This is the best philosophy of home education I've ever read.
This is the best philosophy of home education I've ever read.
I've heard it dozens of times at weddings and in sermons. My dad made me memorize it, and I've taught it to my children. Today, I sat in church and listened to I Corinthians 13 as if hearing it again for the first time. I felt the weight of my failings to love others--specifically those who I have labored for and given the most of my strength and possessions.
“If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Lord, have mercy.
January is my time for resolutions, but not this year. This year I’m an old sock. I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of my worn parts, and all I want to do is to darn a few holes and relax in the comfort of being me. Instead of my usual twenty or so resolutions, I’ve decided on just one: My mornings will begin with a spirit of joy.
I am NOT a morning person. I want the day to nudge me awake. I want it to coo like a baby and wrap me in a blanket and set me by the fire. This is in extreme contrast to Abraham. He wakes up fully charged and ready for anything. His head springs from the pillow, and the day is his. This annoys me. I do not appreciate his excited chatter, his hands thick in projects, and his need for my involvement in all of it. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to do anything but make strong coffee. One morning I told Abraham, “I just need twenty minutes of quietness to begin my day.” He looks at me, and a light goes off. “I will give you forty minutes. I won’t talk for forty minutes. I love you, Momma!” He marches into the kitchen to set the timer on his strong feet of good intentions only to have his resolve completely vanish in a matter of seconds. This brought a smile to my somber face. Who could be upset with a son like that? And too, he’s got it right. After all, what kind of fool begrudges a gift?
Each day IS a gift. Each day, no matter its troubles, holds the opportunity to discover God’s nature, which is everything that heaven will be. Heaven is coming, but why waste the here and now. Too, what sense does it make to start a day with prayer and follow it up with a sour spirit? So instead, I will embrace my annoying son and mimic his celebratory spirit. I will sing: Today is a day that the Lord has made. I am fortunate to be alive. I have a wild and precious life, and I’m not going to waste it. *
That is my morning call for 2013. I will write it in the shower and on my French press. Perhaps I will tattoo on Abraham’s forehead. Happy New Year! I raise my glass to you. Here’s to the gift of each new day.
(This post was not written in the morning.)
*My morning call is inspired by The Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama, Psalms 118:4, and Mary Oliver.
Pinterest is torture for women. It sucks up our time and leads to dissatisfaction and depression as we view other people's lives through DSL cameras and Photoshop. Yet we go back again and again.
Here’s my deal: Everything I see on Pinterest I do. I painted my kitchen seven times this summer. (That sounds ridiculous, but I simply could not find the right Pinterest shade of peacock blue). I’ve made so many blasé homemade ice creams and Asian soups. (They photograph well, despite the recipe.) What's more, I had an absolutely horrible afternoon because of this pin:
According to the linked article, apple cider vinegar helps relieve arthritis pain. (Hey, I have arthritis, and I also have apple cider vinegar in my cupboard.) I was belching all day.
Everyone pins these noodles. This is possibly the worst noodle dish I've ever made. Heidi Tyson, you pinned this recipe just this evening. Heidi, do not made these noodles.
Here's another Pintrest blah: a bathroom mirror with a second mirror floating in front of it. I went thrifting and found both for next to nothing. Yeah!
But in my living room it's just wrong, terribly wrong. My sweet father-in-law brought all the right hardware from Iowa and hung both mirrors for me, and when my guilt subsides, it's all coming down.
Yes, I've had some Pinterest success. Here's Em's garden stool I made from a log and a wooden bowl.
Probably my favorite thing about Pinterest is that my husband and I share a board where he and I can both pin. We flirt.
Pinterest quotes are quite another thing.
The first time I saw this quote slapped up on Pintrest, I immediately thought of Ma Ingalls, and I rolled my eyes. As if it's either or. As if we can't get the kids to help with the sticky floors and the piles of laundry and in the process make them happier, better individuals. At least that's what I thought when I first saw this quote. Now look at my oven.
There is a strong desire within me to thoughtfully mother in a way that creates peaceful, happy children. This is evident in the last two series of verses we've learned together as a family. I've been deeply influenced by those verses. (I am somewhat at a standstill in my blogging about them because I have learned that what I hold on to, I lose; what I give freely can never be taken away. This is very true of a mother's time. Needless to say, I have little time to write.) A book that has beautifully dovetailed our Bible memorization is Calm and Compassionate Children by Susan Dermond. I know I have blogged about this book time and time again, but it has served as an immense encouragement to me. In her opening chapter, Ms. Dermond talks about the importance of family celebrations, routines, and rituals. As I thought about all the little routines I gravitate to when I feel family life is falling apart, I realized how true it is that these rituals are much more than good times. The emotions that come from true celebration always leave a person richer. They create complexity in us that we need to thrive as spiritual creatures. Think of the Eucharist. For nearly a decade, Brian and I attended a church that took communion once a month. Just this year we began attending a liturgical church. We share in communion each week, as was our custom as children, and in our new church, we have once again been schooled and parented in how to partake in it. In a year when I have struggled spiritually and with feelings of depression, this has been the anchor I have needed. Family life also needs such anchors.
