broad.  Instead, what might work better is "Darling, you need to have a science credit next year.  I'm convinced Apologia is the way to go, but I'm ok with you deciding which study, astronomy, land or sea creatures.  Would you like to think about it and we can talk again tomorrow?  Here's the website if you'd like to take a look at what each study might look like."

*AS's don't like to talk before they think and think and re-think.  They believe, and it is true, that once you say it, it's out there.  Permanently.  You can't erase it.  Now some of us (AR's) don't care as much.  AR's tend to think out loud.  Our verbal communication comes out in cartoon bubbles over our heads, and we can re-arrange them, change the shape, or take them back and apologize.  No big deal.  But not to an AR.  They are very, very careful.  They're not slow, or shy.  Just cautious as to not make a mistake (like the online shopping)  If you are an AR, in the interest of your relationship with an AS, try to tone it down.  Too much thinking out loud can look flighty and air headed to an AS and it can affect their respect for you.  Unless you're close and the AS is mature, then let it rip.

*They are private, especially with emotions.  They like to ANALYZE their feelings, not talk about them.

*They can get lost in too much research and may need to be encouraged to JUMP.

*They learn more by watching than doing. 

*They are not good at being diplomatic, sentimentality or expressing emotions.

*They may resist change especially if they don't see the need for the change.

AS's thrive on:

ample time to work
credible sources
opportunities for analysis
appreciation for their input

AS's are stressed by:

being rushed
unanswered questions
sentimentality, especially in the decision making process
asked to express their emotions or feelings

Love them by:

giving them ample time to process
space and quiet time to do their processing
put things in writing
if you're an emotional person, turn down your volume when you deal with them (they will view you as more credible.)

When learning:

They may ask "how do we know this is true?"  Don't get frustrated thinking they're questioning your authority.  They are questioning the authority of the information.

They may ask "what have we not considered?"

Coming up?  The last learning style.  The Concrete Random.

Jen Cushen
Facebook:  Homeschooling in High Heels
Twitter:  HSinHighHeels

"LOOK": A List/Five Minute Friday


*Look around.  Most people in the world live in huts, shantis, tents, hovels, some in alleys.  My house would shelter a small village and provide air conditioning.  I'd have to explain.  They wouldn't know what that is.

*Look around.  I went to my closet this morning.  Not a community pile of clothes shared by others.

*Look around.  Do you ever ponder hosting someone from a third world country on their first day to America?  And you take them to Publix? 

*Look into the eyes of your child?  Deep in.  Do you see who their are?  Or merely what you hope them to be?

*Look deep into a disagreement?  Do you see their point?  Do you see your wrong?  Or just their's?

*Look.  At the size of your heart.  Or her's.  Not the waist size.

*Look at your husband.  The man you married.  How would your love best serve him to be the man of God he's called to be?

*Look at your fears.  Do you see them as shackles?  Holding you back.  Weighing you down.

*Look at your insecurities.  Now call them fears and see point above.

*Look at your idols.  Food.  TV.  Social Media.  Bible Study.  Little Miss Do-Good.  Your Family.  REPENT.  Let it go.

*Look full on into the face of Christ.  Is shame holding you back?  Nail it!  Nail it right to the cross.

*Look at the promises of God.  To take out your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  To call you out of darkness and into His wonderful Light.  To be with you where ever you go.  To uphold you in His Victorious Right Hand.  To never leave you.  To never foresake you. 

*Look at the reasons we have to be satisfied in Him.

Jen Cushen
Facebook:  Homeschooling in High Heels
Twitter:  HSinHighHeels

Five Minute Friday is a blog challenge thrown down each week by Lisa Jo Baker/Tales of a Gypsy Mama over at

Writing, unedited, 5 minutes on topic of her choice. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Five Minute Friday: RACE

You'd think SuperMom would have letters on the front of her spandex onsies.

Mine has a number.

Sure, I'm at least 30 lbs overweight.
  (A virtual scrapbook of pregnancy memories.)

I celebrated my 40th birthday, and I don't mean this past year.

Before noon, my body is fueled exclusively by
yogurt and Maxwell House.
But make no mistake, sister.  I'm in a RACE.

I was inducted into this race nearly 13 years ago with the birth of my first child.  "Enjoy it," she said.  "It goes by so fast."

"That's because you're old," I quietly quipped to myself.