Last year our family's love for birding became a ritual we fostered into a celebration. We call it Bird Church. There is nothing more lovely than waking up early, usually on a Sunday morning, and heading to Arrowwood. The girls pack their backpacks with art materials to keep them busy for the half hour drive, and we listen to music and talk. When we arrive, we find the perfect spot. We roam and play. The children try to get very close to the pelicans that live on the lake. When the birds fly away, the kids throw up their hands in disgust. We have the tradition of eating hardboiled eggs, Bird Church muffins, and juice. We read the Bible and maybe a poem. Some of us just sit and think. Abra usually leans back on the ground and soaks in the sun. He is always content in these moments, and I like that. We stay a few hours, and then it is time to go home. These mornings are rich (Proverbs 13:7) because we have formed a memory of a time spent at peace.
In September as the birds began to prepare for migration, I began to think about what to do for our winter months. I read Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids and The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays & Everyday in an attempt to find a new ritual we could enjoy as a family. Both books were disappointments in terms of finding that perfect family tradition. Instead, I reverted back to Calm and Compassionate Children for an idea. One of Ms. Dermond's suggestion for a family ritual was to follow the cycle of the moon and to celebrate the full moon. This could be as simple as taking a night walk on each full moon.
Bird Church was our template for Moon Walks. Because we had practiced and sometimes failed at Bird Church, we knew the stuff that was important for us to figure out. For instance, we knew our family enjoyed having a special food as part of Bird Church. We knew that we liked being prepared, and that we needed to be warm in order to enjoy ourselves. Mapping out our walk ahead of time would be best for Em. Also, she needed to be consulted about what she wanted in terms of walking so that she didn't feel limited by her disability. In addition, we needed a poem or story that would enrich our experience. So as the new moon waxed into a full moon, we waited and planned. We followed the moon's cycle by looking outside each night and by checking with this real-time animated display of the moon. It was utterly delightful to slowly watch the moon change itself into a perfect orb of light. Anticipation was high. After all, a night walk with cookies was in our future. Two days before the full moon, we talked about that at the dinner table. Did we really feel we could go on a moon walk with cookies if we had never practiced? The next two nights we did just that, with the help of Grammy Phyllis' Cowboy Cookies. The kids got a big kick out of this because we were all in on the joke. Who needs practice eating cookies! On the day of the full moon, we carved our moon cookies.
It takes seven cookies to make an Oreo moon cycle, but you get to eat about half the cookies when you do the carving. The carved cookies we put in baggies, and Isaiah carried them in his backpack, along with little carafes of milk. We found an open field not far from our home. In the middle of the field was a tree. We walked to that tree, and we sat, looking up at the perfect moon. We ate our cookies and drank our milk. Our celebration was everything we wanted it to be.
Here is our moon walk poem that we are committed to memorizing. At this point, we are just learning it in English.
Before my bed
There is bright-lit moonlight
So that it seems
Like frost on the ground.
Lifting my head
I watch the bright moon
Lowering my head
I dream that I'm home.
Li Po's poem is ideal for enriching our family tradition. It fits us perfectly. When Abraham and Hana were in Ethiopia and they looked at the moon, it was the same moon as we see here in America. We have not always shared a home or even language or culture, but we've always shared the moon. Abraham and Hana like when I reach my arms into their past, and look down on them in love. I can do this with the help of the moon. "When you were little, you looked up at the moon. Your beautiful brown eyes smiled. And here I was, looking at the moon. I did not know you were there, and you did not know I was here. You were the beautiful children who were coming to me." For Elia, I have the loveliest moon story. When she was a little baby in Taiwan, she was held by an elderly Chinese man. He said to her, "You are beautiful. Your face is round like the moon." I heard that story in America, and as I waited for my little girl, I traced the lines of her face in a picture I kept close to me. I would look up at the same moon the old man saw in his sky and thank him for the gift of his words. It is true that we have not always been a family, but we have always shared the moon. No matter how far away the children go, we can recite Li Po's poem and lower our head to think of home.
I have very few complete family pictures, and although my eyes are closed in this one, I'm including it. Last year Elia made Isaiah a werewolf hat for Halloween. We thought it would be a great thing if we, the girls and I, sewed up a few more and wore them for our night walks. Don't worry. We're nice werewolves. I had Isaiah research it; there is a such thing.
Isaiah's bakery, Bread by Mr. Mustache, makes nine different breads. Each bread has its own personality. For instance, his sourdough bread Sourdough Sam is named after Sam Clemens and includes a quote by Mark Twain with each loaf. When Isaiah needed a new theme/personality for his newest bread, he chose Abraham. Abra loves to be center stage, and he's good at it. Isaiah is more the behind-the-scenes kind of guy. One of my favorite quotes of all time was when Abra said, "I wish I was an introvert like Isaiah. Then we could be introverts together!" That pretty much sums up their relationship. It's all the more reason to put Abra's face on Isaiah's new bread. The new bread is an almond roll Isaiah calls Abra-Kadabra. (By the way, Abra is pronounced Ahh- bruh. The first syllable is the sound you make when you open your mouth for the doctor. The same is true of Hana's name. Her name is not pronounced Hannah, but Aanna with an H.)