She might as well have laced my racing shoes at that very moment.

Now listen, I don't start my day that way.  I mean, the only time I'm slow is when the alarm goes off in the morning.  Even the third or fourth time.  I'm in no hurry then because I've taught the children how to use the coffee maker.

But after that, good gracious Batman, eat my dust.

There's the whole homeschool thing.  And Chores.

I have books to return to the library.  But first I have to drive through the ATM to withdraw a twenty to pay the fees.

Then someone surely has something to do today that requires a load of laundry I had not planned on washing.

There's no bread.  Or milk. 
Or toilet paper. 
 (the only real emergency)

The sole is falling off middle child's shoe and someone left dairy in the car overnight.  We uncovered that little surprise on the way to swim team.

I thought I was going to sit down after dinner, when youngest interrupted to hand me a tiny tooth and a bloody tissue.
No, it wasn't ready, but close enough apparently.

The ToothFairy has been as many as two days late before, but NEVER on a first tooth job.  Those are given priority.

Oh, yes ma'am, I'm in a RACE everyday.  
 A half marathon, at least.

 They grow up so fast.

Today was a chaotic race.  Sometimes they get away from me that way.  But most days, we train slow and steady.
Focused on the goal and training for endurance.

And heck, even this post is late.  But that's kinda how I roll.
It's my first time and I'm not even sure how to 'linky'


Twitter:  HSinHighHeels
Facebook:  Homeschooing in High Heels

What's Five Minute Friday?
We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that I post here at 1 minute past midnight EST ever Friday. And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday

A challenge by Lisa Jo Baker at Tales of a Gypsy Mama.
You may find more info here

Friday, October 5, 2012

Homeschooling, the WHERE of it all

I went to public elementary school in the 1970's.  I remember ambling into the classroom, meeting my new teacher, then scanning the neat rows of desks to find the one that had a laminated piece of construction paper with my name printed in sharpie taped to the front.  I think back now and wonder how I squeezed my tiny heiny into that little desk, open only on one side, and fit my pencil box and brand new Leif Garrett folder in the cubby under the seat.  The first day was exciting.  After that, it was only exciting if the head of the person in front of you became afflicted in some way.   Excessive oil.  Lice.  I remember in the 11th grade, the guy that sat behind me got excited that I learned to french braid.  Sad really.

Sure, when you homeschool, you could do it that way.  IKEA rocks.  Get the desks lined up with color coordinated desk accessories.  Spend money at the teacher store buying colored cardboard divider thingys,  posters of manuscript letters to hang on the wall, folders to do centers (whatever that is)  Clearly, the pastel circles were an unfortunate decorating faux pas that has resulted in an ambiance akin to Easter egg purgatory. 

This is for me.  I love brand new curriculum that's still stiff when you open it.  Complete sets of crayons and glue sticks with lids.  Sharpened pencils all in one place.  It holds the promise that this year will be different.  This year, maybe all the kids will sit quietly for hours as we progress methodically through each subject's curriculum.  In order.  In it's entirety.

This is day 1.  Beginning in the 2nd week I will get blank stares when I ask them to pull out their color coded scissors because they've been lost somewhere in the kitchen, covered with sticky sugar, the result of having been used to cut open freezer popsicles and not returned to their right, very expertly labeled, place.  I will be snapped out of my blind optimism and back into reality that number one son is pretty much fine with school and curriculum any way I pick it.  Number one daughter is probably NOT fine with all the curriculum choices because, in her opinion, if the cover of the book spells SCIENCE that way instead of S-I-A-N-T-S, as it should be spelled, well she doesn't trust it.  And the youngest will stare at the curriculum for less than a minute before he starts flipping it, stabbing at it, shooting it with his finger gun, acting as though he's receiving enemy fire from it, fake dying, resurrecting and re-entering the battle, apparently deaf from the concussion of the imaginary explosions and unable to hear my repeated requests for him to sit back down. 

Notice her face.  She knows this is an exercise in futility and she's only beginning 2nd grade.

But there is hope. I remember once again, that despite my well intentioned plans and curriculum purchases, some of the best learning comes from experiences and talking with experts in their fields of study.  Full immersion.  Curiosity.  Education that involves senses of smell and touch, different kinds of hearing and occasionally taste, not usually engaged by curriculum.

                                                           Maybe science class might look like this:

Or this:

                                                                               Or maybe even this:
Our science classes look exactly like this at Crystal Springs Preserve.  The kids study things like survival training, Florida's native plants and wildlife, biodiversity, symbiosis, water sampling and testing, and orienteering.  Once the kids even passed around skeletons of dead animals to determine if they were carnivores, herbivores or omnivores by studying teeth and eye placement.  A well run program with great content and hands on activities.  Fabulous, and I mean fabulous teachers.  Shout out Sonja and Jessica!

The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) also offers science classes, but more often with a leaning more toward the technology side.  They have great classroom environments and access to the Kids in Charge area with plenty of technology related hands on activities.  And again, fabulous teachers.  Kids that show a particular interest in outer space related sciences, dynamics of flight, robotics and computer roller coaster design, this is the place for you.
Disclaimer:  Any resemblance to actual socialized kids may be purely coincidental.

Afraid they'll miss out on 'normal things' like riding a bus?  There was a bus there once.  We just asked if we could try it out.  It's not a total experience, it's true.  But I'm grateful. 
In my day, the worst thing I ever saw on a bus is people trying to sell cinnamon toothpicks.
I've heard it's worse now.

Public schools are cutting out the arts.  But as homeschoolers, we have availability to attend performances at the Straz Center, festivals, libraries and local theme parks.  One of our favorites is the Finding Nemo show  at Disney's Animal Kingdom.   We've seen it enough times to have the script and score memorized.  It gives us the freedom to notice the production details.  Who knows what fascination will spark the recognition of a child's career calling?

 Additionally, we are able to bring the arts to others...say puppets to Everyday Blessings, a displaced children's residential home.

Spring '11

...and crafts.  This time we were cavorting with some public schooled friends.  But you could probably   pick them out in this picture.  I've heard homeschooled kids look weird. 

Number one son has a particular interest in drawing, cartooning and caricaturing.  At Disney's Hollywood Studios, he has the opportunity to take classes taught by actual Disney Animators, tour Walt Disney's museum on the history of animation and talk with caricature artists around the park who graciously share tricks of the trade and offer encouragement.  It's likely that your public library may offer opportunities to learn from real artists as well.  Sometimes large book stores will host an animator whose book is being released.  All great opportunities to learn if you help your kids to have the confidence and courage to ask questions. 

Light desks.  Disney style.

My kids are much more prone to remember the word Keratin and the fact that it's the substance found in hair, fingernails and Rhinoceros horns if they've actually been this close to a Rhinoceros.  The first thing they'll look up when they get home is the number of African deaths attributed to Rhinoceros each year and we'll be sure to figure out in which areas of Africa we should be most careful should we ever go.  Of course, we already got a taste of tribal costuming and music while we ate lunch and experienced the native language when we talked with the African man hand carving walking sticks under the baobab tree.

 Like Busch Gardens, Disney's Animal Kingdom is passionate about education.  At Rafiki's Planet watch there are plenty of opportunities to observe and interact with animals, trainers, scientists and doctors.  Again, who knows what passions are locked up in your child's heart.   Of course, all of these are opportunities to marvel at the diversity of God's creation.  Up close and personal.

Marine science?  The Florida Aquarium has homeschool classes.  They even offer dissection classes for older students so you don't have to store fetal sharks and sea stars in the home fridge.  Sea World has some great learning opportunities too, as does this aquarium at EPCOT.  Because of homeschooling, we're able to go on really slow days, like Tuesdays in September.  The staff are very available and willing to impart knowledge to eager little kids.  Another experience is Nature's Academy where you are able to go on kayak adventure tours with marine biologists.  Some of these trips include snorkling in grass beds, nature hikes and dissections.

  Not only are they learning....they really are socializing. problem.  EPCOT!

China Coke is not bad.  Costa Rica's too sweet.  Israel Coke is nasty. 

What a wonderful way to spark curiosity about the rest of the world through sampling food, dress, language, culture, architecture, art,  music and live performances. 
Mexico, China, Japan, Italy, Norway (our heritage), England, Morocco, Germany, France, Canada
Good times.

                           Warning:  Studying other countries may lead to the need to costume.
We live in a farming community and have the opportunity to visit various farms and observe operations. 
Since I'm a tragic gardener myself, this provides my kids an opportunity to do the hard work of harvesting a crop and preparing and canning the product for storage.  Strawberry jam is more appreciated when you've labored yourself.  And my kids can certainly appreciate that if they relied on Mom's gardening skills, starvation would be a real possiblity.  We're grateful for the farmers.