In order to make a label, we needed do a photo shoot. Abra can pose for the camera like no other, and he always looks fabulous dressed up. I wanted to share a few of my favorites.
And here is the official Mr. Mustache label:
“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
― Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
See Health Living Verses.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
This is a simple idea--inspired by this book-- for a family thankfulness journal. Each night we choose a flower and a strip of paper, and we write a blessing on it. I encourage the children to choose high-minded authentic blessings. With the strips of paper, we form a chain that we hang like garland from our ceiling.
Blessings from August 1st:
"I drew a really good Pokemon for Elia." --Abra
"My wife is beautiful." --Brian (his default blessing)
"I finished sewing my baby bunny." --Hana
"We got to read Shakespeare on the hammock and no one interrupted us." --Isaiah
"I found beautiful yellow flowers at the beach." -Elia
"I walked on the beach and had sand in my toes." --Emilie
"Elia gave me a pelican feather." -me
Reflections on Thankfulness:
From webmd: Health Benefits of Living Thankful
Let's take a look again at Philippians 4:8 . See Healthy Living Verses.
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
There is no use denying that a considerable part of our thought life is self-absorbed. Although we should strive to be as God-focused as possible, there are going to be times when we think about ourselves. Philippians 4:8 applies to all thoughts, even our self-focused ones. So how do we think lovely, excellent, praiseworthy things about ourselves? I'm not suggesting we use this verse to foster self-esteem because I'm not a big fan of self-esteem.* It's indiscriminate. Most of the time, it does not reflect the truth of who we are. For instance, American students rank number one in academic confidence, and yet of all developed countries, they are (statistically) the worst at mathematics. Clearly having an inflated ego doesn't aid a person in understanding what it true. Here's what else is wrong with self-esteem: When children believe they are good at everything, they lack focus. They also lack the motivation to improve. Self-esteem is a slippery thing. Without the skills to back it up, an inflated self- image brings denial and anger when an individual is confronted by her flaws. Self-esteem is not lovely or admirable; it's competitive. It often feeds on the failures of others.
We are reading Humility by Andrew Murray for our adult Bible Study. Humility is truly a Jesus thing. Christ taught us to wash one another's feet, to keep our mouths shut when we're right, and to be ok when others are praised and we are forgotten. None of this means that we must think poorly of ourselves. One word for Biblical humility is meekness, not being abrasive. It's gentleness. This applies not just to how we treat others, but it applies to how we treat ourselves. This is why I prefer self-compassion to self-esteem.
Self-compassion is simply treating yourself with compassion, as you would treat any other person. It is allowing God's Spirit, that lives within you, to comfort you when you are feeling low. Self-compassion looks like a mother caring for her child's skinned knee. A good mother would not tell her child he is overreacting, nor would she compare him to other children still standing. She certainly wouldn't look at the hurt knee and deny it happened. Instead, she would pick her little one up, hold him close, and remind him that everything will be ok. That is a picture of self-compassion, and I believe that it can be very Spirit-led. Self-compassion enables you to seek healthy ways of slowly improving, rather than quick-fixes or beating yourself up or ignoring the problem. It helps you during hard times—times when high self-esteem has collapsed. Self-compassion has allowed me to feel God's grace and mercy in my shortcomings (and even in my successes). It is treating myself like a creature of God, and allowing Christ's power to be made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I have always struggled with self-criticism. As I've started practicing self-compassion, I have become much more at peace with myself. I am living out Ephesians 4:2, not only to others, but also myself. My current mantra is "Be humble and gentle, be patient, bear with yourself in love." I've passed this self-compassion teaching onto my children.
Children who set goals and accomplish them and who have parents who invest in them, usually develop healthy, positive self-talk. It has been said that a parent's words are the words her children hear in their minds. So be high-minded! Still, even with positive parents, it's a rough world out there. Most of us at some time or another have struggled to keep our thoughts above water. For children who have lived through trauma, this is especially true. I don't like to share too much information about my children on my blog, but I am always happy to talk openly with moms and dads who have or are considering adopting older children. Every adoption comes from a place of loss, and this is especially true for older children. Negative thoughts come from negative experiences. As a family, we have made a BIG effort to replace our poor self-talk with talk more in line with Philippians 4:13.
Last year we tried Beans for Thought. I put ten relaxing, positive thoughts on a 3 X 5 card and ten beans in a bowl. Each day the kids moved the beans from one bowl to another while repeating these positive thoughts. This worked great. The beans added interest and also helped the kids to slow down enough to think about what was being said. A few weeks ago, I had such a bad cold I couldn't get anything done. I decided to sit down and draw. I made a new list of affirmations. I wanted to think about Bible Verses that would help nurture positive feelings of self. Whenever I sense a child is slipping into negativity and acting out, I sit down with him or her, and we work our way through the cards. It's an opportunity to think about what is true and right about ourselves. We affirm what is lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. It is a time to be compassionate and loving with ourselves and to remember who we are in the Lord.
*The history of self-esteem is rather fascinating.
Interested in learning more about self-compassion? Try this site.