EPCOT has wonderful interactive experiences to educate little ones and their parents on the latest developments in hydroponics and other alternative/eco friendly/organic farming. 
Interactive.  Hands on.

Interactive street performers in fake EPCOT England.  We used our map skills to find it.

Auto Mechanics?

It's a true statement that we're blessed to be able to avail ourselves of some of these opportunities.  But please don't be discouraged if your current budget does not permit some of these choices.  There are plenty of opportunities to explore nature particularly through parks, camping, fishing and the like.  Public libraries and county extension offices are a good source of free learning adventures.  My daughter was blessed to spend a few hours a week with a neighbor learning to sew.  Make the decision to be resourceful.  You can always find or make your own opportunities if you decide to.

There's a whole big world out there, and we're in it.  We're exploring, asking questions, participating.  If we want to learn more, we get a book or go on the internet or find an expert in the field.  The kids do it without resistance because they want the information, their interest has been piqued.   Learning is fun and an adventure. 
 Exposure breeds curiosity.  Curiosity produces an environment conducive to learning without resistance.  

                                                   It's true, sometimes it looks like this:
               And sure, we do math and language arts stuff too....but it mostly looks something like this.
                                          She probably forgot about her IKEA desk.

And not for nothing, after little people experience Jedi training at Disney's Hollywood Studios, it's really not too hard to get a kid to do Jedi phonics with a Yoda pen.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Become a Strong Willed Child Whisperer

I have a strong willed child and she's amazing.  And frustrating.  She can smell weakness a mile away and she has no mercy bone, unless she wants something.  Then she's fake sweet.  Or real sweet.  Sometimes it's hard to tell.  She's dramatic and she takes prisoners and she doesn't back down from a fight.  Knowing that is the key to dealing with a strong willed kid. 

I remember hearing a story once about a man who bought a wild horse that everyone predicted was too strong willed to be tamed.  As the story goes, he had sufficient discretionary funds to employ the services of several reputable horse trainers in succession, all of which attempted and failed to bring this animal into submission.  A typical technique of horse training is to convince the animal that the rider is dominant and that the animal is to be submissive.  Think whips and spurs.  This method does work in many cases, especially with mild, even tempered, cooperative beasts.  But some animals are just not content to be herded and fed.  Some are spirited and dominant.  Not entirely confident, but having few options left, the horse owner employed the services of a quadriplegic Native American man to make one last attempt.  The 'horse gentler' as he was called, was placed in the corral with the horse.  For hours the man sat motionless in his wheelchair, head down, never looking the horse in the eye.  After that time, the man maneuvered his wheelchair around beside the animal, eyes down, leaning his head against the horse's side.  After this, the horse allowed a rider to perform the same ritual then mount and ride around the corral.  They had placed the boundaries of the corral fence around the creature, then waited for the animal to get past his own determination to resist which ultimately allowed him to trust because he never felt provoked or threatened.
Hearing this story changed the way I related to my strong willed child. 

With my oldest son, I always knelt down and looked him straight in the eye to communicate my expectations or corrections about behavior.  We had always experienced intimacy and care through that type of communication.  Looking my daughter in the eye seemed to agitate her.  I recognized her focus was divided and all she seemed to want to do was to fight.  It was literally as though she was so preoccupied with her instinct to fight, that she couldn't focus on what I was saying, even if she wanted to.  So one evening, I sent her to her room for some infraction, I don't even remember what it was.  I do remember that there was much verbal protest, a slammed door, nasty comments about hating her life, and all that kind of thing.  I waited about 5 minutes, knocked gently, slipped into her room and sat on the floor just inside the door with my head down and said nothing.  She went on and on about 'it's not fair' and things like that.  I sat motionless and quiet.  It didn't take very long for her curiosity to override her anger, and after she was quiet, I patted the floor beside me, inviting her to sit.   We just sat quietly beside one another, not making eye contact.  I was determined to not speak first.  There were no lectures about her behavior, she already knew it was wrong.  There was no reason to remind her of my authority as her mom, she knew that too.  Both a lecture and a reminder would have insulted her intelligence and thus provoked her to fight.  So I just let the conviction of 'wrongness' fill the air.  I sat quietly beside her, non verbally communicating my constancy in loving her despite her behavior.   I allowed the solemness of my demeanor and facial expression to non-verbally communicate my sadness at her predicament and the fact that my authority was in no way threatened by her behavior.  I knew that she could feel the empathy I had for her in her own struggle with her own behavior.  In other words, I let the ownership of the problem remain indisputably hers.  I stayed completely out of the way of the mirror placed before her by her conscience.  I stood beside her as a fellow sinner non verbally communicating that I'm not afraid of the reflection and helping her to have the courage to look at it full on.  This sense of safety decreased her primal need to fight.  Feeling safe, she gave herself permission to be humble and vulnerable enough to let conviction come. 

She spoke first.  "Mom, I know it's wrong, it's just so hard for me, I just get so mad."  She literally crumbled into a heap in my lap, sobbing.  I stroked her hair and said, "Baby, have you met me?  I totally get it.  I may not have invented the strong will, but I'm a pretty good advertisement."  We both laughed. 

We were able to sit side by side and discuss some of the strategies I've used in my own battle against the unpleasant consequences of my own strong will.  We were also able to discuss the wonderful things that God can do with strong willed people and that it is a very wonderful character attribute when we control it, and it doesn't control us.  In this case, I never allowed her the opportunity to fight or presented the need to.  I never made her feel threatened or judged.  I never allowed her to press my buttons to the point her behavior had a negative influence on mine, giving her a sense of inappropriate power over me. 

I'm thankful that I tried this with success while she was still very young.  A strong willed parent and child who get locked in a vicious cycle of trying to out power one another can totally upset the balance of a household and wreak havoc on a family, especially in the teen years. I've known some families who have been run off the track by this dance.  It's never too late.  Humility. Apologies.  New day. New dance.

Strong willed kids aren't wrong.  Strong willed people fight the good fights as adults.  They defend the weak, plow the way.  It's not something to squash with authoritarian parenting, guilt, shame, verbal abuse, etc.  It's something to be appreciated and mastered for God's glory.  He has plans for your child's strong will.  As a parent, we need to stay out of the way of the mirror by not getting sucked into power struggles they can't resist fighting.  Stand beside them with grace, infusing them with confidence and courage to look at the reflection and fight the good fight mastering their will for God's use and glory.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

There's a Troll Under My Bridge: 3 steps to dealing with criticism

It happened, AGAIN!
It happens to me from time to time, but as my kids get older, it's beginning to happen to them as well. 
"Well, don't your friends go to school? 
 Do YOU think you'd like to go to school with your friends?"

Generally speaking, my family has a good deal of support for our decision to homeschool.
But on occasion, we have to contend with TROLLS.

You know, like the TROLL on Dora the Explorer.  They think they hold the key to everything. 
They feel the need to ask questions and if you answer correctly, as determined by them,
you may pass over the bridge they do not own but over which they have established themselves guard.

These trolls have the ability to contort their faces in such a way that  it stirs up crazy thoughts and emotions in those poor souls, the target of their full frontal facial assault.

Like this.
And UGH!  The condescending, falsely empathetic (for the poor child to be so wrongly and needlessly subjected to homeschooling), smug, condensed anti-homeschool, anti-social, misguided parent harangue. 
So concentrated.  So potent.
They can convey it all in 20 words or less.
No top hat.  No purple velvet.
Just the look and a

"Do you think you'll always homeschool? 
Or do you think someday they might go to school with their friends?"

So.  Thank goodness it's September.  I hit the Dunkin Donuts drive thru for a Pumpkin coffee.
(I've been anticipating for months)

I granted myself permission to be a little SNARKY. 
 (I've met me.  I couldn't have prevented it even if I had wanted to)

And now, DEEP THOUGHTS, by Jen

1.  At least consider that your TROLL might have a point:   Stings a little, doesn't it?  But listen, this could be a gift.  If we are walking in freedom and we truly trust God with our schooling choices, we will not have a fear response to at least hearing criticism.  If we fully embrace the Gospel and the forgiveness it offers, we won't be afraid to look full in the face the possibility that we may have damaged our kids or will damage our kids if we we are not purely motivated with our schooling choice and have made or are currently making a huge mistake.  He's the Redeemer.  This ought to result in courage for us to look at truth, no matter who points it out and no matter what their motive is.  A defensive response may just reveal fear or self-righteousness.  Just keepin' it real.  Besides, shouldn't we want to know if our kid is lonely?  Socially awkward?  I mean, other than normal, middle/high school type socially awkward.  Maybe some of us are over sheltering.  Maybe our kid is more than 'healthy' weird.  Wouldn't you want to know that?  While there is still time to do something about it?

Proverbs 15:12  A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise. AND

Proverbs 15:31-33  The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise.  He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding......And before honor is humility.

Plus:  Some people should NOT homeschool.  It's true.  Since I do homeschool, it's important for me to be honest if I am really on the list of those that should NOT be homeschooling.

2.  My TROLL either loves me, likes me, doesn't know me or can't stand me.  We should regularly be re-evaluating our relationships.  In fact, the bible instructs us to judge them.  Yes, judge.  If we are instructed to receive 'wise counsel' don't we need to be able to judge which of our friends has the ability to discern truth and dispense wise counsel?   Someone is not wise because they love me.  Someone is not unwise if they don't.  Motivation is a separate issue from truth.  In fact, someone's like or love for me can get in the way of their ability to see or say the truth.  If my counsel has a 'dog in the hunt' with regard to my homeschooling decision, um, I need to make an adjustment to the credibility rating if they don't confess it right at the start.  What if my advice giver  doesn't want me to homeschool so that I'm available for shopping and coffee with the girls until 2 pm?  That's gonna slant their advice.  What if my troll can't stand me or my kids?  What if it's because they're quietly jealous of my relationship with my kids?  The point is, check motivation before evaluating truth.  They are 2 separate issues.  Sometimes those closest people to me won't risk telling the truth out of the fear of losing the relationship.  What if someone encourages me to homeschool because they want me to think that they are a great encourager?  Good grief, what if all this talk about homeschooling really isn't about me or homeschooling?  But rather them fighting off some personal conviction of their own? 

A close, wise friend will take the log out of their own eye, then come talk to me about a speck in mine. 

"You know Jen, I've been a little jealous in the past about how close you are with your kids and was even angry because we can't afford for me not work and stay home and homeschool.  I guess I was kind of using that as an excuse for not having the time to devote to cultivating my relationship with my own kids.  But, I've taken responsibility and now I have date days with my kids and things are getting better.  Having worked through that, I still feel convicted that I'm right about your kid being a little weird and maybe he needs more friends :)"

But for goodness sake, don't discount the fact that truth can even come from Balaam's donkey.  Don't just listen to what you want to hear. 

Proverbs 21:2  Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.

Proverbs 15:14  The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.  AND

 Proverbs 15:21  Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment, but a man of understanding walks uprightly.

3.  We don't have to agree.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend.   Flattery and ear tickling is not evidence of love and friendship.  In fact, it could be evidence of an enemy.  Truth telling that hurts our feelings may feel like an enemy, when in fact, it could very well be courageous love.  Ugh!  Feelings.  Can't live with 'em, wouldn't want to live without them.  True, mature love gives the freedom to disagree.  In fact, it allows the freedom for a loved one to be deaf, daft, silly and stupid.  (Prodigal anyone?)  Maybe they care a great deal for you and your family.  And maybe they don't know how to express their concerns constructively.  And/or maybe we don't always hear the concerns of others as a constructive expression of love and we become defensive.  Or worse, we reject them because we don't like what they're saying.  The ability to live freely with one another in disagreement without threatening the safety of the relationship is a great expression of love and maturity.  If you're only friends with those that agree with you, start back at step one above.

 So, I've finished my pumpkin coffee.
And my Troll is no longer a Troll in my own mind.

This morning, an acquaintance expressed her love and concern for me and my daughter.
Clearly, she values childhood friendships.  Isn't that a wonderful thing?
She's concerned that if my daughter is not in school, that she may miss out on wonderful childhood memories and friendships.

And she wasn't afraid to express her concern.
That we could all have such friends.

She's a busy woman and has never had reason nor time to research the data on homeschool socialization success or failure. 

If she did, she would find out what I already know.

I just thanked her sincerely this morning for her love and concern for my family.

But I can't write any longer....I have to feed the kids, get to our 2 hours of community service working with about 17 elementary kids helping them with their homework and doing art together...then we're off to a playdate for about 2 hours....then it's dinner really quickly before we're off to an hour and a half of scouts with some our kid's closest friends :) 


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